No Comment — September 15, 2007, 11:59 am

The ‘B’ham News’ Revs Up the Slime Machine

A No Comment reader who works at the Birmingham News tells us that a certain editor and writer at the illustrious Pravda of the South are royally pissed off at Representative Artur Davis. It seems that Davis’s questions and press releases on the Siegelman case are making a decisive difference in pushing the matter forward. And the reputation of the News, which has played a key role in the anti-Siegelman campaign by giving press cover to the cabal and by disseminating and lending unwarranted credibility to claims of the prosecutors who front for it, is on the line. So what’s the answer? According to my source, the word went out: Slime Artur Davis. If you can’t hit him personally, at least slime some senior aide who works for him. Do it quickly.

I am told that the News will use one of its marquee writers for this, probably one who has been deep in the anti-Siegelman vendetta. Also, the News has been busily poring over the list of Davis’s staffers, family, and other associates to find someone it can land a blow against, hopefully in time for the Sunday edition.

The message that the News wants to deliver is simple: Davis, you’ll shut up if you know what’s good for you. The right adjective for this conduct: thuggish. By a newspaper, moreover. Note: they won’t lift a finger to look into any of the Simpson allegations—all they do is shovel lies attempting to discredit Simpson. And, it seems, anyone else who raises questions about the matter.

It brought back some old memories. Back in the late Soviet period, I worked for Andrei Sakharov and his wife, Elena Bonner, helping out whenever I could, and mostly keeping anxious track of their welfare in a harsh and threatening environment. I remember that when the authorities were angry at Sakharov, they had a number of tools they could use for a sort of graduated response. And one of their favorite tools was to have the media launch an attack—sometimes on Sakharov directly.

But there was a problem with that. After all, Sakharov was a sacrosanct figure, a hero. They didn’t want to publicize the fact that he was critical of them. So it was much easier to take target at someone close to Sakharov. And the favorite target was his wife, Elena Bonner—perhaps the bravest and most determined human rights advocate I ever had the privilege to work with.

One of the most striking incidents related to Efim Davidovich, a Holocaust survivor and then Red Army colonel who sought and was denied permission to emigrate to Israel, and thus became a refusenik. Davidovich played a key role in documenting and publicizing events of shocking anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union, including one particular incident—the murder of a 14-year-old boy by a group of teenagers whipped into an anti-Semitic rage. But in the view of the justice authorities, there was no anti-Semitism, and the shocking circumstances of the case were therefore officially suppressed.

Davidovich returned his medals as an act of protest over the failure to examine and prosecute this case. And Sakharov and Bonner met with Col. Davidovich to discuss how to advance his case.

In response, and as a caution to get Sakharov to shut up, Pravda published an attack on Elena Bonner, decrying her “anti-Soviet behavior.” She was complaining about the fairness of Soviet justice; she was suggesting that there was anti-Semitism; therefore she was disloyal to the state and deserved to be scapegoated. Sakharov describes this episode in pages 443-45 of his Memoirs.

History, alas, so often repeats itself. In essence what Bonner and Sakharov had done was expose a gross injustice and demand that it be fixed. And that is exactly what Artur Davis has done. But for those who cower in the shadows and who thrive off of this injustice, that was a threatening act. It warranted a reply blow. So tomorrow let us scrutinize the News closely and listen for the echoes of Pravda.

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