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The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?
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ViewAsPDF2 In mid-March, the Wall Street Journal carried a long discussion of the origins of the Bretton Woods system, the international financial framework that governed the Western world for decades after World War II. A photo showed the two individuals who negotiated that agreement. Britain was represented by John Maynard Keynes, a towering economic figure of that era. America’s representative was Harry Dexter White, assistant secretary of the Treasury and long a central architect of American economic policy, given that his nominal superior, Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr., was a gentleman farmer with no background in finance. White was also a Communist agent.

Such a situation was hardly unique in American government during the 1930s and 1940s. For example, when a dying Franklin Roosevelt negotiated the outlines of postwar Europe with Joseph Stalin at the 1945 Yalta summit, one of his important advisors was Alger Hiss, a State Department official whose primary loyalty was to the Soviet side. Over the last 20 years, John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and other scholars have conclusively established that many dozens or even hundreds of Soviet agents once honeycombed the key policy staffs and nuclear research facilities of our federal government, constituting a total presence perhaps approaching the scale suggested by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose often unsubstantiated charges tended to damage the credibility of his position.

The Cold War ended over two decades ago and Communism has been relegated to merely an unpleasant chapter in the history books, so today these facts are hardly much disputed. For example, liberal Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein matter-of-factly referred to White as a “Soviet spy” in the title of his column on our postwar financial system. But during the actual period when America’s government was heavily influenced by Communist agents, such accusations were widely denounced as “Red-baiting” or ridiculed as right-wing conspiracy paranoia by many of our most influential journalists and publications. In 1982 liberal icon Susan Sontag ruefully acknowledged that for decades the subscribers to the lowbrow Readers Digest had received a more realistic view of the world than those who drew their knowledge from the elite liberal publications favored by her fellow intellectuals. I myself came of age near the end of the Cold War and always vaguely assumed that such lurid tales of espionage were wildly exaggerated. I was wrong.

The notion of the American government being infiltrated and substantially controlled by agents of a foreign power has been the stuff of endless Hollywood movies and television shows, but for various reasons such popular channels have never been employed to bring the true-life historical example to wide attention. I doubt if even one American in a hundred today is familiar with the name “Harry Dexter White” or dozens of similar agents.

The realization that the world is often quite different from what is presented in our leading newspapers and magazines is not an easy conclusion for most educated Americans to accept, or at least that was true in my own case. For decades, I have closely read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and one or two other major newspapers every morning, supplemented by a wide variety of weekly or monthly opinion magazines. Their biases in certain areas had always been apparent to me. But I felt confident that by comparing and contrasting the claims of these different publications and applying some common sense, I could obtain a reasonably accurate version of reality. I was mistaken.

Aside from the evidence of our own senses, almost everything we know about the past or the news of today comes from bits of ink on paper or colored pixels on a screen, and fortunately over the last decade or two the growth of the Internet has vastly widened the range of information available to us in that latter category. Even if the overwhelming majority of the unorthodox claims provided by such non-traditional web-based sources is incorrect, at least there now exists the possibility of extracting vital nuggets of truth from vast mountains of falsehood. Certainly the events of the past dozen years have forced me to completely recalibrate my own reality-detection apparatus.

Thoughtful individuals of all backgrounds have undergone a similar crisis of confidence during this same period. Just a few months after 9/11 New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argued that the sudden financial collapse of the Enron Corporation represented a greater shock to the American system than the terrorist attacks themselves, and although he was widely denounced for making such an “unpatriotic” claim, I believe his case was strong. Although the name “Enron” has largely vanished from our memory, for years it had ranked as one of America’s most successful and admired companies, glowingly profiled on the covers of our leading business magazines, and drawing luminaries such as Krugman himself to its advisory board; Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay had been a top contender for Treasury secretary in President George W. Bush’s administration. Then in the blink of an eye, the entire company was revealed to be an accounting fraud from top to bottom, collapsing into a $63 billion bankruptcy, the largest in American history. Other companies of comparable or even greater size such as WorldCom, Tyco, Adelphia, and Global Crossing soon vanished for similar reasons.

Part of Krugman’s argument was that while the terrorist attacks had been of an entirely unprecedented nature and scale, our entire system of financial regulation, accounting, and business journalism was designed to prevent exactly the sort of frauds that brought down those huge companies. When a system fails so dramatically at its core mission, we must wonder which of our other assumptions are incorrect.

Just a few years later, we saw an even more sweeping near-collapse of our entire financial system, with giant institutions such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, and AIG falling into bankruptcy, and all our remaining major banks surviving only due to the trillions of dollars in government bailouts and loan guarantees they received. Once again, all our media and regulatory organs had failed to anticipate this disaster.

Or take the remarkable case of Bernie Madoff. His colossal investment swindle had been growing unchecked for over three decades under the very noses of our leading financial journalists and regulators in New York City, ultimately reaching the sum of $65 billion in mostly fictional assets. His claimed returns had been implausibly steady and consistent year after year, market crashes or not. None of his supposed trading actually occurred. His only auditing was by a tiny storefront firm. Angry competitors had spent years warning the SEC and journalists that his alleged investment strategy was mathematically impossible and that he was obviously running a Ponzi scheme. Yet despite all these indicators, officials did nothing and refused to close down such a transparent swindle, while the media almost entirely failed to report these suspicions.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: History • Tags: Classic, American Pravda 
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A couple of years ago, I launched my Unz Review, providing a wide range of different alternative perspectives, the vast majority of them totally excluded from the mainstream media. I’ve also published a number of articles in my own American Pravda series, focusing on the suspicious lapses and lacunae in our media narratives.

The underlying political strategy behind these efforts may already be apparent, and I’ve sometimes suggested it here and there. But I finally decided I might as well explicitly outline the reasoning in a memo as provided below.

 

The Mainstream Media is the Crucial Opposing Force

Groups advocating policies opposed by the American establishment should recognize that the greatest obstacle they face is usually the mainstream media.

Ordinary political and ideological opponents surely exist, but these are usually inspired, motivated, organized, and assisted by powerful media support, which also shapes the perceived framework of the conflict. In Clauswitzian terms, the media often constitutes the strategic “center of gravity” of the opposing forces.

 

The Media Should Be Made a Primary Target

If the media is the crucial force empowering the opposition, then it should be regarded as a primary target of any political strategy. So long as the media remains strong, success may be difficult, but if the influence and credibility of the media were substantially degraded, then the ordinary opposing forces would lose much of their effectiveness. In many respects, the media creates reality, so perhaps the most effective route toward changing reality runs through the media.

 

Discrediting the Media Anywhere Weakens It Everywhere

The mainstream media exists as a seamless whole, so weakening or discrediting the media in any particular area automatically reduces its influence everywhere else as well.

