Dear Reader (and those with a team of a million monkeys banging on typewriters that independently came up with the contents of this e-mail years ago),
I’m sitting here at the Knoxville airport wondering what to write about. I just gave a speech at the University of Tennessee, where blood runs orange and even the mountains smoke.
Speaking of smoking . . .
I have some news to report (contrary to everything I’ve said about this not being an actual newsletter). Word on the street is that when Christopher Hitchens was here earlier this year for a speech, he smoked like an expectant father with the clap. I don’t really care, but Vanity Fair made a big deal about the fact he had successfully conquered the nicotine demon. And I did not say that this would be important news.
Speaking of Hitch . . .
He has a piece in Slate in which he reviews a new book on North Korea (emphasis mine):
Karl Marx in his Eighteenth Brumaire wrote that those trying to master a new language always begin by translating it back into the tongue they already know. And I was limiting myself (and ill-serving my readers) in using the pre-existing imagery of Stalinism and Eastern deference. I have recently donned the bifocals provided by B. R. Myers in his electrifying new book The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters, and I understand now that I got the picture either upside down or inside out. The whole idea of communism is dead in North Korea, and its most recent “Constitution, “ “ratified “ last April, has dropped all mention of the word. The analogies to Confucianism are glib, and such parallels with it as can be drawn are intended by the regime only for the consumption of outsiders. Myers makes a persuasive case that we should instead regard the Kim Jong-il system as a phenomenon of the very extreme and pathological right. It is based on totalitarian “military first” mobilization, is maintained by slave labor, and instills an ideology of the most unapologetic racism and xenophobia.
It seems Hitch is still translating things back into his original language. Readers of Liberal Fascism will know where I’m coming from here. Why does North Korea — socialist, totalitarian, avowedly Marxist North Korea – reside on the “right”? Because it is racist and militaristic. Well, the Soviet Union and China were and are racist and militaristic; are they on the right now, too? Hitch is certainly free to associate racism, militarism, and xenophobia with the Right. But if he does so, he should be more explicit about it, and he’s going to need to move a lot more pieces around on his ideological chess board.
Speaking of the Soviet Union . . .
Last spring, after Obama gave a speech proclaiming nuclear weapons “the Cold War’s most dangerous legacy” I disagreed in the Corner. Here’s part of what I wrote:
Anyway, what really interests me is the question of what the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War really was, if it wasn’t the existence of nukes.
Some might say the military-industrial complex or the national-security state. But not me. To me, the most obvious dangerous legacy of the Cold War would have to be the damage the Soviets did to the world. I don’t mean the millions they murdered; those dead do not threaten us now, even if they should haunt us.
I mean the relentless distortion of the truth, the psychological violence they visited on the West and the World via their useful idiots and their agents. I’m thinking not merely of the intellectual corruption of the American Left (which even folks like Richard Rorty had to concede), but the corruption of reformers and their movements around the globe. Soviet propaganda still contaminates, while nuclear fallout does not. Lies about America, the West, and the nature of democratic capitalism live on throughout the third world and in radioactive pockets on American campuses.
The Soviet effort to foster wars of national liberation, to poison the minds of the “Bandung Generation, “ to deracinate cultures from their own indigenous building blocks of democracy, to destroy non-Marxist competitors interested in reform, to create evil and despotic regimes that are seen as “authentic “ because they represent the “true will “ of their subjugated and beaten down peoples: these seem to me to amount to the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War. Not least because it was those sorts of efforts that gave birth to North Korea in the first place.
This came to mind after reading a post by Jay Richards at the American Enterprise Institute’s Enterprise Blog on the Soviet Union’s relationship to liberation theology.
A new article in the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence by Robert Chapman — a former CIA operative — apparently details how the KGB promoted liberation theology around the world. I haven’t seen the article — I let my subscription lapse; it was either that or Black Tail — but according to Richards:
[Chapman] argues that the KGB infiltrated the Russian Orthodox Church through Metropolitan Nikodim, the Russian Orthodoxy’s second-ranking prelate. Nikodim was a proponent of liberation theology. Nikodim was active in the otherwise-Protestant World Council of Churches. And the WCC, of course, became an actively left-wing organization during the last half of the 20th century.
