Blackguard List Good old Vanity Fair. If it was a woman, I'd describe her as having an upstairs body trapped in a downstairs mind. It suffers from the all-pervasive modern fear of giving offense to young people, Hollywood characters and minorities.
Take, for example, its latest "scoop." It has brought together 18 of the surviving Hollywood actors and screenwriters whose careers were blighted by the committee hearings of Sen. Joe McCarthy, and has photographed them in the manner of returning conquering heroes. For those too young to remember, in the late 40s, as the Cold War was beginning, America was shocked by allegations that films were being used to foist pro-communist ideas on audiences. The House Un-American Activities Committee subpoenaed 43 witnesses to answer questions about suspected communist propaganda infiltrating Tinseltown.
Some cooperated and named people they believed to be commies. Nineteen refused. Ten others were accused of Communist Party membership and were jailed for refusing to testify. Altogether 19 were blacklisted and barred from working. (Needless to say, most continued working under pseudonyms, and everyone turned a blind eye.)
Now as we all know, history is written by the victors, and no one can deny that the cultural wars were overwhelmingly won by the left. Ergo, the Hollywood 10 were elevated to the pantheon of American martyrs, and the 19 blacklisted were turned into heroic figures by the very same people who to this day have refused to apologize for worshipping Uncle Joe Stalin and Chairman Mao?who along with their comrades, murdered between 85 and 100 million innocents. Joe McCarthy and HUAC, in the meantime, have been demonized to such an extent that only Hitler and the Nazi Party exceed them as far as the bad guys are concerned. McCarthyism is considered a far worse thing than... Stalinism!
But my problem is not with the 19 refuseniks and the rewriters of history. (They were guilty as hell and paid a very small price for it.) It's with VF, whose editor is a friend of long standing, but who has obviously gone Hollywood. Why not photograph survivors of real witch hunts, like those who suffered under the Zhadnov Doctrine, Graydon? (That was any writer or artist who didn't suck up to Stalin; they were immediately put away.) Books, films and a million partisan articles have made the case for the Hollywood 10. What about a crumb for those who really suffered for their beliefs?
Very few of Stalin's admirers in the West have uttered a word of apology. Universities throughout the West today are full of unabashed Marxists and ex-communists, whereas even the most repentant ex-fascist is shunned and pilloried. Writing in New York Press recently, Sam Tanenhaus got it right when he pointed out the reason why so many intellectuals are on the left. He quotes George Orwell: "It was only after the Soviet regime became unmistakably totalitarian that English intellectuals began to show an interest in it... Because the secret wish of this salon elite was to destroy the old equalitarian version of Socialism and usher in a hierarchical society where the intellectual at last can get his hands on the whip." As I said before, those soi-disant blacklisted martyrs were in reality a bunch of tinpot dictators busy blacklisting those they didn't agree with.
Indeed, 10 years after the Wall came down, communism may be dead, but its morality has prevailed: it is permissible to lie, cheat and murder in the pursuit of an ultimate goal. Although in Western democracies the end did not justify the means, increasingly in Europe and in the U.S. the left decides a person's morality on the basis of his political beliefs. In other words, if one is against the greatest liar and cheat ever to besmirch the presidency, he or she is immoral. Alan Dershowitz and his ilk make the rules. Better yet, there is "good speech" and "bad speech." The latter is looked upon as a criminal act. If one dares to criticize homosexuals, he is censored by the very same people who proudly announce their love of freedom of expression. Sensitivity censorship is getting stronger by the minute. Just ask John Rocker.
When Stephane Courtois, himself a former communist, wrote that we should regard communism as the moral equivalent to Nazism, all hell broke loose. He dared to compare Nazism's "race genocide" to communism's "class genocide," which made it a real no-no among the academic and media set. Whereas Nazism's death camps have been turned into shrines and museums?and rightly so?the only memorial to any of Stalin's victims is a modest stone brought from an Arctic camp to Moscow's Lubyanka Square.
