Saturday, January 27, 2007



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.

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.


jimmy grace said...

OK, I'm not getting this at all, but then I don't read mainstream lit journals much as they're generally crap. The editors are generally elitist white guys and in general that's who they publish, though every so often they publish something good.

Now it appears that a guy with the Paris Review was 50 years ago working for the CIA. This would prove that he's immoral, but how does it sully the magazine for anyone? For the Paris Review crowd, why should they care where the money comes from? It's always going to come from some corrupt corporate or government source. And for the rest of us, who cares about the shadowy history of a lameass journal? I mean, I always assumed those guys were corrupt anyway. It never occurred to me that their corruption had to do with the CIA, but if Pepsi was behind it I wouldn't care either.

From the dawn of time, widespread communication costs money - money from corporate entities, or the state, or rich guys. This is the millionth example. But I don't see why you think it's any more important than whoever's giving Updike a blowjob at the New Yorker.

But then again, I'm drunk, so what do I know?

Brooklyn Frank said...

this whole thing is quite fascinating.

King said...

No, you're only a fraud, "Grace," and not a very good one.
You likely can't see what's wrong with a nation's intelligence agency starting a lit journal that quickly becomes the most esteemed literary journal in the nation.
It kinda says that there is no independent literature-- at least not what's recognized as "literature," award-winning, lauded, recorded, and so on.
You can say, but there are other writers out there, who ARE independent, nobody's pawn.
Is the lightbulb going on?
Does one have to be corrupt to be an artist?
I don't believe so. The early rock promoters didn't believe so. With very little funding (see Sam Phillips) they found and produced culture from the people, which people actually wanted. The endeavor paid for itself.
This is all the ULA is trying to do-- trying to knock down the barriers to let journalists cover the real writers; writers who HAVE integrity; who don't sell out and who'll never sell out.
If you really are so cynical and spineless, as you portray yourself, whoever you are, I truly feel sorry for you.

jimmy the hyena said...

Everybody knows that it's standard practice for companies or interest groups or whatever to have a presence on forums to respond to any eventual negative comments. It's reasonable to assume that the ULA's opponents would do the same. We're a threat to the product that they're peddling. Of course their agent is going to deny any connection. You're not convincing any of us but then we're not your target. The things you keep repeating that we've already responded to are meant to affect those that might eventualy come across this blog for the first time. I'm maybe just going to copy this post and put it up again after every post by jimmy grace.

fdw said...

The Cia has been still is spying on US citizens right now!
Need more be said regarding the efficacy of these current exposures of the PR. Suffice to say makes the PR's current banner/jigo that the magazine is "literature's DNA" a bit more pointed besides? Talk about arrogance!
Further reinforcement regarding the timeliness comes from the fact that a lot of the second generation/ third generation literary establishment bosses are acting loke and persuing a progrom as if the Cold War were still going on but now directed at the enemy here at home: the culturalunderground and independent/alternative press (we've been hearing--but not too much lately-- about the "culture wars", the "cultural divide").
Inquiring minds want to know who these new junior operatives are where they are at and what their "family tree" affilations happen to be from the overdog/demi-puppet side of the discussion. And the investigative reportage on this and related issues by which function the ULA seems like the only voice in the cultural DMZ.
"They shoot horses, don't they!"

chapman said...

in 1966 stephen spender resigned as editor of "encounter" magazine, a poetry and arts mag that dated back to right around the time the paris review first started up.

he resigned because he'd just learned the magazine had been funded by the cia from the outset.

he's been called stupid and naive ever since, and people have said "he should have known what was going on." but at least, once he found out, he quit immediately and publically.

Chief said...

I've been thinking this whole thing over, and I've realized that King might be sort of onto something.

If it's true that the CIA has been privileging certain types of writing over others, making it easier for writers with an anti-communist bent to move up the literary totem pole than, say, pro-communist ones, then King is right: the playing field hasn't been level for some time, and possibly never was.

This news/awareness should be greeted with bitter outrage by all writers, because it means that no matter how well you write, no matter how good your books are, they're going to get ignored unless those books champion "American" values.

