March 16, 2005

MOVE OVER, WHITTAKER (via Mike Daley):

He Shot Down Commies: John Barron, R.I.P. (John J. Miller, 3/15/05, National Review)

”Imagine, if you will, someone who read only Reader’s Digest between 1950 and 1970, and someone in the same period who read only The Nation or The New Statesman,” said the late Susan Sontag in 1982. “Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of Communism? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?”

These were surprising words, spoken by a surprising source. Supposedly high-brow intellectuals such as Sontag weren’t supposed to credit the supposedly low-brow Reader’s Digest with anything — and especially not moral clarity. Indeed, Sontag’s remarks ignited a firestorm of controversy on the Left, whose guardians of political correctness usually viewed condemnations of Soviet totalitarianism as provocative and suspicious.

Sontag’s remarks were possible because her enemies were right, and Reader’s Digest was a bastion of anti-Communism during the Cold War. Friedrich Hayek once credited the popular success of his book The Road to Serfdom to the fact that the Digest had published a condensed version of it.

One of the Digest’s most important contributions to the cause of anti-Communism came in the form of articles and books by John Barron, who passed away on February 24 at the age of 75. On the day Barron died, most of the mainstream media was too busy genuflecting before the altar of Hunter S. Thompson, perhaps the most overrated journalist of his generation, to notice the departure of Barron. There was a short obituary in the Washington Times and — last week, finally — a slightly longer one in the Washington Post.

A man who was one of America’s greatest and most patriotic reporters deserves better.

Why would a mainstream media noted for its lack of moral clarity throughout the Cold War want to remind itself of someone who had such clarity?

John Barron Dies; Espionage Reporter (Matt Schudel, March 9, 2005, Washington Post)

John Barron, 75, an investigative reporter whose meticulously researched articles and best-selling books helped unravel the mysteries of Soviet espionage and the Khmer Rouge's mass killings in Cambodia, died Feb. 24 at Virginia Hospital Center of pulmonary failure. He was a resident of Annandale.

Trained as a reporter, Mr. Barron began his career as a spy in Cold War Berlin, working as a clandestine naval intelligence officer in the mid-1950s. In 1957, he moved to the Washington Star and quickly became the paper's top investigative reporter, honored, among other things, for revealing the financial and ethical scandals surrounding Bobby Baker, a close adviser of the vice president (and later president), Lyndon B. Johnson.

After moving to the Washington bureau of Reader's Digest in 1965, Mr. Barron used the ample resources of the magazine to renew his earlier interest in espionage. Fluent in Russian and with contacts in international spy agencies, he published six books from 1974 to 1996, most of them about the Cold War spy craft between the Soviet Union and the United States. He became an acknowledged authority on the subject.

He was sued, and Soviet agents carried out measures around the world to discredit Mr. Barron and his anti-communist message, but he never had to retract a single fact in his writings. [...]

Mr. Barron wrote more than 100 articles for Reader's Digest, including an investigation of the Internal Revenue Service and a detailed examination of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's 1969 car accident at Chappaquiddick that disputed Kennedy's account. That story, published in February 1980, hastened the end of Kennedy's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Remembering Long Time Communist Conspiracy Fighter John Barron (William Schulz, Mar 14, 2005, Human Events)
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Robert Conquest, Eugene Lyons, Isaac Don Levine, Whittaker Chambers. All chronicled, in excruciating detail, perhaps the most monstrous tyranny the world has ever known--the Soviet Union of Lenin, Stalin and the brutal hacks who followed.

Add to that list of heroes John Barron, the courageous and indefatigable investigative reporter, who died February 24 and will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. [...]

[I]t was his coverage of international communism and the KGB that assured Barron his lasting reputation. His first book, KGB, was four years in the making, during which Barron criss-crossed the globe, talking with every KGB defector except two and the intelligence services of every major Western nation. A key source was Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko, a KGB major who escaped to the United States via Switzerland in 1964 and was never interviewed by the press. In May 1970, Nosenko walked into the Washington office of the Digest and offered his assistance to Barron.

Because Nosenko had been marked for assassination by the KGB, his contact with Barron, less than four blocks from the Soviet Embassy, caused consternation among U.S. authorities responsible for his safety. Nevertheless, Barron was able to call on Nosenko throughout his research.

Barron's book, which identified by name more than 1,500 KGB agents around the world, was an international bestseller. "A masterpiece of investigative reporting," CBS called it. Newsweek minced no words: "In terms of hard geological importance, this book outranks and helps illuminate Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago."

Three years later, Barron wrote (with Digest colleague Anthony Paul) Murder of a Gentle Land, the first documented report on the slaughter of millions by Cambodia's Khmer Rouge. In 1980, he authored his third best-seller, MiG Pilot, the dramatic story of the daring escape from the Soviet Union of a young Russian lieutenant who delivered an ultra-secret aircraft to Japan, landing with only seconds of fuel left.

In 1983, Barron's KGB Today created international headlines with its accounts of Soviet penetration and even control of the nuclear freeze and peace movement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 16, 2005 12:00 AM

This man deserved the Medal of Freedom.

Posted by: George at March 16, 2005 10:34 AM