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About a decade ago, I happened to be talking with an eminent academic scholar who had become known for his sharp criticism of Israeli policies in the Middle East and America’s strong support for them. I mentioned that I myself had come to very similar conclusions some time before, and he asked when that had happened. I told him it had been in 1982, and I think he found my answer quite surprising. I got the sense that date was decades earlier than would have been given by almost anyone else he knew.

Sometimes it is quite difficult to pinpoint when one’s world view on a contentious topic undergoes sharp transformation, but at other times it is quite easy. My own perceptions of the Middle East conflict drastically shifted during Fall 1982, and they have subsequently changed only to a far smaller extent. As some might remember, that period marked the first Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and culminated in the notorious Sabra-Shatila Massacre during which hundreds or even thousands of Palestinians were slaughtered in their refugee camps. But although those events were certainly major factors in my ideological realignment, the crucial trigger was actually a certain letter to the editor published around that same time.

A few years earlier, I had discovered The London Economist, as it was then called, and it had quickly become my favorite publication, which I religiously devoured cover-to-cover every week. And as I read the various articles about the Middle East conflict in that publication, or others such as the New York Times, the journalists occasionally included quotes from some particularly fanatic and irrational Israeli Communist named Israel Shahak, whose views seemed totally at odds with those of everyone else, and who was consequently treated as a fringe figure. Opinions that seem totally divorced from reality tend to stick in one’s mind, and it took only one or two appearances from that apparently die-hard and delusional Stalinist for me to guess that he would always take an entirely contrary position on every given issue.

In 1982 Israel Defense Minister Ariel Sharon launched his massive invasion of Lebanon using the pretext of the wounding of an Israeli diplomat in Europe at the hands of a Palestinian attacker, and the extreme nature of his action was widely condemned in the media outlets I read at the time. His motive was obviously to root out the PLO’s political and military infrastructure, which had taken hold in many of Lebanon’s large Palestinian refugee camps. But back in those days invasions of Middle Eastern countries on dubious prospects were much less common than they have subsequently become, after our recent American wars killed or displaced so many millions, and most observers were horrified by the utterly disproportionate nature of his attack and the severe destruction he was inflicted upon Israel’s neighbor, which he seemed eager to reduce to puppet status. From what I recall from that time, he made several entirely false assurances to top Reagan officials about his invasion plans, such that they afterward called him the worst sort of liar, and he ended up besieging the Lebanese capital of Beirut even though he had originally promised to limit his assault to a mere border incursion.

The Israeli siege of the PLO-controlled areas of Beirut lasted some time, and negotiations eventually resulted in the departure of the Palestinian fighters to some other Arab country. Shortly afterward, the Israelis declared that they were moving into West Beirut in order to better assure the safety of the Palestinian women and children left behind and protect them from any retribution at the hands of their Christian Falangist enemies. And around that same time, I noticed a long letter in The Economist by Shahak which seemed to me the final proof of his insanity. He claimed that it was obvious that Sharon had marched to Beirut with the intent of organizing a massacre of the Palestinians, and that this would shortly take place. When the slaughter indeed occurred not long afterward, apparently with heavy Israeli involvement and complicity, I concluded that if a crazy Communist fanatic like Shahak had been right, while apparently every mainstream journalist had been so completely wrong, my understanding of the world and the Middle East required total recalibration. Or at least that’s how I’ve always remembered those events from a distance of over thirty-five years.

During the years that followed, I still periodically saw Shahak’s statements quoted in my mainstream publications, which sometimes suggested that he was a Communist and sometimes not. Naturally enough, his ideological extremism made him a prominent opponent of the 1991 Oslo Peace Agreement between Israel and the occupied Palestinians, which was supported by every sensible person, though since Oslo ended up being entirely a failure, I couldn’t hold it too strongly against him. I stopped paying much attention to foreign policy issues during the 1990s, but I still read my New York Times every morning and would occasionally see his quotes, inevitably contrarian and irredentist.

Then the 9/11 attacks returned foreign policy and the Middle East to the absolute center of our national agenda, and I eventually read somewhere or other that Shahak had died at age 68 only a few months earlier, though I hadn’t noticed any obituary. Over the years, I’d seen some vague mention that during the previous decade he’d published a couple of stridently anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist books, just as might be expected from a hard-line Communist fanatic, and during the early 2000s I started seeing more and more references to these works, ironically coming from fringe sources of the anti-Semitic Far Right, thereby once again proving that extremists flock together. Finally, about a decade ago, my curiosity got the better of me and clicking a few buttons on Amazon.com, I ordered copies of his books, all of which were quite short.

 

My first surprise was that Shahak’s writings included introductions or glowing blurbs by some of America’s most prominent public intellectuals, including Christopher Hitchens, Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky, and Edward Said. Praise also came from quite respectable publications such as The London Review of Books, Middle East International, and Catholic New Times while Allan Brownfeld of The American Council for Judaism had published a very long and laudatory obituary. And I discovered that Shahak’s background was very different than I had always imagined. He had spent many years as an award-winning Chemistry professor at Hebrew University, and was actually anything but a Communist. Whereas for decades, Israel’s ruling political parties had been Socialist or Marxist, his personal doubts about Socialism had left him politically in the wilderness, while his relationship with Israel’s tiny Communist Party was solely because they were the only group willing to stand up for the basic human rights issues that were his own central focus. My casual assumptions about his views and background had been entirely in error.

 
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Back in Junior High School I became an avid war-gamer, and was fascinated by the military history of the past, especially World War II, the most titanic conflict ever recorded. However, although I much enjoyed reading the detailed accounts of the battles of that war, especially on the Eastern Front that largely determined its outcome, I had much less interest in the accompanying political history, and simply relied upon the accounts in my standard textbooks, which I considered quite reliable.

Supporting that strong impression, these sources hardly seemed to hide some of the uglier aspects of the conflict and its aftermath, such as the notable brutalities visited upon pro-Nazi turncoats following the Liberation of France in 1944. Pierre Laval, head of the puppet Vichy government and quite a number of his fellow quislings were tried and executed for their treason, and even Marshal Petain, the renowned French World War I hero who in his dotage had sadly lent his name to the hated regime as its head of state, was condemned to death, though his life was eventually spared. Less prominent collaborators suffered as well, with my books often carrying photos of some of the hundreds or thousands of ordinary French women who for fear, love, or money had become intimate with German soldiers during the four years of occupation, and as a consequence had their heads shaved and were marched through the streets of their towns or cities in parades of shame.