I can see myself getting very pissed off about that.

But then King, unable to keep his thumb off the scales, throws in a bunch of retarded nonsense about Rock'n'roll being the ultimate for-the-people,by-the-people art form, and that only the ULA can offer America the literary equivalent of great Rock'n'Roll.

If you guys really rocked, I would know it. I would dig it. I would fucking groove to it. Despite the many aspersions you nit-wits have cast upon my identity and my persona, I'm a guy who loves to party, and if you guys really were throwing a decent party, I'd come to it. But you're not. The party you guys are throwing has, like, a $30 cover charge for watered down beer, overcooked burgers, no chicks, and a bad band. Your party is just plain lame. That's why no-one wants to come.

King said...

Why don't you show up at our next reading and then tell us we don't rock the house?
Or buy one of our two new books, by Wred Fright and James Nowlan.
In fact, send me your address and I'll mail you copies.
Oh, we have the writing. Underground writers have always had the writing.
The hard part is letting people know about it-- the ultimate goal of this campaign. The hard part is coming up against a closed shop; a narrow-minded monolith.
I would not have founded this movement, along with five other undergrounders, if I didn't KNOW that our writing could compete with anyone's.
No, I didn't get all the best undergrounders into the outfit-- not Aaron Cometbus or Doug Holland (of "Pathetic Life") or Jen Gogglebox, but I did recruit the best of the rest, notably Steve Kostecke of "Azian Kix" and Ann of "Bottlefed," whose writing was off the charts, and Michael Jackman whose "Army" narrative about boot camp remains one of the strongest and most compelling narratives found in the underground press-- or anywhere.
The bottom line: The status quo has already shown that they present nothing but the same-old same-old. They're going nowhere. We're bringing writers from an entirely different direction. Yes, "roots" writers from the heart of American culture.
We're not yet where I want us, but we'll get there. Considering our limited resources, dwarfed thousands of times by the billions which go into the System's hundreds of writing programs and massively staffed NYC conglomerates, we're doing well.
The best is ahead.
READ underground writing first before you judge us.
I'll try to dig up a copy of one of Joe Pachinko's books to send you. Does he rock? I guarantee you've never read anything like it.
(Such lameness from anonymous demi-puppets who know nothing quickly gets old. I'll tell you what, jerk. "Chief." I'll meet you anywhere-- anywhere, any bar or hall or park or sidewalk on the east coast-- and read against you myself, poetry or prose, and we'll see who has the goods.)
Thank you for your remarks.
(Such anonymous posters, needless to say, are no better themselves than CIA operatives. Completely gutless. I have no respect whatsoever for such people, which is why I sometimes go off.)

King said...

p.s. There's no cover charge at our next reading, Sunday, Febnruary 25th at The Underground in Philly, a very cool club. 3 pm. A great line-up, including zeen babe Jessica Disobedience reading under whatever name she goes by now. Maybe the most exciting writer under thirty. Way better than well-hyped Marisha Pessl. I hope you all can be there.
p.p.s I haven't thrown aspersions upon anyone's idemtity or persona WHEN I DON'T KNOW IT. Duh! The demi-puppets who post here don't have identities, which is why they're demi-puppets.

King said...

An added note. This bystander sitting in his/her armchair tut-tuts about the CIA matter, agreeing it's outrageous.
But why aren't YOU making noise about the matter?
Why haven't the hundreds of writers like you done the gruntwork in going after this story and making noise about it?
If such happenings occur, you have no one to blame but yourself.
My God, you won't post under your own name even here-- much less take on powerful entities under your name as ULAers have been doing.
Gutless gutless gutless-- silent sheep, which is why literature today is a corrupt joke.

jimmy grace said...

For the gazillionth time I'm not a writer. I make visual art and I'm on the road with it now, and the collective's political stance is a little more far-reaching than challenging corruption at a limp, pretentious rag.

Yeah, it's not a level playing field. It's never been one. Shakespeare had to kiss up to the king. But could someone please give me an example of how one single fucking piece of content at the Paris Review speaks to CIA interests?

