David Greenberg, a professor of history at Rutgers, has vividly captured the impact of Howard Zinn‘s 1980 book A People’s History of the United States on the students who are assigned it as a school textbook. In a 2013 article, Greenberg recalledthat when he was in school, he became “enamored” of Zinn’s opus.
In my adolescent rebelliousness, I thrilled to Zinn’s deflation of what he presented as the myths of standard-issue history….Mischievously – subversively – A People’s History whispered that everything I had learned in school was a sugar-coated fairy tale, if not a deliberate lie. Now I knew.
So it has been with millions of other American students. Zinn’s book was tailor-made to appeal to them – to, that is, low-information adolescents eager to rebel against their parents’ worldview. To be sure, a few of these kids go on to study history and, as Greenberg puts it, “come to realize that Zinn’s famous book is…a pretty lousy piece of work.” But a much larger percentage of students who’ve been brainwashed by Zinn never snap out of it, alas – they never realize the extent to which they’ve been misled. And consequently they grow into adults who truly believe that America has been the greatest blight on the world stage instead of the greatest blessing.
Earlier this week we looked at Howard Zinn’s intense involvement with the American Communist Party, the details of which were made public just six years ago. What’s striking – if unsurprising – is that these revelations haven’t put a dent in the enthusiasm for his book on the part of “educators” and other fans. Among those fans are the movie stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. They wrote the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting, in which Damon’s character sang Zinn’s praises.
After Zinn’s CPUSA past came to light, William Sullivan notedDamon’s and Affleck’s refusal to denounce Zinn for his Stalinism, and suggested that the only logical reason for this refusal must be “that they believe so fervently in America’s place as the wickedest of nations that they are unable to realize the absolute fact that Communism surpasses even National Socialism as the responsible ideology for more forced famine, death, and political oppression than any other governmental structure in modern history.” Sullivan elaborated:
To believe that Communism, in any form, could be less vile than our American republic is beyond comprehension, but Howard Zinn was guilty of it. And given that practical history screams the contrary of Zinn’s beliefs, one could argue that his followers have not so much been educated by the factual substance of his work, but indoctrinated by the slanted ideas therein.
We kicked off this week by discussing the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC). A 1995 article in the New York Times reported on the foundation’s plans to construct a museum in memory of the approximately 100 million people killed by Communism during the twentieth century. It is hard to imagine any decent human being criticizing such a project; but our old friend Stephen F. Cohen – the Russia “expert,” Kremlin sympathizer, and spouse of Nation publisher and limousine Marxist Katrina vanden Heuvel – disapproved strongly, telling the Times that the proposed memorial was “triumphalist,” an idea hatched by “cold-war warriors” whose “sermonizing against Communism” betrayed their lack of seriousness.
That memorial has yet to be built. Meanwhile Howard Zinn’s magnum opus has sold millions of copies and poisoned millions of minds, as exemplified by the VOC’s own reports on young Americans’ ignorance of – and benign attitudes toward – Communism. Clearly, a serious nationwide educational effort is desperately required. The VOC itself has recently taken a small step in this direction, installing billboards in Times Square that seek to set the record straight on Communism. Kudos to them. But it’s only a drop in the bucket. Because Zinn – alarmingly – is winning.
Leonard Bernstein (1918-90) was a genius – a profound, remarkably versatile genius. He was arguably the first world-class American symphony conductor, waving his baton at the New York Philharmonic from 1958 to 1969 and serving as guest conductor of other major orchestras around the world. He was a gifted composer of classical music – producing innumerable symphonies, operas, chamber works, choral works, and even a Mass.
He composed the background music for On the Waterfront, which won the Academy Award for Best Film of 1954. He supplied the tunes for such classic Broadway shows as On the Town, Wonderful Town, and West Side Story, including such standards as “Some Other Time,” “Tonight,” and “I Feel Pretty.” He penned several absorbing, illuminating books about music for the general reader. And he hosted a series of network television programs that did a truly brilliant job of introducing young people to serious music.
