Catching up with Stalin apologist Ben Norton

In July of last year, we spent a week covering the oeuvre of Ben Norton, who after only three years as a professional scribe had already compiled an extensive body of work – and made a name for himself as a high-profile fan of socialism and Islam and enemy of the U.S. and Israel.

Ben Norton

To say he’s a fan of socialism, to be sure, is to soft-pedal his ideological allegiances. In fact he’s a full-throated defender of Communism, as witnessed by a piece he published at AlterNet on November 22. In it, he accused the Trump administration and others, including the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, of marking the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution by “demoniz[ing] communism.”

Singling out a Post article in which Marc Thiessen pointed out that “Communist regimes killed some 100 million people — roughly four times the number killed by the Nazis — making communism the most murderous ideology in human history,” Norton called the piece a “diatribe” and denounced Thiessen for “whitewashing the Nazi regime’s uniquely murderous crimes.” Because, you see, if you dare to tell the whole truth about the destructive evil of Communism, and acknowledge that Communism, in its century-long history, has indeed claimed more lives than Nazism did during its decade or so in power, you must be a Nazi sympathizer.

Marc Thiessen

In his screed, Norton played the same kind of numbers game in which Holocaust deniers like to indulge. Rejecting the claim that Communist regimes had killed 100 million people, he complained that that figure included Russians killed during the Nazi invasion of the USSR. He also criticized Thiessen and others for relying on statistics from The Black Book of Communism, a solid reference work that Norton dismissed as a “propagandistic tract” – “a collection of right-wing essays published in France in 1997” – and charged with “trivializing the Holocaust.”

Josef Stalin

Of course, it’s possible to tell the whole truth about Communism without being a fan of Nazism. Evil is evil. Totalitarianism is totalitarianism. Surely the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal don’t think Hitler was peachy keen. Norton’s whole line of argument here is disingenuous – in fact, he’s the one who greatly prefers one kind of totalitarianism to the other, and who is determined not to see them placed anywhere near on the same level. He claims that The Black Book of Communism had been used “to diminish the crimes of fascism and portray it as a lesser evil compared to communism.” That admirers of one brand of tyranny can use the facts about another brand of tyranny to suit their own purposes does not mean that those facts aren’t facts.

Noam Chomsky

Norton goes further: borrowing from Noam Chomsky, he serves up the suggestion that the logic of The Black Book of Communism could be used to blame capitalism for the death of tens of millions of people in India alone. He also tries to sell the notion that, because “the Soviet Union’s meticulously kept archives” show that “799,455 people were executed under the rule of Joseph Stalin between 1921 and 1953,” this number should be accepted as the sum total of lives lost as a result of Communism during the Stalin era. Forget, then, the Gulag and the Holodomor.

Mao Zedong

Norton also tries to drastically slash the number of people who died as a consequence of Mao’s tyranny, arguing that millions of them were, rather, victims of famine, and pointing out that deadly famines have been a regular part of Chinese history for centuries. In short, in addition to dropping the Gulag and Holodomor down the memory hole, Norton also deep-sixes the depredations of the so-called Cultural Revolution.

But that’s not all. Norton implies that instead of demonizing Communism, we should celebrate it – after all, it was the Soviets who experienced most of the battlefront casualties in “the fight against fascism.” Fine – the problem is that, again, they were fighting one form of totalitarianism in the name of another form of totalitarianism. He describes the USSR as having “liberated Auschwitz and Berlin.” But how can you speak of “liberation” when the people “liberated” ended up living under a fiercely illiberal dictatorship?

Giving May Day new meaning?

It’s May 1, which before the fall of the Iron Curtain was a day on which the peoples of the Communist world were constrained to celebrate the very system that oppressed them. In many countries today, May Day continues to be officially observed, complete with red flags, banners inscribed with Soviet-era slogans, and the Internationale played by marching bands – all supposedly in the name of honoring workers and the labor movement. 

