In book and TV minis­eries, Stone de­fends com­mu­nism

Up­shot of this re­vi­sion­ist his­tory is to paint the united states as the bad guy of the 20th cen­tury.

Austin American-Statesman - - BALANCED VIEWS - From the right Mon­day Tues­day Wed­nes­day Thurs­day Fri­day Satur­day Dan Stein­berg / ap Young is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to Rea­son mag­a­zine and the web­site Realclearpol­i­tics. This was writ­ten for News­day. Sun­day

Amid

all the far-right non­sense about Pres­i­dent Barack Obama be­ing a “com­mu­nist,” it’s easy to for­get that real apolo­get­ics for real com­mu­nism still ex­ist on the left — and are con­doned by large seg­ments of main­stream lib­eral cul­ture, a baf­fling sight for former Soviet ci­ti­zens like my­self.

Take film­maker Oliver Stone’s new­est ven­ture: a 10-part minis­eries, “The Un­told His­tory of the United States,” now air­ing on Show­time, with a best-sell­ing com­pan­ion book writ­ten with Amer­i­can Univer­sity his­to­rian Peter Kuznick. And con­sider some of the re­sponses to the project.

The up­shot of the Stone-Kuznick re­vi­sion­ist his­tory is to paint the United States as the bad guy of the 20th cen­tury. The de­feat of Nazi Ger­many? That was Soviet Rus­sia’s do­ing. Soviet dic­ta­tor Josef Stalin’s short-lived al­liance with Hitler on the eve of World War II in a quest to di­vide the spoils of con­quered East­ern Europe? Also Amer­ica’s fault, for not be­ing suf­fi­ciently sup­port­ive of the Soviet Union.

The Cold War? You guessed it. The Mar­shall Plan, which helped war-torn West­ern Europe re­build, height­ened Soviet fears of en­cir­clement by “hos­tile cap­i­tal­ist na­tions.” The Berlin Wall? Not only a re­sponse to U.S. provo­ca­tion but a salu­tary move that helped avert the peril of war. The 1979 Soviet in­va­sion of Afghanistan? The re­sult of ma­nip­u­la­tion by Amer­i­can anti-com­mu­nists in high places, such as Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Zbig­niew Brzezin­ski.

Along the way, Stone and Kuznick ac­knowl­edge the crimes of Stal­in­ism but re­peat­edly down­play them, re­fer­ring to “heavy-handed treat­ment” of East­ern Europe or poli­cies that claimed “many vic­tims.” They ex­cuse Soviet apol­o­gists who were im­pressed by re­ports of Soviet eco­nomic suc­cesses in the 1930s, gloss­ing over the fact that there were strong rea­sons to doubt those re­ports. They at­tempt to deny the well-doc­u­mented fact of Soviet sup­port for ter­ror­ism in the Cold War years.

Th­ese and many other dis­tor­tions are ably skew­ered by jour­nal­ist Michael Moyni­han (for­merly of Rea­son mag­a­zine, where I am a con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor) in a re­cent ar­ti­cle for The Daily Beast. The re­but­tal from the au­thors pub­lished a few days later is quite re­veal­ing. Stone and Kuznick catch Moyni­han in an er­ror: He quotes them as say­ing that Vice Pres­i­dent Henry Wal­lace de­scribed Stalin as “a fine man who wanted to do the right thing,” when in fact that re­mark was made to Wal­lace by Pres­i­dent Harry Tru­man. But they do not dis­pute — or at­tribute

Kath­leen Parker

David Brooks

Ross Douthat

Ramesh Ponnuru

Amity Shlaes Charles Krautham­mer to sar­casm — their bizarre char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of this re­mark as “some­what over­gen­er­ous.” They also ex­plain that they quoted it to show that Tru­man was “not a blindly un­wa­ver­ing anti-Soviet zealot.” The ab­surd com­pli­ment for a mass-mur­der­ing dic­ta­tor is meant to be com­mend­able, if “over­gen­er­ous.”

Stone and Kuznick also as­sert that, far from ad­mir­ing Stalin, they harshly crit­i­cize him “for be­tray­ing the dream of the Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion.” The mass mur­der, the ruth­less sup­pres­sion of dis­sent, hard la­bor camps for po­lit­i­cal un­de­sir­ables — all this was started by Vladimir Lenin, not Stalin, who raised the bar­barism to higher lev­els.

Stone and Kuznick have a right to ped­dle far-left pro­pa­ganda. But why does a main­stream en­ter­tain­ment com­pany such as Show­time give them a plat­form? Why have pub­li­ca­tions such as The Washington Post and The Chris­tian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor treated their re­vi­sion­ist his­tory with re­spect? (There are ex­cep­tions: a New York Times Mag­a­zine piece in­cludes harsh crit­i­cism.) While any­one who down­plays Nazi crimes is con­demned and os­tra­cized, those who down­play com­mu­nist crimes against hu­man­ity still largely get a free pass. In part, this is be­cause com­mu­nism is seen as a failed but ide­al­is­tic quest for the dream of per­fect so­cial jus­tice and eco­nomic equal­ity. It’s time to stop see­ing this dream as any­thing other than a night­mare.

Ge­orge Will Kath­leen Parker will re­turn.

Crit­ics of di­rec­tor Oliver Stone’s minis­eries now air­ing on Show­time say it down­plays crimes com­mit­ted by mass mur­derer Josef Stalin.

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