The Question of Dissidence (2)
To be read in conjunction with
the Chronology of the Debate.
Anti-revisionism versus the "dissident" conception
With the exception of Laurel Fay's 1980 essay in The Russian Review (querying the integrity of Testimony and Solomon Volkov), very little was written about Shostakovich from the "anti-revisionist" side during the ten years after the publication of Testimony in 1979. (The term "anti-revisionist" was not coined until 1994.) The first substantial anti-revisionist statement bearing on the question of dissidence was made by the American scholar Richard Taruskin, a musicologist at Berkeley. An expert on 19th century Russian music, Taruskin is the author of acclaimed book-length studies of Mussorgsky and of Stravinsky's Russian period, along with two collections of essays, Text and Act (1995) and Defining Russia Musically (1997). In 1989, his special knowledge of Russian opera and disapproval of Tony Palmer's film of Testimony (1987) combined to form the basis of his first venture into Shostakovich studies, an essay on Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk entitled "The Opera and the Dictator: the peculiar martyrdom of Dmitri Shostakovich", published in New Republic (2nd March).
Referring his readers to Laurel Fay's 1980 challenge to the authenticity of Testimony, Taruskin contrasted the "maudlin sanctimony" of Palmer's film with his own interpretation of Lady Macbeth as a work deliberately aligning itself with the class-warfare ideology invoked in Stalin's attack on so-called "rich peasants" (kulaki) during the rural collectivisation of 1930-1. Explicitly describing Lady Macbeth as a "defense of the lawless extermination of the kulaks", Taruskin analysed Shostakovich's opera as the product of "a hideous moral inversion", accusing its author of "dehumanizing" most of his characters: "Its chilling treatment of the victims amounts to a justification of genocide [emphasis added]." Such a "profoundly inhumane work of art", urged Taruskin, "should be seen and heard with an awareness of history, with open eyes and ears, and with hearts on guard" (a view echoed on 25th August 1996 when he attacked Valery Gergiev in The New York Times for mounting a concert revival of Prokofiev's Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution).
Taruskin's extremely serious charge -- that Shostakovich sought to ingratiate himself with the Soviet authorities, if not Stalin personally, by penning an operatic apologia for genocide in the Ukraine -- is founded on his assumption that, during the early 1930s, the young composer was "perhaps Soviet Russia's most loyal musical son". The word "perhaps" is merely an academic convention. For Shostakovich to have publicly applauded the destruction of several million peasants would have required a level of loyalty to the Soviet regime far in excess of that of many of the apparatchiki who actually administered Stalin's policy in the Ukraine (and were profoundly stricken by what they witnessed). "It could," Taruskin conceded, "be argued that the work's martyrdom [in 1936] humanized its creator." His own view, however, remained cynical: "That this unhappy man [Shostakovich] nevertheless continued to function as an artist and a citizen has lent his career a heroic luster... a[n heroic] light made garish by Volkov, Palmer, and others." Indeed, Taruskin made it clear that he viewed Shostakovich in anything but heroic terms: "A great deal of evidence suggests that in his later years Shostakovich became desperately obsessed with his historical image, and with the theme of self-justification. For he did have a history of collaboration to live down [emphasis added]." (The "great deal of evidence" to which Taruskin refers has never since been specified by him.)
Did the Soviets know that Shostakovich was a dissident?
With his "genocide" theory of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk -- and its accompanying accusations that Shostakovich had not only been no hero but "perhaps" also "Soviet Russia's most loyal musical son" with "a history of collaboration to live down" -- Richard Taruskin threw down a gauntlet to what, within a year of his article appearing, began to take shape as the revisionist position on Shostakovich. Returning to the fray three years later in 1992, he dismissed Ian MacDonald's The New Shostakovich as "a counter-caricature of Shostakovich, asserted in the teeth of the old official view (itself a transparent political fabrication and long recognised as such) that cast the composer as an unwavering apostle of Soviet patriotism and established ideology. Instead, we are now bade to believe, he was an unremitting subversive who used his music as a means of Aesopian truth-telling in a society built on falsehood[...] The new view is as simpleminded and unrealistically one-dimensional as the old. The very ease with which the author proves his case undoes it; for if any fool can see 'the new Shostakovich' for what he was, then any informer or commissar might as easily have caught him out in the evil days of yore."
