Catching up with the selectively proud Hanoi Jane

That famous picture

Last year, as a service to young people who were born long after Jane Fonda (she’s an elderly movie actress, ICYDK) made a fool of herself in Vietnam, we revisited that reprehensible 1972 incident, when – in the midst of a proxy war between her own country and its totalitarian foes – she traveled to North Vietnam, chummed around with its soldiers, read their propaganda aloud on the radio for an audience of American servicemen, praised the murderous North Vietnamese dictator Ho Chi Minh, called U.S. troops war criminals, urged members of the U.S. Air Force to disobey orders, and (last but not least) had her picture taken on an anti-aircraft battery.

Fraternizing with the enemy

Fonda has claimed innumerable times that the last-named action, which earned her the nickname “Hanoi Jane,” was “a two-minute lapse of sanity that will haunt me forever.” But it was more than a matter of just two minutes. And it was no lapse. At the time of her visit, Fonda was already a dyed-in-the-wool antagonist of her own nation and an outspoken friend of totalitarian Communism. “If you understood what communism was,” she told an audience in 1970, “you would hope, you would pray on your knees that we would some day become communist.” In her extensive whitewash of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, Fonda lied about their brutal treatment of American POWs – and then, after those POWs returned home and called her a liar, she had the nerve to call them liars. In more recent years, she’s taken part in Communist-led rallies, shared stages with Saddam Hussein’s chum George Galloway, vilified Israel, and said that her “biggest regret” was that she “never got to fuck Che Guevara.”

With Ted Turner. Communism pays off!

As we pointed out last year, authors Henry Mark Holzer and Erika Holzer published a whole book in 2002 in which they showed that Fonda’s actions in Vietnam amounted to treason. In Fonda’s own 2005 memoir she rewrote the whole episode, depicting herself as a tribune of peace rather than a Communist traitor. Of course, she’s a Communist traitor with a difference: for ten years, she was married to CNN honcho Ted Turner, one of the most powerful men in America as well as America’s largest private landowner. So she’s not just a world-class Communist; she’s a world-class Communist hypocrite.

Giving Megyn Kelly the evil eye earlier this month, in response to a question about plastic surgery

Since we dropped in on Hanoi Jane last year, she’s been in the news several times. At the Emmy Awards, on September 17, she and Lily Tomlin, with whom she appears in a Netflix series, Grace and Frankie, joined in calling President Trump “a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.” (Their 9 to 5 co-star Dolly Parton, standing onstage between them, looked distinctly uncomfortable.) But that was relatively nothing. Later Fonda made headlines when, on The Today Show, Megyn Kelly dared to ask her about plastic surgery. Well, Fonda may believe in Communism, but it’s clear she also believes that the entertainment-media serfs shouldn’t dare pose certain questions to cinema royalty such as herself. She shot Kelly a look that could kill.

Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Fonda at the 2017 Emmys

But let’s set that aside too, and move on to earlier this month, when she sat down for an interview with the BBC. Asked whether she was “proud of America today,” she replied with a quick, firm “no.” But, she added, “I’m proud of the resistance. I’m proud of the people who are turning out in unprecedented numbers and continue over and over and over again to protest what Trump is doing.” The topic of Vietnam came up – and again the lies came out. Rejecting the idea that she had been “siding with the enemy,” she claimed that after being photographed on that anti-aircraft battery, she’d thought: “Oh my gosh. It’s going to look like I am against my own country’s soldiers and siding with the enemy, which is the last thing in the world that was true.” Fonda is 79 now; presumably she will continue to promote this lie until she dies.

Still fabulous. And still dishonest!

But that wasn’t all. She actually tried to sell the idea that her trip had helped save “two million people who could have died of famine and drowning.” We don’t remember hearing her make this claim before. Fonda still looks fabulous, but perhaps the years are taking their toll on the old noggin. Or maybe it’s just another example of Celebrity Narcissism Syndrome, the symptoms of which do tend to intensify as time goes by. In any case, here’s her logic: “The United States was bombing the dikes in North Vietnam….If the dikes had given way, according to Henry Kissinger, somewhere around 2 million people could have died of famine and drowning. And we were bombing, and it wasn’t being talked about. And I thought, ‘Well, I’m a celebrity. Maybe if I go, and I bring back evidence.’ And it did stop two months after I got back, so I’m proud that I went.”

