Roger L. Simon

Is Oliver Stone today's Walter Duranty?

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I wasn’t going to write about Oliver Stone’s recent Mel Gibson (“Yes, I can be an anti-Semite too!”) imitation, even though I — once upon a time in a universe far far away — knew Oliver pretty well. Frankly, I was too disgusted and didn’t want to add my tiny bit to the filmmaker’s pathological, never-ending search for publicity — or is it notoriety? And when it comes to exonerating Hitler, I prefer Mel Brooks.

But Oliver has now apologized, sort of, and the brouhaha seems to be dying down — at least until his Showtime series informing us brainwashed unwashed of what Stone considers the real secret truth of America, or should I say Amerikkka, makes it to the air (if it does).

I can’t wait. It’s sort of like history as told by Captain Queeg. (Okay, I take it back. I don’t think I will watch — especially if it interferes with more important programming like the Real Housewives of New Jersey.)

But speaking of “real,” the real story here is and was Showtime, not Stone, whose multiple derangement syndromes are well-known, and not just from my book. Just why would this company, a CBS subsidiary, be so desperate as to want to finance the filmmaker’s puerile paranoid fantasies?

Well, the bottom line is the bottom line, but imagine the company’s consternation when they realized they had something akin to a Holocaust denier on their hands. Being “Edgy” has always been considered good business in Hollywood, but this was One Edge Too Far. I would bet my house, most of it anyway, that Stone heard from the folks at Showtime (either directly or, more likely, via his agent) post haste after his Protocols of Zionish statements about Jews controlling the world appeared in the London Times, hitting the global Internet almost immediately; hence the speedy retraction.

Will this be the last we see of Oliver the way it may be for Gibson? No such luck, I’m afraid. Like a pretentious, pseudo-leftist Energizer Bunny, he will just keep on coming. An ego that size cannot be denied. It can latch on to anything. Last year Scientology, this year Hugo Chavez. Who knows what or who will be next?

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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