The Guardian on Gore Vidal: Whitewash of a ‘progressive’ literary figure’s inconvenient racism


Gore Vidal (1925-2012)

I’ve attempted over the years to balance my insatiable appetite for Jewish and Zionist history with an occasional work of classic fiction.  

However, literature has always taken a back seat to my love of world affairs and the moral and political-spiritual ideas which I believe move the world.

Often, it seems, great writers – masters of the written word –  don’t always possess a corresponding piercing cognition for the political world and understanding of the nature of man.

Amos Oz’s haunting literary autobiography ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ mesmerized me when I read it upon making Aliyah – and I can still vividly conjure the shape and color of his prose as if it was I who spent my childhood in Jerusalem, during those harrowing pre-state years.  Yet, Oz’s capacity to bring to life  his familial reality doesn’t seems at odd with his often puerile grasp of Israel’s security concerns.

Indeed, artists (be they film makers, playwrights, or novelists) often seem to possess a hubris which assumes a grasp of matters far outside their realm of expertise.

Mikis Theodorakis, composer of the score for the film ‘Zorba the Greek’, made headlines when he opined in 2003 that Israel “is the root of evil” and also several years later when he charged that “American Jews [were] behind the world economic crisis that has hit Greece.”

Though Tom Paulin’s academic and literary credentials may be impressive, his scholarly understanding of the human condition didn’t prevent him from engaging in hate speech and incitement , such as when he likened Zionism to Nazism.

The Guardian treated American Jewish playwright Tony Kushner as a martyr (in a series of profiles and commentaries) for the ‘slight’ of having his honorary degree at the City University of New York briefly delayed due to the row over the artist’s well-documented history of hateful vitriol regarding both Israel (suggesting it shouldn’t exist) and American Jewish Zionists (who he referred to as “among the most repulsive people”.)

That such artists possess a belief in their own transcendent moral understanding is not the least surprising.  Similarly, it would be naive to expect the media elite to engage in the slightest critical scrutiny of even the most fantastical political musings of such “respected” creative souls.

Since Gore Vidal’s death on July 31st, the Guardian has published 14 separate obituaries, commentaries, and reports (not including pictorial posts, pod casts and reprints of previous Guardian features) about the writer.

The haliographic characterizations of Vidal have included praise of his “wit and contrarian [nature]” and depictions of the writer, playwright and actor as one of the “towering figures of American cultural and political life”.

Nor was the Guardian’s praise limited to his literary and personal gifts.

Stuart Jeffries and Stephen MossinThe A-Z of Gore, wrote:

“He knew where he stood, never wavered from his Jeffersonian commitment to individual freedom.”

In the over 9,000 words the Guardian has devoted to Vidal there was only a brief mention of his primitive conspiratorial musings and only a casual reference to his Judeophobia.

Here is the sole entry: a witty, off-handed, casual observation by the Guardian’s Adam Mars-Jones, who wrote, in ‘My lunch at the Dorchester with Gore Vidal‘, the following:

“The hired tape recorder I was using for the interview had performed heroically at the LA Olympics but wasn’t fully recharged. After about half an hour of conversation it conked out. I was able to find a wall socket in the room and to plug it in, but when I listened back to the early parts of the recording, our voices progressively accelerated and rose in pitch as the motor began to fail. It happened that Vidal was complaining about a Jewish media conspiracy not to review his work when he started to sound, on playback, like an antisemitic munchkin. I imagine he would have regarded the indignity of his voice being distorted on the tape as more damaging than the distorted politics. I was amazed that this supreme insider could consider himself neglected.”

On those “distorted politics”:

Conspiracy theories

Vidal’s political pathos was so acute that he embraced the 9/11 “trutherism”, which concluded in the theory that the Bush administration was complicit in al-Qaida’s 2001 attacks.

Vidal complained that “the media was assigned its familiar task of inciting public opinion against Osama bin Laden” who, he insisted, was “still not the proven mastermind [of the attacks]”.  He claimed that the Bush administration was “probably” in on the 9/11 attacks; a criminal complicity that would “certainly fit them to a T”, and accused Bush of seeking a pretext to build a long-desired pipeline across Afghanistan. 

Racism/Antisemitism

Vidal proposed that the US and the USSR — an alliance he referred to as “the white race” — should unite to fight off the economic threat from “one billion grimly efficient Asiatics.”

As Paul Berman wrote in The New Republic:

“Vidal was a champion of the white race. He worried that, because of American imperial overreach, the white race’s moment of world domination had come to an end…And he feared that, if the white race failed to rally, ‘we are going to end up as farmers—or, worse, mere entertainment—for more than one billion grimly efficient Asiatics.'”

Vidal also wrote an introduction to a book of antisemitic propaganda (by extremist Israel Shahak) in which Vidal accused Jews of buying Harry Truman’s support for the founding of Israel for $2 million in cash, and added that “no other minority in American history [other than Jews] has ever hijacked so much money from the American taxpayers in order to invest in a ‘homeland'”.

Vidal’s antisemitic rants frequently insinuated that Jews were un-American and more loyal to Israel than the United States. The most notorious of these pieces, “The Empire Lovers Strike Back,” which ran in the The Nation on March 22, 1986, argued that “Jews born in the U.S. are only living here on the sufferance of guests and better therefore shut up about the politics of the host country”.

He characterized Norman Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary, as part of Israeli fifth column, intent on undermining the white race in the service of Israel.

