Borrowed From an Article Written April 1998 About Jason Epstein and His Infamous New York Review
A nostalgia for Molotovs: “The New York Review”
by Roger Kimball
"Where to begin? Jason Epstein concludes sadly that certain radical intellectuals, robbed of their Communist ideals by nasty Joe Stalin, devoted “the rest of their energies to retribution.” Hence, you see, the birth of Neoconservatism. It’s not simply that Epstein transforms a principled rejection of Communism into a psychological tic; he also insinuates an equivalence between the murderous behavior of Stalin and the activities of the American CIA. What Epstein does not see is that his friends who turned against Communism did so not because Stalin perverted “revolutionary Marxism” but because they finally understood that Stalinism was the natural fulfillment of revolutionary Marxism.
Epstein’s essay “The CIA and the Intellectuals” (April 20, 1967) is notable for its exhibition of the way liberal disillusionment can be elevated into a kind of metaphysics of anti-Americanism:
"The facts are clearer now than they were ten years ago. Then it surprised us to find that the country seemed to have fallen into a frenzy of self-destruction, tearing its cities apart, fouling its landscapes, poisoning the streams and skies, trivializing the education of its children, and not for any substantial human happiness, … but for higher profits and rapidly increased economic growth… . What we were experiencing was the familiar philistine expansionism (of which the Vietnamese are only the latest victims), this time attached to a formidable technology whose alarming possibilities were as yet unclear, but which was even then depressingly out of human scale and growing larger and more autonomous every day.
Now at last, Epstein concludes, it is clear that “pursuit of money and power became openly America’s main, if not its only, business.” Again, where to begin? And which is worse, Epstein’s moralism, or his hypocrisy? By psychologizing politics and attempting to replace basic political commitments with a melodrama of virtue, Epstein is really engaged in a species of moral blackmail. As Diana Trilling observed in a withering response to “The CIA and the Intellectuals,” Epstein would have us believe that “depending on how we respond to the poisoning of our streams and skies we will take either a Left- or a Right-Wing position on —say—the Vietnam War. Whoever abhors polluted air and desecrated landscapes will have adequate grounds on which to judge American foreign policy. He will recognize it in all its ‘philistine expansionism.’ What further guide to decision in foreign affairs does anyone need?”