Defending Ahmadinejad

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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran from 2005 to 2013, called the Holocaust a “myth” and a “lie” and maintained that AIDS was a Western plot to destroy the Third World. He banned Western music from Iranian radio and TV and severely limited Internet access for most Iranian citizens. Even more than his predecessor, he cracked down on protests and tortured dissidents. He persecuted women and academics and forced scientists into retirement. Oh, and he promised to “wipe Israel off the map.”

On September 24, 2007, at the invitation of Columbia University’s then president, Lee Bollinger, Ahmadinejad delivered a speech at Columbia as part of its annual World Leaders Forum. While some members of the university community publicly criticized the invitation, others cheered Ahmadinejad on his arrival. For them, it appeared, hailing the Iranian leader was yet another way to express their contempt for then U.S. President George W. Bush.

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Lee Bollinger

Ahmadinejad’s speech received a mixed reception. Audience members laughed when he insisted that there were no gays in Iran, but applauded his negative remarks about Bush and the U.S. government and his insistence on the need to study “the root causes of 9/11.” The introduction to Ahmadinejad’s speech was given by Bollinger himself, who took the opportunity to call him “a petty and cruel dictator.” Bollinger may not have been the most hospitable of hosts, but his remarks were nothing less than factual.

But Hamid Dabashi, the Professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia whom we’ve been discussing this week, was outraged. Writing in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahran, he condemned Bollinger’s remarks in the harshest terms. Bollinger, he maintained, was a “white supremacist” whose remarks exuded “mind-numbing racism.” They echoed “the most ridiculous clichés of the neocon propaganda machinery, wrapped in the missionary position of a white racist supremacist carrying the heavy burden of civilizing the world.” They were, indeed, nothing less than examples of “propaganda warfare…waged by the self-proclaimed moral authority of the United States.”

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Hamid Dabashi

A columnist at the New York Sun suggested that Dabashi’s article was “perhaps the most severe public indictment yet of Mr. Bollinger’s behavior.” Judith Jacobson, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia, called Dabashi’s article “sheer demagoguery,” adding that “attributing President Bollinger’s remarks or behavior to racism is absurd.”

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Ward Churchill

Then along came Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder who attracted national attention in 2005 because of an essay in which he’d described those killed at the World Trade Center as “little Eichmanns.” Charged soon afterwards with plagiarism and other types of professional misconduct, he won support from fellow radical academics around the U.S. One of them was Dabashi, who in a published statement compared himself and other professors who had rallied around Churchill to the members of the slave army in the 1960 movie Spartacus who, when a Roman general demands that they identify their leader so that he can be executed, refuse to do so and instead stand up and say, one after the other, “I am Spartacus!” “Today,” wrote Dabashi, “every single professor teaching in the remotest parts of this country with an abiding conviction in the moral duty of democratic dissent is Ward Churchill. In the company of that magnificent chorus of hope for the democratic future of this country, I too am Ward Churchill.” Churchill was fired anyway.

Josef who?

You may never have heard of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. But if you’re a regular reader of this site, you’ll probably want to know about it, for it’s an institution that seeks to address a profound need that lies very close to the heart of our own efforts: namely, the extraordinary ignorance of the brutal reality of Communism in today’s America, especially on the part of young people.

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Josef Stalin: only 18% of US millennials know who he was

The extent of that ignorance was underscored on October 17 by the foundation’s own annual report on American attitudes toward socialism and Communism. The executive director of VOC, Mario Smith, summed those findings up as follows: “An emerging generation of Americans have little understanding of the collectivist system and its dark history.” While older generations are aware of the evils of Communism, millennials (born between 1982 and 2002) aren’t. This makes sense, of course. The fall of the Iron Curtain occurred before they were born or when they were small children. They’ve been taught about the evils of Nazism, but little about Communism. They know about the Holocaust, but probably not about the Gulag.

The VOC’s sobering numbers confirm this ignorance. According to the study, only 18% of American millennials can place the name of Josef Stalin; the comparable figures for Lenin and Mao Zedong are 42% and 33%. The inevitable result of this profound ignorance of Communism is a disturbingly benign attitude toward it. While 91% of older Americans and 80% of baby boomers view Communism negatively, only 55% of millennials do. Fully 25% of millennials who recognized the name of Lenin actually view him favorably.

