- Glenn Greenwald and The Intercept
- Julian Assange and WikiLeaks
- Prof. Stephen Cohen and The Nation
- Sydney Schanberg, John McCain, and the Vietnam POWs
- Nicholas Wade and the Origins of Covid
- Lt. Gen. William Odom and the Iraq War
- America’s Great Purge of the 1940s
- A.J.P. Taylor and David Irving
- The Strategy of Dynamic Silence
During the height of the NSA disclosures a few years ago, Glenn Greenwald probably ranked as the world’s most famous journalist, and his entire career had seemed something out of a left-liberal storybook.
Becoming disenchanted with his corporate law career at a top firm, he co-founded a small practice specializing in First Amendment issues, then started a personal blog denouncing the civil liberties violations of the Bush Administration. He gained such recognition for his insightful commentary that he was hired by Salon, the premier leftist webzine, and a couple of years later was recruited by the liberal Guardian, then at the height of its international reputation. His high-profile writings on governmental abuses drew the attention of Edward Snowden, the young NSA whistleblower, who offered him the story of a lifetime, complete with its James Bond flourishes in Hong Kong, and worldwide fame together with a Pulitzer Prize soon followed. No sooner had the echoes of those establishment accolades begun to fade than he returned to the front-pages as co-founder of a new international media organization aimed at providing honest reporting free from any political restrictions, an enterprise backed by a pledge of $250 million in future funding from a public-spirited Silicon Valley multi-billionaire. That truly seemed a Cinderella tale complete with happy ending, fit to inspire future generations of liberal young journalists.
However, the story didn’t end at that point. The old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons of my childhood always included a “Fractured Fairy Tales” segment, providing a satirical account of what probably happened after the curtain came down, and over the past year Greenwald’s personal trajectory unexpectedly swerved into that territory. In late 2020, he angrily departed the sizable anti-censorship media empire he had helped to create because his own writing was being censored, choosing to return to his roots as an independent blogger on the new Substack platform.
As far as I can tell, none of his ideological positions had shifted more than a whit over the last decade or more, but the same views that had once enshrined him as the conquering hero of liberal and left-liberal journalists have now suddenly rendered him toxic and unwanted in those same quarters, with his sole remaining foothold in the traditional media being his regular appearances on Tucker Carlson Tonight, a FoxNews broadcast regularly attacked as representing the most extreme rightwing fringe still found on television. For at least three generations, American liberals had regarded our national security organs—the CIA, the NSA, and the FBI—as some of their greatest villains, with such hostile sentiments reaching their peak just a few years ago when Greenwald and Snowden revealed the massive scale of illegal NSA spying. Yet these days, former high-ranking CIA, NSA, and FBI officials are regularly featured and employed at liberal CNN and MSNBC, while it is Greenwald and Snowden who have become completely unwelcome. So we have a fable that ends with the brave knight slaying the beautiful princess and marrying the hideous dragon, quite an unexpected turn of events.
The breaking point for Greenwald came with the 2020 election. During the Democratic primaries, the reigning political oligarchs of the liberal establishment had faced down the unexpectedly strong Bernie Sanders insurgency by desperately employing every possible connivance to drag the widely unpopular Joe Biden across the finish line, then coupled him with Kamala Harris, a candidate so unappealing that she had dropped out of the presidential race long before the first vote had even been cast in Iowa. These arrogant Democratic kingmakers then discovered to their horror that although Donald Trump was greatly disliked, their own hand-picked candidates fell into the same category. An extremely dishonest racial media narrative had provoked America’s greatest wave of urban riots and looting in two generations, and while 200 of our cities suffered such severe unrest, a number of prominent Democratic activists responded to the scenes of chaos and disorder by loudly proclaiming that the solution was to “defund the police.”
Under such circumstances, many voters understandably began to wonder whether Trump—notwithstanding his disastrous four years in office—might actually be the lesser of the two evils. So to forestall that dangerous possibility, Big Media and Big Tech colluded to ensure that Americans voted the right way, imposing the most extreme political censorship of any modern election, yet even so their efforts nearly fell short.
According to the post-election media headlines, Biden won the 2020 race by a substantial margin and Trump’s claims of a stolen presidential vote represented the final proof of his criminal insanity, blatant lies that eventually provoked his deluded followers into storming the Capitol on January 6th. But as I pointed out a few days after that event, the official vote count told an entirely different story:
Incumbent Donald Trump lost Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin by such extremely narrow margins that a swing of less than 22,000 votes in those crucial states would have gotten him reelected. With a record 158 million votes cast, this amounted to a victory margin of around 0.01%. So if just one American voter in 7,000 had changed his mind, Trump might have received another four years in office. One American voter in 7,000.
Such an exceptionally narrow victory is extremely unusual in modern American history…Indeed, with the sole exception of the notorious “dangling chads” Florida decision of the 2000 Bush-Gore election, no American presidential candidate in over 100 years had lost by so narrow a voter margin as Donald J. Trump…
Not long before the election, the hard drive of an abandoned laptop owned by Joe Biden’s son Hunter revealed a gigantic international corruption scheme, quite possibility involving the candidate himself. But the facts of this enormous political scandal were entirely ignored and boycotted by virtually every mainstream media outlet. And once the story was finally published in the pages of the New York Post, America’s oldest newspaper, all links to the Post article and its website were suddenly banned by Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets to ensure that the voters remained ignorant until after they had cast their ballots.
Renowned international journalist Glenn Greenwald was hardly a Trump partisan, but he became outraged that the editors of the Intercept, the $100 million publication he himself had co-founded, refused to allow him to cover that massive media scandal, and he angrily resigned in protest. In effect, America’s media and tech giants formed a united front to steal the election and somehow drag the crippled Biden/Harris ticket across the finish line.
The Hunter Biden corruption scandal seemed about as serious as any in modern presidential election history and Biden’s official victory margin was just 0.01%. So if the American voters had been allowed to learn the truth, Trump almost certainly would have won the election, quite possibly in an Electoral College landslide. Given these facts, anyone who continues to deny that the election was stolen from Trump is simply being ridiculous.
Although Greenwald was certainly the most prominent liberal journalist to find himself censored and left ideologically homeless for remaining true to his longstanding principles, other significant figures shared his plight. During the Financial Meltdown a decade ago, Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone had gained widespread attention for his trenchant description of Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire-squid” and during his years as a Middle East correspondent for the New York Times, Chris Hedges had become a folk-hero to the Left for his incisive reporting on the plight of the Palestinians, with his later books cementing that reputation. In the wake of Greenwald’s angry departure from the Intercept, these two individuals spent a half-hour condemning the severe regime of self-censorship that was increasingly constricting the world of mainstream American journalism, with the conversation taking place on Russia’s RT channel, the only venue that would permit such a candid discussion. And Taibbi soon joined Greenwald in making his new home on Substack.
As the first anniversary of his personal strike for editorial freedom came around, Greenwald published a very long and interesting column analyzing what had happened, including an examination of the underlying problems he had faced at his own publication.
His difficulties had begun in 2015 with the rise of Donald Trump, a development that provoked a hysterical reaction in the establishment wings of both the Democratic and Republican parties, which became far more severe after Trump’s unexpected 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton.
