Many of the intellectuals, the elites, and the MSM were creepy even in WWII

We have always operated under the intellectually lazy assumption that because the anti-war intellectuals, MSM, and elites largely went silent in public in WWII after Pearl Harbor that they had somehow come to their senses and changed their minds. Though this is no doubt true for a number of them, we seem to be seeing more evidence these days that public silence was not agreement. David Gelernter reminded us a couple of weeks ago of their pre-war antics in the WSJ:

Before Pearl Harbor but long after the character of Hitlerism was clear–after the Nuremberg laws, the Kristallnacht pogrom, the establishment of Dachau and the Gestapo–American intellectuals tended to be dead against the U.S. joining Britain’s war on Hitler.

Today’s students learn (sometimes) about right-wing isolationists like Charles Lindbergh and the America Firsters. They are less likely to read documents like this, which appeared in Partisan Review (the U.S. intelligentsia’s No. 1 favorite mag) in fall 1939, signed by John Dewey, William Carlos Williams, Meyer Schapiro and many more of the era’s leading lights. “The last war showed only too clearly that we can have no faith in imperialist crusades to bring freedom to any people. Our entry into the war, under the slogan of ‘Stop Hitler!’ would actually result in the immediate introduction of totalitarianism over here. . . . The American masses can best help [the German people] by fighting at home to keep their own liberties.” The intelligentsia acted on its convictions. “By one means or another,” Diana Trilling later wrote of this period, “most of the intellectuals of our acquaintance evaded the draft.”

We read today, in neo-neocon, that many of these elites did not change their minds after all:

I was rummaging around the house where I’m staying, looking for something to read, when I encountered an old favorite from my childhood, choreographer Agnes De Mille’s memoir And Promenade Home. While skimming through it, I came across a passage in which De Mille, a newlywed whose husband has gone off to fight World War II (he was to remain abroad for the two remaining years of the war but returned unharmed), describes some of the conversations she endured at social events during her long wait:

For dark, personal reasons, many people could not resist this chance at cruelty. There were the intellectuals who demanded aggressively if we believed in war and asked across our dinner tables did we relish the idea of being the widows of dead heroes? There were men of peace who fulminated against destruction and argued that no idea was worth fighting for that leveled Casino or Dresden….There were the newscasters who, after the fourth Martini, swore with something akin to professional pride that the war would last another eight years….

It is remarkable that the sentiments that Agnes De Mille recounted seem so under-reported today. We have a feeling that many of the elites and intellectuals were cowed into silence by Pearl Harbor, and the robust reaction of FDR and the hicks in the sticks. We have read Rex Stout’s The Illustrious Dunderheads, an account of the how the vehement anti-war Congressmen and Senators turned on a dime, and it appears likely to us that we have underestimated the insincerity of many men. Be that as it may, silence would be a great improvement over what we have now from many politicians, intellectuals, and MSM types.

7 Responses to “Many of the intellectuals, the elites, and the MSM were creepy even in WWII”

  1. David Says:

    Many of them came around after Hitler turned on Stalin

  2. qwerty182764 Says:

    Very strange. Do you suppose that unreasoning disloyalty to any worthwhile (but difficult) cause is some sort of necessary cultural result of the conditions under which our political aristocracy live?

  3. Jim Says:

    David is absolutely right. When the socialist left’s precious communist Russia was threatened they quickly became very “patriotic.” Until Hitler invaded Russia the U.S. left/socialist/communists were content to let Russia get her share of Europe from the agreement Hitler and Stalin signed. The left at large and the scientists on the left, especially those on the Manhattan Project, were hell-bent to get the A-bomb and use it to protect Russia, but when VE Day occurred prior to the completion of the bomb, the left/scientists suddenly got scruples about using it on Japan. Better to let a million of our service men die invading the Japanese homeland than to sully their good name. What a bunch of hypocrits. The lfetists of today are offspring of those hypocrits or have been infected with the same anti-U.S pro-socialist virus as those of WWII.

  4. qwerty182764 Says:

    I realize this is slightly OT, but it’s been weighing on my mind lately.

    Why do people keep identifying leftists with scientists, and vice versa? If you were picking sides in an ideological battle, siding against the scientists, in light of their monumental impact on the world, seems rather foolish.
    Most of the engineers that I know aren’t particularly leftist. It’s possible that, on the whole, scientists and academics in general may be more susceptible to utopian thinking (always thinking in terms of designing things, or posing ideal gedanken experiments that don’t transfer too well to social “engineering”).
    But it seems sometimes that conservatives don’t see their loyalty as something worth fighting for. The left, on the other hand, parades around their loyalty-of-the-scientist credentials at every opportunity to paint conservatives as backwards and prop themselves up as “forward looking”. This country was built at least half by, and defended a great deal by superior engineering, technology, brilliant inventors and scientists. How can you even explain the modern world without frequent reference to them?
    And if they actually are leaning left now, they don’t necessarily have to be.

  5. Tanya Harding Says:

    These days the right is so far right that anything in the middle looks left. Time to start worrying about ‘the leftists’ and start looking at what the neocons are doing to our country.
    By the way, according to Thom Hartmann, the illustrious dunderheads in Rex Stout’s book were Republicans. Check my facts.

  6. Tanya Harding Says:

    woops–I meant time to STOP worrying about ‘the leftists’.
    What exactly is a leftist anyway? As far as I can tell, we Democrats, liberals, progressives, whatever, are opposed to the regime running our government for a few basic reasons that all patriotic Americans can understand.
    1. We don’t want our dollars going to an undeclared war that costs 31 billion dollars a month and accomplishes absolutely nothing.
    2. We don’t want government intruding in our private lives, keeping files on us, spying on us.
    3. We believe in the separation of church and state, and the system of checks and balances our founders built into the Constitution. The Republicans in Congress stymie every attempt at congressional oversight of the many suspicious activities of the Bush regime.
    4. We cherish the right of Americans to vote, and to have their votes counted. We oppose tampering with electronic voting machines.
    5. We are incredulous that the U.S.A., once the world’s greatest defender of human rights, is now practicing torture. What has happened to us? We need to stop it.

    Go to

  7. de Says:

    lefties tend to take chances, try new things, be excited by ideas, vrs conservatives. we rather need both to advance and not fall apart, but conservos tend to take credit and great pride for the creative output of those whom they distain

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