Posted on | February 2, 2013 | 13 Comments
“The Communists (we must give them credit for many things) are intelligent, are well disciplined, and take their orders direct from Moscow and are proud of it. . . .
“Not only is Soviet Russia trying to wipe out all forms of religion, but it is successful in doing it.”
— Rep. Hamilton Fish (R-New York), “The Menace of Communism” (1931)
“Anyone who opposes the American communists . . . becomes the object of a systematic campaign of character assassination. This is easily understood because the basic tactics of the Communist Party are deceit and trickery. . . .
“The Communist propaganda technique is designed to promote emotional response with the hope that the victim will be attracted by what he is told the Communist way of life holds in store for him. The objective, of course, is to develop discontent and hasten the day when the Communists can gather sufficient support and following to overthrow the American way of life.
“Communist propaganda is always slanted in the hope that the Communist may be aligned with liberal progressive causes.”
— J. Edgar Hoover, testifying before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, March 26, 1947
One of the dangers of doomsaying prophecy is that if the predicted disaster does not happen immediately, and in exactly the way predicted, not only is the prophet discredited, but his failure will invariably be cited to dismiss any similar doomsday warning in the future. So if you predict that Dangerous Trend X will lead to Catastrophic Consequence Y, you can expect to be derided as a laughingstock if the actual result proves to be Unfortunate Outcome Z.
A certain modesty in regard to the future is therefore necessary when warning against potential dangers, because complex causation and the Law of Unintended Consequeces have a way of falsifying prophecies that are too detailed and specific. What sometimes happens is that a danger is foreseen, the alarm is sounded, measures are taken to prevent the danger and then — by a dishonest perversion of logic — cynics will claim that the danger successfully averted never really existed, and that those who warned against the danger were deceitful charlatans.
We ought to be wise to such tactics, especially when they are employed to rewrite history that we actually know. Barely two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Empire, liberals would have us believe that the Red Menace never existed, that communism never posed a real danger to the American way of life, and that the courageous efforts of American anti-communists were therefore a comical farce.
Such is the effect (and one must assume, the purpose) of Conor Friederdorf’s article at The Atlantic, “Pornography ‘Weakens our Resistance to the Communist Masters of Deceit.'” Friedersdorf ridicules a 1961 documentary, Perversion for Profit, that warned against the evil influence of pornography. It probably won’t surprise you that the title of Friedersdorf’s article is taken out of context from the film’s script:
“The Military Chaplains Association of the United States, practically every major fraternal, civic and religious organization, the juvenile court judges, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, innumerable psychiatrists, sociologists and psychologists, attribute the moral decay among our people in very large part to the obscene and pornographic literature so prevalent in our society. This moral decay weakens our resistance to the communist masters of deceit.”
Facts are stated: Various organizations and individuals have warned that pornography contributes to “moral decay” — would anyone argue otherwise, even today? — and in turn, it is asserted, this decay undermines “resistance” to communism. That warning doesn’t strike me as particularly far-fetched, either: A nation of wankers, perverts and degenerates would be ill-positioned to oppose the disciplined forces of a totalitarian opponent.
Perhaps Friedersdorf is too young to understand the extent to which America’s resistance to communism was based in religious faith. Given the militant atheist ideology of Marxism and the knowledge that communist governments suppressed and persecuted Christians, it was always the case that anti-communism was most fervent and determined where religious belief was most devout. If pornography was an agent of moral corruption — which it most certainly was, and still is — wasn’t pornography therefore also a threat to religious faith and, in turn, a force that could do exactly what the film warned against, weakening resistance to “the communist masters of deceit”?
That particular phrase, incidentally, is from the title of a 1958 book by J. Edgar Hoover, Masters of Deceit: The Story of Communism and How to Fight It, and the question ought to be asked: Does Conor Friedersdorf think the threat of Soviet subversion was a figment of right-wing imagination? Is he mocking anti-communism? Does Friedersdorf mean to suggest that the demoralizing influence of pornography was misunderstood or exaggerated by the producers of the documentary, Perversion for Profit?
Here is the problem: If the documentary helped inspire patriotic Americans to oppose the dissemination of pornography, and if this opposition was effective to any significant degree — so that pornography was less available than it might otherwise have been — how can we say that the danger was exaggerated? Stipulate that nearly all anti-communist messages from the Cold War era now sound quaintly obsolete, and that this documentary in particular manifests a cornball “square” mentality that doesn’t translate well to the ironic disposition of 21st-century culture. Despite all such caveats, can anyone watch this 30-minute documentary and say, as Friedersdorf does, that it is ridiculous, absurd and impossible to take seriously?
Maybe among Friedersdorf and his friends, pornography is entirely commonplace and acceptable, so that any warning against it seems as ludicrous as being called a “Bolshevik subversive.” Or is it perhaps the case that, in the half-century since Perversion for Profit was produced, the Bolshevik subversives have been so diligent in undermining our nation’s morality that they have finally succeeded, even though the Soviet Union — the foreign menace that originally inspired their anti-American activities — crumbled into the ash-heap of history in 1991?
Thus is falsified the adage that the winners write the history books. The communists lost the Cold War, yet their sympathizers now dominate academia and publishing in America to such an extent that we must be lectured by Friedersdorf about the harmlessness of pornography, and about the supposed “asburdity” of moral degeneracy as a subversive weapon of the communist menace.
Friedersdorf continues to claim that he is a conservative, despite the observable fact that his entire journalistic career has been an incessant assault on the conservative movement and its leaders. It’s almost as if Friedersdorf’s “basic tactics . . . are deceit and trickery.”