Historical engineering with novels

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Historical engineering with novels entails rewriting history in a way that it fits in with current propaganda or ideological requirements. The historiographical novel lends itself for this purpose because the standards for historical accuracy are very low – after all, it is a novel, and thus it can be considered fiction.

The "Eleni" mythology

Ronald Reagan on Eleni

When Ronald Reagan, someone who wasn't well disposed to reading books, spoke movingly of a book, then it should raise some questions. In a speech he stated:

And freedom is the issue. The stakes are that high. You know, recently Nancy and I saw together a moving new film, the story of Eleni. It's a true story. A woman at the end of World War II, caught in the Greek civil war, a mother who, because she smuggled her children out to safety, eventually to America, was tried, tortured, and shot by the Greek Communists.
It is also the story of her son, Nicholas Gage, who grew up to become an investigative reporter with the New York Times and who, when he returned to Greece, secretly vowed to take vengeance on the man who had sent his mother to her death.
But at the dramatic end of the story, Nick Gage finds he cannot extract the vengeance he has promised himself. To do so, Mr. Gage writes, would have relieved the pain that had filled him for so many years, but it would also have broken the one bridge still connecting him to his mother and the part of him most like her. As he tells it: "… her final cry, before the bullets of the firing squad tore into her, was not a curse on her killers but an invocation of what she died for, a declaration." How that cry was echoed across the centuries, her cry was a cry of love: " ' My children! ' " A cry for all the children of the world, a hope that all of them may someday live in peace and freedom.

So, we owe something to them, you and 1. To those who've gone before – Major Nicholson, Eleni, the heroes at the Lomba River – and to the living as well – Andrei Sakharov, Lech Walesa, Adolfo Calero, Jonas Savimbi – their hopes reside in us as ours do in them.
— Ronald Reagan, "Forward for Freedom", speech, 1986.

A critical assessment by Nikos Raptis

Nikos Raptis discusses the historical accuracy of Eleni, Nicholas Gage's 698 page book:

Nicholas Gage was able to write his widely touted book, Eleni, because the majority of his readers, that is, Americans were ignorant of the recent history of Greece. He must have known that the average American would have difficulty even locating Greece on a map.
Gage's Eleni can and should be judged or analyzed by answering two questions: first, who were the andartes, and second, what brought them to Lia in 1947? Gage has answered the first question in Eleni by using the Mutt and Jeff method. He tries to impress upon the reader that the andartes were nothing more than cold-blooded murderers (as he views all communists), while at the same time, in order to establish his credibility, he concedes that they fought heroically against the Nazis.

While Gage paints his mother, Eleni, as a heroine, Raptis reveals why the leftist guerrillas (andartes) executed her:

However, there is one more question to be answered. Why did the andartes execute Eleni? To this date, the only systematic answer to that question is the book The other Eleni, by Vasilis Kavathas, a Greek investigative reporter. He interviewed the same people that Gage had. But he did not pretend to be a leftist when he talked to people on the left, or to terrorize interviewees with an ill-concealed gun, as Gage had.

Kavathas asked Gastis, a former andartes judge, point blank: "Why did they execute her?" He replied, "She was an informer for the enemy. The information she was giving them was accurate. They pinpointed us and then bombed us…

And concludes:

… is belied by Gage's decision to pass off his fiction as investigative journalism. He boasts that in the past his reporting was always "too well documented" for anyone to challenge it. Even if this is true, it is hardly the case with Eleni.
—Nikos Raptis, " 'Eleni': The Work of a 'Professional Liar' ", Covert Action Information Bulletin, Winter 1986, No. 25, pp. 41–48.

The Spike: spook approved propaganda

When a major neocon figure, Michael Ledeen, reviews a novel, it should raise some suspicions. Ledeen reviewed The Spike, by Arnaud de Borchgrave and Robert Moss in Commentary in September 1980 [1]. Further questions arise knowing that both authors are right-wing Cold-Warriors, and Borchgrave is currently the editor of the Unification Church's Washington Times. Robert Moss wrote Chile's Marxist Experiment, a crass propagandistic smear of the Allende years in Chile, and presented as an after-the-fact justification for the coup against Allende's government. This book was funded by CIA (various sources, but can be found here: William Preston and Ellen Ray, op.cit., p. 8.)

