I am obliged to object Ronald Radosh's March 12 piece, "Bohemian Rhapsody." Radosh inaccurately represents the background of a conference, "Alger Hiss and History," that is being held at New York University on April 5. He charges that the conference is biased because scholars who believe Hiss was a Soviet agent are not represented--and uses that assertion to indict an NYU institute.
When I was invited to participate in this conference, I was told that other invitees included the very people--Allen Weinstein and Sam Tanenhaus--whose ideas Radosh accuses the organizers of avoiding. I was also told that Harvey Klehr, who holds similar views, had been invited. I'm sure they had their reasons for declining the invitation, but to use their absence as a sign of bias is hardly accurate. (Why would they have been invited in the first place if the organizers didn't want those views heard?) Should NYU have canceled the conference? Should we ever have conferences that don't present Radosh's point of view vigorously enough?
Radosh further engages in guilt-by-association in my own case, putting me at the head of a list of "a whole slew of like-minded pro-Hiss individuals." The fact is that I have never written on the Hiss case and have expressed no opinion one way or the other about it--neither in print nor in public.
Ronald Radosh responds:
My main point--that the entire NYU series of conferences is biased--holds up. The call to the program and the original announcement of the new center makes its political agenda crystal clear. I regret the error about Prados's writing. But if Prados has "never written" on the Hiss case, what is he doing on any panel?
Since I wrote my piece, the conference website has provided a complete list of all the sessions. The panelists speaking on "Repression, Espionage and the Red Scare," for example, all are of the same point of view--that, as the conference announcement says, Hiss "set the stage for the rise of Joe McCarthy." Ellen Schrecker, Corey Robin, Marilyn Young, and Amy Knight are indistinguishable in their view of cold war "repression." Jeffrey Kisseloff runs a fanatical pro-Hiss website. Landon Storrs is a left-wing historian who has written an article called "Red Scare Politics and the Suppression of Popular Front Feminism."
When Harvey Klehr turned down his invitation, he asked the organizers to call his co-author (on Early Cold War Spies: The Espionage Trials that Shaped American Politics), John Earl Haynes, whose presence would have indicated that the NYU center welcomed an honest debate. They did not call him. Is there any question about why?
Martinsburg, West Virginia
By Ronald Radosh