Hoodwinked: How Intellectual Hucksters Have Hijacked American Culture
(Nashville: Nelson Current, 2005), 307pp.
I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun reading a book. At the same time, it was incredibly infuriating. Not because it was poorly written. Far from it. This is a superbly written volume. The anger is explained by the topic. In Hoodwinked, Cashill takes us for a walk through the weeds of intellectual fraud, the numerous instances in the last one-hundred years in which we in America have been victimized by academic hucksters, social charlatans, and a variety of liars from virtually every walk of life. It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that these folk have exerted an enormous influence on our culture and the way people (mis)think. Let me explain.
What do I mean when I speak of intellectual “fraud”? Fraud, says Cashill, “does not mean bias, revisionism, or an unorthodox interpretation – although there is plenty of all that. Nor does it refer to the kinds of omissions and misstatements that routinely occur in the production of daily or weekly news. Fraud here means outright fabrication: inventing, plagiarizing, suppressing obvious facts, and spinning ‘nonfiction’ out of whole cloth” (4). This book is about several of the more egregious instances of intellectual fraud perpetrated on an unsuspecting public in the twentieth century.
Until now, notes Cashill, no one individual has fully documented the sweep of this assault on truth. “But for years, an unconnected and largely apolitical squad of literary detectives, biographers, anthropologists, scientists, historians, classicists, and cultural critics has been picking off the frauds and their enablers one by one. Taken together, the work of these critics is devastating. This book,” claims Cashill, “will synthesize their dogged research and reveal the depth and breadth of the rot at the very foundation of progressive culture” (10).
There’s no way I can document each instance cited by Cashill. To do so would make it unnecessary for you to read the book, and I very much want you to read the book. So I’ll simply list, with brief comment, several of the more prominent cases of fraud, each of which is extensively documented by Cashill’s careful research.
(1) Cashill carefully documents the undeniable guilt of Nichola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in the murder of a security guard in South Braintree, Massachusetts, in early 1920. Few people initially took note of their conviction, but the names “Sacco and Vanzetti” were soon to become known literally around the world. For several years little happened, until Lenin died in 1924 and Stalin assumed power in Russia. With Stalin’s blessing, a German communist named Willi Munzenberg and his colleagues “set out to find a case that would undermine the idea of America” and expose it “as a simmering stew of xenophobic injustice” (20). Their task was “the creation of a worldwide myth around the fate of Sacco and Vanzetti” (21). They were successful in convincing a number of famous individuals that the two had been framed. Upton Sinclair, Edna St. Vincent Millay, George Bernard Shaw, Albert Einstein, and Felix Frankfurter (who would later become a Supreme Court Justice) all threw their support, in one way or another, behind the two Italians. They were eventually executed in August of 1927 as “demonstrable proof” that “justice” in the world’s leading democracy was a murderous lie. The fact is, they were guilty as charged, but their iconic status and influence as alleged victims of western brutality continues today.
(2) In 1932 Walter Duranty of the New York Times was awared the Pulitzer Prize for his work in reporting the so-called “Five Year Plan” of Joseph Stalin that dated from 1928-1933. The “plan” was in fact a sinister and strategic effort to collectivize the kulaks, defined as a wealthy land-owning peasant. Of course, by “wealthy” Stalin meant anyone who produced more than his family consumed. One cannot begin to describe the horror, brutality, and hellish sadism of Joseph Stalin. Conservative estimates are that 7-8 million people were forcibly starved to death in this five year span. According to Duranty, Stalin was the world’s “greatest living statesman,” this the man who once said, “The death of one man is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.”
With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of Soviet archives, scholars such as S. J. Taylor (her book was titled Stalin’s Apologist) have come to discover what Duranty knew and deliberately misrepresented concerning Stalin’s activity. “The influence of his false reporting,” said noted Soviet scholar Robert Conquest, “was enormous and long-lasting.” Conquest believes that the Russians exploited Duranty’s fondness for kinky sex to blackmail him.