Last December, in The Washington Times, Arnold Beichman proposed the following scenario: Suppose an American or British academic who had long been pro-Nazi despite documentary proof of their inhumanity, had publicly argued that Hitler was trying to build a better world. And suppose Bill Clinton had awarded him the medal of freedom, what then? I'll tell you what. The Draft Dodger would be impeached and convicted quicker than you can say Monica Lewinsky. But just such a thing happened over in Blighty. Prof. Eric Hobsbawm received one of the highest civilian awards from Tony Blair only last year, the good professor having defended his views on Stalin in 1994 by stating that "the Communist Party was the only thing that offered an acceptable future." When further pressed whether he would have denounced the party if he had lived among the millions who were dying under the communist experiment, he answered, "Probably not."
Gulag dismissers are nothing new. The ridiculous Jacob Weisberg did just that in The New York Times Magazine last year. (Weisberg minimized the significance of the great terror while writing about "The rehabilitation of Joe McCarthy." Such are the joys of the left's morality. Tens of millions of dead, and we're worried about rear-gunner Joe and the 19 schmucks who paid no real price.)
So, Graydon, you're too good a man to suck up to the Hollywood schmucks. Next time, how about a great big fat issue on the true victims? The whole issue. Mind you, I shan't be holding my breath.
Petra Dickenson Feature
Woman Bites Man In the last 20 years, public perception of domestic violence has gone from disbelief to moral certainty that violence of any kind must be completely eliminated. Since no social goal can ever be achieved without a proper bureaucratic infrastructure, state and local governments have spent oceans of money assembling armies of counselors, social workers and law enforcement officers all trained to detect and deal with signs of abuse. Even Congress stepped in and passed the Violence Against Women Act, justifying its broad powers under the interstate commerce clause because, sadly, under our system of government even goodness needs constitutional justification.
Since its adoption, in late 1994, the feds alone have distributed more than $1.6 billion in grants to combat the problem. The statute also creates a civil rights remedy, allowing women to bring federal lawsuits against their assailants. (The U.S. Supreme Court is about to rule on the Act's constitutionality.)
Almost without exception, the public debate about domestic violence has focused on the female victim. Female victimology is so much part of our collective consciousness that individual states have even codified it into the men-needn't-apply "battered woman syndrome" legislation. Lost amid the agitation and conspicuously absent from any discussion, however, has been the prevalence of domestic violence against men. When inconvenient data are even brought out, they are instantly dismissed by media savants as "Nonsense!" The release of arrest statistics, collected, ironically, under the mandate of the Violence Against Women Act, indicating that in 1999 women constituted more than 25 percent of domestic assault arrests simply showed that "Women are choosing to fight back. Self-defense is not the same as domestic assault." That the data provided not a shred of evidence that these women acted in self-defense did not matter. Human nature is not good news to those with an agenda to reshape it.
Which may explain why all the studies disputing the characterization of domestic violence as a unisex phenomenon are confined to academic Siberia. Yet the fact is that when it comes to assault, men and women are equal-opportunity workers. To those who study the problem, this is not news. The first national sample of domestic violence, collected in 1975, found that men and women differed only in the types of attacks they engaged in, not the frequency of violence. Women tended to hit, kick or bite; men were more likely to use knives or guns. When this study was replicated 10 years later, the incidence of violence against women had decreased, while violence against men had increased.
Other studies have confirmed the increase in the use of deadly weapons and of knives by female assailants. On the whole, the surveys have been consistent in finding that the rates of violence by women are comparable to those of men. Some, however, have concluded that males experience a higher rate of abuse than do females.
How, then, does one explain the police statistics indicating that women are more likely to suffer abuse than men? For one thing, because of differences in physical size, the impact of violence tends to be different. The same acts committed by men tend to be more injurious than when done by women against men. For another, as the National Crime Survey and others have brought out, there is a significant relationship between a victim's sex and reporting to the police.
