I've been mulling how -- or even whether -- to mark the appearance of six entries on American Betrayal in the January 2014 issue of The New Criterion. The issue contains an essay by editor Roger Kimball and five letters, all devoted to my book, or, rather, to Andrew C. McCarthy's review of American Betrayal, which appeared in the December 2013 issue.
Why so much ink? The answer is simple. Andy McCarthy, the celebrated former federal prosecutor, noted author and commentator, had the temerity to write positive things about my book in his December review. Like a clanging bell to Pavlov's dog, this review drove Ronald Radosh and Conrad Black to churn out letters to the editor explaining to McCarthy the error of his ways. By my count, this becomes the fifth, maybe even the sixth piece by Radosh, and the fourth or fifth by Black. Harvey Klehr and John Haynes also write in general protest. I understand that David Horowitz, too, wrote in, but decided to withdraw his letter. (Too bad; I would love to have read Horowitz's fifth attack.) Meanwhile, editor Kimball asked M. Stanton Evans -- who originally endorsed American Betrayal and later published an article entitled "In Defense of Diana West" -- to write a lone letter of support. McCarthy then replies to all. By the time all is said and done, the issue, purportedly devoted to Reagan and Thatcher, is also a backdoor symposium on American Betrayal.
Meanwhile, the author of said book sufficiently fascinating to this tiny band of anti-American Betrayal extremists was not invited to comment. The New Criterion didn't even let me in on the fuss -- which is a little like finding out you were the guest of honor, or, in this case, dishonor, at a party you weren't invited to. Frankly, it's better that way. Judging by the way Messrs. Black, Radosh and Horowitz are treated in the issue, it's clear that I would have been a sixth wheel.
Then again, maybe I wasn't contacted because there is nothing new to respond to. (Not likely.) Or maybe it was because I have never published a book with Encounter Books. (Getting warmer?) The striking fact is, each of my main troika of detractors -- Horowitz, Radosh, Black -- has published at least one book with Encounter Books, the publishing house New Criterion editor Roger Kimball also leads. Klehr & Haynes, too. Andy McCarthy, also, for that matter. For good measure, Peter Collier, Horowitz's longtime collaborator, is Encounter's founding editor, now a consultant.
These conflicts of interest have not been disclosed to readers. They should be -- particularly because The New Criterion has not only reviewed the contents of American Betrayal. It has set it itself up as a disinterested arbiter on the events around the book: namely, the sustained campaign against me and the book carried out notably by writers who happen also to be Encounter authors. At the very least, informed readers would have better understood why perusing the arguments about American Betrayal in The New Criterion is not unlike overhearing club members through an open window alternately erupting and smoothing feathers.
But let the members argue as they wish. Let The New Criterion and Encounter publish whom they wish. For the record, however, I object to the magazine's characterization of the furor around my book as a "barroom brawl." The metaphor is the framework of McCarthy's December review.
I am not a barroom brawler. My response to the ad hominem attacks and smears of my work emanating from last summer's 7,000-word Radosh "take-down" (his word) at Frontpage Magazine at no time resembled barroom-brawling. This extended act of self-defense culminated in a deliberate, painstaking and thorough rebuttal of 22,000 words. The New Criterion gives short shrift to the resulting book -- The Rebuttal: Defending American Betrayal from the Book-Burners -- which includes my rebuttal, originally published in three parts at Breitbart News, and an array of essays in support of my work, civility, and/or free inquiry by many contributors. These contributors also include M. Stanton Evans and Vladimir Bukovsky. None of these essayists are barroom-brawling, either. I submit that the rebuttal book and its contributors alone refute this gross mischaracterization.
So if not a "brawl," how to characterize these events? In his letter, M. Stanton Evans describes the attack campaign against me and my book as a "mugging." This, of course, is something entirely different. In a mugging, there is a right side and wrong side -- a moral distinction wholly lost in McCarthy's "brawl" framework. Indeed, Evans further objects to the "moral equivalence" inherent in the brawl metaphor. I would like to expand on this to point out that the brawl metaphor actually elevates the perpetrators of my "mugging"; I, in turn, am denigrated for defending myself. So, too, are the others who rose in my defense against a public attack machine of particularly brutish incivility and shocking mendacity.
Emphasis on mendacity. Distortion. Smears. Fabrications. (I have chronicled them all in The Rebuttal.) In other words, this campaign, led by FP, was never about criticism or debate, even heated criticism or debate. It was a protracted and widespread campaign of defamation that even crossed into general hysteria, as when Clare M. Lopez, having written an essay on Egypt that positively mentioned my book, was fired by Gatestone Institute for her "choice of books to promote." The New Criterion, however, whitewashes all in its easy talk of "polemics back and forth." Indeed, what the magazine has done in restructuring this "mugging" in the framework of a "brawl" is to palliate, to normalize and ultimately excuse the perpetrators for employing unrespectable tactics in an attempt to discredit and isolate me as a writer, and make my book radioactive -- what my rebuttal subtitle refers to as a modern-day book-burning. If they're all just barroom brawlers ... what difference does it make?
I note also another apt description of events as I personally experienced them. In recommending American Betrayal on his Christmas 2013 books list, Jed Babbin offered American Spectator readers this caveat: "Do not be dissuaded by the controversy that has erupted around this book which, if you insist on complete accuracy, would be characterized as a disinformation campaign."
This becomes the question people must answer for themselves: Barroom brawl or mugging? Debate or disinformation campaign? Unfortunately, they will not find the information necessary for any such evaluation in The New Criterion.
Other salient facts omitted include the near-divine intervention in the "brawl" by Vladimir Bukovsky, who, with his colleague Pavel Stroilov, weighed in with not one but two essays in support of American Betrayal. (See here and here.) Surely, the climactic entrance into the "barroom" of a world historic figure such as Bukovsky is worth noting in any discussion of these events. (Only then it might look less like a "brawl" ....)
Even more glaring is the omission of David Horowitz from the action. Given that he played an active, indeed, essential role in these cauterizing events, Horowitz surely deserved to be featured, preferably in a black hat holding a broken bottle. As far as New Criterion readers know, however, Horowitz was nowhere near the scene of the "brawl."
That's the club's problem, not mine.