Monday, August 24, 2015

History of journalism: Historicist on Frederick Griffin's Soviet Union tour

Many of the historically-inclined blogs I look through are more or less on hiatus. It's August. Who can blame them?

But the blog of Toronto history, Historicist (at the news site Torontoist) keeps up its unrelenting weekly schedule. Every Saturday Historicist presents a new piece of Toronto-related history, always lengthy and original, copiously researched, well-annotated, skillfully illustrated, usually by Kevin Plummer, Jamie Bradburn or David Wencer.

This week's was (as often) new to me: It's Plummer on a Toronto Star reporter, Frederick Griffin, and the stories Griffin delivered to the paper during a long tour of the Soviet Union in 1932. There have been a number of hostile exposes about western reporters who were duped or worse by Stalin's Russia.  Plummer keeps his balance, noting what Griffin criticized (or could not see) as well as what he admired. He quotes Griffin saying, “Weigh the terrors of the dictatorship of Stalin [...]against the terrors of czarism and they won’t even begin to tip the pressed down scales.” but he also has Griffin noting evidence of coercion and regimentation, and finally declaring:
My views don’t matter; your views don’t matter. Your views or my views will not change the facts of Soviet Russia one iota or alter the course of the Communists there by a hair’s breadth. Your fear or my fear, your hatred or my hatred, should not blind us to the facts. I have sought to speak not as a visionary or a theorist, but as a dealer in facts. What is happening over there in Russia is not fable, but history.
Nice work, Historicist.
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