The elements of the media narrative faced by a particular anti-establishment group may be too strong and well-defended to attack effectively, and any such attacks might also be discounted as ideologically motivated. Hence, the more productive strategy may sometimes be an indirect one, attacking the media narrative elsewhere, at points where it is much weaker and less well-defended. In addition, winning those easier battles may generate greater credibility and momentum, which can then be applied to later attacks on more difficult fronts.

 

A Broad Alliance May Support the Common Goal of Weakening the Media

Once we recognize that weakening the media is a primary strategic goal, an obvious corollary is that other anti-establishment groups facing the same challenges become natural, if perhaps temporary, allies.

Such unexpected tactical alliances may drawn from across a wide range of different political and ideological perspectives—Left, Right, or otherwise—and despite the component groups having longer-term goals that are orthogonal or even conflicting. So long as all such elements in the coalition recognize that the hostile media is their most immediate adversary, they can cooperate on their common effort, while actually gaining additional credibility and attention by the very fact that they sharply disagree on so many other matters.

The media is enormously powerful and exercises control over a vast expanse of intellectual territory. But such ubiquitous influence also ensures that its local adversaries are therefore numerous and widespread, all being bitterly opposed to the hostile media they face on their own particular issues. By analogy, a large and powerful empire is frequently brought down by a broad alliance of many disparate rebellious factions, each having unrelated goals, which together overwhelm the imperial defenses by attacking simultaneously at multiple different locations.

A crucial aspect enabling such a rebel alliance is the typically narrow focus of each particular constituent member. Most groups or individuals opposing establishment positions tend to be ideologically zealous about one particular issue or perhaps a small handful, while being much less interested in others. Given the total suppression of their views at the hands of the mainstream media, any venue in which their unorthodox perspectives are provided reasonably fair and equal treatment rather than ridiculed and denigrated tends to inspire considerable enthusiasm and loyalty on their part. So although they may have quite conventional views on most other matters, causing them to regard contrary views with the same skepticism or unease as might anyone else, they will usually be willing to suppress their criticism at such wider heterodoxy so long as other members of their alliance are willing to return that favor on their own topics of primary interest.

 

Assault the Media Narrative Where It is Weak Not Where It Is Strong

Applying a different metaphor, the establishment media may be regarded as a great wall that excludes alternative perspectives from the public consciousness and thereby confines opinion to within a narrow range of acceptable views.

Certain portions of that media wall may be solid and vigorously defended by powerful vested interests, rendering assaults difficult. But other portions, perhaps older and more obscure, may have grown decrepit over time, with their defenders having drifted away. Breaching the wall at these weaker locations may be much easier, and once the barrier has been broken at several points, defending it at others becomes much more difficult.

For example, consider the consequences of demonstrating that the established media narrative is completely false on some major individual event. Once this result has been widely recognized, the credibility of the media on all other matters, even totally unrelated ones, would be somewhat attenuated. Ordinary people would naturally conclude that if the media had been so wrong for so long on one important point, it might also be wrong on others as well, and the powerful suspension of disbelief that provides the media its influence would become less powerful. Even those individuals who collectively form the corpus of the media might begin to entertain serious self-doubts regarding their previous certainties.

The crucial point is that such breakthroughs may be easiest to achieve in topics that seem merely of historical significance, and are totally removed from any practical present-day consequences.

 

Reframe Vulnerable “Conspiracy Theories” as Effective “Media Criticism”

Over the last few decades, the political establishment and its media allies have created a powerful intellectual defense against major criticism by investing considerable resources in stigmatizing the notion of so-called “conspiracy theories.” This harsh pejorative term is applied to any important analysis of events that sharply deviates from the officially-endorsed narrative, and implicitly suggests that the proponent is a disreputable fanatic, suffering from delusions, paranoia, or other forms of mental illness. Such ideological attacks often effectively destroy his credibility, allowing his actual arguments to be ignored. A once-innocuous phrase has become politically “weaponized.”

However, an effective means of circumventing this intellectual defense mechanism may be to adopt a meta-strategy of reframing such “conspiracy theories” as “media criticism.”

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: American Media, American Pravda 
An alliance of pro-immigrant Democrats and anti-immigration Republicans could finally fix our broken system
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ViewAsPDF2 From everything I’ve heard Swedes seem like very pleasant people, rather agreeable to have around, while my personal experience with Mexicans leads me to a similar conclusion. But suppose so many millions of Swedes poured across the borders into our southern neighbor that within just a few decades Mexico City had become majority Swedish, while much of the rest of that country were following a somewhat similar trajectory. Under such circumstances, severe political problems would surely arise, perhaps even endangering social stability.

I think this one short paragraph provides a better clue to the unexpected political rise of Donald Trump than would a hundred footnoted academic articles.

In the year 1915 America was over 85% white, and a half-century later in 1965, that same 85% ratio still nearly applied. But partly due to the passage of the Immigration Reform Act of that year, America’s demographics changed very rapidly over the following five decades. By 2015 there had been a 700% increase in the total number of Hispanics and Asians and the black population was nearly 100% larger, while the number of (non-Hispanic) whites had grown less than 25%, with much of even that small increase due to the huge influx of Middle Easterners, North Africans, and other non-European Caucasians officially classified by our U.S. Census as “white.” As a consequence of these sharply divergent demographic trends, American whites have fallen to little more than 60% of the total, and are now projected to become a minority within just another generation or two, already reduced to representing barely half of all children under the age of 10.

Demographic changes so enormous and rapid on a continental scale are probably unprecedented in all human history, and our political establishment was remarkably blind for having failed to anticipate the possible popular reaction. Over the last twelve months, Donald Trump, a socially liberal New Yorker, has utilized the immigration issue to seize the GOP presidential nomination against the vehement opposition of nearly the entire Republican establishment, conservative and moderate alike, and at times his campaign has enjoyed a lead in the national polls, placing him within possible reach of the White House. Instead of wondering how a candidate came to take advantage of that particular issue, perhaps we should instead ask ourselves why it hadn’t happened sooner.

The answer is that for various pragmatic and ideological reasons, the ruling elites of both our major parties have largely either ignored or publicly welcomed the demographic changes transforming the nation they jointly control. Continuous heavy immigration has long been seen as an unabashed positive both by open borders libertarians of the economically-focused Right and also by open borders multiculturalists of the socially-focused Left, and these ideological positions permeate the community of policy experts, staffers, donors, and media pundits who constitute our political ecosphere.