Instead of asking themselves why they and their policies had grown so unpopular that a brash outsider who had been massively outspent on advertising could win, leading Democrats instead curled themselves into a fetal ball, adopting the lunatic excuse that Russian President Vladimir Putin had arranged Trump’s elevation, somehow managing to overcome their multi-billion-dollar presidential campaign with the help of a few thousand dollars of display ads on Facebook.
Only individuals with no sense of reality or no self-respect could swallow such absurdity with a straight face, but those debilitating conditions turned out to be widespread within our establishment media and political worlds, and this bizarre Russiagate narrative dominated the first couple of years of the Trump presidency, reducing American politics to a laughingstock. Those few prominent journalists such as Greenwald who refused to endorse such conspiratorial nonsense and pointed to the total lack of supporting evidence were increasingly ostracized as heretics and excluded from most mainstream outlets.
Greenwald provided a very revealing analysis of the internal dynamics at his own publication, The Intercept, so lavishly funded by its billionaire-donor Pierre Omidyar. All of us have particular areas of focus and expertise, possessing solid knowledge in those matters while remaining ignorant and easily misled in others. So while Omidyar probably had a good personal understanding of technology, business, and investment, he was politically unsophisticated and therefore accepted the overwhelming media narrative that Russia with Trump as its agent was plotting to subvert our American freedoms, just as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN all loudly proclaimed. Over the years I have had a few dealings with individuals very high in the worlds of business and finance, and in most cases I think their political sophistication approximated that of your pleasant next-door neighbor, so Greenwald’s account rings very true to me.
Shrewd political operatives are always seeking out such wealthy, public-spirited individuals, hoping to help lighten the burdensome weight of their excessive bank balances, and Omidyar soon became a leading funder of the various organizations established to save our country from the looming Russian takeover, including those staffed by the Bush Neocons whose horrific policies had originally inspired Greenwald’s own journalism.
Outside observers began noting the considerable irony that Greenwald had become one of the foremost critics of his own patron’s political organizations, and wondered how much longer such apparent insubordination would be tolerated. To Omidyar’s enormous personal credit, he repeatedly emphasized that the journalists he supported had the absolute right to take whatever positions they wished even if these directly contradicted his own personal beliefs, and he never hinted that Greenwald should curb his outspokenness.
But star reporters with global reputations may be willing to take professional risks that their less talented counterparts would shun, and Greenwald was much less kind in describing the behavior of his colleagues on the Intercept, especially the very well paid and top-heavy senior editorial staff. After Greenwald’s departure, his ally Max Blumenthal Tweeted out his outrage at the unjustified salaries of Omidyar’s beneficiaries:
The Intercept’s Betsy Reed, who earns $427,419 a year & produces zero journalism of her own, mocks independent journalists who rely on Substack & Patreon to get by. Not everyone has a reclusive billionaire to pay them huge sums to edit stuff no one reads. https://t.co/TdnjrDdinw pic.twitter.com/83FMDhpRgQ
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) October 30, 2020
These are difficult times for the journalistic profession, with low salaries and widespread layoffs, but so long as Omidyar’s funding continued, the employees of the Intercept enjoyed lavish compensation, generous expense accounts, and total job security despite the extremely meager readership of their uninspiring output. Therefore, as Greenwald explained, their entire writing became directed at a total audience of one, Pierre Omidyar, who constituted the god of their universe, and they naturally catered to every whim of his views, as regularly revealed on his Twitter feed. If the billionaire’s swarm of courtiers and consultants had persuaded him that Trump and Russia were the greatest twin threats to American freedom, the writers and editors drawing his paychecks would eagerly produce a mountain of words saying exactly that. Applying another one of Greenwald’s metaphors, they realized that they had been lucky enough to win the Omidyar Lottery, and were fearful of risking that golden meal-ticket.
And although he is too charitable to say so, I think Greenwald must have realized that his colleagues probably considered him a dangerous threat to their own job security. By a very wide margin, he was the most prominent journalist on Omidyar’s payroll, and perhaps at some point his argument that Russiagate was indeed a ridiculous hoax might carry the day in the public arena. But if the naive billionaire eventually concluded that he had been hoodwinked, he might grow angry at the legions of his well-paid yes-men who had spent years participating in that deception, and perhaps cancel their generous sinecures.
Greenwald may have been cast into the outer darkness by most of the mainstream liberal establishment, but he ultimately suffered little damage. His angry departure from the Intercept unleashed a media thunderclap, and from the moment he regained his editorial freedom on Substack, he began producing a series of lengthy and remarkably incisive columns, so that within a couple of weeks I read more of his work than I had in the previous five or six years. Others seem to have had the same reaction, and his personal Substack subscription revenue quickly exceeded a million dollars a year, an achievement that surely aroused enormous envy from the multitude of timorous and mercenary journalists content to churn out safe and inoffensive blather.
But while Greenwald probably ranked as the world’s most famous journalist, he was always paired in my mind with the world’s most famous publisher, and the latter had suffered a far worse fate the previous year. On April 11, 2019 British police physically dragged Julian Assange, bearded and disheveled, out of the room in London’s Ecuadorean Embassy that had become his refuge turned prison cell during the previous seven years.
Assange had founded the WikiLeaks website in 2006, allowing disgruntled individuals to anonymously deposit confidential information embarrassing to governments and other powerful entities, with that content then made available to journalists and activists across the world. In 2010, an American intelligence analyst had provided a huge cache of Iraq and Afghanistan War documents and videos that rocketed the website to worldwide fame and inflicted a massive propaganda defeat upon our national security establishment. Assange and his tiny band of volunteer collaborators immediately became the toast of left-liberals in America and throughout the world, hailed as a journalistic pioneer and hero. Such strong public support partly shielded Assange from immediate retaliation, but the minions of our Deep State regarded him as their sworn enemy, and they relentlessly began seeking revenge.
Allegations of Assange’s sexual misconduct while visiting Sweden led to his late 2010 detention in Britain, and his supporters correctly suspected the entire judicial maneuver was merely a ploy to have him extradited to stand trial in America. Facing a losing legal battle, he broke the terms of his bail in 2012 and sought sanctuary at the local Ecuadorean Embassy, whose government granted him asylum. Over the years, Greenwald and numerous others have noted that Assange’s publication of confidential documents was no different than the regular activities of ordinary journalists and in 2013 the U.S. Justice Department even admitted that fact, but our national security establishment still sought to make an example of him as a powerful deterrent to others.
The political landscape drastically changed in 2016 when WikiLeaks published a huge trove of Democratic Party emails, including revelations that the DNC leadership had collaborated with Hillary Clinton to defeat Bernie Sanders. This confidential material proved extremely embarrassing to the Clinton campaign as it was released during the months prior to the November vote and certainly contributed to Trump’s upset victory. As a result, Democratic partisans and the liberal establishment began regarding Assange as their enemy.
Following the disclosures, the DNC claimed that its servers had been hacked by Russian spies, who then provided the material to WikiLeaks in order to assist Trump, and this became a major pillar of the subsequent Russiagate narrative in our media. The CIA and other intelligence agencies publicly endorsed that accusation of Russian involvement in American politics, an important step in the formation of what amounted to a Democrat/CIA/NSA/FBI political alliance hostile to both Trump and Russia.
