Friday, February 28, 2020

David Brooks Joins Cancel Culture

Ilya Salavskiy, right, at a protest action in Oxford, May 2016. Euromaidan Press.
David Brooks ("No, Not Sanders, Not Ever"):
We all start from personal experience. I covered the Soviet Union in its final decrepit years.
Actually, no. As Brussels-based deputy editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal from 1990 to 1994, Brooks got his byline on exactly four articles mentioning the Soviet Union, suggesting two visits to Moscow (and none after the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991):
  • A puff piece ("It's too late for a party congress", 2 July 1990) extolling Ilya Saslavskiy, a Ukrainian Oxford graduate and member of the National People's Congress, calling him a "combative intellectual" and "New Soviet Man" representing the "real action" in the Communist Party. Saslavskiy became an American and was working for BP's Russian operations when he and his brother Oleksandr were arrested for spying on behalf of the US and Ukraine in 2008—not because they were actually spies, but because Putin found it useful in his campaign to turn BP into Rosneft. I'm glad to report the brothers (who were sentenced to two years probation) seem to be OK, see photo at top. The Soviet Union, of course, had no future.
  • A review ("The Soviet Reality: Murder, Apathy, Dishonesty", 17 July 1990) of Stanislav Govorukhin's 1990 documentary We Can't Live Like This which, Brooks notes, was applauded by the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
  • A lengthy opinion piece ("In USSR, possession is better than the law", 16 May 1991) illustrating the collapse of rule of law with the case of an astrophysicist, "Maxim Hlobov", who succeeded in stopping the KGB from stealing his new apartment. He got the name wrong (should be Khlopov—he's in France now, working in the Astroparticles and Cosmology Laboratory of the Institut National de Physique Nucléaire et de Physique de Particules). 
  • A travel piece ("An American in Moscow: Hard-currency god", 21 May 1991).

You know where it's going, of course. (You also know that Brooks knows no more about the Soviet Union in its decrepit years than he knows about anything else. Starting from personal experience my ass.) Apparently Sanders is lying when he says he wants the US to be more like Denmark. He really wants the US to be like Nicaragua after the overthrow of the Somoza family that had ruled the country for 43 years until they owned 23% of the country's land, and a fortune of $533 million, equal to half the Nicaraguan national debt at the time, through "corporate bribes, industrial monopolies, land grabbing, and foreign aid siphoning" (Wikipedia).

Bernie's only pretending to want to give everybody medical care and free college education. Actually he plans to mobilize all the American peasants into Marxist study groups, rule the country through a three-person Council of National Reconstruction, put everybody rural and urban in a union, and govern localities with Sandersnista Defense Committees charged with distributing food rations and suspending people's driver's licenses and passports if they don't cooperate with the government.

Why would Bernie want the US to be like that? What's the attraction? Don't ask Brooks! He just knows!
And yet every day we find more old quotes from Sanders apologizing for this sort of slave regime, whether in the Soviet Union, Cuba or Nicaragua. He excused the Nicaraguan communists when they took away the civil liberties of their citizens. He’s still making excuses for Castro.
To sympathize with these revolutions in the 1920s was acceptable, given their original high ideals. To do so after the Hitler-Stalin pact, or in the 1950s, is appalling. To do so in the 1980s is morally unfathomable.
Nicaraguans had no civil liberties before the Sandinist revolution. There weren't any for the Sandinists to take away. They probably should have tried harder to give them some, but the CIA shouldn't have been waging a secret war against them with funds raised by illegal arms sales to Iran. That's how you make a well-intended revolution turn bad every damn time, from Robespierre (all Europe really was conspiring against France) on down. It always works.

Sometime after the Hitler-Stalin pact is when the USSR decided to give up on the Hitler-Stalin pact and help destroy the Third Reich. I'd say thanks for that, but I'm afraid David Brooks might call me a bad name. He'd presumably call me a "populist":
I say all this not to cancel Sanders for past misjudgments. I say all this because the intellectual suppositions that led him to embrace these views still guide his thinking today. I’ve just watched populism destroy traditional conservatism in the G.O.P. I’m here to tell you that Bernie Sanders is not a liberal Democrat. He’s what replaces liberal Democrats.
LOL, "cancel". Actually Brooks is exemplifying the cancel culture he decries, since he clearly has not read any of the Sanders policy material, only the old gaffe quotations when Sanders openly acknowledged that the revolutionary Cuban government had raised the Cuban literacy rate from 60-something to 96%, or said the Nicaraguan revolutionaries had had good reasons to revolt, or when he had a good time hobnobbing with his Russian counterpart the mayor of Yaroslavl in 1988; and has no idea what guides Sanders's thinking today, or what guided it in 1988 either for that matter, which was the same, and had nothing to do with emulating the Sandinista Front at that time. He just liked the Sandinistas beating the Reagan administration's ass, like any good underdog-loving bully-hating American, and didn't particularly notice the details of Ortega's own administration. Felt exactly the same myself. But Brooks, of course, didn't. So Bernie is canceled.

The best thing you can say about Sanders is what a very pissed-off Dr. Krugman said with reference to the Brooks column:

He's so pissed off he doesn't even have time to be pissed off with Brooks for once. I am, of course, because Brooks is so stupid, again. But I'm getting so sick of Bernie, to be honest. Defending him against calumny is worse than defending Hillary was, because on the one hand I can't make myself really like him, I don't have any belief that he could accomplish anything as president, and I'm not even sure I want things done the way he seems to want to do them; and on the other hand that the calumnies are even stupider than the anti-Hillary ones were, bullshit pulled out of the Cold War that ended 30 years ago, not that that will make any difference. And Krugman is right: Bernie puts us in this position because he's a poser. It's annoying.

On Brooks, Steve M notes if he believed the arguments he gave in October for voting for Warren over Trump, he'd vote for Sanders over Trump as well.

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