November 23, 2003

Walter Duranty's Pulitzer

Thanks to MCJ for an article confirming what I knew months ago, that the Pulitzer Prize committee will not revoke Duranty's prize due his lies over the 1932 govt. caused famine in Ukraine. In their statement, the committee makes it clear that it feels that it is unfair to judge someone's 1931 work by their actions in 1932.

This reasoning is disingenuous and historically obtuse. The gulag was chewing up lives long before 1932. 1932 was just a particular grievance concentrated in a particular region. Duranty, as a newspaperman, should have known this by keeping up on current events from 1917-1921. He started working the Soviet beat in 1922. This means that he had 8 years to figure out what was going on Stalin's extensive gulag system before he wrote the first of his Pulitzer winning articles.

So we are left with two alternatives. Either Duranty knew and lied in 1931, giving an indication that Stalin could go full throttle on killings without concern that the NY Times would expose the horror or the premier NY Times reporter in Moscow was completely hoodwinked for 9 years and his Soviet press release fantasies are just the work of somebody too incompetent to get the story right.

Both of these alternatives call for a revocation of Duranty's Pulitzer. Both scenarios provide an assurance that further, more exaggerated repression would continue to be whitewashed in the influential NY Times (as it was). But because the specific charge against Duranty could be reasonably rebuffed the Pulitzer board did nothing. After all, OJ didn't lose his Heisman trophy after the civil jury found him culpable in the death of his former wife.

Posted by TMLutas at November 23, 2003 04:27 PM