The arguments that can be mustered to silence the Paris Review CIA story are weak to the point of comedy.
The essential strength of the Cummings reports remains. The single most controversial, most unbelievable part of his story-- that leftist icon Peter Matthiessen worked for the CIA-- has been confirmed by Matthiessen himself. Everything else is gravy.
That Matthiessen was a CIA agent leads logically and inevitably to other parts of the story.
Matthiessen hasn't been connected with the Paris Review in fifty years, the journal's editors will maintain.
Really? But he's listed in your pages, right on the masthead, as a current board member, alongside all kinds of establishment heavyweights. Peter Matthiessen also has an essay in your current issue! Just how stupid do you think the public is, anyway?
No connection indeed!
Another tactic will be to discredit George Plimpton by painting him as some kind of clownish moron who'd never be trusted by the CIA. Anyone who's met and talked to the guy knows this contention is ludicrous. It does great disservice to Plimpton's memory. (This is a subject I'll address on this blog separately.)
The fact though is that Paris Review editors aren't saying much of anything, publicly. Their essential arrogance got them into this situation in the first place and will be the cause of their undoing.
Like others of their kind in the lit world, they feel they're answerable to nobody-- least of all to a general public they profess to want to read their publication. (Do they hold themselves accountable, as do we of the ULA? I've opened this blog to comments from every conceivable defender of Paris Review or the CIA.)
Before we ran the two-part Cummings Report, I e-mailed Paris Review editors telling them of the story. Had they contested the facts, we might not have run the essays. We never heard a word from them-- and haven't to this day.
Can we presume that such matters and how to handle them are discussed by Paris Review editors and board members? This is an impressive collection of highly intelligent people, including at least one renowned legal mind. Their decision about the CIA stories has been to say and do nothing.
THE CHANGING WORLD
These people behave as if it's still 1955, when such revelations could easily be squelched or forgotten; handled within the realm of approved commentators. Ever-silent dinosaur Robert B. Silvers is their role model. Silvers is of another time. His arrogance, the exclusivity of his attitude, is now impossible to change. He'll be judged by history-- a history which unfortunately for him will be written by writers not of his choosing.
What's the excuse of Paris Review editors for their stonewalling? Do they really think they can do a quick search of the archives and magically proclaim, "No, there's no story here. No story at all! Peter Matthiessen? Who's he? We can't see him anywhere! Plimpton? The CIA? There's no one here but us elitists!"
They've stonewalled for fifty years about Matthiessen and they'll continue to stonewall about the rest of the story. But Cummings or no Cummings, ULA or no ULA, in the age of the Internet this is a story that won't be going away.
The only really unbelievable part of any of this, for those who value the integrity of literature, is the Paris Review attitude that they'll have to be dragged kicking and screaming to acknowledge anything. Only grudgingly, when every i is dotted and t crossed, every exit for them blocked, no way to run away, will they come clean and apologize for a fifty-year misrepresentation.
They're not writers. They're apparatchiks. They behave like apparatchiks in everything they do and say. The conformist literary world of the Soviet Union had nothing on these people. In the righteous cause of their status quo ideology they sully the very idea of American democracy. (A lot of that going around right now, people say.)
The prevalent attitude in Paris Review offices: Arrogance. The Underground Literary Alliance isn't worthy of a response from these insular snobs, because we're not proper Members of the Club.
We're only an authentic voice of the people.