Apart from the ideological blinkers that deny male victims access to shelters and services routinely available to women, there is the obvious stigma factor. Men are reluctant to admit to being victims of domestic abuse because of the humiliation and shame that attach to a man who is beaten up by a woman. Even readers of The New York Times can surely think of some pretty unflattering names for such men.
If there is a unifying factor in abuse, it is socioeconomic status. People in the bottom income brackets are overrepresented both as victims and as assailants. Low income, combined with alcohol and drug abuse, not one's sex, is the lead player in domestic abuse. It is irresponsible to look the other way and to conduct an agitprop campaign brainwashing the entire population into believing that men are waging war against women and that no home is safe from their assault. While feminists have managed to narrow the public perception of the problem to conform to their own assumptions about men and power, their hold on the issue comes from the very fact that feminism has little to do with equality and everything to do with portraying women the way they have always been portrayed?helpless and in need of protection. This is why it has been so easy to accept the canard that only women are the victims of domestic violence and to waste resources on a wrongly framed question. We expect men to be dominant and women submissive or, at least, less aggressive than men.
When our images are shattered and men "allow" themselves to be abused by their wives and girlfriends, we roll our eyes in disbelief. Feminism succeeds precisely because it confirms old sexual stereotypes of the needy, dependent female. But where in the past a woman's security came from her own initiative or from the arms of a man, today, in feminized America, it can only come from the all-powerful state. The campaign against domestic violence, with its disregard of the true pathologies of the problem, is simply one battle in the fight to legitimize government as parent, friend and therapist. When, in the not-too-distant future, the shock troops of compassion have invaded all our homes to conduct sensitivity training drills, expect men to behave like their sob sisters and come forward with their own tales of woe. Only then will we feel their pain. Heck, we may even reach out to them and suggest that they "might want to put some ice on that."
George Szamuely The Bunker
Gore's Oil In September of 1995, as part of the pompously named National Performance Review?Al Gore's fatuous project to cut down government waste, fraud and mismanagement?the Vice President boldly declared that he was recommending the privatization of Elk Hills, a 47,000-acre oil-rich land in Southern California. Since 1912 it had been in the possession of the U.S. Navy as an emergency oil reserve. The oil companies salivated and made their bids. In October 1997 the Energy Dept. announced that the U.S. government would sell its stake in Elk Hills to Occidental Petroleum for $3.65 billion. Overnight, Occidental's U.S. oil reserves tripled. Occidental's stock surged and its stockholders glowed. One of them was the Vice President's father, Al Gore Sr. He owned more than $500,000 worth of Occidental stock. A clear conflict of interest? Not to the airheads in the media. Neither then nor any time since have they evinced the slightest curiosity about this deal. Or indeed about the Gore family's long and intimate connection with Occidental and, in particular, with its longtime chairman, the shady and sinister Armand Hammer.
Hammer devoted his life to negotiating business deals with the former Soviet Union. Following the 1917 revolution Hammer set up a bank in New York to channel hard currency from Russian emigres into the hands of the Bolshevik government. He also received money from the Bolsheviks that he distributed to spies and underground agents here. In later years he ran a pencil factory in the Soviet Union, the only Western capitalist permitted to operate in Stalin's Russia. In the 1930s, as the Soviet regime's need for hard currency grew ever more desperate, he was assigned the task of selling off Russian art in the West and remitting the proceeds. A lot of this art had been stolen by the Bolsheviks from its "capitalist" owners. A lot of it was junk. And a lot of it was forged. In return for the money, the Soviets sent him oak staves from which he would build beer barrels.
None of Hammer's enterprises made much money He was continuously on the verge of bankruptcy until the 1960s, when by extraordinary persistence?and a lot of bribery?his company, Occidental Petroleum, won a lucrative oil concession in Libya. At last, he had serious money to play with.
