I’ve written a column for FrontPage Magazine and I’m friends with Diana West.
I was shocked when I saw FPM publish, “McCarthy On Steroids,” by Ron Radosh. Subsequent FPM columns on West and American Betrayal have been equally shocking.
I contacted both West and FPM. I have received an answer from West but no answers yet from FPM (although I did receive a response directing me where to direct my inquiry).
In the meantime, I will provide my comments and thoughts on a small portion of the charges that Radosh levels against West and American Betrayal, and explain why I think he and FPM are wrong. I will also note that at least one significant person’s mind was changed based on West’s book. (See the asterisk which is noted at the end.)
I’ve spent enough time writing in the so-called conservative sphere that I’ve encountered a lot of phonies and a lot of nasty people. (Not nasty with leftists—no, they engage in civility with them—but nasty with the “little people” on the right who try to join the conservative writing sphere and “move in on their turf”.)
Diana West is not one of these people. In addition to treating me with the utmost of civility, respect, and basic human decency (again, something that isn’t a given from many on the right), she has also been one of the few national pundits who have been more concerned with the national shame of imprisoned American troops (imprisoned for killing the enemy) than with “winning the hearts and minds” of our enemies who hate us and want to destroy us. And as a former soldier I appreciate that.
So that’s full disclosure on my biases.
Yet while I will defend West and American Betrayal, what I write will not be an attack on Radosh or FPM. I’m not going to get in a fight with them. My intent in writing this editorial and analysis is to kill the accusation that West engaged in scholarly misconduct. I encourage people to read American Betrayal and form their own conclusions.
If you want to think that West is wrong, fair enough. If you can identify mistakes she made at points, fair enough. If you want to think that Radosh made some good points, fair enough. If you want to think that West succeeded in doing what she set out to do, fair enough. If you want to think that the overall thesis of her book is correct (which I do, even as I disagree with parts), fair enough.
But form your own conclusions. And if you’re going to take Radosh’s opinion and the opinions of others at FPM into consideration, then take mine into consideration as well.
One last thing before I begin: it is important to note that there is more to the disagreement than just the book and that the disagreement goes beyond what West wrote in American Betrayal.
My Reading of American Betrayal and Why I Think Radosh and FPM Are Wrong:
I served as an intelligence analyst for eight years in the U.S. Army Reserve.
It used to bother me when people blamed the intelligence community (IC) for not knowing this or being wrong about that. The job of the IC is to attempt to find out information—sometimes quick and without having as much verification as one would like—from enemies who don’t want you to know said information and who aren’t easily accessible.
I had once thought the public would think this a hard job. But now I don’t think it does. After all, it’s almost a national pastime to beat up on the IC, ridiculing it and demonizing it. That’s fine and I accept it. But at the same time, I know it’s not easy to get at the truth or even make sound assessments on a topic when it’s hard to get information or when that information is hidden. And even when you do make a sound assessment on a given topic, there is still room for disagreement, debate, and new information that will fill intelligence gaps and change analysis . . . kind of like how history is.
So even as I read American Betrayal I knew that people would challenge its conclusions and possibly some of the facts presented. I assume that West knows this as well. After all, you have to expect that as a public figure (or even just as a human being—no one is perfect).
But I didn’t expect the “takedown” that emerged from Ron Radosh and FPM.
Perhaps if West truly committed the scholarly and/or professional misconduct of which Radosh and FPM accuse her, then one could argue that they have been justified in their aggressiveness.
But I haven’t yet seen misconduct proved. In fact, FPM hasn’t even provided any solid evidence of misconduct.
And when someone makes the serious accusations about distorting the facts and drawing illegitimate conclusions that Radosh and FPM have made against Diana West, then they need to have overwhelming evidence, and they need to be impeccable in citing said evidence. Again, they have done neither to date.
Here are a few of the mistakes that Radosh and FPM have committed.
It’s Fair to Challenge Someone, but You Have to Have Evidence . . . and You Have to Know What the Person You Are Challenging Set Out to Do:
I have been generating some questions for West about American Betrayal. Some of my questions request more information on what she wrote, but other questions challenge her facts or conclusions. Others have also said that they have questions. And they’ve done so in a civil manner. Again, this is to be expected with anyone who writes a book as prominent as American Betrayal has become.