Such excesses were obviously unfortunate, but wars and liberations often unleash considerable brutality, and these spectacles of public humiliation obviously did not begin to compare with the vicious bloodshed of the years of Nazi control. For example, there was the notorious case of Oradour-sur-Glane, a village involved in Resistance activities, in which many hundreds of men, women, and children were herded into a church and other buildings and burned alive. Meanwhile, enormous numbers of Frenchmen and others had been deported to wartime Germany as slave-laborers, in total violation of every legal principle, producing an uncanny parallel to Stalin’s Gulag and underscoring the similarity of those two totalitarian regimes. This, at least, had always been my limited impression of that very unfortunate era.

Eventually, major cracks in this simple picture began appearing. I have previously written of my discovery of John T. Flynn, one of America’s most prominent liberal public intellectuals throughout the 1930s, who was then purged from the mainstream media and eventually forgotten for his discordant views on certain contentious issues. From the early 1940s onward, Flynn’s books only found a home at the Devin-Adair Company, a small Irish-American publishing house based in New York City. Somehow or other, perhaps six or seven years ago I became aware of another book released by that same press in 1953.

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The author of Unconditional Hatred was Captain Russell Grenfell, a British naval officer who had served with distinction in the First World War, and later helped direct the Royal Navy Staff College, while publishing six highly-regarded books on naval strategy and serving as the Naval Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. Grenfell recognized that great quantities of extreme propaganda almost inevitably accompany any major war, but with several years having passed since the close of hostilities, he was growing concerned that unless an antidote were soon widely applied, the lingering poison of such wartime exaggerations might threaten the future peace of Europe.

His considerable historical erudition and his reserved academic tone shine through in this fascinating volume, which focuses primarily upon the events of the two world wars, but often contains digressions into the Napoleonic conflicts or even earlier ones. One of the intriguing aspects of his discussion is that much of the anti-German propaganda he seeks to debunk would today be considered so absurd and ridiculous it has been almost entirely forgotten, while much of the extremely hostile picture we currently have of Hitler’s Germany receives almost no mention whatsoever, possibly because it had not yet been established or was then still considered too outlandish for anyone to take seriously. Among other matters, he reports with considerable disapproval that leading British newspapers had carried headlined articles about the horrific tortures that were being inflicted upon German prisoners at war crimes trials in order to coerce all sorts of dubious confessions out of them.

Some of Grenfell’s casual claims do raise doubts about various aspects of our conventional picture of German occupation policies. He notes numerous stories in the British press of former French “slave-laborers” who later organized friendly post-war reunions with their erstwhile German employers. He also states that in 1940 those same British papers had reported the absolutely exemplary behavior of German soldiers toward French civilians, though after terroristic attacks by Communist underground forces provoked reprisals, relations often grew much worse.

Most importantly, he points out that the huge Allied strategic bombing campaign against French cities and industry had killed huge numbers of civilians, probably far more than had ever died at German hands, and thereby provoked a great deal of hatred as an inevitable consequence. At Normandy he and other British officers had been warned to remain very cautious among any French civilians they encountered for fear they might be subject to deadly attacks.

Although Grenfell’s content and tone strike me as exceptionally even-handed and objective, others surely viewed his text in a very different light. The Devin-Adair jacket-flap notes that no British publisher was willing to accept the manuscript, and when the book appeared no major American reviewer recognized its existence. Even more ominously, Grenfell is described as having been hard at work on a sequel when he suddenly died in 1954 of unknown causes, and his lengthy obituary in the London Times gives his age as 62. With the copyright having long lapsed, I am pleased to include this important volume in my collection of HTML Books so that those interested can easily read it and decide for themselves.

 

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• Category: History • Tags: American Pravda, France, Germany, World War II 
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Although my main academic focus was theoretical physics, I always had a very strong interest in history as well, especially that of the Classical Era. Trying to extract the true pattern of events from a collection of source material that was often fragmentary, unreliable, and contradictory was a challenging intellectual exercise, testing my analytical ability. I believe I even contributed meaningfully to the field, including a short 1985 article in The Journal of Hellenic Studies that sifted the ancient sources to conclude that Alexander the Great had younger brothers whom he murdered when he came to the throne.

However, I never had any interest in 20th century American history. For one thing, it seemed so apparent to me that all the basic political facts were already well known and conveniently provided in the pages of my introductory history textbooks, thereby leaving little room for any original research, except in the most obscure corners of the field.

Also, the politics of ancient times was often colorful and exciting, with Hellenistic and Roman rulers so frequently deposed by palace coups, or falling victim to assassinations, poisonings, or other untimely deaths of a highly suspicious nature. By contrast, American political history was remarkably bland and boring, lacking any such extra constitutional events to give it spice. The most dramatic political upheaval of my own lifetime had been the forced resignation of President Richard Nixon under threat of impeachment, and the causes of his departure from office—some petty abuses of power and a subsequent cover-up—were so clearly inconsequential that they fully affirmed the strength of our American democracy and the scrupulous care with which our watchdog media policed the misdeeds of even the most powerful.

In hindsight I should have asked myself whether the coups and poisonings of Roman Imperial times were accurately reported in their own day, or if most of the toga-wearing citizens of that era might have remained blissfully unaware of the nefarious events secretly determining the governance of their own society.

 

Since my knowledge of American history ran no deeper than my basic textbooks and mainstream newspapers and magazines, the last decade or so has been a journey of discovery for me, and often a shocking one. I came of age many years after the Communist spy scares of the 1950s had faded into dim memory, and based on what I read, I always thought the whole matter more amusing than anything else. It seemed that about the only significant “Red” ever caught, who may or may not have been innocent, was some obscure individual bearing the unlikely name of “Alger Hiss,” and as late as the 1980s, his children still fiercely proclaimed his complete innocence in the pages of the New York Times. Although I thought he was probably guilty, it also seemed clear that the methods adopted by his persecutors such as Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon had actually done far more damage to our country during the unfortunate era named for the former figure.