But he could also be a fool. In the years after World War II, his close ties to several Soviet front groups led the FBI to pay close attention to his activities. Ultimately, the FBI concluded that he was just a naïf, not a Communist. Yet what a naïf! Tom Wolfe proved, once and for all, in a deathless 25,000-word article entitled “Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s,” just what a naïf Bernstein was. Indeed, he was not just any naïf – he was the naïf whose naïveté, thanks to that brilliant June 1970 cover story for New York Magazine, became the very archetype of late Sixties and early Seventies liberal-establishment naïveté in the face of the trendy revolutionary politics of the day.
Wolfe’s article, as the title itself indicates, was all about a party. Specifically, a party at Bernstein’s “13-room penthouse duplex on Park Avenue,” where he lived with his wife, Felicia Montealegre. It wasn’t just any party. Held the previous January, it was, in fact, one of a series of parties thrown by various members of the Manhattan haute monde so that their hoity-toity friends could meet, mingle with, and contribute money to various radical-left groups.
This was a time, it should be remembered, when many prominent, privileged members of the American Establishment were getting their jollies, perversely, by identifying with fanatics who were hell bent on bringing down that Establishment and crushing its privileges. It made no logical sense.
But it happened. Only a week before the Bernsteins’ party, film director Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, The Verdict) had held a soirée for the Black Panthers. A week earlier, a prominent publisher had also hosted the Black Panthers. Jean vanden Heuvel, a.k.a. Jean Stein, the socialite mother of current Nation publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel, had welcomed the Chicago Eight rioters to her home; a week after the Bernstein bash, philanthropist Eleanor Guggenheimer would hold a get-together for the Puerto Rican radical group the Young Lords.
These upper-class hosts and hostesses were all, in their various ways, useful stooges, aiding and abetting some of the most virulent, totalitarian-minded enemies of the free, democratic capitalist societies in which they themselves had thrived. But thanks in large part to Wolfe’s article, Bernstein became the very personification of that memorable historical moment when the “smart set” showed its very stupid side. More tomorrow.
In November we took a brief look at Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – specifically, his admiration for Fidel Castro and the late, great USSR. At the time, it was still possible to think of Sanders as an entertaining sideshow in the race for the Democratic nomination – a far-left clown who didn’t really stand a chance of winning. But since then things have changed quickly. His poll numbers have been rising while Hillary Clinton’s have been diving. Suddenly, it seems to be within the realm of possibility that this seventy-four-year-old socialist will make it all the way to the general election.
Sanders’s campaign is especially popular with younger voters – with millennials, that is, who cheer his promises to soak the rich and give everybody else lots of free stuff. To his young supporters, who know nothing about economics or about the history of ideologies that made such promises, Sanders’s program sounds like nothing other than common sense – goodness set into system.
Sanders has, of course, his share of older fans – old hippies, old Commies, people who’ve never given up on the utopian dream. Which brings us to our friends at The Nation, who on January 14gave Sanders their endorsement. Applauding his call for “single-payer healthcare, tuition-free college, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, the breaking up of the big banks,” his vow to “wrest our democracy from the corrupt grip of Wall Street bankers and billionaires,” Katrina vanden Heuvel & co. averred that the “revolution” promised by Sanders “is not only possible but necessary.” In conclusion, “Bernie Sanders and his supporters are bending the arc of history toward justice. Theirs is an insurgency, a possibility, and a dream that we proudly endorse.”
And sensible observers are getting worried. One of them is Paul Sperry of the Hoover Institution, who on January 16 complained in the New York Post that the media were helping to “mainstream” Sanders. “If Sanders were vying for a Cabinet post,” maintained Sperry, “he’d never pass an FBI background check.”
Why? For one thing, in 1964, when he was a student at the University of Chicago, Sanders belonged to the youth wing of the Socialist Party USA. In the 1970s, he took part in the founding of a party that “called for the nationalization of all US banks and the public takeover of all private utility companies.” In 1979, as Yahoo News reported in a January 17 article, he called for government takeover of all commercial television stations. In the 1980s, as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he “restricted property rights for landlords, set price controls and raised property taxes to pay for communal land trusts. Local small businesses distributed fliers complaining their new mayor ‘does not believe in free enterprise.’” At one event he told an audience of charity workers said he didn’t believe in private charity – government should take on all social needs.