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Joseph McCarthy: the real #1 Cold War villain

This sympathy for Communism surely owes a lot to baby-boom teachers or professors who, when they have touched on Communism, have actually treated it sympathetically. Instead of underscoring the fact that the regimes of Hitler and Stalin were equally totalitarian, many of those supposed educators have drawn sharp distinctions between Nazism and Communism, pronouncing the former as unqualifiedly evil but depicting the latter as a beautiful dream that perhaps got just a wee bit out of control. In recent decades, school syllabi touching on Communism have focused less on the horrors of life in the USSR and more on the purported victimization of American Communists during the era of the Hollywood blacklist. In this formulation, the villain of the piece is not Stalin but Senator Joseph McCarthy.

030114-O-0000D-001 President George W. Bush. Photo by Eric Draper, White House.
George W. Bush: deadlier than Stalin?

Consequently, almost 45% of millennials actually say they would vote for a socialist president – a statistic that might have been surprising before the Bernie Sanders campaign, but perhaps isn’t so surprising now. Fully 32% of millennials actually believe more people were killed under George W. Bush than under Stalin. (The figure for Americans generally isn’t much better: 25%.)

Much of the millennial sympathy for socialism and Communism can be attributed to the widespread use, in high-school and colleage history courses, of a single book entitled A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn (1922-2010). We’ll get to him tomorrow.

Hollywood’s “resident Communist”

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Ed Asner (top middle), with other stars of The Mary Tyler Moore Show

If you’re an American of a certain age, you certainly know who Ed Asner is, and you’re probably very fond of him. And you should be: he’s a terribly likeable guy and a terrific actor. For seven years back in the 1970s, he played the gruff-but-lovable boss Lou Grant on the hit CBS comedy The Mary Tyler Moore Show. There followed several more years in his own spinoff series, Lou Grant. He’s since starred in innumerable TV movies and made guest appearances on a number of sitcoms. Now pushing ninety (he turns 87 tomorrow), Asner continues to keep busy as an actor.

During all these years, however, he’s also found time to involve himself in politics. From 1981 to 1985, he served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. In addition, he’s been active in a great many left-wing groups, campaigns, and causes, the list of which is at least as long as his list of acting credits on IMdB.com. So important a player has he been in far-left activism that his name figures in a 2000-word history of the American left at the website of the Democratic Socialists of America – a group he’s belonged to for years.

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On his own series, Lou Grant

Just a few items from that list. In the 1980s he joined groups that provided aid and comfort to Communist guerrilas in Central America. In 1984 he sponsored the annual banquet of the Labor Research Association, a Communist Party front organization that compiled statistics for use by unions and activists. In 2002 he signed a statement formulated by a leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party that accused George W. Bush of repression and imperialism.

danielFrom time to time, Asner has managed to combine acting with activism. While playing Karl Marx in a 2010 Los Angeles stage production, he explained to a reporter that he’d been cast in the part because “I’m always thought of in Hollywood and surrounding environs as the resident communist.” (Imagine what it takes to be the “resident communist” in Hollywood!)

Years earlier, in 1983, Asner appeared in Sidney Lumet’s film Daniel, based on E. L. Doctorow’s novel about a young man whose parents – based on Julius and Ethel Rosenberg – were executed many years earlier for being Soviet atom spies. The movie, which was scripted by Doctorow, was widely, and properly, panned as a piece of clumsy propaganda: while celebrating the purported nobility and idealism of the radical 1930s activist milieu that shaped the Rosenbergs’ values, it delicately skirting the evil reality of Stalinism and the issue of treason.

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Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

Asner’s belief in the film and its Soviet-friendly message, however, was demonstrated three years ago by his sponsorship of a screening of it that was co-presented by the Communist Party and held at a Party-operated venue in Los Angeles. At the screening, which was dedicated to the memory of the Rosenbergs, Asner gave a speech in which he accused the Rosenbergs’ prosecutors of anti-Semitism, drew a moral equivalency between the Rosenbergs’ trial and Stalin’s show trials, and criticized the “antipathy in this country for people of differing opinions.” As we’ll see tomorrow, however, Asner has shown great understanding for the brutal treatment of “people of different opinions” in another country – namely, Cuba.

