Yesterday David Chambers, whose grandfather Whittaker Chambers was one of the two primary figures in the case that brought Richard Nixon to the notice of the whole nation and then the world, reviewed Susan Jacoby’s Alger Hiss And The Battle For History in the Washington Times. Mr. Chambers makes its clear that, to put it mildly, he is far from impressed by Ms. Jacoby’s thesis that Hiss’s actions of the 1930s and 1940s, and subsequent perjury when testifying about them, was less significant than the rise of the anti-communist right that she believes the negative publicity surrounding Hiss helped to further, to the country’s detriment. Here’s one passage from the review, which notes Ms. Jacoby’s less-than-thorough research on the case:
Perhaps strangest is this book’s omission of new findings by another recent Yale publication. “Spies” (May 2009) opens with the bold chapter title, “Alger Hiss: Case Closed.” It claims to seal the coffin (if not bury the grave plot) on Mr. Hiss’ guilt. Nothing from “Spies” appears in Ms. Jacoby’s book. According to “Spies” co-author Harvey Klehr, Yale’s editor Jonathan Brent offered her access to the book’s new findings. Apparently, Ms. Jacoby took a pass.
Overall, it is distressing to read this book. Clearly, Ms. Jacoby prizes secular, liberal intellectualism. Yet her book is compromised by the very type of bias she claims to despise in her intellectual opposites.