……when Donald Trump finally quits or is carried squirming and screaming off the stage, and they don’t have him to kick around any more, when it becomes clear that Joe Biden is just an aging version of the same neoliberal, neoconservative shite they have been serving up since Clinton, and that Harris is only a younger, more ambitious if nastier model of the same, who can’t wait for Joe to breathe his last? What will they do? Nothing, of course. They never do, they never have to. The game is fixed and everyone knows it. Red and Blue, Red and Blue, Red and Blue forever and ever, and ever, and ever. Until someone says – enough someones say – no more.
Thomas Frank, whose definitive study of the rise of the American Right, ‘What’s the Matter With Kansas?’, highlighted the Democrats’ culpability in their own shortcomings, has provided a searing preview of Joe Biden’s presidency which appeared in The Guardian. You can read it here.
As the dust settles in the aftermath of last week’s presidential election in the US, leading figures in the new Democrat-dominated political system are less concerned with bringing Donald Trump to account for all his crimes and misdemeanors than they are with purging the party’s left.
The pressure is centred on a claim that Democrat control of the House of Representatives was weakened because calls for defunding the police in the wake of police killings like that of George Floyd (see here for a fuller list police on Black killings this year) cost votes in white, middle class America. A purge-like atmosphere now threatens to overwhelm left-leaning Democrats.
This and other expressions of progressive political policies, such as Medicare For All – which means extending the present medical funding for pensioners to the entire population – are being targeted by Democrats on the right of the party amid signs that it could develop into a rooting out of the party’s Left.
So intense has the pressure been that the leading figurehead of progressive politics in the party, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez of New York, has threatened to resign from the party and quit politics. See here for the story.
Neither President-elect Joe Biden nor his running mate, Kamela Harris have track records which suggest that they will stand in the way of a Right-wing campaign against progressives. Biden in particular has a woeful record of making deals with extreme right-wingers in Congress, among them segregationist Senators like Strom Thurmond of South Carolina (a confidante of the late Ian Paisley) and Jesse Helms of North Carolina.
That coalition helped ease the 1994 Crime Bill through Congress, a piece of legislation that imposed mandatory minimum sentences for a host of offences and ushered in the era of mass incarceration, overwhelmingly of Blacks.
At the time Biden boasted during a speech on the Senate floor, according to this report in The New York Times:
“The truth is……..every major crime bill since 1976 that’s come out of this Congress, every minor crime bill, has had the name of the Democratic senator from the State of Delaware: Joe Biden.”
This YouTube video gives a flavour of Biden’s politics in the 1990’s:
Biden’s credentials as a right-wing Democrat, whose support was evidence that Obama was no wild-eyed radical, was one reason Barack Obama chose him as his running mate in 2008.
So the presence of some mild social democrats in their midst has inflamed the right and centre of the party and the outcome is hardly likely to strengthen the influence of Bernie Sanders, Eilzabeth Warren and their allies. More light will be shed when we get to see Biden’s cabinet picks.
That all being said, there is one group of new Democrats whose growing presence in the party hardly causes a flicker of concern and that is the phalanx of former CIA personnel (can you ever be a ‘former’ officer of such a body?) that has flocked into the Democrats in recent years.
The World Socialist Web Site recently published a study of ex-CIA personnel now making their way, via elected office or bidding for elected office, into the upper echelons of the Democratic Party. It is a fascinating read. In about ten years or so the Democrats will make for an interesting study. Enjoy:
In the course of the 2018 elections, a large group of former military-intelligence operatives entered capitalist politics as candidates seeking the Democratic Party nomination in 50 congressional seats—nearly half the seats where the Democrats were targeting Republican incumbents or open seats created by Republican retirements.
Some 30 of these candidates won primary contests and became the Democratic candidates in the November 2018 election, and 11 of them won the general election, more than one-quarter of the 40 previously Republican-held seats captured by the Democrats as they took control of the House of Representatives.
