The Rutgers prof who declares Islam off-limits for humorists

“I’ve just about had it,” she wrote in February 2006. Across Europe and the Islamic world, Muslims were rioting, committing acts of vandalism, and murdering innocent people in supposed outrage over the publication by a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, of a set of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed.

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Deepa Kumar

What was it that Deepa Kumar, an Assistant Professor of Journalism, Media Studies, and Middle East Studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey, had just about had enough of? No, not the utterly irrational violence on the part of all those Muslims. She was, she explained, “sick and tired” of people on the left and in the U.S. antiwar movement who failed, in her view, “to defend Muslims against all the attacks they have faced both domestically and internationally.” She was incensed by what she described as “the steady rightward drift among sections of the left since 9/11 on the question of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism.” While antiwar Europeans were rallying “in solidarity with Muslims outraged over the cartoons,” she complained, their American counterparts had “done little.”

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Sasha Abramsky

She cited some specifics. In October 2005, Sasha Abramsky, writing in The Progressive, had argued “that Al Qaeda, a ‘classically imperialist’ force, must be vanquished by the West because it hates the best points of the West, in particular ‘the pluralism, the rationalism, individual liberty, the emancipation of women, the openness and social dynamism that represent the strongest legacy of the Enlightenment.’” Kumar wasn’t buying it: “Never mind that the emancipation of women is far from a done deal, or that even small gains like universal suffrage had to be fought for by workers, women, and minorities, hardly the ‘legacy’ of Enlightenment.”

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Christopher Fons

Equally appalling to her was Christopher Fons’s February 2006 article in Counterpunch, in which he dared to suggest that when Scandinavian social democracies open their borders to millions of immigrants with “backward ideas, like sexism, religious superstition, belief in inequality, etc.,” it could mean the end of equality and social democracy.

And then there was a Sydney Morning Herald piece (republished in Counterpunch in February 2005) in which Richard Neville defended the Danish cartoons and wondered aloud why the “rampaging Muslims are so angry.” After all, Christians don’t riot over cartoons mocking their religion. A very irate Kumar had an answer to that: “making fun of Islam is not the same as making fun of Christianity.” Why? Because “Islam and Christianity do not occupy an equal position in a world dominated by US imperialism.” You can’t talk about “equal-opportunity” humor, she maintained, “when you are talking about oppressed and disempowered people, who do not have equal access to the mass media.” Bottom line: “Jokes are political. The jokes of the dominant poking fun at the marginalized, unlike those of the powerless satirizing the powerful, are a way of communicating to the world, first of all to the marginalized themselves: their oppression is acceptable…even funny.”

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Richard Neville

All this may sound ridiculous in the real world, but in much of the American academy it’s sheer common sense, the product of a postmodern academic ideology which sees all interactions in human society as boiling down to the relationship between groups – power vs. powerless, oppressor vs. oppressed. In today’s world, moreover, oppression only works one way. Europeans, people of European descent, Christians, the West, Israel: no matter what the facts on the ground may be, these folks are always the oppressors, the imperialists, the powerful. People of color, Muslims, Arabs, blacks, and so on: these are always the oppressed, the victims, the powerless. Even if the President of the U.S. is black, in some sense he remains an oppressed individual, while an unemployed white coal miner in West Virginia is his oppressor. Similarly, Muslims in the Islamic world who, in reality, viciously oppress the Christians and Jews in their midst are viewed by Kumar and her ilk as being oppressed by those whom they beat, abuse, torture, and murder.

But Kumar had only just started down this road. More tomorrow.

A masterpiece of misinformation

We’ve been looking at Howard Zinn‘s 1980 masterpiece of misinformation, A People’s History of the United States – a book that Daniel J. Flynn has rightly described as a “cartoon anti-history.”

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Howard Zinn

Not one American hero goes unsmeared by Zinn. Not one admirable American action escapes being interpreted by Zinn as having its genesis in the very lowest of motives. American achievements are either ignored or belittled. As Zinn tells it, to quote Rutgers history professor David Greenberg, “The Constitution, the Civil War, the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima—all were self-serving acts.” Even left-wing historian Martin Duberman, author of a biography of Zinn, has criticized him for treating U.S. history “as mainly the story of relentless exploitation and deceit.” For Zinn, even Pearl Harbor was America’s fault. (People of color can never be the bad guys.)

