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July 06, 2011

No Ass Too Big To Kiss

In a chapter of The George Seldes Reader written in 1937, Seldes describes how his fellow U.S. foreign correspondents dealt with the rise of nationalist totalitarianism in Europe and Russia. Seldes himself dealt with it by telling the truth, which got him expelled from Italy and the Soviet Union. But others, he writes, engaged in "voluntary, happy prostitution." Then he quotes a poem that an unnamed reporter he knew wrote to Mussolini in hopes of getting an interview:

I beg thy face to see,
Thy hand to clasp,
Thy mighty voice to hear,
For thou art Rome,
And more than Rome to me!

Man, that has not worn well.

Anyway, remember that when you learn about U.S. reporters privately kissing the boots of more recent, domestic war criminals—e.g., Ted Koppel on Henry Kissinger or Ron Fournier on Karl Rove. (Then there's the public abasement of Tim Russert, Larry King and Margaret Carlson before Donald Rumseld, which makes you wonder what's going on behind the scenes.) This is just par for the course—there's no literally no one in history so hideous that you couldn't find some prominent journalists there, quietly smooching away behind the scenes.

P.S. Why don't our reporters butter up mass murderers with poetry anymore? Western Civilization is in sad decline.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at July 6, 2011 01:18 AM

To those who don't know, George Seldes was the hero of I.F. Stone--basically he was I.F. Stone before I.F. Stone was. There's no better starting point for anyone to understand the 20s and 30s, and in particular the rise of fascism. Seldes once made this shrewd observation: "If you look for the social-economic motive, you will not have to wait for history to tell you what was propaganda and what was truth." - George Seldes

That's probably why you don't hear a lot about social-economic motives from the bootlickers and fawning poets--they ARE propagandists.

Posted by: N E at July 6, 2011 09:36 AM

N E, I learn something every time you comment.

Posted by: Amandasaurus at July 6, 2011 09:52 AM

Mr Schwarz, you excel yourself! Great post!
Thank you for introducing me to George Seldes ( had never heard of him.... my ignorance ). And what a life he lead! Amazing!


"Why don't our reporters butter up mass murderers with poetry anymore?"

If they are doing it, we will never know!! May be we will need WikiLeaks to expose them!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at July 6, 2011 12:43 PM

For some unexplained reason, the link or the URL does not open the main page. however if you google GS's name, it will bring up the main page. Sorry about that.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at July 6, 2011 12:50 PM

That Mussolini 'poem' is truly awful. It also has an eerie similarity to something Geraldo Rivera composed when trying to score an audience with Junior Samples during his short-lived bid for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia in the 70s:

I beg thy bloat to see,
Thy trucker cap to clasp,
Thy rural wit to hear,
For thou art Hee Haw,
And more than Hee Haw to me!

Posted by: Flaming Hugo at July 6, 2011 12:57 PM

I just know people will call me an "ass kisser" but I DEARLY wish I could show MY appreciation for ALL Henry Kissinger has done for US AND the world by giving him, and his whole family, an ALL EXPENCE PAID VACATION to the beautiful coastal resorts in Chile.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 6, 2011 01:14 PM

N E, I wonder if that was the inspiration for Goldman's "Follow the money."

Posted by: will shetterly at July 6, 2011 01:43 PM

Why don't our reporters butter up mass murderers with poetry anymore? Western Civilization is in sad decline.

I blame casual Friday.

Posted by: cemmcs at July 6, 2011 03:27 PM

@ N E
I googled your GS's observation and I found the following.....

Real History Blog: Full Video of "JFK and the Unspeakable" panel ... - Cached - Block all results
Nov 15, 2010 – Real History Blog. Is it news or propaganda? How can you tell? Read and learn how Real History informs the present, empowering you to wake up and ... "If you look for the social-economic motive, you will not have to wait for history to tell you what was propaganda and what was truth." - George Seldes.

That book about JFK you recommended was great. There is video discussion. I haven't seen it yet. I just found it. I am posting the link and the URL. I thought, it might interest you.


ps if you have already seen it, may be you can watch it again!! :-)

Posted by: Rupa Shah at July 6, 2011 04:40 PM

If I remember correctly, Seldes appears a few times in Warren Beatty's fantastic film "Reds." There are interviews cut into the film of old leftists talking about the Russian revolution.

Its been years since I have watched this terrific film, but I am pretty sure Seldes is in it.-Tony

Posted by: tony at July 6, 2011 06:48 PM

@ tony
You are right tony. I read about in the Wikipedia article ( link given above at 12.43pm ) and it is in the REDS imdb.....
He appears as himself.


Posted by: Rupa Shah at July 6, 2011 07:06 PM

Thanks Rupa! Glad to know I was right about something...If you have not seen "Reds" give it a try...I think I will watch it again soon. It really is a fantastic movie.

One of my favorite scene is where the Beatty character -John Reed-is lecturing Emma Goldman on the stupidity of the common person and their inability to know what is best for them, or something like that..Like I said..its been awhile since I have seen the film...I think that scene helped to give birth to my anarchist sentiments!

Beatty captured the arrogance and elitism of Bolshevism quite well in that one scene. He did his homework!-Tony

Posted by: tony at July 6, 2011 07:57 PM

Tony, I did watch the movie but it was so long ago, I can not remember a thing. More reason, I should watch it now...... specially after becoming a bit more knowledgeable about people and events, thanks to ATR.......

Posted by: Rupa Shah at July 6, 2011 08:28 PM

Thanks for posting that link, Rupa. I haven't seen that blog, but I already have pulled this up to watch it, because that's a good panel.

Back when I decided that I needed to figure out history a little better, I started by ordering every old book by George Seldes that I could find, because he was truthworthy and had so much first-hand knowledge and the first half of the twentieth century in particular interested me, probably because I had grown up with my head pumped full of WWII.

I just now finished reading, though surely a little too quickly, Boulding's book The Image that mistah charley recommended to me recently, and I guess it's fair to say my "image" of history was a lot blanker then, and also less much more steeped then in American exceptionalism. Notwithstanding that I had seen a lot of US ugliness in Latin America, that still felt felt aberrational to me, undoubtedly because of the enduring power of the "image" that I had been raised to hold in my mind. When US ugliness stopped feeling aberrational and began to feel central, I looked first to Seldes, then to IF Stone and others more recent, and then all over the place to try to catch glimpses of the truth hidden in the shadows of all these enormous monuments to bullshit that we erect to deceive others and, more importantly, ourselves.

That's a little harsh, of course, and there are much wiser ways to think about the world if one's goal is to avoid becoming a bit of a prick (but that's a talent I actually need, so what the hell). Fortunately, even a barbarian like me can find inspiration in the written words of someone like James Douglas, and from what I've heard of him in the past, he speaks pretty well too, though not as majestically as he writes. Still, plenty worth listening to.

So gracias para compartir, Rupa.

Posted by: N E at July 6, 2011 10:11 PM

They all worship money and the markets.

Posted by: Edward at July 9, 2011 10:49 PM