As a specialist in 19th century Russian music and culture, Taruskin cannot fairly be expected to have read widely in the enormous historical literature on the Soviet period. Even so, his assumption that, in order to have endured through most of his life, Shostakovich's dissident outlook would have to have remained unknown to Soviet officialdom is, in his own phrase, "simpleminded and unrealistically one-dimensional". On the contrary, there can be no doubt whatever that Soviet officialdom knew exactly what it was dealing with in Shostakovich, as it did with many other great artists of similar outlook who were allowed to continue living and even produce work which occasionally went before the Soviet public.
"Do not touch this cloud-dweller," wrote Stalin, famously, on an NKVD report about Pasternak which confirmed what the dictator knew from conversation with the poet (as if he needed to verify as much by speaking to him) -- i.e., that Pasternak belonged to the culture of dissidence. There are various standard speculations as to why Stalin allowed major figures like Pasternak, Akhmatova, Bulgakov, Zamyatin, Zoshchenko, Shostakovich, and many others to live, despite the fact that their views were transparently in contradiction with those of the regime. The simplest answer is: precisely because they were major figures who could not be "liquidated" without causing foreign uproar of the kind the Soviet regime is known to have been particularly sensitive about. Only major figures who effectively challenged the regime (Meyerhold), knew too much about the inner workings of the terror apparatus (Isaak Babel), or directly insulted Stalin (Osip Mandelstam) were definitively eliminated (killed). In the case of Shostakovich, Stalin had other reasons to relent: the young composer had great propaganda value if handled adroitly (the usual mix of menace and reward), as well as being one of the USSR's most apt composers for the key medium of film.
If Shostakovich's secret dissidence had not been an issue for the apparat, he would not have been publicly censured twice, along with composers of similar views, in 1936 and 1948 -- nor forced, after the second occasion, to toe the line so tightly that, for five years, almost no work of a personally authentic kind was countenanced from him. Beginning with the Cultural Revolution (1928-32) and continuing until the Thirteenth Symphony (1962), the Soviet cultural apparat had Shostakovich marked down as an obvious "problem" which, from time to time, it devoted special attention to solving, even if temporarily. That Shostakovich was viewed as a prominent figure within the dissident culture is obvious from the fact that the Stalinist campaign against "formalism" (i.e., the Leningrad intelligentsia), which proceeded throughout 1936, was initiated by two attacks on the composer in Pravda (see The Case for Dissidence Part 2).
While the secret police files on Shostakovich have not yet come to light, it was standard in the USSR that all major figures in the dissident culture were surrounded by informers and provocateurs, not to mentioned bugged and spied on. Shostakovich's dissidence was secret not in being hidden from the Soviet apparat but in being, perforce, undeclared as such to the Soviet public. The composer's attitude was nonetheless well established among those in the know, both in the apparat and the musical "culture of dissidence", as illustrated, for example, by anecdotes in Rostislav Dubinsky's Stormy Applause, and by the fact that Richard Taruskin and Laurel Fay both heard many stories circulating in Russian music circles during the 1970s which were subsequently preserved in Testimony. (Fay: "Testimony does reflect the kinds of stories and anecdotes that were floating around the musical community in Russia." -- The Guardian, 7th January 2000; Taruskin: "Many of the stories in Testimony circulated in oral tradition long before Volkov published them. I heard many of them myself as an exchange student in Moscow in 1971-72. I believed many of them at the time, and I still do." -- Commentary, November 1999.)
In short, the idea that Shostakovich could not have been a dissident before 1956 because, if he had been, he would have been identified as such and purged, is extremely naive.
The concept of "secret dissidence"
Not all anti-revisionists entirely reject the proposition that Shostakovich was a secret dissident, even if the admission of such a possibility is never conceded without the harshest reservations. For example, Malcolm H. Brown, attacking MacDonald's The New Shostakovich in Notes in March 1993, wrote: "As more of Shostakovich's contemporaries speak out and as reliable documentary information becomes available, the 'real' Shostakovich is likely to emerge as both a sometime closet dissident and a sometime collaborator." Brown's hope that Shostakovich's contemporaries would, as time went by, confirm him as "a sometime collaborator" has, thus far, been unfulfilled. On the contrary, the overwhelming trend of testimony from Shostakovich's contemporaries continues to be that he was, in Brown's phrase, "a closet dissident". Brown's charge of "collaboration" -- echoing Taruskin's accusation of 1989 -- has never been further elaborated by its author, despite requests to do so. (For a discussion of the concept of "collaboration" in the USSR see Witnesses for the Defence.)