Nowhere in the People’s History, Flynn points out,

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Down the memory hole: Alexander Hamilton

do we learn that Americans were first in flight, first to fly across the Atlantic, and first to walk on the moon. Alexander Graham Bell, Jonas Salk, and the Wright Brothers are entirely absent. Instead, the reader is treated to the exploits of Speckled Snake, Joan Baez, and the Berrigan brothers. While Zinn sees fit to mention that immigrants often went into professions like ditch-digging and prostitution, American success stories like those of Alexander Hamilton, John Jacob Astor, and Louis B. Mayer – to name but a few – are off the Zinn radar screen. Valley Forge rates a single fleeting reference, while D-Day’s Normandy invasion, Gettysburg, and other important military battles are skipped over. In their place, we get several pages on the My Lai massacre and colorful descriptions of U.S. bombs falling on hotels, air-raid shelters, and markets during the Gulf War of the early 1990s.

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Normandy invasion: quietly omitted by Zinn

In updated editions of the People’s History, we also get a moral equation between the U.S. and the 9/11 terrorists.

In short, Zinn’s book is pretty much an example of wall-to-wall America-bashing. Throughout it, he deep-sixes positive stories, twists good stories into bad ones, and turns heroes into villains. And while doing all this, he does one more very important thing: he takes care not to provide any historical or international context – thereby making it possible for ill-educated readers to come away actually believing that America is a uniquely malevolent country, unparalleled by any other nation past or present.

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Mao: founder of a true “people’s government”

To be sure, every so often Zinn does briefly touch on nations that live under other systems – namely, under Communism. When he turns to these countries, however, he puts on a pair of rose-colored glasses. While describing Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government in China as a “corrupt dictatorship” (which is not entirely incorrect), all he says about Mao Zedong’s rival Communist movement is that it had “enormous mass support” and that, after Mao won the civil war, “China was in the hands of a revolutionary movement, the closest thing, in the long history of that ancient country, to a people’s government, independent of outside control.” Mao’s subsequent murder of tens of millions of his own people goes unmentioned.

FILE - In this July 26, 2006 file photo, Cuba's President Fidel Castro pauses as addresses a crowd of Latin American students gathered in Pedernales, in Holguin province, Cuba, for the anniversary of the attack on the Moncada barracks. As Fidel Castro gets ready to celebrate his 90th birthday on Aug. 13, 2016, many Cubans today openly describe themselves as capitalists, and say time has proven that Castro’s economic ideas do not work. (AP Photo/ Javier Galeano, File)
Fidel Castro: folk hero

Fidel Castro is described in similar terms, as a wildly popular folk hero who “set up a nationwide system of education, of housing, of land distribution to landless peasants.” Zinn entirely omits the negative side of Cuban Communism – the systematic repression, the forced international isolation, the mounting poverty, and the mass executions of regime opponents, intellectuals, journalists, and homosexuals.

We’ll wind this up tomorrow.

Room 101 at the top: Reds in the Norwegian elite

We’ve been poking through Bård Larsen’s book The Idealists, which can be fairly described as a history of useful stoogery in modern Norway. It’s a country in which a high-profile involvement in Communist politics not only doesn’t hurt your ability to make it to the top in a variety of fields – in one instance after another, it often seems to have helped.

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Aslak Sira Myhre

In some cases, indeed, people who have almost nothing but their Communist affiliations are handed top jobs. Aslak Sira Myhre‘s parents were prominent members of the Workers’ Communist Party (AKP), and he himself was head of a Communist party called Rødt Valgallianse (RV) before he was recruited in 2006 for the powerful and prestigious position of director of Litteraturhuset, Norway’s leading literary institution and debate venue.

In 2014, Myhre left that job for one that was even more high-profile: director of the Norwegian National Library. And no, he has no background whatsoever in library science or in any related profession.

