April 26, 2014

Renewing the Cold War

No, this is not about Putin's expansionism and the U.S. reaction to it. It's much less weighty than that.

The leftist bias in the media is a fact of life that irritates conservatives even as we become somewhat inured to it. Often blatant, it is sometimes subtle, and it is an example of the latter I describe here.

Some months ago, I downloaded the Encyclopedia Britannica app for my iPhone, and did a quick search to see what the entries look like. The app is free, but for anything beyond the first sentence or two from the article, a subscription fee is charged. Most users (like me) don't spring for the detail, so all we get on our smartphones is the quickie summary. On the Web (see links) the full article is available free.

Off the top of my head, I did my first search on Whittaker Chambers...the abbreviated entry read as follows:

Whittaker Chambers - original name Jay Vivian Chambers (born April 1, 1901, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.--died July 9, 1961, near Westminster, Md.)

American journalist, Communist Party member, Soviet agent, and a principal figure in the Alger Hiss case, one of the most publicized espionage incidents of the Cold War.

Okay...nothing factually untrue there, although the defining feature of Chambers' biography surely was his renunciation of his communism, along with his authorship of his memoir "Witness", which features the soul-baring account of his apostasy, and that of his famous testimony against Hiss. His work in the service of the Soviet empire ran from 1932 until 1938, and he worked for several years after that as a respected journalist and an editor at Time magazine. He was eventually awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Of how many Communist Party members and Soviet agents can that be said?

Curiosity then led me to the entry for Hiss:

Alger Hiss - (born Nov. 11, 1904, Baltimore, MD - died Nov. 15, 1996, New York, NY)

former U.S. State Department official who was convicted in January 1950 of perjury concerning his dealings with Whittaker Chambers, who accused him of membership in a communist espionage ring. His case, which came at a time of growing apprehension about the domestic influence of communism, seemed to lend substance to Senator Joseph R. McCarthy's sensational charges of communist infiltration...( into the State Department.)

Again...no factual untruths...just a subtle twisting of the historical realities. Because Hiss was certainly no less a "Soviet agent", and arguably more so than Chambers, as he remained defiant until his death, persisting in the lie that he never betrayed his country. His perjury conviction, described here as "concerning his dealings with Whittaker Chambers", was in fact about his work as a spy for the Soviet Union from within the U.S. State Department.

In 1948, it "seemed to lend substance to" McCarthy's charges of communist infiltration. In 2014 however, this is no longer simply an "accusation" by Chambers, but a fact documented by the Venona transcripts and other material from the Soviet archives. The very last sentence of the Hiss entry in the Web version nods to this reality when it says, "In 1996 the release of secret Soviet cables that had been intercepted by U.S. intelligence during World War II provided strong evidence for Hiss's guilt." One man's strong evidence is, I suppose, another man's definitive proof. Based on what we know today, if the bio of Alger Hiss had to be reduced to two words, they would have to be "Soviet spy"...or maybe "treasonous bureaucrat"...take your pick.

But if you read nothing more than the first few sentences of these entries in the smartphone encyclopedia, you see one guy was a journalist, but also a Communist and a Soviet agent, while the other guy was a State Department official who was accused of being involved in espionage, and who by the way, was convicted of perjury.

Like I said....subtle.

Posted by dan at April 26, 2014 5:46 PM