In 2020, the intervention of the CIA Democrats continues on what is arguably an equally significant scale: besides the reelection campaigns of the 11 representatives who won seats in the House in 2018, half a dozen of those who lost 2018 races are running again in 2020. Some of these are running for House seats again, while others have been promoted by the Democratic Party leadership and are running for the US Senate. And an entire new crop of military-intelligence operatives is being brought forward, some running for Republican seats targeted by the Democratic leadership as possible takeovers, others in seats not currently considered competitive.
The bottom line: at least 34 Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives have a primarily military-intelligence background, up from 30 in 2018, as well as three of the party’s 35 candidates for the US Senate, compared to zero in 2018. For each branch of Congress, this represents about 10 percent of the total.
As we explained in 2018, the extraordinary influx of candidates coming directly from the national-security apparatus into the Democratic Party is a two-sided process: the Democratic Party establishment welcomes such candidates as a demonstration of the party’s unshakeable devotion to the interests of American imperialism; and military-intelligence operatives are choosing the Democratic Party over the Republican Party in large numbers because they are attracted by the Democrats’ non-stop campaign against the Trump administration as too “soft” on Russia and too willing to pull out of the Middle East war zone.
CIA Democrats for US Senate
Three Democrats seeking US Senate seats in November have a primarily military-intelligence background, including two who ran unsuccessfully for House seats in 2018. In each case, the CIA Democrat won a contested primary, with the support of Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), defeating a more liberal candidate.
Cal Cunningham was the choice of the Democratic Party establishment to be the party’s candidate for US Senate from North Carolina, challenging first-term incumbent Thad Tillis. He defeated Erica Smith, an African-American state senator who ran on a more liberal platform, supporting Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.
While Cunningham served one term in the North Carolina state senate, beginning in 2001, his principal role has been as an attorney, both in private practice and in the military. He enrolled in the Army Reserve after the 9/11 attacks, joining the Judge Advocate General (JAG) corps, and was sent to both Iraq and Afghanistan to handle criminal cases involving members of the US military and military contractors in the two war zones.
According to his campaign biography, “Cal has served with various units from Fort Bragg, including XVIII Airborne Corps and First Special Forces Command (Airborne). In recent years, Cal has trained special operations forces at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. Cal continues to serve in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel with an Army Reserve unit that trains one weekend a month.”
Cunningham is relying heavily on his association with the military in a state which hosts the fourth largest number of military personnel, including such bases as Fort Bragg (Army) and Camp Lejeune (Marines). His campaign web site declares, “At Fort Bragg and abroad, the paratroopers, Reservists and special operators Cal served with in the Army taught Cal a deeper form of patriotism and honor.”
Also running for US Senate seats are two female former pilots, Amy McGrath and Mary Jennings Hegar, who are challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, and former Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn in Texas, respectively. McGrath defeated Charles Booker, an African American state legislator backed by Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to win the Democratic nomination in Kentucky. Hegar defeated state senator Royce West of Dallas, also African American, to win the Democratic nomination in Texas.
McGrath was perhaps the most heavily publicized of the military-intelligence candidates in 2018, when she narrowly lost a race against Republican Congressman Andy Barr in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District, centered on Lexington. She has been able to raise phenomenal amounts of money, partly because of her high-profile military career—she retired as a lieutenant colonel as a Marine Corps fighter pilot—and partly because her opponent, McConnell, is so widely hated.
Despite her war chest of more than $40 million, however, McGrath is a decided underdog against McConnell, who himself has a huge campaign fundraising machine and is finishing his sixth six-year term in the Senate.
MJ Hegar was an Air Force helicopter pilot who spent three tours of duty in Afghanistan on search and rescue operations, in the course of which she was shot down once by Taliban fire, wounded, and received a Purple Heart. She came to prominence through a lawsuit against the Pentagon policy of barring women from combat. She narrowly lost a 2018 race against Republican Congressman John Carter in a district outside Austin, Texas, in the course of which her five-minute campaign video, promoting her military record in a noxious combination of militarism and feminism, became a viral sensation and raised millions in donations over the internet.