He also became an international busybody, making “goodwill” visits to the USSR and Cuba. In 1985, he attended an “anti-U.S. rally” in Nicaragua at which participants chanted that “the Yankee will die” and President Daniel Ortega charged the U.S. with “state terrorism.” Sanders displayed a Soviet flag in his office and spoke to Communist front groups.
It’s predictable enough that the handful of marginal old Commies who edit, write, and read The Nation are marching arm in arm with Sanders into the bright, new socialist America that they’ve been dreaming about all their lives. But what is depressing is that Sanders’s ideas are admired by millions of young people who don’t understand that the programs advocated by their candidate have been tried before, in the previous century, and that they brought unprecedented calamity, disaster, and tragedy to hundreds of millions of people who’d been promised utopia.
Yesterday we looked at the first five of our top ten useful stooges of 2015. Here are the rest. Again, these aren’t necessarily the very worst creeps we’ve written about here; they’re just a few of the people whose stoogery during the last year stood out in ways that we thought made them worth another quick look before we move on into 2016.
Karl VickThe dopey Time scribe gushed more than once in 2015 over Cuba’s “decaying glory” and “social equality” – by which he meant that every Cuban who’s not a member of the political elite is dirt-poor – and expressed concern that capitalism-friendly changes in that island prison might end this precious “equality” by actually raising the standard of living. This is the same guy who in 2010 won a “Dishonest Reporting Award” for a cover story, “Why Israel Doesn’t Care about Peace,” in which he vilified Israel and whitewashed Hamas, professing that its official commitment to destroying the Jewish state was only “nominal.”
Stephen F. CohenHow could we leave Stephen F. Cohen out of this? He’s Putin’s most high-profile apologist, who – usually in league with his wife, moneyed Nation doyenne Katrina vanden Heuvel – keeps coming up with new ways to sell his hero in Moscow. In 2015, he co-founded the American Committee for East-West Accord, which pretends to promote “open, civilized, informed debate” on U.S.-Russian relations but, in the grand tradition of “committees” dedicated to U.S.-Soviet “peace,” “friendship,” and “understanding,” is patently nothing more or less than a pro-Kremlin propaganda operation. This is, after all, a dude who, in a June article, painted Ukraine’s leaders as savages and Putin as a gentle soul responding with restraint to their violent provocations.
Robert Redford He’s directed movies crudely savaging capitalism (The Milagro Beanfield War) and lustily celebrating the despicable Maoists of the Weather Underground (The Company You Keep), and he produced The Motorcycle Diaries, a shameless hagiography of Che Guevara. In 2015 he played the lead role in Truth, one of the great cinematic falsehoods (and, fortunately, flops) in the entire history of Hollywood. Turning the facts of the 2004 Rathergate scandal upside down, the film transforms CBS Evening News anchorman Dan Rather – who lost his job for trying to sell the public on forged documents – into a hero who was fired for defending the truth. When this dreck was released in October, Redford, now 79, was out there promoting not only the picture but its profoundly mendacious message.
Seumas Milne The British Labour Party’s Executive Director of Strategy and Communications (i.e., spokesman), who was named to the post in October, is a famously poisonous critic of the U.S., capitalism, and Israel, and an ardent defender of Communism, Stalin, Castro, Che, Ahmadinejad, and Putin. Oh, and jihadists. A longtime reporter and commentator for The Guardian, Milne has praised the Soviet bloc for its “genuine idealism” and lamented West Germany’s annexation of East Germany because it meant “a loss of women’s rights, closure of free nurseries and mass unemployment.” Journalist Kate Godfrey, herself a Labourite, condemned Milne’s appointment as “morally and ethically wrong,” saying it “devalues everything that Labour stands for, and everything that Labour is.”
Roger Waters For years, the former Pink Floyd front man has publicly compared Israel to Nazi Germany and severely chastized fellow celebrities for performing there. In 2013, his concerts featured “a pig-shaped balloon adorned with Jewish symbols, including a Star of David.” This October, in a particularly vicious open letter in Salon (where else?), he told Bon Jovi that by accepting an invitation to Israel they were allying themselves with child-killers. Ignoring his demand that they change their mind about the trip, Bon Jovi went ahead with their plans and went onstage before a Tel Aviv audience of 50,000 only minutes after two people were killed in a Jerusalem terrorist attack.
