Letter to the Editor: Responding to Gershom Gorenberg

The letter below from journalist and author Max Blumenthal is a response to Prospect columnist Gershom Gorenberg’s article, “The Strange Sympathy of the Far Left for Putin,” published October 14, 2016.

Gershom Gorenberg accuses me of “strange sympathy” for Putin and implies I also sympathize with Assad. Gorenberg cites my recent investigative series on the public relations push to cultivate support for increased military action in Syria, but he does not challenge a single fact—he even avoided linking to either of the reports.

Gorenberg did not produce a single statement by me expressing any support or sympathy for either Putin or Assad, perhaps because there is not one. Had he performed his due diligence as a journalist, Gorenberg would have found that I harshly criticized Assad’s brutal repression of a civil revolt in 2012, and that I have done my best to give a voice to those who have fled from the violence. I am open about my opposition to a no-fly zone that Hillary Clinton has acknowledged would “kill a lot of Syrians,” and critical of groups that have lobbied for it—but that hardly constitutes support for Assad.

Addressing my actual statements might have undermined the entire thrust of Gorenberg’s tirade, so he lashed out instead at a straw man, painting the “far left” as a band of Russian tools controlled by gamma rays emitted from Putin’s brain while ignoring principled arguments against another Western-led military campaign in the Middle East—an inevitably destabilizing folly that he seems to support.

Gorenberg based his claim of my sympathy for Putin entirely on my attendance of RT’s tenth anniversary conference in Moscow in 2015. He did not produce a single statement I made at the event or any evidence of my involvement with Russian officials (I have never met one). In fact, I spoke on a panel alongside such figures as the former Democratic Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, historian Peter Kuznick, and Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor’s correspondent in Moscow since 1998. Gorenberg may have transcended journalism and moved into the realm of clairvoyance, where he can magically discern the crypto-Putinism of anyone, regardless of their actual beliefs or records. But there is also the possibility that Gorenberg assumed a deluge of McCarthyite attacks on everyone from anti-war activists to opponents of Hillary Clinton would give him cover to level baseless accusations without scrutiny or fact-checking.

Gorenberg’s argument comes apart even further when considering that I was recently attacked by the Anti-Defamation League, an organization known for blacklisting critics of Israeli apartheid, for attending a conference featuring academics from across the globe and sponsored by the Doha and Washington, D.C.-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS). The ADL claimed that the conference was a front for “extending the reach of the Qatari soft diplomatic power” into the Palestine solidarity movement—a hyperbolic claim—but correctly noted that the conference was disrupted by Tunisian activists who chanted support for Assad. Indeed, the Qatari government has been accused of sponsoring the insurgent forces seeking to oust the Syrian government, a policy Gorenberg seems to favor, and has earned the ire of that government’s backers. It is also worth noting that I have participated in a conference sponsored by the Nexus Institute, a think tank closely linked to the Dutch government, appearing on stage with Mario Vargas Llosa, a longtime political opponent of Putin. By Gorenberg’s crude logic, I am a useful idiot for all sides in the Syria conflict and a stooge for Putin and his opponents.

After closely examining Gorenberg’s arguments, his claim that the anti-war left “is still living sometime in the Cold War” appears more like a projection than a factual analysis.


Gershom Gorenberg submitted the following response: I intended to include a link to Blumenthal's piece on the White Helmets in my article. The omission was an oversight. 

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