Fred Landis's comments

Fred Landis comments are instructive:

The Spike was the Mein Kampf of renegade intelligence agents intent on avenging Jimmy Carter's purge at the CIA under Stansfield Turner. Aiding Moss in this effort was the 3000-member Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and two think tanks run by Moss's friends: the Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Heritage Foundation. Ronald Reagan read The Spike on the campaign trail and when he entered the White House he brought the ideas and personnel of those think tanks with him. Many of the old boy network of spies at AFIO were back at the CIA.
Eventually a common financial source was found behind the network of intelligence-connected think tanks, books, and movies: the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation, controlled by CIA groupie Richard Mellon Scaife. Scaife had met Moss in England where he and the CIA had set up several propaganda operations for which Moss ws a chief correspondent. In the period leading up to the 1980 elections, Scaife's foundation had disbursed some $100 million to scare America back onto the Right track.
—Fred Landis, op. cit., p. 36.

He continues:

Robert Moss is back on the best seller list with Moscow Rules. It provides a closing to a literary and political circle which began in 1975 with Chile's Marxist Experiment, on the KGB plot to take over South America, followed by The Collapse of Democracy, on the KGB plot to take over Europe. That was followed by The Spike, on the KGB plot to take over the United States […]
There was a monotonous regularity to these instant best sellers. They came out every two years, uncovered some KGB plot to take over some strategic real estate, and the date was always 1985. They were guaranteed best seller status because everybody from the Conservative Book Club to Accuracy in Media gave out free copies. Retired spooks held press conferences to inform us that Moss's novels were planted by CIA and Israeli intelligence to support the allegations in Moss's books.
— Fred Landis, op. cit., p. 36.

Alexander Cockburn's comments

This is what Alexander Cockburn had to say about the book and this genre:

The purpose of the kind of scenariothriller under review is to alert the reader to the fact that a Diabolical Plot [DP] is in the offing, or is under way, and then keep him turning the pages until the DP is satisfactorily thwarted. Nothing new here, of course. Diabolical plots, aimed at subverting Western civilization, have been going strong throughout the literature of our troubled century.

The reek of research in […] is almost overpowering, and Borchgrave/Moss have spent much time asserting that only the merest gauze separates The Spike from the brute facts of Soviet subversion. In Washington their novel is indeed treated as something of a roman à clef, with much interested speculation afoot about the actual identity of the congressional staff director who is described as a Russian agent. .

There's always the possibility too that Borchgrave and Moss, conservative journalists feverishly certain that every bed has a Red under if not in it, regard the ADA as a communist front, with ratings designed merely to lull suspicion.

Cockburn concludes:

The Spike displays this type of paranoia in its ripest form, and it's something of a relief to find such well seasoned threat mongers as Borchgrave and Moss shifting their activities into something which will be clearly labeled "fiction" in the library catalogues, rather than "fact" as proposed by Borchgrave (formerly) in Newsweek and Moss in The Daily Telegraph. The overall Diabolical Plot is here called "The Plan," a Kremlin "blueprint for achieving Soviet domination of the West by a certain date. The deadline has been revised once or twice already. The current deadlineâ?¦was 1985."

"The Plan," as reported by Borchgrave and Moss, is rather a frail-looking schedule for world conquest, since it seems partly to consist of suborning journalists to print stories favorable to the Soviet Union and discreditable to the United States, and partly in making the "Institute for Progressive Reform" in Washington "the controlling center for a network of Soviet agents of influence who fanned out into Congress, the media, the academic world, and even the White House."
The nastier aspect of The Spike is that the authors plainly intend such outfits as the Institute for Progressive Reform to be identified by the witting with real life equivalents: witch hunting by fictional means, secure from legal writs or factual rebuttal. […] â?¦etc., etc.