During the last couple of days we’ve been learning a few things about one Gilbert Doctorow, who, together with fellow Putin apologist Stephen F. Cohen, and with the backing of Cohen’s wife, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and her deep-pockets family, has founded something called the American Committee for East-West Accord (ACEWA). Perusing a few of Doctorow’s recent commentaries, we’ve recognized the truth of Cathy Young’s statement, in an illuminating Daily Beast piece about the ACEWA, that Doctorow is even “more pro-Kremlin” than Cohen.
Here’s one last tidbit from Doctorow’s oleaginous oeuvre. This summer, writing in Russia Insider, hetrashed Putin’s liberal opposition; as in much of his work, sneering was his principal rhetorical device. He ridiculed Maria Gaidar, whose father was a pro-free market prime minister under Yeltsin, for relocating to Ukraine to work for Putin opponent Mikhel Saakashvili, and for exchanging her Russian passport for a Ukrainian one. Likewise, he jeered at Ksenia Sobchak, daughter of a popular, pro-liberty St. Petersburg mayor, for taking a job with an anti-Putin TV channel. Throwing around words like “neo-fascist,” Doctorow charged that when these and other high-profile Russians accept employment from critics of Putin – or, quite simply, just move abroad, presumably to escape his thuggery – their motive isn’t a love of freedom but “just money.”
Doctorow concluded his piece by slamming opposition leader and former foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev, who in recent op-eds for the New York Times and Washington Post had dared to criticize Putin’s human-rights violations and to broach the subject of regime change at the Kremlin. Accusing Kozyrev of “courting sedition” and “giving comfort to the enemy,” Doctorow warned in the strongest terms against regime change (“Most of the obvious candidates to succeed to the presidency are far less experienced, far less prudent than the incumbent”) and, without addressing Kozyrev’s actual charges about human rights, suggested he was obviously not “someone genuinely wishes his native country well.”
Doctorow’s columns on Russia, then, are easily summed up, and Young has already done the job: as she puts it, he “serves up a steady diet of frank Kremlin apologism and vitriolic attacks on Putin foes,” all the while suggesting that any Russian who has anything negative whatsoever to say about the president is an out-and-out traitor. “Opposition treachery,” Young writes, “is a Doctorow leitmotif.”
Interviewing Cohen, Young asked him about what she called Doctorow’s “crude dissident-bashing.” Cohen seemed to try to distance himself from it, averring that he and his fellow ACEWA board members “probably disagree as much as we agree about specific issues.” But if Cohen really has significant disagreements with Doctorow, why put him on the board? Why list him as a co-founder? He’s no ex-Senator or ex-Ambassador; nor does he seem to be a moneybags like William vanden Heuvel. What, other than his noxious views, does Doctorow bring to the table?
No: plainly Cohen and his wife want to have an extremist like Doctorow on board. It makes sense: he can mount even more fervently pro-Putin arguments than they themselves dare to put their names to, all the while doing Cohen the service of making him look like a reasonable moderate by comparison.
It’s a neat deal: Doctorow’s arguments get out there – perhaps even in the pages of the Nation – and they attain a certain legitimacy thanks to his association with ACEWA, even though, at the same time, Cohen and vanden Heuvel are fully free to claim (if strongly or unpleasantly challenged by, say, his colleagues at NYU, or her friends on Capitol Hill and on Manhattan’s limousine left) that Doctorow’s opinions aren’t necessarily their own.
In short, a sneaky stratagem, eminently worthy of this wily pack of pro-Putin propagandists.
Yesterday we were introduced to the American Committee for East-West Accord (ACEWA), which is yet another brainchild of NYU Kremlinologist Stephen F. Cohen and his heiress wife Katrina vanden Heuvel, and which is obviously meant to be a vehicle for spreading pro-Putin propaganda far and wide. We also met Gilbert Doctorow, who, with Cohen, is listed as the group’s co-founder, and who, as it turns out, is even more fervent an apologist for Putin than Cohen.
Since November, Doctorow has been writing regularly for a website called Russia Insider. His contributions, not to put too fine a point on it, read like Kremlin press releases. Last November, for example, he attributedthe European Parliament’s overwhelming vote in favor of two resolutions condemning Russia to “a Cold War mentality that never faded since 1989.”