Hammer could not have prospered during the Red Scare, the Cold War and the McCarthy era had he not had powerful friends. It was no easy feat to persuade the world that he was no red?just a businessman trying to make a buck. One man who was very helpful to him in this regard was Sen. Albert Gore Sr. In 1950 Hammer had taken Congressman Gore on as a partner in his cattle-breeding business. He also sent him annual Christmas gifts of antique silver. And Gore repaid Hammer in kind. In the late 1950s he introduced him to Sen. John F. Kennedy. After the 1960 election Gore proposed to Kennedy that he use Hammer as his personal envoy in any future Berlin crises. While Hammer did not get the Berlin assignment, Kennedy did have an important mission for him. The President had been informed that Soviet crabmeat was produced by slave labor. Gore suggested that he send Hammer to investigate. Hammer returned to announce triumphantly that there was no truth to the rumor about slave labor. With great fanfare the U.S. government lifted the ban on Soviet crabmeat.
Using the money pouring in from Libya Hammer bought the Island Creek Coal Co., the nation's third largest coal producer. Following Gore's 1970 electoral defeat, Hammer appointed him chairman of Island Creek as well as executive VP of Occidental. Gore's took home a handsome $500,000 annually. By 1992 Gore owned Occidental stock worth $680,000. By now Hammer was, not surprisingly, cultivating the ambitious young Gore. In the 1960s, Gore Sr. informed Hammer that zinc ore had been discovered near his farm in Tennessee. Hammer bought the land for $160,000. He then promptly sold it back to him. Occidental then began payments of $20,000 a year for the right to mine it. Gore Sr. then sold the land to Gore Jr. for $140,000. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Gore Jr. has been receiving $20,000 a year from Occidental ever since. Interestingly, Occidental never did mine the land. In 1985, Gore leased the land to Occidental-competitor Union Zinc?clearly a sweetheart deal between Hammer and the Gore family.
Today, Gore Jr. is executor of his father's estate, which holds $500,000 worth of Occidental stock. In other words, the Vice President himself controls $500,000 worth of Occidental stock. Not surprisingly, Occidental has been extremely helpful to Clinton and Gore. Occidental gave $50,000 to the Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign. Since 1992 Occidental has given more than $470,000 in soft money to the Democratic Party. According to the Center for Public Integrity, two days after Ray Irani, Armand Hammer's successor as chairman, slept in the Lincoln Bedroom, Occidental forked over $100,000 to the DNC.
Gore is famous for his tedious expostulations about the consequences for the Earth's temperature of burning oil and coal. Yet when it comes to his own stock holdings the environment can take a running jump. In a few months Occidental is due to start drilling for oil in the Samore field in Colombia. Standing in Occidental's way are the U'wa people, a remote Colombian Indian tribe inhabiting the country's rainforests in the northeast, who do not want to leave their ancestral land. They promise to walk off a 1400-foot cliff in the Andes if Occidental begins drilling for oil. Predictably, Gore has said nothing. He has not protested Occidental's mining decision, or threatened to dispose of his stock or rallied fellow stockholders on behalf of the U'wa.
There is one thing the Clinton administration has done. It proposed recently to step up aid to the Colombian military to the tune of $1.3 billion. Ostensibly the money is to fight the "drug lords." In reality, it is to make sure that Al Gore's oil wells and pipelines are firmly protected.
Toby Young The London Desk
Upwardly Mobile Returning to London after a four-and-a-half year absence is a little like entering The Twilight Zone. Your initial impression is that nothing's changed?the same escalator is broken at my local tube station, the same beggar is sitting beside the cashpoint machine on Shepherd's Bush Green, the same group of drunks is propping up the bar of the Groucho Club. However, on closer inspection you begin to notice subtle differences. For instance, the number of television stations you can now receive if you have a sufficiently powerful aerial has increased from four to five.
