“Democratic socialist”? Nonsense.

Bernie Sanders

It was never a secret that Bernie Sanders was a socialist. In college he belonged to the Young People’s Socialist League. After graduating he lived on an Israeli kibbutz that flew a red flag and was founded by Stalinists. During his unsuccessful 1970s runs for the U.S. Senate and for Governor of Vermont, he called for the nationalization of all banks and utilities. Later he produced “radical film strips,” i.e. propaganda, for distribution to schools and made a hagiographic documentary about Socialist icon Eugene V. Debs.

Noam Chomsky

Finally managing to get elected to public office, he served as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, from 1981 to 1989, during which time he openly identified as a socialist, established price controls, hosted a foreign-policy speech by Noam Chomsky, made life difficult for local business people with his chronic hostility to free enterprise, worked with the Soviets and East Germans to defeat Reagan’s military build-up, went to Nicaragua to attend a celebration of the Sandinista government, visited Cuba, publicly praised Fidel Castro, and honeymooned in the USSR.

In 1990 he ran for the U.S. House on the Socialist ticket and won, becoming the only Socialist in Congress. During most of his tenure in the House and then in the Senate, he was a voice for radical-left ideas but, until his run for present in 2016, maintained a relatively low national profile, although he did promote and support measures to cut the U.S. intelligence budget, praised the socialist regimes in Venezuela and Ecuador, and became the first U.S. Senator to support the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Fidel Castro

Yet despite his radicalism, and despite his lifelong acknowledgement that he is a socialist, Sanders has always called himself a “democratic socialist,” a term which is plainly intended to distinguish him from out-and-out Communists. At a TV forum in April, he told a questioner that he never supported the Soviet Union. For anybody who is even superficially familiar with his personal history, this seemed a highly dubious claim. It became even more dubious, however, when, just a couple of days later, a film emerged of a 1986 lecture in which Sanders praised the Cuban Revolution. In the lecture, given at the University of Vermont while Sanders was mayor of Burlington, he recalled “being very excited when Fidel Castro made the revolution in Cuba,” adding that “it seemed right and appropriate that poor people were rising up against ugly rich people.” In the same speech, Sanders also said that he had been disgusted by President Kennedy’s anti-Communism.

John F. Kennedy

Reporting on the film, which was posted on Twitter, the Daily Mail noted that this was “not the first time that 30-year-old clips have surfaced showing Sanders making controversial remarks about American foreign policy toward communist countries in Latin America.” During his primary campaign against Hillary Clinton in 2015-16, recalled the Mail, somebody had dug up a 1985 video “in which Sanders is seen heaping praise on Castro,” celebrating the dictator’s “policies on education, health care and society in general.”

Needless to say, such video evidence makes it hard to take seriously Sanders’s insistence on qualifying the socialist label, when applied to him, with the word “democratic.” There was, after all, nothing democratic about Fidel Castro. No lover of freedom who knew the truth about Castro and his regime could possibly admire him. And no freedom-lover could possibly have responded to JFK’s hard line on Soviet totalitarianism with anything but approval. That Sanders, a man with such a manifest and enduring affection for Communist tyranny, could be a serious candidate for the presidency of the United States is reason for alarm.

Idolizing a cop killer: Susan Sarandon

This website has been around for quite a while, but somehow we’ve never given Susan Sarandon her due. Sarandon, the Oscar-winning star of such movies as Pretty Baby, Atlantic City, Bull Durham, Thelma and Louise, and Dead Man Walking has also, over the years, made a name for herself as a left-wing activist.

Susan Sarandon

Come to think of it, “left-wing activist” is probably putting it too mildly. Sarandon has been an active participant in several Revolutionary Communist Party projects and front groups, including the anti-war organization Not in My Name and something called World Can’t Wait. She was a major booster of Occupy Wall Street and has collaborated with far-left New York mayor Bill de Blasio on plans for extensive wealth redistribution.

Jack Henry Abbott

Sarandon and her longtime partner, Tim Robbins – who shares her extreme views, and whose own misguided hijinks we hope to get around to on this site before too long – are so far out there that they actually named one of their children Jack Henry, after Jack Henry Abbott, a Communist forger, bank robber, and murderer whom novelist Norman Mailer help spring from prison in 1981 and who, six weeks later, without provocation, stabbed to death 22-year-old writer and playwright Robert Adan. (It occurs to us, just now, that this reprehensible episode has so fully faded from historical memory, and is so representative an example of the dangers of sentimental limousine radicalism, that we should probably recount it, too, in a future post on this site.)

