Thursday, May 06, 2004

Quote Roundup


In 1983 the Indiana University historian Robert F. Byrnes collected essays from 35 experts on the Soviet Union -- the cream of American academia -- in a book titled After Brezhnev. Their conclusion: Any U.S. thought of winning the Cold War was a pipe dream. "The Soviet Union is going to remain a stable state, with a very stable, conservative, immobile government," Byrnes said in an interview, summing up the book. "We don’t see any collapse or weakening of the Soviet system."

Barely six years later, the Soviet empire began falling apart. By 1991 it had vanished from the face of the earth. Did Professor Byrnes call a press conference to offer an apology for the collective stupidity of his colleagues, or for his part in recording it? Did he edit a new work titled Gosh, We Didn’t Know Our Ass From Our Elbow? Hardly. Being part of the American chattering class means never having to say you’re sorry.

From Glenn Garvin's review of "In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage," in this month's edition of Reasononline.


I find that I cannot shake a memory of something I read years ago in one of Shirley MacLaine's memoirs. The work of Ms. MacLaine might seem an odd thing to reference here, but bear with me. I write from memory. She was a young movie star. It was the 1950s. She had appeared in a film that was at least implicitly critical of the United States. She came under fire from some critics: Why can't you people in Hollywood be more positive? Your work encourages anti-American propaganda. She didn't think this was true, but she wasn't exactly a world-class thinker so it didn't matter. What did matter is what she threw away at the end of her story. She went to an international film festival and talked with an anti-American intellectual. He told her something like, "The first time I ever thought maybe your country was something special was when I saw your movie and saw how critical Hollywood is allowed to be. You must really have some kind of freedom."

Peggy Noonan in WSJ, on "A Humiliation for America: Why the abuse of Iraqi prisoners is so disheartening," and like many of us trying to trace thread of hope through the dark maze.


If anyone wanted to argue that torture is a matter of routine in many of the countries whose official media now express such shock, they would have to argue by way of double standards. This case would collapse at once and of its own weight if the standard was to become a single one, or if one torturer became an excuse for another. This point doesn't completely apply to the media themselves, who have yet to show the video execution of an Italian civilian kidnapped by Iraqi jihadists, or indeed many other lurid atrocities. But there's no hypocrisy in holding self-proclaimed liberators to a higher standard.

Hitchens, of course, whose rage in other parts of this piece comes close to hitting the temperature I feel, and the word for it: Betrayal. By cheap S&M porn-scum sleazebag prison guards.