Further Reflections on Diana West’s Critics, Part I
Commentary for 22 July 2014
By ex-Communist, I mean a man who knew clearly why he became a Communist, who served Communism devotedly and knew why he served it, who broke with Communism unconditionally and knew why he broke with it. Of these there are very few….
– Whittaker Chambers, “Letter to My Children,” Witness
Sincerity belongs to the pure of heart, insincerity belongs to the blackheart. The critic reveals his heart by his criticism, the polemicist by his polemic, the sycophant by his sycophancy. In the case of Professor Jeff Lipkes’s three part critique of American Betrayal, posted earlier this month on American Thinker, the microcosm of self-revelation reflects the macrocosm of conservatism’s crackup. In my Commentary for 27 April 2014 I dealt with the Horowitz/Radosh campaign against Diana West. It is now time to confront mainstream conservatism’s failure to come to Mrs. West’s defense. This failure shows us two types of “conservative”: (1) the conservative who (covering himself with mock-scholarship) joins with Mrs. West’s “ex-Communist” critics in denouncing American Betrayal; and (2) the conservative who seeks to occupy a middle position. This latter form of desertion, opening conservatism’s flanks to a double envelopment, is disturbingly in evidence today. In this context, Professor Lipke provides us with an example of both types rolled ambiguously into one.
Lipkes’s series runs about 12,000 words divided into three separate articles. However long and unfocussed the whole might appear, the professor’s critique nonetheless provides a window into conservatism’s degeneration. Of course, some might imagine the professor is concerned with historical fact. Yet we must not to be fooled by outward appearances. Lipkes is an ideologist, and like Mrs. West’s other critics he shows no real concern for truth. For example, he derides Mrs. West for deficient scholarship when her book is referenced by nearly 1,000 endnotes. While Lipkes himself is no expert on World War II, and no expert on the Cold War, he nonetheless postures as such – caught out when he refers to Pavel Sudoplatov as a Soviet “defector.” Even where Lipkes has his facts straight, his facts are beside the point and his judgments bizarre (for example, when he says that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was not a “threat to peace”). In short, he engages in arguments that do not successfully breach Mrs. West’s defenses.
We have reason, of course, to feel sympathy for a professor who is also a “conservative.” This, after all, is what recommends him to us. But he does not write like a conservative. He does not see in Communism “the focus of the concentrated evil of our time.” And so he dislikes Diana West’s idea that Communist agents may have influenced U.S. policy during World War II. This is something he simply will not allow to be true, and which is for him improbable on its face. He also doesn’t want to say that our wartime collaboration with Stalin was dangerous, or that it had long-term negative consequences, or that Stalin was as bad as Hitler. It’s as if the Communist-infiltrated U.S. Office of War Information was still operating and Lipkes stands obliged to present Stalin in a positive light (on account of our wartime alliance with the Communist dictator). Lipkes also takes issue with Mrs. West’s vindication of Senator Joseph McCarthy, and by inference he therefore takes issue with the scholarship of M. Stanton Evans. It is hard to understand why Professor Lipkes sees himself as a conservative at all, since he eschews the conservative interpretation of the Cold War.
Part I of Lipkes’s critique was titled Diana and Ron: What Was Going On? Part II was Diana and Ron: The Second Front. Part III was Diana and Ron: Backstory. Setting aside the tasteless use of first names, it is the final paragraph of Part III which should command our attention. Here Lipkes ends by insisting that, “A real test of the intellectual integrity of the [conservative] movement is that in the end a truly balanced view of West’s explosive work will become the consensus.” If a Greek chorus chanted the phrase “intellectual integrity,” altered with the phrases “conservative movement” and “consensus,” an oppressive gloom would gradually overtake the listener from the pairing of diametrical opposites; for as the soul itself must know, the term “intellectual integrity” and the word “consensus” are incompatible, especially when used in the context of a political movement mired in corruption. Within the professor’s naïve concluding sentence we find no sense that things have gone very badly for conservatism; neither is there any sense of the shameful corruption which now attends the “good” and “patriotic” cause.
