The top ten stooges of 2016

Time again, kids, for our annual top-ten list. As before, these aren’t necessarily the worst human beings we covered last year; they’re people whose deplorable activities stood out in some way or another. One more thing: this time around, we’ve decided to forego the old cranks and creeps and focus instead on relatively youthful stooges – young-to-middle-aged characters who are especially worth keeping tabs on because their most high-profile and influential stoogery probably lies ahead of them…alas. Anyway, here goes:

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Max Blumenthal

To quote Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Max Blumenthal “is quite simply one of the most biased, anti-Semitic, terrorist-defending, Israel-has-no-right-to-exist haters out there.” And here’s what fellow leftist Eric Alterman had to say about Max’s 2013 anti-Israel screed Genesis: “this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club.” The vile spawn of ethically bankrupt Clinton lackey Sidney Blumenthal (one of the slimiest operatives ever to set foot inside the Washington Beltway), Sonny Boy routinely equates the Jewish state with Nazi Germany; this year he praised a massacre of IDF soldiers by Hamas commanders. In short, he’s as low as they go – and a dyed-in-the-wool chip off the old block.

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Nick Dearden

In 2016, while other fans of chavismo hid in shame as the system they’d celebrated brought the Venezuelan economy to its knees, British activist Nick Dearden was actually cheering what he described as that country’s “food revolution.” What on earth was he talking about? Answer: a new law that bans genetically modified seeds and prohibit the sale to corporations of “indigenous knowledge” in the field of agriculture. The result, Dearden enthused, would be “a truly democratic food system” that made the Bolivarian Republic “a beacon of hope.” Tell that to all the people who are eating their pets and breaking into bodegas to steal bread.

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Malcolm Harris

When Occupy Wall Street went bottom-up, blame focused largely on Malcolm Harrisa founder of the movement who’s been accused by fellow left-winger Mark Ames of exploiting OWS to “build his own brand.” Meaning what? Well, when leaders of Occupy Redlands in California invited Harris to give a lecture, they heard back from a speakers’ agency: the fee would be $5,000, plus travel and hotel. This year Harris wrote a piece called “Who’s Afraid of Communism?” – a call for millennials to reject capitalism and take a fresh, “nuanced” look at Mao and Stalin. When the Revolution comes, will he still be allowed to charge five grand for a speech?

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David Sirota

In June, we met chavismo enthusiast and former Bernie Sanders flunky David Sirota. Described by Newsweek in 2003 as “well schooled in the art of Washington warfare,” by the New York Times as a guy with a “take-no-prisoners mind-set” toward Republicans and centrists, and by election expert Nate Silver as a dude who plays “fast and loose with the truth,” Sirota wrote an article after the Boston Marathon bombing expressing the hope that the perpetrator was a white American. Like Dearden, moreover, Sirota has cheered Venezuela’s “economic miracle.” Of course, the only “economic miracle” in Venezuela is that the country, despite its massive petroleum resources, now has to import oil. 

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Colin Kaepernick

On August 26, San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick protested racism in America by refusing to stand up for the National Anthem before a game. This started a trend that has spread to a variety of sports at every level. Whatever one thinks of it, one part of this episode is unambiguously contemptible: at his press conference that day, Kaepernick wore a T-shirt covered with pictures of Fidel Castro and Malcolm X. The message was clear: the U.S. is a contemptibly racist nation and Cuba a model of racial harmony. Pure Communist propaganda, of course: in reality, aside from being a totalitarian state, Cuba is a country where intense racial prejudice is still a fact of life. Too bad Kaepernick is so ill-informed – and that his ignorance has given rise to such a divisive movement.

Five more tomorrow.

 

Zinn’s evil America

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Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn‘s 1980 book A People’s History of the United States has long been a staple of high-school and college syllabi. Indeed, as Daniel J. Flynn has noted, it’s “so popular that it can be found on the class syllabus in such fields as economics, political science, literature, and women’s studies, in addition to its more understandable inclusion in history.”

But it’s not popular because it’s good history. It isn’t. it’s popular because the teachers that assign it agree with its politics. For left-wing “educators” eager to sell their students on a crudely, relentlessly anti-capitalist and pro-socialist account of American history, it’s a veritable Bible.