However, various individuals associated with WikiLeaks suggested a different story. Not long after the original release of the emails, Assange strongly hinted that instead of having been obtained by overseas hackers, the material had actually been leaked by a disgruntled DNC staffer named Seth Rich, who had been murdered soon afterward, and WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information on that unsolved DC street killing. Although the mainstream media fiercely denounced such allegations as a ridiculous “conspiracy theory,” they were taken up by many rightwing activists and Trump partisans, and the details of the case fill an entire 10,000 word Wikipedia page entitled “The Murder of Seth Rich,” which includes more than 150 references.
The controversy is a complex one, with enormous numbers of claims and counter-claims, and I haven’t devoted even a fraction of the time necessary to unravel it. But the total collapse of the remainder of the Russiagate narrative leaves me skeptical about this element. Furthermore, Craig Murray, a former British ambassador and close WikiLeaks ally, generally strikes me as a credible individual, and back in 2016 he claimed from personal knowledge that the DNC documents had been leaked by an angry Democratic whistleblower rather than hacked by foreign agents, while last year he further emphasized the highly-suspicious nature of Rich’s murder and the new evidence that the FBI had been taking that theory seriously.
We must consider statistics and unlikely coincidences. There were only 135 DC homicides that year, and the victims were almost entirely restricted to the city’s impoverished non-white population or its criminal underclass. Indeed, although the city is still dangerous it wouldn’t surprise me if in 2016 Rich were the only middle-class white in DC randomly murdered while innocently walking the streets. The fact that he was a DNC insider and a technically-savvy Sanders partisan who died in an unsolved street killing so soon after the documents in his office were leaked certainly raises large suspicions. Billions of dollars were spent to put Hillary Clinton in the White House, and her victory would have meant many thousands of good jobs and appointments for her army of loyal camp-followers, plus oceans of possible graft, so the motive would be a strong one. As I speculated earlier this year:
Incidentally, I’d guess that DC is a very easy place to arrange a killing, given that until the heavy gentrification of the last dozen years or so, it was one of America’s street-murder capitals. It seems perfectly plausible that some junior DNC staffer was at dinner somewhere, endlessly cursing Seth Rich for having betrayed his party and endangered Hillary’s election, when one of his friends said he knew somebody who’d be willing to “take care of the problem” for a thousand bucks…
I should also mention the conclusions of some prominent intelligence experts whose opinion I take seriously. Ray McGovern had served for more than a quarter-century as a CIA analyst, specializing in the Soviet Union, and by the late 1980s was chairing the National Intelligence Estimate and personally briefing President George H.W. Bush, while William Binney had been a top NSA intelligence officer, retiring in 2001. In 2017, the two of them, backed by dozens of other veteran American intelligence professionals, raised serious doubts about whether the WikiLeaks documents had been transferred locally to a thumb-drive rather than pulled across the Internet, suggesting that such technical evidence favored a leak rather than the hack proposed by the Russiagate narrative. Their claims have been disputed and the software evidence challenged, but the fact that such striking findings by these senior experts were almost totally ignored by our mainstream media demonstrated its enormous bias on the subject.
Assange’s dissemination of pilfered Democratic Party materials had probably helped to elect Trump in November 2016, thereby enraging liberals and Democrats. But just a few months later, the continuing hostility of America’s national security apparatus had been reignited when WikiLeaks began releasing the CIA’s “Vault 7” documents, providing the technical details of hacking capabilities and software tools targeting smartphones, computers, and other Internet devices. This represented the largest and most damaging leak in the history of the CIA, and its leadership publicly declared WikiLeaks a hostile intelligence service, while quietly considering plans to kidnap or assassinate Assange.
Democratic Party political operatives and our intelligence services each possess a great deal of influence over the American mainstream media, and with both those groups having become so intensely hostile to Assange’s activities, the rapid transformation of his public image from hero to villain became almost assured. Many of the same journalists or publications that had once lionized him or even benefited from direct collaboration now regularly blackened his name and ignored his difficult plight.
The sudden burst of intense hostility towards Russia that swept through liberal circles during the mid-2010s had earlier eroded the position of another important figure once high within the liberal foreign policy firmament.
For decades Prof. Stephen Cohen of Princeton and New York University had ranked as one of America’s leading Russia scholars, and certainly the most prominent such figure in left-liberal circles. As far back as the 1970s his Sovieticus columns had regularly appeared in the pages of The Nation, our premier leftwing opinion magazine, and during the Gorbachev Era and the ensuing collapse of the USSR, I often saw him on the PBS Newshour, debating America’s Soviet policy with his conservative counterparts. Meanwhile, his numerous scholarly books on Soviet and Russian history were respectfully reviewed in elite mainstream publications. Not only was Cohen clearly the foremost Russia expert within the American Left, but no other name of even remotely comparable stature came to mind, and his 1988 second marriage to Katrina vanden Heuvel, who went on to serve as Publisher and Editor of The Nation for nearly a quarter-century, certainly cemented that impression of his influence.
Cohen had devoted his entire career to fostering an amicable relationship between Russia and America. But when Victoria Nuland and other Neocons gained influence during the late Obama Administration, they shattered that dream in an instant by orchestrating the violent early 2014 uprising and coup that replaced Ukraine’s independent-minded government with what amounted to an American quasi-puppet regime. Not only did this development threaten to push NATO to Russia’s border in absolute violation of the guarantees once given to Gorbachev, but it seemed likely to place the West in control of overwhelmingly Russian Crimea, home to Russia’s most important naval base, and only Putin’s quick moves forestalled that risk by restoring the peninsula to his country through annexation. A violent civil war and secessionist movement in the remainder of Ukraine quickly broke out, costing the lives of many thousands of ethnic Russians over the next few years, while periodically threatening to ignite a full scale war between Russia and the West.
Although this anti-Russian reversal seemed to attract near-unanimous support from America’s political and media establishment, in May 2014 Cohen had joined with his wife in publishing a Nation column denouncing the sudden eruption of this new Cold War against Russia. A few months later, Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Eastern Ukraine, and although I and others emphasized the uncertainty about which side had been responsible, virtually our entire media blamed pro-Russian forces, harshly condemning Cohen when he quietly expressed serious doubts. Indeed, his Wikipedia page catalogs the numerous attacks he endured, even citing a Chronicle of Higher Education article claiming that his writings had provoked the Nation‘s staffers into “openly revolting against the magazine’s pro-Russian tilt.” These lock-step young liberal and left-liberal journalists condemned him for continuing to advocate rational policies towards a Russia whose huge nuclear arsenal could annihilate our own country. After the 2016 election, nearly all Democrats eagerly embraced the Russiagate hoax and the hostility towards naysayers such as Cohen became even more strident. Except for his regular weekly appearances on New York’s John Batchelor radio show, hosted by one of his former Princeton students, he was virtually excluded from the American media.
A lengthy 2017 Slate interview by Isaac Chotiner typified his treatment. The author expressed stunned disbelief that Cohen did not automatically accept the factual claims about Russia, Russiagate, Trump, and Putin that were so universally believed and promoted within mainstream liberal circles, failing to recognize that a scholar with decades of expertise in that country and an ability to read Russian was able to tap non-American sources of information.
Just a few weeks earlier, Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg had published a long article in his own newspaper, describing his own visit to Moscow and his astonishment that the media there presented an “alternative truth” so different from his own belief that the Russian-backed Syrian government had recently launched a poison gas attack against its own people. Days before that article ran, we had published a 6,900 word article by eminent national security scholar Theodore A. Postol of MIT, heavily debunking the reality of that alleged Syrian gas attack, but since such contrary views never penetrated into Rutenberg’s media-bubble, he was entirely unaware of them, and having begun his journalistic career as a gossip-columnist, perhaps he anyway wouldn’t have known the difference. So Chotiner read Rutenberg and Rutenberg read Chotiner, and the resulting incestuous cult of ignorance had no place for the dissenting views of genuine experts such as Cohen or Postol.
