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Roger L. Simon

Is Oliver Stone today’s Walter Duranty?

July 27th, 2010 - 10:28 pm

In a way Stone reminds me of one of the great media villains of the twentieth century, Walter Duranty. Duranty, as many readers will recall, was the 1930s New York Times Moscow correspondent who deliberately misreported the forced starvation of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of Ukrainian peasants, the so-called Ukrainian Holodomor. Duranty was rewarded the Pulitzer for his murderous lies. Despite several attempts, it was never withdrawn.

Much like Stone early on with Scientology, Duranty was a youthful devotee of the Satanist Aleister Crowley, indulging in Crowley’s drug-filled orgies before joining the Times as their man in Moscow and becoming the world’s then most famous foreign correspondent. Once in the Soviet Union, he carefully followed the party line in his dispatches until finally telling the big lie about the Ukraine, exonerating Stalin’s terror. I had always assumed Duranty was motivated by devotion to the communist cause and was himself at least a fellow traveler. Not true, I learned in some recent research I had cause to do about the journalist, for the PJTV clip at the top of this post on the New York Times’ misadventures over the decades.

Duranty was an ego-maniac and an opportunist. Privately, he had contempt for communism, something he thought only good for the primitive Russians who needed a strong leader. His reasons for toeing the Stalinist line were access and the greater glory of Walter Duranty. As long as he was the Times’ man in Moscow, he was The Man.

You could overdo the parallels between Stone and Duranty, but it’s always seemed to me that Oliver’s opinions are paper-thin and expedient. He’s in the enfant terrible business, but, in his sixties now, he’s a long way from an enfant. It doesn’t wear well.

Duranty, btw, ended his life in penury, unable to get any kind of literary work. He even tried Hollywood, failing miserably.

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