— Alexander Cockburn, "Apocalypse for Everyone", New York Review of Books, Volume 27, Number 17, November 6, 1980.

Resources on The Spike (date order)

  • Alexander Cockburn, "Apocalypse for Everyone", New York Review of Books, Volume 27, Number 17, November 6, 1980.
  • William Preston and Ellen Ray, "Disinformation and Mass Deception", Covert Action Information Bulletin, Spring-Summer 1983, No. 19, pp. 3–12.
  • Fred Landis, "Moscow Rules Moss's Mind", Covert Action Information Bulletin, Summer 1985, No. 24, pp. 36–38.

Arab bashing

The 1991 Gulf War required propaganda to sell the war and to justify it after the fact. Several "best sellers" were published at this time. In particular:

When the Gulf war was over […] in September 1992, Atlanta-based author Jean Sasson brought out her second, best-selling Middle East-related book. Sasson's first best-seller had been subsidized by the Embassy of Kuwait in Washington. Entitled The Rape of Kuwait, it had recounted horrors of the Iraqi occupation. The Kuwaiti government had distributed at no charge a quarter of a million copies to U.S. military personnel assembling in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to end that occupation.
Now, Jean Sasson again had hit best-seller lists with a book entitled Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil. The book purported to be based upon the diaries of 'Princess Sultana,' an alias for a petite, snub-nosed granddaughter of King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, founder of the modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The princess purportedly was raised in the luxurious palace of a cruel and domineering father and a kind but overly acquiescent mother. Even as a child Princess Sultana rebelled at the subservient role ordained for her in a male-dominated society. She expressed her rebellion by outraging the mother of the handsome young British-educated lawyer cousin with whom her father had arranged a marriage. (Curtiss, op. cit.)

A plagiarism lawsuit ensued, revealing the nature of Sasson's novels:

Adsani's current suit, along with an earlier one over author's royalties initiated by Ms. Sasson against the publishers of her first book, The Rape of Kuwait, provide a rare look into the world of literary Arab-bashing, which is driven primarily by the Hollywood film industry's seemingly insatiable appetite for works in which Arabs are the villains.
In fact Ms. Sasson's first book purportedly was written in nine days and was published concurrently with a campaign for which the U.S. public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton got nearly $10.8 million from the Kuwaitis' for helping the Kuwaiti embassy with public and congressional relations during the Gulf war, according to an article by John R. MacArthur in the March 11, 1996 issue of the New York Observer.
In addition to the quarter-million copies purchased by the Kuwaiti government for distribution to U.S. troops, 700,000 more copies of the book, apparently also subsidized by the Kuwaiti government, were shipped by Knightsbridge Press of California at a cost of $200,000 by Federal Express to wholesalers and dealers. Of those, perhaps 30 percent were sold.
The subject of the earlier lawsuit was Ms. Sasson's claim that Knightsbridge owed her more author's royalties than she had received. Gerald Sindell, former chief executive officer of Knightsbridge, which subsequently went out of business, countered that the expedited shipping, ordered by David Abramowitz, a company employee who was a close friend and confidant of Ms. Sasson, had incurred 'enormous expense' which Sindell had not authorized. Subsequently Sindell has become an important witness against Mr. Miller and Ms. Sasson in the plagiarism suit involving Princess. (Curtiss, op. cit.)

External resources for Arab bashing

Richard H. Curtiss, "Princess Plagiarism Suit Provides Rare Look Into Literary Arab-Bashing", October 1996, pgs. 82, 111-112

Islam bashing: St. Peter's Bones

Gareth Porter reports: Timmerman has also expressed views sympathetic to the hate-Islam movement. His 2003 book, Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War Against America, portrays the United States and Israel as innocent victims of a vicious campaign against the West by whole Islamic societies that refuse to accept the U.S.-Israeli narrative on terrorism. And his new novel, St. Peter’s Bones, has been praised by notorious Islam-hater Robert Spencer for revealing the "long-hidden origins of Islam."[2]