What I loved about the old Usenet battlespace was that the original subject of a post was never much compared to the barroom brawl that followed. You would have to go back to some of those crazy fights in old westerns to find the apt analogy.
This is nothing compared to any of that, but Berlinski’s comeback is better than her original article, that’s for sure. And her original article was pretty good.
So here’s how it went. Berlinski wrote this article for City Journal about two Russian ex-pats who are holding serious paper on the old Soviet regime. Her title, “A Hidden History of Evil,” is provocative, and I think generally on point vis a vis serious inclusion of Soviet horrors in discourse about the history of the Cold War and world Communism.
Ron Radosh, the historian, took exception to Berlinski’s piece, calling it overstated and shoddy reporting. I thought that Radosh’s response was overstated and not particularly strong in its arguments.
But Claire Berlinski was miffed and she responded with vigor. Here is her response, which includes a link to Radosh’s critique. He will probably hit back, so I’ll update this post if and when that happens.
One point Berlinski makes in her response turns the table right over:
I thank Radosh for taking the time to consider my article. I note that we are in agreement about the key point: particularly since the publication of The Black Book of Communism, there are no excuses for not knowing the truth about Communism. I would go further and say that there have been no excuses since the liquidation of the kulaks.
In other words, the publication of The Black Book of Communism a decade ago was a footnote to a reality that was long suppressed but widely known, and it went back to Stalin’s murderings in, among other incidents, the terror famine of the early 1930s. There is a long history of looking away from the Soviet catastrophe, and it continues, regardless of some of the autopsies out there. Berlinski is particularly interested in the complicity of many Western politicians with the Soviets in their endless machinations, in both Europe and America (including the current Vice President of the United States).
Then, I can’t resist this comment by Berlinski, which captures the strain of all this on the contemporary attention span:
As for the rest of Radoshâ€™s comments, I wish I could simply ignore them. A vain academic spat is surely as dispiriting to readers as a long-haul flight with nothing but a volume by Joyce Carol Oates in the seat pocket. But if we must make a big display of our small differences, letâ€™s at least get it over with quickly.
And, yes, that brings me around to getting in my plug for what is essentially my take on all this, my thriller, Corpse in Armor. I take the discussion out of the past and into the present. It’s more than just a novel. And it will keep that long-haul flight very interesting indeed.