Five months after the fury over American Betrayal reached its highest pitch, Diana West has taken a look back over the process that Andrew McCarthy referred to as a “barroom brawl”, but looks more like the “knockout game” to me.
Ms. West has hardly been knocked out. She’s too tough to just lie down on the sidewalk and stay there, and has bounced back up to write a piece entitled “No Regrets”.
Before excerpting from her essay, I include some quotes from the latest review of American Betrayal published in a major academic journal, this one from Down Under. A former leftist named Steve Kates had this to say about the book in Quadrant:
No book has ever frightened me as much as American Betrayal. The only thing wrong with reading it is that you find yourself so surrounded by impossible odds that it seems there is no way you can go that isn’t in the wrong direction. Trying to fix things is as bad as just leaving them alone. But because the story the book tells is so incredible, you realise just how unbelievable her thesis would be unless you had read the book yourself.
Having read Blacklisted by History I looked forward to seeing what National Review would make of it, which turned out to be an extended piece written by Ronald Radosh, an author whose name and background I was quite familiar with. Having read the book and then Radosh’s highly negative review, I have mistrusted Radosh ever since to the point where I can only think of him as a far-Left socialist plant here on the Right.
As a result of reading West’s book, I now look on the United States as a big dumb ox, led around by a cabal of its enemies whose intent is to take the beast out to slaughter. It is a very large beast and will not go quietly. But given what you will learn from this book, you will be in some despair in trying to work out what can be done. This is a very troubling book which I nevertheless encourage you to read.
It’s interesting to note that the gravitational influence of Planet X made itself felt even in the antipodes: the editors of Quadrant found it necessary to mitigate the impact of Mr. Kates’ emphatic approval of the book by providing an insert slyly referring to the “interest generated” by the debate and plugging this month’s seminar against the book in The New Criterion.
Below are excerpts from Diana West’s retrospective:
I’ve been mulling how — or even whether — to mark the appearance of six entries on American Betrayal in the January 2014 issue of The New Criterion. The issue contains an essay by editor Roger Kimball and five letters, all devoted to my book, or, rather, to Andrew C. McCarthy’s review of American Betrayal, which appeared in the December 2013 issue.
Why so much ink? The answer is simple. Andy McCarthy, the celebrated former federal prosecutor, noted author and commentator, had the temerity to write positive things about my book in his December review. Like a clanging bell to Pavlov’s dog, this review drove Ronald Radosh and Conrad Black to churn out letters to the editor explaining to McCarthy the error of his ways. By my count, this becomes the fifth, maybe even the sixth piece by Radosh, and the fourth or fifth by Black. Harvey Klehr and John Haynes also write in general protest. I understand that David Horowitz, too, wrote in, but decided to withdraw his letter. (Too bad; I would love to have read Horowitz’s fifth attack.) Meanwhile, editor Kimball asked M. Stanton Evans — who originally endorsed American Betrayal and later published an article entitled “In Defense of Diana West” — to write a lone letter of support. McCarthy then replies to all. By the time all is said and done, the issue, purportedly devoted to Reagan and Thatcher, is also a backdoor symposium on American Betrayal.
Meanwhile, the author of said book sufficiently fascinating to this tiny band of anti-American Betrayal extremists was not invited to comment. The New Criterion didn’t even let me in on the fuss — which is a little like finding out you were the guest of honor, or, in this case, dishonor, at a party you weren’t invited to. Frankly, it’s better that way. Judging by the way Messrs. Black, Radosh and Horowitz are treated in the issue, it’s clear that I would have been a sixth wheel.
Then again, maybe I wasn’t contacted because there is nothing new to respond to. (Not likely.) Or maybe it was because I have never published a book with Encounter Books. (Getting warmer?) The striking fact is, each of my main troika of detractors — Horowitz, Radosh, Black — has published at least one book with Encounter Books, the publishing house New Criterion editor Roger Kimball also leads. Klehr & Haynes, too. Andy McCarthy, also, for that matter. For good measure, Peter Collier, Horowitz’s longtime collaborator, is Encounter’s founding editor, now a consultant.
These conflicts of interest have not been disclosed to readers. They should be — particularly because The New Criterion has not only reviewed the contents of American Betrayal. It has set it itself up as a disinterested arbiter on the events around the book: namely, the sustained campaign against me and the book carried out notably by writers who happen also to be Encounter authors. At the very least, informed readers would have better understood why perusing the arguments about American Betrayal in The New Criterion is not unlike overhearing club members through an open window alternately erupting and smoothing feathers.
So if not a “brawl,” how to characterize these events? In his letter, M. Stanton Evans describes the attack campaign against me and my book as a “mugging.” This, of course, is something entirely different. In a mugging, there is a right side and wrong side — a moral distinction wholly lost in McCarthy’s “brawl” framework. Indeed, Evans further objects to the “moral equivalence” inherent in the brawl metaphor. I would like to expand on this to point out that the brawl metaphor actually elevates the perpetrators of my “mugging”; I, in turn, am denigrated for defending myself. So, too, are the others who rose in my defense against a public attack machine of particularly brutish incivility and shocking mendacity.
Emphasis on mendacity. Distortion. Smears. Fabrications. (I have chronicled them all in The Rebuttal: Defending ‘American Betrayal’ from the Book-Burners.) In other words, this campaign, led by FP, was never about criticism or debate, even heated criticism or debate. It was a protracted and widespread campaign of defamation that even crossed into general hysteria, as when Clare M. Lopez, having written an essay on Egypt that positively mentioned my book, was fired by Gatestone Institute for her “choice of books to promote.” The New Criterion, however, whitewashes all in its easy talk of “polemics back and forth.” Indeed, what the magazine has done in restructuring this “mugging” in the framework of a “brawl” is to palliate, to normalize and ultimately excuse the perpetrators for employing unrespectable tactics in an attempt to discredit and isolate me as a writer, and make my book radioactive — what my rebuttal subtitle refers to as a modern-day book-burning. If they’re all just barroom brawlers … what difference does it make?
I note also another apt description of events as I personally experienced them. In recommending American Betrayal on his Christmas 2013 books list, Jed Babbin offered American Spectator readers this caveat: “Do not be dissuaded by the controversy that has erupted around this book which, if you insist on complete accuracy, would be characterized as a disinformation campaign.”
Read the rest at Diana West’s blog.
For links to previous articles about the controversy over American Betrayal, see the Diana West Archives.