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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Johnny Got His Listserv

From time to time I receive e-mail bulletins from the HOAC network. Some mailings are helpful, others less so. At the very heart of the list, at times, is more or less an ersatz Cold War, hence finding out that Dalton Trumbo was an FBI informant and Pablo Neruda was a Bad Poet, Bad Man.*

Many of the judgments arrived at seem to lack consistency. There is ‘one rule for them, another for us' if you follow the logic of some of the postings. If true, Trumbo ratting out Trotskyists to the FBI was indeed reprehensible, but it is unlikely that those posting in this spirit would criticize other non-Communist FBI informants so harshly (if at all). Great value is placed in the conventional wisdom of the common people most of the time, until we/they do something that breaks with conservative norms. If it wasn’t for the historical scholarship, HOAC would be a bit like using the Internet to travel back in time to the 1950s.

*Stephen Schwartz, 'A hundred years of Pablo Neruda', Weekly Standard July 26, 2004 (Volume 009, Issue 43).


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