M.D.G. said...

I can't believe you guys are talking about literature. In a two party system, who controls the heavy hitters from both parties? The CIA. And you guys are worried about some magazine that you would never get into anyway

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...

1. King, you might want to turn off anonymous comments because the spam bots are posting.

1. Chief:If it's true that the CIA has been privileging certain types of writing over others, making it easier for writers with an anti-communist bent to move up the literary totem pole than, say, pro-communist ones, then King is right: the playing field hasn't been level for some time, and possibly never was.

I don't think the CIA has to do such a thing. The American people have never had much interest in communist lit. There has been tepid interest in social justice lit, such as THE JUNGLE, but most of the socialist realism from the 1930s dated terrible and most is just bad writing (Steinbeck being one of the few exceptions.)

Another thing: litfic novelists tend to be liberals or moderates. If there were a surge of Robert Heinleins then I would be suspect. But for the most part LITFIC is apolitical and proto-psychological.

I think a lit journal works as a decent cover because, outside of writers, few Americans read lit journals. If this were a general interest mag such as the NEW YORKER or the ATLANTIC, I would be a little more concerned.

I stopped reading the PARIS REVIEW after they started hyping Yiyun Li. Seriously, it feels as if she is a quota writer (calling all female, chinese immigrant writers who write in a sterile style that isn't likely to offend).

I will say that the author interviews from the old days are decent.

fdw said...

Culture Wars:

Who controls perception
controls in turn memory
controlling memory history is
controlled who controls
history controls the present?
possibly the future.(Thanks to Chapman for his insight into SSpender-- an over- dog who had it would seem to have a conscience in contrast to the machine types currently potted behing the curtain)

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...

That argument doesn't hold so much for literature. If we are talking about the news media or Hollywood, then that is something else. Fiction is a poor vehicle for propaganda.

Anonymous said...

If you guys really believe the CIA was calling editorial shots in the Paris Review's office--or that Matthiesson thought of himself as someone committed to holding down "the people"--it is clear you have read little about the CIA and nothing by Matthiesson. Is this troubling? Eh, yeah, I guess. It's also a fifty-year-old story--AND IT'S ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT. See France Stoner's book about the cultural Cold War. She goes into quite a bit about the CIA's involvement in American letters, and it basically amounted to funding lit journals and the like in the interest of fighting fellow-travelers lingering around Europe--especially Europe; let's remember the Paris Review started out as a European magazine--and in many cases the people receiving the funding had no idea where it was coming from. If the CIA's interest in the Paris Review persisted past, say, the late 1950s, I would be really, really, really surprised. Anyway, what about Hemingway? He was employed by the CIA's forerunner in the Caribbean during World War II. The guy actually hunted Nazi U-boats. (He didn't get any.) Does this besmirch all of Hemingway's writing? Yes, this is a real story, in the sense that it's an interesting and mildly distressing archaeological nugget from the days of yore. If the ULA believes it has anything to do with literature today, you need an emergency head examination.

Jeff Potter said...

Offhand, this discussion assumes a lot.

It assumes that the CIA is known to be a goofball outfit for fancy lads. Safe assumption. So the class card is easily played. However, people might be willing to give an adventurous fancy lad of the 1950's a break for this same reason. It's semi-harmless fun that rich kids got/get into.

It also assumes that folks are familiar with the CIA's role in the culture war. Uh, what culture war? I didn't know about it beyond the general zeitgeist view. Apparently there have indeed been CIA programs along these lines. Some posters here make wild suggestions, but there are specifics about it all in the blogosphere that are worth checking out. (Link below.)

Here are a few things I recently read about... I think it tells what might be most important about this CIA connection.

The gist is: Pre-Vietnam, in the 1950's maybe, the CIA launched well-funded lit journals in all the major Euro nations. Among them the PR.

The purpose was to engage a culture war with the USSR.

How did it play out?

The USSR was pushing Social Realism. So the CIA decided that this direction had to be defeated. So the CIA sponsored abstract art and atonal music! ...And pointless literature. We can probably safely assume that all social art was lumped into the "dangerous" basket at that point: anything like Dickens or Sinclair Lewis would've been a no-go. Heavy-handed square-jaw realism wasn't the only thing to go.

