Chickens of the Interventionist Liberals - Henry Elmer Barnes

Who Started the Smearing?

The liberals are greatly agitated over what they denounce as the smearing tactics of the alleged "inquisitors" of the present day. They write about "ordeal by slander" as though it had been invented by Senator McCarthy. But let us look at the record.

Who was it that sweepingly introduced the smearing technique into American public life on a national scale? It was no other than that shrewd old New Dealer and liberal tactician, Charles Michelson, following 1929. Was Owen Lattimore the first to suffer from "ordeal by slander?" Hardly. The first man to be subjected to this treatment, far more prolonged and bitter than any endured by Lattimore, was no other than Herbert Hoover, when he was an occupant of the White House. Liberals applauded loudly when Rex Todhunter Stout, in his The Illustrious Dunderheads (1942), smeared in ugly fashion the leading anti-interventionists, usually quoting them out of context, and when John Roy Carlson, in his book Under Cover (1943), smeared on a low and crude plane nearly everybody of importance who opposed our entry into the second World War. If we were to listen to the liberals today, we would imagine that such "infamous behavior" could only be carried on by persons smearing Communists and fellow-travellers.

Senator Margaret Chase Smith has accused Senator McCarthy of having unloosed "the Four Horsemen of Calumny—Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear." However much one may deplore the use of such instruments or techniques, the totalitarian liberals, of whom Senator Smith is a member, had been operating with them for years before the emergence of Senator McCarthy into the public limelight. They had become the main stock in trade of the totalitarian liberals after 1937, and especially after 1939. All who opposed our entry into the second World War, from however wise and noble motives, were smeared as professional Roosevelt-haters, reactionaries, isolationists, pro-Nazis, and the like.

The interventionists took great joy in lavishly denouncing, quite indiscriminately, the whole anti-war group as degenerate children with a common nefarious paternity. No one went to greater extremes in smearing the anti-interventionists than President Roosevelt, who went so far as to compare patriotic Americans of international distinction, some of them with a longer record of public service than himself, with Benedict Arnold and the Copperheads of the Civil War period.

Senators Burton K. Wheeler, Bennett C. Clark, Gerald P. Nye, Rush Holt, Robert M. La Follette Jr., Rufus C. Holman, and Henrik Shipstead, and Congressman Hamilton Fish, were smeared out of public life because they dared to uphold the traditional American doctrine of neutrality in foreign quarrels against the newer global interventionism. Even Joseph Goebbels would have blushed at the methods used by liberals and radicals in smearing Senator Wheeler during his last campaign for the Senate. And it is relevant to remember that Mr. Wheeler was the special darling of the liberals when he ran for the Vice-Presidency in 1924 on the Farmer-Labor ticket. And he continued to be such until he opposed Mr. Roosevelt's Supreme Court Plan in 1937. Even this "offense" was more readily forgiven by the liberals than his later opposition to our involvement in the second World War.

The most sensational case of smearing done by the interventionist liberals was, of course, that directed against Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh, who was as late as 1937 surely far more of a popular national hero than President Roosevelt. He was reviled beyond any precedent for upholding the traditional American foreign policy and was for a decade literally transformed from a hero into a pariah. Two other leading publicists who were liberal heroes in the early 1930's were accorded similar treatment. They were Lawrence Dennis and John T. Flynn, special favorites of the New Republic and other liberal journals when they were devoted to exposing the foreign bond and investment trust scandals. And, today, when we are witnessing tearful protests against the smearing and discharge of teachers accused of Communist leanings, we should not forget the ruthless persecution of May A. Quinn in 1945 for alleged Fascist sympathies by PM and some other liberal journals.

We may also profitably recall the outrageous smearing of that great member of the old liberal group, Charles Austin Beard, at the time of his death, by Max Lerner, Perry Miller, Peter Levin, and other liberals who had been fulsome admirers of Beard before he rejected the globaloney and war mongering of Roosevelt and his interventionist liberal supporters. The stage had been set for this ingratitude and bad taste by Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison in his review of Beard's President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, 1941 (1948) in the Atlantic for August, 1948; and by Harry D. Gideonse's arrogant smearing of the same book in the New Leader, June 12, 1948.

