The 19th-century French astronomer Alexis Bouvard deduced the existence of an as yet undiscovered eighth planet of the solar system by measuring the discrepancies between the predicted path of the planet Uranus and its telescopically observed positions at different points along its orbit. Later astronomers discovered “Planet X” — which was eventually named Neptune — in the precise orbital position laid out by Bouvard’s calculations.
We are in much the same predicament regarding the controversy over Diana West’s book American Betrayal. Based on perturbations in the scholarly orbits of numerous illustrious writers and editors, we may deduce the existence of a massive undiscovered black body. It’s out there somewhere, exerting its gravitational influence on its planetary neighbors in the ranks of conservative American literati. We can’t see Planet X, but we can observe its effects. We know it’s there.
No firm conclusions can be drawn about this mysterious astronomical object. Without access to sources on the editorial boards of FrontPage Magazine, Pajamas Media, National Review, etc., there is no way to determine the motivation behind the repeated, virulent, personal attacks against Diana West.
However, after pulling together information from a variety of sources, it’s possible to make some educated guesses. Although its exact position is not yet determined, Planet X is beginning to take shape out there in the night sky, blotting out segments of the starry host as it wanders past.
This essay is the conclusion of a post begun six weeks ago, just before I went to Warsaw (Part 1 is here). In the weeks since then, the attacks on Diana West have continued sporadically, penned in large part by the same detractors who had written previously, and published in the same venues. With the exception of Vladimir Bukovsky and Pavel Stroilov — whose validation of American Betrayal was the most significant work to date in support of Ms. West — no major writer has weighed on her behalf since I wrote Part 1 back in September.
Diana West has many influential friends, and her adversaries also have many friends, but most people — especially those she calls “the capital-p pundits” — seem determined to stay as far away as possible from this ugly fight. And who can blame them? Nobody wants to get themselves muddied up in a mess like this.
Yet a large number of ordinary people, small-fry-bloggers, and medium-size (“small-p”?) pundits — including Mr. McCain himself — have issued ringing declarations of support for Diana West and decried the ad-hominem attacks against her. Something out there is pulling the Capital-Ps away from any orbit that might intersect with public commentary on American Betrayal.
On October 31 Diana West was the guest of honor at the annual gathering of the Pumpkin Papers Irregulars, a group that honors the memory of Whittaker Chambers and his struggle against American Communism, and in particular his victory over Alger Hiss. Ms. West addressed the assembly about her book (see the link above for the full video of her speech).
M. Stanton Evans, one of the most respected experts on Soviet infiltration in the United States, has repeatedly and enthusiastically endorsed American Betrayal. So Diana West has earned the respect of many of the core writers who specialize in anti-communism. The notable exception is Ronald Radosh, who fired the first salvo in the war against American Betrayal with his attack at FPM in early August. Various acolytes followed suit over the next few weeks, the most prominent among them David Horowitz and Conrad Black.
Before Mr. Radosh brought his siege engines to bear against the book, it had been reviewed positively by a number of prominent conservatives, including Amity Shlaes, Monica Crowley, Brad Thor, and Laura Ingraham. After war was declared, however, silence descended among the best-known conservative writers and talking heads in America. It was left to the small-p pundits, Europeans, and the doughty irregulars of the blogosphere to defend Ms. West from all that personal vitriol. Notable stalwarts were Stacy McCain, John L. Work, David Solway, Edward Cline, Ruth King, Debra Burlingame, Andy Bostom, Hans Jansen, and Lars Hedegaard, among others.
The silence of the conservative lambs seems to have been prompted by the persistent lobbying of Ronald Radosh. During the early days of the controversy he sent out an email to a large list exhorting the recipients to condemn Diana West. With the exception of Conrad Black, no one seems to have taken him up on his call to arms and joined the fray. However, with the signal exceptions of Frank Gaffney and Vladimir Bukovsky, no conservative figure of national stature stood up to defend their colleague against the scurrilous personal bile being flung at her. They evidently assessed the odds, and determined that they didn’t have a dog in this fight — not if it meant going up against the likes of David Horowitz, Conrad Black, and Ronald Radosh.
This type of intimidation is nothing new. Back in the 1990s a young reporter at National Review wrote a piece about communists in Congress. After it appeared in print, Ronald Radosh called him up out of the blue and warned him that his career would go nowhere if he continued to write such articles.
