The Corner

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They Got It Wrong


Rereading John Pod’s review of “The Lives of Others” just now, I found one passage so powerful, and so just, that I could not resist offering it up.  (And what better talisman with which to ward off bad luck on Friday the 13th than moral acuity and gorgeous prose?)

I think there may be another reason for the reluctance of the makers of pop culture worldwide to reckon with communism, and that is shame. The ideological struggle against leftist totalitarianism was something that did not arouse the interest or enthusiasm of cultural elites in the West during the Cold War. Far from it; from the 1960s onward, the default position of the doyens of popular culture was a presumption in favor of the Communist struggle, as personified by Mao, the Viet Cong, Castro, the Sandinistas, El Salvador’s guerrillas, and the so-called African liberation movements.

This was not a reasoned, or thought-through, view. It was little more than fashion. And rarely, if ever, has history rendered a more devastating verdict on the wrongheadedness of fashionable Western groupthink than it did when the walls and statues came down, and Lenin was removed from his unholy pedestal.

They got it wrong. And though they may not know it, they are ashamed of it and do not wish to be reminded of it. Perhaps that’s why it took a 33-year-old to make this masterpiece–a 33-year-old who was too young during the Cold War to have joined any camp in any meaningful way.