Home World A ‘Low Dishonest’ Reference – John Podhoretz, Commentary Magazine

A ‘Low Dishonest’ Reference – John Podhoretz, Commentary Magazine


Harvard’s Stephen Walt is known for his claim that the Israel lobby controls U.S. foreign policy, which naturally dovetails with a view of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians unfavorable to the former. Walt has now done us a favor, inadvertently, with a tweet he wrote over the weekend because it provides a window into the true nature of the intellectual and spiritual rot of which he is a perfect exemplar.

Here it is: “Re the shocking and depressing events of the weekend, I am reminded once again of W.H. Auden: ‘I and the public know/What all schoolchildren learn,/Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return.’”

This is a quotation from a poem called “September 1, 1939″—and thereby hangs a tale of intellectual sophistry and intellectual growth.

W.H. Auden wrote it in the days following Hitler’s invasion of Poland. As it begins, Auden says he is seeing the “clever hopes” of a “low dishonest decade” expire in the face of this dreadful new reality. And then he tells us that all the efforts to understand what happened by scholars and historians will be in vain. Because it’s so simple every child gets it—and here’s the passage what Walt quotes:

I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

The idea expressed here is rooted in…

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