Malcolm H. Brown's concession that Shostakovich was a "closet dissident" -- even if only now and then or perhaps once for a limited time (owing to Brown's disinclination to amplify, the word "sometime" remains opaque) -- was curtly repudiated by Richard Taruskin in his essay on the reception of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony in David Fanning's symposium Shostakovich Studies in 1995:
If we claim to find defiant ridicule in the Fifth Symphony, we necessarily adjudge its composer, at this point in his career, to have been a "dissident". That characterization has got to be rejected as a self-gratifying anachronism. There were no dissidents in Stalin's Russia. There were old opponents, to be sure, but by late 1937 they were all dead or behind bars. There were the forlorn and malcontented, but they were silent. Public dissent or even principled criticism were simply unknown... Dissidence resulted from the loosening of controls, not the other way around. It began very mildly, under Khrushchev... It is natural that latter-day dissidents would like [Shostakovich] for an ancestor. It is also understandable, should it ever turn out that Shostakovich was the author of Testimony, that he, who though mercilessly threatened never suffered a dissident's trials, should have wished, late in life, to portray himself in another light. The self-loathing of the formerly silent and the formerly deluded has long been a salient feature of Soviet intellectual life. ["Public Lies and Unspeakable Truth: interpreting Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony", op. cit., pp. 46-7.]
Taruskin here proposes three definitions of dissidence: (1) as an expression of "defiant ridicule"; (2) as an expression of public dissent or principled criticism; (3) as a phenomenon which began under Khrushchev. We have seen that the phenomenon of dissidence, although labeled as such only after 1956, was a continuous feature of intelligentsia life throughout the history of the Soviet Union. The special distinguishing feature of dissidence in the 1960s and 1970s was that it was a verbally explicit public activity: open confronting of state power. As such, as Taruskin correctly states, such "paradigmatic dissidence" would have been impossible under earlier Soviet dispensations; indeed, the dissidents of the 1960s and 1970s were severely persecuted for their bravery in standing up to, in Vladimir Bukovsky's words, "this regime of utter scum" (To Build A Castle, p. 342). Most of them went to prison or the Gulag for many years. Some were tortured or strait-jacketed in mental asylums, their minds assaulted by powerful hallucinatory drugs. By 1980, the dissident movement in the USSR had been destroyed by the KGB. The heroic struggle of these hugely courageous men and women was, as Bukovsky claims, "a desperate war... against the most monstrous machinery of oppression in the entire world" -- a war few in any society would be brave enough to wage. In other words, even under the rules of Khrushchev and Brezhnev, dissent in the USSR was a perilous calling.
When Richard Taruskin writes ("Who Was Shostakovich?", The Atlantic Monthly, February 1995) that "in the failing Soviet Union [Shostakovich] was cast as a 'dissident' of a sort that simply did not exist during the better (or, rather, the worse) part of his lifetime", he is -- aside from disputing the testimony of several dozen Russian intellectuals who lived in the Soviet Union through the period under discussion -- logically conceding the possibility that there were other "sorts" of Soviet dissident alive, if not well, during the part of Shostakovich's lifetime which preceded Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin in 1956. Indeed, there were -- and very many of them. These were what Nadezhda Mandelstam called "the secret intelligentsia": those who retained a dissenting cast of mind from the accession of Lenin onwards. People of this outlook were not public (or, at least, verbally explicit) in expressing their dissidence. Between 1928 and 1953/6, paradigmatic dissidence did not exist for the simple reason that such a phenomenon would have been strangled at birth. What instead existed during that time was what Solomon Volkov calls "hidden dissidence", what Ian MacDonald refers to as "secret dissidence", and what the musicologist Joachim Braun has described, with reference to From Jewish Folk Poetry, as "concealed dissidence" -- a phenomenon encompassing "a 'secret language' of dissent" or "hidden language of resistance" (known to Russians as "Aesopian" language in homage to the subversive doubletalk concealed in Aesop's fables).