Hegar received the nod from the DSCC after former congressman and failed presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke declined to challenge Cornyn. She survived a primary and runoff, but is considered a longshot candidate against Cornyn, a three-term incumbent.
Eleven campaigns for reelection
All 11 CIA Democrats first elected in 2018 are running for reelection. Five are considered prohibitive favorites to win: Mikie Sherrill in New Jersey, Chrissy Houlahan and Connor Lamb in Pennsylvania, Elissa Slotkin in Michigan, and Jason Crow in Colorado. The remaining six are in competitive races: Jared Golden in Maine, Max Rose in New York, Tom Malinowski and Andy Kim in New Jersey, Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria in Virginia.
That distinction made, however, “competitive” is a relative term. All six are favorites to win reelection, particularly because President Trump is projected to lose heavily in each of their states—Maine, New York, New Jersey and Virginia. Only in Maine, where the state awards its electoral vote by congressional district as well as statewide, is Trump mounting a significant campaign, seeking to take the electoral vote of Golden’s 2nd Congressional District, as he did in 2016.
From a fundraising standpoint, the most reliable indicator of success—and ruling class support—in American legislative contests, the 11 CIA Democrats must be considered overwhelming favorites to retain their seats. They have raised a combined total of $42 million. Their 11 Republican opponents have raised a combined total of $10 million. Only Republican Thomas Kean, opposing Malinowski in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, has a campaign war chest comparable to the incumbent’s, but still only half as large.
Let us recall briefly who these 11 representatives are and their military-intelligence background:
Jason Crow, Colorado’s 6th Congressional District: Paratroop commander in Iraq war, then Army Ranger special forces in Afghanistan for two tours.
Jared Golden, Maine’s 2nd Congressional District: The only rank-and-file soldier in the group, spent four years as a Marine infantryman, deploying to Afghanistan in 2004 and to Iraq in 2005-2006.
Chrissy Houlahan, Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District: A 10-year veteran of the Air Force, leaving it as a captain.
Andy Kim, New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District: Civilian war planner and adviser to US military commanders in Afghanistan, Iraq director for National Security Council under President Obama.
Connor Lamb, Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District: Marine Corps captain and Judge Advocate General (prosecutor) until 2013, now major in the Marine Corps Reserves.
Elaine Luria, Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District: Navy commander, deployed six times to Middle East and Western Pacific, commanded assault craft supporting a Marine Corps deployment.
Tom Malinowski, New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District: Assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor in the Obama administration.
Max Rose, New York’s 11th Congressional District: Army combat officer in Afghanistan 2012-2013, still in the active reserves.
Mikie Sherrill, New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District: Navy helicopter pilot, with 10 years’ active service in Europe and the Middle East.
Elissa Slotkin, Michigan’s 8th Congressional District: CIA agent with three tours in Iraq, National Security Council for both Bush and Obama, assistant to Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, then principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.
Abigail Spanberger, Virginia’s 7th Congressional District: CIA operations officer stationed in Europe for nearly a decade.
In each case, the candidates moved seamlessly from positions as military commanders, intelligence operatives or foreign policy officials to running for Congress as candidates of the Democratic Party. Only Golden ran for a lower office, winning a seat in the Maine state legislature, before seeking a seat in Congress.
In their first two years in Congress, the CIA Democrats carried out two significant common actions. The five women—Houlahan, Luria, Sherrill, Slotkin and Spanberger—formed a joint fundraising committee to promote female candidates who shared their military-intelligence background. And six of them—Crow and the five women—co-signed an op-ed in the Washington Post in September 2019 calling for an impeachment probe into President Trump’s dealing with Ukraine. This was a crucial turning point in the effort that culminated in Trump’s impeachment three months later.