During the 1990s, I occasionally read reviews of new books based on the Venona Papers—decrypted Soviet cables finally declassified—and they seemed to suggest that the Communist spy ring had both been real and far more extensive than I had imagined. But those events of a half-century earlier were hardly uppermost in my mind, and anyway other historians still fought a rear-guard battle in the newspapers, arguing that many of the Venona texts were fraudulent. So I gave the matter little thought.

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Only in the last dozen years, as my content-archiving project made me aware of the 1940s purge of some of America’s most prominent public intellectuals, and I began considering their books and articles, did I begin to realize the massive import of the Soviet cables. I soon read three or four of the Venona books and was very impressed by their objective and meticulous scholarly analysis, which convinced me of their conclusions. And the implications were quite remarkable, actually far understated in most of the articles that I had read.

Consider, for example, the name Harry Dexter White, surely unknown to all but the thinnest sliver of present-day Americans, and proven by the Venona Papers to have been a Soviet agent. During the 1940s, his official position was merely one of several assistant secretaries of the Treasury, serving under Henry Morgenthau, Jr., an influential member of Franklin Roosevelt’s cabinet. But Morgenthau was actually a gentleman-farmer, almost entirely ignorant of finance, who had gotten his position partly by being FDR’s neighbor, and according to numerous sources, White actually ran the Treasury Department under his titular authority. Thus, in 1944 it was White who negotiated with John Maynard Keynes—Britain’s most towering economist—to lay the basis for the the Bretton Woods Agreement, the IMF, and the rest of the West’s post-war economic institutions.

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Moreover, by the end of the war, White had managed to extend the power of the Treasury—and therefore his own area of control—deep into what would normally be handled by the Department of State, especially regarding policies pertaining to the defeated German foe. His handiwork notably included the infamous “Morgenthau Plan,” proposing the complete dismantling of the huge industrial base at the heart of Europe, and its conversion into an agricultural region, automatically implying the elimination of most of Germany’s population, whether by starvation or exodus. And although that proposal was officially abandoned under massive protest by the allied leadership, books by many post-war observers such as Freda Utley have argued that it was partially implemented in actuality, with millions of German civilians perishing from hunger, sickness, and other consequences of extreme deprivation.

At the time, some observers believed that White’s attempt to eradicate much of prostrate Germany’s surviving population was vindictively motivated by his own Jewish background. But William Henry Chamberlin, long one of America’s most highly-regarded foreign policy journalists, strongly suspected that the plan was a deeply cynical one, intended to inflict such enormous misery upon those Germans living under Western occupation that popular sentiment would automatically shift in a strongly pro-Soviet direction, allowing Stalin to gain the upper hand in Central Europe, and many subsequent historians have come to similar conclusions.

Even more remarkably, White managed to have a full set of the plates used to print Allied occupation currency shipped to the Soviets, allowing them to produce an unlimited quantity of paper marks recognized as valid by Western governments, thus allowing the USSR to finance its post-war occupation of half of Europe on the backs of the American taxpayer.

Eventually suspicion of White’s true loyalties led to his abrupt resignation as the first U.S. Director of the IMF in 1947, and in 1948 he was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Although he denied all accusations, he was scheduled for additional testimony, with the intent of eventually prosecuting him for perjury and then using the threat of a long prison sentence to force him to reveal the other members of his espionage network. However, almost immediately after his initial meeting with the Committee, he supposedly suffered a couple of sudden heart attacks and died at age 55, though apparently no direct autopsy was performed on his corpse.

 
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A strong dam may hold back an immense quantity of water, but once it breaks the resulting flood may sweep aside everything in its path. I had spent nearly my entire life never doubting that a lone gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald killed President John F. Kennedy nor that a different lone gunman took the life of his younger brother Robert a few years later. Once I came to accept that these were merely fairy tales widely disbelieved by many of the same political elites who publicly maintained them, I began considering other aspects of this important history, the most obvious being who was behind the conspiracy and what were their motives.

On these questions, the passage of a half-century and the deaths, natural or otherwise, of nearly all the contemporary witnesses drastically reduces any hope of coming to a firm conclusion. At best, we can evaluate possibilities and plausibilities rather than high likelihoods let alone near certainties. And given the total absence of any hard evidence, our exploration of the origins of the assassination must necessarily rely upon cautious speculation.

From such a considerable distance in time, a bird’s-eye view may be a reasonable starting point, allowing us to focus on the few elements of the apparent conspiracy that seem reasonably well established. The most basic of these is the background of the individuals who appear to have been associated with the assassination, and the recent books by David Talbot and James W. Douglass effectively summarize much of the evidence accumulated over the decades by an army of diligent assassination researchers. Most of the apparent conspirators seem to have had strong ties to organized crime, the CIA, or various anti-Castro activist groups, with considerable overlap across these categories. Oswald himself certainly fit this same profile although he was very likely the mere “patsy” that he claimed to be, as did Jack Ruby, the man who quickly silenced him and whose ties to the criminal underworld were long and extensive.

 

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An unusual chain of events provided some of the strongest evidence of CIA involvement. Victor Marchetti, a career CIA officer, had risen to become Special Assistant to the Deputy Director, a position of some importance, before resigning in 1969 over policy differences. Although he fought a long battle with government censors over his book, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, he retained close ties with many former agency colleagues.

During the 1970s, the revelations of the Senate Church Committee and the House Select Committee on Assassinations had subjected the CIA to a great deal of negative public scrutiny, and there were growing suspicions of possible CIA links to JFK’s assassination. In 1978 longtime CIA Counter-intelligence chief James Angleton and a colleague provided Marchetti with an explosive leak, stating that the agency might be planning to admit a connection to the assassination, which had involved three shooters, but place the blame upon E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA officer who had become notorious during Watergate, and scapegoat him as a rogue agent, along with a few other equally tarnished colleagues. Marchetti published the resulting story in The Spotlight, a weekly national tabloid newspaper operated by Liberty Lobby, a rightwing populist organization based in DC. Although almost totally shunned by the mainstream media, The Spotlight was then at the peak of its influence, having almost 400,000 subscribers, as large a readership as the combined total of The New Republic, The Nation, and National Review.