Sarandon (center), with her son Jack Henry Robbins and Eva Amurri Martino

Abbott wasn’t the only murderer who drew Sarandon’s sympathy. She spent years as a leader of the nationwide campaign to release loathsome cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal from prison. Mumia, born Wesley Cook, was a former Black Panther who, thanks to the misguided support of Sarandon and others, became a poster boy for the fight against the death penalty – and, indeed, something a worldwide folk hero. Writing in Time Magazine in 1970, Steve Lopez told the tragic story of Maureen Faulkner, the widow of the Philadelphia police officer whom Mumia killed. Only 24 when her husband was murdered on duty in 1981, Faulkner left town and started her life over again in California – where, some years later, the weirdest thing started happening.

Mumia Abu-Jamal: yes, he killed a cop, but look, he’s cool, like Che Guevara!


“Suddenly, everywhere she turned, she saw her husband’s killer,” wrote Lopez. “She saw him on T shirts, on posters, on book covers, on television. He’d become an international celebrity, called a hero by some, compared to Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. by others.” Sarandon and other famous and powerful people – including fellow actors Paul Newman, Ed Asner, and Ossie Davis, authors Mailer, E.L. Doctorow, Gunther Grass, and Maya Angelou, the rock groups Rage against the Machine and the Beastie Boys, and no fewer than 22 members of the British Parliament – insisted that Mumia was innocent and demanded a new trial.

More on Thursday.

Malcolm Harris loves the idea of assassinating Republicans

Malcolm Harris

In May of last year, we spent a couple of days on this site contemplating a young political writer named Malcolm Harris, who in a stupid article for the New Republic had actually tried to rehabilitate Communism. When we looked into Harris’s background, we discovered him to be a child of privilege (his father had been a “Silicon Valley corporate lawyer” and then a diplomat) who had thrown himself into what leftist journo Mark Ames called a “brand of marketing-concocted ‘anarchism,’” helped found Occupy Wall Street, and then, quite amusingly, rushed to cash in on his newly minted radical celebrity, signing up with a speakers’ bureau and charging $5000 fees to speak to his alleged fellow members of the fabled “one percent.” During one OWS demo in 2011 he led his flock onto Brooklyn Bridge and held up traffic. OWS soon died down, but Harris, alas, has kept going, churning out drearily predictable pieces (for Al Jazeera, no less) with titles like “Wealthy Cabals Run America” and “Hooray for Cultural Marxism.”

Rep. Steve Scalise

Harris had dropped off our radar for a bit when he became a part of the story of the attempted mass assassination, on June 14, of those baseball-playing Republican Congressmen by a Bernie Sanders fan from Ohio. Harris wrote a couple of tweets that, Betsy Rothstein of The Daily Caller suggested, “may be the most heinous reaction” to that horrible event. In one tweet, Harris noted that Congressman Steve Scalise was in stable condition, “but a lot of Americans die from hospital errors so keep crossing your fing[ers].” In another, he asked: “If the shooter has a serious health condition then is taking potshots at the GOP leadership considered self defense?” The point apparently being that the GOP’s replacement for Obamacare, whatever it turns out to be, will leave people in dire medical straits high and dry. In yet another tweet, Harris wrote: “Nope nope nope you can’t use ‘respect for human life’ to defend GOP house leadership. That’s just bad math.” Funny how far-left ideologues who claim be so fanatically concerned about the welfare of fellow human beings turn out, in fact, to care about people in the abstract but not necessarily about specific individuals.

Harris’s Twitter account identified him as a writer for Vox. Although he has written for that site, Vow was quick to disavow any formal relationship with him.

Tiana Lowe

Harris wasn’t alone in responding to the attack with coldblooded snark. Others, too, took to social media to suggest that the violence of the Ohio socialist constituted a legitimate reaction to GOP policy positions, because those policy positions are themselves, in essence, acts of violence. As Tiana Lowe noted in National Review, this is a particularly dangerous way of turning reality upside down: “the notion that passionate political discourse is violence while actual violence can be excused,” she write, “is beyond Orwellian; it’s barbaric.” Yep. Unfortunately, it’s also received opinion on today’s loony far left.  