Cashill notes that “by the time of the terror-famine, Duranty had been in the Soviet Union for more than ten years. He knew the terrain and the people as well as anyone but proved as indifferent to humanity as he was to the truth. His callousness rivaled Stalin’s own. ‘Russians may be hungry and short of clothes and comfort,’ he wrote in the New York Times in 1932. ‘But you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs’” (35-6). Malcolm Muggeridge, at that time still an idealistic young communist, ventured into the afflicted area and later described the famine as “one of the most monstrous crimes in history, so terrible that people in the future will scarcely be able to believe it ever happened” (36).
According to Cashill, “Duranty had his own reasons for suppressing the truth. As the British Foreign Office open discussed, he was angling for U.S. recognition of the Soviet Union. One dispatch bluntly noted that such recognition ‘would greatly enhance his reputation in the Soviet Union and give him a cheap triumph in the United States.’ And cheap triumph is exactly what he got” (36). Duranty’s gold-framed photo in the Times’ hallowed hall of Pulitzer winners has an asterisk beneath it with this pathetic disclaimer in small type: “Other writers in the Times and elsewhere have discredited this coverage.”
(3) Cashill carefully documents the questionable career and numerous fraudulent claims of Lillian Hellman, as well as the role of New York Times’ reporter Herbert Matthews in securing the presidency of Cuba for Fidel Castro. But one of the more fascinating accounts is his discussion of the story of Alger Hiss and Whitaker Chambers, by now well known to most students of 20th century American history. Despite the unending efforts of the left to vindicate Hiss, his guilt as a communist spy has been demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt. 1995 was the year that finally put to rest all doubt as to the extent of Soviet espionage in America and its control of the American Communist Party. In that year The Secret World of American Communism was published. But more important still, the so-called Venona archives were made public. This consisted of a massive collection of the messages the U.S. government had successfully decoded from the Soviet Union between 1942 and 1946. “The files,” notes Cashill, “however incomplete, were stunning. They showed that the Soviets had spies in every significant American military or diplomatic agency, no fewer than 349 in all” (79).
The Venona files sparked additional research that confirmed Chambers’s story that Hiss was indeed a Soviet spy, a fact now documented in great detail by Allen Weinstein in his book Perjury. One would have thought the case was closed, but on the day of Hiss’s death in November 1996, the lae Peter Jennings reported on ABC World News Tonight that Hiss had “protested his innocence until the very end,” and then concluded by saying, “And last year, we reported that Russian president Boris Yeltsin said that KGB files has supported Mr. Hiss’s claim.” “No evidence,” concludes Cashill, “could or would ever breach the fact-proof barricades of the hardened left” (80).
(4) Noam Chomsky, described by Cashill as “America’s most internationally influential public intellectual” (81), is methodically exposed as “the world master of the Marxist shell game: deny Marxist horrors; imagine and expose Western ones” (82). Cashill carefully notes Chomsky’s “contempt for free enterprise and liberal democracy” (85), especially as it has been documented by David Horowitz and Peter Collier in their book, The Anti-Chomsky Reader (2004). This book, says Cashill, “tracks [Chomsky’s] dissembling on issues ranging from Auschwitz to Afghanistan, from the denial of Holocausts that did happen to the promotion of those that did not. ‘These are not intellectual lapses for Chomsky,’ writes Horowitz, ‘but keys to a worldview that is shaped by one overriding imperative – to demonize America as the fount of all worldly evil’” (93).
(5) There are numerous examples cited in chapter three of what Cashill calls “zero-sum multiculturalism,” or ZSM. “In its purest form ZSM demands not only the recognition and elevation of the ‘marginalized’ culture but also the debasement of the ‘dominant’ culture” (98). To put it in simpler terms, white, western men and their ideologies and inventions are, to use Susan Sontag’s words, “the cancer of human history” (cited by Cashill, 97). Perhaps the most vocal and visible advocate of ZSM today is the idiotic buffoon, Michael Moore, about whom Cashill has much to say (see below). According to advocates of ZSM, evil is not the result of a fallen human nature but “a byproduct of Western culture, and of the economic and religious traditions that sustain it” (100).
