I faithfully read the New York Review of Books as a prime source of hilarious writing and self-parody. Sometimes though, the absurdities reach such a height as to demand comment.
Recently, a Gail Collins rant in NYRB described “How Texas Inflicts Bad Textbooks on Us,” claiming that the economic power of that state’s educational system forced publishers to kowtow to the allegedly primitive and superstitious standards prevailing in that benighted region. The article is wholly predictable, but one passage did bring me up short. Complaining about the far-right mythologies that supposedly permeate the Texas Board of Education, Collins laments that,
If the students were going to study the McCarthy anti-Communist witch hunt of the 1950s, they were also going to contemplate “how the later release of the VENONA papers confirmed suspicions of Communist infiltration in US government.”
From the context, Collins means the board’s statement to be read as self-evidently absurd, and herein lies the problem. Not only are the Texas standards precisely correct in their demands in this particular matter, but it is incredible that the NYRB would cite this criterion as an ultraright perversion of sober history. If you do not know about VENONA, you have no right whatever to comment on the anticommunist...