Marchetti’s article suggested that Hunt had actually been in Dallas during the assassination, resulting in a libel lawsuit with potential damages large enough to bankrupt the publication. Longtime JFK assassination researcher Mark Lane became aware of the situation and volunteered his services to Liberty Lobby, hoping to use the legal proceedings, including the discovery process and subpoena power, as a means of securing additional evidence on the assassination, and after various court rulings and appeals, the case finally came to trial in 1985.

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As Lane recounted in his 1991 bestseller, Plausible Denial, his strategy generally proved quite successful, not only allowing him to win the jury verdict against Hunt, but also eliciting sworn testimony from a former CIA operative of her personal involvement in the conspiracy along with the names of several other participants, though she claimed that her role had been strictly peripheral. And although Hunt continued for decades to totally deny any connection with the assassination, near the end of his life he made a series of video-taped interviews in which he admitted that he had indeed been involved in the JFK assassination and named several of the other conspirators, while also maintaining that his own role had been merely peripheral. Hunt’s explosive death-bed confession was recounted in a major 2007 Rolling Stone article and also heavily analyzed in Talbot’s books, especially his second one, but otherwise largely ignored by the media.

 

Many of these same apparent conspirators, drawn from the same loose alliance of groups, had previously been involved in the various U.S. government-backed attempts to assassinate Castro or overthrow his Communist government, and they had developed a bitter hostility towards President Kennedy for what they considered his betrayal during the Bay of Pigs fiasco and afterward. Therefore, there is a natural tendency to regard such animosity as the central factor behind the assassination, a perspective generally followed by Talbot, Douglass, and numerous other writers. They conclude that Kennedy died at the hands of harder-line anti-Communists, outraged over his perceived weakness regarding Cuba, Russia, and Vietnam, sentiments that were certainly widespread within right-wing political circles at the height of the Cold War.

While this framework for the assassination is certainly possible, it is far from certain. One may easily imagine that most of the lower-level participants in the Dallas events were driven by such considerations but that the central figures who organized the plot and set matters into motion had different motives. So long as all the conspirators were agreed on Kennedy’s elimination, there was no need for an absolute uniformity of motive. Indeed, men who had long been involved in organized crime or clandestine intelligence operations were surely experienced in operational secrecy, and many of them may not have expected to know the identities, let alone the precise motives, of the men at the very top of the remarkable operation they were undertaking.

We must also sharply distinguish between the involvement of particular individuals and the involvement of an organization as an organization. For example, CIA Director John McCone was a Kennedy loyalist who had been appointed to clean house a couple of years before the assassination, and he surely was innocent of his patron’s death. On the other hand, the very considerable evidence that numerous individual CIA intelligence officers and operatives participated in the action has naturally raised suspicions that some among their highest-ranking superiors were involved as well, perhaps even as the principal organizers of the conspiracy.

 
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About a decade ago, I got a Netflix subscription and was amazed that the Internet now provided immediate access to so many thousands of movies on my own computer screen. But after a week or two of heavy use and the creation of a long watch-list of prospective films I’d always wanted to see, my workload gained the upper hand, and I mostly abandoned the system.

Back then, nearly all Netflix content was licensed from the major studios and depending upon contract negotiations might annually disappear, so when I happened to browse my account again in December, I noticed that a couple of films on my selection list included warning notices saying they would no longer be available on January 1st. One of these was Oliver Stone’s famous 1991 film JFK, which had provoked quite a stir at the time, so thinking now or never, I clicked the Play button, and spent three hours that evening watching the Oscar winner.

Most of the plot seemed bizarre and outlandish to me, with the president’s killing in Dallas supposedly having been organized by a cabal of militantly anti-Communist homosexuals, somehow connected with both the CIA and the mafia, but based in New Orleans. Kevin Costner starred as a crusading District Attorney named Jim Garrison—presumably fictional—whose investigation broke the assassination conspiracy wide open before the subtle tentacles of the Deep State finally managed to squelch his prosecution; or at least that’s what I vaguely remember from my single viewing. With so many implausible elements, the film confirmed my belief in the wild imagination of Hollywood scriptwriters and also demonstrated why no one with any common sense had ever taken seriously those ridiculous “JFK conspiracy theories.”

Despite its dramatic turns, the true circumstances of President John F. Kennedy’s death seemed an island of sanity by comparison. Lee Harvey Oswald, a disgruntled young marine had defected to the USSR in 1959 and finding life behind the Iron Curtain equally unsatisfactory, returned to America a couple of years later. Still having confused Marxist sympathies, he’d joined public protests supporting Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and gradually turning toward violence, purchased a mail-order rifle. During the presidential visit, he had fired three shots from the Dallas School Book Depository, killing JFK, and was quickly apprehended by the local police. Soon, he too was dead, shot by an outraged Kennedy supporter named Jack Ruby. All these sad facts were later confirmed by the Warren Commission in DC, presided over by the U.S. Chief Justice together with some of America’s most respected public figures, and their voluminous report ran nearly 900 pages.

Yet although the film seemed to have affixed an enormous mass of incoherent fictional lunacy on top of that basic history—why would a murder plot in Dallas have been organized in New Orleans, five hundred miles distant?—one single detail troubled me. Garrison is shown denouncing the “lone gunman theory” for claiming that a single bullet was responsible for seven separate wounds in President Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connolly, seated beside him in the limousine. Now inventing gay CIA assassins seems pretty standard Hollywood fare, but I found it unlikely that anyone would ever insert a fictional detail so wildly implausible as that bullet’s trajectory. A week or so later, the memory popped into my head, and I googled around a bit, discovering to my total astonishment that the seven-wounds-from-one-bullet claim was totally factual, and indeed constituted an absolutely essential element of the orthodox “single gunman” framework given that Oswald had fired at most three shots. So that was the so-called “Magic Bullet” I’d occasionally seen conspiracy-nuts ranting and raving about. For the first time in my entire life, I started to wonder whether maybe, just maybe there actually had been some sort of conspiracy behind the most famous assassination in modern world history.