Earlier this year, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, an elderly individual with unabashed socialistic views, was interviewed by Vox‘s Ezra Klein, and explained that “of course” heavy foreign immigration—let alone “open borders”—represented the economic dream of extreme free market libertarians such as the Koch brothers, since that policy would obviously drive down the wages of workers and greatly advantage Capital at the expense of Labor. These notions scandalized his neoliberal interlocutor, and the following day another Vox colleague joined in the attack, harshly denouncing the candidate’s views as “ugly” and “wrongheaded,” while instead pointing to the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal as the proper font of progressive economic doctrine. Faced with such sharp attacks by young and influential Democratic pundits less than half his age, Sanders soon retreated from his simple statement of fact, and henceforth avoided raising the immigration issue during the remainder of his campaign.

Only a brash, self-funded billionaire contemptuous of establishment wisdom would challenge this bipartisan immigration consensus among our political elites, and only a prominent celebrity could launch his campaign with sufficient visibility to achieve a media breakthrough. This seemed an unlikely combination of traits to find in one individual, but the unlikely occurred, and our national politics has been upended.

There had already been strong previous indications of this smoldering political volcano among voters, though these signs were repeatedly ignored or discounted by the DC Republican appartachiks who spent their time attending each others’ receptions and fundraisers. During the 2014 election cycle, immigration was a key issue behind the stunning defeat of Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who lost to an unknown primary challenger whom he outspent 40-to-1, constituting one of the greatest upsets in Congressional history. Prior to that, anti-immigration Tea Party insurgents had ended the long careers of incumbent Republican senators Bob Bennett of Utah in 2010 and Richard Lugar of Indiana in 2012.

 

Compounding the psychological pressure driving the politics of immigration has been the role of the mainstream media in fostering a sense of beleaguerment and marginalization within America’s shrinking white majority. Because of the huge rise in the Hispanic and Asian populations over the last fifty years, the relative percentage of blacks had increased only slightly, going from 11% to 12%, but nonetheless black media visibility had massively expanded, whether in sports, entertainment, news reports, or even advertising. Therefore, as far back as the 1990s, Gallup polls indicated that the average American believed that our national population was already one-third black, and already minority-white given the estimates of Hispanics and other non-white subgroups.

 
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Some years ago as I became increasingly aware of the severe dishonesty of our mainstream media on all sorts of controversial topics, I began telling a joke to a few of my friends.

Suppose, I would say, that I happened to be out walking one pleasant afternoon in Palo Alto, and suddenly heard a gigantic explosion in the general direction of Mountain View, soon followed by a huge pillar of smoke rising towards the sky. Being busy with my own work, I might have no time to bother investigating, and merely wondered what surprising story the front pages of my morning newspapers would reveal as the cause behind those dramatic events. But when I eagerly opened those papers the following day, mention of the explosion was nowhere to be found, either on Page One or anywhere else, even in my own local San Jose Mercury News. So unless I somehow persuaded myself that I had simply imagined the whole thing, I would henceforth stop believing anything I read—or failed to read—in my once-trusted news outlets.

I thought my allegorical fable rather amusing, and repeated it on a number of occasions. But quite recently I came across a rough counterpart in real life, a remarkable tale that had almost completely escaped my attention for over twenty years.

When I used to recall the leading events of 1996, what came to mind was Bill Clinton’s triumphant reelection campaign in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing and political overreach by Newt Gingrich’s Congressional Republicans. Perhaps there had also been some sort of plane crash on the East Coast, though none of the details were sharp or memorable in my mind. But in fact, the sudden mid-air explosion of TWA Flight 800 on a New York to Paris route was actually voted the top national news story of that year, ranking above the presidential campaign, while the 230 fatalities made it by far New York’s worst disaster of the twentieth century, and the second worst airline tragedy in American history to that date. Indeed, some journalists at the time suggested that the resulting media coverage had eclipsed that of any other transportation calamity since the sinking of the Titanic almost a century earlier.

I had almost forgotten the story of that doomed airliner when I opened my morning edition of the New York Times in mid-July 2013 and read a short review in the Arts Section, favorably discussing a new television documentary presenting the “conspiracy theory” that the plane had been destroyed by a missile rather than by an accidental fuel tank explosion as the government investigation had firmly concluded at the time, a verdict strongly affirmed by both the news and editorial pages of the Times. I had recently published “Our American Pravda” and an eminent mainstream academic who appreciated my piece soon dropped me a note pointing to a website discussion of the details of the plane crash, about which I knew nothing. Being preoccupied with other matters, I could only glance at the material, which shocked me, but now that I’ve gone back and spent some time on the topic, the story turns out to be a truly remarkable one.

The outline of facts is hardly complicated. Soon after taking off from New York’s JFK Airport on July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 suddenly exploded in the air just off Long Island. So enormous a loss of life naturally produced an immediate scrambling of numerous federal agencies to investigate the cause, and with widespread fears of terrorism, the FBI launched the largest, most complex investigation in its entire history, deploying some 500 field agents to the area. The investigators soon gathered a copious quantity of seemingly consistent evidence.

Large numbers of local witnesses were immediately interviewed by the swarm of federal agents, with 278 of them reporting that they saw a streak of light, much like a missile, shoot up into the sky in the direction of the aircraft just before the huge explosion. Employees at the local FAA radar installation immediately reported to the government that they had seen what appeared to be a missile closing with the airliner just before it exploded, and other installations produced similar radar records. When tests were eventually performed on the plane wreckage, traces of explosive chemicals were found, exactly the sort used in the warhead of a missile, as well as some reddish-orange chemical residue that a laboratory later identified as likely missile exhaust propellant. An enormous effort was made to locate every possible piece of the wreckage, and for many of these, the contours of the damage indicated an initial explosion external to the plane. Almost immediately after the disaster, a bidding-war allegedly broke out between the national television networks for an amateur home-video showing a missile striking and destroying TWA 800, with the tape eventually being sold for more than $50,000 and briefly broadcast on the MSNBC cable news channel before reportedly being seized as evidence by FBI agents. In addition, a local resident provided a still photo taken at the time showing what seemed to be a missile rising toward the aircraft.

Based on all this initial evidence, many of the early news stories reported that the plane had probably been destroyed by a missile, with widespread speculation about whether the calamity was due to terrorist action or instead accidental “friendly fire” from one of the U.S. naval warships operating in the vicinity. Given the extreme sensitivity of the topic, government officials urged the media to keep an open mind until the full investigation was completed. However, the public debate sometimes turned rancorous, with some individuals soon alleging that a government cover-up was in the works. Eventually, the CIA was brought into the investigation, given its tremendous expertise in certain matters.

After more than a year of detailed research, the government investigation finally concluded that no missile could possibly have been involved, with all the eyewitnesses having been misled by what amounted to an optical illusion caused by the explosion of the aircraft. That explosion itself had been entirely spontaneous, probably caused by a random spark igniting one of the gas tanks. Given the controversy in the case, the CIA helpfully produced a computer animation showing the official reconstruction of the events, which was endlessly broadcast by our news media to explain the disaster to the public. The simulation showed the jetliner spontaneously exploding in mid-air, with no external cause, and just to further clarify matters, the CIA animators also inserted an explanatory message in large text: “There Was No Missile.” The New York Times, and nearly all our other mainstream media repeatedly echoed this same simple conclusion in all their stories and headlines.