CNN and tyrants: access at all costs

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Ted Turner

We’ve devoted a good deal of time here at Useful Stooges to Ted Turner, the founder of CNN who’s made billions through capitalism but has a very soft spot for Communism. This is a dude who’s insisted that North Korea is peaceable and called Fidel Castro a “great guy.” He owns over two dozen homes and is America’s second-largest landowner, but he demands that the ordinary proles should tackle global warming by reducing their carbon footprints. As for Islamic terrorism, he’s explained that 9/11 happened “because there are a lot of people living in abject poverty out there who don’t have any hope for a better life.”

He’s often spoken of CNN as if it were his child. Well, in this case, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. The received wisdom is that of the three major cable-news operations, Fox News is conservative and MSNBC liberal, while CNN is in the middle, serving up objective, balanced reporting and treating both sides fairly.

Balderdash.

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Peter Arnett

When it comes to oppressive regimes – the type that shutter opposition media and imprison honest journalists – CNN’s policy has routinely been to retain access at all costs. Back in 1991, during the first Gulf War, CNN’s Peter Arnett was the only Western TV reporter in Baghdad, and, as such, according to Newsweek, provided “rare glimpses from inside Iraq,” even as he “provoked criticism that he and his network [were] being used as a conduit for Iraqi propaganda.” Arnett denied the charges vehemently: “Are we conduits for propaganda? It’s information….[The Iraqis] aren’t requiring me to report information; I’m not told what to write. I feel that what we are doing is giving a view which is not complete but is helpful, hopefully, for Americans and [people] elsewhere.”

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Eason Jordan

CNN’s access-at-any-price policy gained widespread attention again after 9/11, when many critics pointed to CNN’s unique ability to keep its reporters in Baghdad and attributed it – correctly – to the network’s systematic refusal to report on the dark side of Saddam’s regime. In a 2003 New York Times op-ed, “The News We Kept to Ourselves,” CNN news exec Eason Jordan admitted that on 13 trips to Baghdad over the previous dozen years, he’d seen and heard “awful things” that his network hadn’t reported. But instead of acknowledging that CNN had stayed mum to retain access, he took the line that it had stayed silent to protect “the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff.”

In the op-ed, Jordan told of an Iraqi CNN cameraman who’d been arrested and tortured by the secret police; he recalled the time Saddam Hussein’s son Uday confided in him plans to kill two of his relatives; and he noted that henchmen had once pulled an aide’s front teeth with pliers just to keep him in line. But CNN reported on none of these things. “I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me,” Jordan claimed. But it was his decision to maintain CNN’s presence in Iraq nonetheless – resulting in reportage that every single day whitewashed the reality of life under Saddam.

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Christiane Amanpour

When the U.S. and its allies did finally invade Iraq, CNN continued to be reluctant to criticize Saddam’s regime – though it didn’t hesitate to go after the American government and military, and (especially) after news operations that weren’t so cozy with Saddam’s regime. The network’s own Christiane Amanpour actually smeared Fox News as being the Bush administration’s “foot soldiers” – in response to which Fox issued the statement saying, “It’s better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda.”

Maradona’s unsavory pantheon

In the view of many soccer fans, he’s the greatest player in the history of the sport. Born fifty-five years ago in a shantytown in Buenos Aires, he played for such teams as FC Barcelona and Napoli. He captained the Argentine national squad to victory in the 1986 World Cup finals, where he scored a goal that’s been voted the greatest in World Cup history.

Millions adore Diego Maradona. And there are a few people he adores, too. Recently he recorded a video tour of his home in Dubai – yes, Dubai. In addition to pointing out family portraits, he proudly showed off photographs of himself with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, whom Maradona called, respectively, “the greatest man” and “his best disciple.”

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Maradona with Hugo Chávez

The soccer giant, observed Adam Dubove at the PanamPost, “has never hidden his political inclinations. He publicly backed Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, ardently defends the Cuban dictatorship, and even became friends with the late Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi.” His body bears tattoos of both Fidel and Che Guevara. On his house tour, Maradona displayed a framed letter from Castro, sent to him “earlier this year to debunk rumors of his death,” and another recent missive, from Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. “I framed it,” he explained, “because to me, she is my president.”

