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Me and Malcolm Muggeridge, 1979
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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

Rice Thresher, March 8, 1979

Steve Sailer

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.

 
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  1. His autobiography is really, really good, although it doesn’t read as particularly reliable.

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  2. Wonderful to read young Sailer; it’s the same fresh voice, alert and noticing things. Would Galdwell ’79 hold up? I doubt it.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    "Wonderful to read young Sailer; it’s the same fresh voice, alert and noticing things. Would Galdwell ’79 hold up? I doubt it."

    No kidding.

    Steve, You're a wonderful writer. Very impressive.
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  3. 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.

    And who would have thought communism had roughly a decade left? I certainly didn’t.

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    • Replies: @GW
    Communism only survived a decade longer, this is true. Unfortunately Marxism has survived in other forms.
    , @Jason
    Lots of people knew it then: Ron Reagan, pat Moynihan, George Kennan, the historian John lukacs among others.
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  4. @keypusher
    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.

    And who would have thought communism had roughly a decade left? I certainly didn't.

    Communism only survived a decade longer, this is true. Unfortunately Marxism has survived in other forms.

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    • Replies: @Busby
    Me neither. It looked pretty intimidating through the fence on the border in Fulda.
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  5. @keypusher
    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.

    And who would have thought communism had roughly a decade left? I certainly didn't.

    Lots of people knew it then: Ron Reagan, pat Moynihan, George Kennan, the historian John lukacs among others.

    Read More
    • Replies: @keypusher
    They knew communism had a decade left in 1979? Got cites for that?
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  6. @Jason
    Lots of people knew it then: Ron Reagan, pat Moynihan, George Kennan, the historian John lukacs among others.

    They knew communism had a decade left in 1979? Got cites for that?

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    • Replies: @Jason
    To mention just one work key pusher, see moynihan's pandonium, where he describes how during the early 1980s he said the Soviet Union was imploding: the right was generally unwilling to see that then.
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  7. Ah, Steve, lucky you, you got to meet the great man. Very nice. Nice also to note that the title of his presentation at Rice, he reused for the U.S. edition of his 1988 apologia for his conversion to Catholicism: Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim.

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  8. I read somewhere that Muggeridge was “spying” in what is now Maputo, and one day decided he’d had enough and was going to commit suicide, by walking straight out into the Indian Ocean. But the Bay of Maputo remains quite shallow for miles, the water never rose above his head, and at last he gave up and turned around. Did he mention anything like that?

    Enjoyed the look at the old school newspaper. I didn’t attend Rice but I lived in West U for a short while in 1981, and would walk over to the campus and use the library. Very pleasant. The local ads all sort of ring a bell but the one I like most is for Icelandic Airlines, which in those days was the cheapest way to get to Europe. I did once fly it, but just halfway. I was the only gringo who got off in Iceland itself. With my bicycle. Not the greatest idea I ever had, but still a pretty nice trip.

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  9. Erik von Kühnelt-Leddihn came to my school and very graciously spoke before an audience of about seven. Imagine an aristocratic version of the older Muggeridge who was like that from the start.

    I can’t remember if I did the write-up, but there are only six other candidates.

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  10. My father subscribed to Esquire magazine, which published an essay by Malcolm Muggeridge every month for many years. I read all his essays.

    Muggeridge was an odd fit for Esquire magazine, the readership of which was primarily single young men. His essays were mostly about the collectivization of agriculture in Ukraine during the 1930s or about the decline of the Christian religion in the United Kingdom during the 1970s.

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  11. “A question persists: why would a proselytizer for faith and morality obscure his identity? Oursler offered few clues as to the answer, or in the meaning behind the pseudonym itself. The name begs comparison to Anthony the Abbot, also known as Saint Anthony the Great, an Egyptian Christian saint, ascetic and a founder of monasticism who died in 356. A partial answer to the question of why Oursler might behave like a spy could be found in The Fine Art of Spying, an anthology published after Oursler’s death in 1965 that included a reprint of “A Very Special Agent.” The book’s editor, Walter B. Gibson (the writer behind “The Shadow” radio and pulp novel series), offered the following in his introduction: “Spies have been with us forever,” he writes. “It is difficult to say why. The pay is poor, the work is hazardous, the consequences are commonly disastrous and final. But still there are people who choose to make a career of duplicity and double-dealing…Gibson’s observation holds true if “writer” is substituted for “spy.” (“The pay is poor…duplicity, double-dealing…”) Silent observers and investigators of culture gathering intelligence — to a certain degree, all writers are spies.” http://www.lostmag.com/issue28/literature.php?print=1

    “You’re on your own!” Washington HQ to OSS agent with missing Swiss contact. She almost got shot down flying out of Scotland when the English mistakenly shot at the plane. Made it to Europe and the contact didn’t show and the pay was poor.

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  12. […] Source: Steve Sailer […]

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  13. @GW
    Communism only survived a decade longer, this is true. Unfortunately Marxism has survived in other forms.