Zinn himself admitted that he wasn’t out to record history objectively but to spin it in a way that would, in his words, “advance causes of humanity.” In other words, he was selling propaganda – specifically, Communist propaganda. His book viewed every historical event through a Marxist lens. Everything was about class struggle. Every act was motivated by greed. All people were either oppressors or oppressed. Every single fact that was at odds with Zinn’s ideology was either suppressed or distorted by him to fit that ideology.

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The Founding Fathers: a gang of totalitarians

Where other historians had told the story of America as a story largely of inspiring heroes, for Zinn virtually all of those heroes were really ruthless exploiters of their fellowman. That included the Founding Fathers. “Rather than an event that inspired movements for freedom and self-government throughout the world through the present,” Flynn observed, the founding of America represented, in Zinn’s view, the establishment of “a virtually totalitarian system of oppression.”

Of course, Zinn’s attitude here is easily refuted. “If the Founders wanted a society they could direct,” asks Flynn,

why didn’t they establish a dictatorship or a monarchy and model their rule on what was the universal form of government at the time? Why go through the trouble of devising a Constitution departing from a repressive status quo and guaranteeing individual rights, mass political participation, jury trials, and checks on governmental power? Apparently inhabiting an alternate reality, Zinn doesn’t feel the need to account for this and merely explains it away as a charade designed to prevent class revolution. This is conspiracy theory with a vengeance.

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Sorry, Mr. Lincoln: emancipation was just as bad as slavery

So it goes throughout the book. Slavery? Instead of understanding how remarkable it is that an army of free citizens fought a bloody four-year war to liberate other men from slavery, a large percentage of young people today actually believe – thanks largely to Zinn’s selective, slanted reporting and frequent outright disinformation – that no other country than America has ever had slavery. So determined is Zinn to demonize the principal actors in every major event in American history that, for him, emancipation is just as bad as slavery. For both, as Flynn notes,

are explained by the same factor: greed. Whether the U.S. tolerates or eradicates slavery, its evil motives remains the same. To Zinn the important thing about the emancipation of the slaves and the Civil War that brought that about is that they served as distractions from the impending socialist revolution.

More tomorrow.

Revising his life: Howard Fast

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Howard Fast

After leaving the Communist Party in 1957, writer Howard Fast went on to even greater professional success. The 1960 film version of his novel Spartacus was a huge hit and remains a classic. He wrote a series of highly popular historical novels. Even after he left the Party, his work continued to be shot through with heavy-handed politics. He wrote a draft screenplay for Spartacus, but Kirk Douglas, the star and producer, rejected it, calling it “a disaster, unusable” because “[i]t was just characters spouting ideas.”

Fast also published not one but two accounts of his involvement with Communism. What is striking are the differences between the two books. In his 1957 Saturday Review piece he had written that while the U.S. was not perfect, “it is a land where the individual, in his work and in his rights, is recognized and defended”; the Communist Party however, was “a prison for man’s best and boldest dreams.”

godIn his book The Naked God: The Writer and the Communist Party, published the same year, Fast continued to take this line, describing Communism as being rooted in “naked terror, awful brutality, and frightening ignorance” and saying that Communists had sold their souls when they joined the Party. Thirty-three years later, however, he wrote another book, Being Red, in which – to quote a review by Gerald Meyer – he covered “much of the same material, but from a very different perspective and for a very different purpose.”

red1That’s putting it mildly. As Meyer himself put it, “Being Red describes Fast’s membership in the Party as the best years of his life.” Dropping The Naked God down the memory hole, Fast “insisted that the Party was not dominated by the Soviet Union,” praised the USSR for having vanquished Hitler and saved “three million Polish and Ukrainian Jews,” maintained that the Daily Worker “never compromised with the truth as it saw the truth,” and resumed saying, as he had during his Party days, that he and his fellow Reds were “priests in the brotherhood of man” and members of “the company of the good.” Meyer summed it up this way: “Without ever mentioning The Naked God, in Being Red Fast refuted the damning criticisms of the Party he made in the earlier memoir.” He even made up at least one story out of whole cloth. (This was far from the only lie he told about his career in later years. At one point he even claimed that Ronald Reagan had applied to join the CPUSA in 1938 but had been rejected as “too stupid” – a tale that was sheer invention.) Significantly, the list of “Books by Howard Fast” in the front of Being Red omitted The Naked God. “Clearly,” wrote Meyer, “The Naked God is something Fast wanted to forget, and amazingly the reviewers of Being Red have allowed it to be forgotten.”