The smearing of Beard illustrates one of the lower forms of the techniques used to discredit honest revisionist historians. In case a writer or book cannot be answered effectively in a factual manner or disposed of by merely applying the epithet of "isolationist," it has become usual to charge him with "senility" if he is over fifty years of age. This was the method used in smearing Beard by Max Lerner, Perry Miller and, especially. Admiral Morison. The latter, who frequently cites Leopold von Ranke with admiration, might have been expected to remember that von Ranke began to write his voluminous world history when eighty-five, while Beard was only seventy-four when his final book on Roosevelt foreign policy was published, and his mental powers were not in the slightest impaired by age, as I can attest from close personal association with him in those years.

This allegation of senile incompetence in the case of Beard was repeated with singular audacity and bad taste by an obscure history teacher at Michigan State College, John B. Harrison, in his book, This Age of Global Strife (1952) : "This prominent historian undertook in the last days of his eccentric old age to prove by ponderous documentation that President Roosevelt set out from the beginning of the war in Europe to stealthily and deceitfully maneuver the United States into a war whose outcome was of no real concern to the American people. It is a deplorable collection of half-truths and distortions. Anyone who reads it should read also Samuel E. Morison's brilliant analysis of it in the Atlantic Monthly, August, 1948." In short. Beard's alleged senility is to be proved by reference to a review of his book based on the utterly unproved charge of senility. If a writer of one hundred years of age should produce a book whitewashing the Roosevelt diplomatic record, he would be praised by the anti-revisionist school as an example of great clear-headedness and sustained rationality.

In commenting on Owen Lattimore's Ordeal by Slander (1950), William L. Shirer observed:

"A moving and shocking book. As I read this story of his ordeal I kept thinking: No, this can't be true. Such witch hunting, such persecution, such slandering of a decent, patriotic loyal American simply couldn't happen in a free, democratic America. That it did happen comes as a sickening shock to the reader."

Without going into the merits of the Lattimore case, it may be observed that few journalists have been quicker on the trigger in smearing anti-interventionist writers and public figures than Mr. Shirer. Nobody did more than the publicists and writers of his school of thought and journalistic methods to prepare the formerly "free" democratic America" for an era in which slander could become commonplace and protection therefrom increasingly difficult. The whole corps of interventionist-liberal columnists and editors have been smearing anti-interventionists daily for fifteen years in contrast to the recent and periodic smearing done by the men whom the liberals now castigate as witch hunters. So long as "the shoe was on the other foot," the interventionist liberals just loved to pour on the smears and insinuations.

John T. Flynn, in his brochure, The Smear Terror, the most penetrating study of the smearing device in our time, shows that most of the smearing since 1937 has been initiated and executed by "liberals" and radicals—down to the time when the tables were turned on them and their own fat was brought into the fire. Their present plight seems, however, to have taught them little in the way of humility and contrition. They remain just as intolerant of any who do not swallow their globaloney dogmas as the so-called "inquisitors" are of Communism and fellow-travelling.

Informers and Investigators

The totalitarian liberals pretend to abhor "informers" when the information thus derived is used against them, but they do not hesitate to "inform" against neutralist liberals whose views on world affairs they reject. A short time back, I was edified to discover that a prominent Columbia University Teachers College professor whom, back in my journalistic days, I used to defend against what I regarded as unfounded charges of Communist leanings, was a leading informer against some alleged Left-wing members of the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee. A little later on he was a co-signer of a long letter to the New York Times attacking invasions of academic freedom.

In their current protest against allegedly excessive Congressional investigating today, the totalitarian liberals apparently have forgotten their passion for investigations in early New Deal days, such as the Pecora investigation of banking, the Black investigation of the public utility lobby, the Nye investigation of munition makers, Thurman W. Arnold's assault on the trusts, and the attack on the "big business" which had been encouraged by the NRA. Especially interesting today, in the light of later developments, was the vigorous "combing over" of the Morgan firm by Alger Hiss when he was counsel for the Nye investigation. This was surely comparable to the much publicized and denounced examination of James Wechsler by Senator McCarthy. But there were no liberal protests against investigations at that time. The only cries of anguish came from the "reactionary" Republican press.