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Gerd Liv Valla

A not terribly dissimilar case is that of Gerd Liv Valla, who was appointed Minister of Justice in 1997 by then Prime Minister Thorbjørn Jagland. During her student days at the University of Oslo, Valla had been active in the Kommunistisk Universitetslag (KU), a group whose politics, as Larsen reports, were to the left of AKP’s: KU supported the Kremlin line until the USSR underwent de-Stalinization, whereupon it switched its allegiance to Mao’s China; after Mao died and China moved beyond the Cultural Revolution, the KU aligned itself with Albania. That a woman with such a background should be put in charge of a democratic system of justice outraged many, but the furore was dismissed by the political class as right-wing nonsense. From 2001 to 2007, Valla was head of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), the workers’ organization that is one of the most powerful institutions in Norway.

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Egil “Drillo” Olsen

In one field of endeavor after another, some of the most high-profile people in today’s Norway are Communists. Sports? No sports figure has been more prominent over the past couple of decades than Egil “Drillo” Olsen, the colorful, outspoken coach of the Norwegian national soccer team. “I believe in the collective, I believe in solidarity, I believe in taking the side of the weakest people in the most important conflicts in the world,” he said in a 2010 interview. “Therefore I’m a Communist.”  

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Mads Gilbert

Medicine? No doctor in Norway is more famous than Mads Gilbert, an anesthesiologist and politician (for Rødt, a Communist party) who’s been praised by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, named Man of the Year (in 2014) by the newspaper VG, been decorated (in 2013) by King Harald V, and won a long list of prizes. Why? For his “humanitarian work” in the Palestinian territories. Never mind his less-than-humanitarian support for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, about which he said that “the oppressed have a moral right to attack the U.S.”

(By the way, another much-heralded Communist M.D. and “humanitarian,” Hans Husum, also vigorously defended 9/11, as did prolific crime novelist and Rødt politician Gert Nygårdshaug, who after the terror attacks wrote an op-ed explaining his refusal to take part in a minute of silence outside the U.S. Embassy. In fact, Nygårdshaug was so delighted by 9/11 that he put up a plaque in his garden commemorating it.)

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Anders Heger

Publishing? Anders Heger, a columnist for the daily Dagsavisen who has also been head of Cappelen, one of Norway’s three major book publishers, since 1991, is a Communist who has expressed support for jihad; born with a silver spoon in his mouth in the richest part of Oslo, he’s rejected charges of hypocrisy, saying that despite his wealth “I have a right to be radical….One can’t turn one’s convictions into a question about private income.”

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Henrik Ormåsen

Then there’s a group called SOS Rasisme. For many years, it was one of the most high-profile organizations in Norway, collecting massive amounts of government support for pointing the finger at supposed racists. Although many of these “racists” were people whose only offense was failing to toe the socialist line, SOS Rasisme’s charges were invariably taken seriously, and the group was regarded throughout the Norwegian cultural establishment as a legitimate and respectable anti-racist voice.

Then, a few years ago, it was revealed that SOS Rasisme (a) had been systematically lying about membership numbers in order to rake in more taxpayer cash, and (b) was essentially a front for Tjen Folket, an extremely radical Maoist faction whose leader, Henrik Ormåsen, had declared Stalin the greatest man of the 20th century. In 2013, the group finally went bankrupt; last year, Ormåsen and seven other men were indicted for fraud. 

More tomorrow.

Jan Guillou, Swedish literary idol…and KGB agent

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Jan Guillou

Yesterday we met a few Swedish enemies of capitalism who struck it rich with crime fiction. Here’s another. Jan Guillou (b. 1944) is one of Sweden’s most famous writers. “He is the Grand Old Man of Swedish journalism,” wrote Ilya Meyer in 2010, “and has for decades set the tone for journalism in this country.”