So how does Mr. Radosh manage to wield such power over some of the most respected conservative writers and journalists? A former communist himself, he is fairly well-known for his works on communism, but hardly a major player on the literary scene. How is it that he exerts such a strong gravitational effect on the behavior of prominent writers?
One deduces the existence of a much larger body than Planet Radosh, based on the perturbations in numerous literary orbits.
However, it’s worth remembering that all but one of the targeted luminaries failed to join the Two-Minute Hate against Diana West. This tells us that the case against her was unable to withstand close scrutiny. A careful examination of the screeds against her reveals nothing except straw men, misrepresentations of what she said, and contemptuous name-calling, mostly written by people who had never read the book. No substantive criticism ever emerged. One may conclude that conservative writers of integrity and judgment examined the case and found it lacking on the merits.
The exception was Conrad Black, a friend of the late William F. Buckley Jr. and longtime associate of National Review. Since the war was declared in early August, he has contributed no fewer than four severely critical articles about Diana West and American Betrayal at Pajamas Media, NRO, and other online venues.
His latest broadside appeared yesterday at NRO. In his overview of the controversy, he notes:
Much of [the dispute] has been ad hominem slathering of considerable heat and at times effectiveness, and much has taken the form of group disparagements replete with arcane references to academic trends and past skirmishes.
Without losing his sarcastic edge or giving an inch of ironic ground, Mr. Black does his best to elevate the tone and substance of the discussion with this summation:
The principal conclusions of Ms. West’s book are rubbish from A to Z, and I have difficulty imagining that I will inflict further comment on it on anyone.
One might attribute Conrad Black’s vehemence to his admiration for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, towards whose secular canonization he has contributed more than his share, and who does not fare well under Diana West’s careful scrutiny.
But what about the movements of other major planets? To what might their vagrant courses be attributed?
Back at the beginning of the controversy, David Mills, the editor of First Things, published a rehash of Mr. Radosh’s material entitled “American Betrayal, Truculently Reckless”. Since that time he has neglected to link to Ms. West’s rebuttal, or to the review by Vladimir Bukovsky, or any of the other material that might provide a different take on the book. Other venues have refused to publish her responses, or delayed them inordinately, or buried them in the most obscure corners of their websites.
Roger Kimball, the publisher of Encounter Books, is a capital-p cultural pundit par excellence, and might be expected to weigh in on behalf of his colleague. However, a quick glance at the new books list at Encounter reveals tomes by both Conrad Black and David Horowitz. So it’s no mystery why Mr. Kimball has abstained from participation in all the unseemly brawling.
In sum, there were almost no well-known writers who defended Diana West. Not that we would expect most of them to champion the book on its merits — it’s a long, complex historical study, and not easily digestible on short notice. However, one might have hoped that they would decry the nasty ad-hominem style of attack directed at their colleague. What baleful force did Planet X wield to ensure their silence?
Among the most prominent voices that one might have expected to weigh in on Ms. West’s behalf were those of Lt. Col. Allen West (retired), the former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former UN Ambassador John Bolton, the writer Mark Steyn, and the well-known columnist Ann Coulter.
Mr. Steyn’s absence from the fray is understandable, since Conrad Black is his good friend. Mr. Gingrich and Ms. Coulter went so far as to tweet in support of American Betrayal. But as far as I know, Col. West and Amb. Bolton have had nothing to say about the controversy, at least not in public.
The same could be said of Andrew McCarthy until very recently. In a piece published on Friday at Pajamas Media, Mr. McCarthy responded to Ronald Radosh, who had written a blog post on PJM last Monday criticizing Mr. McCarthy on matters unrelated to Diana West or her book. As an aside, the author included this note about American Betrayal:
I have not commented on this but, since he brings up the subject of civility, I am still taken aback by the tone of his review of Diana West’s American Betrayal … and I cringed upon learning that, in the midst of the nasty cross-fire that it ignited, he sent Diana a giddy email taunt when another commentator, Conrad Black, published a similarly intemperate review. To be clear, I am not talking about substantive merit here — I happen to disagree with Ron and Conrad about Diana’s book, but that is neither here nor there (I’ll have more to say about it soon). I am talking about peer-to-peer civility. Even in the context of Ron’s post about my column, the “serious and respectful” twaddle is just a set-up for branding my argument as “a child’s temper tantrum.” “Serious and respectful” starts to seem a lot like “agrees with Ron.”
