Hemingway on Lee, Part II
Mark Hemingway replied yesterday on National Review Online to the Barbara Lee post. I really do want to let the Ramparts book do the talking on this point, because the context is important. But he's probably right that my main beef, at least in this instance, is with Barbara Lee's comment on the death of Betty Van Patter.
Did I make too big a deal out of the mistake in Hemingway's review? Probably. After all, the piece was a book review, and the mistake was in Lee's book. In fact, I tried to correct that error last year, when I saw the book in galleys at Book Expo America. I pointed it out to the fellow in the publisher's booth, and he took down the info, etc. Then the book appeared with the same mistake.
After I saw the galleys, I mentioned this passage to Tamara Baltar, Betty's daughter, who also worked for Ramparts (and later, Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting). It was a difficult conversation for me; I can't imagine what it was like for Tamara. That made it easier for me to assign a lot of significance to the mistake--both in Lee's book and in Hemingway's review.
The more important point is what Lee writes about the Panthers and Betty. Lee implies that the government may have committed the murder and then blamed it on the Panthers: "This kind of tactic had been seen before and was known to have been used by the government’s anti-Panther COINTELPRO group." I'm not convinced that's what happened here, and neither are Betty's former colleagues at Ramparts. But COINTELPRO's legacy makes that kind of comment more or less predictable.
And it wasn't just the FBI. The CIA was also keeping an eye on domestic groups, including Ramparts after the magazine exposed some of the agency's covert operations in Vietnam. When a CIA agent briefed his boss on his plans for screwing up the magazine, the boss reportedly replied, "Eddie, you have a spot of blood on your pinafore." Much of this illegality was exposed later by former Ramparts contributor Sy Hersh in the New York Times.
I don't think either end of the ideological spectrum has a monopoly on virtue here, but in the meantime, I'd like to do my small part to keep the facts straight. Sometimes that's hard enough, and I appreciate Hemingway's prompt correction to his review.
Labels: Ramparts magazine