Another recent glamour shot

As far as we can tell, there aren’t any serious historians who feel that Fonda had anything to do with an end to the U.S. bombings. On the other hand, her visit didn’t exactly enhance American morale, and it could be that, in the long term, Fonda’s PR job for the enemy helped tip the balance toward ultimate U.S. withdrawal. But if you’re going to make that argument, you’re going to have to give Fonda a share of the responsibility for the fact that after the U.S. pulled out of Indochina, the Viet Cong murdered tens of thousands of South Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge exterminated 1.5 to three million Cambodians. Are you proud of that, Jane?

Jan Myrdal, Communist clown prince of the Swedish elite

janmyrdalidealist2
Jan Myrdal

Over the last couple of days we’ve been surveying some of the biggest Communists on the Swedish literary scene. We’re talking names like Jan Guillou, Stieg Larsson, and Henning Mankel.

One might get the impression that these people all write crime fiction. Not true. Jan Myrdal (b. 1927), who’s been called “Sweden`s most rebellious writer” and who during the 1970s was one of its most influential intellectuals, is famous, rather, for his novels, memoirs, and travel writings.

gunnar-myrdal
Gunnar Myrdal

His parents were both immensely famous, especially in their homeland. Gunnar Myrdal, an economist and politician who served as Sweden’s Minister of Trade, taught economics at the University of Stockholm, and wrote a book, An American Dilemma:  The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, that influenced the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education. In 1974 he shared the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics with Friedrich Hayek.

alva
Alva Myrdal

Alva Myrdal, a sociologist and politician who played a major role in shaping the Swedish welfare state, served as a Member of Parliament, held a high-ranking position in UNESCO, was Sweden’s Ambassador to India, Burma, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, and, with Mexican diplomat Alfonso Garcia Robles, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982. By that point, as Jay Nordlinger wrote in his history of the Nobel Peace Prize, Alva was “the doyenne of Scandinavian social democracy, which is practically to say, of Scandinavian political culture.” Both Myrdals were big on moral equivalency – routinely equating the U.S. and USSR and priding both themselves and their nation on showing no favoritism toward either side in the Cold War. 

But social democracy wasn’t good enough for Jan Myrdal. Deciding at age 15 that he was a Communist, he left school, broke off communications with his family, and “became a drifter.” At first a member of the Swedish Communist Party, he later left it and joined a Maoist group.

faurisson
Robert Faurisson

Throughout his career, his specialty has been standing up for mass violence in the name of totalitarian Marxism. He’s defended the millions of murders committed by Stalin and Mao and gone to bat for a Nazi genocide denier, Robert Faurisson, saying that “much of what Professor Faurisson writes is probably true.” For his own part, he’s vigorously denied the Cambodian holocaust. In 1978 he was part of a group from the Swedish Cambodian Friendship Association that visited Cambodia at Pol Pot’s invitation. They took a two-week Potemkin-village tour and dined with Pol Pot himself. “We met only the well-fed people,” a colleague who was also on that visit later said. “There were no soldiers, no prisons, and certainly no torture on display. There were, however, cities with no people.”

Pol Pot i den thailandske jungle. (Udateret arkivfoto).
Pol Pot

Myrdal was impressed, though, and returned to Sweden full of acclaim for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Even after it became clear that his host had committed one of the greatest genocides in human history, and other Western intellectuals who’d praised Pol Pot expressed the deepest remorse for having done so, Myrdal refused to back off from his words of praise – or to acknowledge the reality of the Cambodian genocide. Writing in 2006 in Aftonbladet, one of Sweden’s largest papers, he denied the genocide; appearing in 2012 on SVT, the government TV channel, he denied it again.

enver_hoxha_vi_ppsh
Enver Hoxha

He was also a great fan of Albania at a time when it was a totalitarian autocracy and more hermetically sealed than any other nation on the planet, excepting North Korea. In 1970, Myrdal and his then wife, Gun Kessle, wrote Albania Defiant, a love letter to the country’s dictator, Enver Hoxha, and his Labor Party. Albania, they wrote, is an “eye-opener about a possible alternative” to Western democracy,” a nation marked by “social revolution, economic progress and general enlightenment.” When an Albanian priest spoke on TV about Hoxka’s execution of his country’s intelligentsia, Myrdal called him a liar and recalled his grandfather’s comment that “we should hang the last priest with the intestines of the last capitalist.”