Not that such secretly (as opposed to publicly explicit) dissident language has ever been confined in time or place, whether to ancient Greece or modern Russia. Discussing the phenomenon with reference to the Iranian word ketman, Czeslaw Milosz identifies it as a form of Sufi doubletalk traditionally used by secret freethinkers in Islamic countries. Another critic (himself Iranian) employs the Arabic word tashbih, referring to it as a means, oblique and often involving recognised code, of expressing dissent under the restraints of Asian autocracies. Ketman and tashbih, while not quite identical, drink at the same spring. In Russia, there is a similar overlap between the Aesopian language of secret dissidence and the more stylised practice of yurodstvo (conventionally involving the pretence of an unbalanced mind). Nor, need it be said, is such doubletalk restricted to authoritarian cultures, though the device is ideally suited to such purposes, as Terry Teachout has pointed out (Commentary, 1995):
The concept of "secret dissidence" did not suddenly enter the annals of 20th-century music with the publication of Volkov's Testimony. It was the stock-in-trade of innumerable European musicians accused of collaboration with the Nazis. The wartime records of such otherwise distinguished artists as Richard Strauss, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Willem Mengelberg, and Alfred Cortot continue to raise hackles in musical circles, with defenders of these men typically claiming that they privately opposed Hitler and did what they could to help Jewish friends and colleagues escape the Holocaust. Unlike the musicians of the Third Reich, Shostakovich was never in a position to flee his captors.
Teachout's comparison between secret dissidence in Stalin's USSR and Hitler's Germany is essentially valid, even if the German resistance to Nazism was, by and large, a phenomenon of individual conscience complicated by questions of German nationalism. By contrast, the dissidence of the Russian intelligentsia during the Red Terror, NEP, and Stalin's dictatorship was both pervasive and fundamental. Aside from some doctrinaire survivors of the Proletkult/RAPM, it is difficult to nominate with any certainty Soviet composers or musicians who did not, behind a mask of conformism or a Party card, distance themselves from the regime in ways varying from reflexive distaste to frank contempt. Among musicians, Leonid Kogan was sufficiently unusual in his sincere orthodoxy to be ironically described by Shostakovich (letter to Isaak Glikman, 30th April 1960) as "the violinist-communist". More representative in this respect were dissidents like Mariya Yudina, Vladimir Sofronitsky, Sviatoslav Richter, David Oistrakh, Mstislav Rostropovich, Galina Vishnevskaya, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Valery Afanassiev, and Andrei Gavrilov. By comparison, Entartetemusik under Nazism, although similar in its moral thrust, was relatively circumscribed.
In 1940, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was obliged to give the Nazi salute to conceal the fact that he was a member of the German resistance. This gesture parallels the public obeisance obligatory for Soviet dissidents, such as the strict requirement for composers under Stalin to finish works in "optimistic" major keys. Elsewhere, the German resistance to Nazism matched the extent of Soviet dissidence only in the young people (the "Edelweiss Pirates") who opposed the Hitler Youth or rebelled against Nazi cultural dictatorship by living the "decadent" life and listening to jazz (the so-called Swing Youth). Similar youth resistance permeated Russian universities during NEP and represented a major target of the "proletarian"-led Cultural Revolution (see Brovkin, Russia After Lenin: Politics, Culture & Society, pp. 108-133). It is worth recalling that Shostakovich himself was only 22 when the Cultural Revolution started.
Dissident or intelligent?
Having dismissed the idea that Shostakovich was not a dissident because he did not speak plainly in public in the style of the paradigmatic dissidents of the 1960s and 1970s (a charge which might equally be leveled against the classic "secret dissident" Nadezhda Mandelstam), Richard Taruskin goes on to propose a model to counter what he sees as an invidious and phantasmagorical conception:
The mature Shostakovich was not a dissident... The mature Shostakovich was an intelligent (pronounced, Russian-style, with hard "g"). He was heir to a noble tradition of artistic and social thought -- one that abhorred injustice and political repression, but also one that valued social commitment, participation in one's community, and solidarity with people. Shostakovich's mature idea of art, in contrast to the egoistic traditions of Western modernism, was based not on alienation but on service. He found a way of maintaining public service and personal integrity under unimaginably hard conditions. In this way he remained, in the time-honored Russian, if not exactly the Soviet sense of the word, a "civic" artist. ["Who Was Shostakovich?", The Atlantic Monthly, February 1975. This article is recycled as part of the chapter "Shostakovich and the Inhuman: Shostakovich and Us" in Defining Russia Musically  -- specifically, p. 496.]
