Lest it be thought that The American Historical Review has a monopoly on left-wing fantasy, we note that New York University’s Tamiment Library has just launched a website to commemorate the Alger Hiss Story. (No wonder that the Tamiment Library is colloquially referred to as the “Commie Archive” by members of the NYU community.) According to an article in NYU Today, a university publication, the website was launched on the occasion of the publication of the paperback edition of The View from Alger’s Window, a memoir by Hiss’s son Tony that, we read, reflects on “his father’s trial and imprisonment during the Cold War witch-hunts.” The story goes on to note that Hiss “would spend 44 months in prison—and the rest of his life fighting to clear his name. With conflicting evidence on both sides, his guilt or innocence continues to inspire debate.” In fact, the story of Alger Hiss continues to “inspire debate” only among those for whom his guilt is a metaphysical impossibility—for example, the directors of The Nation Institute, which helped to fund the website. For the rest of us, revelations from the recently opened Soviet archives simply corroborated what a mountain of evidence had already shown: that Alger Hiss, in addition to committing perjury (the felony for which he went to jail) was a KGB spy and a traitor. The thing to remember about those “Cold War witch-hunts” is that they turned up a number of real witches. Alger Hiss was one of them. On the scale of academic fatuousness, NYU’s website honoring Alger Hiss ranks somewhere below Bard College’s decision some years ago to accept money to create an Alger Hiss Chair of Social Studies. But it is nevertheless a useful reminder that the doctrine of moral equivalence regularly results in moral blindness.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 19 Number 8, on page 3
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