Andrew McCarthy discusses the controversy over Diana West’s book today in a brief piece entitled “On American Betrayal” posted at The Corner. In it he addresses the “awful things” that certain parties have said to or about certain other parties in the course of the fracas.
Several people have written to tell us about Mr. McCarthy’s post, and all of them are convinced that his essay is a response to yesterday’s article about the “barroom brawl” that ensued after the publication of Diana West’s book.
But I’m not so sure. The nasty ad-hominem attacks against the author of American Betrayal have been hanging in the air for the past four months. Anyone who has been paying attention to the book is well aware of them. The fact that Andrew McCarthy decided to discuss the issue today may well be a complete coincidence.
Be that as it may, let’s take a look at what the former prosecutor has to say about the egregious treatment of his colleague Diana West by certain critics who disagree with the conclusions she reaches in her book. Here’s the text of his remarks, with suitable phrases bolded for further attention:
Contrary to the views expressed by some people I greatly respect, including Conrad Black here at NRO, I liked my friend Diana West’s controversial book, American Betrayal. I explain why in the new edition of The New Criterion, here. I do not want to belabor the argument — it is there for anyone who is interested. I do want to address something I did not get into in the review: the name-calling that has marred the controversy over the book. Awful things have been said about Diana, who is not “deranged,” “a right-wing loopy,” “McCarthy’s heiress” (that would be Joseph McCarthy) or the like. Awful things have also been said about my friends David Horowitz and Ron Radosh, who have made lasting contributions to the conservative movement and to the imperative of honest, forceful debate, and who are the antithesis of “book-burners” and “closet-Commies.”
There is a worthy debate to be had about the wages of Soviet espionage in the U.S. during the 20th century and what it can teach us about, for example, the contemporary infiltration of American institutions by Islamic supremacists. Unfortunately, that debate has been overwhelmed by the heated rhetoric on both sides, which even more regrettably got very personal. As I detail in the review, Diana has written a serious book, and estimable historians have some weighty objections to her account of the Roosevelt administration’s conduct of World War II. It is, moreover, very difficult to quantify the impact of hostile intelligence operations intended to influence governmental decision-making. Even though it is incontestable that FDR’s administration was penetrated by some Communist operatives and sympathizers, it is very hard to assess how much wartime U.S. policies that favored Stalin’s regime may have been driven by espionage (the ingredient Diana stresses) as opposed to battlefield realities and the imperative of keeping the Soviets on the Allied side of the war (the rationales favored by Diana’s critics). Since I have friends on both sides of the controversy over the book, my sense is that, going forward, there will be less heat and more light. Here’s hoping.
First of all, consider the reappearance of “both sides” — each of which, according to Mr. McCarthy, engaged in “heated rhetoric”, “which even more regrettably got very personal”.
Notice the passive voice here. Who “got very personal”? Ronald Radosh? David Horowitz? Conrad Black?
No! Not at all! The “heated rhetoric” itself got very personal!
That’s some rhetoric, that heated rhetoric.
Now take note of this statement: “[E]stimable historians have some weighty objections”. This is the sort of assertion that, if made by a Wikipedia contributor, would be flagged with [Which historians?] by an alert administrator.
Who made these weighty assertions? What did they say? How esteemed are these historians? And exactly how much do their assertions weigh?
What are they, chopped liver?
Well… As we all know, only two historians, estimable or otherwise, are included in the weighty opposition: Ronald Radosh and Conrad Black. Plus one kibitzer, David Horowitz. The rest of the opprobrium directed at American Betrayal emerged from the Amen Corner for these three. The “me, too!” chorus simply echoes their weighty sentiments without contributing any further ounces of substantive argument to the balance of the historical debate.
One can’t help but notice a persistent moral equivalence in Mr. McCarthy’s view of the great “barroom brawl”. We continue to hear about “both sides”, each of which consists of “people I greatly respect”. David Horowitz and Ron Radosh are his “friends”. Diana West is also his “friend”, and he likes her book, despite the fact that it is “controversial”.
If a friend of mine picked up a whiskey bottle and without warning hit another friend of mine over the head with it, I might consider taking that first friend to task. I might advise him that his behavior was morally and ethically wrong. I might even reconsider my friendship with him.
And I most certainly would not ascribe a moral equivalence to the two friends, as if the second one had had the effrontery to assault that whiskey bottle with her head. As if she had snuck up on that innocent, unsuspecting bottle and used her occiput to smash it without warning.
That’s not quite what happened.
One “side” launched an ad-hominem attack against Diana West, calling her all kinds of vile names. It even told the world that “she should not have written this book” — hence her reference to would-be “book-burners”.
Are those two “sides” morally equivalent?
In his “take-down” of the book, Ronald Radosh constructed dishonest straw-man arguments, and even answered arguments that Ms. West did not make — putting words into her authorial mouth, and then “refuting” them. Did Mr. McCarthy even read The Rebuttal?
And whom is he quoting when he refers to “closet-Commies.”? Diana West certainly never used such a phrase. Who did?
Most telling of all is the phrase “honest, forceful debate”, to which Messrs. Horowitz and Radosh are alleged to have contributed. If there is one thing that has been lacking in this whole shameful fiasco, it is honesty.
But only on one “side”. Diana West has maintained a steadfast honesty throughout. She has also shown admirable restraint towards those who have hurled insults at her while treating her with such cavalier dishonesty.
It’s sad to see this sort of limp dissimulation coming from a well-known author. One expects better from a man of his skill and intellect.
I am forced yet again to deduce the influence of Planet X. I can only assume that some large celestial body is at work, diverting the path of an accomplished writer. What gravitational source compels him to step so awkwardly around a frank account of what was done to Diana West?
I don’t know what it is, but it’s out there somewhere.
For links to previous articles about the controversy over American Betrayal, see the Diana West Archives.