In his 2017 Chotiner interview, Cohen emphasized that the combination of a relentless media demonization of Putin’s Russia and the creation of potential military flashpoints in Syria and Ukraine was producing an extremely dangerous world situation, a warning he regularly repeated in his weekly radio discussions. In one of his last broadcasts prior to his death from cancer last year at age 81, Cohen suggested that our current confrontation with Russia might be even more perilous than what we had faced at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, yet almost none of our insouciant media outlets recognized that our government policies were threatening to unleash a new world war.
Unfortunately, the editorial decisions of Cohen’s own magazine may have considerably diminished the impact of his very important message. The scholar was arguing our media and political policies were raising the terrible risk of war with nuclear-armed Russia, yet I don’t recall any Nation cover-stories highlighting that danger, and although its website hosted his weekly podcasts and very occasionally ran his articles, such material was usually buried in obscurity so that it attracted minimal coverage and discussion. Although this defensiveness may have been necessary to avoid a backlash from angry subscribers, the obvious result was to minimize the gravity of Cohen’s message. Why should Nation readers take his dire warnings of global war seriously if Nation editors apparently did not? Indeed, once I made arrangements in late 2019 to begin republishing and regularly featuring Cohen’s columns and radio shows, they attracted far more interest and supportive comments on our website than they did on his own, demonstrating the huge ideological hurdles he had faced from his own community.
Cohen may or may not have been aware of the eerie parallel between his own predicament and a similar situation that had unfolded at that same publication around the time of his birth in 1938. From 1900 to the mid-1930s, the Nation had been owned and edited by Oswald Garrison Villard, a name now almost forgotten but once one of the leading liberal figures of the era, co-founder of the NAACP and grandson of famed Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, while also ranking as one of America’s foremost anti-imperialists and anti-militarists. His father had been a German immigrant, and when he published writings critical of American involvement in World War I, his magazine was legally suppressed by the harsh wartime censorship laws, being temporarily banned from the US mails. But by the mid-1920s, the overwhelming majority of both elite and ordinary Americans had swung around to his position, and concluded that his opposition to our participation in the Great War had been correct all along.
Although he finally sold the Nation in 1935 during the depths of the Great Depression, the magazine he had run for more than three decades continued to feature his weekly commentary, which strongly supported FDR’s New Deal policies and fiercely criticized Hitler and the Nazis. But near the end of the 1930s, he grew alarmed that another world war might be on the horizon, once again involving America, and his anti-war views began sharply diverging from those of the other writers, so that his decades-long column was finally dropped in 1940. Diverting a sweeping ideological tide had proved as difficult for Villard in the late 1930s as it became for Cohen three generations later.
Cohen’s dire warnings about America’s anti-Russia policies gained little traction in the public debate, partly because the dismissive placement of his articles severely undercut their impact. About a decade earlier I had come across a very similar example, also involving the Nation:
As the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and two George Polk awards, the late Sydney Schanberg was widely regarded as one of the greatest American war correspondents of the twentieth century. His exploits during our ill-fated Indo-Chinese War had become the basis of the Oscar-winning film The Killing Fields, which probably established him as the most famous journalist in America after Woodward and Bernstein of Watergate fame, and he had also served as a top editor at The New York Times. A decade ago, he published his greatest expose, providing a mountain of evidence that America had deliberately left behind hundreds of POWs in Vietnam and he fingered then-presidential candidate John McCain as the central figure in the subsequent official cover-up of that monstrous betrayal. The Arizona senator had traded on his national reputation as our best-known former POW to bury the story of those abandoned prisoners, permitting America’s political establishment to escape serious embarrassment. As a result, Sen. McCain earned the lush rewards of our generous ruling elites, much like his own father Admiral John S. McCain, Sr., who had led the cover-up of the deliberate 1967 Israeli attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, which killed or wounded over 200 American servicemen.
As publisher of The American Conservative, I ran Schanberg’s remarkable piece as a cover story, and across several websites over the years it has surely been read many hundreds of thousands of times, including a huge spike around the time of McCain’s death. I therefore find it rather difficult to believe that the many journalists investigating McCain’s background might have remained unaware of this material. Yet no hints of these facts were provided in any of the articles appearing in any remotely prominent media outlet as can be verified by searching for web pages containing “McCain and Schanberg” dated around the time of the Senator’s passing.
- John McCain and the POW Cover-Up
Sydney Schanberg • May 25, 2010 • 8,200 Words
Schanberg’s remarkable material surely constituted one of the greatest American scandals of the second half of the twentieth century but despite his repeated efforts, almost our entire media avoided considering the information. As he recounted in 2010:
In recent years, I have offered my POW stories to a long list of editors of leading newspapers, magazines, and significant websites that do original reporting. And when they decline my offerings, I have urged them to do their own POW investigation with their own staff under their own supervision.
The list of these news organizations includes the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, New York magazine, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Vanity Fair, Salon, Slate, Talking Points Memo, ProPublica, Politico, and others. To my knowledge, none have attempted or produced a piece.
Their explanations for avoiding the story have never rung true. I have chosen not to use the names of the editors or the texts of their rejection messages, which could embarrass some of them. This is not a personal difference, but a professional one. I have decided instead to summarize their comments.
Some said they didn’t have enough staff to do the story. Others said the story was “old”—even though we have never found out what happened to the missing prisoners. I sensed often that these news people were afraid—that the story was too hot for them to handle because it could cause too many repercussions. Aren’t journalists supposed to look into difficult stories and the wrongdoings of important people? Aren’t they also supposed to expect blowback?
I asked these editors about the mountain of hard evidence attesting to the existence of abandoned men. In particular, I asked about the witness evidence, the 1,600 firsthand live sightings of American prisoners after the war. Did these journalists believe that every last one of the 1,600 witnesses was lying or mistaken? Many of these Vietnamese witnesses were interrogated by U.S. intelligence officers. Many were given lie-detector tests. They passed. The interrogators’ reports graded the bulk of the witnesses “credible.” A few of the journalists I have nudged to go after the story acknowledged that their paper or magazine or TV network had “blind spots.” But again and again, the vast majority have hemmed and hawed and said they had “doubts” about the POW information. Isn’t doing the reporting the best way to confirm or dispel doubts?
I would run through the long gamut of known intelligence—official radio intercepts of prisoners being moved to and from labor camps in Laos, satellite photos, conversations overheard by Secret Service agents inside the White House, ransom offers from Hanoi through third parties, sworn public testimony by three U.S. defense secretaries who served during the Vietnam era that “men were left behind.” The press wasn’t and isn’t interested.
Sen. John McCain had been a central figure in the POW Cover-Up, and his nomination as the Republican candidate for president in 2008 seemed to make it impossible for the media to ignore Schanberg’s remarkable findings as I explained in my introduction to our cover symposium:
In the closing days of the 2008 presidential campaign, I clicked an ambiguous link on an obscure website and stumbled into a parallel universe.