The vast majority of our sheep-like population absorbed the simple media message “No Missile” and went back to watching their football games and celebrity music videos, being greatly relieved to know that well-maintained 747 jumbo jets flown by leading national airlines can occasionally explode in mid-air without any external cause.

 
• Category: History • Tags: American Media, American Pravda, TWA 800 
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With the KKK and the racially-charged violence at Charlottesville dominating the national media, I’m republishing my own article from last year on closely-related topics.

Over the last few decades, I doubt that any American political organization has received greater negative attention in our national news and entertainment media than the Ku Klux Klan, or KKK. For example, although white activist David Duke left that group over 35 years ago, the media still often identifies him as one of its former leaders, and partly as a consequence Duke’s support for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has regularly been treated as headline news.

Such massive coverage may be objectively demonstrated. Googling “KKK” yields over 72 million results, considerably more than the joint total for “Communist” and “Communists,” and well over twice what you get for “Communism.” Such prominence seems rather excessive, given that throughout most of the 20th century, Communism controlled some one-third of the world’s population, and the resulting political conflict periodically threatened to unleash global thermonuclear war. Even today, a self-described Communist Party governs China, a nation 1.4 billion strong, which by some measures has now passed the U.S. to become the world’s largest economy. Meanwhile, the last time the KKK held any significant political power was almost 100 years ago, during its Midwestern heyday of the 1920s.

And if we focus on the sanguinary consequences of the two movements, the imbalance is even greater. The famous Black Book of Communism, published in 1991, claimed that across the 20th century, Communist regimes had racked up a peacetime total of roughly 100 million human fatalities, and although that latter figure has been widely disputed as a considerable exaggeration, the true number is surely in the many tens of millions, with merely the famine deaths induced by Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward of 1959-1961 usually pegged at 35 million or more.

Meanwhile, the victims of the notorious KKK seem rather fewer in number. The Wikipedia entry for the KKK is over twice as long as that for Communism, and hardly seeks to airbrush the misdeeds of that violent organization, but only manages to provide some 15 murder victims, all listed by name, drawn from the combined decades of the 1950s and 1960s, which represented the height of the Klan’s modern power. This apparent gap between 15 deaths and perhaps 70,000,000 or so seems rather wide.

Not only does the KKK total pale in comparison with Stalin and his considerable body-count, but during its two decades of greatest infamy all those hundreds or thousands of armed Klansmen accounted for fewer victims than the number sometimes sent to the Chicago city morgue over a long holiday weekend these days, let alone what various half-forgotten teenage spree-killers produced during their individual short rampages. For example, a decade ago disgruntled Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho killed 33 people within a couple of hours, and he hardly remains a household name these days. Meanwhile, the last of those infamous 15 KKK racial killings took place a full half-century ago.

A considerable disproportionality between media attention and actual activity seems undeniable.

However, there are obviously some mitigating factors in this critique. Communism never came to America in serious form, while the ideological foundations of our culture these days tend to regard racial killings by organized groups as particularly heinous offenses, especially when these are aimed at inflicting terror. By contrast, lunatics attacking their classmates or drug-dealers disputing their business transactions are committing much more mundane offenses. So under this particular victimological standard, the 15 victims of the KKK over the two decades from 1950 more reasonably justify the massive attention they have received.

Furthermore, America has always been fascinated with killings that take place over an extended period of months or years, especially if they involve some sort of unusual pattern, with the monikers of strange serial killers often resonating for decades. There was Richard Ramirez, the Los Angeles Night Stalker, an avowed Satanist who slaughtered at least fourteen victims, mostly in the Los Angeles area during 1985. And who can forget Jeffrey Dahmer, the Milwaukee Cannibal, who killed and devoured some 17 young men in a career spanning a dozen years? So the unusual circumstances or motivation of such murders can easily compensate for the relative lack of raw numbers, and surely this helps to explain the enormous attention paid to the KKK’s rather meager list of actual victims.

As an extreme example of the importance of murder quality over murder quantity, there was the famed Zodiac Killer who prowled Northern California during the late 1960s and early 1970s, but was never caught. Although he may have accounted for as few as five actual victims, the sensational nature of the case inspired several movies and many dozens of books, while the fictionalized plotline of a serial killer who sends taunting letters to the newspapers has probably been repeated in scores of television crime episodes and films. As a child growing up in Southern California, the phrase “Zodiac Killer” was certainly familiar to me.

But oddly enough, another long series of killings centered in that same time and place has received far less attention. When I first encountered mention of the “Zebra killings” some years ago, the term was completely unfamiliar to me, and due to the similarities in name and location, I initially wondered whether it might be an alternate designation for the Zodiac attacks. But despite the chronological and geographical overlap, the Zebra case was actually quite different, and given its explosive details the almost total absence of any subsequent media attention is really quite curious.

Indeed, one advantage of exploring the Zebra killings is there exists only one detailed, somewhat contemporaneous account, and a couple of years ago with my curiosity getting the better of me, I finally ordered the book from Amazon. Zebra was published in 1979 by Clark Howard, an award-winning crime writer, who drew extensively on newspaper archives, court testimony, and personal interviews, with his text running over 400 pages.

ZebraHoward The story of the Zebra killers almost sounds like something out of a movie, although no movie was ever made. For decades, the Nation of Islam—the so-called “Black Muslims”—had been preaching that whites were “devils,” the product of a mad scientist’s controlled-breeding experiment, and that killing such “devils” was a virtuous religious act. Then, some time in 1972, certain elements of the sect decided to transform religious dogma into actual practice, and began an organized campaign to randomly kill as many white men, women, and children as they could, with the attacks occurring throughout California but especially centered in the Bay Area and the city of San Francisco. One of the alleged motives was to terrorize the local whites into eventually fleeing that city, thereby allowing the establishment of a black-dominated metropolis.

 
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When I’m driving, my car radio is invariably tuned to KOIT, the leading “easy listening” station in the San Francisco Bay area. My tastes are humdrum and unsophisticated, so the songs merely provide some pleasant background music, occasionally punctuated by commercial ads, mostly annoying but occasionally amusing.

One of the better ones began running only recently, an AT&T spot touting its new family plan with unlimited data on multiple lines. The spot opens with a brother and sister discussing all the wonderful things they’re able to do with so much monthly data, including talking, texting, using social media, and playing games. Except for the smartphone technology being discussed and the traces of “Valley Speak” style and intonation, the two teenagers almost sound like they might have been plucked straight from a Leave It to Beaver episode set in the idealized suburbia of the hallowed 1950s.