After being widely criticized for his tweets, Harris refused to apologize. And why should he? Those nasty tweets put him back on the map. To be sure, he’s been doing other writing. Since OWS faded away, he’s supposedly rebranded himself as an expert on the younger generation. On June 9 the ever-declining Washington Post ran a silly think piece in which he contemplated the question “Why do millennials keep leaking government secrets?” He also supposedly has a book forthcoming in November from Little, Brown entitled Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials. We can’t wait.

Caleb Maupin, lackey for Putin and the mullahs

Working for the mullahs

We’ve spent the last couple of days exploring the career of Caleb Maupin, a small-town Ohio boy who became a Communist in fifth grade and went on to help organize Occupy Wall Street (OWS) in New York. The OWS movement, however, fizzled just as quickly as it had flared up. 

Maupin giving a talk

But if OWS was effectively dead, Maupin remained active. At some point he quit the Workers World Party, with which he had long been associated. In recent years, instead, he has appeared to be strongly aligned with the governments of Iran and Russia. In 2013 he appeared very briefly on CNN, speaking against U.S. participation in the war in Syria. The next year, he spoke at a conference in Iran. In 2015, he was on board an Iranian ship, the Shahed, claiming to be on a “humanitarian mission” to Yemen, although various countries charged that the ship was smuggling arms to the Houthi terrorist group. In addition, he has served as UN correspondent for Iran’s government-owned Press TV.

Venezuelans lining up for groceries

He has also been a reporter for RT (Russia Today), the English-language news, TV, and radio service of the Putin regime. In a December 2015 article for RT, he claimed that the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela was still alive and well: “Due to the policies of the Bolivarian government, it now costs less than $1 to fill a gas tank. Children in schools receive free breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Rural Venezuelans receive interest-free loans in order to buy their own land. Public transportation is extremely cheap – and free for senior citizens….In the Bolivarian neighborhoods of Caracas, one can have the kind of conversations about literature, world history, politics, religion and philosophy only found on college campuses in the United States.”

Ayatollah Ali Khameini

In another piece, he charged that “US society is based on money and capitalism with so much violence everywhere and so much state repression” and that it was thus “highly conducive to insanity; this is not a healthy society.” In yet another RT contribution, he spoke up for the Islamic Republic of Iran while smearing pro-democracy Iranian dissidents as liars and impostors.

Mao Zedong

In one September 2015 interview with Beijing-based Maoist Jeff J. Brown, Maupin praised Mao Zedong, celebrated the “great strides” China has taken in the last few decades as a (supposed) consequence of the revolution begun by Mao, and bonded with Brown over their shared contempt for America’s capitalism and “fascism.”

The fact that much of Maupin’s recent work has been published by the relatively obscure group Students and Youth for a New America (SYNA), which will sponsor a debate on July 8 between Maupin and a member of the “alt right,” may indicate that his career is on the decline. But this seems improbable. Maupin is, after all, an ambitious and still very young man, and his association with SYNA more likely reflects his interest in mentoring a new generation of young American Communists to carry on the work of the revolution that has preoccupied him since his childhood.

From Ohio to Occupy Wall Street: Caleb Maupin

Yesterday we met Caleb Maupin, who became a Communist as a fifth grader in a small Ohio town and by 2010 was a prominent rabble-rouser in Cleveland and a leading local voice in the Workers World Party (WWP).

Maupin at a 2007 WWP conference

But the big city beckoned. A year later, Maupin was living in New York, and still an active WWP member. A July 2011 piece at the website of the International Communist Youth League (Fourth International) mentions Maupin’s attendance at a recent event held by the Spartacus Youth Club at the City College of New York. Maupin, identified in the article as “a writer for Workers World newspaper, the party organ of the reformist, pro-Democratic Party outfit of the same name,” was called upon at the event by Spartacists “to defend his party’s fawning over Obama and support to Democratic city councilman Charles Barron.”

Maupin did so by accusing the Spartacists of seeking “to be an isolated sect,” pure in its ideology but barren in its impact, whereas the WWP, in his view, were out to bring together diverse Leninist forces in an authentically productive class struggle “against a common enemy.” (The conflict, interestingly, is reminiscent of that which raged for many decades between strict Protestant fundamentalists – who out of a sense of theological purity chose to keep their distance from politics – and evangelicals, such as Jerry Falwell, who allied with Catholics, Jews, mainline Protestants, and others in the Republican Party in an effect to exert a degree of power in the mainstream culture.)