He also referred to the controversy yesterday in another aside, this time in an article at NRO:
Ronald Radosh, the former Marxist and accomplished neoconservative historian, has lately been the spear’s point in defending the FDR legacy on both the foreign-affairs and domestic-policy sides. His blistering review of Diana West’s American Betrayal vigorously champions Roosevelt’s conduct of World War II. I believe Ron gives Diana’s book a bad rap, and I will explain why in another column, coming soon.
Mr. McCarthy is to be commended for his willingness to venture where other literary angels feared to tread. However, from the point of view of the “little people” who have been struggling to defend Diana West since the beginning of August, it is too little, too late.
Why wait more than three months to speak up, however faintly, on behalf of his good friend and fellow Team B member?
Why not write a longer article dedicated solely to the topic of the “politics of personal destruction” directed at Diana West?
Why this persistent reticence?
The people who wanted to bury American Betrayal and its author did their no-holds-barred work vigorously throughout August, September, and October. Had it not been for the timely intervention by Vladimir Bukovsky, they might well have succeeded, and anything said now on her behalf by capital-p pundits would have done little to change the verdict. She would have been decisively consigned to the Outer Darkness, keeping company with the McCarthyites, the conspiracy theorists, and the kooks.
An unjust outcome, to be sure, but the august eminences among the punditerati could at least comfort themselves that the hems of their crinolines had never been spattered with the sludge of unseemly controversy.
The gold standard for integrity throughout this whole sordid affair remains the behavior of Andy Bostom, who staunchly defended Diana West from Day One, and took flak from all quarters for doing so. He spoke up vigorously and repeatedly on her behalf, just as one would expect of a loyal friend.
Why was it that back in August no illustrious personage behaved the way Andy Bostom did? No capital p-pundit, not even those who publicly called Diana West their friend, was willing to take the risk. What on earth was wrong?
That’s some planet, that Planet X.
As outlined above, the origin and trajectory of the current controversy are easy to describe. Determining the characteristics of the mysterious Planet X is a much more difficult task.
The existence of that baleful body is decisively proven by the firing of Clare Lopez as a senior fellow of the Gatestone Institute. To summarily dismiss a writer and scholar of such impeccable credentials, merely because she wrote favorably about American Betrayal, was an ill-considered act. It could hardly have redounded to the benefit of Nina Rosenwald and Gatestone. Therefore there must have been some overwhelming influence that insisted on the departure of Ms. Lopez.
The same reasoning applies to the taciturnity of all the well-known scholars and essayists. There must have been a reason for their reluctance. Why did they maintain silence? It’s easy to cry “cowardice!” But what were they afraid of?
All of them had much more to lose than Andy Bostom by weighing in. No one can expect these well-known writers to surrender their livelihood voluntarily, and Ronald Radosh seems to have had the power to say, in effect, “You’ll never work in this town again.” Simple self-preservation required that they stay out of the action.
To find the source of the power to silence, the obvious approach is to follow the money. Yet that’s a tough job, given all the interconnected foundations, publications, media companies, consortia, and so on. All we can say for certain is that someone must be shelling out the big bucks to muzzle Diana West — nothing else could explain the hasty and occasionally reckless broadsides against her. The huge mass of Planet X can only be explained by the presence of large quantities of money.
And what is all that money trying to accomplish?
Two major motivations stand out: the desire to maintain the FDR shrine, and the need to keep Joe McCarthy in his dungeon.
To ordinary citizens like you and me, these issues don’t matter all that much. So what if Roosevelt is not the saint we’ve been presented with for the past eighty years? Why does that matter? We get to learn the truth, and gain a better understanding of history. FDR knowingly allowed his administration to be filled with communist agents. He spoke favorably of communist ideology. He weakened the moral character of the United States. He is no longer Saint Franklin, but we can live with that.
Ah, but it’s not so easy for those who build their careers as hagiographers of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. One would expect Conrad Black to be loath to see the halo removed from the head of his idol.