A week later, Doctorow blamed anti-Putin attitudes among left-wing U.S. peace activists on “years of denigration and information warfare coming from Washington,” including “propaganda about an authoritarian regime that allegedly jails dissent, about homophobia and about conservative family values of Russia’s silent majority, not to mention about greedy, raw capitalism.” Doctorow argued that Putin has in fact promoted “peace and international cooperation, justice and indeed human rights,” and is the only head of government on the planet who’s “directly challeng[ing] American global hegemony.” For these reasons, he argued, Putin should be treated by sensible stateside peace-lovers not as a bad guy but as a hero.
In January, Doctorow penned a column that was one long, drawn-out sneer. The topic: a book called Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? by Karen Dawisha. He smeared Russia expert Anne Applebaum, author of the magisterial, Pulitzer Prize-winning Gulag: A History, as a “blowhard” for the crime of favorably reviewing Dawisha’s book in the Washington Post. And he made a mocking reference to “the saintly Khodorkovsky” – meaning human-rights activist and former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whom Putin robbed of billions of dollars and then tossed into prison on trumped-up charges. Doctorow lamented that once reliably left-wing American media, such as the New York Review of Books and PBS, have now “join[ed] the jackals” who engage in “Putin bashing.”
And on and on it goes. In May, after attending the Moscow parade marking the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II, Doctorow gushed exuberantly over what he described as Putin’s ascent to the very “heights of statesmanship”: by allowing ordinary citizens to march in the parade while holding up photographs of their relatives who’d died in the war, the Russian leader had driven home “the point that this is a day for every Russian family and not just a pompous show of military capability for the high and mighty to strut on the stage.”
If at the Sochi Olympics, enthused Doctorow, Vlad had sent a message “that Russia has its own traditions of both popular and high culture but is open to the world and hospitable to all,” in Moscow, his people had pulled off the parade at “a supremely professional level” and shown “very great respect for the spectators, both those on the Square and the others watching it on their television as I did.”
Ugh. It’s the kind of cringeworthy bootlicking that’s rarely found outside of the propaganda organs of totalitarian states. And it raises certain questions. Such as: can this guy really be such a convinced disciple of Putin? Or is he on the payroll? Have Stephen F. Cohen of NYU and Princeton, Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation, her rich dad, Bill Bradley, and others in fact chosen to hitch their wagons to a paid Kremlin operative?
We don’t know the answers to these questions. But we can say one thing, for which we’ll provide more evidence tomorrow: when it comes to propagandizing for Putin, Doctorow churns it out as naturally as a slug leaves a slime trail.
There’s no keeping up with the multitudinous mischievous machinations of veteran Kremlinologist Stephen F. Cohen. Russia’s thug-in-chief, Vladimir Putin, has no more high-profile apologist anywhere in the Western world than the 76-year-old NYU and Princeton prof. Every time we turn around, Cohen – almost invariably in league with his moneybags wife, Nation publisher/editor Katrina vanden Heuvel – has come up with some new stunt, some new angle, some new scam designed to pump up ol’ Vlad’s image in the West.
In mid October, Cathy Young reported at the Daily Beast on one of Cohen’s latest capers. It appears that back in the Cold War days, Cohen helped found something called the American Committee on East-West Accord (ACEWA), one of those groups that, in the name of peace, “consistently urged U.S. trade, foreign policy and arms control concessions to the USSR.” Established in 1974, the ACEWA was shuttered in 1992, in the wake of the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Now Cohen, along with some allies, appears to be reviving the ACEWA – kind of. The name of the new organization, the American Committee for East-West Accord, is almost exactly identical to that of the old one – the only difference is that “on” has been replaced by “for.” (The change, Cohen explains, reflects his desire to be “more proactive.”) The group, whose stated objective is to promote “open, civilized, informed debate” on U.S.-Russian relations and ensure “a conclusive end to cold war and its attendant dangers,” had its formal launch in Washington, D.C., on November 4.
As Young notes, the whole thing “couldn’t sound more benign.” The seven-member board includes some soothing, solid establishment names: Bill Bradley, the former U.S. Senator from New Jersey; Jack Matlock, the former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union; and John Pepper, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble.