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Maradona with Fidel Castro

The letter from Castro, which ran to four pages, made headlines in January of this year. As the Independent put it, the letter provided “the first news heard about Castro and his activities for nearly three months.” When Maradona showed it to journalists, media around the world reported that Fidel – who had not been seen in public for over a year – was, indeed, still alive. Rumors of his death had circulated only a week earlier.

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Showing off his Che tattoo

That’s not all. Maradona is also friendly with the rulers of the United Arab Emirate, and was a fan of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, the former President of Iran.

These friendships go back quite a while. In 2005, Maradona went with Chávez to Mar del Plata, Argentina, to protest a trade agreement proposed by the administration of George W. Bush. Appearing on Chávez’s own radio show back in 2007, Maradona said, “I believe in Chávez, I am a chavista.… Everything Fidel does, everything Chávez does is, for me, the best. I hate everything that comes from the United States. I hate it with all my strength.”

“I came to Venezuela to find a president,” he later remarked, “and found a friend.” Chávez, he added, “taught me a lot.”  

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With Maduro

In February of last year, Maradona responded to democratic protests against Maduro’s regime by offering to fight for it. “We’re seeing all the lies from the imperialists, and I’m willing to be a soldier for Venezuela for whatever is needed of me,” Maradona vowed. “Chávez would have wanted this.” George W. Bush and others U.S. leaders, said Maradona, “disgust me.” He added: “I believe in Venezuela. Long live Maduro, and Chávez, from the heavens, is accompanying you.”

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At Chávez’s tomb

In April 2013, a month after Chávez’s death, Maradona and Maduro paid tribute to him at his tomb. “What I remember about Hugo,” Maradona confessed on Venezuelan government TV, “was a great friendship, an incredible political wisdom. Hugo Chávez has changed Latin America’s way of thinking. We had surrendered to the United States and he put it in our heads that we can go forward on our own.” Apologizing for not making it to the funeral, Maradona smeared the “imperialist” U.S. and expressed his support for Maduro’s presidential candidacy.

This past June, Maduro himself recommended that Maradona be named head of FIFA, the international soccer association. 

 

CNN founder Ted Turner: master of hypocrisy

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Ted Turner

Recently we spent a couple of days scratching our heads over Jane Fonda‘s lifelong career as a fleabrained enthusiast for totalitarianism. Now it’s time to train the camera on this aging fluffhead’s third husband, Ted Turner, the billionaire founder of CNN, godfather (in the eyes of some observers) of cable TV itself, and currently the second largest landowner in the U.S., with more acreage, all told, than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island put together. (Until recently he was #1, but another media tycoon, John Malone, edged ahead of him.)

You’d think, given his remarkable financial success (he’s now worth over $2 billion), that, unlike his ditzy ex-wife (they divorced in 2001), Turner must be quite the sharp cookie. Indeed he has to be some kind of a business genius – many of those who’ve worked with him over the years have said so, and his own accomplishments can hardly be explained otherwise. But to peruse the record of his public statements on various issues is to be gobsmacked by what seems nothing less than a stunning combination of foolishness, nuttiness, ignorance, and immaturity. (And we’re talking about a man who’s now 72 years old.)

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With Jane Fonda at the 1992 Emmys

Like Fonda, Turner is on the extreme political left, loath to criticize the likes of Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, or North Korea’s Kims but quick to compare Fox News or people like George W. Bush to Hitler. Like Fonda, too, he’s a world-class hypocrite. As of 2012, when he was profiled by Stephen Galloway in the Hollywood Reporter, Turner was spending his time jetting privately from one of his 28 (yes, 28) homes to another – and was, at the same time (no joke) identifying himself as a passionate environmentalist who found it “heartbreaking” that “the Tea Party…say that global warming is a hoax.” In a list he’s drawn up of “11 Voluntary Initiatives,” Turner vows “to care for Planet Earth and all living things thereon, especially my fellow beings.” Back in 2001, Ken Auletta reported on Turner’s climate hysteria: “In a hundred years, he believes, New York will be under water and it will be ‘so hot the trees are going to die.’” As of July 2015, when Turner was interviewed by CNN’s Cristiane Amanpour, “protect[ing] the environment” remained his “current aim,” as demonstrated by the fact that his car was “adorned with two bumper stickers, proclaiming: ‘Save the Planet’ and ‘Save Everything.’” In short: do as I say, not as I do. 

