Saturday, April 07, 2007

More info re Hiss - from Zach Sklar

Zach Sklar, longtime writer and editor and the scribe who penned the screenplay for Oliver Stone's film JFK sent me the following after reading my blog entry on Hiss. I'm posting this here with his permission.

I worked for many years editing a book by William A. Reuben, who originally reported on the Hiss case for the Guardian (U.S.) in the 50s and published a book on the case in the 50s called The Honorable Mr. Nixon. The book I was editing was never published because Bill died before he finished it. The people at the web site you cited are trying to finish it.

But from my experience, I can assure you that Hiss was innocent. And I don't think you're right about the mainstream media not taking a strong stance. They have. They assure us at all times that Hiss was guilty.

Your point about the reasons for the Hiss case is well taken. It was really an attempt to discredit the entire New Deal, as well as a WMD of its time to crank up the Cold War machinery. Hiss represented the New Deal, and the equation was supposed to be read in the public mind like this: liberal=communist=spy=traitor. Therefore, liberals and all the progressive gains of the New Deal are by definition treasonous. This right-wing project of rewriting history has continued in our day--if you remember the strange mini-movement to remove FDR from the dime and replace him with Reagan, that was one of the latter-day manifestations.

The Hiss case is really important because it became the template for how these right-wing nuts discredit anything progressive. Nixon was the primary architect, but he was joined on the Hiss case by Chambers and, most important, J. Edgar Hoover. If you look at the actual FBI files, which Bill Reuben did (he and Hiss got 200,000 pages under FOIA), you see that the whole case against Hiss was built on a bunch of nothing--vague allegations against huge lists of names, confirmed by informers who were given the same lists, etc. Bill was even convinced that the Venona code translated names (like Ales=Hiss) were put together from these originally phony FBI documents. On the name Ales, by the way, Victor Navasky (The Nation, July 16, 2001) did an excellent article about this, pointing out that the name Alger Hiss itself does appear in the Venona documents, separate from the code name Ales and goes on to point out that they wouldn't be using the man's real name if they had a code name for him.

Also really excellent work on Venona has been done by John Lowenthal, a lawyer who was the son of a prominent official in the FDR administration. Lowenthal published an article debunking Venona in Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 15, Autumn 2000.

It continues to sadden me that a man so provably innocent continues to be smeared as a traitor. Maybe the blogosphere will help correct the record on the Hiss case once and for all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa.
First I want to say I am a huge fan of your Real History Archives. It has never failed to make my jaw drop to the floor and send my mind spinning. So thank you for that.

I just had a quick question (a bit off topic).

I came across some video essays via YouTube by Mumia Abu jamal. So my interest went a bit further and read his bio on Wikipedia here:

I came across one of the names of the witnesses and it turned out to be a fella by the name of Michael Scanlon. I was just wondering if this is the same Michael Scanlon involved in the Abramhoff Casino dustup.

I know very little of the Jamal case and have no real opinion on the matter. It just peeked my interest. Thanks.

1:24 AM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Thanks for the comments, and I don't know if that would be the same Scanlon. I haven't been following either case closely - just no time to keep up on all the ills of the world..!

1:43 AM  

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