“Let’s predict a couple of things about this very important book. First, it will seldom be reviewed. It will be set up for target practice; that is, second, if it is not altogether ignored, becoming a non-book by the dictates of the heirs of the people who swept its subject into the dustbins of history, viciously spitting on his grave.”
That was the dire forecast of Hillsdale College’s longtime History Professor John Willson, after reading M. Stanton Evans’ epic Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and his Fight Against America’s Enemies.”
Much of Willson’s scenario has come to pass. But there have been some bright spots.
Actually, Stan Evans says the book was favorably spotlighted in much of the “new media”—i.e., talk-radio, the Internet, cable-TV conservatives, and some local news outlets. Glenn Beck (radio), Joe Scarborough (TV), Dennis Miller (radio) and Fox Radio also come to mind.
In the print media, there were good notices from Investors Business Daily, Human Events, Robert Stacy McCain in the Washington Times, as well as syndicated columnists Ann Coulter, Phyllis Schlafly and William Rusher, the onetime publisher of National Review (an irony for reasons we’ll visit anon).
Columnist Robert Novak gave the Evans book a very good review in The Weekly Standard. In fact, Novak, whom we interviewed last year for his own memoirs, told us at the time he had been skeptical of McCarthy. However, reading Blacklisted by History with an open mind altered his judgment—or as he put it: “The combination of forces against Joe McCarthy from the Left, from the news media, from both parties and his own president, had succeeded in aligning people like me against him. Stan Evans has described why we were wrong—because, indeed, McCarthy was fighting ‘a conspiracy so immense.’”
Evans’ book was well-received in a series of columns by Mal Kline of AIM’s sister organization, Accuracy in Academia.
But in an interview with AIM, Evans shook his head when asked about the following: Time, Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, New York Post, New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, USA Today, ABC, CBS, NBC (other than MSNBC cable, as noted above).
They gave this important history tome—taking years of the author’s life in painstaking research—the silent treatment—in spades. A new generation of commentators and reporters has filled the slots at these “prestige” dispensers of information and historical interpretations, picking up the torch of distortion left by the Ed Murrows of the “McCarthy era.”
A Pattern Of Deceit
Generally, the media that trashed the Evans book did so either from a wealth of ignorance or willingness to gloss over the book’s irrefutable documentation.
As Evans tells AIM, “the negative reviews in almost all cases conform to a common pattern” of error on three points in particular:
1—“Failure to come to grips” with such issues as the bogus quote imputed to McCarthy of “205” communists in the State Department, the case of Annie Lee Moss, and the real security dangers at Fort Monmouth. Considering that Evans’ style in the 643-page book is to avoid name-calling while methodically laying out the evidence, his description of critics as failing to “come to grips” with reality may be his polite way of saying (correctly in our judgment) that where the facts did not fit the critics’ biases, the facts were simply ignored. One cannot be a failure at something unless one first tries to succeed.
2—Misrepresenting what the author had to say about Owen Lattimore, McCarthy’s George Marshall speech, and the sources of McCarthy’s information. As Evans says, “Some of these distortions are so far afield from my actual views as to suggest the reviewer hasn’t read the book (the most charitable explanation that I can think of).”
3—In lieu of facts, there were those who resorted to the ad hominem attack. “By far the worst” of these was an “utterly false” accusation by Ronald Radosh.
Nasty National Review
An exceptionally nasty review (“atrocious” is the way Evans describes it) appeared in National Review magazine, which apparently has retreated from the culture prevailing there when William Rusher (referenced above) was publisher.
Radosh in his NR review deals with Evans’ treatment of what became known as the Amerasia case, and recalls that he (Radosh) and Harvey Klehr had written a 1996 book dealing with this 1945 scandal wherein documents smuggled out of the State Department had shown up in Amerasia, a sheet that had served as a transmission belt for the Communist Chinese.
Evans in his current book deals with McCarthy’s spotlight on the organized cover-up of that case by the Truman Justice Department and (unknown to McCarthy at the time) by the old New Deal fixer “Tommy the Cork” Corcoran. Five years after the cover-up had succeeded, here comes McCarthy to dig up the bodies (figuratively speaking) and arouse the sleeping dogs that were thought to have been forever silenced.
Evans takes angry exception to Radosh’s charge that he (Evans) had taken “virtually all of his material [on the Amerasia case]” from Radosh’s earlier book on the same subject, “and which he [Evans] does not acknowledge.”
The author told AIM this statement charging him with plagiarism “is a lie. Poppycock. It’s a lie and I reiterate that. It’s a lie.”
“In my book,” the author continued, “I referenced the FBI’s Amerasia file and those references in every case were totally different from sources that are in the Radosh/Klehr book because they got their references mostly from Emory University’s Phillip Jaffe’s collection [Jaffe, editor of Amerasia, a Communist and close friend of Communist party boss Earl Browder]. The file citations are accordingly quite different.