Jan_Guillou,_2011Meaning what? Meaning that Guillou made it the norm in Sweden for supposedly objective reporters to view everything through a red prism, and to twist, suppress, or invent facts to serve ideology. In the 1960s and 70s Guillou was a Maoist, belonged to the Swedish Communist Party, and accepted money from the USSR for providing the KGB with clandestine reports on his country’s politics. You might have expected that when the newspaper Expressen exposed this decades-old secret in 2009, the government would have arrested Guillou for treason. No: what happened was that the government’s press ombudsman accused the newspaper’s editors of behaving irresponsibly and damaging Guillou’s reputation.

guillou3There’s more. Against mountains of evidence to the contrary, he maintains that Western anti-Semitism is a thing of the past and that anyone who draws attention to the rise of Jew-hatred in Sweden is carrying water for Israel – a nation of which he’s a consistent and zealous critic, often to the point of being plainly anti-Semitic himself. According to Guillou, Western prejudice against Islam is the real problem. He’s a supporter of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist group, and in 1977 he co-wrote a book praising Iraq’s Baath Party regime and predicting that by the year 2000 Iraqis would be richer than Western Europeans.

guill858jeanettel_1189060145He’s even defended Al Qaeda. In 2001, he made headlines by walking out of a book fair during a three-minute silence for the victims of 9/11; shortly afterwards, he published an explanatory op-ed calling the U.S. “the great mass murderer of our time.” Widespread claims to the contrary, he insisted that the 9/11 attacks had not been aimed at the West generally but only at evil capitalist America, which had done a great deal to deserve them. (Later terrorist attacks in Madrid, London, Paris, Istanbul, etc., etc., haven’t led him to admit his error.)

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Max Manus

A couple of days ago, we mentioned Max Manus, the Norwegian Resistance hero who repeatedly risked his life carrying out acts of sabotage against the Nazis. Last year, Guillou published a World War II spy novel, Blue Star, on the last page of which he says that “no Norwegian has caused the deaths of as many of his countrymen as Max Manus.” Guillou also accuses Manus of having killed Karl Alfred Marthinsen, head of the Norwegian state police. In December, Manus’s daughter, Mette Manus, went public with her rage over this abuse of her father’s name, calling the murder accusation a “direct lie.” Of course, from Guillou’s own point of view, his slur on Manus makes perfect sense. The very idea of Norwegian war heroes – of men risking their lives for freedom – is offensive to him, as is freedom itself. There can be no idols other than Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and company; the rest, especially those, like Manus, who risked their lives to overcome everything that totalitarian monsters like these stood for, must, in the view of a Jan Guillou, be torn down without remorse. 

Ted Turner: capitalism for him, Communism for the masses

In a 2001 interview with Ken Auletta of the New Yorker, Ted Turner articulated his principle of world diplomacy: “Just about everybody will be friendly toward us if we are friendly with them.” This is the kind of naivete with which Turner approaches the world.

Last week we looked at Turner’s career, with a special focus on his ardent defense of two of the world’s remaining Communist regimes, those of North Korea and Cuba. Today we’ll wrap up our report on Turner with a few additional observations and quotations.

turner13 (2)In July 2015, Cristiane Amanpour of CNN interviewed Turner on a range of subjects. It was clear that his naivete was still fully intact. On Castro: “He had a lot of courage to tackle the United States.” On his own first trip to Cuba: “I flew home with a whole new desire to understand more about other cultures and political systems and to increase communication and dialogue between nations.” Turner told Amanpour that he seeks to “build bridges between nations” – and, as an example of this bridge-building, cited the Goodwill Games, which he founded, and which took place five times between 1986 and 2001. Turner has actually asserted that it was the Goodwill Games, apparently in combination with CNN, that brought down the Iron Curtain: “I thought, between sports and news and television and friendship, that you could end the Cold War and, by God, we did.” In the Amanpour interview, he also called for “total nuclear disarmament,” saying of the world’s nuclear arsenals that “we’ve gotta get rid of them” – as if this were as easily done as said.

turner11 (2)The more Turner talked about “understanding” political systems and “building bridges,” the more obvious it was that he somehow just doesn’t grasp that some “systems” are cruel, oppressive, and bellicose and therefore need to be challenged and resisted, not “understood.” He plainly doesn’t understand that when dealing with aggressive ideological adversaries, being “friendly” is simply perceived as weakness and will be exploited. Nor does he recognize that nuclear weapons are more dangerous in some hands than in others. Back in 2001, Auletta summed up a few of what he called Turner’s “contradictions”:

