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February 12, 2005

Finishing the Stricture

Roger Kimball appears straight-up determined to make a one-man cottage industry of himself in the discipline of posthumous Commie roasts. In October it was Derrida, in December, Sontag.

Next up on the pyre... Arthur Miller: legendary playwright, unlikely babe-magnet, Stalinist stooge?

At Armavirumque Kimball bids his fondest farewell:

Let the bouquets begin. The playwright Arthur Miller died yesterday at 89. An icon of the left-liberal establishment for decades, Miller has already been showered with a diabetic's nightmare of saccharine eulogies from . . . well, from just about everywhere. I won't intrude into this love-fest except to note that a measure of scepticism about Mr. Miller's halo of sanctity is in order. In September 2000, we published a dissenting note about Miller in The New Criterion.

From that September 2000 Notes & Comments:

Some myths die hard. One of the most recalcitrant in recent times has been the myth of McCarthyism—the myth that America in the late 1940s and early 1950s was in the grip of a fearsome, paranoid "witch-hunt" against supposed Communists and other alleged traitors
Mr. Miller has always been a reliable source of radical-chic clichés and he does not disappoint in this new recollection. We can well believe him when he remarks that "Practically everyone I knew stood within the conventions of the political left of centre; one or two were Communist party members, some were fellow-travellers, and most had had a brush with Marxist ideas or organisations." But is it naïveté or something else when he goes on to declare that "I have never been able to believe in the reality of these people being actual or putative traitors any more than I could be, yet others like them were being fired from teaching or jobs in government or large corporations." Mr. Miller is especially incredulous that any of his fellow artists could have engaged in traitorous activities: "The unwelcome truth denied by the right was that the Hollywood writers accused of subversion were not a menace to the country, or even bearers of meaningful change. They wrote not propaganda but entertainment, some of it of a mildly liberal cast, but most of it mindless, or when it was political, as with Preston Sturges or Frank Capra, entirely and exuberantly un-Marxist."
Really? Mr. Miller concludes his piece by speaking of the black singer Paul Robeson, whose "declaration of faith in socialism as a cure for racism," he says, "was a rocket that lit up the sky." Robeson is widely considered a martyr of HUAC. In fact, he was a doctrinaire Stalinist who believed that only in the Soviet Union were blacks really free. At the World Peace Congress in 1949, Robeson publicly declared that American blacks would not fight for the American flag, least of all against Moscow: "It is unthinkable," he said, that his race "would go to war on behalf of those who oppressed us for generations." Russia he described as "a country which in one generation has raised our people to the full dignity of mankind." In the same year, like many other artists under Stalinist "discipline," he voluntarily gave up acting and singing, explaining that "I have no time in the political struggle of today to entertain people." Robeson received the Stalin Prize in 1953, the year of the dictator's death, and he signed a eulogy that contained the benediction "Glory to Stalin. Forever will his name be honored and beloved in all lands."
Mr. Miller writes that "The heart of the darkness was the belief that a massive, profoundly organised conspiracy was in place and carried forward mainly by a concealed phalanx of intellectuals, including labour activists, teachers, professionals, sworn to undermine the American government." But what he describes as a paranoid fantasy we now know to be the historical truth.
The real witch hunt
Speaking of witch-hunts, we cannot forebear to share with our readers a document sent to us by a friend from Naperville, Illinois, a suburb west of Chicago. Entitled "Ten Quick Ways to Analyze Childrens Books for Racism and Sexism," this preposterous little guide, originally devised by the Illinois School Library Media Conference in 1997, was distributed for the guidance of teachers in Naperville as part of their new "Diversity Plan." Among other things, "Ten Quick Ways" advises readers to "Check the Illustrations" of childrenís books for stereotypes and tokenism, to "Check the Story Line": "Is 'making it' in the dominant white society projected as the only ideal? The standard for success?" (As opposed to what, becoming a welfare mother or crack addict?)
Here is a real witch-hunt in progress. A pity, isnít it, that left-wing crusaders like Arthur Miller will not be picking up their pens to expose it?

The New Criterion... divorcing aesthetics from political agenda since 1982.

(Don't get them started on the evils of fluoridation, though...)

*Update: Grammar.police

"Finishing the Stricture"
Posted by Dan at 11:57 AM


Referenced in this post:

Armavirumque: Arthur Miller, Communist stooge—Roger Kimball
FrontPage: Susan Sontag: An Obituary—Roger Kimball
Grammar.police: Are You Now or Were You Ever a Decent Critic?
Iconoduel: Die Welt According to Herr Doktor Merkwürdichliebe
New Criterion: Book Sales: The Rape of the Masters
New Criterion: Notes & Comments September 2000
Roundup: Roger Kimball: Jacques Derrida's Malevolent Influence