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Ilya Somin

In today’s Washington Post, Ilya Somin – a law professor at George Mason University and Cato Institute scholar who was born in the Soviet Union and was brought to the U.S. by his parents when he was five years old – argues that instead of propping up this ragged old Communist institution, we should turn May 1 into an international “Victims of Communism Day,” memorializing the millions who perished at the hands of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and other Marxist tyrants. Noting, correctly, that people in the West tend to be far less aware of the crimes of Communism than of the crimes of Nazism, Somin writes:

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A recent May Day march in Oslo, Norway

The authoritative Black Book of Communism estimates the total [of people killed by Communism] at 80 to 100 million dead, greater than that caused by all other twentieth century tyrannies combined. We appropriately have a Holocaust Memorial Day. It is equally appropriate to commemorate the victims of the twentieth century’s other great totalitarian tyranny. And May Day is the most fitting day to do so.

An excellent proposal. Not only do the victims of Communism deserve to be remembered; but such an annual act of recognition would go a long way toward countering the shameless, untiring efforts of the useful stooges among us who continue to whitewash Communism and its atrocities. 

Ted Turner’s fidelity to Fidel

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Ted Turner

We’ve been looking at the history of Ted Turner‘s friendship with Fidel Castro. Apropos of which, here’s an illuminating excerpt from a 2008 interview with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News:

O’REILLY: Fidel Castro, do you admire the man?

TURNER: Yes.

O’REILLY: Now he has murdered people. He’s imprisoned people. There are political prisoners now. He won’t let his people use the Internet. Nobody can use that. And you admire the guy?

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O’Reilly and Turner

TURNER: Well, I admire certain things about him. He’s trained a lot of doctors, and they’ve got one of the best educational systems in the developing world. And you know, he’s still popular with a lot of people down there. He’s unpopular…

O’REILLY: But he’s a killer. He’s a killer. He’s a guy who…

TURNER: But that has never, to my knowledge, that’s never been proven. I mean…

O’REILLY: He’s executed political prisoners. I mean, he enslaves people who don’t see it the way he sees it. Come on. He runs a dictatorship.

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Jane Fonda and Ted Turner

Later in the interview, O’Reilly brought up the fact that Turner and his wife Jane Fonda had been ardent opponents of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. O’Reilly told Turner that on a previous show he’d wondered aloud if it bothered Fonda that “after all your activism and getting America out of Vietnam…that 3 million human beings were slaughtered by the people that you were lionizing, the North Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge Communists who wouldn’t have been slaughtered if we stayed. And their skulls were stacked on top of each other.” O’Reilly added that he’d never received a response to his question from either Fonda or Turner. To which Turner replied: “You’ve got me. I didn’t really think about it. You know, it didn’t make the news very much.”

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Humberto Fontova

Yes, this is what the founder of CNN said about the murder of millions of people by the North Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge: “it didn’t make the news very much.” And he hadn’t really given it much thought. 

After Turner’s interview with O’Reilly, exiled Cuban writer Humberto Fontova commented on Turner’s claim that it had “never been proven” that Fidel had killed anybody. “Even the Cuban revolution’s most die-hard apologists,” wrote Fontova,

have never made so transparently preposterous a claim, and for good reason. According to the Black Book of Communism, 14,000 men and boys had been executed in Cuba by 1964 – the equivalent of more than 3 million executions in the United States….Indeed, like al-Qaeda generations later, mass murder (often in public), was always key to the Communist quest for and maintenance of power. Communists have always wanted this to be known, as a means to intimidate opposition.

Also in 2008, Turner himself interviewed Castro on CNN. It may well be the feeblest interview ever conducted by anyone with a head of state. Castro made a series of absurd statements – for example, that during his presidency Cuba had always enjoyed total freedom of religion, and that his country’s economic problems were entirely the fault of the U.S. embargo. He also made outrageously exaggerated claims about Cuba’s medical and educational achievements. And Turner – who came across as totally uniformed and utterly credulous – didn’t challenge a word of it.

This year saw the publication of a new book, The Double Life of Fidel Castro, by a longtime Castro bodyguard. He revealed that Castro, who pretended to enjoy a simple life, actually had a secret island getaway where he had a “small port for a high-speed (42 knots!) luxury yacht, vacation home, floating bar/grille, mini-Sea World, etc.”

Only a very few select individuals were invited to visit the island. Among them was Ted Turner, who dutifully kept his comrade’s secret.