But about half-way through, unexpected references began catching my attention. The boy mentions that the unlimited data plan also allows his mom to share comments on her favorite novelas and his dad to share pictures of his favorite soccer players. Hmm, I suddenly thought. And then a bit later, the boy teases his sister and she responds “Mama! Carlos me esta molestando“—”Mom! Carlos is bothering me”—causing the irritated mother to reply with a bit of scolding Spanish. I suddenly realized that the blond or freckled Southern California teenagers I’d been imagining in my mind’s eye were probably somewhat duskier in hue.

Every year AT&T ranks as one of America’s top advertisers, with an annual media budget in the billions, and the focus group research that goes into its marketing campaigns must surely render even the best-funded presidential effort amateurish and unscripted by comparison. So if AT&T believes that an appropriate phone-plan pitch to California’s millions of Latino families should involve teenagers speaking perfect accent-free English then switching to flawless Spanish, while their parents prefer the latter, that’s very likely correct.

Although the commercial did catch me a bit by surprise, it merely reinforced something I’ve occasionally noticed among the numerous Latino workers I regularly encounter in my daily life in the Palo Alto area. Certainly a large majority of the older ones have the weak or heavily-accented English that marks them as immigrants, perhaps even relatively recent arrivals. However, among young adults, say those in their twenties or so, it’s not uncommon to encounter speech patterns that would be absolutely indistinguishable from those of Mayflower descendants raised in lily-white suburbs—but which then seamlessly switch to perfect Spanish as soon as the need might arise.

I’m not sure exact numbers exist, but it wouldn’t surprise me if California today contains one of the largest concentrations of totally bilingual members of the younger generation found anywhere in the world. And ironically enough, an important factor behind that widespread rise of California bilingualism was probably our successful Prop. 227 campaign over eighteen years ago, which replaced so-called “bilingual education” in California’s public schools with intensive sheltered English immersion.

The reason for this apparent paradox is that “bilingual education” is largely a misnomer, and in practice the system invariably amounted to Spanish-almost-only instruction.

Most Latino immigrant children grow up with Spanish being the language of their home. Their families usually watch Spanish TV, listen to Spanish radio, and most of the people in their neighborhood speak Spanish in their daily lives. So if these young children, knowing Spanish as their sole language, eagerly enter kindergarten or the first grade only to encounter classrooms in which nearly all the instruction is once again in Spanish, is it really so surprising that they might remain monolingual Spanish-speakers for a considerable number of years?

Our larger society is overwhelmingly English-oriented, and with the most popular movies and television shows being in English, all of those children did eventually learn our predominant national language, even if the pre-Prop. 227 schools hadn’t gradually introduced considerable English by the fifth or sixth grade. But for many students, losing those earliest five or six years of English-language instruction saddled them with a greatly reduced English vocabulary and a strong, permanent accent. They certainly learned English, but sometimes spent the rest of their lives having trouble reading, writing, or even speaking it properly.

Latino immigrant families in California tend to be working-class or working-poor, and if their children leave the local public schools being less than proficient in English, they are obviously doubly-disadvantaged, and would have a very difficult time getting a good job or pursuing higher education. But achieving the total fluency and literacy produced by immediate English immersion opened many doors, and in 2014—nearly two decades after Prop. 209 outlawed Affirmative Action in California higher education—newspaper headlines announced that the number of Latinos had surpassed the number of whites admitted to the prestigious University of California system.

The whole notion that schools should teach English to children who already know Spanish hardly constitutes a revolutionary pedagogical notion. After all, schools usually concentrate on teaching children what they don’t already know rather what they do, but with regard to language, this only became the case after the June 1998 passage of Prop. 227 and its full implementation in September of that year. A million or more immigrant schoolchildren were suddenly exposed to six or seven hours a day of English in their classrooms, quickly absorbing that new language “like little sponges,” while still often spending the remainder of their childhood in an almost entirely Spanish-speaking neighborhood environment. Given such a truly “bilingual” upbringing, it’s hardly surprising that over the last decade or two so many of them have become fully bilingual young adults.

Almost twenty years ago, during the early stages of the Prop. 227 campaign I published a long op-ed in The Los Angeles Times similarly entitled “Bilingualism vs. Bilingual Education” and I think the facts have completely born out my analysis and predictions at that time:

Bilingualism vs. Bilingual Education
Ron Unz, The Los Angeles Times, October 19, 1997

 

Offhand, the current situation might seem a reasonably satisfactory state of affairs, especially since Prop. 227 never actually outlawed bilingual education. Immigrant parents desiring a non-English education for their children could still obtain that option by signing an annual written waiver, but since the vast majority preferred English, those other programs largely vanished.

 
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A year or two ago, I saw the much-touted science fiction film Interstellar, and although the plot wasn’t any good, one early scene was quite amusing. For various reasons, the American government of the future claimed that our Moon Landings of the late 1960s had been faked, a trick aimed at winning the Cold War by bankrupting Russia into fruitless space efforts of its own. This inversion of historical reality was accepted as true by nearly everyone, and those few people who claimed that Neil Armstrong had indeed set foot on the Moon were universally ridiculed as “crazy conspiracy theorists.” This seems a realistic portrayal of human nature to me.

Obviously, a large fraction of everything described by our government leaders or presented in the pages of our most respectable newspapers—from the 9/11 attacks to the most insignificant local case of petty urban corruption—could objectively be categorized as a “conspiracy theory” but such words are never applied. Instead, use of that highly loaded phrase is reserved for those theories, whether plausible or fanciful, that do not possess the endorsement stamp of establishmentarian approval.

Put another way, there are good “conspiracy theories” and bad “conspiracy theories,” with the former being the ones promoted by pundits on mainstream television shows and hence never described as such. I’ve sometimes joked with people that if ownership and control of our television stations and other major media outlets suddenly changed, the new information regime would require only a few weeks of concerted effort to totally invert all of our most famous “conspiracy theories” in the minds of the gullible American public. The notion that nineteen Arabs armed with box-cutters hijacked several jetliners, easily evaded our NORAD air defenses, and reduced several landmark buildings to rubble would soon be universally ridiculed as the most preposterous “conspiracy theory” ever to have gone straight from the comic books into the minds of the mentally ill, easily surpassing the absurd “lone gunman” theory of the JFK assassination.