And what if research reveals that Harry Truman knew about some of the horrible things done during his administration? To take two examples: the repatriation unwilling of Soviet prisoners in Europe by the United States, and the consignment of thousands of American POWs to the gulag. The policies that resulted in these and other atrocities were formulated by communist “agents of influence” within the American government — in other words, by the erstwhile comrades of Messrs. Radosh and Horowitz. If these inconvenient facts were ever to be prominently discussed, American communists would end up looking like more than well-intentioned dupes.
No, David Horowitz and Ronald Radosh have good reason to want to keep the shine on the haloes of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. Otherwise the people they manned the ramparts with and took orders from would be revealed as direct accomplices in oppression, slavery, torture, and slaughter.
That’s not a pretty picture. No wonder they want to keep it behind the curtains.
By the same token, Joseph McCarthy needs to be confined in his den of infamy, out of the light of day and away from public scrutiny. For the good of the conservative cause, he must remain an unethical dipsomaniac who defamed innocent people.
Regardless of his personal attributes, however: what if McCarthy was right? What if the government really was riddled with communists, far more than even he was able to find? What if the extent of Soviet penetration was known to the highest levels of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations?
If McCarthy’s reputation is ever pulled from its customary cloaca and hosed off, a pillar of the modern liberal myth will come crashing down. Harry Truman was the great Cold Warrior abroad, but he becomes the enabler of communist subversion at home. The United States government really was eaten away by Soviet termites. And, once again, the tunneling was done by the former comrades of David Horowitz and Ronald Radosh, whose ideological children and grandchildren are even now gnawing away at the remaining heartwood of the Constitutional Republic.
We may add to the above motives the possibility of professional jealousy on the part of Ronald Radosh. He, after all, is a well-known and credentialed historian of communism in America — and what greater credentials can there be in that field than to be an ex-communist oneself? From that point of view, Diana West is an upstart, an ignorant usurper who presumes to write about matters best left to professionals. That she should reach different conclusions than the wise and the learned only adds insult to injury. She must be suppressed!
These are the stakes. Yet why should an allegedly conservative bastion like National Review support the continued durance of Joe McCarthy in the vile liberal dungeon? Bill Buckley began his career by seconding McCarthy in his fight against communism. What stake does his magazine have in burying McCarthy to sustain the liberal myth?
Possible answers to this question are too complicated to be examined here. Peter Brimelow’s account of the gradual, piecemeal destruction of the conservative movement in the United States by William F. Buckley Jr. provides some insights into what happened. Once again, it may well come down to the planetary influence of money — in this case, funding provided by Conrad Black.
For conservatives in the 1950s, the issue of Joe McCarthy was intertwined with that of the John Birch Society. When he founded National Review, Bill Buckley attempted to save American conservatism by constructing a fence around “good” conservatives while thrusting the “bad” conservatives outside the pale, into the Outer Darkness. McCarthy was originally inside the fence, but has been stealthily expelled from the corral during the ensuing four or five decades.
The John Birch Society, however, was placed beyond the pale from the very beginning. The Birchers were nativists, which converts to “racists” using modern terminology, and if there’s one thing that a 21st-century conservative dreads, it is to be identified as a “racist”. The continuing proscription of the John Birch Society is thus an absolute necessity.
When I was a kid, the Birchers were widely considered kooks. They protested against the fluoridation of the water supply. They put up billboards demanding the impeachment of Chief Justice Earl Warren. And one of their major slogans was “Get US out of the UN!”
In the fifty years since then, events have made it obvious that the United Nations is a corrupt, dangerous organization that we would be well-advised to abandon. Recent scientific studies have shown that the fluoridation of drinking water is indeed harmful. And, given the dubious decisions handed down by the Supreme Court since 1960, impeaching a dozen or so justices doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all.
What if a lot of what the John Birch Society said was true? Where does that leave us?
It means that a major myth beloved by both liberals and conservatives would have to be deconstructed. It would require rethinking a lot of issues that have been considered settled since World War Two. And it would mean tarnishing the haloes not just of FDR and Truman, but of William F. Buckley Jr. himself.
And we can’t have that, can we?
This is why the “Bircher” epithet has been so hurled so angrily in Diana West’s direction. Reconsidering the reputation of the John Birch Society is something that is absolutely forbidden, a heresy of the first order to conservative and liberal alike. The irrational fury unleashed by American Betrayal reveals the quasi-religious nature of these sentiments. Diana West is an apostate, and must be consigned to the faggots and the stake that provide the only fitting punishment for heresy of that magnitude.
