There are a number of words that have meanings in their mundane applications quite different from those they're assigned in their political applications:
"If you'll trust me I can put you on to a bit of your real work-what you were brought here to do-straight away."
"You mean the radiologist-the man who was guillotined?" asked Mark, who was completely bewildered.
The Fairy nodded.
"He's to be rehabilitated," she said. "Gradually. You begin with a quiet little article-not questioning his guilt, but just hinting that of course he was a member of their quisling government, and there was a prejudice against him. Say you don’t doubt the verdict was just, but it’s disquieting to realize that it would almost certainly have been the same even if he’d been innocent. Then you follow it up in a day or two with an article of quite a different kind. Popular account of the value of his work. You can mug up the facts-enough for that kind of article-in an afternoon. Then a letter, rather indignant, to the paper that printed the first article, and going much further. The execution was a miscarriage of justice. By that time--"
"What on earth is the point of all this?"
"I'm telling you, Studdock. Alcasan is to be rehabilitated. Made into a martyr."
[C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength]
Francois Alcasan, in Lewis’s mighty novel, was a "scientist-Bluebeard," convicted of murder and other atrocities, and duly guillotined for it. But the dark conspirators of the story were unconcerned with that; they required that Alcasan's reputation be restored to purity for reasons of their own.
In that fictional case, the rehabilitation was being attempted in service to a profoundly evil undertaking. There have been comparable cases in the real world. For example, in the post-Khruschev era of the late and unlamented Soviet Union, there was a serious effort to rehabilitate the reputation of the late Josef Stalin. Stalin's reign of terror over his nation had cost a minimum of ten million lives, and quite possibly more, specifically to suppress all resistance to his power. Indeed, part of what brought Khruschev to power was his "secret speech" denouncing Stalin before the Twentieth Communist Party Congress in 1956. After Khruschev was toppled from power, the Politburo found it expedient to rehabilitate the Stalin legend, the better to cushion the common people against the shock of the unprecedented event.
In the cases above, the rehabilitations were of monsters in truth. They were performed by effacing the facts of their deeds and painting a glossy, if untrue, portrait of their attitudes and achievements. But what of good, honest men whose reputations have been blackened unjustly, and into whose actual lives and deeds the curious have been discouraged from inquiry? Have any such enjoyed rehabilitations, during or after their mortal lives?
Yes, I have such a man in mind. But all things in their proper course.
Concerning the figure of whom I speak, I rather doubt that anyone other than his wife and his closest friends ever called him by any sort of nickname, but he's gone now and can't object, so I'll refer to him as Bob.
Bob is perhaps the most thoroughly slandered American citizen in history never to attain elective office. His name evokes derision and contempt from just about anyone who hears and recognizes it. From the uniformity and intensity of the reactions, one would be forgiven for inferring that Bob was some sort of monster. As he was never convicted of any crime however slight, he must have been a promulgator of evil, like Julius Streicher of Der Sturmer. From my researches, it would appear that that's the exact reverse of the truth.
Bob was a self-made man. He was the possessor of a prodigious intellect, having been admitted to a prestigious university at the age of twelve. He swiftly concluded that "higher education" had been corrupted by the political Left, and forsook it to enter the world of business. He became quite successful in the candy industry, which enabled him to retire at the age of 57. At that point he turned wholly to his political interests, in which he'd invested a growing proportion of his time and energy over the preceding decade.
Bob had already become known as a powerful, fascinating public speaker. He was to become equally well known for his opinion writing, which addressed virtually every subject of national importance. What follows is a segment from one of his articles on the deterioration of race relations, which appeared in the September 1956 edition of a periodical he founded:
For rising racial bitterness is the finest grist the Communists have yet been able to obtain for their American mill. It is exactly the same kind of raw material out of which they have so successfully manufactured violent strife in one country after another. And their planned use of this material makes the need all the more urgent for the American people, north and south, white and colored, of all states and all races, to become aware of what is being done to them -- and by whom. The increasing schisms within Protestant sects, the growing doubts of each other's good will between Catholics and Protestants, the rising intolerance by Christians of Jews and animosity of Jews toward Christians, and now the darkening storm of activated hatred between white people and colored people -- these things aren't just happening by chance and they didn't, like Topsy, just grow up. They have been carefully planned, subtly fomented, carefully nourished, and raised to tremendous forces of disruption by the Communist conspirators and the misguided dupes and allies who have been cued and egged on by them.
In that segment we can see the major theses of Bob's political thought:
- That the conflicts afflicting America ever more seriously were not natural, nor were they inherent in the agendas of the contending groups;
- That the prime mover of those conflicts was the Communist movement in the United States;
- That the end in view was the fatal disruption of the American system of government, by beleaguering it with strife -- eventually carried to the point of overt violence and civil disorder -- which would enable the Communists, already positioned to exploit it, to rise to hegemony.
From the history of Communist involvement in the churches, in the labor movement, in the rising farmers' lobby, and in the fomenting of racial conflict in the cities, we can see that Bob had logic and evidence on his side.
But what's noteworthy about Bob's activism is the hail of denunciation that landed on his head for daring to speak his mind. Both liberals and conservatives of the Fifties and Sixties did everything they could to blacken his name. He was called a racist, a fascist, an aspiring dictator, an anti-Semite, and any other epithet one might imagine. The periodicals and organization he founded were demonized in equal measure, always without reference to what they said and advocated. Possibly no other American outspoken on political subjects has been so intensely and unjustly vilified, during or after his lifetime.
From what I've learned so far, if any American deserves a thorough rehabilitation, it would be Bob.
Some Gentle Readers might have guessed Bob's full name, but I'm going to withhold it for the nonce. I have more research to do into Bob's statements and involvements, and I'll be presenting my choicest discoveries here at Liberty's Torch over the succeeding weeks. So far, everything I've learned about Bob has been to his credit. Even the few matters on which our views diverge are matters of interpretation and inference, about which either of us could be right and the other wrong.
But it's not too soon to start thinking about what you've learned here, and perhaps doing a little research of your own. What opinion have you formed of Bob so far? Does he sound like someone you'd admire -- someone you'd be willing to have as a neighbor and a friend? Or do you conceive of him as "mad, bad, and dangerous to know," as his many detractors have attempted to paint him?