Any conspirators had surely died of old age many years or even decades earlier and I was completely preoccupied with my own work, so investigating the strange circumstances of JFK’s death was hardly a high personal priority. But the suspicions remained in the back of my mind as I diligently read my New York Times and Wall Street Journal every morning while periodically browsing less reputable websites during the afternoon and evening. And as a result, I now began noticing little items buried here and there that I would have previously ignored or immediately dismissed, and these strengthened my newly emerging curiosity.

Among other things, occasional references reminded me that I’d previously seen my newspapers discuss a couple of newly released JFK books in rather respectful terms, which had surprised me a bit at the time. One of them, still generating discussion, was JFK and the Unspeakable published in 2008 by James W. Douglass, whose name meant nothing to me. And the other, which I hadn’t originally realized trafficked in any assassination conspiracies, was David Talbot’s 2007 Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, focused on the relationship between John F. Kennedy and his younger brother Robert. Talbot’s name was also somewhat familiar to me as the founder of Salon.com and a well-regarded if liberal-leaning journalist.

None of us have expertise in all areas, so sensible people must regularly delegate their judgment to credible third-parties, relying upon others to distinguish sense from nonsense. Since my knowledge of the JFK assassination was nil, I decided that two recent books attracting newspaper coverage might be a good place to start. So perhaps a couple of years after watching that Oliver Stone film, I cleared some time in my schedule, and spent a few days carefully reading the combined thousand pages of text.

I was stunned at what I immediately discovered. Not only was the evidence of a “conspiracy” absolutely overwhelming, but whereas I’d always assumed that only kooks doubted the official story, I instead discovered that a long list of the most powerful people near the top of the American government and in the best position to know had been privately convinced of such a “conspiracy,” in many cases from almost the very beginning.

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The Talbot book especially impressed me, being based on over 150 personal interviews and released by The Free Press, a highly reputable publisher. Although he applied a considerable hagiographic gloss to the Kennedys, his narrative was compellingly written, with numerous gripping scenes. But while such packaging surely helped to explain some of the favorable treatment from reviewers and how he had managed to produce a national bestseller in a seemingly long-depleted field, for me the packaging was much less important than the product itself.

To the extent that notions of a JFK conspiracy had ever crossed my mind, I’d considered the argument from silence absolutely conclusive. Surely if there had been the slightest doubt of the “lone gunman” conclusion endorsed by the Warren Commission, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy would have launched a full investigation to avenge his slain brother.

 
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Although I’ve soured on him in recent years, for the first decade and more of Paul Krugman’s tenure at the New York Times I regarded him as about the only national columnist worth reading. Certainly many others felt the same way, and Krugman regularly ranked among the most influential liberal voices in the country, gaining that position by his uniquely strong stance against the Iraq War plans of President George W. Bush, while his prestige was capped by winning 2007 Nobel Prize in Economics.

But few probably remember that just a couple of years into his column there was a concerted effort to pressure the Times into firing him, a campaign spearheaded by blogger Andrew Sullivan, then an ardent Bush supporter. Given the steady drum-beat of harsh accusations and the climate of that period, I had feared that it would succeed. Now suppose that he had been purged from all media access in 2002, and also that Bush’s Iraq adventure had turned out to be a considerable success, rather than the utter disaster it actually became. A couple of decades hence, would anyone remember Krugman, except in some minor historical footnote recounting the misguided naysayers whom our heroic President “W” had fortunately overcome?

Perhaps by 2040 any mention of Krugman’s name would either draw a blank stare or evoke a vague sense that he had been some sort of disreputable radical activist, perhaps with pro-Islamicist leanings and even suspected by some of having had a hand in the 9/11 attacks. History has traditionally been written by the political winners, and this was especially true in the days before the growth of the Internet weakened the total monopoly of our establishment media.

These were some of the thoughts that gradually crossed my mind during the middle part of the 2000s as I discovered some remarkable anomalies while creating my content-archiving website, a system intended to provide convenient access to millions of articles from America’s most influential publications of the last 150 years. Since I had never really studied American history, my views were generally quite conventional ones, formed from a mixture of the History 101 classes I had taken and what I had casually absorbed over the years from all the newspapers and magazines that I read.

Many of the most frequent names I encountered in America’s prestigious and respectable periodicals of the past were reasonably well known to me, but others were not. It was a strange feeling to see the overwhelming presence of writers who were either completely obscure or else whom I had always regarded as denizens of the disreputable radical fringe, distributing their angry mimeographed tracts on street corners, rather than respected figures regularly gracing the pages of The New Republic, Foreign Affairs, and The Nation. My comprehension of the past was obviously mistaken.

Take the case of John T. Flynn, probably unknown today to all but one American in a hundred, if even that. Given my much broader ideological explorations, I had sometimes seen him hailed as an important figure in the Old Right, a founder of the America First Committee, and someone friendly to both Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the John Birch Society, though falsely smeared by his opponents as a proto-fascist or Nazi-sympathizer. This sort of description seemed to form a consistent if somewhat disputed picture in my mind.

So imagine my surprise at discovering that throughout the 1930s he had been one of the single most influential liberal voices in American society, a writer on economics and politics whose status may have roughly approximated that of Paul Krugman, though with a strong muck-raking tinge. His weekly column in The New Republic allowed him to serve as a lodestar for America’s progressive elites, while his regular appearances in Colliers, an illustrated mass circulation weekly reaching many millions of Americans, provided him a platform comparable to that of an major television personality in the later heyday of network TV.

To some extent, Flynn’s prominence may be objectively quantified. A few years ago, I happened to mention his name to a well-read and committed liberal born in the 1930s, and she unsurprisingly drew a complete blank, but wondered if he might have been a little like Walter Lippmann, the very famous columnist of that era. When I checked, I saw that across the hundreds of periodicals in my archiving system, there were just 23 articles by Lippmann from the 1930s but fully 489 by Flynn.