Chapman also details the growth of liberation theology in Latin America — and the Vatican’s struggles with it — and the growth of black liberation theology in the United States. Prominent proponents of the latter include James Cone and . . . Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
And then he quotes Chapman directly:
Without doubt, the Theology of Liberation doctrine is one of the most enduring and powerful to emerge from the KGB’s headquarters. The doctrine asks the poor and downtrodden to revolt and form a Communist government, not in the name of Marx or Lenin, but in continuing the work of Jesus Christ, a revolutionary who opposed economic and social discrimination.
A friend of mine, a head of Catholic social services in my area and formerly a priest, is a liberation theologian. He has made a number of humanitarian trips to Central America and told me, “liberation theology is alive and well.” The same can be said of its sibling in the United States.
I think this is one of the most fascinating and under-explored areas of 20th-century history. Not just the liberation theology angle, but the whole effort by the Soviets to manipulate world opinion, and thereby politics, in countless and often little-understood ways. So many of the conspiracy theories that have inflamed the moonbat Left over the years were, at least in part, psyop cons by the Soviets. Some scholars made their careers by making pro-Soviet arguments in good faith and then being rewarded with more access to the Soviet Union. Some people were bribed and others simply flattered into aiding and abetting the Soviet cause. One technique was to plant propaganda in foreign papers with low or no standards and then get Western newspapers to pick up the story without any further investigation.
My Dad was a great student of this sort of thing, and he spoke of it often to me. Sometimes it went over my head:
Dad: Patrice Lumumba wasn’t killed by the CIA. He was killed by opposing Congolese forces. He was set up by Mobutu. The Soviets used African dupes and useful idiots in the Western press to cast Lumumba as a martyr against American imperialism and establish Mobutu as some kind of African Saladin.
Me (age 7): Um, okay Dad. But what do you think would happen if Superman fought the Hulk?
Mainstream historians have little inclination or incentive to explore this stuff, but we will never get a full accounting of the 20th century and how we got to where we are in the 21st without exploring it. I know from working on my own book that our conception of fascism is in many ways a product of direct and indirect Soviet propaganda efforts. (Oh, and before you get the crazy idea that this is a good book for me to write, I want you to put down the crack pipe.)
Speaking of the American Enterprise Institute . . .
I suppose I should break even more news to you folks. I’m going to AEI. No, no. I’m not leaving NR and have no desire ever to leave. Very little if anything around here should change. I will still be making rough-hewn and somewhat unpleasant-to-look-at kitty-litter sculptures with my words. I will still be hanging around the Corner like Bill Clinton outside a girls’ volleyball practice. I will still be dancing the Lambada with an inflatable Willmoore Kendall doll in Jack Fowler’s office when he’s not around. (“They don’t call it the Forbidden Dancepor nada! “ –Cosmo.)
But, I’m going to AEI to work on my next book and do some consulting and guest editing-writing-and-kitten-juggling for a year. I spent my formative years in Washington walking around with a system of constricting leather bindings and pulleys in my pants. But that’s not important right now. During that time, I worked at AEI (or in its orbit) and I’ve always wanted to go home again, at least to visit.
Speaking of Unclassified Detritus
What’s that? I wasn’t actually speaking of unclassified detritus? Whoops! Regardless, some random items worth throwing in here.
Random House informed me that the hardcover edition of Liberal Fascism went into its 19th printing this week.
I am 693 followers away from having 6,000 followers on Twitter, at which point the fifth dentist will cave and agree that Trident sugarless gum is the way to go.
I loved this headline from Instapundit. “RAHM EMANUEL COMPARES DEMOCRATS TO RETARDED PEOPLE, then apologizes to retarded people.”
I’m working on a piece for the magazine on Tom Friedman, about whom I’ve written quite a bit in the Corner and elsewhere. Indeed, I have a mild Friedman obsession. I’m not quite at the point where I kidnap and kill college co-eds to make a Tom Friedman suit, but it’s still not entirely healthy either. If anybody has suggestions for particularly egregious columns of his ( “I for one hail our new Chinese overlords, “ etc.), please let me know.
Special thanks to everyone who came out for the Knoxville talk. Having friends in the audience always makes a big difference, particularly when I’m doing the Dance of a Thousand Veils. But also when I’m just talking about the New Deal.
See you next week.