    Me neither. It looked pretty intimidating through the fence on the border in Fulda.

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  14. @Nathan Hale
    Wonderful to read young Sailer; it's the same fresh voice, alert and noticing things. Would Galdwell '79 hold up? I doubt it.

    “Wonderful to read young Sailer; it’s the same fresh voice, alert and noticing things. Would Galdwell ’79 hold up? I doubt it.”

    No kidding.

    Steve, You’re a wonderful writer. Very impressive.

    Read More
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  15. It was Malcom Muggaridge that made famous the Culcutta based Catholic nun and head of the Missionaries of Charity – Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu – better known as Mother Teresa.

    Christopher Hitchens wrote a book – more of a pamphlet really- effectively debunking her supposed virtue, inevitably entitled ‘the Missionary Position’. He also made a documentary ‘Hells Angels’, it’s worth looking at. Hitchens described her – I believe fairly – as “A lying, thieving Albanian dwarf”. There is an account of Muggeridge in the documentary.

    Ironically it transpired after her death, when the Catholic church published details of her inner turmoil and interaction with her confessor, that Mother Teresa had been a closet atheist since 1959.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Mother Theresa under went a 50 year period of the "dark night of the soul". She was not a closet atheist. For information on the "dark night of the soul" please refer to John of the Cross.
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  16. @NickG
    It was Malcom Muggaridge that made famous the Culcutta based Catholic nun and head of the Missionaries of Charity - Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu - better known as Mother Teresa.

    Christopher Hitchens wrote a book - more of a pamphlet really- effectively debunking her supposed virtue, inevitably entitled 'the Missionary Position'. He also made a documentary 'Hells Angels', it's worth looking at. Hitchens described her - I believe fairly - as "A lying, thieving Albanian dwarf". There is an account of Muggeridge in the documentary.

    Ironically it transpired after her death, when the Catholic church published details of her inner turmoil and interaction with her confessor, that Mother Teresa had been a closet atheist since 1959.

    Mother Theresa under went a 50 year period of the “dark night of the soul”. She was not a closet atheist. For information on the “dark night of the soul” please refer to John of the Cross.

    Read More
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  17. I remember reading Muggeridge’s “The Great Liberal Death Wish” essay and liking it. Haven’t come across much else by him though.

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  18. @keypusher
    They knew communism had a decade left in 1979? Got cites for that?

    To mention just one work key pusher, see moynihan’s pandonium, where he describes how during the early 1980s he said the Soviet Union was imploding: the right was generally unwilling to see that then.

    Read More
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  19. Muggeridge’s memoir of Orwell, “Knight of the Woeful Countenance,” is the best short thing ever written about the man. Amazingly, it was nowhere to be found on the Internet until
    I put it there.

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  20. My wife asks if anybody could find the video of my 1971 appearance on the Art Linkletter Show.

    From the other side of the country I saw my younger cousin appear on the Art Linkletter show. Some years later, when I first met my cousin, I asked him about being on the Linkletter show. He said there wasn’t much to his being on the show- he didn’t electrify the show with some kid witticism. Gave his name, that was about it.

    It took how many tens or hundreds or thousands of kids for each one of those funny kid lines that Linkletter was known for.

    My only claim to fame was being in the crowd at Altamont. As I was a hundred yards from the stage, any sighting of me on an Altamont film was imaginary.

    For some reason I saved the campus newspapers from my freshman year, the only year I was in a dorm. I threw them out 20 years later.

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  21. 162 comments on the post about the Ramones yet only 20 for Malcolm Muggeridge.

    Highbrow can’t compete with middlebrow.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Or us journalists, even great ones like Muggeridge, are forgotten about 24 hours after we stop writing.
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  22. @Ava Lon
    162 comments on the post about the Ramones yet only 20 for Malcolm Muggeridge.

    Highbrow can't compete with middlebrow.

    Or us journalists, even great ones like Muggeridge, are forgotten about 24 hours after we stop writing.

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    • Replies: @Ava Lon
    Duh. You should quit blogging and write a book (a more comprehensive one than your last one.)

    My hope is that you have a manuscript about nature vs. nurture, the biological origins of race, class, and gender drawing on examples from sports, business, adoption saved away somewhere.
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  23. @Steve Sailer
    Or us journalists, even great ones like Muggeridge, are forgotten about 24 hours after we stop writing.

    Duh. You should quit blogging and write a book (a more comprehensive one than your last one.)

    My hope is that you have a manuscript about nature vs. nurture, the biological origins of race, class, and gender drawing on examples from sports, business, adoption saved away somewhere.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Muggeridge published 21 books.
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  24. @Ava Lon
    Duh. You should quit blogging and write a book (a more comprehensive one than your last one.)

    My hope is that you have a manuscript about nature vs. nurture, the biological origins of race, class, and gender drawing on examples from sports, business, adoption saved away somewhere.

    Muggeridge published 21 books.

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