I'm deliberately trying to make London sound like a provincial suburb of the global village but in one crucial respect it's pulled ahead of New York: almost everybody has a mobile phone. This is one of the most visible changes of the last five years. When I left in 1995, a mobile was still a badge of status, a way of advertising your membership of the professional class. Nowadays, they're as common as wristwatches. Statistics show that as many as 20 million people in the UK own a mobile phone?more than a third of the population. If you narrow the pool down to 15-to-64-year-olds, it works out at one in two. Another indication of just how popular mobiles have become in the UK is the presence of Charles Dunstone, the 35-year-old managing director of Carphone Warehouse, on the London Sunday Times' Rich List, the paper's annual ranking of the 1000 wealthiest people in the country. According to the survey published last Sunday, Dunstone's net worth has doubled in the last 12 months, bringing his fortune up to £275 million, thanks to booming sales of mobiles. In December alone, Carphone Warehouse sold 500,000 units.
If a mobile is no longer a status-indicator, however, the network you're connected to is. At the top of the tree is Vodafone, which offers the best coverage within the UK and, as a consequence, charges the highest rates. Then comes Orange, followed by Cellnet and, finally, One 2 One. People with One 2 One phones are the social pariahs of the mobile world; it's the electronic equivalent of being on welfare. Needless to say, I have a One 2 One phone.
London also boasts a thriving mobile subculture. One of the hottest new comedians to spring up recently is Dom Joly, thanks to a character he's created called Mobile Phone Man. Joly's the star of a new sketch comedy show called Trigger Happy TV on which he's filmed shouting into a giant mobile in places where such behavior is totally unacceptable. In the opening sketch of the series Joly could be seen shocking fellow diners in one of London's poshest restaurants by screaming "RUBBISH" into his oversize Ericsson T-28.
There's even an urban legend doing the rounds about a mobile user. Apparently, a strange thing happened on a London-bound commuter train recently. A yuppie was yelling into his mobile at his broker in a crowded railway carriage, ordering him to buy and sell shares, when another passenger had a heart attack. Luckily, there was a doctor in the carriage and, after examining the passenger, he ordered the yuppie to call the emergency services and arrange for an ambulance to meet the train at the next station. The yuppie was suddenly overcome with embarrassment, forced to admit that the phone he'd been using wasn't actually real.
Given how socially unacceptable it is to use mobiles in public, a new form of wireless communication has emerged: text messaging, or "texting" for short. In order to text somebody, you tap out a message on your mobile's LCD screen using the keypad, then send it to someone else's mobile. Because selecting the right letter involves repeating a lot of keystrokes, a whole texting shorthand has evolved utilizing almost as many symbols as letters. Once this vocabulary has been mastered, it's possible to tap out quite complicated messages in no time at all.
Texting has quickly gained notoriety as a brilliant way of conducting clandestine relationships. Suppose you're having an affair with a married woman. You can't risk calling her at home, even on her mobile, because it might arouse her husband's suspicions. However, if you send her a text message, she can read it and reply to it without her husband being any the wiser. Even if you're unlucky enough to be in a relationship that's completely above board, "texting" still has its advantages. For instance, my girlfriend's at law school and I like nothing better than sending her a filthy text message in the middle of one of her lectures. A word has even been coined to describe two friends whose primary means of communication is by texting each other. They're known as "Texties."
Texting can also be used to terminate affairs. In a recently published novel set in London called The Love Hexagon, a male character receives his marching orders by text message. That's one down from being dumped by e-mail.
London's mobile phone subculture may not be of much interest to movers and shakers on the other side of the Atlantic?who needs a mobile when you can yell as loud as your average New Yorker??but it's indicative of an economically significant trend. Europe in general has much higher mobile phone penetration than the U.S., one of the few high-tech areas in which we're ahead of you. If the future of the Web is wireless, as many believe, this levels the playing field in the competition to exploit it. It's worth remembering that the largest merger in history was not that of America Online and Time Warner but Vodafone and Mannesmann, two European telecom groups. Incredibly, the British telecom giant?more accurately known as Vodafone AirTouch after it's successful takeover of a U.S. rival?is now a more formidable predator than AOL. Look out New Yorkers. The Texties are coming.