Likely reinforcements for the CIA Democrats
Four of the military-intelligence candidates who lost congressional races in 2018 are running again in 2020, and are likely to win seats in Congress.
Dan Feehan, Minnesota 1st Congressional District: A military officer who served two tours in Iraq between 2005 and 2009, where he headed an Army Ranger sniper team, Feehan then joined the Obama administration, first as a White House aide, then as an acting assistant secretary of defense. He narrowly lost a race in 2018 for the southern Minnesota seat previously held by Democrat Tim Walz, now governor of Minnesota. Republican Jim Hagedorn, who won by only 1,312 votes in 2018, announced in February that he was being treated for stage-four kidney cancer, but he remains a candidate for reelection. Feehan has substantially outraised Hagedorn, by $2.2 million to $1.6 million, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission through July 15.
Gina Ortiz Jones, Texas 23rd Congressional District: An Air Force intelligence officer in Iraq, Ortiz Jones followed up a 12-year military career with continued work as a US government adviser in Latin America, South Sudan and Libya, then reviewed foreign investments from a national security standpoint for the Office of the US Trade Representative. In 2018 she lost a tight contest, by a margin of 340 votes out of more than 200,000 cast, against Republican incumbent Will Hurd, himself a former CIA agent, in the congressional district that comprises most of the Texas-Mexico border region, from El Paso to Laredo. Hurd has now retired, leaving Ortiz Jones the likely favorite to succeed him. This will be another “spy vs. spy” contest, against whichever Republican hopeful prevails in a lengthy primary recount. Tony Gonzales is a 20-year Navy veteran and intelligence officer specializing in cryptology; Raul Reyes is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel specializing in cyberwarfare operations. Ortiz Jones has raised a massive $4.1 million for her campaign, more than double the sums raised by Gonzales and Reyes combined, and leads them by 10-1 in terms of cash on hand.
Sara Jacobs, California 53rd Congressional District: An Obama State Department official turned Hillary Clinton campaign aide, Jacobs was engaged in counterterrorism work in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa, according to her campaign website, and advised Clinton on foreign policy. She lost a Democratic primary in 2018 in the adjoining 49th Congressional District, where millionaire attorney Mike Levin went on to win the seat for the Democrats. After longtime incumbent Representative Susan Davis announced her retirement in the heavily Democratic 53rd District, Jacobs switched districts in an attempt to capture the vacant seat. She finished first in the all-party primary in June, and will face another Democrat, city council president Georgette Gomez, in the November election. While Gomez is a local elected official who is running on the basis of her Hispanic identity, Jacobs has far more financial resources, as the granddaughter of Qualcomm founder and CEO Irwin Jacobs.
Sri Preston Kulkarni, Texas 22nd Congressional District: After running an unexpectedly competitive race in 2018 against Republican Representative Pete Olson, Kulkarni is now considered the favorite following Olson’s decision to retire rather than seek reelection. Kulkarni is a career State Department official who boasts of his role in defense of American imperialism. His campaign website declares: “From Jerusalem to Iraq to Russia, Sri served in some of the toughest places in the world, representing the interests of the United States…” Of South Asian descent on his father’s side, Kulkarni is running in a district in the southwest suburbs of Houston—once held by right-wing Republican Tom DeLay—which has undergone rapid demographic change due to an influx of Asian immigrants.
There is a fifth military-intelligence candidate who is considered a likely winner in 2020, Jackie Gordon, a retired career military police commander, who is seeking the seat left vacant by the retirement of Republican Peter King in the 2nd Congressional District of New York, on Long Island. Gordon spent 29 years in the military, including multiple tours of duty in combat zones: “as a battle captain in Baghdad during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and as Commander of the 310th Military Police Battalion in Afghanistan in 2012” according to her campaign website, as well as “an operations officer at Guantanamo Bay,” the US base which is the site of a notorious prison and torture center. Gordon, who is African American, was elected to the Babylon Town Council while still on active duty and retired from the Army Reserve in 2014 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
The great irony of Donald Trump’s impending defeat in the US Presidential election is that it has been made possible by something he either ignored, mocked or minimised since it first arrIved on American shores back in January or February: the Coronavirus.