Even without such changes in media control, huge shifts in American public beliefs have frequently occurred in the recent past, merely on the basis of implied association. In the initial weeks and months following the 2001 attacks, every American media organ was enlisted to denounce and vilify Osama Bin Laden, the purported Islamicist master-mind, as our greatest national enemy, with his bearded visage endlessly appearing on television and in print, soon becoming one of the most recognizable faces in the world. But as the Bush Administration and its key media allies prepared a war against Iraq, the images of the Burning Towers were instead regularly juxtaposed with mustachioed photos of dictator Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden’s arch-enemy. As a consequence, by the time we attacked Iraq in 2003, polls revealed that some 70% of the American public believed that Saddam was personally involved in the destruction of our World Trade Center. By that date I don’t doubt that many millions of patriotic but low-information Americans would have angrily denounced and vilified as a “crazy conspiracy theorist” anyone with the temerity to suggest that Saddam had not been behind 9/11, despite almost no one in authority having ever explicitly made such a fallacious claim.

ConspiracyTheory These factors of media manipulation were very much in my mind a couple of years ago when I stumbled across a short but fascinating book published by the University of Texas academic press. The author of Conspiracy Theory in America was Prof. Lance deHaven-Smith, a former president of the Florida Political Science Association.

Based on an important FOIA disclosure, the book’s headline revelation was that the CIA was very likely responsible for the widespread introduction of “conspiracy theory” as a term of political abuse, having orchestrated that development as a deliberate means of influencing public opinion.

During the mid-1960s there had been increasing public skepticism about the Warren Commission findings that a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, had been solely responsible for President Kennedy’s assassination, and growing suspicions that top-ranking American leaders had also been involved. So as a means of damage control, the CIA distributed a secret memo to all its field offices requesting that they enlist their media assets in efforts to ridicule and attack such critics as irrational supporters of “conspiracy theories.” Soon afterward, there suddenly appeared statements in the media making those exact points, with some of the wording, arguments, and patterns of usage closely matching those CIA guidelines. The result was a huge spike in the pejorative use of the phrase, which spread throughout the American media, with the residual impact continueing right down to the present day. Thus, there is considerable evidence in support of this particular “conspiracy theory” explaining the widespread appearance of attacks on “conspiracy theories” in the public media.

But although the CIA appears to have effectively manipulated public opinion in order to transform the phrase “conspiracy theory” into a powerful weapon of ideological combat, the author also describes how the necessary philosophical ground had actually been prepared a couple of decades earlier. Around the time of the Second World War, an important shift in political theory caused a huge decline in the respectability of any “conspiratorial” explanation of historical events.

For decades prior to that conflict, one of our most prominent scholars and public intellectuals had been historian Charles Beard, whose influential writings had heavily focused on the harmful role of various elite conspiracies in shaping American policy for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many, with his examples ranging from the earliest history of the United States down to the nation’s entry into WWI. Obviously, researchers never claimed that all major historical events had hidden causes, but it was widely accepted that some of them did, and attempting to investigate those possibilities was deemed a perfectly acceptable academic enterprise.

However, Beard was a strong opponent of American entry into the Second World War, and he was marginalized in the years that followed, even prior to his death in 1948. Many younger public intellectuals of a similar bent also suffered the same fate, or were even purged from respectability and denied any access to the mainstream media. At the same time, the totally contrary perspectives of two European political philosophers, Karl Popper and Leo Strauss, gradually gained ascendancy in American intellectual circles, and their ideas became dominant in public life.

 
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About a decade ago I’d gotten a little friendly with the late Alexander Cockburn, one of America’s premier radical journalists and the founder of Counterpunch, a leading leftist webzine. With virtually all of America’s mainstream media outlets endlessly cheerleading for the total insanity of our Iraq War, Counterpunch was a port in the storm, and gained considerable credibility in my eyes.

Although Alex lived in the far northern reaches of the Golden State, the rural North Coast close to the Oregon border where much of the local cash economy was based on illegal marijuana growing, he periodically took trips down to the Bay Area, and sometimes dropped by Palo Alto to have lunch with me when he did. Often as not, he brought along a book that he was in the middle of reading, and based on his strong recommendations, it usually ended up on my own list.

Sometimes my appraisal differed sharply from his own. For example, Shlomo Sand’s international best-seller The Invention of the Jewish People was very widely praised in left-liberal and anti-Zionist circles, and attracted considerable attention in the mainstream media. But although I found many parts of the history extremely interesting, the central claim appeared to be incorrect. As far as I’m aware, there seems overwhelming genetic evidence that Europe’s Ashkenazi Jews do indeed trace much of their ancestry back to the Holy Land, apparently being the descendants of a few hundred (presumably Jewish) Middle Easterners, mostly male, who settled in Southern Europe some time after the Fall of Rome and took local Northern Italian wives, afterward remaining largely endogamous for the next thousand-plus years of their growing presence in Central and Eastern Europe. However, being a historian rather than a genetic researcher, Prof. Sand was apparently unaware of this hard evidence, and focused upon much weaker literary and cultural indicators, perhaps also being somewhat influenced by his own ideological predilections.

On the other hand, some of Alex’s other recommendations I found absolutely fascinating and quite persuasive. Once, he mentioned he was reading a book about the foreign spy network that had seized considerable control of the American political system just prior to our entry into WWII. “Oh,” I said, “you mean the Soviet Communist spy network?” I had recently become better aware of the volume of evidence revealed by Venona decrypts. “No,” he answered with a smile, “the other foreign spy network, the one run by Britain.”

He explained that British spies had played a massive hidden role in getting America involved in the Second World War despite the overwhelming opposition of the citizenry, and very possibly had murdered a top Republican Party official as they secretly gained political control of the GOP and its presidential nominating process. Being himself from a family of British Communist Party members, he found it quite amusing that rival networks of British spies and Communist spies had quietly competed or cooperated for control of our own national government during that era, even while the totally ignorant and oblivious American sheep grazed contently, emitting an occasional “Baa!” now and again, and never noticed that the direction of their flock periodically changed in seemingly inexplicable ways.

DesperateDeception So I went ahead and ordered the book, Desperate Deception by Thomas E. Mahl, and put it in my stack, though being busy with software work, it was a couple of years until I finally got around to reading it. Unfortunately, by that time, Alex was no longer among us, so I couldn’t drop him a note of thanks for the recommendation. As someone with merely a cursory knowledge of twentieth century American history, largely acquired from high school textbooks and newspaper articles, I found the material quite shocking, but based on a few conversations I’ve had, I suspect that many Americans, including those far more knowledgeable than myself, would react in much the same way.

These days, informed observers have grown a bit blasé at the notion of our country being manipulated by agents of a foreign power together with its influential domestic allies, and although the endless, Stalinesque standing ovations given by Congress to Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu last year raised a few temporary eyebrows at the time, the incident was quickly forgotten. But back in the more innocent era of the 1930s, there was still a naive feeling that American elected officials should act in service to what they perceived as America’s own national interests, and if the facts of Prof. Mahl’s book had become known at the time, there surely would have been a serious political backlash.

Indeed, at numerous points the author notes that the puzzled political opponents of our involvement in the Second World War sensed that there seemed to be some unseen coordinating hand behind the individuals and forces arrayed against them, but they never guessed that it was simply a foreign intelligence service.