But it’s also important to remember that West is presenting her conclusions as her assessments and not unchallengeable fact. That shouldn’t be controversial unless she is so off base that her conclusions are utterly illogical. And since we live in a day and age where people on the left and now the right accept as a legitimate argument that a male is a female (a falsehood that is open for everyone to see), then Radosh and FPM better have some overwhelming evidence that West is distorting facts to the point of lying with her conclusions. Once more, they haven’t come close to doing that so far.
Furthermore, commenter “Teleologicus” at one of Radosh’s follow-ups to, “McCarthy On Steroids,” (“Diana West’s Attempt to Respond”) makes an important point that Radosh and the rest of FPM seem to have overlooked:
I have read Diana West’s latest book and do not find it to be “awful” or worthy of the degree of condemnation heaped upon it (her) by Professor Radosh and others. It is clearly a political polemic, written “direct and flamingly from the heart,” shrill, loud, indignant, outraged, hyperbolic, exaggerated and no doubt mistaken in some particulars and questionable in some speculations. It is not a PhD doctoral dissertation or a scholarly article. It is a specimen of political propaganda intended to attract and sustain attention – and because it is a good polemic, it has succeeded. Everybody should read it for themselves and make up their own mind. No sensible person would believe every word or accept every idea found in any book. Critical examination and judgment are always needed. . . .
. . . America . . . needs more outraged, passionate, polemicists like Diana West.I was surprised that a commenter would have to write this. I thought (most of) it obvious and apparently so do others.* But Radosh, David Horowitz (the owner of FPM), and the rest of FPM seemingly do not see it this way.
Furthermore, if One Is Going to Attack Someone with Charges of Gross Inaccuracy, He Better Be Impeccable with His Facts:
This has been one of the most glaring mistakes by Radosh and FPM thus far. Are some of the accusations of errors from Radosh and FPM true? It’s possible. But on the accusation that West grossly distorted history I see no such evidence.
However, even a quick glance at some of the references that Radosh links to in, “McCarthy on Steroids,” to “prove” that West is wrong and he is right shows something less than a scholarly effort on his part. And this is inexcusable since he is attacking West on charges of poor scholarship and inaccuracy.
Radosh alleges (and I do not know if he is right or wrong but I will take his word for it) that Eduard Mark recanted his belief that Harry Hopkins was Soviet spy Agent 19 (or Source 19). West used Mark’s previous belief that Hopkins (Franklin Roosevelt’s closest aide) as one of her reasons for suggesting in American Betrayal that Hopkins might have been Agent 19. But Radosh links to a document (as “proof” of his claim that Mark recanted) that is merely a schedule of events for a conference where Eduard Mark appeared and allegedly recanted.
I get that there might not be a historical record of Mark’s recanting made at that event. However, in a piece that is so insistent on the lack of scholarship and truth by West, one would think that Radosh would want to impeccably document his claims (or at least note that what he links to is merely a schedule of events).
But this is only a minor flaw on Radosh’s part. Other errors are worse.
Radosh also says that West thinks that everything that McCarthy said was right and then links to a column of hers which says no such thing.
West does think McCarthy was right (which, in the American culture I’m familiar with, doesn’t imply that she believes that everything that McCarthy ever said was right). I even emailed her and specifically asked her this and she confirmed that she does not believe that McCarthy was right with everything he ever said:
Of course not. (Who gets everything right?) What he got right was that there was Communist infiltration and conspiracy that needed sunshine/investigation. No, I didn’t say what Radosh said I said.Worse still, Radosh has at least twice outright misidentified (or misquoted) supposed errors in American Betrayal—each time as he claimed that he had proven West wrong and/or refuted her.
Read what Radosh writes in, “Diana West Down Crackpot Alley,” and then what West writes in, “‘Professor’ Radosh Gets an ‘F’”. I have specifically checked what Radosh charged with West’s response in my copy of American Betrayal and have confirmed that Radosh is wrong and West is correct. Both the accusation that Radosh makes and the source(s) he claims that West references are incorrect when compared to what is written in American Betrayal.
