Jane Fonda’s doublethink

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Fonda in North Vietnam

Yesterday we explored Jane Fonda‘s 1972 sojourn in North Vietnam, during which she was famously photographed sitting on an anti-aircraft battery – and did much else that was equally deplorable but far less famous. As we noted, that visit was only a single episode in a long life of useful stoogery, which has also attracted far less notice than it should have. Indeed, it could be argued that those pictures of her with that North Vietnamese weapon have been something of a lightning rod for all these decades, helping to draw attention away from everything else she’s done to promote totalitarianism and fight freedom.

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Fonda not in North Vietnam

Certainly to anyone who cared to listen, it was clear from early on that Fonda wasn’t just a liberal or left-wing activist but an out-and-out revolutionary Communist – or at least wanted, for whatever reason, to be seen as one. In 1970 she told a college audience, “If you understood what communism was, you would hope, you would pray on your knees that we would some day become communist.”

The next year she told another audience: “We’ve got to establish a socialist economic structure that will limit private profit-oriented businesses. Whether the transition is peaceful depends on the way our present governmental leaders react. We must commit our lives to this transition.” The historical record is full of such statements made by Fonda over the years to various newspaper reporters, in various TV and radio interviews, and from various stages and platforms.

5572832 (9053) USA, Las Vegas, 14.08.1964: Hochzeit von Roger VADIM, französischer Regisseur und Jane FONDA, amerikanische Schauspielerin [SPERRVERMERKE BEACHTEN | PLEASE CHECK RESTRICTIONS!Nutzung nur im redaktionellen Kontext und nur gegen Honorar, Beleg, Namensnennung und zu unseren AGB. Weitergabe und Archivierung nur mit schriftlicher Genehmigung. Honorare an: KEYSTONE Pressedienst,HASPA, BLZ 200 505 50, Kto.1235130877] 1965 by KPA
Fonda with first husband, French film director Roger Vadim, 1964
Certainly she’s spent much of her life agitating for socialist change. Years before going to Vietnam, she was a staunch supporter of the Black Panthers. Shortly after 9/11, she urged Americans to “try to find the underlying cause” of the attacks. In 2005, she joined the execrable Saddam crony George Galloway on an antiwar speaking tour of the U.S. In 2007, she spoke at a Marxist-led antiwar rally in Washington, D.C., telling the audience that she hadn’t attended any such rally in 34 years out of concern that “the lies…spread about me and that war” would “be used to hurt this new antiwar movement.” (In fact, as we’ve seen, the person who’s been spreading lies about Jane Fonda’s activities during the Vietnam War is Fonda herself.) In 2009, she joined fellow useful stooges Danny Glover, David Byrne, John Pilger, Alice Walker, Naomi Klein, and Howard Zinn in signing a letter protesting the “Israeli propaganda machine.”

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Jane Fonda with third husband, Ted Turner

Yet can it really be said that Fonda has heeded her own call to “commit our lives” to a transition to socialism? Let’s not forget that in addition to be a useful stooge for totalitarianism, she’s also been a world-class hypocrite. From 1991 to 2001, this self-styled revolutionary Communist was married to multibillionaire media mogul Ted Turner, who, at the time, was the largest landowner in the United States, his real-estate holdings adding up to an empire larger than Rhode Island and Delaware put together. Years before their marriage, moreover, Fonda had established her own massive business empire, hawking workout books and videos that sold in huge numbers for years, helped kick off the baby boom’s fitness craze, and made her untold millions. Has any useful stooge’s hypocrisy factor ever been so high?

workoutThe striking thing about Fonda is that she’s been carrying on this doublethink for so long – living the life of a stupefyingly successful capitalist while continuing to spout socialist slogans – and seems never to have paused to question it. Is she the fool that she seems to be, or is she, in fact, some kind of supremely cynical genius? As we’ve seen over and over again on this site, some useful stooges for totalitarianism are authentic true believers, plainly out to change the world. But Fonda has always seemed perfectly comfortable with her contradictions. Her enthusiastic talk about socialism has never seemed to have the slightest connection to her own reality, and has rarely if ever been accompanied by even a hint of meaningful action to advance her purported cause. The more one ponders her life, the more her activism seems to be about seeing glamour in revolution and about seeking attention. A 2011 biography by Patricia Bosworth quotes her as saying that her “biggest regret” was that she “never got to fuck Che Guevara.” Maybe that inane statement sums up the nature of her political “commitments” as well as anything else.

