“Give me a child for the first seven years and you may do what you like with him afterwards.”
This cynical defense of the brainwashing of children has been attributed variously to Stalin, Lenin and several religions and cults. Robert Shetterly, the author of a new book for young adolescents, apparently believes that propaganda is just as effective with impressionable boys and girls in their early teens. His seductive picture book entitled Americans who Tell the Truth, published by Dutton Children’s Books, would have brought a smile to the face of Uncle Joe Stalin.
In the guise of a “heartfelt book” that “grew out of soul-searching after 9/11,” Shetterly, has written a deceptive homage to radicals of the hard left. He glorifies such “great Americans” as Noam Chomsky, Emma Goldman, Howard Zinn, Amy Goodman and Ralph Nader. The irony, of course, is that some of these hard-left radicals have provided justifications for precisely the kind of violence that occurred on 9/11.
Emma “the Red” Goldman, for example, helped her lover, Alexander Berkman, plot the assassination of Henry Clay Finch, an anti-labor industrialist. She refused to condemn “the anarchist who resorts to” violence, and she railed against America as a land of oppression. Noam Chomsky has defended Pol Pot and the genocidal Khmer Rouge, as well Holocaust denier revisionists. He has argued that the United States has taken the place of Nazi Germany in the world today, and he has characterized 9/11 as payback time for America.
Nor are all of Shetterly’s heroes paragons of truth. A recent book, The Anti-Chomsky Reader, documents the reality that Chomsky chronically “fabricates facts,” fakes figures, misquotes authorities, distorts data, plays “fast and loose with source material,” and engages in “blatant professional mendacity.” No wonder historian Arthur Schlesinger called Chomsky an intellectual crook.” Noam Chomsky is not an “American who tells the truth,” and brainwashing children to believe that he is constitutes a form of literary child abuse.
The same can be said of Amy Goodman, who at least in my experience is among the most dishonest, biased and ideologically blinded radio talk show hosts. She doesn’t tell the truth, unless it happens to comport with the radical left line. Her political correctness is to correctness as military music is to music.
What do most of these “truth tellers” (especially the contemporaries among them) have in common? They hate the United States and its allies and blame the ills of the world on them. They support tyrannical left-wing regimes. They are selective in their condemnations. And they abuse the truth to serve their hard-left ideologies.
In an effort to feign balance, Shetterly includes a handful of dead centrists or moderates such as Dwight Eisenhower, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr., but that makes the book even more insidious, because it suggests objectivity and masks a radical bias. There is no Elie Weisel, William Buckley or Thomas Friedman on Shetterly’s list because they do not tow his particular radical line.
This revolting book should come with a warning label for parents: caution - an uncritical reading of this child propaganda may be dangerous to your adolescent’s political stability.
Alan Dershowitz is a professor of law at Harvard. His latest book is The Case For Peace (Wiley, August 2005)