A 2011 Occupy Wall Street rally in New York

In New York, Maupin was involved in the 2011 planning of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and was also working, according to his profile at RT – the media empire run by the Putin regime in Russia – as “a youth organizer for the International Action Center.”

OWS at its height

Maupin turned up in a 2012 Reuters report about OWS’s first anniversary. It quoted Maupin, described as living in Queens, as follows: “A lot of media is saying that Occupy is dying down, but I think the fact that over 100 people were arrested this morning shows that Occupy is still part of the conversation.” He added: “We’ve been locked out, people my age don’t have much chance of getting a job, so we have to do something to get people’s attention.” A year later, Allison Kilkenny of The Nation took note of the second anniversary of OWS, which by this point was being described in the past tense. Again Maupin made an appearance, with Kilkenny describing him as having been “arrested during a couple Occupy Wall Street protests and participated in the original General Assemblies.”

Meet Daniel Tutt, acolyte of both Marxism and Islam

Jonathan A. C. Brown

Yesterday we featured a follow-up on Jonathan A.C. Brown, the Muslim convert, Georgetown University professor, and full-time Islamic apologist who is wont to defend slavery and child bribes and who keeps throwing critics out of his lectures. Or, at least, one critic, Andrew Harrod, who recently recounted his expulsion by Brown from yet another Georgetown event. This latest episode introduced a new character into our story: one Daniel Tutt, whom Harrod identified as being associated both with Marymount University and with Unity Productions Foundation (UPF), “a producer of pro-Islam films.” It was Tutt who had invited Harrod to the event – obviously by mistake – and Tutt who, in Harrod’s presence, “obsequiously” apologized to Brown for having done so.

Daniel Tutt

Who is Daniel Tutt? In addition to having been involved since 2007 with the UPF, where he’s “Director of Programs and Producer,” and since December 2015 with Marymount, where he’s an adjunct professor of philosophy, he’s an “expert” at the Institute for Social Progress and Understanding (ISPU), whose website describes him as an “interfaith activist with a focus on anti-Muslim bigotry and interfaith dialogue.” But that’s not all: he’s alsothe project director for 20,000 Dialogues, a national interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue project sponsored by the Unity Productions Foundation.”

At UPF, according to its website, Tutt “has overseen and helped to develop lesson plans, curricula and websites including American Muslims: Facts vs. Fiction20,000 Dialogues, My Fellow American and Understanding Muslim Diversity.” Previously, he was “co-director of the 9/11 Unity Walk, a multi-city interfaith peace walk that brings faith communities together for dialogue and reconciliation.” He’s also been associated with the Points of Light Foundation and has been an “adviser” for “the Washington Region for Justice and Inclusion, the Muslim Advisory Arts Council of Americans for Informed Democracy, and the United Religions Initiative of Washington, DC.” You get the picture.

Alain Badiou

Tutt attended Southern Oregon University and American University before getting his Ph.D. in 2014 from the European Graduate School, where he wrote a dissertation about four postmodern philosophers – Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek, Ernesto Laclau, and Jean-Luc Nancy. On top of everything else, he’s also directed a film, Insurrections, about “the role of philosophy and thinking since the period of intensified rioting and protests beginning in August of 2010 in London and then continuing to Arab regions, before igniting in the Occupy Wall Street movements globally.”

Jean-Luc Nancy

The combination on Tutt’s curriculum vitae of postmodern academic pursuits and his involvement in Islamic propaganda projects – not to mention his making of a film which somehow, apparently, manages to fit into both categories – strongly suggests both that he’s a member of what’s sometimes called the red-green coalition, which brings together Communists and Muslims as strategic allies, and that he somehow manages the intellectual feat of having one foot in each camp. This fact becomes clearer the more closely one at Tutt’s work: this, one discovers, is a man who’s written with equal enthusiasm about Marx and Muhammed.

Want more details? Tune in tomorrow.

Pete Seeger, Kremlin tool — and American hero?

Seeger in later years

We’ve spent the last couple of days exploring the career of Pete Seeger, musician, activist, Stalinist, and on-again, off-again critic of the U.S. (depending on the orders from Moscow). As with many other radical performers, he had ardent fans in politically active circles during the Depression and World War II, got in a bit of hot water with the government in the postwar years, acquired new counterculture fans during the civil-rights and Vietnam era, and in his old age, like many other sometime traitors, found himself being honored by the same government that had once called him in on the carpet and celebrated by the same media that had once banned or refused to review his performances.