No one in the public scene wanted the abstract/atonal/interior crap but it was the only thing that was paying for a couple decades. It's not a far leap to see how such values got into the system in a way that just kept going, beyond the covert operation.

Do you see how this relates to literature? It's quite shocking. The CIA created a scene where socially relevant lit would not be published or supported.

I think it's wrong to say that "anti-American" or "pro-Communist" art is what was attacked. No, it was *realism* in any form that was attacked. Social art of any kind. Abstract, interior art became the new rule. (It's not that macho rightwing Heinlein-ish work was being pushed. No, that wasn't the effect.) Of course this is full of actual irony for a change. Art meant to promote freedom was kept enslaved. The weakest art forms were propped up as "American." A bad plan all around...which had actual consequences on western culture...which seem likely persisting to this day.

This goes way beyond Peter Matthiessen. But for drawing attention to an issue, using the personal specifics of central figures works best. But we use them to indicate bigger challenges.

The overt funding supposedly stopped after Vietnam. How do we know this? There are links about all this that I haven't checked out yet. This link seems like a decent place to start:

It's a theory anyway...

Wouldn't it be funny if a significant source of the trend to irrelevant art was a CIA program? It's something that we couldn't even dream up! (Well, we've gotten close.) That dang paranoia, following us around... If it wasn't real we'd be happy to ignore it!

King said...

Good points. Also keep in mind that Paris Review is one of two or three literary journals which set the tone for all the others (along with The New Yorker). It's a model that other editors and writers follow.
Its influence shouldn't be underestimated. Some of the most important names in U.S. publishing (such as Gary Fisketjon and Morgan Entrekin) have been associated with the magazine.
Re CIA: Do we really believe its influence has ended?
A 1989 book by Loch K. Johnson said that CIA "ties with academics continue to flourish." Other books I've read have documented that the Agency continues to pour money into universities.
It's amazing to me that people see this as no big deal. But it's the same thing the KGB was doing.
Whatever the Paris Review editorial policy originally set in place, it continued for decades-- at least as long as Plimpton ran the thing.
The populace, and the intellectuals, have become docile.
The Encounter revelation, as Mr. Chapman points out, was a huge story. News about Paris Review causes hardly a murmur.
That our intellectual culture is influenced by our government "intelligence" service (let's remember that Paris Review was only one; recall Partisan Review) and set the course for approved ideas is not an encouraging fact in my book.
We're living with the effects of this to this day. Those who don't believe this had better learn where neo-conservative ideology was started.

King said...

Curious that posters here are desperate to affirm that this story means nothing. But we can't know that until we follow the threads and find out what other publications and persons were involved.
Is there any logic to cutting off debate?
Also: People have a poor understanding of leverage. They don't realize that, say, a handful of ideologues at a think tank or a magazine, by disseminating those ideas to influential people, can have a huge impact on the direction of this country, the course of our ideas.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Potter, you are truly a moron. "Social Realism," in its Communist form, has absolutely nothing to do--in an honest sense--with the social realism of Steinbeck or Hemingway et al. I say that fully aware of Steinbeck's political sympathies. Do you really know this little about history? The USSR was "pushing" Social Realism? Do you know what happened to writers who didn't go along with that push? The amount of artistic freedom given to US writers compared to the freedom given to USSR writers is comparing apples and atoms. For every journal funded by the CIA there were hundreds free to publish as they chose. Welcome to America. In the Soviet Union there was the Writers Guild . . . and that's it. And social realism, far from being attacked, is the dominant form running throughout American literature! It's the de facto genre for people who don't like pansy writing but rather blood-and-guts realism. Jimmy Carter liked James Dickey. Ronald Reagan loved Tom Clancy! Who are the people most civilians read? Almost always they're social realists. Updike, Carver, Bukowski, Hemingway, Fitzgerald . . . you guys get all up in arms about the meaningless scribblings of David Foster Wallace or Rick Moody, but neither of those guys is a social realist. You know what? Fuck it. A brother tries to point out some RV-sized holes in your big breaking story, and Potter cuts loose with a veritable turd of poorly reasoned agit-prop. King, of course, goes along and says, "Good points." No one picks up on the mention of Frances Stoner's book, which already dealt with all this, and was reviewed and debated widely several years ago. You guys really are hopeless.

fdw said...