Ted-Turner_1He successfully opposed unionization at his company, yet he rails against élites. He has called himself “a socialist at heart” and a fiscal “conservative.” Turner speaks out on behalf of the rights of women but refuses to denounce Islamic states that suppress women’s rights. He has compared Rupert Murdoch, who owns the Fox network, to Hitler, yet when he is asked if he thinks Saddam Hussein is evil he says, “I’m not sure that I know enough to be able to answer that question.” And though he preaches tolerance, he has uttered some intolerant words; for example, on Ash Wednesday, seeing the black smudge on the foreheads of some CNN staff members, he asked them whether they were “Jesus freaks.”

turner14 (2)And here are some more of Ted Turner’s opinions. 9/11? “The reason that the World Trade Center got hit,” said Turner a few months after the terror attack, “is because there are a lot of people living in abject poverty out there who don’t have any hope for a better life.” Asked if he would let some of these desperately poor people live on his own land – which at the time was larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island put together – he answered: “Can I live in your home with you? We believe in private property in this country.” Or, to put it more correctly, Ted Turner believes in private property for himself, but not for the people of Cuba or North Korea. 

turner10Israel and the Palestinians? “The Israelis…they’ve got one of the most powerful military machines in the world. The Palestinians have nothing. So who are the terrorists?”

Global warming? “There’s too many people. That’s why we have global warming. We have global warming because too many people are using too much stuff. If there were less people they’d be using less stuff.” If we don’t act now, the world will be “eight degrees hotter in 10, not 10, but in 30 or 40 years, and basically none of the crops will grow. Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals.” Still, he has one of the largest personal carbon footprints in the world and spends much of his time burning jet fuel as he flies from one of his 28 homes to another.

Free speech? After John Hinckley tried to kill President Reagan to impress Jodie Foster, whom he’d just seen in Martin Scorsese’s movie Taxi Driver, Turner delivered an impassioned editorial on CNN. Scorsese and the others responsible for the making of Taxi Driver, he declared, were as much to blame for Hinckley’s assassination attempt as was Hinckley himself. Turner called for Congressional action to ban the production of such films.

Bottom line: the man doesn’t understand the first thing about freedom. Or the first thing about tyranny. Aside from that, he’s a genius.

 

Jesse Ventura, “libertarian” – and Castro fan

Former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura speaking about his book "They Killed Our President" October 4, 2013 in Washington, DC. Ventura, who is considering a long-shot independent run for the White House, said he would immediately clear the intelligence leakers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden if elected. Ventura, who served as governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003 and is an avid proponent of conspiracy theories, said it was "wonderful" for individuals within government to expose abuses. Ventura's book "They Killed Our President," alleges that the 1963 Kennedy assassination was a conspiracy in reaction to his efforts to reduce war. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Jesse Ventura has long been a familiar figure in the American media. Open and outspoken, colorful and controversial, he’s had a remarkably varied career, working in turn as a Navy SEAL, professional wrestler, film actor, and one-term Governor of Minnesota. Since leaving office in 2003, he’s spent much of his time criticizing top U.S. officials and floating conspiracy theories in countless TV and radio interviews. He’s played coy about where he stands on many of these theories, sometimes vehemently denying, for example, that he’s a 9/11 “Truther” – a believer, that is, that the Bush Administration plotted the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon – and sometimes explicitly endorsing “Truther” theories. From 2009 to 2013, he hosted a TV show about conspiracy theories, and in recent years he’s co-written a couple of books on the subject, one of which argued that the JFK assassination was an inside job.

conspiracyIt’s tempting, of course, to dismiss Ventura as a marginal crank – an obvious crackpot whom nobody could possibly take seriously. But we’re talking here about a guy who’s in a position to get his books published, get his TV shows aired, and get himself booked on any number of high-profile TV and radio shows. A self-styled libertarian, he presumably has fans (at least one of his books was a New York Times bestseller) and thus at least a degree of influence, and during the last year or two has often offered himself up – and he doesn’t seem to be kidding about this in the slightest – as a candidate, if not in 2016 then in 2020, for president of the United States.

