Sunday, May 09, 2004

THE LEGACY OF NED. Since it's Mothers Day, we offer an update on Bernadine Dohrn (see the Instapunk entry ECHOES OF WILLIE on April 28), that great mom who finally quit being a serial bomber so that she could make enough money to raise her kids. The Weather Underground documentary was vague, as we mentioned, about the scope of her current activities, although it seemed clear she was not as conscience-stricken as her fellow ringleader Mark Rudd. Now it turns out that she's giving speeches on college campuses again, most recently at Northern Illinois University. The campus newspaper, ironically named The Northern Star (does anyone else remember the wartime Hollywood movie North Star, which glamorized Stalin's Russia?), ran a cordial feature story about her visit that said, in part:

The main topic of discussion centered around Dohrn’s part in the radical “Weather Underground” group during the ’60s. The Weather Underground and its members took part in doing all they could to change the course of the Vietnam War by educating people on the need for reform. “We organized both against war and racism,” Dohrn said. “We also taught that all human life is equally valid, not just the body count of the United States.”
The article didn't contain a single reference to the Weatherman bombings. Note Dohrn's use of the words "educating" and "taught," as if she and her brethren spent the 70s holding wine and cheese seminars about the verities of life. Students at Northern Illinois could no doubt come away from the whole proceeding and its coverage believing that Ms. Dohrn is a mild-mannered heroine of the antiwar movement who is now contributing her time-honored wisdom to the current situation in Iraq. They could believe that if they never stumbled by accident on David Horowitz's account of her present-day affiliations and activities. He writes:
Bernardine Dohrn is one of America's most notorious homegrown terrorists. She was the head of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. She and her cohorts declared "war" on "AVmerika" and blew up many sites, including a bathroom in the Capitol in an effort to incite others to take up arms against this country. Today she is anti-American activist, in full support of global radicals dedicated to overthrowing this democratic government and to aiding and abetting America's enemies. She is also the scheduled commencement speaker at Pitzer College, one of the nation's premier liberal arts schools. All across this country, liberal administrators and radical professors are providing support for terrorist ideas and movements. Indicted terrorists Lynne Stewart (a colleague and comrade of Dohrn's) and Sami al-Arian (head of Palestine Islamic Jihad and a leading "civil libertarian" against the Patriot Act) have been honored speakers at law schools and universities all over America. They are supported by the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU (Dohrn is on the ACLU advisory board for example) and other liberal organizations. I guarantee you that conservatives who are in the forefront of the battle of ideas defending this country -- Victor Davis Hanson, David Frum, Robert Kagan to name three -- have never been commencement speakers, officially sponsored keynoters and honored guests of any liberal university. This tells you more than you probably care to know about the commitments of our university officials and the state of their campuses.
Horowitz, of course, has good reason to keep an eye on Dohrn. He was a leftist radical himself in the 60s and 70s, extensively involved with the Black Panther organization which was so lightly treated by the Weather Underground documentary. His defection from the left was driven in large part by his guilt for having supported Panthers whom he knew to be murderers and thugs. The book Radical Son is Horowitz's autobiography and mea culpa, and it is necessary reading for those who wish to understand how the extreme left operated in the Vietnam era AND how the extreme left is operating today.

One of the key revelations in Radical Son is Horowtiz's explication of the relationship between the American Communist Party (CPUSA) of the 1950s and the New Left of the Vietnam period. Shows like Weather Underground tend to present SDS and other radical groups as a follow-on to the civil rights movement, applying its tactics to new causes, including pacifism, feminism, and environmentalism. Horowitz argues that this is essentially an illusion, that the New Left actually learned its tactics from the organization which spawned Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs. In fact, many of the prominent New Left activists were, like Horowitz himself, the offspring of lifelong CPUSA members. This is the source of the New Left's skill at employing the smear, the oft-repeated lie, and the frankly treasonous uses of illegally obtained national security information. It was also the source of the Weather Underground's ability to organize itself in cells and live undercover without detection for a decade. (They sure didn't learn it from Martin Luther King.)

All this may be interesting, you say, but what does it have to do with the contemporary political scene, and why is there anything ominous about an appearance by Bernadine Dohrn at a midwestern university? Here is the opening part of the Northern Star piece:

A decade of disaster was revisited Thursday night as the infamous anti-war activist Bernardine Dohrn spoke on behalf of the atrocities that she witnessed during the Vietnam War. Dohrn served as an active participant in the radical anti-Vietnam War movement throughout the ’60s.

Although Dohrn holds a plethora of positions to her name, including multiple degrees from the University of Chicago, she is most notable for her work as a radical anti-war activist.

“She is best known for what she did in the 1960s and ’70s,” associate English professor Larry Johannessen said.

This is the problem. One of the greatest skills of the Old Left was its ability to rewrite history (any history) in terms favorable to its agenda of the moment. Now we are being asked to listen to Dohrn for her knowledge of the atrocities of the Vietnam War. How could she have witnessed any atrocities? She was never in the military, never in Vietnam. The only atrocities she witnessed were her own. But Associate Professor of English Larry Johannessen doesn't see fit to clarify the facts for the college students in attendance. The renascent New Left described by Horowitz above resides in the colleges and universities of the United States, which were the preferred sanctuary of radical activists after the war ended. Actually, "resides in" is too bland a term. It would be more accurate to say "occupies." And we have every right to ask what kind of generation Bernadine Dohrn and her academic sponsors and apologists are intending to give birth to.

For a hint of what this might be like, the current issue of Reason Online provides some disturbing insights. In an article titled Fools for Communism, Glenn Garvin reviews and analyzes the academic response to In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage, by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr. His essay spells out in painstaking detail the ongoing effort within the American university system to rewrite the entire history of the Cold War in terms favorable to Stalin and derogatory to the United States. Many of his anecdotes would be funny if they weren't so ominous. For example:

A constant stream of articles in academic journals and lefty magazines -- even an entire conference sponsored by New York University’s International Center for Advanced Studies -- has pilloried them [historians accurately recording the facts uncovered since the fall of the Soviet Union] for everything from "triumphalism" (that is, they’re glad Stalin didn’t win the Cold War; can you imagine a historian of World War II being drummed out of the profession for expressing gratitude that Hitler didn’t win?) to accepting funding from conservative foundations (which, unlike the tens of millions of dollars the CPUSA took from the Kremlin, might come with secret strings attached) to starting the Vietnam War, destroying affirmative action, and dismantling the welfare state.

That bit about Vietnam came from a piece co-authored by Ellen Schrecker of Yeshiva University, who in a movement rich with unintentional self-parody nonetheless towers above the rest. We might even call her the Lucille Ball of anti-anti-communism, though, to be sure, she would never be so gauche as to associate with a pre-revolutionary Cuban like Ricky Ricardo. A prodigious apologist, Schrecker in one article conceded that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg delivered atomic secrets to the Soviets, then plaintively demanded: "Were these activities so awful?" She also coined the immortal phrase "non-traditional patriots" for the Rosenbergs, a felicitous way of saying that they lived in the United States but were loyal unto death to the Soviet Union.

Garvin's essay is lengthy, but it's as entertaining as it is thorough. He documents how pervasive the new orthodoxy of the new New Left is and illustrates what a stranglehold this bizarre fictionalization of our own history has on the academic establishment. Our most powerful academics and scholars seem intent on transmuting violent felons into luminaries, murderous tyrants into misunderstood idealists, patriots into fascists, U.S. history into a criminal indictment, and, perhaps, Islamist barbarians into the nemesis of American democracy. If you want to understand what lies behind the softer, gentler new face of Bernadine Dohrn, read every word of it

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