More tomorrow.

 

Ted Turner’s fidelity to Fidel

turner7
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?

1
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.

turnerfonda
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.”

fontova
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.

Useful Stooge Hall of Fame: Malcolm Caldwell

caldwell
Malcolm Caldwell

In a recent – and fascinating – piece for The Spectator, James Bartholemew bemoaned what he called the “socialist indoctrination” provided by British universities to foreign students who then return home, rise to positions of power, apply what they’ve learned, and as a result do a lot of damage to their nations’ economies. A current example: Yanis Varoufakis, who as Greece’s financial minister earlier this year turned what had actually been an expanding economy into a total disaster. In passing, Bartholemew noted that while most of the British professors responsible for converting foreign students to bad economics “remain comfortably” in the U.K., “uninvolved in the misery they have sown overseas,” there has been one striking example to the contrary: Malcolm Caldwell.

We have to admit that we were unfamiliar with the Caldwell case, so we looked into it. It turns out to be quite a story. In the 1970s Caldwell, a lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, was a prominent British voice against U.S. involvement in Vietnam. An open Communist, he chaired the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and despised America. Caldwell, Michael Ezra has written, “was most in his element when writing about ‘the demonstrated strengths of the communist system.’” Five years ago, in an article for a Guardian, Andrew Anthony provided a glimpse into Caldwell’s politics:

Kim_Il-sung
Kim Il-Sung

It’s not that Caldwell was lost in bookish abstraction, for he did visit the various communist regimes he extolled. It was more that when he got there he was all too willing to accept state propaganda as verified fact. For example, he praised the “magnitude of the economic achievements” of Kim Il-Sung’s impoverished North Korea and, returning from a trip to the highly secretive state, he wrote that the country was “an astonishing tribute not only to the energy, initiative and creativeness of the Korean people, but also to the essential correctness of the Juche line.”…About the totalitarian surveillance and ruthless political repression, Caldwell said nothing.

ca. September 1978, Phnom Penh, Cambodia --- Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot a few months before Vietnam installed a new government in Cambodia, in January 1979. Between 1976 and 1979, he was the Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea. --- Image by © Richard Dudman/Sygma/Corbis
Pol Pot

Caldwell wasn’t just a fan of the North Korean regime. He also admired Pol Pot, the Communist ruler of Cambodia whom he apparently viewed as having devised a new and wonderful form of totalitarianism. As Ezra puts it, Caldwell “shamelessly regurgitated the propaganda provided by Pol Pot’s regime.” Caldwell was, of course, far from alone in this enthusiasm. Most Western “experts” in southeast Asia cheered the rise of Pol Pot’s vicious and violent Khmer Rouge, which ran Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. During those four years, about two million of that country’s seven million people died – a million in executions, and another million from starvation, forced labor, and other such causes. Yet most Western “experts,” Caldwell included, strenuously denied reports that Pol Pot was committing atrocities. What distinguished him from Pol Pot’s other defenders in the West was that he actually went to Cambodia and met his hero.

cambodiatrip (2)
In Cambodia, December 1978, left to right: Michael Dudman, Elizabeth Becker, a member of the Khmer Rouge, Malcolm Caldwell

This was in December 1978, less than a month before Pol Pot was driven from his capital by Vietnamese troops. For two weeks, Caldwell and a pair of American journalists, Elizabeth Becker of the Washington Post and Richard Dudman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, were shown around Cambodia by Khmer Rouge handlers. It was a transparent Potemkin-village sideshow, but Caldwell fell for every bit of it; as Becker later recalled, Caldwell “didn’t want to know about problems with the Khmer Rouge.” Convinced that the world was on the verge of famine, he saw Pol Pot as having the answer: the use of forced collectivization and slave labor to increase rice production. As Anthony explains, however, “owing to the shortage of technicians and experts (who were killed as class enemies) and lack of peasant support, production fell well short of targets.” The result was – yes – famine, which Pol Pot blamed on “spies and counter revolutionaries” who soon found themselves in torture camps. Cambodian refugees had brought with them to the West these and other horrifying facts about Pol Pot’s regime. But Caldwell, the truest of true believers, didn’t buy any of it. 

