Tuesday, February 17, 2015
When the details bedevil...
Thanks to Diana West, I've known about M. Stanton Evans for quite a while now, chiefly as a historian who has taken the trouble to try to rectify the historical narrative about anti-Communism during the Cold War, and in the process to restore a proper history of it by disentangling what truth can be salvaged from the elaborate (yet simplistic) myth that has grown to obscure it over the past half century. (As Diana West is careful to point out, this mythic obfuscation is not merely the result of an accidental impairment or loss of reason in culture, but at the very least has also been "helped along" at various times by calculated propaganda and disinformation promoted by Communist saboteurs and enabled by their starry-eyed liberal Useful Idiots. Where West edges over toward the ballpark of an unfortunate inclination, however, is in her inability or unwillingness to at least take a stab at working out how the two contexts -- of sincere naivete passively enabling, on the one hand, and more malevolent machinations trying to orchestrate, the various phases & episodes of "American Betrayal" the nation has gone through from the years entre deux guerres to the present -- have dovetailed, and have diverged. Because of this, her locutions have an unfortunate tendency and effect of fostering a view that seems to conflate the two and hence can have a conspiracy-theorish ring. The Horowitz-Radosh lynch gang took advantage of this with unseemly relish and seemed to have exploited it for a protracted smear campaign against her; and while needless to say their tissue of slander was an incoherent mess of specious bullshit, nonetheless, the reality of it independent of their strawman remains an important problem she has yet to address.)
Part of the above-mentioned calculated propaganda and disinformation promoted by Communist saboteurs and enabled by their starry-eyed liberal Useful Idiots involves a rather subtle ploy: fomenting confusion in the form of a jungle of details so complex, most have no patience for sustaining the attention necessary to keep the point (or points) in mind. As important as this climate of confusion is for discouraging any general interest in the issue at hand, there is another advantage for the saboteur in this, perhaps a more important one: namely, the implication slyly generated by the mere circumstance of the complexity -- that the person taking the painstaking trouble to unravel all the myriad details and their complex interconnections is himself, by very virtue of the activity he has to undertake to clarify the mess of the complexity, "obsessed" and probably a "conspiracy theorist" (and certainly an eccentric individual without much consensus or support). The Horowitz-Radosh lynch gang, thus, for example, implied as much about Diana West. Now, we are not saying the entire dynamic in this regard is caused by a devious machination fomenting the confusion: i.e., it's not as though the whole confusion of the issue in question had been manufactured out of thin air and sustained only by virtue of some dastardly cabal -- for that precisely would be the conspiracy theory being insinuated as a smear against the person pointing out the devil in the details. One has to maintain a balance between either extreme: it is neither a conspiracy theory, nor is there no problem of attempted sabotage.
At any rate, I was struck by an example of this complexity as I read the Prologue ("The Search for Joe McCarthy" available for free by clicking on the book cover to "read inside") to the 2007 book by M. Stanton Evans, Blacklisted By History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America's Enemies -- a complexity that is important to unearth, even though it causes the reader's eyes to glaze over and one fears, alas, that even if it saw the light of day in the public eye, it would probably sink into the burial of oblivion amid the clashing, sloshing currents of a sea of sexier news stories that pullulate and ebulliate weekly.
The example M. Stanton Evans recounts in his Prologue concerns certain important documents he knows from independent evidence exist, but which in the normal (and thorough) course of his historiographic research and investigation, he found were ostensibly missing from the physical locations in the records where they should have been found. Being the sober and diligent scholar that he is, Evans does not recount his experience in hyperventilated rhetoric or in lurid terms; but always in a patient, dry, just-the-facts-ma'am presentation. In a way, such a seemingly banal and mechanical presentation almost serves to enhance the effect of stunning the reader (at least the attentive reader) with the full import of what he is describing. I'll turn it over to Evans now and quote the passages in full -- first with regard to a particular memo (the "Klaus memo") which Senator McCarthy was concerned to enter into Congressional records, a memo Evans describes as "one of the most revealing documents ever put together about Red infiltration of the U.S. government". As Evans goes on to say, it was supplied to Congress, but thereafter would "mysteriously vanish":
In the National Archives of the United States there are at least two places where this report should be on offer. One is the legislative archives of the Tydings panel, which was weighing McCarthy's charges of State Department security breakdown and which unquestionably got a copy. This is reflected in the department's letter of transmittal, which survives and is included in the subcommittee records. So the memo should also be in the files, but isn't.