Much of Flynn’s early prominence came from his important role in the 1932 Senate Pecora Commission, which had pilloried the grandees of Wall Street for the 1929 stock market collapse, and whose recommendations ultimately led to the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission and other important financial reforms. Following an impressive career in newspaper journalism, he had moved over to The New Republic as a weekly columnist in 1930. Although initially sympathetic to Franklin Roosevelt’s goals, he soon became skeptical about the effectiveness of his methods, noting the sluggish expansion of public works projects and wondering whether the vaunted NRA was actually more beneficial to big business owners than to ordinary workers.

As the years went by, his criticism of Roosevelt Administration turned harsher on economic and eventually foreign policy grounds, and he incurred its enormous hostility as a consequence. Roosevelt began sending personal letters to leading editors demanding that Flynn be barred from any prominent American print outlet, and perhaps as a consequence he lost his longstanding New Republic column immediately following FDR’s 1940 reelection, and his name disappeared from mainstream periodicals. However, he still authored a number of best-selling books over the years sharply attacking Roosevelt, and after the war his byline occasionally surfaced in much less mainstream and influential publications. A decade ago the libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute republished a couple of Flynn’s books, and a lengthy introduction by Prof. Ralph Raico sketched in some of this background.

 

Supporters of my local Palo Alto library hold a monthly book sale at which donated items are sold for a pittance, and I usually drop by to browse the shelves out of curiosity for what I might find. A few years ago, I happened to notice one of Flynn’s FDR books, published in 1948, and bought it for a quarter. The material presented on the yellowing pages of The Roosevelt Myth were eye-opening to me.

Anyone can write a book saying anything, and if some obscure right-winger leveled astonishing charges against a liberal president, I might not pay much attention. But if Paul Krugman had spent years expressing growing doubts about Barack Obama’s policies and effectiveness, then finally turned against him and published a national best-seller denouncing his administration, surely those opinions would carry much more weight. And so it was with Flynn’s accusations against Roosevelt.

 
• Category: History • Tags: American Media, American Pravda, World War II 
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For many years I maintained far too many magazine subscriptions, more periodicals than I could possibly read or even skim, so most weeks they went straight into storage, with scarcely more than a glance at the cover. But every now and then, I might casually browse one of them, curious about what I had usually been missing.

Thus, in the summer of 2010, I happened to leaf through an issue of Chronicles, the small-circulation flagship organ of the marginalized paleoconservative movement, and soon began reading a blandly-titled book review. But the piece so astonished me that it immediately justified all the many years of subscription payments I had sent to that magazine.

The reviewer was Andrei Navrozov, a Soviet emigre long resident in Britain, and he opened by quoting a passage from a previous 1990 book review, published almost exactly twenty years before:

[Suvorov] is arguing with every book, every article, every film, every NATO directive, every Downing Street assumption, every Pentagon clerk, every academic, every Communist and anti-Communist, every neoconservative intellectual, every Soviet song, poem, novel and piece of music ever heard, written, made, sung, issued, produced, or born during the last 50 years. For this reason, Icebreaker is the most original work of history it has been my privilege to read.

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He himself had written that earlier book review, which ran in the prestigious Times Literary Supplement following the original English publication of Icebreaker, and his description was not overblown. The work sought to overturn the settled history of World War II.

Icebreaker‘s author, writing under the pen-name Viktor Suvorov, was a veteran Soviet military intelligence officer who had defected to the West in 1978 and subsequently published a number of well-regarded books on the Soviet military and intelligence services. But here he advanced a far more radical thesis.

The “Suvorov Hypothesis” claimed that during the summer of 1941 Stalin was on the very verge of mounting a massive invasion and conquest of Europe, while Hitler’s sudden attack on June 22nd of that year was intended to forestall that looming blow. Moreover, the author also argued that Stalin’s planned attack constituted merely the final act in a much longer geopolitical strategy that he had been developing since at least the early 1930s.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution, the new Soviet regime had been viewed with extreme suspicion and hostility by other European countries, most of which also regarded their own domestic Communist Parties as likely fifth columns. So to fulfill Lenin’s dream and carry the revolution to Germany and the rest of Europe, Stalin somehow needed to split the Europeans, and break their common line of resistance. He allegedly viewed Hitler’s rise as exactly such a potential “icebreaker,” an opportunity to unleash another bloody European war and exhaust all sides, while the Soviet Union remained aloof and bided its strength, waiting for the right moment to sweep in and conquer the entire continent.

To this end, Stalin had directed his powerful German Communist Party to take political actions ensuring that Hitler came to power and then later lured the German dictator into signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to divide Poland. This led Britain and France to declare war on Germany, while also eliminating the Polish buffer state, thereby placing Soviet armies directly on the German border. And from the very moment he signed that long-term peace agreement with Hitler, he abandoned all his defensive preparations, and instead embarked upon an enormous military build-up of the purely offensive forces he intended to use for European conquest. Thus according to Suvorov, Stalin ranks as “the chief culprit” behind the outbreak of World War II in Europe, and the updated English edition of his book bears that exact title.

To my great surprise I discovered that Suvorov’s remarkable theories had gained enormous worldwide prominence since 1990, and had been widely discussed almost everywhere except in America and the other English-speaking countries. As Navrozov explained:

[The English edition of the] book sold 800 copies.

Some months later, a German edition of the book, under the title Der Eisbrecher: Hitler in Stalins Kaulkul, was published in Germany by a smallish house, Klett-Cotta, to timid and gingerly reviews. It sold 8,000 copies. In 1992, Suvorov’s manuscript was delivered to a maverick publisher in Moscow, and at last the book saw the light of day in the original Russian, quickly selling out its first print run of 100,000 copies. In the years that followed, over five million copies have been sold, making Suvorov the most-read military historian in history.

And yet, in the nearly 20 years that have elapsed between Icebreaker‘s launch in England and the present publication of The Chief Culprit, no British, American, Canadian, or Australian publisher saw fit to exploit potentially global interest in the drifting Icebreaker—or to so much as touch Suvorov with a barge pole—despite the fact that the almost unobtainable $20 copies of the long-out-of print Hamish Hamilton edition have been changing hands on the internet for upward of $500.