Why did Fast revise the story of his life? Meyer got it right: he was 85 (he would die three years later) and “wanted to be remembered as a man of the Left.” While The Naked God had been a good career move in 1957, enabling him to resuscitate his career as a mainstream novelist, Being Red was an equally good career move in 1990, when the most honorable items a writer could have on his CV, in the eyes of the literary establishment, were a stint in the CPUSA and a period on the Hollywood blacklist. Historian Ron Capshaw’s summation seems fair enough: “Howard Fast, among the writers attracted to communism, emerges as the worst example for the CPUSA: simultaneously dupe and careerist, a propaganda merchant and a groupie.”

Ben Norton, baby-faced Bolshevik

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Ben Norton

Is there a far-left media institution with which he doesn’t have a connection? Although only three years into his career as a pundit, baby-faced Ben Norton, a young American dude based in New York City, has already written hundreds, if not thousands, of articles for such noxious websites as the anti-Zionist Mondoweiss, The Intercept (run by the notorious Glenn Greenwald and pro-Castro scribe Jeremy Scahill), Eric Alterman‘s AlterNet, Middle East Monitor (pro-Hamas), Electronic Intifada (pro-Palestinian), FAIR (Marxists pretending to be objective media critics), Muftah (a Muslim hangout), and the Center for American Progress’s ThinkProgress (where he worked as an intern in 2014). Most prominently, Norton is a regular contributor to Salon. In addition, he blogs frequently at his own website and tweets constantly. As a result, there’s already a massive amount of material out there that proves definitively that Ben Norton is one of the top useful stooges of his generation.

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Obama at Hiroshima

Where to begin? For one thing, Norton is no fan of America, which he’s called a “rogue state.” (“[T]he real American exceptionalism,” read one of his headlines, “is selling the most weapons in the world by far.”) He wrote approvingly about a UN official’s charge that America is an “apartheid state.” (“The US is indeed horribly repressive,” Norton commented, “and its police force is incredibly racist.”) When Obama went to Hiroshima, Norton wrote that America “should apologize for its criminal atomic bombing” of Japan and “stop its nuclear escalation.”

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Noam Chomsky

A corollary of his contempt for America is his disdain for “neoliberalism” and affection for socialism. He pays tribute on a regular basis to the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and Noam Chomsky. This spring, he was a passionate tub-thumper for the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders; in May, when Sanders made public his ridiculous list of picks for the Democratic Party platform committee – race hustler Cornel West (who’s also one of Norton’s icons), enviro-hustler Bill McKibben, Israel-hater James Zogby, Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison (who’s cozy with such Islamist front groups as CAIR, the Muslim American Society, and the Islamic Society of North America), and Native American activist Deborah Parker – Norton gave it a standing ovation.

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An image of Palestinian women tweeted by Norton on International Women’s Day 2016

There’s more. On International Women’s Day this year, Norton celebrated the holiday as “an important symbol in communist, socialist, anti-imperialist, and other liberation movements” (although he lamented that a day of commemoration founded by socialists had been “co-opted by large corporations like Microsoft in order to celebrate the increasing diversity of the ruling class”). “U.S. politics today,” he suggested in April, “demonstrates just how correct early-20th-century socialist economist and revolutionary heroine Rosa Luxemburg was when she famously declared that society faces two options: socialism or barbarism.” This statement would seem to reflect a remarkable ignorance of – or indifference to? – the history of the twentieth century, in which socialism proved, in one nation after another, to be the very gateway to barbarism.

More tomorrow.

Nick Dearden vs. the “vultures”

Yesterday we met Nick Dearden, head of an anti-capitalist British group called Global Justice Now and frequent contributor to the Guardian. As recently as January of this year, Dearden described Venezuela as a “beacon of hope.” He’s also blamed the poverty of countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo on American “vulture funds.”