I haven’t checked every other accusation that Radosh makes against West and American Betrayal (and there are additional questions I have about the accusations), yet the errors I have cited are glaring errors since Radosh is charging that West committed scholarly misconduct. As I said, if one is going to level charges of gross inaccuracy, he had better be impeccable with his facts.
Finally, we are all told from our earliest days that reading books is of the utmost importance, and that it expands our minds. Yet Radosh is upset with people for praising West’s book when they are not scholars on the subject and do not have all the facts.
However, if society is going to change the accepted standard so that people cannot praise a book or form opinions on it without having all the facts on a particular subject, then we need to rethink encouraging people to read books at all since reading one (or even 100) of anything will never give one all the facts; merely some information.
On top of this, if one waited until he got all the facts about everything, he could never make a conclusion or argument (much less write a book) about anything. You can never have all the information. (I thought this was generally understood.) I’m not the only one who has noticed this:
. . . Radosh expects West to have read or consulted every book ever published whose subject was FDR’s conscious, insouciant, or unwitting complicity in the preservation of the Soviet Union. He claims she didn’t read this or that authority or author. Her knowledge and command of the field of Soviet-American studies ought to have been encyclopedic, and if it wasn’t, then, as far as Radosh and his editors are concerned, she should be shot down, discredited, and her work consigned to a dustbin.More importantly, don’t even historians make mistakes? And isn’t history revised and rethought on a regular basis? Have you ever read an article that said something to the effect of, “But historians are rethinking the interpretation . . .”? Or who hasn’t heard about historians being forced to rethink the way they look at such and such upon the discovery of new material? (You know, like the recent news detailing evidence that Hitler indeed might have had sodomite tendencies.) And don’t even historians (along with non-experts) regularly disagree about history without accusing one another of misconduct?
So if even the professional historian class is prone to error or disagreement, then they again had better have some overwhelming evidence that someone they attack either purposefully and willfully engaged in historical and professional misconduct, or overwhelming evidence that that person had so little knowledge of the subject that he had no business writing on it. Radosh, Horowitz, and FPM haven’t come close to providing any evidence that either of these things is true of West and American Betrayal.
(And remember how I mentioned that criticizing and making judgments about the IC has nearly become a national pastime? If only professionals are allowed to speak on a subject, then there are a lot of people who need to shut up about intelligence matters.)
Do Radosh, Horowitz, and others criticizing West deserve to be heard? I don’t know. Since no one thinks that I deserve to be heard, I can’t grant that right to anyone else. At the same time, they are free to voice their opinions. But others are free to voice their opinions as well. And they have questioned the scholarship and competency of Radosh and others at FPM who are criticizing West. This, of course, does not necessarily mean such criticisms about Radosh and the others are valid, but it is something to keep in mind when one forms his own conclusions about West and American Betrayal.
Furthermore, I am free to voice my opinion. And my opinion, based on the facts, is that Diana West wrote a fine book in American Betrayal and provided an important clarion call to the public on just how badly the United States has been infiltrated and influenced by communism.
* This link is very important to the issue at hand for a second reason (ignore the title of the piece). Radosh approvingly cites the Raleigh Spy Conference** in the Comments section of, “McCarthy on Steroids,” (see below screen capture) and the piece at American Thinker is written by, “Bernie Reeves, a magazine editor and publisher . . .founder of the Raleigh Spy Conference.” In addition to explaining the type of writing West engages in and why it is important in the big picture of countering propaganda, Reeves writes, “I now support West’s conclusions after rereading KGB: The Inside Story account 23 years later. It does not ring true that Hopkins was an innocent dupe dedicated solely to defeating the Nazis. Hopkins comes over in history as crafty, secretive and no one’s fool, hardly the personality traits of a naïve fellow traveler. And his fingerprints are on the large majority of pro-Soviet policies implemented by the Roosevelt administration. West deserves respect for cutting through the dross that obscures the evidence about Hopkins, and for screaming from the rooftops that the U.S. was the victim of a successful Soviet intelligence operation.”
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** Full Disclosure Note: I am a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, which is a sponsor of the Raleigh Spy Conference.