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Re Victor Davis Hanson: Caveat Emptor!
Which means classicist and National Review star Victor Davis Hanson will be scurrying out of the servants' quarters with the apologia tray very soon.
However, judging by the response to my blog posted on Sunday, a lot of well-informed readers have VDH's number.
(VDARE.COM fairness caveat: VDH does deserve credit for his unique achievement in managing to get the Wall Street Journal to run, not just a review [There, But Only Halfway, By Roger Clegg, June 19, 2003], but a polite review, of his moderately critical book on immigration, Mexifornia).
Thanks, RH, for producing, as I blegged for in my item last night, the vanished link to Gary ["The War Nerd"] Brecher's superb polemic Victor Hanson: Portrait of an American Traitor, The Exile, July 28 2005.
There is a great deal of intelligent military analysis in this essay—Brecher is a true scholar—but he is also a first-class polemical writer:
On Hanson's academic record, Brecher wrote:
"According to his official online bio, Hanson graduated from UC
"And Hanson graduated from there in 1975. I can only dream about what it
must've been like to be a student at
More seriously, Brecher's conclusion about Hanson:
"I don't really think he's insane - just a
traitor, a liar willing to keep shoving American troops
and money into a meatgrinder just so he doesn't have to
admit he was wrong. Sooner or later we're going to have
to face it: these
NeoCons don't care about
And thanks, GM,
for drawing my attention to a later Brecher essay on
It's All Greek to Victor Davis Hanson, The American
This essay is more focused on Hanson's historical work. Which does have some value, unlike (most of) VDH's public affairs commentary. But Brecher has a devastating comment:
"Hanson ends with the most ridiculous claim of all:
(Courtesy RH, it appears the whole War Nerd archive is here.)
The full version of The Case of Victor Davis Hanson: Farmer, Scholar, WarMonger, by F. Roger Devlin, The Occidental Quarterly, Winter 2003 tells a sad story of a decline from scholarly grace in what is probably the definitive version from the point of view of Classicism.
"Victor Davis Hanson is a fine military historian of classical
"Prof. Hanson has remained busy producing at least one article per week for National Review Online. He seems oddly out of place among the professional libelers and callow minds now posing as heirs to that once respectable journal, but …the actual material he now grinds out…contains little argument or analysis of any sort. Indeed, most of it is mere cheerleading—intended to stir the reader's enthusiasm for whatever line the Bush administration is pushing at the moment."
"Being a fundamentally fascist philosophy, neoconservatism needs to name scapegoats and make enemies…the worst of all neocons are those who provide it with intellectual legitimacy. For the succor and encouragement he has given the philosophy, Victor Davis Hanson, the smartest neo of them all, is the worst of the worst."
Even earlier, LewRockwell.com carried a powerful essay by Clyde Wilson (The War Lover, February 17 2003) dealing with a symposium issue of The American Enterprise magazine on the occasion of the release of Robert Maxwell's film Gods and Generals.
"You do not have to pay heed to a single
Southern testimony to understand what happened on
Sherman's March to the Sea is probably the
greatest single stain on the military honor of the
U.S. Army. The obvious parallel is the Red Army's move
west 1944-5. Except there, the German Army was present
to defend its people—in contrast, the
Confederate Armies were making a last effort to cut
Hanson's account, in short, is, in Clyde Wilson's genteel words
"…a fantasy of righteous virtue and intention that badly distorts the weight of the evidence."
Or, in my non-academic translation, a lie.
Professor Wilson wonders
"…why do so many Americans, or at least American 'spokespersons,' feel compelled to force our history into a pattern of collective self-glorification? All peoples tend to mythologize their important experiences, but it would be hard to find one more self-righteous and uncritical and so much in need of cosmetology as triumphal American exceptionalism"
This is a deep
Sadly, the answer seems to be: because it pays.
Davis Hanson emerged from the relative obscurity of his
academic post at Fresno State University on
September 11, 2001, to become something akin to
America's 'Historian-in-Chief'. Spurred by a legion
of eager editors, Hanson has translated his
expertise in classical military history to the 'War on
Historian in Chief,
by Alan W. Dowd, American Legion Magazine,
(Favorite VDH quote from this preening interview session:
"So when we ran such risks, when we obliterated the Taliban in seven weeks and Saddam in three, suddenly there was this spark in the Muslim world and a sense that the autocrats and mass killers were on the wrong side of history."
"Hanson blames the academic classicists themselves for the decline [in classical studies], accusing them of becoming so infected with political correctness and postmodern thinking, not to mention egoism and money-grubbing (grants, visiting professorships, conference-hopping, promotion based on unreadable publications), that they have lost sight of what he feels the classics truly represent."
Every writer will understand all too well the temptation to jump at the prospect of easy, reliable and effective publication. It hurts to be exiled.
The key reason why
And of course as a hired hand, he could still do good work. The problem is, Hanson does not—at least in the sense of accurate and well-grounded scholarship. What he does provide is slipshod, inaccurate, dishonest, but highly convenient intellectual refreshments to his masters.
And it looks like this January they will need it.
To the Public, as a Classicist might say: Caveat Emptor!
Tell Victor Davis Hanson to improve his act.
(Thanks also to H.)