The history was that Britain and France had entered into a war against Germany, and soon found themselves at a stalemate or actually overmatched. Only America’s entrance into World War I had turned the tide of that conflict, leading to an allied victory, and the same factor seemed necessary in the even more difficult second round. However, America’s involvement in WWI had come to be seen by the American people in hindsight as a disastrous mistake, and the notion of going to war in Europe a second time was enormously unpopular. Hence a heavy secret campaign of political subversion and media manipulation was necessary to undermine the public figures opposing intervention and ensure that America would go to war even though very few Americans actually wanted to do so.

This task was rendered considerably more difficult by another factor only lightly touched upon by the author. During the period in question, an enormous amount of political influence was held by a network of Communist agents loyal to the Soviet Union, as conclusively demonstrated many decades later by the declassification of the Venona decrypts. However, Stalin and Hitler had become allies just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, and until the German invasion of Russia in June 1941, Communists were generally opposed to any American support for Britain or France, let alone direct military intervention. So for nearly the entire period in question, the British spies and agents of influence pushing for America to go to war sometimes encountered resistance from the Communist spies and agents of influence pushing in the opposite direction.

The audacity of the British spy ring was really quite remarkable, and partly explained by the enormous degree of control that they and their American allies exerted over most of the leading media outlets, which largely protected them against risk of damaging public disclosures. Under this umbrella of media immunity, documents were forged to embarrass political opponents, leading public opinion polls were manipulated or possibly even faked, and attractive women were deployed to sway prominent elected officials.

 
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During the long Cold War many Russians grew sufficiently disenchanted with the lies and omissions of their own news outlets that they turned to Western radio for a glimpse of the truth.

The growth of the Internet has now provided Americans with a similar opportunity to click on a foreign website and discover the important stories that have somehow escaped the attention of their own leading journalists. Ironically, much of such “alternative media” coverage actually appears in the leading British newspapers, eminently respectable and published in our closest historic ally.

For example, three or four years ago I noticed a link on a prominent libertarian website suggesting that George S. Patton, one of America’s most renowned World War II military commanders, had been murdered by order of the U.S. government. Not being someone much drawn to conspiracy-mongering, the lurid claim seemed totally outlandish, but I decided to click my mouse and harmlessly examine a bit of Internet fringe-lunacy. However, the source turned out to be a lengthy article in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph, one of the world’s leading newspapers, describing a newly published book based on a decade of detailed research and interviews undertaken by an experienced American military affairs writer.

The book and the article had appeared in 2008 and I had never heard a word about the story in any of my major American newspapers. The description seemed sufficiently factual and detailed that I consulted a couple of prominent academics I know, with backgrounds in history and political science. They had also never encountered the theory, being just as surprised as I was by the material and by the fact that such remarkable revelations had never received any attention in our own country, home of the freest and most scandal-mongering media in the world.

WilcoxBook With curiosity getting the better of me, I ordered the book for about $8 from Amazon.com.

Target Patton, written by Robert K. Wilcox and published by Regnery Press, runs over 450 pages, with an extensive bibliography and nearly 700 footnotes. The many years spent by the author on this project are clearly reflected in the contents, which include numerous personal interviews and the careful analysis of an enormous amount of primary and secondary source material. I’ve seldom encountered so detailed and seemingly exhaustive a work of investigatory journalism, quite understandable given the explosive nature of the charges being made. And yet the expose had never reached readers of the American mainstream media.

I personally found the evidence for Patton’s assassination quite persuasive, even overwhelming, and any curious readers can currently order the book for as little as $2.93 plus shipping and judge for themselves.

Wilcox himself had been just as shocked as anyone else when he first encountered the surprising claims, but the initial evidence persuaded him to invest years fully researching the theory before publishing the results. Some of his major findings seem quite telling.

In the months before his death, Patton had become a powerful critic of the American government, its conduct of World War II, and its policy toward the Soviets. He planned to resign from the military after returning to the U.S. and then begin a major public speaking tour against America’s political leadership; as one of our most celebrated war heroes, his denunciations would certainly have had a huge impact. His fatal car accident took place the day before his scheduled departure home, and he had narrowly escaped death twice before under very strange circumstances.

There are extensive personal interviews with the self-confessed government assassin, then attached to America’s OSS intelligence service, the wartime forerunner of the CIA. This operative had a long and substantially documented career in exactly that sort of activity, both during the war itself and for decades afterward, allegedly working internationally on a free-lance basis and “weeding” selected human targets both for the CIA and various other employers. Towards the end of his life, he became disgruntled over what he regarded as his ill-treatment by ungrateful U.S. government bureaucrats and also a bit guilt-ridden over having been responsible for the death of one of America’s greatest military heroes, prompting his decision to go public, with his claims backed by a voluminous personal diary. Numerous other interviews with individuals connected with the circumstances of Patton’s death seemed to largely corroborate the theory.

The assassin recounted that OSS Chief William Donovan had ordered the killing on the grounds that Patton had “gone crazy,” becoming a major threat to American national interests. Around this same time, a military counter-intelligence field agent began encountering credible reports of a planned assassination plot against Patton and attempted to warn his superiors, including Donovan; not only were his warnings disregarded, but he was repeatedly threatened, and at one point, even placed under arrest. It seems clear that Donovan’s orders came from his superiors, either in the White House or elsewhere.

The motivation may or may not have ultimately had a foreign origin. Over the last twenty years, scholars such as John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr have exhaustively demonstrated that during the 1930s and 1940s a large network of Communist spies had gained enormous influence in the uppermost reaches of the American government. Indeed, Wilcox carefully documents how the OSS itself had been heavily infiltrated at the highest levels by elements of the Soviet NKVD, and that during this particular period, the two intelligence organizations were in an ambiguous quasi-partnership, with Donovan being especially eager to curry political favor with the pro-Soviet elements near the top of the U.S. government.

Meanwhile, Patton, a zealous anti-Communist, had very different views, urging an immediate military attack on the weakened forces of the Soviet Union. It is easy to understand how Stalin and those American leaders in his orbit might have decided that Patton’s physical removal was an absolute priority.

At the time of his death, Patton was the highest ranking U.S. military officer in Europe, and the story naturally became front-page news throughout the world. Several official reports were produced regarding the exact circumstances of the very strange traffic accident responsible, but all of these have completely disappeared from U.S. government files. I find it difficult to imagine a non-sinister explanation for this.

These few paragraphs provide merely the smallest slice of the enormous amount of documentary material and painstaking analysis that Wilcox spent ten years compiling for his outstanding book. Obviously, many questions remain, and absolute proof is impossible seventy years after the event. But from my perspective, the likelihood of an assassination, almost certainly with the active involvement of top American officials, seems overwhelming.