A further complication is provided by the “nativist” aspects of the John Birch Society. Such sentiments make American Jews nervous — and rightly so, since a lot of the resentment against immigrants in the first half of the 20th century was directed at Jews, back before the country was flooded with Mexicans, Hmong, Afghans, Somalis, and Iraqis.
Which brings us to the final element in the hypothetical composition of Planet X: Jewish philanthropy. The topic is a sensitive one, to be touched with trepidation, since discussing it can set off a firestorm of vituperation from Jews and Jew-haters alike.
One of the notable features of the controversy over Diana West is the high proportion of Jews who entered the fray on both sides of the issue. Like so many intellectual endeavors in the United States, Jews were over-represented in the fight about American Betrayal.
It’s no secret that some of the major funding for American conservative non-profits and think tanks comes from prominent Jewish donors. Is it possible that the potential rehabilitation of the John Birch Society was enough to cause such an intense aversive response? Or have other factors been at work?
When researching communist infiltration in the United States, one may notice the large numbers of Jews among prominent communist leaders, including those appointed to high office in the federal government during the New Deal. It is not considered polite to mention this aspect of American communism, but the facts are out there for anyone who cares to examine them. And Jews themselves are aware of the issue.
John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr are historians and well-known experts on American communism and Soviet espionage in the USA, who together and separately have written numerous books and articles on the topic. In May 2012 Dr. Klehr gave a lecture at a conference entitled “Jews and the Left”. In his lecture he gave the numbers without hesitation: at least 40% of Communist Party members and associated traitors were Jewish. In the Los Angeles party the proportion may have been as high as 90%.
Lest readers think this event was a congress of anti-Semites, it must be pointed out that Dr. Klehr himself is Jewish. He was addressing a largely Jewish audience at a conference sponsored by a Jewish organization, so this was hardly a venue for wild-eyed David Duke supporters.
Some Jews would prefer not to discuss such matters, while others are always ready to examine the truth, whatever it might be, and let the chips fall where they may. Unfortunately, the fact that Jews were also over-represented among anti-communists is not considered a mitigating circumstance by those who are preoccupied with Jewish conspiracies.
To my mind, International Socialism is no more a “Jewish institution” than, say, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Communism was (and is) fashionable primarily among the intelligentsia, so it’s no surprise that Jews are over-represented among communists, just as they are in any intellectual enterprise.
However, the public discussion of this phenomenon over the years has hardly been a rational one, so it’s no wonder that Jews would prefer not to talk about it.
Could that be one of the motives for suppressing Diana West? Can there be a fear that a full and open discussion of the number of Jews among communist infiltrators would awaken latent anti-Jewish sentiments?
And is this fear strong enough to mobilize major Jewish donors against American Betrayal?
I don’t have the answer to these or any of the other questions. All I can do is point to the obvious existence of a planet-sized mass out there somewhere, exerting its telltale influence on the orbits of other celestial bodies.
The only plausible source for such a strong gravitational field is a high concentration of money. Major funding sources have obviously decided that Diana West and her book are dangerous, and have made the appropriate phone calls to editors and capital-p pundits.
It could be that all of the factors described above are at work. Consider these four possible motivations:
|1.||Anger at the defamation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman.|
|2.||Anger at a perceived attempt to rehabilitate both Joseph McCarthy and the John Birch Society.|
|4.||The fear of reopening a public discussion about the overrepresentation of Jews among communist infiltrators.
Occam’s Razor suggests that all four factors must play a role in the irrational fury directed at Diana West. Based on the amount of discussion generated by #1 and #2, the Roosevelt/Truman/McCarthy/Bircher nexus would seem to play the largest role. But the other two factors should not be overlooked.
Or maybe there is yet another undiscovered element in the composition of Planet X. A heavy element, with a high specific gravity, so that even the presence of small quantities is enough to distort the orbits of neighboring bodies.
I’m an amateur astronomer in these matters. Highly-trained professionals are even now training their massive telescopes in the general direction of Planet X. It’s only a matter of time before a clear picture of its surface emerges.
For links to previous articles about the controversy over American Betrayal, see the Diana West Archives.