(FILES) In this 04 September1999 file photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro discusses his request to the president of the International Olympic Committee in Havana for an investigation into the treatment of certain Cuban atheletes. Castro said the communist nation is not afraid of dialogue with the United States -- and not interested in continued confrontation with its powerful neighbor.  The comments came as a group of US lawmakers visited Cuba this weekend to try to end nearly half a century of mutual distrust and amid reports that President Barack Obama was planning to ease economic sanctions on the island, including travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans. "We're not afraid to talk with the United States. We also don't need confrontation to exist, like some fools like to think," Castro, 82, said in an article on the Cubadebate website on April 5, 2009.  AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE /FILES (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)   Original Filename: Was672139.jpg
Fidel Castro

Which is why, despite the man’s manifest preposterousness, it’s worth drawing attention to one aspect of his life that’s perhaps relatively obscure – namely, his outsized, highly un-libertarian enthusiasm for none other than Fidel Castro. “I can only judge Fidel by the hour I spent with him,” Ventura told an interviewer in 2012 – an extraordinarily unserious and irresponsible thing to say, of course, when you’re somebody who’s eager to be regarded as a serious thinker and responsible political player. You can only judge a head of state with a decades-long record – one that includes mass torture and innumerable executions without trial – by the hour you spent with him? Really? 

ventura-01[1]Of all things, Ventura enthused over Castro’s handshake: “I will always remember his handshake. Always. And I’ve shaken how many hands? But I will always remember his.” Although famously prepared to believe the most absurd conspiracy theories about the U.S. government, Ventura credulously parroted the transparently mendacious propaganda about Cuba’s purportedly magnificent health-care system. And although he rode to victory in Minnesota by claiming to be an ardent believer in libertarian values, he was quick to defend Communism as merely “a different form of government.”

His summing-up on the topic? “Castro never lied to me. My government has.

De Blasio’s appalling proclamation

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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio

Here’s a new item for our ever-growing files on The Nation – whose well-nigh nonpareil history of useful stoogery we’ve dipped into rather frequently since beginning this site – and on current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose participation in a City Hall tribute to Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe we’ve also taken note of.  It was, of course, only a matter of time before the left’s Manhattan-based flagship weekly and the Big Apple’s stridently progressive mayor ended up in the same item. The convergence of the twain took place earlier this month, when de Blasio issued a proclamation declaring July 6, the magazine’s 150th anniversary, “The Nation Day” in New York City.

Yes, politicians issue such proclamations all the time. And, yes, they rarely mean very much. Last year, after all, de Blasio himself declared August 20 “Al Roker Appreciation Day,” in honor of the Today Show weatherman’s 60th birthday.

Nation_Day_Proclamation_ccBut the text of de Blasio’s proclamation about The Nation was not just the usual empty boilerplate. Recalling the magazine’s founding in 1865 by prominent abolitionists, de Blasio stated: “A century and a half later, the integrity and audacity of America’s oldest weekly magazine are still very much intact.” He went on:

New York has served as The Nation’s home and history-making partner through Emancipation, the Great Depression, two world wars, the civil rights movement, and into the age of technology. Whether taking politicians to task, exposing the lasting effects of war, profiling our state’s progressive labor movement, highlighting the intersection of economic justice and criminal justice, critiquing the rising cost of higher education, reporting on conflicts in Syria or South Sudan or outlining strategies for keeping hope alive, The Nation continues to shed light on the disenfranchised, mobilizing its readers to articulate and reaffirm their values and to take action in the name of progress (necessarily ruffling not a few feathers along the way).

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

This spectacular load of B.S. might have penned by editor Katrina vanden Heuvel herself. In pretending to sum up The Nation‘s history, it entirely omits, among much else, the magazine’s decades of vigorous Stalinist apologetics, of poisonous personal attacks on anti-Communists, and of enthusiastic support for enemies of America and of liberty. It ignores the magazine’s inflexible devotion to a far-left, freedom-hating ideology and its routine practice of blithely twisting or deep-sixing facts that make that ideology look bad.

