Over at NRO, Jay Nordlinger is on his annual jaunt to observe the global hoi polloi at Davos, Switzerland, but he has a telling tidbit of New York Times bias if you keep with it. Apparently, it's surprising that the President is reading books again, even those distasteful tomes about the dark days of mass murder in the communist bloc:
You may have seen, in the New York Times, that President Bush has been reading that big new book about Mao: Mao: The Unknown Story, by the husband-and-wife team of Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. (Actually, I should have written "wife-and-husband team" — sorry about that.) Did you catch what the Times's writer, Elisabeth Bumiller, had to say about this? (Her story is here.) Very interesting.
First, she said that "it is not so surprising" that President Bush should be reading this book, "given that [it] has been embraced by the right as a searing indictment of Communism."
Embraced by the Right? I have no doubt this is true, but why wouldn't liberals embrace a searing indictment of Communism? I mean, they don't have any truck with Communism — do they? To suggest otherwise is to embrace McCarthyism.
Then, in the process of throwing cold water on the Mao book, Bumiller noted that some reviewers had "accused the authors of a moralistic, good-and-evil version of history." Yes, can't be moralistic about one of the greatest genocidal monsters in history. Well, actually, you can be, if you're talking about Hitler and his Reich. In that case, a "good-and-evil version" of history is permissible. Why it should be less so when we get to Mao and the Communists is . . .
Well, then I launch into a long, long rant.
Personally, I'm amused by the usual dismissive thoughts of American academics, such as Columbia's Andrew Nathan, who suggest Mao critics are guilty of moralistically oversimplifying things:
But Mr. Nathan, who last year in The London Review of Books criticized what he called the authors' vague and inaccessible sourcing, said that the biography presented Mao as a "comic-book monster," with little explanation of the psychological, sociological and historical forces that allowed him to rise. He also said he was skeptical that the book would help in understanding China's current leadership.
"Today's Communist Party is a highly developed bureaucracy, like IBM or General Motors," Mr. Nathan said. "It's not the Communist Party of Mao's time."
A related book note: one old tome I enjoyed on terrible pro-"agrarian reformer" media bias from Western reporters in China is the book "China Misperceived" by Steven Mosher. You can get it dirt-cheap now, and it's a nice piece of media history.