Over at Lion of the Blogosphere’s place, commenter Fiddlesticks found an online archive of my ancient Rice U. college newspaper journalism from 1978-1980. There is nothing too exciting, but for completists, I’ll start running them here to make them more accessible.
My wife asks if anybody could find the video of my 1971 appearance on the Art Linkletter Show.
Colleges have a lot of public speakers come through, so I was often invited to sit at the pre-speech dinner table with the guest as a representative of the student body. I had recently read The Green Stick, the autobiography of British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, a contemporary of Orwell and Waugh. At dinner, I played straight man setting up his best one-liners from his book and asking about his funniest anecdotes for the amusement of faculty and donors. Here’s my Rice Thresher report on Muggeridge’s subsequent speech:
Cynic’s Progress: Stalin to Christ
One of this century’s more mercurial vendors of words, Malcolm Muggeridge, though born in 1903, remains the enfant terrible of British public life.
Since most Rice students have never heard of Muggeridge, few young faces were seen in the large audience that filled the RMC Grand Hall Tuesday night. Presented by the Department of Religious Studies, he spoke wittily on UA Twentieth Century Pilgrimage”—his own.
He recalled his socialist upbringing, his undemanding teaching job at the University of Cairo (his students spoke no English, were always on strike, and were perpetually stupefied by hashish), and reporting for the Manchester Guardian. He now believes “news” should be renamed “nuzak,” since Walter Cronkite and the newspapers bear the same relation to news as Muzak to music.
Disgusted with the capitalist West during the Great Depression, Muggeridge moved to Moscow to help build the Worker’s Paradise. Soon repulsed by the horrors of Stalinism, he became even more alarmed by the credulity of Western intellectuals like G. B. Shaw, who toured Russia during the Great Purges and returned proclaiming it The New Jerusalem. The cynical Muggeridge convinced one British Peer the long queues at food shops were organized by the government to induce overzealous workers to rest.
During WWII, he worked in the only career he thinks more divorced from reality than journalism—intelligence.
Particularly disorienting was that his boss, Kim Philby, was a Soviet agent while Philby’s opposite number in the NKVD was an Allied agent. Muggeridge came to reflect on G. K. Chesterton’s aphorism: “When people stop believing in God, they will not believe in nothing, they will believe in anything.”
In recent years he has become one of Christianity’s most forceful apologists (which his old friends, he says, blame on senility). Deeply distressed by what he calls The Decline and Fall of the West (his next book). Muggeridge believes the tenacious flourishing of Christianity in Communist nations is the main hope for Western Civilization.