Coming just 10 days after the death of Alex Cockburn, came the literary star of The Nation and New York Review of Books, the vile Gore Vidal. His life has been celebrated and heralded in scores of obits and articles. The most despicable is of course from The Nation, and the pen of historian Jon Weiner, who concludes that Vidal “wrote as a citizen of the republic and a critic of the empire. We won’t have another like him.” Thankfully, and now Vidal’s vicious attacks leave only Noam Chomsky as his remaining successor.
But coming to the rescue with a first-rate analysis of Vidal is a real historian, David Greenberg of Rutgers University. Writing in Slate, Greenberg pleads readers to ignore the rosy tributes to Vidal, whom he rightfully calls an elitist who was not on the Left, like Weiner thinks he was, but as a man who “Toward the end of Vidal’s life, … discredited himself even on the left with his embrace of loony ultra-right causes, such as Ruby Ridge, Waco, and eventually Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the Oklahoma City Murrah building in 1995. Vidal feebly tried to justify these indefensible sympathies by pointing to the United States government’s abuses of power.”
I suspect Greenberg hadn’t as yet read Weiner’s praise of Vidal, which of course leaves out most of what Vidal believed and stood for. Greenberg writes:
The Sage of Ravello was an equal-opportunity apologist for terrorists, taking up the obscene theories (which, in an exquisite Orwellism, go by the name “truther”) that the Bush administration was complicit in al-Qaida’s 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Unfortunately, this delusion was excused in some quarters as eccentricity, the confusions of advancing age, or forgivable derangement brought about by the misdeeds of American politicians and policymakers which, one was perhaps supposed to infer, embodied the more proper targets of our censure.
Vidal’s views, Greenberg writes, “were the natural progression of thought in a man whose worldview was fundamentally racist and elitist, motivated by the fear that the reign of his own caste was ending as the walls of aristocratic privilege crumbled in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust.”
That The Nation and NYRB ran his pieces and gave him credibility testifies only to how any critics of what they see as the US Empire will publish anyone who a smart reader knows immediately is beyond the pale is testimony to the shoddy nature of their own world-view.
Any further celebrations of Vidal’s life will now have to contend with that written by Greenberg.