Cold War Amnesia

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

The Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union is still being fought, not by unrepentant, unreconstructed anti-communists such as your servant but by campus leftists born too late to be collaborators. “In last month’s undergraduate elections, a cadre of demagogues, in a disgusting publicity stunt, projected the image of a hammer and sickle onto one of Stanford’s most venerable landmarks: Hoover Tower,” Jason Dunkel, the business manager of the Stanford Review writes in a June 2008 fundraising letter. “Their platform called for the detainment of such ‘criminals’ as Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice as well as the banning of ‘unfriendly corporations [from] campus unless they withdrawal [sic] their lobbyists’ from Washington.”

“They entitled their slate ‘Revolution!’” Unlike the Japanese on Iwo Jima who did not know that World War II had ended because they were hiding in caves on the island, these young firebrands cannot claim to have been in cavernous hideouts that made transmission of news difficult.

Nevertheless, the Palo Alto campus, like most college campuses, is one in which contact with The Real World is limited to turning on that MTV staple. The level of ignorance among students about the struggle that took up nearly half of the last century is astounding. “Ask college students, and I have, how many Stalin killed and you get the answer, ‘thousands,’” Alan Charles Kors of the University of Pennsylvania said of the victims of communism at a seminar dedicated to their memory at the Heritage Foundation last summer. Ironically, a fairly conservative young man with a Master’s degree said to me, in reacting to the notice of that very meeting, “Wouldn’t it have been great to be the head communist?”

After my article on the event appeared, in which I laid out the facts on the mass genocide as given by the speakers, that same youthful scholar asked, “But how many people did Stalin kill personally?” The problem, of course, stems from academia and journalism.

Even students trying to be well-informed are relying on academics and journalists to inform them. Against this backdrop, such worthies should be venerating those who got it right rather than ignoring or dissing them outright.

Robert Conquest spent decades estimating a casualty rate amassed from the testimony of defectors. Most academics denigrated his work, relying on Soviet government statistics instead.

Few of them volunteered to carry Conquest on their shoulders when his numbers proved closer to the actual count than theirs. For this reason, he wanted to retitle the reissue of one of his books, “I told you so, you f—-g fools,” according to In Denial by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr. Veteran journalist M. Stanton Evans would be forgiven for adopting a similar attitude towards his detractors.

First, in National Review, Ron Radosh wrote a review of Evans’ Blacklisted By History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies in which about all the reviewer got right were the title and the spelling of the author’s name. Interestingly, two of Radosh’s most famous books were collaborations in which his coauthors were geographically closer to the information than he was:

• East Coaster Radosh wrote Red Star Over Hollywood with California-based K. Lloyd Billinglsy.

• Radosh also wrote about the Amerasia papers in a book with Klehr. The Amerasia collection they based their research on was housed at Emory, where Klehr is.

More recently, the Wall Street Journal tapped former Washington Post reporter Ron Kessler to write a piece on the McCarthy era. The choice of Kessler was a curious one for a newspaper whose editorial page has historically prided itself on its high standards.

For instance, he is about the only reporter in the country to mangle the story of presidential candidate Barack Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Kessler did so by claiming, without evidence, that Obama was in the church when Wright delivered one of his most incendiary sermons.

In like fashion, Kessler’s take on McCarthy was also journalistically challenged. He reproduces factoids from questionable stated sources that Evans has already proven wrong in his book with primary information.

Then Kessler backs up this data-base with unnamed sources not necessarily alive. It would be comforting to crib from the title of a book from a bygone era and aver that, “None dare call it journalism.” Unfortunately, the Wall Street Journal does.

Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia. The picture is of a 2007 Stanford graduation protest and can be found in its original form here.