This isn't an "argument" (dialectical game) it is a proposition ventured poetical(intuitive extralogical play).
Where's there's darkness, turgid defensive (passive/active agression) ignorance, deliberated confusion, inversion, and oppression OF WHAT IS,
the imagination ( a real psychic "organ") can be excited to give off light AND HEAT. The creative contemplative reflection of the individual natural consciousness upon the "waters" (upper and lower).
The difference (in the positive sense, ie.,as discernment) between
the imagination and phantasy is close to the heart of seeing the nature of the beast, ie. the Culture Wars for our purposes.
The Imagination is more powerful than the atomic bomb.( a conceit technically)
Power as contrasted with force.
To use the parlance that even the illiterate can understand, let's use the word "weapon":
hyperbolie is one weapon in the array at the disposal of the poet/writer.
It is the critical, however extralogical, intelligece that formulates (in-forms) the "fish" in the catch from the offal, the dross, the lies, the usury, the simony, of the catch caught in the net cast by the device of Hyperbolie.(Again only one weapon in the arsenal)
The literary expressive work apprehends the Truth to the extent it is made sense of. (Meaning resides in the hearts and minds of the literary artist's most necessary complement-- the audience(s).
Everything that exists in the consciousness has it's ontological roots founded in human language.
The natural (as world: "the ten thousand things") as well as the artificial.
Only an idiot would or a propogandist entangled in ulterior motives would imply that literature was not an art form and as such socially specific in import as well as means of generation and at least as influential upon the human mind and heart together as the implements of coercive force, ideologically represented here as the CIA.
Hemingway was fighting the Nazis back when, so is the ULA now.

fdw said...

Jeff's point ( a minor supprotive one comared to the great line of reasoning overall displyed!) is that Soviet totalitarian ism and American style totalitarianism are just that, totalitarianisms.
Calling someone a moron and getting scat-ological in one's attacks especiallly while cowering behind anonymity is totalitarian also.

King said...

Some misconceptions by anonymous posters.
"Hundreds" of lit journals are free to publish "what they want"?
This statement completely misses the point.
Hundreds of "literary" journals every year for the past several decades have been publishing generic literary poetry and prose which isn't connecting with the public at all. (In the Paris Review/New Yorker model.)
MFA programs teach writers how to be bland and irrelevant.
You don't have to control the publications; you don't have to "censor" journals from the outside; when you can control writers minds; when they censor themselves.
I speak as someone who pushed very hard in the early 90's to get writing with a social conscience published in lit journals.
Even the only esteemed literary editor of conscience and integrity, Robley Wilson at North American Review, told me my writing was "too polemical," though he did publish a couple long essays of mine; one about Detroit from which much of the "polemics" were cut.
When you talk with lit editors and writers over the years, you see a consistency in their attitudes.
Here's the bottom line: Literary writing is NOT passionately moving people, causing them to explode out of their chairs with outrage.
This has been my goal as a writer-- my only goal.
It's not allowed.
Writings like London's "The Iron Heel" or Rexroth's "Thou Shalt Not Kill," which scream with polemics, are not allowed.
How bad are things?
Think about this.
This is one of the only literary sites where the CIA matter is even being discussed.

Anonymous said...

FDW, I'll say this and bow out: If you really, truly believe the United States (a representative democracy with plenty of problems and a fair amount of blood on its hands, but nevertheless a society dictated by the rule of law, bound by a Jeffersonian constitution, and a magnet to peoples the world over in search of economic opportunity) has anything in common with the USSR (a nation in which tens of millions of people were done away with due to the whims of Stalin and his miscellany of sadistic misfits and yes-men; a system which poisoned the earth, imprisoned its peoples, and crushed any citizen who stood in its way) then you call yourself out as an infantile Leftist delusionoid, sitting in his little apartment typing his little poems. People who actually, really suffered living under the reality of a real, not projected, totalitarian state, I daresay, would spit in your face, and deservedly so. Cheers.