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One of Ted Turner’s 28 residences

Another cute little hypocrisy: Turner has had five kids, but in 2010 he called for an international directive that would penalize couples for having more than one child. (He’s openly praised the Communist Chinese government for its one-child policy, which has resulted in the widespread murder of baby girls by their parents.)

But Turner’s biggest hypocrisy is the fact that he’s a billionaire with a soft spot – and a blind spot – when it comes to Communism. We’ll get into the details – of which there are many – next time.

True lies: Robert Redford and the Dan Rather story

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Robert Redford

We’ve been looking at Robert Redford‘s long record as a producer, director, and/or star of several high-budget (and usually low-box-office) pieces of vintage Hollywood propaganda. His latest vehicle won’t be out until October, but if you look at the source material, at the comments he and others have made about the picture before and during its production, and at his own ideology as revealed in his previous films, you can get a pretty clear picture of what’s in store for us. He isn’t the producer or director, but he’s the star, and given the nature of the material, he surely wouldn’t have taken the role if he didn’t believe wholeheartedly in the picture and its message.

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Dan Rather

Truth: that’s its title. Written and directed by James Vanderbilt, it professes to set forth the facts about why Dan Rather, after 24 years as anchor of the CBS Evening News, was asked by the network to resign in 2005 in the wake of the so-called Rathergate scandal. Redford plays Rather; Cate Blanchett plays Mary Mapes, the 60 Minutes producer who was fired as a result of her involvement in the scandal and whose book, Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power, was the basis for Vanderbilt’s script.

DALLAS, TX - JULY 10: Former President George W. Bush speaks during Naturalization Ceremony at the George W. Bush Presidential Center on July 10, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/WireImage)
George W. Bush

A brief history of the scandal. It began with a set of documents that purported to cast an unflattering light on President George W. Bush’s service in the National Guard from 1968 to 1974. The documents came into Mapes’s hands and, on September 4, 2004, less than two months before the presidential election, were presented as authentic in a 60 Minutes segment on which Rather was the correspondent. The story began to collapse immediately – because the documents, bearing dates in the early 1970s, had plainly been typed many years later on a computer with proportional spacing. In other words, they were forgeries that only an idiot (or somebody born after the 1970s who’d never seen a typewritten page from that decade) would fall for. Yet even as the criticism mounted, Rather and Mapes stubbornly kept maintaining that the documents were genuine.

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In 2004, using the program’s default settings, blogger Charles Johnson typed out in Microsoft Word the text of one of the 60 Minutes documents supposedly written in 1973, then superimposed the new text over the “old” one, thus providing dramatic evidence that the “old” document was not as old as claimed

At first CBS backed them up; on September 20, however, the network reversed itself. An independent review panel was formed, and in the end it criticized CBS severely for having spent more than two weeks defending the indefensible. From the beginning, of course, critics charged that Rather and others at CBS News had aired the National Guard story because they wanted to dent Bush’s chances of re-election; Rather, of course, denied this. And Mapes, in her book and elsewhere, dismissed the entire issue of proportional spacing, claiming that members of the “Bush camp” had disingenuously raised “really obscure type-face issues” to convince ignorant Americans that the documents had been forged. The “Bush camp,” she argued, was intent on “sliming anyone who raised questions about the president.”

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We couldn’t find a picture of Redford with Castro, but here’s a picture of a picture of Redford with Castro

This, then, is the “truth” that Redford’s forthcoming movie (which, by the way, Rather himself has enthusiastically promoted) will apparently present. On the contrary, the movie’s “truth” is the very opposite of the truth: whatever one may think of George W. Bush, the fact is that Rather and Mapes were the ones who were engaged in “sliming,” using transparently fake documents to try to smear him – and then, when countless people who had nothing to do with Bush reacted publicly to the manifest fakeness of the documents, turning around and claiming that his “camp” had been involved in “sliming” them.

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A recent picture of Redford and his wife with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife

The entire premise of the film is that Rather and Mapes lost their jobs because they’d stood up for the truth; in reality they lost their jobs as just payment for clinging to a lie.