During the previous two years of that long election cycle, the media narrative surrounding Sen. John McCain had been one of unblemished heroism and selfless devotion to his fellow servicemen. Thousands of stories on television and in print had told of his brutal torture at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors, his steely refusal to crack, and his later political career aimed at serving the needs of fellow Vietnam veterans. This storyline had first reached the national stage during his 2000 campaign, then returned with even greater force as he successfully sought the 2008 Republican nomination. Seemingly accepted by all, this history became a centerpiece of his campaign. McCain’s supporters touted his heroism as proof that he possessed the character to be entrusted with America’s highest office, while his detractors merely sought to change the subject.
Once I clicked that link, I encountered a very different John McCain…
Yet what I found most remarkable about Schanberg’s essay were not its explosive historical claims but the absolute silence with which they were received in the mainstream media. In 2008, John McCain’s heroic war record and personal patriotism were central to his quest for supreme power—a goal he came very close to achieving. But when one of America’s most eminent journalists published an exhaustive report that the candidate had instead served as one of the leading figures in a monumental act of national treachery, our media took no notice. McCain’s public critics and the operatives of his Democratic opponent might eagerly seize upon every rumor that the senator had had a private lunch with a disreputable corporate lobbyist, but they ignored documented claims that he had covered up the killing of hundreds of American POWs. These allegations were serious enough and sufficiently documented to warrant national attention—yet they received none.
Despite the enormous relevance to the 2008 Republican presidential campaign, almost every publication in America still shut its doors to Schanberg’s explosive material. As a highly-ideological and partisan magazine, the Nation had hardly been his first choice—or even his fifth—but only its editors eventually agreed to run Schanberg’s massive expose against the Republican candidate whom they were already attacking on all other possible grounds. However, once they did so, they sat on the story and repeatedly delayed publication, apparently fearful of the controversy that the article would unleash, while demanding that the text be cut and cut again. Thus, Schanberg’s landmark expose appeared only in severely mutilated form, slashed by 70% in length and released only a few weeks before the vote. The piece was buried on a couple of inside pages, while the website version was hedged about with the disclaimers of opposing perspectives.
By running the piece in such an attenuated condition and understated manner, the Nation editors were strongly suggesting that they themselves seriously doubted its conclusions, naturally raising the question of why any of their readers should react differently. I think that an article with such massive implications should either appear as a high-profile cover-story or else be rejected outright. And for the record, I should note that the Nation’s Executive Editor at the time was the same Betsy Reed whom Greenwald and his allies would treat with such scorn at the Intercept a dozen years later. The complete version of Schanberg’s work only survived because Hamilton Fish was willing to run it separately on his affiliated Nation Institute website, which is where I encountered it and later arranged for its republication.
A dozen years after Schanberg had encountered such enormous obstacles in getting his important work published, similar difficulties befell one of his former Times colleagues, but this time ending with a surprising twist.
Nicholas Wade certainly ranks as one of America’s most distinguished science journalists, having spent forty-five years at Nature, Science, and the New York Times, including serving as the Science Editor of our national newspaper of record. He is also an award-winning author, whose numerous books that have attracted glowing praise.
After retiring from the Times in 2012, he began focusing entirely upon book projects, but the global Covid epidemic that began in early 2020 naturally attracted his attention, and he gradually became skeptical of the media coverage, which almost uniformly portrayed the virus as natural. Instead, his review of the published sources together with his own analysis convinced him that the virus that had already killed many hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions around the world had probably been produced in a laboratory. Finally, on May 2, 2021, he quietly released his closely-reasoned 11,000 word article on the Medium blogging website, lacking any endorsements or prestigious imprimatur, and it was republished a couple of days later by the low-traffic website of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:
- Origin of Covid — Following the Clues
Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?
Nicholas Wade • Medium • May 2, 2021 • 11,000 Words
As I described what followed:
Despite such extremely inauspicious beginnings and the cautious and subdued tone of his text, the consequences were dramatic. Although nearly all the facts and evidence that Wade discussed had already been publicly available for most of the past year, his careful analysis and considerable journalistic credibility quickly transformed the intellectual landscape. He began his long article by explaining that from February 2020 onward a huge ideological bubble had been inflated by political propaganda masquerading as science, a bubble that was afterwards maintained through a combination of journalistic cowardice and incompetence. President Donald Trump had proclaimed that the virus was artificial, so our media therefore insisted that it must be natural, even if all the evidence seemed to suggest otherwise.
The floodgates soon opened and over the next few weeks far more was written on that subject than had been produced during the previous twelve months combined. In just one example, Donald G. McNeil, Jr., the forty-five year veteran of the Times who had spearheaded his paper’s Covid coverage, published a striking mea culpa and embraced the lab-leak hypothesis, admitting that he and other Timesmen had previously dismissed the idea as “far right” lunacy, closely associated with “Pizzagate, the Plandemic, Kung Flu, Q-Anon, Stop the Steal, and the January 6 Capitol invasion.”
- How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love the Lab-Leak Theory
Donald G. McNeil, Jr. • Medium • May 17, 2021 • 4,700 Words
Within another week, Glenn Greenwald was highlighting the ongoing upheaval in the views of America’s media and scientific establishment:
It's stunning how quickly, in mainstream sectors, this traveled from "insane unhinged conspiracy theory that must be censored from the internet as harmful disinformation" to "serious and plausible possibility for which rational evidence exists."
Let's learn lessons from this. https://t.co/aPnY0JLRJX
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) May 25, 2021
By May 26th, the White House announced that President Joe Biden had ordered America’s intelligence agencies to produce a comprehensive report on the true origins of the Covid outbreak, and a couple of days later, the Wall Street Journal carried the headline “Facebook Ends Ban on Posts Asserting Covid-19 Was Man-Made.” So in less than one month a self-published article had already changed what nearly three billion individuals around the world were allowed to read and write.
A media analyst subsequently described the stiking impact Wade’s article was having upon other journalists:
Notable left-wing journalists like Thomas Frank (Guardian, 6/1/21) and Jonathan Cook (6/1/21) have cited Wade’s article as having “dynamited” their “complacency” on the debate, with Cook claiming that it “blew open the doors that had been kept tightly shut on the lab-leak hypothesis.”
Considering the millions of deaths and massive disruption, the Covid epidemic is arguably the most important global event since World War II. Wade’s lengthy article was certainly not the sole cause of the sweeping reassessment of its origins, but it did catalyze the process, being widely cited by opinion-leaders to explain their changed perspective. Given the importance of the topic, the magnitude of the public reversal, and the speed with which the transformation occurred, I can think of no other article in recent decades that had a greater immediate impact upon the world.
But there was also a revealing backstory to its appearance. I later learned that during 2021, Wade had actually submitted his seminal piece to a wide range of different publications across the ideological spectrum, all of which rejected it, so that he ultimately abandoned his efforts and simply posted what he had written on the Medium website, where he assumed it would vanish without a trace. Thus, the obstacles he faced were quite similar to those that Schanberg had encountered a decade earlier with his own important analysis, but this time events followed the happy ending of a Hollywood script. Apparently the most significant articles by distinguished journalists are sometimes the ones that meet the greatest resistance from timorous and complacent editors.
The crippled version of Schanberg’s important article had appeared in the October 6, 2008 edition of The Nation, buried deep in the back pages. At that time, I was entirely unfamiliar with either the author or his remarkable findings, but by coincidence just the previous week I had published my first article in many years, a cover story in The American Conservative that paid tribute to an individual whose equally fierce determination to speak the truth on crucial matters had led to his own blacklisting from the mainstream media.
