Back in 2005, I explored the desire among many Russians and Germans to return to the “glory” days of their totalitarian pasts and wrote:
Part of the challenge of freedom is that it involves the messy vitality of individualism. And a big part of the attraction of totalitarianism is its order. Long before he entered the Oval Office, Ronald Reagan knew the Soviet Union was a third world economy hiding behind an enormous and powerful military. It’s easy to look at millions of hulking men in black boots and assume that their force equals the sum total of a nation’s vitality. And there’s obvious order in those images (see: Riefenstahl, Leni).
They’re seductive surfaces, even though what was under them was so rotten. And its obvious that even as the former Russian, East German–and even West German people and their leaders struggle with moving forward, their dark, but ordered pasts can be an awfully attractive alternative.
But they’re also remarkably attractive to the American left as well, as Scott Whitlock of the Media Research Center writes:
Proving yet again how out of touch the publication can be, the October 12 issue of Newsweek seriously asked the question: “Was Russia Better Off Red?” The “Back Story” page of the magazine featured a graphic comparing life under communism to now and bizarrely asserted: “Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has seen an increase in oligarchs and Louis Vuitton outlets. But by many other measures, Russians are worse off.”
Yes, despite the fact that 20 million people were murdered in Soviet Russia, this unsigned feature in Newsweek contrasted the crime rate under communism, the number of hospitals and the total number of cinemas (among other factors) to those in the country today. Sadly, there are only 1,510 movie theaters today. Under the brutal repression of communism, however, there were 2,337.
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The magazine did not ask: Are more people being murdered and being sent to the gulag now than they were under communism?
Newsweek’s Web site no longer includes most of the printed magazine and so this page is not online. But, readers can find it on page 62 of the October 12 edition — or click on the jpg link above for a scanned image.
Read the whole thing. As Jonah Goldberg noted recently, when another elite liberal journalist looked to the east — and the bloodiest portions of the 20th century — for inspiration:
If only America could drop its inefficient and antiquated system, designed in the age before globalization and modernity and, most damning of all, before the lantern of Thomas Friedman’s intellect illuminated the land. If only enlightened experts could do the hard and necessary things that the new age requires, if only we could rely on these planners to set the ship of state right. Now, of course, there are “drawbacks” to such a system: crushing of dissidents with tanks, state control of reproduction, government control of the press and the internet. Omelets and broken eggs, as they say. More to the point, Friedman insists, these “drawbacks” pale in comparison to the system we have today here in America.I cannot begin to tell you how this is exactly the argument that was made by American fans of Mussolini in the 1920s. It is exactly the argument that was made in defense of Stalin and Lenin before him (it’s the argument that idiotic, dictator-envying leftists make in defense of Castro and Chavez today). It was the argument made by George Bernard Shaw who yearned for a strong progressive autocracy under a Mussolini, a Hitler or a Stalin (he wasn’t picky in this regard). This is the argument for an “economic dictatorship” pushed by Stuart Chase and the New Dealers. It’s the dream of Herbert Croly and a great many of the Progressives.
Of course, in one sense, you can’t fault Newsweek for being inconsistent — this is the opinion magazine that in February believed that, with the coming of President Obama, “We Are All Socialists Now.” Fortunately, thousands upon thousands of Tea Partiers across the country have said nyet to that idea, much to the left’s consternation. Where have you gone, Joe Stalin? Our nation’s liberal pundits turn their lonely eyes to you!
(Headline via Arthur Chrenkoff.)