One example cited is that of George G. M. James’s book, Stolen Legacy (1954), in which he argued, among other things, that the Greeks stole the legacy of the African continent and called it their own. The Greeks, he claims, were not capable of developing philosophy and science on their own, which is why Alexander, prodded by Aristotle, plundered the Royal Library at Alexandria and carried off a booty of scientific, philosophical, and religious books. Roman emperors proceeded to abolish the ancient culture system of the Egyptians and replaced it with Roman Catholicism.
This “thesis” was presented at Wellesley College, Hillary Clinton’s alma mater, in 1993 by Dr. Yosef A. A. ben-Jochannan. Wellesley professor Mary Lefkowitz was astounded. During a Q & A following the lecture, she asked how it was possible for Aristotle to plunder a library that was built twenty-five years after his death? For her “impudence” she was soundly rebuked and written off as another who had been brainwashed by “white historians”. But her 1996 book, Not Out of Africa, in which she thoroughly exposed the falsehoods of James’s book, could not be ignored.
Cashill isn’t afraid to take on some of America’s cultural icons, such as Alex Haley, author of Roots. He documents Harold Courlander’s suit (1978) against Haley, alleging the latter had lifted 81 passages from the former’s The African, as well as the plot and several characters. Haley settled out of court for $650,000, on the condition that Courlander keep quiet about the suit (he died in 1996). The mainstream media conveniently ignored this scandal in which a best-selling “author of a ‘non-fiction’ book plagiarized from a fictional one” (115). Two leading genealogists, Gary Mills and Elizabeth Shown Mills, after researching Haley’s “research” commented: “We expected ineptitude, but not subterfuge” (cited by Cashill, 116). “The records showed that in the pre-Civil War period, Haley got virtually everything wrong” (116). Others who investigated Haley’s claims came to the simple conclusion: there was no Kunta Kinte.
How, then, did the hoax of Roots continue as long as it did? Cashill cites the huge financial investment of those responsible for the book and film rights. Philip Nobile suggests that his fellow progressives, quite simply, “were all too scared, or dishonest to admit to the public that the most famous black writer had lied about his ancestry” (118). In 1993, a year after Haley’s death, “Nobile did his best to blow the whistle on what he calls ‘one of the great literary hoaxes of modern times,” by publishing “Uncovering Roots” in the alternative publication The Village Voice.
Other cultural heroes who are the target of Cashill’s pen include Leonard Peltier (who murdered two FBI agents and was himself transformed into a “victim” by liberal intelligentsia), Edward Said (America’s most celebrated Palestinian refugee who was not in fact a Palestinian or a refugee), infamous Colorado University professor Ward Churchill (who called the victims of 9/11 “little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers,” and also claimed to be an American Indian when in fact he is, at most, 1/64 [by the way, I’m 1/32 Creek, blond hair and blue eyes notwithstanding]), and Rigoberta Menchu (who was awarded the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize largely on the “merits” of her highly suspect book, I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala; a book whose authenticity was undermined by David Stoll, a white, North American male who had the courage to pass judgment on the narrative of a native woman).
Cashill takes on the advocates of gun control when he tells the story of Michael Bellesiles, whose 2000 book, Arming America, purported to demonstrate that before the Civil War few Americans owned guns. Clayton Cramer, working on his dissertation at Sonoma State University in California, was aghast. “It took me twelve hours of hunting,” notes Cramer, “before I found a citation [in Bellesiles’ book] that was completely correct” (153). His conclusion was that Bellesiles wasn’t “just wrong, he’s intentionally deceiving people” (153). As he continued to check the “facts”, Cramer found “hundreds of shockingly gross falsifications” (154). Other historians took up the task as well, resulting in Bellesile’s resignation from Emory University and the cancellation of his book contract. Says Cashill, “one cannot read a page of the book without confronting Bellesiles’s contempt – there is not better word – for traditional American culture and values” (155).
