JOE ALSOP'S COLD WAR by Edwin M. Yoder


A Study of Journalistic Influence and Intrigue
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 Though disconnected, an interesting defense of the 1950s work of columnists Joe and Stewart Alsop. Syndicated columnist Yoder (The Night of the Old South Ball, not reviewed) aims to analyze a potential paradox: Did the influential Alsops' militant anticommunism in foreign policy contradict their ``gallant defense of political civility and civil liberties at home... Were they fighting a fire that they themselves had helped to set?'' To answer, the author mixes biography and history. He first notes that Joe Alsop claimed to have invented the ``domino theory'' and describes how Alsop, unlike some latter-day pundits, believed that not only should a column include new information, but it should also be based on firsthand reporting. Then Yoder steps back to describe the brothers, who grew up as Connecticut Valley gentry, relatives of the Roosevelts: Joe was argumentative, foppish, doomsaying, eccentric; Stewart, four years younger, was far more mundane. Then Yoder covers several controversies, such as the question of ``who lost China.'' Yankee progressives with impeccable anticommunist pedigrees, the Alsops emerged as ``relentless critics'' of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, favoring instead a blue-ribbon panel to probe internal security questions. Yoder also recounts how Joe Alsop deconstructed the spurious claims of Louis Budenz, a former Communist functionary who claimed before Congress that two China experts were Communist dupes. After dealing with the Alsops' defense of the improperly accused J. Robert Oppenheimer, Yoder tells of the growing tensions in the brothers' partnership (which ended in 1958) and of the Soviet Union's attempt to blackmail the homosexual Joe. Then he defends Joe Alsop's 1961 columns on the ``missile gap,'' suggesting they were more sober than others thought. The author's conclusion: The Alsops' views were no paradox, but mostly complementary. He adds an appendix with three columns, plus a useful bibliographic essay. Useful mainly to journalists and history buffs. (First serial to Civilization)

Pub Date: March 31st, 1995
ISBN: 0-8078-2190-X
Page count: 300pp
Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995


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