David Boaz

But there was also a backlash. When the New Yorker ran a long, gushing profile of Seeger in 2006, praising him as a “conservative” devotee of “the Constitution and the Bill of Rights,” David Boaz of the Cato Institute took to the pages of the Guardian to remind readers of “Seeger’s long habit of following the Stalinist line.” Boaz cited the rapid switcheroo that Seeger underwent between Songs of John Doe and Dear Mr. President, contrasting some lines from the former (“Franklin D, listen to me, / You ain’t a-gonna send me ‘cross the sea. / You may say it’s for defense / That kinda talk ain’t got no sense”) with some very different lines from the latter:

Now, Mr President
You’re commander-in-chief of our armed forces
The ships and the planes and the tanks and the horses
I guess you know best just where I can fight …
So what I want is you to give me a gun
So we can hurry up and get the job done!

Ronald Radosh

Boaz quoted Ronald Radosh: “Seeger was antiwar during the period of the Nazi-Soviet Pact; pro-war after the Soviet Union was the ally of the United States; and anti-war during the years of the Cold War and Vietnam.” He also quoted historian Alan Charles Kors: “We rehearse the crimes of Nazism almost daily, we teach them to our children as ultimate historical and moral lessons, and we bear witness to every victim. We are, with so few exceptions, almost silent on the crimes of Communism.” Indeed. Commented Boaz: “We can only hope that soon it will be the season for holding accountable those who worked for Stalinist tyranny, as we have held accountable those who worked for National Socialist tyranny.”

Alas, that reckoning did not take place in Seeger’s own lifetime. In 2007 he was feted at the Library of Congress; two years later, he performed at Barack Obama’s inaugural concert. At age 92, still a radical, he marched with Occupy Wall Street in New York. When he died in January 2014, Obama issued a statement saying that Seeger had “used his voice and his hammer to strike blows for workers’ rights and civil rights; world peace and environmental conservation, and he always invited us to sing along. For reminding us where we come from and showing us where we need to go, we will always be grateful to Pete Seeger.”

The top ten stooges of 2016

Time again, kids, for our annual top-ten list. As before, these aren’t necessarily the worst human beings we covered last year; they’re people whose deplorable activities stood out in some way or another. One more thing: this time around, we’ve decided to forego the old cranks and creeps and focus instead on relatively youthful stooges – young-to-middle-aged characters who are especially worth keeping tabs on because their most high-profile and influential stoogery probably lies ahead of them…alas. Anyway, here goes:

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Max Blumenthal

To quote Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Max Blumenthal “is quite simply one of the most biased, anti-Semitic, terrorist-defending, Israel-has-no-right-to-exist haters out there.” And here’s what fellow leftist Eric Alterman had to say about Max’s 2013 anti-Israel screed Genesis: “this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club.” The vile spawn of ethically bankrupt Clinton lackey Sidney Blumenthal (one of the slimiest operatives ever to set foot inside the Washington Beltway), Sonny Boy routinely equates the Jewish state with Nazi Germany; this year he praised a massacre of IDF soldiers by Hamas commanders. In short, he’s as low as they go – and a dyed-in-the-wool chip off the old block.

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Nick Dearden

In 2016, while other fans of chavismo hid in shame as the system they’d celebrated brought the Venezuelan economy to its knees, British activist Nick Dearden was actually cheering what he described as that country’s “food revolution.” What on earth was he talking about? Answer: a new law that bans genetically modified seeds and prohibit the sale to corporations of “indigenous knowledge” in the field of agriculture. The result, Dearden enthused, would be “a truly democratic food system” that made the Bolivarian Republic “a beacon of hope.” Tell that to all the people who are eating their pets and breaking into bodegas to steal bread.

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Malcolm Harris

When Occupy Wall Street went bottom-up, blame focused largely on Malcolm Harrisa founder of the movement who’s been accused by fellow left-winger Mark Ames of exploiting OWS to “build his own brand.” Meaning what? Well, when leaders of Occupy Redlands in California invited Harris to give a lecture, they heard back from a speakers’ agency: the fee would be $5,000, plus travel and hotel. This year Harris wrote a piece called “Who’s Afraid of Communism?” – a call for millennials to reject capitalism and take a fresh, “nuanced” look at Mao and Stalin. When the Revolution comes, will he still be allowed to charge five grand for a speech?