 
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Several years ago, my articles advocating a large hike in the minimum wage caught the attention of James Galbraith, the prominent liberal economist, and we became a little friendly. As president of Economists for Peace and Security, he invited me to speak on those issues at his DC conference in late 2013. And after the presentations, he arranged a meeting with a friend of his, influential in DC political circles, at which the two of us could present my minimum wage proposals.

While we were waiting for the taxi to take us to that meeting, I heard him quietly discussing a few other matters with a friend standing next to him. Phrases such as “attacking Russia,” “a nuclear first strike,” and “Kennedy and the Joint Chiefs” came to my ears. I can’t recall the exact words, but the conversation stuck in my mind both at the time and on my later flight home that evening, and although I hadn’t mentioned anything, I wondered what remarkable historical facts he had been discussing. His father, the legendary economist John Kenneth Galbraith, had spent decades as one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals and was a very influential figure in the Kennedy Administration, so I assumed that he was not merely engaging in casual speculation.

Finally, a week or two later, my curiosity got the better of me, and I dropped him a note, gingerly raising the topic I’d accidentally overheard. I suggested that if he possessed any private information regarding so astonishing a possibility—that the Kennedy Administration might have considered a nuclear first strike against the USSR—perhaps he had a duty to bring the facts to public awareness lest they be lost to history.

He replied that he’d indeed found persuasive evidence that the US military had carefully planned a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, and agreed about the historical importance. But he’d already published an article laying out the case. Twenty years earlier. In The American Prospect, a very respectable though liberal-leaning magazine. So I located a copy on the Internet:

I quickly read the article and was stunned. The central document was a Top Secret/Eyes Only summary memo of a July 1961 National Security Council meeting written by Howard Burris, the military aide to then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson, which was afterward deposited in the Johnson Archives and eventually declassified. The discussion focused on the effectiveness of a planned nuclear first strike, suggesting that 1963 would be the optimal date since America’s relative advantage in intercontinental nuclear missiles would be greatest at that point. Galbraith’s student, Heather A. Purcell, had discovered the memo and co-authored the article with him, and as they pointed out, this meeting was held soon after the US military had discovered that the Soviet missile forces were far weaker than previously had been realized, leading to the plans for the proposed attack and also proving that the first strike under discussion could only have been an American one.

This history was quite different from the deterrent-based framework of American nuclear-war strategy that I had always absorbed from reading my textbooks and newspapers.

Obviously no nuclear attack took place, so the plans must have been changed at some point or discarded, and there were various indications that President Kennedy had had important doubts from the very beginning. But the argument made was that at the time, the first strike proposal was taken very seriously by America’s top political and military leadership. Once we accept that idea, other historical puzzles more easily fall into place.

Consider, for example, the massive campaign of “civil defense” that America launched immediately thereafter, leading to the construction of large numbers of fallout shelters throughout the country, including the backyard suburban ones which generated some famous ironic images. Although I’m hardly an expert on nuclear war, the motivation had never made much sense to me, since in most cases the supplies would only have been sufficient to last a few weeks or so, while the deadly radioactive fallout from numerous Soviet thermonuclear strikes on our urban centers would have been long-lasting. But an American first strike changes this picture. A successful U.S. attack would have ensured that few if any bombs fell on American soil, with the shelters intended merely to provide a couple of weeks of useful protection until the global radioactive dust-clouds resulting from the nuclear destruction of the Soviet Union had dissipated, and these anyway would have only reached America in highly attenuated form.

Furthermore, we must reassess the background to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, certainly one of the most important and dangerous events of that era. If Soviet military analysts had reached conclusions similar to those of their American counterparts, it is hardly surprising that their political leaders would have taken the considerable risk of deploying nuclear warheads on intermediate range missiles close to American cities, thereby greatly multiplying their deterrent capability immediately prior to their point of greatest strategic vulnerability. And there was also the real possibility that their intelligence agents might have somehow gotten hints of the American plans for an actual nuclear first strike. The traditional view presented in the American media has always been that an unprovoked American attack was simply unimaginable, any Soviet paranoia notwithstanding, but if such an attack was not only imagined but actually planned, then our Cold War narrative must be significantly modified. Indeed, perhaps important aspects of the superpower confrontations of that era should be completely inverted.

Could such a momentous historical discovery have been so totally ignored by our mainstream journalists and historians that I’d never heard of it during the previous twenty years? Gossipy rumors of an additional JFK infidelity might periodically make the headlines, but why was there no discussion of serious plans to launch a non-defensive global thermonuclear war likely to kill many millions?

I have limited expertise in either analyzing nuclear warfare strategy or interpreting national security documents, so I could easily be making an error in evaluating the strength of the case. But in a later issue of TAP, William Burr and David Alan Rosenberg, scholars proficient in exactly those areas, published a lengthy rebuttal to the article, followed by a rejoinder from Galbraith and Purcell. And in my own opinion, the Burr/Rosenberg critique was quite unpersuasive.

 
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RonUnz1
About Ron Unz

A theoretical physicist by training, Mr. Unz serves as founder and chairman of UNZ.org, a content-archiving website providing free access to many hundreds of thousands of articles from prominent periodicals of the last hundred and fifty years. From 2007 to 2013, he also served as publisher of The American Conservative, a small opinion magazine, and had previously served as chairman of Wall Street Analytics, Inc., a financial services software company which he founded in New York City in 1987. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University, Cambridge University, and Stanford University, and is a past first-place winner in the Intel/Westinghouse Science Talent Search. He was born in Los Angeles in 1961.

He has long been deeply interested in public policy issues, and his writings on issues of immigration, race, ethnicity, and social policy have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, The Nation, and numerous other publications.

In 1994, he launched a surprise Republican primary challenge to incumbent Gov. Pete Wilson of California, running on a conservative, pro-immigrant platform against the prevailing political sentiment, and received 34% of the vote. Later that year, he campaigned as a leading opponent of Prop. 187, the anti-immigration initiative, and was a top featured speaker at a 70,000 person pro-immigrant march in Los Angeles, the largest political rally in California history to that date.

In 1997, Mr. Unz began his “English for the Children” initiative campaign to dismantle bilingual education in California. He drafted Prop. 227 and led the campaign to qualify and pass the measure, culminating in a landslide 61% victory in June 1998, effectively eliminating over one-third of America’s bilingual programs. Within less than three years of the new English immersion curriculum, the mean percentile test scores of over a million immigrant students in California rose by an average of 70%. He later organized and led similar initiative campaigns in other states, winning with 63% in the 2000 Arizona vote and a remarkable 68% in the 2002 Massachusetts vote without spending a single dollar on advertising.

After spending most of the 2000s focused on software projects, he has recently become much more active in his public policy writings, most of which had appeared in his own magazine.


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