My old friend Bill Odom, the three star general who ran the NSA for Ronald Reagan, had spent years as one of the most respected figures on national security issues within the East Coast establishment, directing those studies at the Hudson Institute while serving as an adjunct professor at Yale. But once the Neocons seized control of the Bush Administration in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and moved our country towards its disastrous Iraq War, his strong opposition to that misbegotten project led to his complete media blacklisting, forcing him to publish his dissenting views on a small website rather than in the pages of our most influential newspapers. As a consequence, our country careened towards that foreign policy disaster without any adequate public debate:
The circumstances surrounding our Iraq War demonstrate this, certainly ranking it among the strangest military conflicts of modern times. The 2001 attacks in America were quickly ascribed to the radical Islamists of al-Qaeda, whose bitterest enemy in the Middle East had always been Saddam Hussein’s secular Baathist regime in Iraq. Yet through misleading public statements, false press leaks, and even forged evidence such as the “yellowcake” documents, the Bush administration and its neoconservative allies utilized the compliant American media to persuade our citizens that Iraq’s nonexistent WMDs posed a deadly national threat and required elimination by war and invasion. Indeed, for several years national polls showed that a large majority of conservatives and Republicans actually believed that Saddam was the mastermind behind 9/11 and the Iraq War was being fought as retribution. Consider how bizarre the history of the 1940s would seem if America had attacked China in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.
True facts were easily available to anyone paying attention in the years after 2001, but most Americans do not bother and simply draw their understanding of the world from what they are told by the major media, which overwhelmingly—almost uniformly—backed the case for war with Iraq; the talking heads on TV created our reality. Prominent journalists across the liberal and conservative spectrum eagerly published the most ridiculous lies and distortions passed on to them by anonymous sources, and stampeded Congress down the path to war.
The result was what my late friend Lt. Gen. Bill Odom rightly called the “greatest strategic disaster in United States history.” American forces suffered tens of thousands of needless deaths and injuries, while our country took a huge step toward national bankruptcy. Economics Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and others have estimated that with interest the total long-term cost of our two recent wars may reach as high as $5 or $6 trillion, or as much as $50,000 per American household, mostly still unpaid. Meanwhile, economist Edward Wolff has calculated that the Great Recession and its aftermath cut the personal net worth of the median American household to $57,000 in 2010 from a figure nearly twice as high three years earlier. Comparing these assets and liabilities, we see that the American middle class now hovers on the brink of insolvency, with the cost of our foreign wars being a leading cause.
But no one involved in the debacle ultimately suffered any serious consequences, and most of the same prominent politicians and highly paid media figures who were responsible remain just as prominent and highly paid today. For most Americans, reality is whatever our media organs tell us, and since these have largely ignored the facts and adverse consequences of our wars in recent years, the American people have similarly forgotten. Recent polls show that only half the public today believes that the Iraq War was a mistake.
Author James Bovard has described our society as an “attention deficit democracy,” and the speed with which important events are forgotten once the media loses interest might surprise George Orwell.
And Odom was just one of many who suffered that fate as I noted a couple of years ago:
In the patriotic fervor following the 9/11 attacks, few national media figures dared challenge the plans and proposals of the Bush Administration, with Paul Krugman’s column at the Times being the rare exception; expressing “unpatriotic sentiments” as very broadly defined could severely impact a career. This was especially true of the electronic media, with its vastly greater reach and therefore subject to more extreme pressure. During 2002 and 2003, it was very uncommon to find an Iraq War naysayer anywhere on network television or among the fledgling cable alternatives, and even MSNBC, the least popular and most liberal of the latter soon began a sharp ideological crackdown.
For decades, Phil Donahue had pioneered the daytime television talk show, and in 2002 he revived it to high ratings on MSNBC, but in early 2003 his show was canceled, with a leaked memo indicated that his opposition to the looming war was the cause. Conservative Pat Buchanan and liberal Bill Press, both Iraq War critics, hosted a top-rated debate show on the same network, allowing them to spar with their more pro-Bush opponents, but it too was cancelled for similar reasons. If the cable network’s most famous hosts and highest rated programs were subject to summary termination, lesser ranking personalities surely drew the appropriate conclusions about the risks of crossing particular ideological lines.
Although the Internet was merely in its infancy during the years after 9/11 and still lacked the political weight of traditional television and newspapers, it did exist, so individuals purged for their political opinions could make their views known or at least explain what had befallen them. But in previous generations, no such effective means of direct communication was available, and dissenting voices simply disappeared, with few members of the educated public becoming aware of what had taken place.
Even most well-informed Americans have probably lived their lives in considerable ignorance of some of the great ideological purges of their own country’s twentieth century history, notably that of the early 1940s and World War II. Two decades ago I began building a digitized content system incorporating the near-complete archives of many of our leading periodicals of the last 150 years, and the scale of those past events soon became very apparent to me, as I have described:
I sometimes imagined myself a little like an earnest young Soviet researcher of the 1970s who began digging into the musty files of long-forgotten Kremlin archives and made some stunning discoveries. Trotsky was apparently not the notorious Nazi spy and traitor portrayed in all the textbooks, but instead had been the right-hand man of the sainted Lenin himself during the glorious days of the great Bolshevik Revolution, and for some years afterward had remained in the topmost ranks of the Party elite. And who were these other figures—Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Rykov—who also spent those early years at the very top of the Communist hierarchy? In history courses, they had barely rated a few mentions, as minor Capitalist agents who were quickly unmasked and paid for their treachery with their lives. How could the great Lenin, father of the Revolution, have been such an idiot to have surrounded himself almost exclusively with traitors and spies?
But unlike their Stalinist analogs from a couple of years earlier, the American victims who disappeared around 1940 were neither shot nor Gulaged, but merely excluded from the mainstream media that defines our reality, thereby being blotted out from our memory so that future generations gradually forgot that they had ever lived.
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.
An even stronger American parallel to Taylor was that of historian Harry Elmer Barnes, a figure almost unknown to me, but in his day an academic of great influence and stature:
Imagine my shock at later discovering that Barnes had actually been one of the most frequent early contributors to Foreign Affairs, serving as a primary book reviewer for that venerable publication from its 1922 founding onward, while his stature as one of America’s premier liberal academics was indicated by his scores of appearances in The Nation and The New Republic throughout that decade. Indeed, he is credited with having played a central role in “revising” the history of the First World War so as to remove the cartoonish picture of unspeakable German wickedness left behind as a legacy of the dishonest wartime propaganda produced by the opposing British and American governments. And his professional stature was demonstrated by his thirty-five or more books, many of them influential academic volumes, along with his numerous articles in The American Historical Review, Political Science Quarterly, and other leading journals.
A few years ago I happened to mention Barnes to an eminent American academic scholar whose general focus in political science and foreign policy was quite similar, and yet the name meant nothing. By the end of the 1930s, Barnes had become a leading critic of America’s proposed involvement in World War II, and was permanently “disappeared” as a consequence, barred from all mainstream media outlets, while a major newspaper chain was heavily pressured into abruptly terminating his long-running syndicated national column in May 1940.
