Not a ”ballroom brawl” Mr.McCarthy, but a thuggish sucker punch.
Baron Bodissey from Gates of Vienna ‘reviews the review’ by Andy McCarthy and finds his portrayal of Diana and what took place, totally unacceptable. I totally agree. Though McCarthy took the time to give American Betrayal a positive appraisal, he nonetheless tried to straddle the fence, awkwardly I would add, by lowering Diana to being just an equal participant in a dusty, bloody, fratricidal brawl.
This is a gross mischaracterization of what took place.
Defending oneself from a sucker punch, is not the same as two buffoons engaged in all out fisticuffs for a lack of something better else to do in a wharf pub on a Friday night. Diana has responded as any other serious minded writer would have under similar circumstances (when their character is grossly maligned and integrity impugned by people who clearly hadn’t taken the time read the book they were supposedly reviewing).
Diana of course fought back.
Unlike her attackers however, she answered their repeated blows (ad hominem attacks) with the facts of the case and rebuttals to their sophomoric accusations. This is hardly the actions of someone engaged in a ‘verbal street brawl’, but someone who is trying to rise above the din, and offer an intellectual response and defense against opponents ginned up on who knows what.
Thanks to the Baron for putting the pieces of the puzzle into place for the rest of us to understand, a job well done. Andrew McCarthy owes Diana another review, minus the equivocations.
A long-expected review by Andrew McCarthy of Diana West’s book American Betrayal was published this month in The New Criterion under the title “Red Herrings”. Outside the cohort of specialists in the history of Soviet espionage in the United States, Mr. McCarthy’s piece is the first even tentatively positive review published by a major writer. The reviewer is to be commended for his willingness to resist the overwhelming pressure that has been exerted on other writers not to display any public approval of Diana West’s book.
As mentioned in previous posts, I have not read American Betrayal, and am therefore not qualified to critique its arguments. Since all the uproar began back in August, my focus has been the process of the controversy, rather than the content. The egregiously uncivil ad-hominem attacks aimed at the author were the issue, rather than her conclusions — which may stand or fall on their merits, as with any other book. As a result this essay will focus on how Andrew McCarthy portrays Diana West and her critics, and analyze some of his arguments.
Mr. McCarthy has a number of good things to say about the book, although his review tends to praise it with faint damns. For example, coming from a former Team B-II co-author with Diana West who considers her a friend, his opening paragraph is somewhat perplexing:
Stumbling into a barroom brawl was the last thing I’d intended. Lined up on one side: sculptors of a hagiography that is now conventional wisdom crow about a noble conquest over totalitarian dictators. The other side bellows: “Nonsense! In defeating one monster, your heroes merely helped create another, sullying us with their atrocities and burdening us for decades with a global security nightmare.” The first side spews that its critics are deranged, defamatory conspiracy-mongers. The critics fire back that these “court historians” are in denial; their heroes did not really “win” the war, they just helped a different set of anti-American savages win—in the process striking a deal with the devil that blurred the lines between good and evil, rendering the world more dangerous and our nation more vulnerable.
Whether he realizes it or not, Mr. McCarthy is engaging in a traditional form of journalistic moral equivalence in this passage, something more commonly found on the Left than on the Right. A writer may choose to utilize the technique when, for whatever reason — expedience, fear, a reluctance to anger a powerful antagonist — he wants to create the appearance of engaging an important topic without actually taking a moral stance.
Lined up on one side… The other side bellows… The first side spews… The critics fire back…
Notice that the “other side”, the one he mostly agrees with, “bellows” its responses. Hmm… not what you would expect in a portrayal of his journalistic colleagues and friends.
This is the same rhetorical technique used by MSM journalists when describing Israel vs. Hamas, or the Nigerian government vs. Boko Haram. For example: “Attempts to get both sides to the negotiating table have been fruitless.” This device transforms each “side” into a mirror image of the other, and Side A (the victim) becomes just as responsible for the bloodshed as Side B (the aggressor). It spares the writer from having to say, “Side B is morally wrong. I stand with Side A.”
Note that the controversy over American Betrayal is labeled a “barroom brawl”. By implication Diana West is a barroom brawler — someone who decided to smash an empty whiskey bottle on the bar rail and lay into her fellow drinkers.
I object to this characterization.