Who do you trust?

I took the book Tragedy and Hope, by Carroll Quigley, around the world with me in 2013. Literally. I even carried it in my pack as we hiked the Himalayas. At 1,348 pages it qualifies as tome, and most people don’t have the time. I am fortunate.

As with all good non-fiction, the book creates more questions than it answers. It came to mind this morning as I read a link supplied by SK regarding Timothy Leary. Was he what he appeared to be, something else? Judge for yourself. (Another source, Sherman Skolnick*, claims that most of our prominent sixties “counterculture” radicals were government agents – he includes Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden and Rennie Davis. So Leary being an insider would not surprise me.)

The link reminded me of Quigley because of his words about The New Republic, a magazine founded in 1914 by an agent of JP Morgan. Mike Straight became correspondent, then editor and the publisher by 1946. During his tenure he removed all known liberals from the magazine, but kept the outer appearance of a progressive outlet. Real control of the magazine existed with the William C. Whitney Foundation, and Straight was its president. Editors of TNR were always aware of ownership – said one, Herbert Croly,

Of course, [the Straights] could always withdraw their financial support if they ceased to approve of the policy of the paper, and in that event, it would go out of existence as a consequence of their disapproval.

The real mission of TNR, according to Quigley, was to advance “certain designs,” to blunt isolationism and anti-British sentiments (very prominent in the U.S. after World War One), and to provide progressives “…with a vehicle for expression of their progressive views in literature, art, music, social reform, and even domestic politics.”

In other words, the favored outlet for the left from the 1914 forward was owned by right wingers.

Contrast this with another magazine, Ramparts, which had some true leftist principles, and how it was attacked and then destroyed by the CIA. (If I learn later that Ramparts was a CIA front, I quit.)

In other words, if credibility of a source is an issue in our reading, the first principle we should apply to judging a source is this: Is it even allowed to exist? If it is vilified, ridiculed, marginalized … it might be worthy. If it went out of business, suffered lawsuits, scandals, or barely exists on a slim thread, it might be OK.

There are two sources of left-wing journalism that are alive and well and prospering today – The Nation Magazine, and Democracy Now!

Democracy Now! is funded by the Ford Foundation, hardly a left-wing outfit. This reminds me of TNR and its funding by Whitney.

Such outlets can be useful. They do provide some left-wing perspective on current affairs. But they also serve as gatekeepers, performing a “this far, no further” role in limiting examination of certain events and policies.

This country is owned by right wingers, who control our corporations and military, campuses and media. But we of the left exist, and cannot be killed, at least not all of us. In fact, it is even good to have a back-and-forth going on, as it gives the impression of an open society. So don’t be surprised to learn that in our past the right-wing furnished us with our left-wing press.  This could well be the case now.
*Skolnick (1930-2006) is labeled a “conspiracy theorist” by Wikipedia. Such pro forma ridicule indicates he’s worth a closer look.

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