But Cohen is one of two official co-founders, and this is plainly his baby. The other co-founder is something of a wild card: he’s Gilbert Doctorow, whom Young describes as a “Brussels-based U.S. expatriate and self-styled ‘professional Russia-watcher.’” Vanden Heuvel, though not officially affiliated with the ACEWA, is a major player, promoting the venture in The Nation and “mentioning the group’s activities to her contacts in Congress.” Also heavily involved is vanden Heuvel’s dad, former UN ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel: he’s on the group’s board, was identified as the group’s president in its incorporating papers, and has allowed the address of his philanthropy, the Melinda and William J. vanden Heuvel Foundation, to be listed as the ACEWA’s Manhattan address.
To our surprise, Cohen, in a conversation with Young, actually tried to walk back some of his own more outrageously Putin-friendly statements – though not very effectively. He admitted that when discussing Putin’s invasion of Crimea on TV, he’d been “insufficiently critical of Russia’s contribution to the crisis,” but maintained that he’d taken a strong pro-Putin line as a “conscious strategy” intended to counter what he saw as the mainstream media’s excessively anti-Putin spin. “Russia’s side of the story was not being told, and I knew I was going to get grief for trying to tell it as I understood it,” Cohen insisted. He added that if he’d been insufficiently nuanced, it was, well, because his TV time is always so brief. In response to his claim, Young pointed out that Cohen has been just as uncritical of Putin in his articles for the Nation, where his wife gives him enough space to be as nuanced as nuanced can be.
Cohen’s efforts at backpedaling are, it must be said, rather entertaining. But the major accomplishment of Young’s article is to draw our attention to Doctorow, Cohen’s co-founder. Unlike Cohen, Doctorow has virtually no profile in the U.S. He maintains his own blog, writes for an obscure Russian news and opinion website, and last year contributed an article on Putin to the Nation. There’s pretty much only one reason he’s worth paying attention to – and that reason is that, as Young puts it, he’s even “more pro-Kremlin” than Cohen.
Next week and the week after, in honor of Vladimir Putin’s sixty-third birthday, we’ll be examining some of his most ardent European fans – among them a Dutch rapper, a former Italian prime minister, a British billionaire, and a Norwegian historian. Today, however, we’ll be taking yet another look at a fellow whom we’ve discussed here several times before, and who may be Putin’s most stubbornly loyal cheerleader in the whole U.S.A.
We’re talking, of course, about Stephen F. Cohen, a veteran academic luminary (Princeton, NYU) who, back in the day, was considered a top expert on the Soviet Union and is now increasingly recognized as one of the current Kremlin regime’s most aggressive and shameless apologists.
If we keep bringing up Cohen on this site, it’s because he keeps bringing up Putin – almost invariably in the pages of The Nation, the weekly rag owned and edited by his rich lefty wife, Katrina vanden Heuvel. Our subject today: his latest propaganda effort, a June 30 piece entitled “The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities.” It’s full of passages calculated to paint the Ukrainian government as a pack of savages, to depict pro-Russians living in the eastern Ukraine as helpless victims, and to cast Putin in the role of the peaceful leader who’s displaying exemplary restraint in the face of a brutally violent enemy:
Kiev’s “anti-terrorist” tactics have created a reign of terror in the targeted cities. Panicked by shells and mortars exploding on the ground, menacing helicopters and planes flying above and fear of what may come next, families are seeking sanctuary in basements and other darkened shelters….an ever-growing number of refugees, disproportionately women and traumatized children, have been desperately fleeing the carnage….By mid-July, roads and trains [to Russia] were filled with refugees from newly besieged Luhansk and Donetsk, a city of one million and already “a ghostly shell.”
Throughout his piece, Cohen defends the Kremlin’s thug-in-chief (“however authoritarian Putin may be, there is nothing authentically fascist in his rulership, policies, state ideology or personal conduct”) while repeatedly flinging the word fascist at democratic Ukrainian leaders and groups and parties. In short, he’s perpetrating good, old-fashioned Stalin-era-style Nation journalism, taking us back to the days when, in the Marxist-soaked minds at that publication, the Soviets were the real heroes in the struggle against fascism, and the Western Allies (at best) Johnny-come-lately amateurs who reaped the rewards of victory in World War II and hogged the credit. Cohen finds it important, for example, to point out that Putin’s “brother died and [his] father was wounded in the Soviet-Nazi war” (yes, that’s right, “the Soviet-Nazi war”) and to warn us that “tens of millions of today’s Russians whose family members were killed by actual fascists in that war will regard…defamation of their popular president [i.e., any suggestion that he’s a fascist] as sacrilege, as they do the atrocities committed by Kiev.” So there.