The other place where this memo ought to be is in the papers of Sam Klaus, held in another section of the archives. In the index to the Klaus papers, the document is listed, under its proper official heading. However, when the file was examined by this writer [that would be M. Stanton Evans himself] it turned out the report again was missing. In this case, at least, we know what happened to it. The file contained a notice where the memo had been, saying it was withdrawn from the Archives in March 1993 -- not quite half a century after it was written. So this important document is twice over absent from the nation's official records.
This isn't the only important document to turn up missing from official Washington records, Evans tells us:
Unfortunately for researchers of such matters, this elusive memo is but one of many Cold War papers that have gone AWOL. Some two dozen other documents from the State Department relating to security issues were likewise supplied to Tydings and should be in the Archives also. In these cases handsomely embossed cover sheets, signed by Dean Acheson, Secretary of State in 1950, are still there in the folders. In every case as well, however, the material once enclosed has been stripped from the cover sheet, leaving small wads of paper beneath the staples that held the documents together.
If that isn't bad enough, Evans goes on to tell us about a list of 80 suspects of Communist infiltration-cum-sabotage at the State Department and elsewhere, along with a letter by McCarthy to Tydings referring to the list and another letter from the head of the C.I.A. concerning one of the 80 -- and at that same time, a second list of two dozen other potential suspects. All these, Evans notes, should be in the Tydings archive; but:
Again, however, so far as diligent search reveals, all of them are missing, with no explanation of what happened to them, no hint that they were ever there, and no withdrawal notice. They are simply gone. Since they were documents central to any assessment of McCarthy's charges, their absence is a critical gap in the archival record.
This potentially has had consequences far beyond a mere footnote in the history of "McCarthyism". As Evans reminds us, this gap -- or deep gash -- in the record:
...affects more than our understanding of Joe McCarthy. It affects our knowledge of the issue he was addressing, and thus our comprehension of the Cold War era.
Only briefly, in an asterisked footnote at this juncture in the text, does Evans gently speculate in the direction of a plausible explanation -- pointing out, it should be noted, that in his lengthy experience as a historian familiar with government records over the years, archivists are meticulous in their record-keeping and wouldn't likely misplace such important documents out of sloppy disregard: i.e., that the likelier explanation is that these documents were intentionally removed. Though Evans, being the conscientious and judicious historian he is, doesn't conjecture about who might have done such sabotage, the reasonable presumption to make is that it was likely precisely the same type(s) of person(s) about whom the documents themselves were documenting -- viz., Communist infiltrators in the State Department and related governmental institutions. Why their absence all these decades has remained unmentioned all these decades until Evans came along looking them up and noticed they were gone (let alone why they have remained un-investigated), however, may not be as easily explainable; unless it is plausible to incorporate into the explanation some rather significant degrees of innocent incompetence that have entered into the process at later stages.
The point is, what Evans is reporting here in his dry and sober manner is a startling fact that could well provide fodder for conspiracy theorists; but, rather than recoil from the CT phrase, we should perhaps readjust the parameters of what defines "conspiracy" rather than succumb to a propagandistic usage of the term. The research of historians like Evans, and more recently Diana West's book American Betrayal, which meticulously collects and weaves together a rich compendium of sources on the subject, indicates that something terribly wrong has been amiss in American government for decades, ever since Communists began to seek to subvert our society in order to destroy us -- and a good deal of this disturbing data points not only to the subversion and sabotage by Communists, but also to the cover-ups of that subversion and sabotage. As I intimated far above, however, an important question that (to my knowledge) remains unaddressed by West and Evans is an explanation for how and why American government remains relatively free and uncorrupted by Communist subversion and sabotage, even given all the disturbing data they have marshalled. How do they explain the fact that they can continue to publish what they do and go on book tours and write articles about it and participate in forums and debates and round-table discussions in various venues? Evidently, this indicates that the situation is ambiguous and contains a mixture of infiltration and freedom from infiltration. But the analysts who propose this problem have, it seems to me, an obligation to proffer a plausible theory explaining why the situation is ambiguous, and then to what extent such an ambiguity offers hope. I only say this because sometimes the rhetoric of Diana West seems to border on hyperbole where the logic would lead to hopelessness or some civil war scenario; and, needless to say, a civil war that wasn't necessary would be quite a tragedy.