By Zoltan Zigedy
November 29, 2015
Without a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we may never know to what extent cultural and intellectual life in the US was shaped by schemes and resources associated with powerful US Cold War elites. Thanks to scholars like Francis Stonor Saunders (The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters), Hugh Wilford (The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America), and a handful of resourceful academics, we can piece together a shameful story of knowing and unwitting collaboration with Cold War goals across and deep within the elite academic community.
We know of the widespread compromise of key, influential figures in the media to the wishes of the Cold Warriors. And we better understand why some cultural and intellectual trends seemed to flourish while others were left to wither.
At the same time, we have learned more of the repression of dissent from the Cold War consensus. Facts have been uncovered that show that “McCarthyism” was more than a momentary lapse in democratic values. The post-war repression left scars that persist, thought patterns that remain frozen, intellectual and cultural roads that continue to be blocked.
For those who study this history, twentieth century intellectual pillars like Robert Conquest, George Orwell, and Isaiah Berlin are now diminished in stature. Their witting engagement with and sponsorship by secret services and the covert promotion of their ideas shatter any claim to the intellectual integrity of their widely influential work. While this tarnishing of Cold War icons is accepted by most academic specialists, the kept mainstream media continues to herald the “truths” disseminated by similarly kept Cold War intellectuals.
With the Cold War long over, the enduring chant of anti-Soviet demonology continues, but with a new generation of intellectual charlatans conjuring the demons.
The current flock of professional anti-Communists is equally adept at turning from its defamation of the Soviet Union to defaming capitalist Russia. It really comes down to serving up whatever its masters demand.
Timothy Snyder (Bloodlands) and Anne Applebaum (Gulag: A History, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956) are two of the new breed of intellectuals who espouse views that uncannily coincide with the ideological needs of our ruling elites. As I wrote in March of last year, the two brought their arsenal of invective to smear the deposed Ukraine president Yanukovych, hail the violent, extreme-right opposition, and plant the evil Russians in their apologies for the Ukrainian coup.
While Snyder’s academic credentials convey “expert” standing on his pronouncements, Anne Applebaum has parlayed a master’s degree in international relations and a career in journalism to a widely celebrated place as the leading “scholar” of Soviet-era repression. It’s fair to see her as heir apparent to Robert Conquest, owning the privilege of making ex cathedra judgments of everything Eastern European.
August publications like The New York Review of Books welcome her every thought on Soviet history or modern Eastern Europe, as does nearly every other Western medium. Curiously, none pauses to weigh — let alone acknowledge — Ms. Applebaum’s marital tie to one of Poland’s more prominent anti-Russian, right-wing, and controversial politicians, Radoslaw Sikorski. Sikorski’s racist outbursts, his extravagant life style, and his virulent anti-Russian screeds cast no shadow over his spouse’s exalted status in the West.
Sikorski’s recent scandals involving corruption and financial mismanagement are widely reported in Poland, but unaddressed in the West. In the US, the Polish power couple (Applebaum has taken Polish citizenship) is viewed as a paragon of liberalism and integrity.
But thanks to the tenacious research of an expatriate US citizen named John Helmer, evidence has emerged that suggests that Applebaum, like her intellectual forbearers, has tasted of the forbidden fruit. Polish law requires that officials and spouses report incomes, reports that are publicly accessible. According to Sikorski’s 2014 report, Ms. Applebaum earned around $800,000 from non-Polish sources in 2013. Generously allowing for income from book royalties, her WaPo and Newsweek columns, and a salary from the Legatum Foundation in London, that leaves several hundred thousand dollars unaccounted for (Helmer estimates $565,000).
It doesn’t take much imagination to see the workings of a hidden hand, a hand grateful for Applebaum’s slavish support and promulgation of US and NATO foreign policy objectives in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries.
Wikileaks noted this interesting bump in income (Sikorski reported his wife’s earnings as $20,000 the prior year).
Applebaum responded to Wikileaks with out-of-character discomfit and the intensification of her anti-Russia hysterics. She tweeted: “Wow! Assange now using fake/libellous slander from John Helmer, who fled US after being recruited by the KGB in 80s.”
There is nothing like a dose of red-baiting to deflect the question.
Whether Applebaum can explain this sudden bounty is uncertain. But one thing is certain: the Western media will never allow it to derail the war-mongering propaganda blitz targeting Russia.