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David Sirota

In June, we met chavismo enthusiast and former Bernie Sanders flunky David Sirota. Described by Newsweek in 2003 as “well schooled in the art of Washington warfare,” by the New York Times as a guy with a “take-no-prisoners mind-set” toward Republicans and centrists, and by election expert Nate Silver as a dude who plays “fast and loose with the truth,” Sirota wrote an article after the Boston Marathon bombing expressing the hope that the perpetrator was a white American. Like Dearden, moreover, Sirota has cheered Venezuela’s “economic miracle.” Of course, the only “economic miracle” in Venezuela is that the country, despite its massive petroleum resources, now has to import oil. 

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Colin Kaepernick

On August 26, San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick protested racism in America by refusing to stand up for the National Anthem before a game. This started a trend that has spread to a variety of sports at every level. Whatever one thinks of it, one part of this episode is unambiguously contemptible: at his press conference that day, Kaepernick wore a T-shirt covered with pictures of Fidel Castro and Malcolm X. The message was clear: the U.S. is a contemptibly racist nation and Cuba a model of racial harmony. Pure Communist propaganda, of course: in reality, aside from being a totalitarian state, Cuba is a country where intense racial prejudice is still a fact of life. Too bad Kaepernick is so ill-informed – and that his ignorance has given rise to such a divisive movement.

Five more tomorrow.

 

David Sirota’s Venezuelan “miracle”

In a recent series of posts, we explored the puzzlement that is Mark Weisbrot, an American economist who – for reasons either ideological or pecuniary, or both – has persisted in lauding the socialist economic policies of Venezuela and Argentina, even as those policies have dragged those countries’ economies into the mire.

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David Sirota

Another commentator who’s taken the same line on the same topics is David Sirota. Who? Born in 1975, Sirota has worked as a left-wing radio host, a contributor to Salon and The Nation, and a political operative for a long list of Democratic politicians, centers, foundations, and the like. Among his career highlights are stints as a spokesman for Bernie Sanders and as a fellow at the Center for American Progress, a left-wing spin machine. In 2003, Newsweek described him as “well schooled in the art of Washington warfare.” A New York Times review of his 2006 book Hostile Takeover said Sirota possessed “a take-no-prisoners mind-set” toward Republicans and centrists. Election handicapper Nate Silver has accused Sirota of “playing fast and loose with the truth.”

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The Boston Marathon bombers

In the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, Sirota gained plenty of media attention with a Salon article headlined “Let’s Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber Is a White American.” Why should we have such hopes? Because of “the dynamics of privilege.” Sirota explained: when members of unprivileged religious or ethnic groups commit mass shootings, the groups they belong to are “collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse).” Not so “white dudes,” who, when they commit mass shootings, are treated as “lone wolf” types. The word jihad, of course, did not appear anywhere in Sirota’s article; to recognize that religious identity tends to be a highly relevant detail in acts of terror committed by Muslims is to violate the kind of reality-challenged political correctness for which Sirota (like Salon) stands. Islam expert Robert Spencer called Sirota’s piece “appallingly stupid”; Greg Gutfeld of Fox News wondered aloud if, in hoping that the terrorist attack in Boston had been committed by a white American, Sirota had meant white Americans “like the Occupy Wall Streeters on trial in Cincinnati? Or Bill Ayers, the nutty professor?”

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The late, great caudillo

Sirota is, then, a creep and a clown on a number of fronts. But for now, we’re concerned about his views on Latin American economies. In March 2013, he actually published a piece – once again in Salon – entitled “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle.” Sirota began with a sneer: for a long time, Americans of certain political persuasions had treated Hugo Chávez as “a boogeyman synonymous with extremism,” made him the subject of “over-the-top political rhetoric,” acted as if he was a “radical.” While making the pro forma acknowledgment that “Chavez was no saint,” for example on “human rights and basic democratic freedoms,” Sirota was quick to make the leap into moral equivalency (America, he proposed, had recently been guilty of “drone assaults, civil liberties abuses, and [a] war on voting”) and to accuse Chávez’s critics of hypocrisy (“it is not as if [America’s] political establishment sees an assault on democratic freedoms as deplorable”).