Bellesiles wasn’t the only one using fabrication to advance the anti-gun, anti-American message. Michael Moore, in his Oscar-winning film Bowling for Columbine, was spreading the same message “to a much wider audience, and he was doing so, if possible, even more dishonestly” (157). I can’t begin to re-tell the numerous instances Cashill cites of deliberate misrepresentation, but reading David Hardy’s and Jason Clarke’s book, Michael Moore Is a Big Fat Stupid White Man, would surely suffice. One example will do.
Charlton Heston is portrayed by Moore as visiting Columbine ten days after the mass killings to hold “a large pro-gun rally for the National Rifle Association.” Brandishing a musket, Heston is quoted as saying: “From my cold, dead hands.” Heston is then seen “exploiting” the shooting death of a six-year-old girl in Flint, Michigan, by again speaking at a pro-gun rally.
What the viewer of Moore’s “film” doesn’t know is that the NRA convention in Denver had been scheduled years in advance and by law couldn’t be canceled. “The NRA did, however, cancel all events other than its mandatory members’ voting. By cobbling together five different parts of Heston’s Denver speech and adding the ‘cold, dead hands’ section from a speech given a year later in North Carolina, Moore turns Heston’s conciliatory address in Denver to a provocative call to arms” (160). Heston’s visit to Flint was eight months after the girl’s death, not for a pro-gun rally but a get-out-the-vote drive a month before the 2000 presidential election. What Moore doesn’t mention is that he himself was in Flint hustling up votes for Ralph Nader. Al Gore was also present.
Cashill’s final example in this chapter is a bold one: Martin Luther King. It doesn’t concern King’s now well-known chronic adultery, but the story of his blatant and repeated plagiarism. “King had throughout his career, and especially in his doctoral dissertation, lifted passages wholesale from other people’s work – ‘on a scale so vast,’ says distinguished historian Eugene Genovese, ‘as to leave no room for excuse or exculpation’” (163). If one should ask, why was the story not released, if the facts were so obvious, there is one simple reason: “fear of the massive retaliation that would be visited upon anyone who attempted to set the historical record straight” (Theodore Pappas, editor of the Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, cited by Cashill, 166).
(6) Chapter Four is titled “Darwin’s Heirs” and highlights numerous frauds who embraced “the cult of naturalism” (171). Cashill is careful to point out that “Charles Darwin was not a fraud. At least in 1859, when he published On the Origin of Species, he believed what he wrote” (170). What he wrote may well have been horribly wrong (as I believe it was), but Darwin evidently sincerely believed that what he wrote was true. Cashill has in mind the many frauds who came in Darwin’s wake.
He mentions the case of embryologist and philosopher (not to mention proto-facist and anti-Semite) Ernst Haeckel (who coined the now discredited phrase “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”), whose fabricated theories have long since been exposed (see especially the book by Jonathan Wells, Icons of Evolution). There is also a fascinating discussion of several of evolution’s more embarrassing “discoveries,” such as the Piltdown Man and the mid-wife toad (180-88).
But readers will especially profit from reading Cashill’s treatment of the infamous Scopes “Monkey Trial” of 1925. He clearly demonstrates how the Hollywood film “Inherit the Wind” provided a comprehensive distortion of the facts of the case. The then fledgling ACLU was desperate for a case that could enhance its public image and found in John Scopes a willing accomplice. William Jennings Bryan (Matthew Brady in the film version) is horribly caricatured as an anti-intellectual buffoon, the epitome of southern bible-thumping fundamentalism. Clarence Darrow was hardly the fair-minded agnostic portrayed by Spencer Tracy in the movie. He was a hardened atheistic Darwinian. And Bryan didn’t die in the courtroom while delivering an impassioned Jeremiad against evolution, but quietly, in his sleep, several days after the trial had concluded.