The evidence from the polls throughout America is that a preponderance of Democrats stayed at home on election day out of fear that by appearing in person at polling stations they were likely to encounter mask-reviling Republicans and thereby risk infection by the virus. Instead they instead opted to vote by mail.
Final figures are not yet available but common sense suggests that as a result more Democrats turned out than otherwise would have been the case and as a result Joe Biden reaped a rich harvest of votes.
Had Donald Trump instead listened to his medical advisers and early on taken measures that damped the level of Coronavirus infections, and by so doing demonstrated that he took the virus seriously, and cared for those stricken by the infection, it is very possible that Democrats’ motivation to vote would have been weakened and Trump might be waking up tomorrow morning to another four years in office.
Instead Democrat alienation from the Trump White House intensified while mail-in-voting gave them the means to safely register their anger. Trump’s failure/refusal to take the virus seriously will go down in history as one of the most disastrous political blunders ever.
As many of my readers will know, west Belfast IRA and Sinn Fein activist Gerry O’Hare died last week and was buried on Monday in Co. Donegal.
O’Hare played an important but involuntary role in Gerry Adams’ successful bid to capture Sinn Fein in the 1977-1980 period (he had already consolidated his hold on the IRA), a key development in what can now be seen with the benefit of hindsight as an effort to edge both the military and political wings of the republican movement towards constitutional politics.
The following excerpt from my book ‘A Secret History of the IRA‘, describes one small but important episode in that journey, a waypoint made possible by the military revival of the IRA during the years 1977 through 1979, and symbolised by the events of one bloody day in August 1979 when under the direction of Adams, Ivor Bell and Martin McGuinness, the IRA, killed 18 members of the Parachute regiment in Warrenpoint and Earl Mountbatten and members of his holiday party off the coast of Sligo.
These military successes were to be followed by Adams’ move to capture Sinn Fein, remove or neutralize opponents like Ruairi O Bradaigh and Daithi O Connail, and to make the Provos’ propaganda machine, that is the party’s two weekly papers, subservient to him and his followers.
The Northern based weekly, Republican News was already controlled by Adams’ allies, headed by Danny Morrison. But not so the Southern weekly, An Phoblacht, which was edited by Gerry O’Hare, then a supporter of the O Bradaigh/O Connail group.
The story of how Adams achieved this goal appeared in ‘A Secret History.…’ and what follows is the relevant extract. Enjoy:
James Harkin of the Centre For Investigative Journalism has written a lengthy piece on Freddie Scappaticci’s IRA career and his double life as a British Army spy in the current edition of GQ magazine. You can access it here.
Barton Gellman, the author of ‘Angler‘, a fine book on the life and crimes of Dick Cheney, vice-president to the hapless George W Bush, has written a great piece in The Atlantic magazine on the possibility of Trump subverting next week’s presidential election in the US. You can read it here or watch the video below (note that it starts after about three minutes):
I was struggling to find a neat way to describe Kevin Myers’ personal, political and journalistic journey over the last two or three decades, when there it was on page 216 of Burning Heresies, the hugely entertaining but shamefully ignored follow up to the first, equally enjoyable part of his memoir as an Irish journalist, Watching the Door:
“At a dinner with Atlantic’s editors in Dublin, we were joined by Christopher Hitchens, and though we had not seen one another in two decades, we fell into one another’s arms like soulmates who had made our separate journeys from the muddy groupthink of the lazy liberal left to individual libertarianism. He downed Chivas Regal whisky and smoked cigarettes with a hedonistic frenzy that suggested that a firing squad was waiting for him, which, figuratively, it was. We never lost touch until the laws of medicine finally supervened, as they were surely obliged to if they were to retain any authority over human affairs, and, with a dauntless grace, this gallantly dogmatic atheist went to meet his maker. I hope Christopher was suitably chastened by the warm and Trinitarian welcome He gave him.”