Norman Podhoretz wrote a  prophetic November 1986 essay in Commentary in reaction to the Left’s relative silence to Vidal’s piece in the Nation – and the failure of progressive voices to denounce Vidal’s antisemitic outburst – expressing dismay at the fact that a magazine professedly devoted to liberal ideals provided a platform to such an odious essay.

Podhoretz wrote:

“[Antisemitic discourse] is meeting with more and more toleration, and sometimes even approval, on the Left.

liberals and other leftists, including large segments of the American Jewish community, go on refusing to face these immensely important facts. If they should therefore also go on failing to undertake the job of housecleaning…within their own political community, the poison of anti-Semitism will continue spreading through the American air, with what consequences no one can foresee.”

The title of Podhoretz’s 1986 piece was “The hate that dare not speak its name” and it is clear that the Guardian continues to be in the vanguard of the far Left’s moral abdication in the face of even the most egregious antisemitic discourse.

You do not have to be a sophisticated literary critic to understand that Vidal – much admired by progressive intellectuals – advanced the politics of a decidedly reactionary, racist crank.

13 comments on “The Guardian on Gore Vidal: Whitewash of a ‘progressive’ literary figure’s inconvenient racism

  1. This piece of evil shit was the ideal intellectual and artistic inspiration for todays modern west hating pro Islam and jew hating left.

    A rambling hallucinating lunatic, packed with hate for a whole army and delusions for a whole movement. He was the essence of what is todays left.

    Pretentious, self absorbed, self promoting, arrogant and condescending.
    His latter years brought out the worse in him. His delusions got worse as did his antisemitism. In other words, his true self emerged more than ever.

    Hell is a good place for such a narcissistic hateful drama queen.

  2. Keep in mind what Vidal did in his introduction to Stalinist Israel’s Shahak’s book.

    Vidal wrote this, Sometime in the late 1950s, that world-class gossip and occasional historian, John F. Kennedy, told me how, in 1948, Harry S. Truman had been pretty much abandoned by everyone when he came to run for president. Then an American Zionist brought him two million dollars in cash, in a suitcase, aboard his whistle-stop campaign train. ‘That’s why our recognition of Israel was rushed through so fast.’ As neither Jack nor I was an antisemite (unlike his father and my grandfather) we took this to be just another funny story about Truman and the serene corruption of American politics.

    Gore says JFK told him, an American Zionist gave Truman 2 million dollars.
    Notice how Gore doesn’t name this person.
    He refers to him as an American Zionist.
    He does the classic lie. He doesn’t name the person. Because he doesn’t exist.

    You also notice, Gore Vidal never came out with this information when JFK or Truman were alive. JFK was killed in 63.
    But why didn’t Gore Vidal come out with this information when Truman was alive.
    Truman died in 1972.
    Gore did something slick.
    He waited till Truman died to come out with this lie.
    He knew he could have been sued by Truman, so he waited till he died.

    Next Gore Vidal will say, an American Zionist gave Muhammad Atta 2 million dollars to carry about the 9/11 attacks.

  3. We should also remember that the late C. Hitchens, hardly a friend of Israel(or the Jews), also found Vidal’s obsession with what he termed, “the Jewish Question”, rather upsetting and puzzling.
    He attributed it to what is often referred to as “American Aristocracy”-WASPs, with a twist of anti-Semitism, probably emanating from a distrust of anything remotely individualistic, and culturally diverse, and obviously, religious.
    Vidal was probably not so much a proper author, as he was a polemicist with a passion for the eloquent aphorisms he could, perchance, produce.
    (His “historic” novels, are replete with post-modern devices and designs, and let’s face it, he’s no Norman Mailer).
    As F. Kaplan wrote in his anthology of Vidal:
    “You could spend a delightful dinner party sparring with such a person, but you wouldn’t leave it under the impression you’d dined with an intellectual.”

  4. Thanks for writing about his anti-Semitism and conspirational obsession..
    Not one obituary I read in German and English, they must be something over twenty, mentioned that, not even a hint, all praising his critical, “progressive” standing against the superpower though being born member of the elite.

  5. Interesting article and more so for showing up the Guardian’s Mars-Jones who equates Vidal’s anti-semitism as being distorted politics. Indeed.

  6. The tributes to Vidal also ignored his description of the victim in the Roman Polanski rape case as ‘a young hooker’, his praise for the far-right terrorist Timothy McVeigh, his description of Barack Obama as a ‘slave’, and also his comment that the USA and the USSR would have to unite to fight the ‘Asiatic’ menace.

    He was a racist, an elitist snob, a misogynist and an all-round scumbag, and the Guardianistas love him.

  7. “Jews born in the U.S. are only living here on the sufferance of guests and better therefore shut up about the politics of the host country”

    If those aren’t the words of a racist munchkin, I don’t know what are.

  8. @pretzelberg
    Had you clicked on the author’s link, you would have realized that those (“Jews born in the U.S….host country”) aren’t Vidal’s words but Podhoretz’. And if you read the actual article (“The Empire Lovers Strike Back”–easily searchable) you will see that Vidal didn’t say anything close to Podhoretz’ distortive “paraphrasing”. Many supporters of Israel might bristle at Vidal’s article, but Podhoretz lends a misleading, hyperbolic spin to it (understandable–but not excusable–considering that much of it was a rant against him). Of course, what the author of the CiF article above does is infinitely worse, in that he further dislocates the truth by attributing these offensive words to Vidal.

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