17/11/05-CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS-Christopher Hitchens, a controversial British-born, U.S.-based journalist; former left-wing, now a conservative, was in Toronto on Thursday to speak at the Grano Speakers Series. He spoke to the Star in his hotel room in the morning.(Photo by Peter Power/The Toronto Star)pmp (Photo by Peter Power/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Christopher Hitchens

Speaking of ideology, perhaps the most outrageous part of de Blasio’s proclamation was its opening: “Healthy debate. Consistent reflection. Diverse voices. Nuanced perspectives.” Right. Tell us another. We only wish the late Christopher Hitchens were alive to read this nonsense and comment on it. Hitchens, of course, was the longtime Nation contributor who, after 9/11, dared to dissent from what had instantly become the magazine’s party line about that atrocity – namely, that the U.S. had “asked for it” – and ended up quitting the staff in 2002.

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Katha Pollitt

In his last column for The Nation, Hitchens lamented that it was becoming “the voice and the echo chamber of those who truly believe that John Ashcroft is a greater menace than Osama bin Laden.” Among the inhabitants of that echo chamber was (and is) Katha Pollitt, whose first response to 9/11, it will be recalled, was to write an article explaining why she wouldn’t let her daughter, in the wake of the atrocity, fly the American flag –that vile symbol of imperialism and oppression – from the window of their apartment, which was located only a few blocks from Ground Zero.

No city suffered more on 9/11 than New York. No American magazine showed less sympathy for the victims, and more “understanding” for the perpetrators, than The Nation. For the mayor of that city to issue an official proclamation congratulating that magazine on its anniversary – a proclamation in which he whitewashes its history and overlooks its disgusting reaction to the attack on the Twin Towers – is a disservice both to the truth and to the people of the city he was elected to serve.

The Nation post-9/11: finding new enemies to love

We’re taking an extended look at the history of the American left’s flagship weekly, The Nation, which this year is celebrating its 150th anniversary with a special issue that’s available for free online – and that does a pretty neat job of airbrushing and whitewashing that history. We’ve seen how The Nation, during the Cold War, served as a Stalinist mouthpiece, an apologist for the Khmer Rouge, and an enemy of Western freedoms.

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Katha Pollitt

Then came 9/11. The response of The Nation was predictable. After the Twin Towers were brought down, columnist Katha Pollitt wrote a self-satisfied screed about her refusal to let her daughter, whose high school was “only blocks from the World Trade Center,” fly the Stars and Stripes from their apartment window. While the smoke was still clearing, Jonathan Schell preached that if Americans wanted to prevent another such assault, they needed to “understand…the sources of the hatred that the United States has incurred” – the point, of course, being that the U.S. had brought on the attack through its own actions. Naomi Klein took the same line, accusing the U.S. of having “become expert in the art of sanitizing and dehumanizing acts of war committed elsewhere…The United States is a country that believed itself not just at peace but war-proof, a self-perception that would come as quite a surprise to most Iraqis, Palestinians and Colombians.”

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The late Christopher Hitchens

In the whole rag, the lone voice of logic and decency was longtime contributor Christopher Hitchens – who soon found himself driven out of The Nation for recognizing the 9/11 perpetrators not as pitiable, justice-seeking victims of evil Western imperialism but as vile jihadist haters of American freedom. (Interestingly, The Nation‘s anniversary issue omits all of these pieces, boiling down its entire coverage of 9/11 to a snippet that takes up part of page 171.)

150th_issue_cover_otu_imgThe post-9/11 posture of The Nation on Islam has been no surprise. After all, the one constant at the magazine, ever since its embrace of Communism, has been its determination to hold fast to its anti-American ideology in the face of one onslaught after another of facts that thoroughly discredit that ideology, and to evince sympathy for whatever totalitarian entity has set itself up against U.S. “hegemony.” Daniel Greenfield summed up  the whole business quite neatly in 2013: The Nation has “learned nothing from the past. Instead it repeats history as farce, stumbling from one tyranny to another in the hopes of finding progress somewhere among the corpses.” Having “aided the Soviet plan for world domination,” Greenfield noted, The Nation is now “doing the very same thing for the Islamists.” Indeed.

Tomorrow we’ll wrap up our series on The Nation with some closing observations about its anniversary issue – and a thought or two about its future.