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Nick Dearden

The word vulture appears frequently in Dearden’s work. In a 2011 piece, he wrung his hands over the economic plight of Argentina, which, again, he blamed not on the Kirchner regime’s massive corruption and financial irresponsibility but on the creditors who actually dared to expect the Buenos Aires government to honor its debts. Dearden gave a thumbs-up to Argentina’s 2001 default (which “was undoubtedly the right thing to do”) and slammed creditors (a.k.a. “vulture funds”) for refusing to walk away meekly and let Kirchner & co. screw them over. He further accused Argentina’s main creditor, NML Capital, of “harassing” Argentina – by which he meant that NML, in order to try to collect the money it was owed, had had to take the Kirchner government to court .

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Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Meanwhile, the closest he would come to admitting the deep, endemic problems afflicting the Kirchner regime was to say that “Everything is not perfect in Argentina to this day.” He acknowledged that Argentina shouldn’t have borrowed such massive sums in the first place – but instead of criticizing the Kirchner regime for taking out loans, he blamed the banks for making them. Fighting poverty, Dearden asserted, requires profound systemic change: “The financial system…needs to be directed for the benefit of people everywhere.” And part of this change is that “[c]reditors must accept the downside when investments go wrong just as they happily accept the upside when they go right.” Meaning, apparently, that when debtors choose not to pay their debts, creditors should just shrug and walk away.

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Joseph E. Stiglitz

We’ve written at length about Joseph E. Stiglitz, the economist, who, among other things, is a big U.N. booster, championing the idea that the U.S. and other countries should effectively hand over their sovereignty to the international organization. Dearden is in the same camp, contrasting the G8 – which he views as a gang of imperialist, colonialist bullies that “should by rights be dead and buried” – with the U.N. itself, which he see as a compassionate force for the world’s poorer and less powerful countries.

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Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann

In a 2009 article for the Guardian, Dearden cited Stiglitz approvingly and at length on the need for thoroughgoing “reform” of “the international trade and financial system,” including extensive debt cancellation, a “new reserve currency to replace the dollar.” Dearden also quoted, with hearty agreement, the then-president of the General Assembly, Nicaraguan priest Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, to the effect that “[t]he anti-values of greed, individualism and exclusion should be replaced by solidarity, common good and inclusion” and that our “profit-centred economy” should give way to “a people-centred economy.”

Presumably like the terrific, robust one in Nicaragua. Or Venezuela, that “beacon of hope.”

“Beacon of hope”: Nick Dearden’s Venezuela delusion

Over the last year or so, as Venezuela’s economy has plummeted and the Venezuelan people have suffered increasingly from food shortages, electricity shutoffs, and the like, many longtime cheerleaders for chavismo have dummied up. Not Nick Dearden. In January, in a piece that read like some kind of twisted Onion-like attempt at a joke, he enthused over Venezuela’s “food revolution.”

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Nick Dearden

Food revolution? What? Dearden explained: just before the new, anti-socialist National Assembly was seated in January, supporters of the regime passed a new law that, in Dearden’s words, laid “the foundation for a truly democratic food system” by banning genetically modified seeds and setting up “democratic structures to ensure that seeds cannot be privatized and indigenous knowledge cannot be sold off to corporations.” The new law, Dearden maintained, would promote “a form of farming that works with nature” and that would “make the country independent of international food markets.” This, pronounced Dearden, was “hugely impressive…because it extends decision making deep down into Venezuelan society.” In sum: “Venezuela has lit a beacon of hope.”

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Venezuela’s “food revolution”

Yes, a beacon of hope. A curious way (to put it mildly) to describe a country where people are now storming grocery stores and eating cats and dogs. The lights have, quite literally, gone out: in late April, in yet another example of its sharp economic thinking, the government imposed a two-day work week to conserve electricity.  

But whacked-out judgments are par for the course for Nick Dearden. Currently the director of something called Global Justice Now (which describes itself as “a campaign group that mobilises people in the UK for change, and act[s] in solidarity with those fighting injustice, particularly in the global south”) and formerly director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign (a “coalition” of UK groups “calling for the unjust and unpayable debts of the poorest countries to be cancelled”), he’s a one-man storehouse of bad ideas, which he’s shared frequently over the years in op-eds for the Guardian, the Huffington Post, and elsewhere.