Our politics is now a province of loaded language, bogus concepts and innumerable falsifications. This province belongs to the blackheart, not to the pure of heart. Take any political consensus you please, and you will find it is glued together by lies and backroom deals that leave no place for “intellectual integrity”; for such “integrity” cannot belong to a movement. It belongs only to uncompromising individuals who reject the expedient formulae honored by the ruling Mandarin class to which Lipkes in fact belongs (and thus confesses his belonging). In this context Diana West is not a Mandarin but an individual who has departed from the Party line. As such she has become the designated target of those who brazenly show themselves as enemies of honest debate and inquiry. Such are predisposed to fantasy and falsification, to naked pandering and intellectual short-cuts. If they were not so, they could not succeed with the ignorant multitude, whose approval legitimizes their corrupt practices (turning evil into good, fiction into fact, and the unequal into the more than equal).
Modern movements are mass movements. They require organization and organization signifies bureaucratic leadership (that is, the Mandarin class). All such organizations typically fall under the sway of empty ambitious persons whose venality and untruthfulness are almost boundless. These persons care only about their own prestige, position and pay. If one such person cared about the truth, he would be in danger of becoming “A Man for All Seasons.” And such a man, in their book, would be counted a fool. He would have no standing in their midst, but only curses. The empty ambitious person, rating himself above truth, is the enemy of the truthful. In our day and age, large and successful political organizations run on this enmity. To not know this, and not acknowledge it, is to have entirely missed the history of the twentieth century. To write a concluding sentence as Professor Lipkes has, is to write as a child. It reveals that in political things one is naïve and lacking in judgment; that one already performs the role of dupe for someone or something else – which takes us to the immediate sequel to Lipkes’s essay.
Immediately following the professor’s last sentence about “intellectual integrity” and “consensus” we find two interjections. The first is from Ron Radosh; the second is from Radosh and Horowitz together. Like two bullies waiting impatiently for their turn, they follow in Lipkes’s wake with kicks and punches, and even take a slap at Lipkes himself. The editor of American Thinker, who is undoubtedly a prize pig for arranging this unliterary pugilism, gives no space for Mrs. West to defend herself. Among the punches thrown, Radosh and Horowitz wrote that Mrs. West had besmirched conservatism by allowing the Left to “paint conservatives as a bunch of nutcases.” Finding Lipkes too gentle in his criticism of West, they berated the hapless professor for ignoring “her crackpot thesis….” And they accused him of “doing an immense disservice to the discussion, as well as feeding the McCarthyite fantasies of [West’s] followers.” They further stated that they were “both trying to wage a critique [sic] of an absurd conspiracy theory that has ugly overtones….”
What is absurd and has ugly overtones, of course, is waging a critique. The proper expression that comes to mind is “waging war,” not “waging a critique.” However awkwardly put, the meaning is clear enough. Yet it’s a shame that Radosh and Horowitz do not recognize the talents of Professor Lipkes when it comes to “waging critique.” Consider the following specimen:
It’s possible that [Radosh] sees West as having gone some ways down a slippery slope that descends to the claim that FDR knew in advance about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and did nothing; that Hitler had reasonable foreign policy objectives and that the unpleasant features of the Nazi regime were the result of his borrowings from Lenin; that given FDR’s provocations, Germany, like Japan, had no choice but to declare war on the U.S.; that Barbarossa was a preemptive strike that saved Western Civilization in the nick of time; and that America backed the wrong horse in World War II. At the bottom of the slope is the denial of the Holocaust. [Italics added]
It appears that Horowitz and Radosh have been unfair to Lipkes, and owe him an apology; for Mrs. West is Jewish, and such an insinuation (as above) might prove the kiss of death. In fact, this slander was so cleverly couched and so cravenly inferred (out of thin air) that its radioactivity doesn’t touch Radosh or Lipkes. It was designed to irradiate Mrs. West’s discussion of Communist influence over U.S. policy during World War II as “possibly” on par with Holocaust revisionism. What better weapon could be deployed for killing off an author while intimidating her supporters?
“At the bottom of the slope,” wrote Lipkes, “is the denial of the Holocaust. Think about it for a moment. Ask yourself whether I have taken this sentence out of context, or whether this sentence was originally set down for some malicious purpose. Was the matter preceding this sentence a valid reason for inserting it? I see no quote from Radosh, and no quote from West. There is nothing in American Betrayal to justify it. The thing is purely mischievous, and calculated. It is shameful that American Thinker published it. It is shameful that Diana West was not given space to respond. And it is shameful that these ex-subversives were given the last word as conservative opinion-makers.