So, there you are. Kevin Myers is Ireland’s Christopher Hitchens. The parallels are not exact – they never are with human beings – but close enough. Hitchens’ political starting point was the British Labour party followed by a liaison of sorts with Trotskyism, while Myers, although generally liberal/leftish, at least in my experience, would never have been so dogmatic. If he ever joined a political party or organisation then he has managed to keep that chapter in his life well hidden.
Hitchens ended up welcoming the odious and lying warmonger Ahmed Chalabi as a house guest whereas Myers had come close enough to the real thing to despise violence, in particular the industrial slaughter Hitchen’s Iraqi accomplice sought to visit upon his erstwhile countrymen. I doubt he would have allowed someone like Chalabi to darken his door.
But inasmuch as both men traversed the path from ‘left’ to ‘right’, in a sufficiently pronounced fashion to enrage former friends, but managed to do so while retaining their ability to write wonderfully well, to make their readers laugh, cry, wonder and occasionally scream with anger or groan in disappointment, the comparison is apt.
Myer’s rightward shift was very Irish. The first casualty was all things nationalist, motivated principally by a detestation of the Provos, the results of whose violence he, more than most reporters of the Troubles in the Seventies, had witnessed close up.
I first met Kevin Myers in 1972 when he was dating a good friend; but in the mid to late ’70’s we became somewhat closer, cogs in the same dissolute social circle in Belfast and I have counted him a friend ever since. These were years of decline for Kevin, made worse by a badly broken heart. Then came his move to Dublin.
It took a long time for him to recover from Belfast and I sometimes wondered if a deeper disquiet pushed him, not just in a rightwards direction, but on an anti-Nationalist tack. He had been in the North too long, had seen and experienced too many terrible things and he had lost the then love of his life, a sometime activist in the world of left-wing, Nationalist politics who came from a very republican family. Was it this rejection, I wondered more than once, that drove him rightwards and especially in an anti-republican direction.
When he moved to Dublin we heard stories of a deep depression that sent him literally to bed it for weeks at a time. It was Vincent Browne who helped him back to life and to writing for Magill and before long he graduated to the Irish Times, where he nestled comfortably into a ready-made cranny writing the daily An Irishman’s Diary and discovered a soulmate of sorts in the ample form of deputy editor, Bruce Williamson.
But not Douglas Gageby, the Times‘ editor during his and my time at that paper. Nor did Browne remain his friend for long and I can think of only one person, the late Gerald Barry, who seemingly survived unharmed, his close quarters with Vincent. Like Kevin, and countless others, I too had bitter run-ins with Browne, so bitter they leave almost tangible evidence, like the stinging tentacle marks tropical jelly fish leave embedded in your flesh.
The distance of 100 miles separated me from Browne, that and a stubborn refusal to attend the weekly auto de fe in the Tribune’s Dublin office, otherwise known as the editorial conference, which preserved something resembling cordiality between us.
Myers and Browne’s relationship, as this excerpt of a review of Kevin’s contribution to a collection of posthumously written essays on Douglas Gageby’s career as editor of The Irish Times, could not survive close quarter contact.
In Myer’s eyes, Gageby was ‘a crook’ for his self-serving role, aside the former company chairman and wartime MI5 officer, Major Tom McDowell, in the creation of paper’s Trust. (More of which anon)
Browne wrote: ‘The characterisation of Douglas Gageby as a “crook” is a despicable libel, motivated, it would seem, by an impulse to seek retribution for the perceived snub Myers suffered by Gageby’s failure to recognise and acknowledge Myers’ enormous talents. Or perhaps a little attention-seeking? Or both?‘
Ouch! When words cut so deep, the wound is beyond healing.