King said...

That the Soviet Union had to kill millions of people only shows the crudeness of their totalitarianism.
Ours is much more sophistaicated.
And anyway, aren't people dying in this society, from this society's corruptions?
You don't seem to know anything about your own country; about the millions who are locked away in our horrendous jails and prisons, half for meaningless crimes such as those against the drug laws. (There's your "law.") Do you know anyone who's been in those places? I do. Tell me they're not a gulag.
How many people every year are crushed by our economic system?
Walsh is one of those on the verge of being crushed. You comfortable anonymous poster; you know nothing about how we live.
When I lived in Detroit's Css Corridor there were many hundreds, maybe thousands, of homeless in the neighborhood, many living in abandoned buildings. After each brutal Detroit winter scores of these people would be seen no more; dying of cold or of building fires. They died uncounted and unknown.
Oh yeah, this is a great society, isn't it?
Maybe for you.
Read my December post of the opening of my novel.
THAT's America now-- where other of our cities are headed. That world is true. That no man's land of ruin and beasts.
Is this really such an advancement?
I fear people in Russia today are finding out, or have found out, how advanced a dog-eat-dog society really is.

Anonymous said...

Hope you're done being a martyr, King.

jimmy the hyena said...

Oh, Saint Dave, an apparition, we are blessed! Perform a miracle. Save our souls! Holy! Holy! Holy!

Jeff Potter said...

The Frances Stoner blurb went up just as I was making my first post. So, sure, check out that book. Also check out the blog that I note and the links it includes. (I don't know this Momus blogger but there was interesting comment on the CIA thing there.)

My main point was that the CIA wasn't pushing just what we'd call rightwing pro-US material---as someone mentioned. It was pushing anti-realism in general in art, music, lit. Politics was off-limits. It's not moronic or an "RV-sized hole" to wonder if this influence is still being felt in today's lit system.

The USA/USSR dynamic was complex. Our anonymouse paints it as simplistic good vs evil. No one takes away anyone's suffering by making other points. It's sad that you're trying to wear that suffering like a blanket. Credentialism went wild in the USSR. The gulag was a threat for some of the time. But credentialism's guarantee of lousy art stayed the same until the very end of the USSR. It's good to keep it in mind. Of course there are a lot of other factors at play. Western Lit is in trouble and we're calling attention to any and all of the forces involved with keeping it down. What are you doing?

fdw said...

I could be Aaron Burr to some anononym's Hamilton since it would play out the same as te original dance number.
Otherwise for those inquiring minds
not for of course neo- nazais nor neo liberals here's a jab at a triangulation to get insight into the congruency of Soviet and American totalitarianism and light shed on the cureent situation:

1. Yevtushenko's Bratsk Station, 1967, doubleday anchor PAPERBACK!, especially the intro by Rosh Ireland (Met and conversed w/YY back in the early Spring of 1991 at the U of P and the display of intellectual totalitarianism put on by the students and faculty at the event was illuminating-- I'm not ready to go in to it right now tho'.)
2.Selected Poems Of Andrei Voznesensky, trans. & into by Anselm Hollo (Grove Press, 1964)
3.Rexroth's "Thou Shalt Not Kill", A Memorial For Dylan Thomas,
in In Defense Of The Earth (New Directions, 1956)
4. "HOWL", all parts.

"The country's great,
the nation sucks."

King said...