In his response to Evans—who was granted space in NR to respond to the Radosh review, Radosh writes, “The only problem is that I never wrote anywhere that Evans plagiarized our book. I only said that he ignored its findings and trumpeted his ‘discovery’ of the Amerasia cover-up and ignored those portions of the FBI files he read that contradicted his claim that John Service was a Soviet agent.” It’s noteworthy that this response changes the original accusation that Evans lifted his material from Radosh’s book to the statement that Evans ignored his findings—quite different from Radosh’s initial accusation.
Beyond that, nowhere in Evans’ book does he claim to have made the original “discovery” of the Amerasia cover-up.
Further, as Evans points out in our interview, “I never claimed that John Service was a Soviet agent.” “Categorically false, and typical of Radosh,” Evans tells AIM.
Blacklisted by History does spell out John Stewart Service’s record, including his role in the cover-up and his dealings with the likes of “Sol Adler, Lauchlin Currie, and Phillip Jaffe” and others. Service surely was hanging out with a lot of Soviet agents, even at one time rooming with one of
Radosh’s co-author Harvey Klehr has produced voluminous research on the history of Soviet subversion in the U.S. He is someone for whom Evans has high respect—so much so that Evans gave Klehr an advance copy of his work and invited his input, which Klehr provided in the form of some friendly suggestions. Question: If any author had plagiarized the work of another author, would he have handed an advance copy of his new book to that other author for his comment? Common sense (in addition to Evans’ professional integrity, the evidence of the citation and Radosh’s change of accusation) says the Radosh charge doesn’t ring true.
The Marshall Affair
This writer gasped when reading Radosh’s statement that “Evans supports McCarthy’s outrageous assertion about Gen. George C. Marshall.” Evans in fact wrote the exact opposite. He plainly said in Blacklisted by History that in his judgment, McCarthy erred in saying Marshall always came down on the wrong side, and he cited examples to back that up.
McCarthy’s Marshall speech was later expanded in a book, America’s Retreat from Victory. I found it compelling reading. At the very least one can say that—as far as we know—there is no record of Marshall protesting disastrous policies he was ordered to implement—policies which led to the downfall of the pro-western government of China, to be replaced by the Communists who rule today, and whose People’s Liberation Army considers the United States as “the main enemy.”
Radosh belittles Evans’ coverage of McCarthy’s pursuit of Owen Lattimore. Lattimore was a central figure in the Amerasia case, with connections to the State Department and a deep involvement with the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR), a virtual clearing house for advocates of Red Chinese ascendance to power in Beijing.
In so doing, the reviewer follows others who have smeared Louis Budenz—one of those who had testified as to Lattimore’s activities and—more to the point—ignores the findings of the McCarran subcommittee (of which McCarthy was not a member) that Owen Lattimore was “from sometime beginning in the 1930s a conscious articulate instrument of the Soviet conspiracy.”
Buckley Would Be Ashamed
One can recall better days at National Review, when its legendary founder William F. Buckley was “hands-on.” Buckley’s 1954 book McCarthy and his Enemies —co-authored with L. Brent Bozell (the senior Bozell) approvingly described McCarthyism as “a weapon in the American arsenal.” In his latter days Buckley (who died early this year) had little input with the content of NR, according to a family member.
When McCarthy died in May of 1957, National Review writers of that era paid tribute to him…
…..From William Schlamm…“The intelligentsia tarred and feathered him because it insists that man is intellectually an eternal child and morally a vegetable. In short at the heart of what McCarthy said and did was the very essence of Western civilization; while his opposition lost its mind on a savage binge of irrelevancy.”
…From L. Brent Bozell who lamented that when the Senate censured McCarthy, “his peers had done him a monstrous personal injustice.”
Fast forward to 1999 and William F. Buckley’s novel The Redhunter which dealt with (as he saw it) McCarthy’s plusses and minuses. That apparently wasn’t good enough for Radosh who took Buckley to task for crediting the senator with being on the right side of the anti-Communist issue. The response, a vintage Buckleyism, was that, “there is no point in Radosh, burdened by his mindset, reading [the book] because it would necessarily be uphill for him, as hard as going as an impotent locked in all night with a whore.”
The New York Times
While most of the big media chose to accord Blacklisted by History the silent treatment, the New York Times ultimately—three months after the book went on sale—ran an article trashing it.
David Oshinsky, author of the 1983 book A Conspiracy so Immense, charges that Evans “leaves the impression that he has uncovered fresh information suspiciously overlooked until now.” This is a reference to Evans’ discussion of the Venona papers, a top secret project that traced Soviet intelligence communica-tions with its agents in the U.S. during World War II.
We must assume Mr. Oshinsky, a History professor at the University of Texas, understands the meaning of the term “most widely noted.” Why then would he misinterpret the following sentence in Blacklisted by History?
“The most widely noted of these new disclosures are the so-called Venona papers, in possession of the U.S. government since World War II, but made available to the public in 1995.”
If anything in that sentence conveys even a hint that the author all by himself uncovered “fresh information” in documents that he says were already “widely noted” and (as the author plainly states) were released to the public a dozen years earlier, then Orwell’s prediction of upside-down interpretations of plain unambiguous wordage has truly come to pass.