Chris Hedges, morally posturing plagiarist

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Chris Hedges

In our last couple of postings, we’ve pondered the career of Chris Hedges, the self-righteous New York Times journalist turned shrill anti-American polemicist.

What we haven’t touched on yet, however, is a bombshell that hit Hedges’s career in June of last year. In an extensive, carefully researched article in The New Republic, Christopher Ketcham showed that Hedges had “a history of lifting material from other writers that goes back at least to his first book, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, published in 2002.”

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Christopher Ketcham

First, Ketcham told about a piece Hedges had submitted to Harper’s in 2010 that had turned out to contain several instances of “flat-out plagiarism” from a series of articles by Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Matt Katz. When confronted about the similarities, Hedges said he had secured Katz’s permission to borrow from his work; but this turned out to be a lie. A Harper’s fact-checker said that Hedges’s stealing was “one of the worst things I’d ever seen as a fact-checker at the magazine. And it was endemic throughout the piece.” When the fact checker spoke with Hedges, moreover, the latter “was very unhelpful from the beginning, and very aggressive” and tried to “intimidate” him. The fact-checker told Ketcham: “Not only was the plagiarism more egregious than I had seen before, but it was shocking how unapologetic Hedges was when it was put in his face. He got very heavy-handed about it.”

Ketcham summed it up as follows: “A leading moralist of the left…had now been caught plagiarizing at one of the oldest magazines of the left.”

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Petra Bartosiewicz

But the Harper’s piece, it turned out, was only the tip of the iceberg. Passages in Hedges’s book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, which is revered on the left, proved to contain slightly altered passages from Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. When a Texas professor brought this to Hedges’s attention, Hedges was, in his words, “dismissive and belittling” – just as he’d been with that Harper’s fact-checker.

There was more: Hedges stole several passages from a Harper’s essay by Petra Bartosiewicz for a Truthdig item; another piece he wrote for Truthdig included a passage about George Orwell and Aldous Huxley that was lifted almost word-for-word out of a work by Neil Postman. (When editors at Salon, where Ketcham’s piece was originally scheduled to run, challenged the editor of Truthdig about all these clear instances of plagiarism, the latter, instead of addressing the alarming facts, accused Salon and Ketcham of trying to damage the reputations of Truthdig and Hedges for “commercial” reasons.) Hedges even stole material from a piece on climate change by fellow Nation writer Naomi Klein. Presented with all these examples of extensive copying, a journalism-school ethics expert told Ketcham they were obviously not just instances of “inadvertent plagiarism…but carefully thought out plagiarism.”

hedges10Hedges, as we’ve seen, represents himself as a media outsider and a lone, fearless voice of truth. Yet Ketcham’s revelations about his serial plagiarism utterly decimated his right to pose as a man of truth. Any ordinary journalist who’d been found guilty of such extensive appropriation of other people’s words would’ve been fired on the spot by any reputable media entity. Yet Hedges’s plagiarism has been shrugged off by The Nation, by Truthdig, and by every other place he writes for.

And that’s not all: Ketchum’s article, as he notes, “first took shape as an investigation for The American Prospect and then for Salon, both of which eventually declined to publish it.” Why? One suspects that neither of those left-wing outlets wanted to cross Hedges. So much for him being a brave and solitary anti-establishment voice of truth – on the contrary, he’s a star in the crown of the left-wing media establishment, which plainly doesn’t care whether he’s an honest man or a thief, so long as he’s ideologically on point.

hedges9aOh well. At least a writer for The Weekly Standard got it, calling Ketchum’s exposé “so detailed, so voluminous, so explicitly damning, that it is difficult to see how any but the most credulous members of the cult can ever take Hedges seriously again.” The Standard writer also lamented the indifference of the editors of The Nation and Hedges’s other outlets to Hedges’s transgressions:

….plagiarism ought to be a capital offense in journalism. It is surely a kind of psychic disturbance in print. Whatever impels writers to steal language from other writers, and publish it as their own, also makes them vulnerable to discovery. Hedges’s demons, which seem so obvious on the page, clearly represent something deeper than politics. The last thing serial plagiarists need is editors willing, in the name of ideology, to ignore their plagiarism.

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

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

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Katha Pollitt

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

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The late Christopher Hitchens

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

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

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