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Since 1990, Suvorov’s works have been translated into at least 18 languages and an international storm of scholarly controversy has swirled around the Suvorov Hypothesis in Russia, Germany, Israel, and elsewhere. Numerous other authors have published books in support or more often strong opposition, and even international academic conferences have been held to debate the theory. But our own English-language media has almost entirely blacklisted and ignored this ongoing international debate, to such an extent that the name of the most widely-read military historian who ever lived had remained totally unknown to me.

Finally in 2008, the prestigious Naval Academy Press of Annapolis decided to break this 18 year intellectual embargo and published an updated English edition of Suvorov’s work. But once again, our media outlets almost entirely averted their eyes, and only a single review appeared in an obscure ideological publication, where I chanced to encounter it. This conclusively demonstrates that throughout most of the twentieth century a united front of English-language publishers and media organs could easily maintain a boycott of any important topic, ensuring that almost no one in America or the rest of the Anglosphere would ever hear of it. Only with the recent rise of the Internet has this disheartening situation begun to change.

 

Determining Stalin’s true motives and the basis of his foreign policy during the 1930s is hardly easy, and his statements and actions are subject to multiple interpretations. Therefore, the theory that the dictator spent all those years deftly preparing the outbreak of World War II appears quite speculative to me. But the other central claim of the Suvorov Hypothesis—that the Soviets were themselves on the verge of attacking when the Germans struck—is an extremely factual question, which can be evaluated based on hard evidence. I find the case quite compelling, at least if the facts and details that Suvorov cites in support are not totally spurious, which seems unlikely with the Naval Academy Press as his publisher.

 
• Category: History • Tags: American Pravda, Iosef Stalin, Russia, World War II 
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I’m very pleased to announce that our selection of HTML Books now contains works by renowned World War II historian David Irving, including his magisterial Hitler’s War, named by famed military historian Sir John Keegan as one of the most crucial volumes for properly understanding that conflict.

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With many millions of his books in print, including a string of best-sellers translated into numerous languages, it’s quite possible that the eighty-year-old Irving today ranks as the most internationally-successful British historian of the last one hundred years. Although I myself have merely read a couple of his shorter works, I found these absolutely outstanding, with Irving regularly deploying his remarkable command of the primary source documentary evidence to totally demolish my naive History 101 understanding of major historical events. It would hardly surprise me if the huge corpus of his writings eventually constitutes a central pillar upon which future historians seek to comprehend the catastrophically bloody middle years of our hugely destructive twentieth century even after most of our other chroniclers of that era are long forgotten.

Carefully reading a thousand-page reconstruction of the German side of the Second World War is obviously a daunting undertaking, and his remaining thirty-odd books would probably add at least another 10,000 pages to that Herculean task. But fortunately, Irving is also a riveting speaker, and several of his extended lectures of recent decades are conveniently available on YouTube, as given below. These effectively present many of his most remarkable revelations concerning the wartime policies of both Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler, as well as sometimes recounting the challenging personal situation he himself faced. Watching these lectures may consume several hours, but that is still a trivial investment compared to the many weeks it would take to digest the underlying books themselves.

When confronted with astonishing claims that completely overturn an established historical narrative, considerable skepticism is warranted, and my own lack of specialized expertise in World War II history left me especially cautious. The documents Irving unearths seemingly portray a Winston Churchill so radically different from that of my naive understanding as to be almost unrecognizable, and this naturally raised the question of whether I could credit the accuracy of Irving’s evidence and his interpretation. All his material is massively footnoted, referencing copious documents in numerous official archives, but how could I possibly muster the time or energy to verify them?

Rather ironically, an extremely unfortunate turn of events seems to have fully resolved that crucial question.

 

Irving is an individual of uncommonly strong scholarly integrity, and as such he is unable to see things in the record that do not exist, even if it were in his considerable interest to do so, nor to fabricate non-existent evidence. Therefore, his unwillingness to dissemble or pay lip-service to various widely-worshiped cultural totems eventually provoked an outpouring of vilification by a swarm of ideological fanatics drawn from a particular ethnic persuasion. This situation was rather similar to the troubles my old Harvard professor E.O. Wilson had experienced around that same time upon publication of his own masterwork Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, the book that helped launch the field of modern human evolutionary psychobiology.

These zealous ethnic-activists began a coordinated campaign to pressure Irving’s prestigious publishers into dropping his books, while also disrupting his frequent international speaking tours and even lobbying countries to bar him from entry. They also maintained a drumbeat of media vilification, continually blackening his name and his research skills, even going so far as to denounce him as a “Nazi” and a “Hitler-lover,” just as had similarly been done in the case of Prof. Wilson.

During the 1980s and 1990s, these determined efforts, sometimes backed by considerable physical violence, increasingly bore fruit, and Irving’s career was severely impacted. He had once been feted by the world’s leading publishing houses and his books serialized and reviewed in Britain’s most august newspapers; now he gradually became a marginalized figure, almost a pariah, with enormous damage to his sources of income.

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In 1993, Deborah Lipstadt, a rather ignorant and fanatic professor of Theology and Holocaust Studies (or perhaps “Holocaust Theology”) ferociously attacked him in her book as being a “Holocaust Denier,” leading Irving’s timorous publisher to suddenly cancel the contract for his major new historical volume. This development eventually sparked a rancorous lawsuit in 1998, which resulted in a celebrated 2000 libel trial held in British Court.

That legal battle was certainly a David-and-Goliath affair, with wealthy Jewish movie producers and corporate executives providing a huge war-chest of $13 million to Lipstadt’s side, allowing her to fund a veritable army of 40 researchers and legal experts, captained by one of Britain’s most successful Jewish divorce lawyers. By contrast, Irving, being an impecunious historian, was forced to defend himself without benefit of legal counsel.

In real life unlike in fable, the Goliaths of this world are almost invariably triumphant, and this case was no exception, with Irving being driven into personal bankruptcy, resulting in the loss of his fine central London home. But seen from the longer perspective of history, I think the victory of his tormenters was a remarkably Pyrrhic one.