We're approaching totality of control of people's minds; restricted visions of what this nation looks like.
Why do some people believe this society is completely fine and okay?
There are happenings they're never allowed to know about.
Case in point: Happenings like the 1995 newspaper strike; as bloody a strike as any in the halycon days of the 1930's, when the labor movement was being built-- but this time around the company brutality received no coverage, other than a pro-conglomerate point of view put on televison screens.
No one saw the head-busting. But it happened; I witnessed it with my own eyes.
"Anonymous" still buys the myths. They're great myths. One wishes they were true.
In truth this is no democracy. More a combined oligarchy/plutocracy, with billionaires as mayors and governors; where of the last ten major party Presidential candidates, NINE were graduates of Harvard or Yale-- or both.
Last time around the two opponents even belonged to the same fraternity, a couple years apart.
Democracy in action!
Can we petition for Princeton or Brown to be given a chance?!

Anonymous said...

Wow, guys. What part of "a representative democracy with plenty of problems and a fair amount of blood on its hands" don't you understand? Here I am, the flag-waving America First! girl. Do you often argue by ignoring all the complicated parts? Did I anywhere say anything to be construed as shutting out the ugly realities of this country? Did I not instead say, yes, we've got problems, but a massive gulag and genocidal government is not one of them. (And, King, George Bush, may he burn in hell when he gets there, is not even of the same species as someone like Stalin. Arguing is he merely reveals your inability to understand context or applicability. And no, our prisons are not gulags. Not yet, at least. We imprison a lot of people, our prison industry is wicked, our drug laws are stupid, we can agree on that, but the fact is, people imprisoned in this country have any number of imperfect but nevertheless existing paths to seek redress. So cram your imaginary police state, and the imaginary positions you attribute to those who disagree with you, up your arse. If you really believe you're living in a criminal state, do us all a favor and move to fucking Canada. Or won't They let you?

King said...

If you think our ultra-violent prison system isn't a gulag then you know nothing.
I suggest you contact Anthony Rayson in Chicago (I'll dig up contact info when I can, but he can likely be googled) and get ahold of some of the zeens he produces about these very questions. He's in contact with a lot of prisoners, You'd get a glimpse into a nightmarish world.
("Women in Prison" is a particular shocker.)
Redress of grievances? Tell that to people who've been locked away for life for meaningless "crimes."
(p.s. I didn't equate Bush with Stalin, and wouldn't. Yes, things are complicated-- our society doesn't need to resort to the archaic overt brutalities of Stalin to be totalitarian.)
I don't think you know much of anything about your own society. . . .
Newsflash: The Soviet Union is dead. America is alive now, and we're living in it, and yes, it has tremendous problems which you should be concerned about.

King said...

p.s. I suggest you also get a subscription to Fred Woodworth's The Match!

Anonymous said...

Gulag: Prison system in which most of the people were innocent of breaking any law at all.
Prison: A place where the overwhelming majority of people inside of it are guilty of breaking what they knew to be laws.

Jeff Potter said...

Anonymouse, you're the one who took the martyrs stance and brought up Stalin when I first compared the worthlessness of credentialism in the USA to its equal worthlessness in the USSR.

Yeah, we don't have it as bad as (anyone) did in the war theaters of WW2 and its aftermath. No one said we did. Get over it.

We're still saying the lit system is bad today. And that its connection to the CIA has certainly helped to make it bad. Along with many other factors which we list.

You'd be better off dropping your "they had it worse back then" angle. Do you really think you get traction with it?

And... Ah, yes, the "redress" that the, what, millions of overcrowded American prisoners have. It comforts them, I'm sure. Have you heard about how many of them are on heavy, zombifying meds just to survive the jampacked no-windows conditions? Ah yes, and the years in many are doing that kind of time? It's cost effective, don't you know. Tiny concrete bunkers run by keypad. Thousands in their living tombs, run by a single guard. Profitably. I have a friend who just spent time there, in the lady's wing, watching people go insane, dropping off like flies, because dozens of them were jammed for weeks into narrow, bunkerlike hallways. The whole point seemed to be to make each inmate go insane then drug them to zombieness.

Yeah, there are all manner of worse fates. We're only responsible for those we're paying for. And we can feel free to make any helpful comparison we like in an attempt to wake people up. I find the "we're turning into our enemy" an apt notion because it's often part of victory.

Anonymous said...

You guys are the ones who throw around the Soviet and fascist and totalitarian labels. Not me. I'm just trying to make you justify them. Looks like you can't.

