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June 12, 2007

Bernie...What Happened To You?

I've been watching Harlan County U.S.A, maybe the best documentary ever made about unions in the U.S. It takes place in 1974 and follows a strike by Kentucky coal miners, as well as efforts by UMW reformers to kick out the union's corrupt president, Tony Boyle. First Boyle has Joseph Yablonski, who ran against him for the union presidency, murdered along with Yablonski's wife and daughter. Then one of the striking miners is murdered, and no one is prosecuted.

At that point a young UMW staffer named Bernie Aronson, part of the union reform movement, appears:

ARONSON: We're trying to investigate how the fix was put in here in Harlan. It's pretty clear when a man commits murder and the state police charges him and witnesses say that he fired on the man unprovoked, that a grand jury is duty bound to indict him. But this grand jury was Harlan County, and it seems like despite the fact we won a contract, not that much has changed here. It was just like in the old days -- if the company kills a man, the company gets let off. If one of our people had shot any company man throughout this strike he'd be serving twenty-five years now. Bill Bruner is scot-free.

As I watched this I thought: Bernie Aronson...Bernie Aronson...where have I seen that name before?

Then I realized: it was here.

I've checked, and incredibly enough, it's the same person. In addition to his other wholesome activities, he's on the board of trustees of Freedom House, along with other freedom-lovers like Kenneth Adelman and Malcolm Forbes.

People are weird.

Posted at June 12, 2007 08:36 PM | TrackBack

That's so sad. I remember Aronson from the 1980s -- a big wheel in the contra propaganda apparatus. So he made his turn in a fairly short time...

Harlan County USA is one of my favorite movies. This gives it a little extra dollop of bleakness.

Posted by: Nell at June 12, 2007 11:28 PM

Boy, "The Overthrow Them Governments" business must pay pretty good and the work looks fairly steady.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 13, 2007 12:42 AM

that's too bad. I went to wikipedia to look for the quote from Brecht's The Jewish Wife about how character was a thing that could be measured in units of time, but I couldn't find it. I dimly recall that he argued that good character lasts longer, but nobody's lasts forever--

although I think he was mostly thinking of the assaults on character caused by an oppressive society like 1930s Germany rather than the assault on your character via the goodies you can buy if sell out.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at June 13, 2007 12:50 AM

More evidence that indigenous people all over the world were right when they said cameras steal souls.

Posted by: Arvin Hill at June 13, 2007 01:18 AM

Well, you know what economists say.

Posted by: buermann at June 13, 2007 02:48 AM

Hitchens, of course, is the premier modern example of this phenomenon. Walter Russell Mead is another. Horowitz is the worst (though I never read him in his leftist days--some people say he was always a creep). Anyone know of some others?

Posted by: Donald Johnson at June 13, 2007 09:49 AM

His Freedom House biography says he was in UMW from 1972 to 1976 and later Special Assistant and Speechwriter to the Vice President of USA, 1977 to 1981. He sold out quickly.
I can't understand how people sell out so completely. Don't they have a shred of conscience?
There are plenty of such careerists in movements nowadays. Just imagine how many of today's leaders of leftwing movements would be in next 20 years.
Not much can be done about these creeps.People just need to be steadfast and honest themselves.

Posted by: Ajit at June 13, 2007 01:31 PM

Wow. Sad. And you're right, it's a great doc, and director Barbara Kopple is a cool, nice person. Check out American Dream, which also won an Oscar, if you haven't (but I imagine you have!).

Posted by: Batocchio at June 13, 2007 04:14 PM

Boy, that Freedom House sure sounds like a bunch of fascists, dunnit? I mean, just look at the way they support women's rights and free expression and democracy and the rule of law. Why, Freedom House even criticizes the U.S. for not living up to its own principles! What a buncha Nazi evildoers!

Please. You people cannot be serious.

Posted by: Bart Hinkle at June 14, 2007 01:53 PM

Whenever somebody refers to the readers of a blog as "you people", you can bet there's a barrel full of fish coming next.

Good shooting, Jon.

Posted by: Winter at June 15, 2007 04:58 AM