Yesterday, we linked to Roger L. Simon’s thoughts on the dismissive review by Nicholas Kristof of Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s important new book, Mao, The Unknown Story in The New York Times. James Panero of The New Criterion has more:
What is it with public intellectuals and mass murderers? Kristof’s disgraceful conclusion to his review speaks volumes to the acceptability and even expectability in intellectual circles of praising the most murderous villain–in terms of numbers killed–of the twentieth century. Kristof’s shameful display caps a review that applauds the book in disclosing the details of Maoism abroad but fails to mention anything about Maoism at home. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, then, at Kristof’s critical and moral breakdown. It’s the old “Benito Mussolini made the trains run on time” defense–a defense as indefensible for Il Duce as it is for Chairman Mao. [Kristof is far from the first to attempt it of course–Ed.]
Nicholas D. Kristof, thank you for telling us how you really can improve a country by murdering twenty million of its people. And for this, you are today’s Walter Duranty Award Winner!
When it comes to the Times, that could be a daily series.
Update: In a post titled “Lost Illusions“, Greg Hlatky writes:
Pray, what is incongruous about [Mao] being bumbling and a psychopath and being revered? Take away their power and the great dictators of the 20th century are pretty nondescript. Apart from his cunning and ruthlessness, Hitler was a remarkably banal character. His underlings were even less impressive: a Nuremburg prison guard said, “Who’d have thought that we were fighting this war against a bunch of jerks?”
Then there’s Kristof’s “Yes, but…”, which I’ve noticed before, where Communism’s evils are supposed to be balanced out by the good it brought to the nations unfortunate enough to fall under it: Soviet electrification, China’s reduction in child mortality or, nowadays, the famous Cuban health care system, the virtues of which we can always read about in the nuttier letters to the editor of the New York Times or from Hollywood goofballs. Always ignored is the question of whether such advances would have taken place without Communism. The answer, I think, is obvious.
I forget which biography of Hitler I read that noted that while his apologists praise the Autobahn, the Volkswagen, and other technological advancements, such breakthroughs were going on in the 1930s throughout the world–and didn’t need murderous totalitarianism to spur them on in the rest of Europe (Italy being the exception of course) or America. The same is even more true in the free world, post-World War II.