Why Are These Journos Taken Seriously?

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by Paul Gottfried by Paul Gottfried

One question I keep receiving from readers after my recent observations about Rich Lowry is why are neocon journalists taken as serious thinkers in the press. Surely someone at a prestigious newspaper who has dipped into the past must recognize their bloopers: One interested reader has just sent me glaring historical mistakes by Lowry that I had been previously unaware of. Also a former graduate student, Alan J. Levine, who writes meticulous military history, discovered that Victor Davis Hanson had misquoted several generals while defending Truman’s uses of the atomic bomb. Although Levine believes there were other ways to end the war with Japan, besides the dropping of nuclear devices, he shows in his writings that the military objected less to Truman’s decision than Hanson suggests. The chief executive was not striking out on his own, as Hanson claims, in his intended tribute to Truman’s courage. As Levine, Herbert Feis, and other historians whom Hanson would do well to read have pointed out, the joint chiefs in 1945 gave Truman two options for fully defeating Japan, dropping nuclear bombs or invading the Japanese islands. Although the range of choices was by no means exhaustive, Truman was making the decision in favor of the bomb — toward which the military was in fact pushing him. Although not a grave factual mistake, or the colossal stupidity that Hanson regularly commits when he compares the war in Iraq to Sherman’s justly punishing Southern slave-owners by decimating Georgia, it indicates the sloppiness that characterizes neocon journalism.

While on the dreary subject of Hanson’s historical reconstruction, it might be fitting to note another one of his misstatements in his latest effusions on NROnline (August 26). Here in addition to throwing poor Gene Callahan into the company of David Duke and other racialists (on the imaginative principle that all neocon opponents on the right have to be Nazis), Hanson complains about those who hesitate to smash the enemies of global democracy that they’re leading us back to the fiasco of 1918. Then the allies had failed to show enough "severity" toward the defeated Teutons, and their decision "in favor of a negotiated rather than an unconditional surrender and a subsequent occupation of the enemy homeland in 1918" prepared the way for "Hitler and another war as thanks." In 1918, however, the French did occupy part of the Rhineland and then sent armies into the Ruhr at the end of 1922, to get the Germans to cough up reparations. It is simply untrue that the victors did not occupy German territory. They even tried to detach the Western part of Germany from the German Republic in 1923, which led to violent explosions against French collaborators in Cologne. The treaty ending the war, moreover, was so draconian that it is hard to imagine what "negotiated" means in this context. Germany was forced to cede over a quarter of its territory, agree to unspecified reparation payments and accept full responsibility for starting the war. The vast majority of the center-leftist Democratic Party and Social Democrats, who had been critical of the Imperial regime, refused to accept this "Diktat," until the cost of the British blockade forced them to relent. What else would Hanson propose to punish his most hated country? Should the Americans, who entered the war after being crudely manipulated by Woodrow Wilson, have sent its forces to occupy Berlin in 1919?

There are two reasons, or so it seems to me, that neocons get away with their distortions and exaggerations. One is the generally bad education of today’s journalists, or the degree to which ideological fervor outweighs any concern with the accuracy of the statements they make. In the last few months I’ve been reading that President Bush (pardon the oxymoron!) is the "most rightwing president ever." This statement typically comes from journalists (and Hollywood celebrities) who seem not to notice the greater (relative) conservatism of the presidents who went before, including most of the activist ones. Not one of these executives, to my knowledge, was eager to enact current leftist concerns, e.g., gay marriage and the crushing use of state power to remove Western religious signs from public places. In Canadian newspapers it is common to see attacks on the present American government, usually ridiculed as "the American Taliban," for not dutifully following the latest Canadian exhibitions of PC, which are national hate speech laws and gay marriage. My response to this America bashing is to ask whether Canadians did not also live in a Taliban country until recently, that is, before they forged ahead of us in their imposition of PC on their shockingly supine citizens.

But there is a second and more significant reason that neocon errors do not easily come to light, except on websites like this one. It is the same reason that the national press routinely ignores persistent rightwing opposition to neocon-Republican crusades for global democracy. The liberal media are ecstatic to have a neocon-controlled opposition. In fact they have no desire to change this situation, by calling attention to this website and to other similar ones or by noting publications on the right that disapprove of American military engagements. They adore a toothless opposition on most social issues, even if it is one that pushes us into foreign wars, albeit struggles fought in the name of secularism, feminism, and universal equality. What does the establishment Left lose, if David Brooks defends the Iraqi war as a columnist for the New York Times? Nothing worth speaking of. Like John Podhoretz of the New York Post, Brooks agrees with his leftist associates about gay marriage and immigration policy. Indeed he sounds every bit as liberal as any liberal when he sees "America becoming more virtuous" because of feminist-sponsored anti-spousal violence laws. Although this may not provide the perfect occasion to go after his (August 7) Sunday New York Times revelation, the target here is too tempting. Brooks ignores the self-evident explanations for the lowering of reported family violence in the last ten years (including obvious long-range demographic trends and the building and filling of prisons) to celebrate a glorious feminist victory for physically safe cohabitation. Apparently members of the underclass who shack up but inflict less violence on each other than they used to represent the greatest forward leap of domestic virtue ever experienced on these shores. With such opponents at their disposal, why would the left cultivate the contributors to this website, even if we agree with the New York Times editorial board that the war in Iraq is folly? Far better to make the chickenhawks look good by depicting them as formidable rightwing opponents!

And does one really believe that the establishment Left, which whines selectively about the loss of civil liberties, really want a libertarian for president? Somehow I suspect that these whiners would prefer to have Brooks or Lowry run this country to handing it over to a strict constitutionalist like Ron Paul. Like the East German Communist regime, the American liberal establishment does not want to worry about a fractious Right. It therefore helps to empower a relatively likeminded opposition — which happens to be the American (non-conservative) conservative movement. If that opposition happens to thrusts this country into a war from which the current government does not seem able to extricate it, the Left prefers to frown on this development without rightwing help. There is no advantage for the liberal establishment, any more than for FOX-News or Rush Limbaugh, to recognize our side as legitimate combatants. The antiwar Right is kept out of the media-backed political conversation for the same reason that Lowry and Brooks are praised while sounding foolish. Both are necessary steps to keep political discourse within the same extended family.

September 1, 2005

Paul Gottfried [send him mail] is Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College and author of Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt and The Strange Death of Marxism.

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