This is not my title. It's one that Ronald Radosh, a scrupulous and brave historian of the political culture of modern American history, has put on his Wall Street Journal essay about Oliver Stone's new venture in trashing our own past by ritual adoration of the iconic tyrants who bring unbelievable suffering to their subjects. The documentary--well, it's not really a documentary--is called "South of the Border," and its co-author, Tariq Ali, a Pakistani writer of agit-prop whom fools call a scholar, admits basically that it is propaganda. Take a look at the Times' last comment on Stone by Larry Rohter: nervously fair, a bit too nervous, but critical treatment of the film-maker. The Times has an index of everything it has written about him. If, like me, you are a bit masochistic begin to read through some of the articles going back a fill quarter of a century.
Actually, I disagree with Radosh at the end of his review where he recommends not seeing this movie. I don't know whether I'm going to take my counsel. But I do believe that, without seeing Stone's kind of trash, we will never be able to grasp the dumb weight of ideas that now go for progressive thought in America.
The fact is, though, that Radosh has experienced American history on the intensity of its extremes. He grew up with the Communist Party as his parents, more or less, and went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, some of whose faculty were of the red persuasion. But, genetically or by dint of character, he was an independent soul. I've known him for almost 40 years. I saw, after the intoxication of "solidarity," a man struggling in loneliness for the truth about communism, first, and then for a reasonable view of his country and the world.
That is where he is now, although he sometimes flirts with the right but never adopts its meshugas. He is the author of Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left, and the Leftover Left, history and autobiography bonded together.
Oh, some of you will say, everybody knows about Communism now. Well, yes, Communism was then and it is not now. But there is the "progressive" conceit that any movement which designates America as its enemy is morally on the right side. In any case, the old lefties have never come to terms with their multiple betrayals of human rights and human dignity. Do you know anyone who was an enthusiast of Mao and now has a sober critique of present-day China?
I've just read a new book by Pascal Bruckner, one of the first French "new philosophers" whose sway--like Levy's and Finkelkkraut's--has only deepened over the years. The book is called The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism. It makes a persuasive case that leftish intellectuals in Europe (and I would add America) are burdened by secular sin for which they cannot compensate personally. So, in acts of colossal intellectual cunning, they put their iniquities on to the societies to which they (sort of) belong. We are back to Camus who also saw this disease of alienation eroding conscientious moral judgement.
The present pogrom of international institutions against Israel is one to which intellectuals and gangsters have allied themselves, college teachers and longshoremen, Christian clergymen and Muslim fanatics. If you find yourself in this alliance you might trying praying for forgiveness.
And, damn them, Ron and his wife Alis published last year a lively study, A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel. Lively and illuminating. The truly liberal folk were Zionists or near-Zionists. The deeply reactionary were enemies of the Jewish nation. I don't know about Oliver Stone. But I wouldn't be a bit surprised.