Many of Barnes’ friends and allies fell in the same ideological purge, which he described in his own writings and which continued after the end of the war:
Over a dozen years after his disappearance from our national media, Barnes managed to publish Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, a lengthy collection of essays by scholars and other experts discussing the circumstances surrounding America’s entrance into World War II, and have it produced and distributed by a small printer in Idaho. His own contribution was a 30,000 word essay entitled “Revisionism and the Historical Blackout” and discussed the tremendous obstacles faced by the dissident thinkers of that period.
The book itself was dedicated to the memory of his friend, historian Charles A. Beard. Since the early years of the 20th century, Beard had ranked as an intellectual figure of the greatest stature and influence, co-founder of The New School in New York and serving terms as president of both The American Historical Association and The American Political Science Association. As a leading supporter of the New Deal economic policies, he was overwhelmingly lauded for his views.
Yet once he turned against Roosevelt’s bellicose foreign policy, publishers shut their doors to him, and only his personal friendship with the head of the Yale University Press allowed his critical 1948 volume President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, 1941 to even appear in print. Beard’s stellar reputation seems to have begun a rapid decline from that point onward, so that by 1968 historian Richard Hofstadter could write: “Today Beard’s reputation stands like an imposing ruin in the landscape of American historiography. What was once the grandest house in the province is now a ravaged survival”. Indeed, Beard’s once-dominant “economic interpretation of history” might these days almost be dismissed as promoting “dangerous conspiracy theories,” and I suspect few non-historians have even heard of him.
Another major contributor to the Barnes volume was William Henry Chamberlin, who for decades had been ranked among America’s leading foreign policy journalists, with more than 15 books to his credit, most of them widely and favorably reviewed. Yet America’s Second Crusade, his critical 1950 analysis of America’s entry into World War II, failed to find a mainstream publisher, and when it did appear was widely ignored by reviewers. Prior to its publication, his byline had regularly run in our most influential national magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly and Harpers. But afterward, his writing was almost entirely confined to small circulation newsletters and periodicals, appealing to narrow conservative or libertarian audiences.
In these days of the Internet, anyone can easily establish a website to publish his views, thus making them immediately available to everyone in the world. Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter can bring interesting or controversial material to the attention of millions with just a couple of mouse-clicks, completely bypassing the need for the support of establishmentarian intermediaries. It is easy for us to forget just how extremely challenging the dissemination of dissenting ideas remained back in the days of print, paper, and ink, and recognize that an individual purged from his regular outlet might require many years to regain any significant foothold for the distribution of his work.
During that period, pioneer aviator Charles Lindbergh was a national hero of the greatest stature, regularly ranked among the most admired men in America and the anti-war policies he publicly espoused probably had 80% popular support. But he too fell in that political purge:
Alarmed by their growing fear that America might be drawn into another world war without voters having had any say in the matter, a group of Yale Law students launched an anti-interventionist political organization that they named “The America First Committee,” and it quickly grew to 800,000 members, becoming the largest grass-roots political organization in our national history. Numerous prominent public figures joined or supported it, with the chairman of Sears, Roebuck serving as its head, and its youthful members included future presidents John F. Kennedy and Gerald Ford as well as other notables such as Gore Vidal, Potter Stewart, and Sargent Schriver. Flynn served as chairman of the New York City chapter, and the organization’s leading public spokesman was famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, who for decades had probably ranked as America’s greatest national hero.
Throughout 1941, enormous crowds across the country attended anti-war rallies addressed by Lindbergh and the other leaders, with many millions more listening to the radio broadcasts of the events. Mahl shows that British agents and their American supporters meanwhile continued their covert operations to counter this effort by organizing various political front-groups advocating American military involvement, and employing fair means or foul to neutralize their political opponents. Jewish individuals and organizations seem to have played an enormously disproportionate role in that effort.
At the same time, the Roosevelt Administration escalated its undeclared war against German submarines and other naval forces in the Atlantic, unsuccessfully seeking to provoke an incident that might stampede the country into war. FDR also promoted the most bizarre and ridiculous propaganda inventions aimed at terrifying naive Americans, such as claiming to have proof that the Germans—who possessed no large surface navy and were completely stymied by the English Channel—had formulated concrete plans to leap across two thousand miles of the Atlantic Ocean and seize control of Latin America. British agents supplied some of the crude forgeries he cited as evidence.
These facts, now firmly established by decades of scholarship, provide some necessary context to Lindbergh’s famously controversial speech at an America First rally in September 1941. At that event, he charged that three groups in particular were “pressing this country toward war[:] the British, the Jewish, and the Roosevelt Administration,” and thereby unleashed an enormous firestorm of media attacks and denunciations, including widespread accusations of anti-Semitism and Nazi sympathies. Given the realities of the political situation, Lindbergh’s statement constituted a perfect illustration of Michael Kinsley’s famous quip that “a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” But as a consequence, Lindbergh’s once-heroic reputation suffered enormous and permanent damage, with the campaign of vilification echoing for the remaining three decades of his life, and even well beyond. Although he was not entirely purged from public life, his standing was certainly never even remotely the same.
The controversies surrounding America’s entrance into World War II had toppled some of our most influential figures in journalism and academia as well as politics, but echoes of that Great Purge also continued into later generations as well.
More than twenty years after the start of that worldwide conflict, renowned Oxford historian A.J.P. Taylor published his classic 1961 work Origins of the Second World War. As I wrote two years ago:
Hitler’s final demand, that 95% German Danzig be returned to Germany just as its inhabitants desired, was an absolutely reasonable one, and only a dreadful diplomatic blunder by the British had led the Poles to refuse the request, thereby provoking the war. The widespread later claim that Hitler sought to conquer the world was totally absurd, and the German leader had actually made every effort to avoid war with Britain or France. Indeed, he was generally quite friendly towards the Poles and had been hoping to enlist Poland as a German ally against the menace of Stalin’s Soviet Union.
The recent 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict that consumed so many tens of millions of lives naturally provoked numerous historical articles, and the resulting discussion led me to dig out my old copy of Taylor’s short volume, which I reread for the first time in nearly forty years. I found it just as masterful and persuasive as I had back in my college dorm room days, and the glowing cover-blurbs suggested some of the immediate acclaim the work had received. The Washington Post lauded the author as “Britain’s most prominent living historian,” World Politics called it “Powerfully argued, brilliantly written, and always persuasive,” The New Statesman, Britain leading leftist magazine, described it as “A masterpiece: lucid, compassionate, beautifully written,” and the august Times Literary Supplement characterized it as “simple, devastating, superlatively readable, and deeply disturbing.” As an international best-seller, it surely ranks as Taylor’s most famous work, and I can easily understand why it was still on my college required reading list nearly two decades after its original publication.
Yet in revisiting Taylor’s ground-breaking study, I made a remarkable discovery. Despite all the international sales and critical acclaim, the book’s findings soon aroused tremendous hostility in certain quarters. Taylor’s lectures at Oxford had been enormously popular for a quarter century, but as a direct result of the controversy “Britain’s most prominent living historian” was summarily purged from the faculty not long afterwards. At the beginning of his first chapter, Taylor had noted how strange he found it that more than twenty years after the start of the world’s most cataclysmic war no serious history had been produced carefully analyzing the outbreak. Perhaps the retaliation that he encountered led him to better understand part of that puzzle.