On July 24, in Slate, the Russia-born American journalist Cathy Young, who is a contributing editor at Reason, gave Cohen precisely what he had coming to him for this most recent boatload of disinformation.
First Young made a few telling points about Cohen’s background: during his years as a “Soviet expert,” he befriended some Soviet dissidents, though they were usually “of the democratic socialist or even Marxist persuasion.” During the Gorbachev period, he and vanden Heuvel co-authored Voices of Glasnost, a collection of interviews with “proponents of top-down change to bring about a kinder, gentler Soviet socialism.” Then the USSR fell, the result, in most people’s view, of “the system’s internal rot,” although Cohen blamed it on “Boris Yeltsin’s power-grabbing, aided by the pro-Western ‘radical intelligentsia’ that ‘hijacked Gorbachev’s gradualist reformation.’”
Putin’s rise won Cohen’s cheers – and Putin’s brutal regime, as we’ve observed repeatedly on this site, has won Cohen’s unwavering praise. But this newest article by Cohen, as Young puts it, “hits a new low.” Cohen sums up his thesis as follows: “the pro-Western Ukrainian government, aided and abetted by the Obama administration, the ‘new Cold War hawks’ in Congress, and the craven American media, is committing ‘deeds that are rising to the level of war crimes, if they have not done so already.’” Young notes that while Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the U.N. have reacted to the fighting in the Ukraine by raising concerns of the sort that they routinely, and properly, raise about any and every armed conflict, none of them have suggested that Ukraine is guilty of war crimes.
She further points out that while these organizations have documented acts of rape, kidnapping torture, and murder by “the insurgents whom Cohen calls ‘resisters,’” he “entirely omits these inconvenient facts, conceding only that the rebels are ‘aggressive, organized and well armed—no doubt with some Russian assistance.’” No doubt indeed. Cohen also argues that “calling them ‘self-defense’ fighters is not wrong,” because “their land is being invaded and assaulted by a government whose political legitimacy is arguably no greater than their own, two of their large regions having voted overwhelmingly for autonomy referendums.” Really? Here’s what Young has to say about those “referendums”:
Is Cohen the one person in the world who puts stock in the results of the Donetsk and Luhansk “referendums,” which even Russia did not formally recognize? Pre-referendum polls in both regions found that most residents opposed secession; they were also, as a U.N. report confirms, kept from voting in the presidential election by violence and intimidation from the insurgents. Nor does Cohen ever acknowledge the known fact that a substantial percentage of the “resisters” are not locals but citizens of the Russian Federation—particularly their leaders, many of whom have ties to Russian “special security services.” Their ranks also include quite a few Russian ultranationalists and even neo-Nazis—a highly relevant fact, given that much of Cohen’s article is devoted to claims that Ukrainian “neo-fascists” play a key role both in the Kiev government and in the counterinsurgency operation.
Young goes on to catalogue the factual mistakes – or outright lies – in Cohen’s piece, which she describes as “so error-riddled that one has to wonder if The Nation employs fact-checkers.” She rightly dismisses his absurd “claims about the ‘mainstreaming of fascism’s dehumanizing ethos’ in Ukraine,” which, she points out, “rely heavily on Russian propaganda canards.” Then there’s this:
In a downright surreal passage, Cohen argues that Putin has shown “remarkable restraint” so far but faces mounting public pressure due to “vivid accounts” in the Russian state-run media of Kiev’s barbarities against ethnic Russians. Can he really be unaware that the hysteria is being whipped up by lurid fictions, such as the recent TV1 story about a 3-year-old boy crucified in Slovyansk’s main square in front of a large crowd and his own mother? Does Cohen not know that Russian disinformation and fakery, including old footage from Dagestan or Syria passed off as evidence of horrors in Ukraine, has been extensively documented? Is he unaware that top Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Putin himself, have publicly repeated allegations of war crimes that were quickly exposed as false, such as white phosphorus use by Ukrainian troops or a slaughter of the wounded in a hospital? But Cohen manages to take the surrealism a notch higher, earnestly citing the unnamed “dean of Moscow State University’s School of Television” (that’s Vitaly Tretyakov, inter alia a 9/11 “truther”) who thinks the Kremlin may be colluding with the West to hush up the extent of carnage in Ukraine.