Myers employed the Diary to launch a campaign dear to his heart, the rehabilitation of Irishmen who had served in the British Army, during the First and Second World wars, especially those who had given their lives, sacrifices that were neither acknowledged nor commemorated in Ireland.
His enemies in Provo land and beyond could only stand by helpless, since to do any more than mutter angrily into their pints would just bring denunciation and indefensible accusations of bigotry down on their heads.
But then he turned to a more powerful and assertive target: Irish feminism or rather what he regarded as its wilder fringes. Whether this was a wise or necessary move is at least debatable, but he made it and added to the list of enemies he had built up, a more potently dangerous, assertive and politically well connected set of adversaries.
That might have been a fatal mistake for it set the stage for a disaster, his clumsy words in his weekly column for the the Irish edition of The Sunday Times which led to accusations of anti-semitism, a charge which if it sticks is invariably a career-killer, especially for a journalist.
Those of us who had known Kevin for long enough, recognised what had taken place. He thought only of the words he had written, how they sounded in his head, dancing around to make a pretty pattern, not how others saw them, how they could twist and turn them and use them like a knife to bring him down. If he has one big fault it is an inability to perceive, or care, how others view him.
Kevin Myers is not an anti-Semite. He is in fact such an undisguised supporter of the Jewish state, so uncritical of Israel that he is more open to the charge of ignoring or minimizing the depredations visited on the Palestinians by the leaders of that bully state. Not being anti-Zionist, how can he be anti–Semitic?
A subsidiary charge of being a Holocaust denier, which was revived when his SundayTimes article appeared, was actually a consequence of Myers’ own pedantry.
The Holocaust (literally the burning of a sacrifice on an altar) refers to the gas chambers and ovens of death camps like Auschwitz or Treblinka but more Jews in places like Russia, where a different railway gauge made the transporting of Soviet Jews to the death camps impossible, were killed with Nazi bullets or worked to death in factories.
When he wrote all this up for his column in The Irish Independent a subeditor obligingly gave it the headline ‘I am a Holocaust Denier‘, words which were to haunt him when The Sunday Times tempest broke around his head.
Subeditors, or subs, are regarded, with reason, by many newsroom’s scribes as possibly the lowest form of life in the world of journalism, since they have the power to destroy a year’s, a month’s or if you’re lucky a week’s work with a few strokes of their pen; they can and do ruin a writer’s reputation or even, in the worst of all scenarios, get a writer harmed or even killed (I exaggerate not!).
But what Myers’ clumsy writing achieved was to gift enemies with an opportunity to hurt him that otherwise would never have been available.
No matter how grievously he insulted republicans or feminists nothing he could write that they might want to respond to, would compare to the damage done by adding ‘Holocaust denier’ to the tag ‘anti-Semite’. So potent is the combination that even those who might come to his aid, those who knew Myers had clumsily but inadvertently contrived his own downfall, fearing the same fate would befall them, remained silent as his figurative fingernails were wrenched out by their roots.
The evidence that those enemies he had made with his writing about non-Semitic matters jumped at the chance to do him more damage was unearthed by Myers himself, and is described in detail in BurningHeresies:
“The foremost of these was Roy Greenslade, Professor of Journalism at London City University, and an unapologetic supporter of the Sinn Féin cause: for years, even while working for The Sunday Times, no less, he had been a pseudonymous columnist in the Sinn Féin-IRA publication An Phoblacht. Moreover, Greenslade is particularly well-respected in Ireland, and he is a close friend of Pat Doherty, a one-time member of the IRA’s army council. He is also a regular guest on RTÉ programmes.
“What follows was discovered by the Irish social media analytical company, VMGroup, whose splendid MD, Vivienne Mee, upon her “own initiative, began to analyse the social media traffic against me. That Sunday, six separate accounts with links to media outlets alleged that I was an anti-Semite and/or a Holocaust denier. Three of these had strong links to the Guardian Media Group, both before and after this episode.”
