November 15, 2006

This Country Needs an Apologist for Stalin

In the October 1 number of The New York Times Book Review, Paul Berman, the center-Left author, caused something of a stir by taking aim at two new tomes pertaining to the late I.F. Stone. Mr. Stone, for those of you unaware of him, was a popular “progressive” journalist who penned, among other works, perhaps the worst book on Socrates ever written. Nay, ever contemplated.

Mr. Berman’s review caused a minor brouhaha because it dared to offer a nuanced portrait of I.F. Stone. And nuance, it seems, is not taken too kindly in “progressive” circles, where Mr. Stone is revered as the veritable second coming of Marx.

We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” were reminded of this recent flap when turning to “Romancing I.F. Stone,” a brilliant little article by Ronald Radosh in the latest issue of the beloved New Criterion. In this piece, Mr. Radosh deliciously dissects the often-sordid career of I.F. Stone, demonstrating the foolishness of those who consider him an unblemished saint.

After all, as Messrs. Berman and Radosh pointed out, I.F. Stone—for all his insightful criticism of the United States—spent many of his days as an apologist for Stalin. Unlike his more thoughtful colleagues on the Left, Stone remained a hagiographer of the Soviet Union well past the Show Trials and even the Nazi-Soviet Pact. In fact, he did not turn on the USSR until 1956.

Further, in his antipathy for the Vietnam War, he even had kind words to say about Ho Chi Minh: Radosh quotes him as calling this Stalinoid nightmare “a very human man” hoping to build a “democratic state” in Vietnam. All in all, as even a reviewer for The Nation concluded, I.F. Stone’s “tiger eyes that could spot the threat to liberty in the footnotes of a Congressional report couldn’t see the meaning of show trials, slave labor, and class-based mass murder.”

Not, we should think, a model for journalists today. Ah, but of course he is: Our “progressive” pals, ever content to forget their comrades’ dubious pasts, love to pretend that as erratic a figure as I.F. Stone is an unproblematic voice of reason.

Or so we find out from a blurb on the back of All Governments Life, a new biography of Stone by Myra MacPherson. It’s a breathtaking quote, coming as it does from Helen Thomas, the left-wing doyenne of the White House press corps, who constantly badgers the Bush administration with insipid queries:

Would that he [I.F. Stone] were alive today to lead our country to its greatest ideals again.

We know what you’re thinking, dear reader: Huh? Would that I.F. Stone were alive today, to lead our country to an orgy of Stalin-loving, Ho Chi Minh-worshiping Communist apologetics? Sorry, Helen, but the US needs I.F. Stone about as much as it needs Helen Thomas.

Which is to say, of course, not at all.

Posted at November 15, 2006 12:01 AM | TrackBack