The Lies of Alan Dershowitz

By Cockburn, Alexander | The Nation, July 10, 1989 | Go to article overview

The Lies of Alan Dershowitz


Cockburn, Alexander, The Nation


While U.S. news organizations were falling joyfully upon the A.P. story without asking themselves if it was likely that Nicaragua would support a country that had sent arms to the contras, or Vietnam one that had invaded it, a domestic equivalent of A.P.'s fabrication was being prepared.

On June 11 the Los Angeles Times ran a syndicated column by Alan Dershowitz titled "Leftist Cacophony for Human Rights Grows Silent on the Beijing Massacre:" Dershowitz claimed that on June 7 and 8 an "associate" whom he did not identify had reached "a fairly representative sample of the usually irrepressible and cacophonous left. Not a single one was prepared to condemn the Chinese government:" Then he cited his supposed findings:

Williarn Kunstler ... had nothing to say.... His office

told my associate he would have no comment... Similarly,

Noam Chomsky ... has been silent about China, according

to his secretary.... The extreme-left press - the Guardian,

the Workers Vanguard, the Revolutionary Worker and

other Marxist weeklies - were busy trying to fit the events in

China into their political orthodoxies. The Workers World

Party condemned the students as counter-revolutionaries....

Even the Nation, whose June 12 issue must have

gone to press before the massacre, ... ignored the students'

homage to the Statue of Liberty, their references to Patrick

Henry and their repetition of American freedom slogans.

Finally, the National Lawyers Guild ... has decided that

the Chinese situation "is too complex and too fluid" for

immediate comment. It refuses to condemn the naked aggression

of the army.

This is probably as concentrated a number of lies in sixteen lines as in any piece of journalism in recent memory. Start with Kunstler. He says his office never received an inquiry from the "associate" and "it would have been strange if I had ever authorized such a claimed response when I have characterized the slaughter of the students on the CBS Evening News as |a massacre.'"

Noam Chomsky tells me that his secretary at M.I.T. called him on June 8 to say that a reporter from the Boston Herald had rung to ask for the Chomsky public statement on the events in Beijing. Chomsky does not issue press releases. He does respond to requests from the press for interviews and had just concluded some radio interviews and a column about perestroika for the Minneapolis Star Tribune in which he also criticized Beijing. The supposed reporter for the Herald did not ask to speak with Chomsky.

As for the weekly left papers Dershowitz says he scrutinized, they would have been working on the same deadline as he, and thus could not possibly have published anything on the massacre, which occurred only days before his "research" began. Why didn't he call them? "It never crossed my mind:" he told my colleague Tristan Reader. Yet Workers Vanguard says it read portions of the coverage (extremely critical of the Beijing regime) to the "associate" before it went to press. The Nation's editorial, dated June 12 though published on May 25, specifically mentioned the Statue of Liberty, Patrick Henry and what Dershowitz calls "American freedom slogans:" Michael Cowan, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, insists that he made clear to the "associate" that the Guild condemned the use of force against the demonstrators and urged China to abide by its constitutional provisions of free speech. In what may be the column's only reflection of reality, the Workers World Party did denounce the students.

So who was the "associate"? Dershowitz used two assistants, Maura Kelly and Matt Levitt. He tells me that he wanted to "elicit" the reactions of left people and organizations to the events in Beijing, assuming that comment would be more cautious than if it had been a matter of U. …

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