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Although the target of their unleashed hatred was Irving’s alleged “Holocaust denial,” as near as I can tell, that particular topic was almost entirely absent from all of Irving’s dozens of books, and exactly that very silence was what had provoked their spittle-flecked outrage. Therefore, lacking such a clear target, their lavishly-funded corps of researchers and fact-checkers instead spent a year or more apparently performing a line-by-line and footnote-by-footnote review of everything Irving had ever published, seeking to locate every single historical error that could possibly cast him in a bad professional light. With almost limitless money and manpower, they even utilized the process of legal discovery to subpoena and read the thousands of pages in his bound personal diaries and correspondence, thereby hoping to find some evidence of his “wicked thoughts.” Denial, a 2016 Hollywood film co-written by Lipstadt, may provide a reasonable outline of the sequence of events as seen from her perspective.

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Some may be aware that when I originally established The Unz Review over four years ago one of my main motives was to have a convenient venue for my own writing, a situation necessitated by my removal as Publisher of The American Conservative. However, other matters intervened, and all but a few months of my time since then have been preoccupied with software development issues and politics, but now at very long last I do hope to return to that original purpose.

Shortly after my departure from TAC in Fall 2013, I had written an article recounting the unfortunate circumstances, and this had attracted some interest from editors at The Atlantic. But they not unreasonably balked at the length, and soon afterward I was drawn into a major campaign to implement my proposal of a huge hike in the American Minimum Wage, an effort that eventually helped establish it as a central economic pillar of the Democratic Party; this was soon followed by other endeavors, mostly on software matters. Over the years, various people have expressed curiosity about my TAC story, which remained unpublished, and with the fifth anniversary of my defenestration now upon us, I’ve decided I might as well release it in its original form, changing scarcely a single word though updating some of the links. Five years represents an eternity in political journalism, and various events and personalities have surely lapsed into obscurity, but such is the price paid for historical authenticity.

Given hindsight, I’d consider myself satisfied with the ultimate outcome. The Review currently operates on an absolute shoestring while the editorial budget of TAC these days is an order-of-magnitude larger, covering the costs of a full-time staff of seven or eight. But according to Alexa.com our readership passed theirs six months ago, and has been substantially higher every week since. Possibly for these sorts of reasons, TAC recently named yet another new top editor, with Benjamin Schwarz becoming the third in eighteen months. And aside from providing some of the background to the creation of The Review and helping to explain its eclectic ideological focus, I think my story also serves as an example of why so many small publications tend to blur their editorial line over time, lured by mainstream respectability and resources, a process that seems to have recently claimed the late Alex Cockburn’s once fiercely-independent Counterpunch.

On June 12th, 2013 I was having an unusually lengthy phone conversation with Daniel McCarthy, editor of The American Conservative (TAC). I live in Silicon Valley, three thousand miles away from DC, and despite holding the nominal title of publisher my involvement with TAC business operations had usually been negligible, amounting to just a few minutes a week on the phone. But I had grown alarmed over the lack of any major new donations since January, and had begun urging McCarthy to make the cuts in expenses necessary for the publication’s survival, while lobbying the board on the same subject. Web traffic had also been sharply declining for six or seven months, suggesting the need for a change in editorial focus. And several months earlier, TAC had cut its print frequency in half to just six issues a year while doubling the annual subscription rate to $60, thus quadrupling the per issue cost to an unreasonable $10, a pricing decision I’d strongly questioned at the time and now believed we needed to reverse.

Despite my tradition of operational disengagement, I felt comfortable pressing these points. Since late 2006 I had provided some 70% of TAC’s total funding, and even after converting the publication into a non-profit in 2010, I had still remained TAC’s largest donor during 2012, while also serving as chairman. TAC had come close to shutting down on a couple of previous occasions and I wanted to avoid taking such a risk again, especially since over the last year or two I had begun regularly publishing some of my own articles in the magazine.

Finally, at the end of the call I asked McCarthy whether he’d yet had a chance to prepare a redlined edit copy of the new article I’d submitted a couple of weeks earlier and on which he’d previously suggested one or two minor changes that I had subsequently made. To my enormous surprise, he informed me that he’d decided to flatly reject the entire piece—an analytical study of American urban crime rates—as representing the sort of racially-inflammatory material that had no place in a quality magazine such as TAC. He instead suggested that a more appropriate venue for my article would be one of the webzines categorized as White Nationalist hate-sites by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

After a few stunned words on my part, I hung up the phone and almost immediately received an emailing McCarthy had sent out to his undisclosed distribution list, harshly criticizing my behavior while repeating his same charges in more measured terms, describing the subject of my article as “a distraction from TAC’s mission” and something that would “fatally detract” from TAC’s advocacy of “the case for noninterventionism and restricting executive power.” I soon discovered that my TAC blogging privileges had also been terminated, banning me from the website. Later, my access to TAC’s ongoing website traffic information was eliminated. So more than six years after becoming TAC’s publisher, I had been summarily purged.

For several weeks I made frustrating attempts to gain support from the other members of TAC’s governing board. But they had spent years just as totally disengaged as myself from TAC’s operations and had absolutely no desire to involve themselves in what they perceived as some sort of rancorous personal dispute. During this period I did my best to avoid publicizing my situation, partly because I found it so humiliating, but finally in late July National Review learned of this simmering controversy and solicited an interview. Initially I hesitated, but seeing that TAC—after rejecting my article as “a distraction”—had covered its homepage for several days straight with articles about British rock bands, zombies, giant robots, and cartoon characters, I became angry enough to provide my side of the story to the media. Three days after NR ran its short he said-she said item, TAC’s board convened in a special Sunday phone session to remove me, formalizing what had already occurred.

 

Although I regarded the denunciation of my article mostly as a pretext to eliminate my pressure on business matters and also a means of petty retaliation, one member of the TAC board did see the piece as central to the dispute. In subsequent exchanges, Founding Editor Scott McConnell, with whom I’d previously been on quite friendly terms, strongly opposed publication of my analysis, steadily growing more strident in his opinion that running such an article would severely damage TAC’s hard-won reputation; and therein lies a fascinating tale.

 
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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 
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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Talk TV sensationalists and axe-grinding ideologues have fallen for a myth of immigrant lawlessness.
The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?
The unspoken statistical reality of urban crime over the last quarter century.
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
A simple remedy for income stagnation