No, Sirota insisted: what made Chávez “the bugaboo of American politics” was not the bad aspects of his record, but the good ones – namely, the “indisputably positive results” of his economic policies, which, for the American establishment, raised uncomfortable questions about, say, the wisdom of nationalization and of aggressive income redistribution. But now that Venezuela’s economic success was so utterly undeniable, America had to stop demonizing “everyone from Martin Luther King to Michael Moore to Oliver Stone to anyone else who dares question neoliberalism and economic imperialism.”

Quick note: MLK has a national bank holiday; Moore and Stone have won Oscars. So much for “demonizing.” Anyway, that was Sirota in 2013. And since? We’ll get to that tomorrow.

Who is Malcolm Harris?

Yesterday we examined a recent New Republic piece in which a writer named Malcolm Harris, who’s connected with an online rag called New Inquiry, strove to pull off a one-man rehabilitation of Communism.

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A photo from the Times profile of New Inquiry (Harris is not in the picture)

Who, we wondered, is this audacious fool? And what, for that matter, is New Inquiry? Well, the New York Times provided an answer to the latter question back in November 2011, when (for reasons we cannot begin to fathom) it ran a full-length profile of the “scrappy” Upper East Side “literary salon” cum online journal whose members, all recent college grads, uniformly came off as obnoxious, privileged brats. One of them whined about not getting a job “at a boutique literary agency”; another (“an aspiring novelist who graduated magna cum laude from Cornell in 2009”) resented having to work at a real job (sweeping movie theaters); yet another had actually secured a job at the New Yorker only to walk away from it in boredom. Harris, then 22, was described as a young man who’d been “sifting through grad-school rejection notices a year ago” but had since “written for N + 1 and Utne Reader.”

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Malcolm Harris

The Times didn’t mention it, but to many observers Harris is best known not an aspiring littérateur but as an early leader of the Occupy Wall Street movement. In a September 2012 postmortem on OWS, Mark Ames, a veteran of MSNBC and The Nation – in other words, a solid left-winger – waxed cynical about the movement, whose failures he attributed largely to Harris, whom he mocked as a self-seeking “twenty-something hipster” and poster boy for a certain “brand of marketing-concocted ‘anarchism.’” Wrote Ames: “one look at Malcolm Harris – his anarcho-hipster sneer, his marketing-guy hipster glasses – and you’ll be reaching for the nearest can of pepper spray.”

10/10/11 New York Broadway and Liberty AV . .A protest on Wall Street is in 4 weeks, with more people showing up every day. The group is still working on its message, and it doesn't really have any demands. But the protesters say they are tired of struggling to make a living while the big banks get help from the government. Original Filename: Wall st Protest 21.JPG
OWS, October 2011

Ames provided some bio: Harris’s father was a “Silicon Valley corporate lawyer turned State Department diplomat.” As for Harris himself, he “was one of the very first to capitalize on the marketing possibilities of Occupy, and how he might exploit the marketing and messaging to quickly build his own brand.” Only a month after OWS got off the ground, it turns out, Harris signed up with a speakers’ agency; when a California branch of the movement, Occupy Redlands, asked him to come address its members, Harris’s agent replied “that if they wanted to hear Malcolm Harris talk about anarchism and the 99%, they’d have to pay him a $5,000 speaking fee. Not including travel and hotel expenses.” The news that an OWS “anarchist” was trying to squeeze five-grand payments out of allied groups around the country spread like wildfire, apparently, and did not exactly make Harris a movement hero.

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Harris in court, December 2012

Then came the lawsuit. In December 2012, after denying for over a year that he and other OWS activists hadn’t been warned by police to stay off the Brooklyn Bridge during an October 1, 2011, march – and hinting through his lawyer that, on the contrary, police had deliberately lured protesters onto the bridge – Harris’s own tweets from that day, which he’d fought to keep secret but which Twitter had provided to the court, showed that he was lying. Facing trial on a charge of disorderly conduct, he pleaded guilty. Even his lawyer was reprimanded for having played fast and loose with the facts.

Harris has continued writing prolifically – and in a thoroughly predictable vein. In January he contributed an article to Al Jazeera’s website entitled “Wealthy Cabals Run America”; in February the same site ran a piece of his entitled “Hooray for Cultural Marxism.” He’s also contributed plenty of articles to Jacobin, “a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture.” That there are nasty corners of the Internet prepared to give space to this mendacious young stooge is hardly surprising; but it’s depressing that The New Republic, once known for its staunch liberal anti-Communism, should welcome him into its pages.