Martin recently informed this reviewer that Diana West has written a book-length Rebuttal to negative reviews of American Betrayal. That being unusual, it was necessary to read the reviews to discover what all the fuss was about.
Fuss is not the proper word. That’s like saying ingesting hemlock causes a tummy ache. For sheer vitriol, invective and downright nastiness these reviews would be a challenge to match.
Even more confounding, the authors are conservatives! David Horowitz, editor of FrontPage Magazine, deleted a favorable review by journalist Mark Tapson and then published another by historian Ronald Radosh – all ten pages of it. According to Radosh West is guilty of “yellow journalism;” is a “right-wing-loopy;” “deranged;” and that favorite epithet of the left, a descendent of Joseph McCarthy. Not a description of reasoned discourse.
Another oddity is that so many conservatives piled on following the Radosh review. And they did so without reading the book. You got that right. They admitted they had not read the book, but unleashed the attack dogs anyway, presumably based on what Radosh wrote. Curiouser and curiouser!
Of course, everyone knows some reviewers only skim (except at WWTFT! — Martin :-)), but it is rarely admitted. In any case, what ensued is a ganging up the like of which hasn’t been seen since they hauled the guy who made the video that didn’t cause the attack in Benghazi off to the hoosegow.
The name-calling and vituperation will not be republished here. With one exception that merits comment. Radosh includes what he claims are quotes from American Betrayal. But I did read the book (reviewed here) and those citations are not in it. He also challenges statements that don’t appear in the book. West covers all of that and more in Rebuttal. Most of the reviews are available on the Internet and/or a Kindle version of Rebuttal may be purchased (including excerpts from the reviews) for $2.99 on Amazon.
So why is all this strangeness going on? Essays by West’s defenders, also included in Rebuttal, provide some thoughts on the subject. According to Ned May “what we’re witnessing is a struggle to defend crucial turf.” West is a journalist, not a historian and “the masters of the guild” are angry at her effrontery. Lacking PhD, journalists are verboten to commit history. But that seems small-minded unless Henry Kissinger was correct when he said: “Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” In that case West compounded her sin by writing a best seller.
Or is it possible that those non-reading reviewers think West wrote a “Blame America First” book? No shortage of those around. It is true that West has written an angry book. But she is not angry at America. Her ire is directed at those who purposefully misled (in the political sense) the nation. No matter how they justified their behavior to themselves, they chose a false ideology with terrible and enduring consequences. What they did matters, West wrote, because they devalued truth and allowed relativism to take the fortress.
It follows that any who once shared that ideology – Horowitz and Radosh didn’t break with Marxism until the 1980s – share that guilt. It cannot be pleasant to be judged culpable. Could that account for the outraged reviews?
Michael McCann, writing in Rebuttal, adds the following explanation.
Diana West’s book challenges the present public perception of an era that has been formed by the left and empowered by the intellectual class but which is no longer sustainable in view of available information. The animosity currently directed against Diana West is because of her successful attempt to explore and clarify a history that academic circles are no longer intellectually or morally entitled to ignore and avoid…
West is accused of believing in conspiracy theories but John Dietrich, another defender, asks: “What was the Communist infiltration of the U.S. government if not a conspiracy?” And let us not forget that various useful occupations were also permeated. Remember the New York Times journalist Walter Duranty who wrote glowing stories about the happy peasants of the Ukraine while said peasants starved to death? He got a Pulitzer Prize for it, too?
The British historian Simon Schama wrote: “Roosevelt’s amiable characterization of ‘Uncle Joe’ had an effect on American perception, turning a sinister and murderous dictator into a character on Main Street.”1.
We are now several generations beyond the period West examined. Fascism is in deservedly bad odor even among our history deficient young. But they don’t know about the 15 million Soviet citizens murdered in the name of Communism. They know nothing about Katyn, the forced collectivization of the Ukraine, or the hell of the Gulag. So, as West discussed in American Betrayal, Communism and the ideas it spawns continue to have a false luster among the progressives of various shades of pink who dominate academia, Hollywood, the media and hold political office. Dietrich writes:
From these commanding heights they are transforming society. In order to do this they must conceal the part played by progressives in the massive crimes they were party to.
But there is a price to be paid for exposing what had been submerged in a suffocating swamp of silence. West drained the swamp and her detractors mean to punish her for it.
Yes, her writing can be overwrought at times, but readers are likely to become a bit overwrought when reading the evidence she presents. And, as so many have written in the pages of Rebuttal, disagreements about style or substance are supposed to evoke thoughtful, mannered discourse, not character assassination.
Reading Rebuttal consumed an evening, but this reviewer found insights worth the sacrifice. This is not a polished book. It seems to have been written in the heat of battle with the need to respond taking precedence over typos and the like. West’s vociferous critics may not be interested in reasoned debate, but West needed to set the record straight. As Shari Goodman wrote:
By not confining their criticism to scholarship they have proven themselves to be assassins guilty of attempting to deprive Diana of her credibility and livelihood.
Diana West has done more than shine a light on the past. She has used that glow to illuminate the present and another deadly subterfuge. While the carnage of Islamic terrorism intensifies around the globe, Americans are not permitted to say its name. A panoply of words is now proscribed and meaningless ones substituted. Ironically, that was what West started to write about when she was swept along by the research sourced in most of the 900 plus endnotes.
For the record, this reviewer does not agree with all of the conclusions put forth in American Betrayal, but they are the author’s to draw and readers, which it is hoped include reviewers, to evaluate. That is how it is supposed to work.
1. Excerpted from “Roosevelt’s Failure at Yalta” by the late Arnold Beichman.
Hoover Digest, 2004, No. 4
Rebuttal essayists quoted.
Ned May is at Gates of Vienna; focus is on Islam and jihad
Michael McCann is at the Center for Security Policy
John Dietrich is author of The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy.
Shari Goodman is a journalist whose columns appear in Family Security Matters, Israel Today and the Los Angeles Times