Which brings us to the night of December 22, 1978. Caldwell, recounts Anthony, 

was taken in a Mercedes limousine to see Pol Pot. The setting for the meeting was the former Governor’s Palace on the waterfront, built during the French colonial period. In a grand reception room replete with fans and billowing white curtains, the two men sat down and discussed revolutionary economic theory….

The perennially shabby academic and the fastidious dictator must have made for an odd couple. In any case, Caldwell left the meeting a happy man. He returned to the guest house he was sharing with Becker and Dudman, full of praise for Pol Pot and his political outlook.

What happened next? We’ll get around to that on Monday.

Castro, Kushner, the Khmer Rouge: The Nation from the ’60s to 9/11

Professor Noam Chomsky of Linguistics and Philosophy. photo: Donna Coveney/MIT
Noam Chomsky

We’ve been taking a look at the history of The Nation during the Cold War, when it was, as the phrase went, “anti-anti-Communist.” Practically speaking, to be sure, there was little if any difference between The Nation‘s “anti-anti-Communism” and robust advocacy for (or, at the very least, defense of) Communism. Routinely, The Nation‘s editors and contributors wrote about the U.S. and USSR as if their people had, quite simply, chosen different systems, just as you might order a Coke and your best friend might order a Pepsi. And while The Nation tended to dance around the question of whether the Soviet system was inherently oppressive, it had no qualms about stridently denouncing the supposedly intrinsic evils of American capitalism – and supporting America’s enemies, the more tyrannical, it sometimes seemed, the better. In the 1970s, for example, it ran Noam Chomsky‘s defense of the Khmer Rouge from charges of genocide and supported the rise to power of Ayatollah Khomeini.

Jesse Jackson and Fidel Castro
Jesse Jackson with Fidel Castro

Among the other postwar-era low notes reprinted in The Nation ‘s special centennial issue: in a 1988 editorial, the Nation actually endorsed world-class shakedown artist and Castro crony Jesse Jackson for president of the United States – this, in the midst of Jackson’s public enthusiasm for Jew-baiting, gay-bashing Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan (whom Malcolm X’s own relatives publicly accused of complicity in his assassination) and in the wake of Jackson’s own disgusting reference to New York City as “Hymietown.”

kushner
Tony Kushner

Then there’s gay rights. The Nation presents itself today as having always been at the forefront of the struggle for gay equality; but for years, in fact, its contributors were consistently, fiercely opposed to same-sex marriage, gays in the military, and other forms of what they considered gay “assimilation” into bourgeois institutions. In their view, the proper socialist objective was not to achieve equal rights for gay people in mainstream capitalist society, but to marshal marginalized gay people as far-left storm troopers in the battle to overthrow mainstream capitalist society. The anniversary issue reprints part of a typically jejune 1994 article by Tony Kushner that sneeringly rejects gay marriage and calls for gay people to be true to utopian socialist ideals of “liberation. (It is instructive, by the way, to compare the complete original article – which can be found here – to the expurgated version served up in the anniversary issue.) The bottom line about The Nation and gay rights is that Kushner and other gay stalwarts at the magazine fought tooth and nail against the social changes that have enabled gay Americans to live and thrive openly with far less difficulty than they could a generation ago; yet now the magazine happily, and deceitfully, takes a big chunk of the credit for those very changes.

gorby
Mikhail Gorbachev

When the Iron Curtain fell, millions of Eastern Europeans wept with joy and rushed to embrace capitalism and democracy. But the folks at The Nation – like other stateside comrades of the Kremlin – offered no mea culpas and exhibited no shame. Quietly, they more or less dropped their longtime enthusiasm for the Kremlin down the memory hole. But they didn’t revise their poisonously anti-American attitudes, revisit their fierce hostility to the NATO policy of containment, or rethink their resounding contempt for the unapologetic pro-freedom rhetoric of Reagan and Thatcher, which they had repeatedly denounced as vulgar and dangerous. No, they just kept preaching their same old ideology, as if it had not been thoroughly discredited. They even allowed Mikhail Gorbachev, in a 2009 interview with Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel and hubby Stephen F. Cohen, to cast himself as the hero of the end of the Cold War – and to depict the whole conflict, in the same old way, as a clash between two morally equivalent regimes. Entirely removed from the picture was the monstrous injustice and intrinsic evil of the Communist system, and the fact that that system ultimately came crashing down precisely because of its injustice and evil.

And what about 9/11 and its aftermath? We’ll move on to that disgraceful chapter of The Nation‘s history next time.