How can Redford involve himself in such a project? Because for him, as one after another of his movies has richly demonstrated, the concept of “truth” isn’t about real truth – about, that is, the hard facts. It’s about the “higher” truth – the revealed truth, as it were – that emerges when you look at the world through the lens of the ideology that has made Redford, for decades, such a splendid stooge for the likes of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. And it’s clear that Dan Rather, when viewed by Redford through that lens, is on the side of the angels.

R.I.P. Robert Conquest: #1 scourge of useful stooges everywhere

Robert Conquest, the Anglo-American historian whose works on the Soviet Union, most importantly The Great Terror (1968), confronted useful stooges on both sides of the Atlantic with facts that severely hobbled their efforts to whitewash Stalin, is dead at 98. From his London Times obituary“The leftwingers who denied the crimes of Stalin did so, Robert Conquest always maintained, because the truth of his terrible purges was “beyond the capacity of their provincial imaginations.”

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Robert Conquest in 2006

The Spectator today reprints a 1961 essay in which Conquest, responding to a letter to the London Times from many bien pensant British cultural types who were exercised about the recent Bay of Pigs invasion, wrote, in his powerfully understated way, “There is something particularly unpleasant about those who, living in a political democracy, comfortably condone terror elsewhere.” And the New York Times quotes Stanford University historian Norman M. Naimark: “His historical intuition was astonishing….He saw things clearly without having access to archives or internal information from the Soviet government. We had a whole industry of Soviet historians who were exposed to a lot of the same material but did not come up with the same conclusions. This was groundbreaking, pioneering work.”

The New York Times also cites a limerick that Conquest wrote in reply to those critics who, accepting his verdict on Stalin, still sought to salvage the heroic image of Lenin and to paint Uncle Joe as a deviation from Leninism:

There was a great Marxist called Lenin

Who did two or three million men in.

That’s a lot to have done in,

But where he did one in

That grand Marxist Stalin did ten in.

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Receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush

Here, from his 1999 book Reflections on a Ravaged Century, is a passage that exemplifies the effectiveness of his cool, analytical approach to the mentality of the useful stooge:

For a useful, almost classical demonstration of the revolutionary mind-warp, the motivation behind acceptance of a totalitarian Idea, we turn to an interview given by the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm on “The Late Show,” 24 October 1994….When Michael Ignatieff asked him to justify his long membership of the Communist Party, he replied: “You didn’t have the option. You see, either there was going to be a future or there wasn’t going to be a future and this was the only thing that offered an acceptable future.”

Ignatieff then asked: “In 1934, millions of people are dying in the Soviet experiment. If you had known that, would it have made a difference to you at that time? To your commitment? To being a Communist?”

Hobsbawm answered: “This is a sort of academic question to which an answer is simply not possible. Erm … I don’t actually know that it has any bearing on the history that I have written. If I were to give you a retrospective answer which is not the answer of a historian, I would have said, `Probably not.'”

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In 2010

Ignatieff asked: “Why?”

Hobsbawm explained: “Because in a period in which, as you might say, mass murder and mass suffering are absolutely universal, the chance of a new world being born in great suffering would still have been worth backing. Now the point is, looking back as an historian, I would say that the sacrifices made by the Russian people were probably only marginally worthwhile. The sacrifices were enormous, they were excessive by almost any standard and excessively great. But I’m looking back at it now and I’m saying that because it turns out that the Soviet Union was not the beginning of the world revolution. Had it been, I’m not sure.”

Ignatieff then said: “What that comes down to is saying that had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of fifteen, twenty million people might have been justified?”

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In Moscow

Hobsbawm immediately said: “Yes.”

It will be seen that, first, Hobsbawm accepted the Soviet project not merely on the emotional ground of “hope” but on the transcendental one of its being the “only” hope. Then, that he was justified because, although it turned out wrong, it might have turned out right (and it was not only a matter of deaths, but also of mass torture, falsification, slave labor). Finally, that he believes this style of chiliastic, absolutist approach to reality is valid in principle.

R.I.P. Robert Conquest: scourge of useful stooges everywhere.

Steinem crosses a border – and crosses a line

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Christine Ahn

Yesterday we began discussing a May 24 spectacle starring women’s movement hero Gloria Steinem, who led a group of about 30 activists in a “walk for peace” across the border between the two Koreas. Noting that Steinem had kept her mouth shut about the atrocities committed by the North Korean regime – including atrocities against women – we observed that her chief collaborator on this enterprise, Korean-American activist Christine Ahn, was even more disgraceful.