Yes, eastern Ukraine is undergoing a human-rights crisis. As Young notes, every bit of evidence indicates that it’s “overwhelmingly the responsibility of the Russia-sponsored militants.” But for the likes of Stephen F. Cohen, his devoted spouse, and their comrades at The Nation, what are mere facts alongside a fealty to the Putin line that’s every bit as deeply seated as their forerunners’ determination, back in the days of Stalin, to be reliable cogs in Uncle Joe’s monstrous mendacity machine?
Hey, grab your Cuban-flag beach towel, exchange your red diaper for a red Speedo, and head down to Fort Lauderdale! It’s The Nation‘s Caribbean cruise!
Just to recapitulate: in the last few weeks we’ve spent a lot of time contemplating this loony left-wing weekly. We’ve examined its checkered 150-year history, complete with decades of tireless Stalinist apologetics. And we’ve pondered the strenuous efforts of the current editor, ditzy heiress Katrina vanden Heuvel, and her Kremlin-expert hubby, NYU prof Stephen F.Cohen, to whitewash the thuggery of Russian persecutor-in-chief Vladimir Putin. Most recently we looked at the prospectus for the magazine’s upcoming jaunt to Cuba, which offers faithful Nation readers the opportunity to spend a chummy week together this fall imbibing cervezas, Cuba Libres, and (most important) venti-size doses of Communist propaganda spewed out by an assortment of Cuban professors, bureaucrats, and other Castro puppets.
But what self-respecting Nation diehard could possibly be satiated by a one-time trip to the Castros’ island prison? For those drooling disciples of Katrina, Katha & co. who just keep wanting more, the weekly sent out another tantalizing invitation a couple of days ago. And what thrilling tidings! On December 13, ardent subscribers can board a Holland America Line cruise ship in Fort Lauderdale and spend a week inhaling the same air as vanden Heuvel and her fellow Nation ideologues. It’s an annual event, and the pictures of previous excursions don’t lie: champagne socialism was never so luxurious!
This year’s cruise will feature stops in the Bahamas, Cayman Islands (where the magazine’s limousine-liberal supporters can visit their money), Cozumel, and Key West. On the ship, according to the itinerary, passengers will have the opportunity to “Enjoy High Tea,” “Pamper Yourself in the Luxurious Spa,” “Take a class in the Culinary Arts Center,” “Attend a wine tasting,” and much else. Hey, you can pray for the Revolution, but while you’re waiting, why not party it up?
The most important events, of course, will be the talks and panel discussions. Vanden Heuvel herself will deliver a lecture about the forthcoming elections. Ralph Nader – and who could ever get tired of hearing what he has to say? – will “decr[y] the toxic influence of money and politics.” (We assume that was supposed to read “on politics.”) And that’s not all! There’s also
Sorry, we nodded off while perusing the events schedule. (If you’re actually interested, the full list of speakers is here.)
As it happens, the Nation cruises have a pretty long history. Back in 1982, years before the Iron Curtain fell, the magazine actually offered a cruise on the Volga. The humorist P.J. O’Rourke bought a ticket just to see what it was like. It was called the “Volga Peace Cruise,” and came complete with “five Russian ‘peace experts’” who fed the useful idiots the usual line of Soviet B.S. Not that there was any real need for indoctrination: as O’Rourke made clear in his account of this absurd expedition, the passengers were already thoroughly brainwashed. Even before their plane left Kennedy Airport, they were telling O’Rourke “how wonderful the Soviet Union was: Pensions were huge, housing was cheap, and they practically paid you to get medical care.” O’Rourke summed up the doublethink at work here in one snappy observation: “These were people who believed everything about the Soviet Union was perfect, but they were bringing their own toilet paper.”
Well, you won’t have to bring along your own toilet paper on the Nation‘s Caribbean cruise. But you might want to pack a barf bag.
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.
But 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).
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.
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.
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.