The chapter concludes with an enlightening discussion of the emergence of environmentalism and the myth of over-population. Cashill focuses on Rachel Carson’s break-through book on the environment, Silent Spring. It was Carson’s seriously flawed data and near “deification” (although she acknowledged no deity) of nature that contributed to what Cashill believes was one of the most serious mistakes of modern times: the banning of dichlorodiphenyl-trichloroethane or, “as it is more commonly known and reviled, DDT” (202). He cites the work of Harvard’s Amir Attaran who contends that no two studies have shown that DDT increases the risk of cancer or any other disease and that its judicious use can cut malaria deaths by as much as 99 percent. In his novel State of Fear, Harvard-trained M.D., Michael Crichton, describes the banning of DDT as “arguably the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century” and provides the mortality statistics to back up his claim (205). Cashill also cites the World Health Organization’s affirmation that no substance “has ever proved more beneficial to man” than DDT (206).
(7) In his final chapter, Cashill exposes the “Sexual Fantasies” of the twentieth century, concentrating on the influence of Planned Parenthood founder, Margaret Sanger, anthropologist Margaret Mead, and of course, Albert Kinsey.
Sanger was an unapologetic advocate of eliminating the poor and defective from society whose theories would put Hitler to shame. The most urgent problem today, she wrote in The Pivot of Civilization, “is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective. Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon American society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupid, cruel sentimentalism” (cited by Cashill, 219-20). Philanthropy and charity were, she said, “the symptom of a malignant social disease” (222). The efforts of the Salvation Army were particularly singled out as a “debauch of sentimentalism” which did more harm than good. I find it interesting that Planned Parenthood felt it necessary to rush to its founder’s defense. On its website one reads: “Margaret Sanger was not a racist, an anti-Semite, or a eugenicist.” Oh. That’s reassuring.
Cashill also describes in detail the now well-known account of Margaret Mead’s fabrication of “research” on the island of Samoa. In her book, Coming of Age in Samoa, Mead argued that the people there were remarkably free in their sexuality. Celibacy was a meaningless term to them. Homosexuality and masturbation were common, illegitimate children were welcome, while monogamy, frigidity and impotence were virtually non-existent. It was a sexual paradise, free from the guilt and inhibition so rampant in American culture where God ruled as the supreme sexual killjoy. The only problem was that Mead’s research was almost entirely fabricated and falsified. Unfortunately, this was not made known until her findings had exerted a tremendous influence on twentieth-century attitudes toward human sexuality. Derek Freeman, an anthropologist from New Zealand, exposed her theories in two books, Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth (Harvard University Press, 1983), and The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead (1999).
Cashill points out that Freeman had no idea of “the buzzsaw that awaits truth tellers. He was walking blithely right into it, what one colleague rightly described as ‘the greatest controversy in the history of anthropology.’ He had not guessed just how many of his colleagues had built their own ‘shining palaces’ in Mead’s Samoan sand. For more than fifty years, the anthropology community had held Mead’s work up as ‘one of its glories and a solid proof of Boasian culturalism.’ Now here was an upstart from New Zealand threatening to undo it all” (237). Cashill describes the horrid treatment of Freeman as well as his ultimate vindication.
This fascinating book closes with a careful analysis of the fraudulent but powerfully impacting work of Alfred C. Kinsey, whose conclusions about human sexuality exerted a horribly nefarious influence on the thinking of western society. I will spare you the salacious details of how Kinsey conducted his alleged “research” (which involved the sexual exploitation of children and the use of male prostitutes, admitted pedophiles, and serial rapists) and simply encourage you to read Cashill’s account of how Judith Reisman (among others) exposed his outrageous claims.
As I said at the beginning, this book will simultaneously enthrall and enrage your soul. I’ve probably spent too much time recounting Cashill’s findings, and I hope you won’t think my summation precludes the need for you to read Hoodwinked for yourself. Please, read it for yourself! I’ll conclude with his final comment:
“In the worldwide culture war, our progressive friends honor no conventions. Unchecked by God or tradition, largely unedited by their peers in the academy or the media, they fall back promiscuously on the one weapon that their opponents are loath to use: fraud. As weapons go, however, it is no match for the truth. At the end of the day, one prays, it is the latter that goes marching on” (273).