“However, it was Greenslade who was by far the most powerful and influential of them. At 7.09 that Sunday evening he gloated, ‘Kevin Myers adds anti-semitism [sic] to his anti-republicanism. Result? Sunday Times drops him. Good.’ At 7.37 he added, ‘It took the Irish Independent eight years to remove Kevin Myers’s article on being a holocaust [sic] denier from its website.”
So, who exactly is Roy Greenslade, who at this time was The Guardian’s media correspondent and it still, these days, an occasional columnist?
Steven Glover of the London Independent wrote the definitive article on Greenslade which you can read in full here. But here is the relevant section describing Greenslade’s links to the Provos:
“Few people are aware that The Guardian’s media sage has affiliations with Sinn Fein. During the late 1980s, when he was managing news editor of The Sunday Times, he secretly wrote for An Phoblacht, the Sinn Fein newspaper, which then served as a propaganda sheet for the Provisional IRA. His pseudonym was George King. We know this from Flat Earth News by Nick Davies, a Guardian colleague and instigator of the journalistic investigation into phone hacking. When Mr Greenslade reviewed Mr Davies’s book on his blog in 2008, he did not deny what some may regard as a pretty serious allegation. In a more recent blog, he described Mr Davies as his friend.
“The connections endure. Last June, Mr Greenslade spoke at a Sinn Fein conference in London on the 30th anniversary of the hunger strikes, and he wrote an article on the same subject for An Phoblacht. He has had a house in County Donegal for many years. One friend is Pat Doherty, from 1988 until 2009 vice president of Sinn Fein, who has been named as a former member of the IRA Army Council.“
So a clumsily written article was seized upon, circulated widely and inflated into one of the damaging charges that can be made against a journalist, by an enemy whose real beef with him was not anti-Semitism but his abhorrence of the Provos and his support for British Army veterans in Ireland.
(Disclosure: I too have clashed with Greenslade who has tried to parlay my critique of the Provos into evidence of support of dissidents. He is in my experience an evil, dishonest creature who should be shunned by decent journalists)
After The Sunday Times sacked him that day, others piled on and soon Myers was the journalistic equivalent of a leper. His livelihood was taken away, his name besmirched and very soon he became the butt of cruel humour. The potency of the anti-Semitic charge is that it spreads cowardice like some medieval plague. Those who knew that he was no bigot were paralysed by fear and stayed silent.
Not even a successful and apparently expensive (to the Irish taxpayer) libel action against the state broadcaster, RTE could turn the public tide. In fact most of the Irish media, not least his former employers, now downsized to the newspaper equivalent of a semi-D in Tara Street, ignored the verdict and kept silent. What is that old Irish saw about eaten bread?
Burning Heresies was published in September this year. It is now nearly November and I write this as a real bigot is attempting to secure another four years in the White House. In the two or so months since publication The Irish Times has had ample opportunities to review Kevin Myers’ book, but have failed to do so.
In BurningHeresies, Myers devotes several thousand words to the conflicts he covered for that paper in Beirut, during the ugly civil war that raged there, and in Bosnia during that awful, bloody internecine conflict. As his gripping account makes abundantly clear, in both places he came close if not to death then to crippling injuries, but managed always to deliver beautifully written articles for The Times.
Burning Heresies has been in places where they sell books in Ireland for over two months now, and no review yet has appeared in The Irish Times, of a work written by a journalist who put his life on the limb to make that organ what was, at least in those days, one of the finest newspapers in Europe.
Perhaps, as Myers hints, the rot began long before he had even heard of Bosnia or Beirut:
Burning Heresies: A Memoir of a Life in Conflict, 1979-2020
By Kevin Myers
Published by Merrion Press, Co Kildare, September 2020