A generation later, a much more extreme fate claimed one of Taylor’s fellow countrymen in the same academic discipline. With the possible exception of Arnold Toynbee, I think that David Irving probably ranks as the most internationally successful British historian of the last one hundred years, and his ground-breaking archival discoveries will surely constitute a central pillar of our future understanding of World War II long after almost all of his current contemporaries have been forgotten. Having now read a dozen of his important volumes, I can certainly attest to the quality of his work.
But his research findings challenged official orthodoxy even far more strongly than did those of Taylor, and while the latter was merely purged from his quarter-century of teaching at Oxford, Irving was denounced, vilified, and blacklisted from all mainstream publishers, then eventually bankrupted and even imprisoned.
Indeed, Irving has now suffered the fate of a double purge. By the late 1990s his relentless enemies had successfully excluded him from the elite newspapers and book publishers that he had once dominated, but after his riveting public lectures began gaining him a renewed following on Youtube a few years ago, these were also purged from the Internet.
Irving’s towering historical scholarship was regarded as so threatening to our ruling elites that gangs of violent young thugs were enlisted to break up his public talks, and the report of such an attack on a private restaurant in Chicago a dozen years ago was probably the first time I had ever seen mention of “antifa” in print.
Now in his mid-80s, Irving stands at the very twilight of his six decade scholarly career, but his dozens of lengthy historical volumes constitute his legacy, while some of his important lectures from thirty years ago are still available for watching on Bitchute:
The long list of cases I have discussed includes many of our most illustrious journalists, academics, and other public figures, and the reasons they received such treatment is hardly difficult to understand.
Sensible people do not let themselves fall prey to rule by authority, and if the arguments advanced by these highly-regarded individuals had been weak or fallacious, they could and should have been effectively refuted. But the problem faced by their powerful opponents was that the evidence and analysis they presented was extremely strong, and backed by their credibility and past record, might easily have carried the day even against the multitude of their public opponents. So the answer was not to debate them—a debate that might easily be lost—but instead to “disappear” them.
The effectiveness of such disappearance techniques has varied considerably with the changes in communication technologies and the acceptable social customs in restricting them. Throughout most of the last century, popular information came from radio, television, and film together with the less ephemeral print media of newspapers, books, and magazines. Ownership of these means of communications was heavily concentrated and huge capital costs were required to launch any new competitor, so our media infrastructure included a series of powerful choke-points on public discussion, with ideological purges being relatively easy to implement.
The rise of the Internet over the last generation completely upended this framework, destroying the power of many existing media organs and allowing individuals to create their own alternative outlets almost on a shoestring. With capital costs so greatly reduced as a factor, credible individuals with important things to say could almost single-handedly launch a significant media operation. A year after leaving the Intercept, Glenn Greenwald today probably has far more public impact through his own Substack columns than does the entire media enterprise he abandoned, despite the later’s many dozens of staffers and $100 million in invested funding. Two or three decades ago, his situation would have been entirely different.
But over the last few years, new controls have been reimposed upon the once untrammeled Internet through the rise of dominant gatekeepers such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, and the increasing willingness of these corporate monopolies to exercise that power and silence the voices of those who strayed too far outside the acceptable line.
I would hardly place myself in the august company of most of the figures whose media histories I have described, but I have experienced similar obstacles. Just days after writing my first April 2020 article presenting some of the important, unreported facts about the global Covid epidemic, our entire website was suddenly banned by Facebook and deranked by Google. This harsh blow has drastically reduced the distribution of the crucial information I have spent the last year attempting to disseminate:
For example, in 2017 Trump brought in Robert Kadlec, who since the 1990s had been one of America’s leading biowarfare advocates. The following year in 2018 a mysterious viral epidemic hit China’s poultry industry and in 2019, another mysterious viral epidemic devastated China’s pork industry…
From the earliest days of the administration, leading Trump officials had regarded China as America’s most formidable geopolitical adversary, and orchestrated a policy of confrontation. Then from January to August 2019, Kadlec’s department ran the “Crimson Contagion” simulation exercise, involving the hypothetical outbreak of a dangerous respiratory viral disease in China, which eventually spreads into the United States, with the participants focusing on the necessary measures to control it in this country. As one of America’s foremost biowarfare experts, Kadlec had emphasized the unique effectiveness of bioweapons as far back as the late 1990s and we must commend him for his considerable prescience in having organized a major viral epidemic exercise in 2019 that was so remarkably similar to what actually began in the real world just a few months later.
With leading Trump officials greatly enamored of biowarfare, fiercely hostile to China, and running large-scale 2019 simulations on the consequences of a mysterious viral outbreak in that country, it seems entirely unreasonable to completely disregard the possibility that such extremely reckless plans may have been privately discussed and eventually implemented, though probably without presidential authorization.
But with the horrific consequences of our own later governmental inaction being obvious, elements within our intelligence agencies have sought to demonstrate that they were not the ones asleep at the switch. Earlier this month, an ABC News story cited four separate government sources to reveal that as far back as late November, a special medical intelligence unit within our Defense Intelligence Agency had produced a report warning that an out-of-control disease epidemic was occurring in the Wuhan area of China, and widely distributed that document throughout the top ranks of our government, warning that steps should be taken to protect US forces based in Asia. After the story aired, a Pentagon spokesman officially denied the existence of that November report, while various other top level government and intelligence officials refused to comment. But a few days later, Israeli television mentioned that in November American intelligence had indeed shared such a report on the Wuhan disease outbreak with its NATO and Israeli allies, thus seeming to independently confirm the complete accuracy of the original ABC News story and its several government sources.
It therefore appears that elements of the Defense Intelligence Agency were aware of the deadly viral outbreak in Wuhan more than a month before any officials in the Chinese government itself. Unless our intelligence agencies have pioneered the technology of precognition, I think this may have happened for the same reason that arsonists have the earliest knowledge of future fires.
According to these multiply-sourced mainstream media accounts, by “the second week of November” our Defense Intelligence Agency was already preparing a secret report warning of a “cataclysmic” disease outbreak taking place in Wuhan. Yet at that point, probably no more than a couple of dozen individuals had been infected in that city of 11 million, with few of those yet having any serious symptoms. The implications are rather obvious. Furthermore:
As the coronavirus gradually began to spread beyond China’s own borders, another development occurred that greatly multiplied my suspicions. Most of these early cases had occurred exactly where one might expect, among the East Asian countries bordering China. But by late February Iran had become the second epicenter of the global outbreak. Even more surprisingly, its political elites had been especially hard-hit, with a full 10% of the entire Iranian parliament soon infected and at least a dozen of its officials and politicians dying of the disease, including some who were quite senior. Indeed, Neocon activists on Twitter began gleefully noting that their hated Iranian enemies were now dropping like flies.
Let us consider the implications of these facts. Across the entire world the only political elites that have yet suffered any significant human losses have been those of Iran, and they died at a very early stage, before significant outbreaks had even occurred almost anywhere else in the world outside China. Thus, we have America assassinating Iran’s top military commander on Jan. 2nd and then just a few weeks later large portions of the Iranian ruling elites became infected by a mysterious and deadly new virus, with many of them soon dying as a consequence. Could any rational individual possibly regard this as a mere coincidence?
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- American Pravda: The Legacy of Sydney Schanberg
- American Pravda: George Orwell’s Virus Lab-Leak
- The Life and Legacy of Lt. Gen. William Odom
- American Pravda: Our Great Purge of the 1940s
- American Pravda: Understanding World War II
- The Remarkable Historiography of David Irving