While Evans never claimed to have discovered the Venona papers, he did discover a lot of other information never previously published, including backup files of Joe McCarthy relating to his suspects, and reams of data from the FBI pertaining to his cases.
Oshinsky writes that “Evans buys into the heart of the McCarthy conspiracy—the belief that leftist elements of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations created a foreign policy to advance the spread of world communism.”
“Leftist elements?” By using that term to describe communist-led treason, Oshinsky sets up a straw man suggesting the author had alleged a conspiracy that might have included perhaps the likes of Norman Thomas (the perennial Socialist Party candidate for president), and maybe FDR and HST themselves.
Evans’ comeback: “It was communists in key places [as opposed to the all encompassing “leftists”] who were pushing policy options that were to the advantage of the Soviet Union. Again, a clear example was Sol Adler—a Soviet agent. But then you have [Lauchlin] Currie, [Alger] Hiss, [Harry Dexter] White. These [for example] were not just ‘leftist elements,’ they were Soviet agents and communists.”
The professor claims that “most believe the worst of it [Communist espionage] was over by the late 1940’s [before McCarthy burst upon the national scene].” But as Evans shows, the communist penetration problem was by no means over in 1950. Many of the people who had been exposed in the past were still in government posts, and the bureaucracy was shielding them from dismissal or shifting them around from one agency to another, more or less keeping them “one step ahead of the sheriff.”
Journal Shafts Evans
During AIM’s interview in Evans’ office, the author received a phone call from the Letters Editor of the Wall Street Journal. The author had been informed the paper would “consider” granting him a grand total of 200 words to reply to a lengthy WSJ op-ed attacking McCarthy “revisionists,” mentioning Evans by name.
Obviously, said Evans, that was not nearly enough space in which to refute all the misstatements of Ron Kessler’s WSJ piece. The bottom line is the Journal refused to run a longer rebuttal supplied by Evans.
This writer’s own column on the AIM website noted the April 22 WSJ op-ed was wrong even on the most basic points: A-Kessler confused the Army-McCarthy hearings with McCarthy’s own earlier hearings of Communist penetration of the Army. B-He said McCarthy “failed to substantiate his claim that communists had penetrated the Army.” Our column cited—as examples—five of the many names of penetrators whom Evans documents in his book. C-He repeats the myth that McCarthy initially claimed (in Wheeling, W.Va.) that 205 card-carrying Communists had penetrated the State Department. We cited witnesses and investigators for a Democrat-dominated Senate committee who twice backed McCarthy’s assertion that he had said there were 57 in the State Department who were “either Communists or loyal to the Communist Party.” The 205 figure originated with the error of a local Wheeling reporter, whose incorrect story ended up nationwide on the AP.
Evans subsequently shot down yet another misstatement in which the WSJ writer claims that the legendary Chicago Tribune reporter Willard Edwards was horrified on reading the mistaken headline because he had passed on the 205 figure to McCarthy based on a “rumor.”
Thanks to Willard Edwards’ son Lee Edwards—Chairman of the Victims’ of Communism Memorial Foundation and recipient of this year’s Reed Irvine Accuracy in Media Award—Evans gained access to the elder Edwards’ memo saying McCarthy may have picked up the number 57 (not 205) from a Willard Edwards article listing that number of security cases in the federal government. Again, McCarthy’s version is supported, and the WSJ version is discredited.
Not The First Time
Several years ago, the Wall Street Journal ran an article by Dorothy Rabinowitz slamming McCarthy for an alleged false accusation against Annie Lee Moss. Evans wrote a letter to the editor then pointing out that Mrs. Moss was exactly what McCarthy said she was, citing official records identifying her as a Communist Party member. The Journal refused to publish it.
On the subject of Joe McCarthy, the WSJ routinely finds writers so error-prone as to render its editors embarrassed to print credible responses.
Curiously these three distorted writings don’t mention the deluge of criticism that descended on Senator McCarthy for losing patience with General Ralph Zwicker.
The general—commanding officer at Camp Kilmer, N.J.—had told McCarthy investigator James Juliana that several suspected subversives were stationed there, including one Irving Peress who had been promoted and given an honorable discharge. But when appearing before the committee, the general hemmed and hawed, having been ordered by his superiors not to cooperate. McCarthy, chairing the session, severely berated Zwicker for his weasel words. The senator got a public relations black eye for that.
Perhaps one possible reason today’s critics of the senator prefer to let that sleeping dog lie is that Juliana—the only surviving member of McCarthy’s staff—is willing to tell anyone who will listen (including in an interview with AIM) that Zwicker committed perjury that day and on subsequent occasions. When the Democrats regained control of the committee, Chairman John McClellan—with Robert Kennedy as his chief counsel—referred the matter to the Justice Department. The Eisenhower administration swept that scandal under the rug—and a complicit media ignored it, as McCarthy was Blacklisted by History.