Journalism and Whittaker Chambers

Westbrook Pegler

Dixon Telegraph/March 9, 1962

Since the Saturday Evening Post broke with its old profession of conservative character a few months ago there has been speculation among journalists whether the new step could retrieve its old prestige and a measure of its ancient success. Resisting prolonged propaganda I refused to believe that the Post had any intention to desist from the “liberal” revolution which it had abetted for years. As a traditionalist I must say that I detect in the revised form changes only of type and make-up. The editorial quality of this jumbled publication seems to confirm its latter-day political addictions, which are far to the left of the principles expressed under the late, historic George Horace Lorimer.

He was in institution personified. He was a tradition.

So saying, I take note of an article by Stewart Alsop, one of its very editors, no less, and an offshoot scion of the Roosevelt breed. Mr. Alsop contributes a sympathetic discussion of our State Department, pretending to tell what is wrong with it. The ills he describes do exist, but I detected one spectacular omission. He did not say one word about the Alger Hiss case, which still indicates by its ugly red glare the principal fault of the State Department.

We who went through that menacing revelation of betrayal in the State Department all remember, and so does Mr. Alsop, that it was Adolf A. Berle who first received the confession of Whittaker Chambers which made the State Department notorious around the world. And Berle testified that when he was rebuffed by his superiors in State he took this merely as a setback in a rather merry little game and set off for Rio de Janeiro to be ambassador. But this was actually several years after he had presented Chambers’s confession to President Roosevelt and Roosevelt had told him to “go jump in the lake.” All that time meanwhile, Hiss was carrying on in the State Department. Instead of yelling from the housetops or from page one of some newspaper, Berle considered that he had done his duty and pursued his career.

After Hiss was convicted, on a charge of “perjury” but with implications of treachery pro-Moscow, Secretary of State Dean Acheson declared to newspaper reporters; “I will not turn my back on Alger Hiss ‘’

In his monumental testament, a book called “Witness,” Chambers wrote comments concerning this remark which put to shame all the journalism of the nation of that time. We just hit it a lick and a promise and thus today Alsop can treat Acheson with unquestioning respect in Mr. Lorimer’s old Saturday Evening Post.

Chambers wrote in “Witness” as follows: “Nor can Secretary of State Acheson’s remark after Hiss’s conviction be reviewed merely in those terms of personal feeling that I of all men must be the first to understand, for I shared that feeling. For a Secretary of State to say after the conviction of a man on an implied charge of espionage: ‘I will not turn my back on Alger Hiss’ cannot possibly be dismissed simply as an up­welling of personal feeling. This would be true, even if the State Department aide . . . did not make it clear that this was no spontaneous outburst. You will look in vain in history for anything comparable to it.

“These are facts. We witnessed them. They are indisputable. They were evoked from a single focus of infection, the Hiss case. They are sometimes explained as manifestations of partisan politics. The factor of partisan politics may have been in play, but I do not believe that, in the sense of two-party politics, it was decisive. The explanation lies deeper.

“When I took up my little sling and aimed at communism, I also hit something else. What I hit was the forces of that great socialist revolution which, in the name of liberalism, spasmodically, incompletely, somewhat formlessly, but always in the same direction, had been inching its ice cap over the nation for two decades. I had no adequate idea of its extent, the depth of its penetration or the fierce, vindictiveness of its revolutionary temper.”

This is a phase of the “trouble with the State Department” which this editor of the new Saturday Evening Post did not deem important enough to mention.

But, of course Mr. Editor Alsop did get in some eye-rolling at the frightful damage inflicted by Joe McCarthy in disclosing treachery and homosexuality in State. Mr. Alsop, indeed the whole vindictive “revolution” that Chambers discussed, took a terribly serious view of the “menace of McCarthyism.”



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