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Ed Driscoll

When The Legend Becomes Fact, Print The Legend

September 24th, 2013 - 2:45 pm

“Many of the progressive tales that Americans grew up with in the 20th century have also been proven either noble lies or half-truths,” Victor Davis Hanson writes in a read-the-whole-thing column at NRO:

 The American Left has canonized the narrative that anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti were framed, subjected to a show trial, and then executed as a result of widespread American prejudice, xenophobia, and reactionary fear-mongering. Their executions sparked worldwide protests, novels, and plays reacting to the intolerance of a morally suspect America. Yet decades later, most historians, while they concede that the trials of 1921 did not match jurisprudence of a near-century later — nevertheless also quietly accept that the two were indeed anarchist terrorists, and at least one was probably guilty of armed robbery and murder, and the other of being an accessory after the fact. Bigots do not always arrive at bigoted verdicts.

Liberal culture likewise assumed that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed on false charges of spying for the Soviet Union and that at least one of them had not really passed on secrets about the American atomic-bomb project. The two accused became causes célèbres as thousands worldwide rallied to save them from dangerous American know-nothings. Their messy electrocutions were supposedly likewise symptomatic of a paranoid America lashing out at easy victims in an era of Red-baiting, anti-Semitism, and rank McCarthyism.

The truth was in comparison banal. While we know that the Soviets would probably have gotten the H-bomb soon anyway, and that they claimed they were still our allies when they received top-secret American information, and while we know too that today the Rosenbergs would probably have received 20-year sentences, we also know from Soviet archives that they both worked as Soviet spies, who passed to our enemies information about nuclear weapons and other valuable classified projects.

There was no greater liberal icon than Alger Hiss, a smooth, debonair diplomat and foundation head, who likewise was supposedly ground up by the right-wing buzz saw with unfounded charges of spying and treason. While we are still not sure of the degree of damage that Hiss actually did, it is clear that he was at some point in his life a Soviet spy — a damning fact for an American diplomat at times entrusted with matters of the nation’s security during the early Cold War. That disturbing truth, however, was minor in comparison to the larger untruth that the Hiss case represented the dangerous excesses of reactionary America. [Just ask former Hillary spokeswoman turned MSNBC analyst Karen Finney, who is still rather "hung up" about the case -- Ed.] So Hiss became a sort of progressive Great Gatsby, a fake, self-inventing himself into something grand that he was not.

In recent memory, several popular icons of revolutionary resistance have been revealed as frauds and worse. Che Guevara — locks, beard, and motorcycle — was a psychotic thug who enjoyed executing his political opponents. Bill Ayers by his own admission was “guilty as hell” of being a violent terrorist; until he had the bad luck of hawking on 9/11 his memoir of his terrorist days, he was on the road to canonization. Rigoberta Menchú was not quite a gifted author who revealed the horrors of right-wing repression in a cry-of-the-heart memoir of resistance. More likely, she fabricated stories in service to her perceived higher calling of exposing brutal reactionary class violence against the poor.

VDH brings the leftwing mythmaking up to the current day with the media’s recent blackouts of the actual facts of George Zimmerman’s trial, the recent book alleging that the murder of Matthew Shepard was not an anti-gay hate crime, and all of the distortions initially broadcast concerning “African-American, pro-Obama, Buddhist, Thai-speaking Aaron Alexis, who murdered without an AR-15″ at the DC Navy Yard, as Hanson writes.

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All Comments   (9)
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43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
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43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
"How many times have Christians in the last two thousand years been convinced that the Second Coming was at hand, only to be bitterly disappointed" Relatively very few Christians have ever believed in date setting for the return of Christ, because scripture says no one knows the date or time.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
No true Christian tries to immanentize the eschaton.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think you all should note how closely these narratives follow religious myths in both style and content.

Most are just evil strength persecution righteous weakness.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
God Bless Diana West!
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
BTW, the last thing the Communists wanted was to get Sacco/Vanzetti off. They cared absolutely nothing for their lives; they wanted them as martyrs.

But how is that different from our continual complaints about Benghazi, when we do nothing to free the filmmaker?
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unfortunately, Conservatives also accept left-wing legends, after they have thrown their own under the bus.

Just about every major "icon" of VietNam was either false or apocryphal.

Woodward and Bernstein, or more correctly their editor, jazzed up the facts (lied) to make the book more interesting.

PS In a sense, there was a place where prejudice did play a part; while no rational person could really doubt the guilt of Sacco and Julius, the fact that Hiss was a blueblood enabled him to get away with it for so, so long.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Better title,
When the Legend fits the agenda better than the Fact, print the Legend until it becomes Fact.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
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