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Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

This is a guy who believes that capitalism ruins everything. When it comes to foreign aid, he’s a fervent supporter of the longstanding Western policy of throwing truckfuls of money at Africa, which has mainly served to enrich dictators and keep poor countries from getting off the ground. After a so-called “hunger summit” in 2013, Dearden decried the idea of trying to encourage the development of market economies in Africa, and mocked “the idea that ‘the market knows best.’” Instead, he supported land redistribution and collective farming. (After all, look how spectacularly successful that approach has been in Venezuela.)

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Mobutu

In a 2012 article, he pondered the phenomenon of poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). In real life, the principal villain in the story is Mobutu Sese Seko, who was the country’s dictator from 1965 to 1997, and who, like many another tyrant on that continent, soaked his nation’s treasury for all he could. But Dearden places the real blame on Western banks that loaned money to Mobutu and that have had the audacity to seek to have their loans repaid. Dearden actually put the word “repayment” in scare quotes, accused creditors of “draining the DRC of wealth,” and (of course) smeared those creditors as “vultures.”

As we’ll see tomorrow, the word vulture crops up a lot in Dearden’s writings.

Perverse prescriptions: Andreas Malm

andreas2Yesterday we met Andreas Malm, an up-and-coming Swedish scholar who holds up sub-Saharan Africa as an economic model for the rest of the world.

Malm has a new book, Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming. In it, he pretty much slams every scientific, economic, and technological development that’s taken place since the industrial revolution. The devil lurking behind all this development, he makes clear, is the c-word: capitalism. As he puts it in his ringing Marxist-academic prose, “the fossil economy is coextensive with the capitalist mode of production.” For Malm, as the Manhattan Institute’s Robert Bryce wrote in a review of the book for City Journal, “the rise of the steam engine was little more than a ploy by evil capitalists to subjugate workers, and because of that, we are now all going to die from global warming.”

Malm’s prescription to avoid this dire fate? A “special ministry” in each of the four entities – the U.S., the E.U., China, and India – that produce the most greenhouse gases. These ministries would be empowered to cut emissions – and, in order to achieve their desired goals, would be obliged to cut them very, very drastically. Needless to say, this radical transformation of the present world order would involve an almost complete shutdown of industrial activity and, essentially, a replacement of democratic capitalism by an all-powerful international superstate intent on “simplifying” life in the developed world to a virtually unimaginable degree. 

malm1As is the case with many other climate alarmists, Malm’s purported analyses, forecasts, and proposed remedies raise the question of whether this fellow is prepared to sacrifice modern freedom, prosperity, and comfort because he’s genuinely that hysterical about the prospect of disastrous climate change, or whether, like the recently deceased Maurice Strong, he’s a man who, quite simply, despises capitalism for the usual Marxist reasons and has latched on to climate as a rallying cry because he recognizes it as an effective way to argue for the utter dismantling of the capitalist system.

Andreas-MalmWhat Malm’s prescriptions don’t take into account is this: that the deliberate undoing of modern civilization founded on democratic capitalism wouldn’t just impoverish people in the developed world and shorten their lifespans. It would also, among much else, render their lives dirt-cheap. Take a good look at sub-Saharan Africa: what you see there are see societies so backward that in Tanzania, for example, albino children are hunted down and macheted to death because their severed limbs are thought to have magical powers. Many a family in Angola, after the demise of a family member, will attribute the death to acts of witchcraft by a child in the family, who is thereupon beaten, subjected to brutal rituals, expelled from the home, shunned, starved, and/or murdered outright. Throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, atrocities such as rape, forced child marriage, and human trafficking are rampant and go unpunished. Why? Because there’s little in the way of advanced social structure, little in the way of rule of law, little in the way of respect for the individual human life. All these good things that are missing in most of sub-Saharan Africa are part of the civilization that, over the centuries, has come to maturity in developed Western countries, thanks in large part to the kinds of advances that Malm has identified as enemies of humanity. 

The bottom line is clear. All too many people like Malm, sitting in their pleasant homes and their well-appointed offices in (for example) universities in Sweden, take a great deal for granted about the cozy lives they lead. When somebody in Malm’s position calls for an end to modern democratic capitalism, he is – whether he realizes it or not – a fool sitting in a tree and sawing off the very limb he’s sitting on.