Wednesday, July 17, 2002
"Do You Admire Terror?"

Charles Taylor at Salon wrote this review of Martin Amis's new book Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million. I know it's somewhat unfair to talk about the book's contents based on a review instead of having read the book myself, but Taylor reports that Amis includes in the book some comments directed toward Christopher Hitchens.

"Do you admire terror?", Amis asks Hitchens. It's a fair question given Hitchens's unapologetic leftist point-of-view, even as he is currently somewhat of a dandy in unlikely circles because of his clear support for the war in response to warmongering Islamists.

It's a fair question for any apologist for Stalin or Castro or Mao (or, of course, Hitler). It's a fair question for any apologist for any dictator with totalitarian leanings (distinct in my mind from either simple facist, simple nationalistic, or simple kleptocratic), or for any supporter of Marxism. As Taylor notes, "Despite the fact that it can be plausibly argued that true communism has never been achieved, by now it's clear that every state that has attempted it has perpetrated totalitarian outrages. In the end we find that the differences among all the variations on the theme are less striking than the similarities of the experiences of those who had to live under those regimes."

Amis's book sounds good, but I think I owe it to myself to read The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956 first.