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Ahn and Steinem at a press conference

Who’s Christine Ahn? She’s head of a Bay Area-based group called the Korea Solidarity Committee. In the run-up to the border crossing, she criticized what she called the “Cold War mentality” that “has enabled Korea to remain divided” and maintained: “I am pro-peace. I am pro-engagement. I am pro-dialogue. I am pro-human rights.”

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Steinem in Pyongyang

On his blog, Washington, D.C. lawyer Joshua Stanton has provided a useful catalog of Ahn’s views: she’s “opposed human rights legislation for North Korea that funded broadcasting to North Korea, and that provided for aid and asylum for North Korean refugees, calling it an effort ‘by hawkish conservatives and Christian fundamentalists with the intention of bringing regime change in North Korea.’” She’s rejected the conclusion of an international team that found North Korea responsible for the 2010 sinking of the ROKS Cheonan, in which 44 South Korean sailors were killed. She’s praised the Kims’ wacky “juche” ideology for giving the North a “well organized and highly industrialized socialist economy, largely self-sufficient, with a disciplined and productive work force” free of “the stranglehold of the United States.” And she’s blamed North Korea’s Great Famine on George W. Bush, deep-sixing, as Stanton pointed out, “the fact that that throughout much of the famine, the U.S. was the largest donor to food aid programs in North Korea.”

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Steinem just after the border crossing, holding yet another press conference

Lizzie Crocker, in her Daily Beast essay on Steinem’s foray into Korean affairs, quoted Sue Mi Terry of Columbia University’s East Asian Institute as saying that Ahn “has a tendency to blame the U.S. and South Korea for all the problems caused by North Korea.” Terry also lamented the fact that Steinem, revered by millions as a heroine of women’s rights, seemed, like Ahn, to be deliberately overlooking Pyongyang’s monstrous treatment of women.

Terry wasn’t alone. In a Washington Post op-edAbraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Greg Scarlatoiu of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea roundly condemned Steinem’s stunt, pointing out that it “could only be undertaken with Pyongyang’s consent” and that “[i]f Pyongyang truly is interested in a peace gesture, it might start by releasing hundreds of South Korean POWs, now in their 80s and 90s, who were never allowed to return to their loved ones after the armistice.” Cooper and Scarlatoiu added:

We would urge Steinem and company to review last year’s scrupulously investigated U.N. Commission of Inquiry report, which determined that crimes against humanity have long been committed as a matter of state policy in North Korea. Those most vulnerable to these policies are North Korean women, and many are murdered by this merciless regime. In North Korea’s political prison camps and other detention facilities, starvation, humiliation and exploitation of women is rampant. Women have been subjected to medical and poison gas experimentation. They suffer forced abortions and can be coerced to witness the infanticide of their babies. Sexual violence is common.

We desperately need the voices of feminists protesting the murder, torture and exploitation of North Korean women by their own government. But any sanctioning of a peace march by North Korea can be nothing but human rights theater intended to cover up its death camps and crimes against humanity.

Shin Dong-Hyuk, North Korean defector and author of Escape from Camp 14, addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council. The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on North Korea formally presented its report to the Human Rights Council March 17, 2014. U.S. Mission Geneva/ Eric Bridiers
North Korean defector Shin Dong-Hyuk

Suzanne Scholte of the North Korea Freedom Coalition also had choice words for Steinem and her clueless comrades. “It is absolutely outrageous that they completely ignore the suffering of the North Korean people, especially North Korean women,” said Scholte. North Korean exile Shin Dong-hyuk, the only prisoner ever to have escaped from a top-level internment camp in that country, agreed wholeheartedly. “I wonder if these people understand the meaning of peace,” he wrote on Facebook. Later, he added: “There really wasn[‘]t much they could do in the name of peace in the first place. Instead, they decided to be quiet about the atrocities taking place and basically went there to praise the dictator.”

Amen. With her foolish actions in Korea, feminist deity Gloria Steinem has become what Ahn already was – namely, a useful stooge of the very first order, serving the propaganda purposes of the very worst (and most woman-oppressing) regime on the entire planet.