King said...

Gulag: The people in the Soviet gulag were guilty of breaking some law, no matter how specious. Any society can make up laws to justify imprisoning folks.
The numbers of people in U.S. jails and prisons are approaching Gulag-like numbers. Half of them for specious offenses.
One example I can testify to, is a ladyfriend of mine here in Philly who was on probation, living in a halfway house, and was sent back to the slammer for eight months of hard time for "dirty urine": flunking a drug test because she smoked a joint with someone. Eight months of hell for smoking a joint.
The prison industry in this nation IS an industry. In that sense we're quickly becoming like China.

Chief said...

For once, I kind of agree with you King.

It's open season on poor people in America. Collections agents, non-existent health care, absurd anti-drug policies, police brutality, low wages for unskilled labor, factory closings--if you have no money in this country, you're basically fucked.

And, ironcially, poor people represent big business. Who shops at WAL-MART? Who eats in fast food restaurants? Who went in droves to the last hollywood blockbuster at the megaplex? Who racks up the most credit card debt? Who spent more money on rent?

You know the answer: America's hapless poor. It's in the interest of multi-national conglomerates to keep a certain segment of the population economically depressed, because a disposable workforce means lower overhead and higher profits.

Capitalism 101.

But, listen, whether you believe it or not, poor people are a relative minorty in America. Less than 40 million people (roughly 12% of the population) live at or below the poverty line.

So yes: 12% of Americans are in a position to experience our government as ruthless police state, as they can get picked up by the police merely because they live in "dangerous" neighborhood in which everyone's a "suspect".

However, that leaves another 88% of Americans who experience the government as serving their interests. That 88%, it can be reasonably said, are not living under a tyrannical regime, as they are treated with some measure of respect.

Whether you like it or not, King, everybody in the Soviet Union (except for the oligarchs occupying the highest rungs of the politburo) were living in a repressive police state. Not 12%, not 88%, but 99.999% of Russians were bereft of any political power whatsoever.

No freedom of speech, no freedom of assembly, no representative government, no money, no freedom to travel, no goods worth having, no right to privacy, and, most crucially, no due process of law.

No miranda rights in the USSR. No phonce call, no attorney to go over your case with. If they brought you in for questioning, it was merely a formality, because, no matter what answer you gave, your guilt was assumed a priori.

Stalin had the NKVD arresting political "subversives" by quota. He'd say, "look there must be at leat 4,000 people who hate me in Minsk, arrest 4,000 Minskivites and call it wrap."

It was that arbitrary.

Nothing like that is taking place in the US (unless, of course, you count the prisoners at Guantanmo Bay, and I'm not sure that I do, since so few of those prisoners are American citizens). I'll agree that justice is unequally distributed among the classes, and that the law usually slants in favor of the rich, but at least there's a system! At least you don't actually disappear, and get deliberately worked to death in labor camps for smoking a joint.

Read Anne Applebaum's GULAG, or Solzhenitsyn's GULAG Archipelago, or anything by Vassily Grossman. It won't take long to realize that a comparison between the hardships of the average Soviet citizen and the Average American is plainly absurd.

Anonymous said...

King said...

You're missing the point, "Chief." Stalin had to resort to such measures because he WASN'T able to control the minds of the populace.
You might even want to read 1984 on this, where the interrogator contrasts the crudities of the Inquisition and the Soviets with their more subtle control.
Our society's control is more subtle than anything Orwell envisoned.
The reactions on this blog exemplify this,
We see outrage at the whistle-blowers-- not at the corruption itself.
As we've pointed out, lit people are completely conformist. This is simply the latest example.
Who needs prison camps when you have such obedient intellectuals?
Incidentally, Solzhenitsyn did get his novel "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch" published by the system, with the encouragement of Khrushchev himself.
Would any publishing company in America publish the Best of this blog? Of course not.
Finally, it's easy enough to say that doing hard time in one of the horrific jails or prisons in this nation isn't as bad as a Stalinist camp, I think until you're actually inside one.
Do you want to go in one? I don't.