Editorial: Our Controversy With Diana West
It is not about our desire to suppress Diana West’s ideas.
(/sites/default/files/uploads/2013/08/diana-west-american-betrayal1.jpg)Rather than responding to Ronald Radosh’s Frontpage review of American Betrayal, as a reasonable author might, Diana West has launched a series of personal attacks not only on Radosh but on the editors of Frontpage, calling us “hypocrites,” “totalitarians,” “ossified totalitarians,” commissars” and liars (“If Frontpage Will Lie about This, What Won’t They Lie About?”) and claiming we “suppressed” – also “purged” – a favorable review of her book because its opinions were “incorrect,” clearly implying that they were politically incorrect. She also seems to have inspired a small army to conduct a war on her behalf in our pages, whose attacks use the same talking points and seek to defame and discredit us, representing us as renegades who have persecuted her because of her views. In other words, instead of answering the factual criticisms that Radosh has made of her book, she prefers to treat his review as part of a political conspiracy against her work by people who only pretend to have the views they do. Readers of American Betrayal will find this kind of paranoid fantasy all too familiar.
I am solely responsible for the decision to remove the positive review of her book that originally appeared on Frontpage on which she builds her anti-Frontpage case. Here is what happened. When the Frontpage review of American Betrayal appeared I received an email from Ron Radosh whom I have known for more than sixty years, and whose work as a historian is respected not only by me but by every conservative academic historian with whom I am familiar. Radosh is a pioneer in documenting the guilt of the Rosenbergs, in analyzing the Amerasia spy case, in dissecting the Communist infiltration of Hollywood, and in being one of a small group of conservative historians who have resisted the minimizing of the Communist threat by progressives and the whitewashing of traitors like Alger Hiss.
In his email, Radosh said that he was greatly disturbed by Frontpage’s endorsement of West’s book, and then explained:
“It amounts to a Birch Society type conspiracy history theory of Communism and the Cold War, with half truths built to unwarranted conclusions, a failure to comprehend history in context, as well as great errors of fact that undermine her thesis.
“For one thing Harry Hopkins was NOT Agent 19 [as West claims]. That was Larry Duggan. It makes a big difference.
“She misuses Klehr and Haynes throughout the book, and when they actually draw opposite conclusions than she does, based on evidence, she simply says they are wrong without bothering to prove her point. This is not a difference of opinion; it is a failure to use evidence correctly in order to spin her conspiracy theories….
This is as important an issue. Do we really want conservatives to rewrite history based on an ideological view, while ignoring context, evidence and reality? That is what she does.” (emphasis added)
Once I saw that Radosh’s concern was methodological – the dishonesty in West’s use of conservative sources, her alleged abuse of evidence, and her construction of conspiracy theories not based on facts, I felt I had to examine the blanket endorsement our review had given her. When I spoke to the author of the review he readily conceded he was not familiar with the sources and could not properly assess such crucial matters as her claim that Soviet agents had gotten the United States to ship fissionable uranium to Stalin via Lend-Lease. Since West’s book was getting enthusiastic responses from other conservatives and since the conservative movement had suffered from conspiracy-minded demagogues in the past, I regarded our publication of an uninformed review irresponsible and told _Frontpage_’s editor Jamie Glazov to remove it. I also told him to communicate to Diana that while we were publishing a critical review we would give her as much space as she needed to defend her book.
Let me pause here to consider how she now presents herself as the persecuted victim of a Frontpage “suppression.” What persecution and what suppression? We posted an irresponsible review that promoted her book. We intended to publish a second review that would draw more attention to her book. We were going to give her as much space as she needed to defend her book, which would mean even more attention for her book. What author would not be grateful for all this attention? As for “suppression,” since the favorable review had already appeared and since no one can really erase something from the Internet, there was no suppression, merely the removal of our endorsement. Apparently, this was enough to set her on the warpath.
Instead of taking us up on our offer to open our pages to a controversy over her book, West launched a public attack on us calling us – for starters – hypocrites and totalitarians. At least she didn’t call us Soviet agents.
My position on these matters should be perfectly clear. Some years ago I wrote a lengthy review of Ann Coulter’s book Treason (in which, by the way, she trashed my friend Radosh). I adore Ann Coulter’s writings on liberalism, and most of the sharp wit she displayed in Treason amused me to no end. But in the course of her book Ann went too far and drew a picture in which the demagogic Joe McCarthy became not just right in that the targets he went after were Communists, but also an American hero; anti-Communists like Harry Truman and JFK, on the other hand, were painted with the same broad brush as Communist fellow travelers like Henry Wallace and Soviet agents like Alger Hiss. I felt that Ann was hurting herself and the conservative cause through these errors in judgment. But I did not go to war with Ann or call her names, or demonize her the way Diana West has demonized Jamie and me. I still adored her courage in exposing progressive hypocrisies and facing down progressive bullies, and respected her as a conservative thinker, and always will. In my critical review of Treason, I praised Ann for the marks she hit and explained my differences with her over the marks I thought she didn’t. It was the way I believed conservatives should conduct their differences.
My goal was the same in approaching the impending controversy over West’s book. I wanted the intellectual issues to be the focus of the debate; I wanted a clarity to emerge about the roles the historical actors had played. Radosh’s critique of American Betrayal sets a high standard in this regard. Neither West nor her supporters have begun to meet that standard or attempted to answer even one factual claim that Radosh has made about her book. I don’t have a lot of hope that this will change because West has already shown herself to be a very angry, very self-centered and very reckless partisan, with a paranoid streak and a disposition to think in extreme terms that have only a tenuous and deceptive relation to the truth.
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