Coming from a specialist in 19th century Russian culture, Taruskin's proposed definition of the Russian intelligent betrays a surprising lack of awareness of social and political affairs. Coined in the 1850s, the word intelligentsiya did not mean what it later came to mean in its English borrowing. Rather than signifying the educated or intellectual classes per se, it stood instead for the self-styled politically enlightened: those whose essentially revolutionary analysis of Tsarist society proved them to be "intelligent" (as distinct from the "dark people" of inferior understanding or social vested interest). To be an intelligent during the late 19th century meant to be endowed with a special consciousness, to be a new kind of man or woman who, self-taught in radicalism and revolutionary literature, understood "the situation" and was prepared to be "active" in order to change it. The 19th century intelligent, quite to the contrary of Richard Taruskin's concept, was a subversive who schemed to bring down the existing social structure and replace it with a new type of society (of a sort defined by whichever radical sect a given intelligent belonged to).
Born of reforms in the Tsarist education system, the Russian intelligentsiya, as classically defined, was nonetheless more a state of mind than a class, its ranks embracing many who, compared to the country's academic, administrative, and "technical" sectors, were at best semi-educated. During the later decades of the 19th century, the revolutionary acts of the "intelligentsia" were often extreme enough to alienate conventionally educated Russians. Only after 1905 did widespread disgust with Tsarism, allied with a new bourgeois dread of an uprising of the unruly masses, begin to break down the distinction between the two broad sorts of Russian intellectual. While almost every educated person in the country outside monarchist circles shared the longing for freedom, former intelligent supporters of revolutionary activists and terrorists backpedaled into the intellectual mainstream, recoiling from direct violence to a vaguer idealism. Meanwhile, hardcore revolutionaries -- the original intelligenty -- remained a discrete extremist component of what, by 1917, had developed into an expanded "intelligentsia". At this point, the word's original definition dissolved. Seizing power, Lenin brought the tiny "Bolshevik intelligentsia" to centre stage, simultaneously moving to eliminate his rivals among the former classic intelligenty (e.g., the Mensheviks, the Socialist Revolutionaries, the Anarchists, the Popular Socialists) and to intimidate the mainstream educated circles: the academic, administrative, and "technical" sectors, not to mention most of Russia's artistic community. These, initially classified by Lenin as the "bourgeois intelligentsia" (or "rotten intelligentsia"), soon became known simply as the intelligentsia, completing a 180-degree turn in popular usage.
Shostakovich's family, which was from the "technical" (scientific/engineering) sector, included a classic intelligent in the form of his aunt's husband Maxim Kostrykin, a Bolshevik activist. Apart from that, the Shostakovich family was relatively conservative in its mainstream intelligentsia democratism -- the sort of people Lenin contemptuously referred to as "close to the Kadets" (the Constitutional Democratic Party, founded in 1905). Significantly, in a letter written to his Aunt Nazdezhda in April 1918, Shostakovich lists among recent works a funeral march for Kadet leaders Shingarev and Kokoshkin, then recently murdered by Bolsheviks in Petrograd (see The Case for Dissidence Part 1). When Shostakovich's father came home after the February 1917 revolution shouting "Children, freedom!", he did so as a member of the comparatively new "expanded intelligentsia" rather than as a revolutionary intelligent. As for the "civic" intelligenty described by Richard Taruskin, they never existed, being, by the original definition, a contradiction in terms. The civic-minded bourgeois of the 19th century, to whom Taruskin appears to refer, did not become members of the intelligenty until the definition changed. By then, their civic-mindedness had been radicalised into scepticism, forming a variegated constituency which, while sizable (80% of the educated populace, in Solzhenitsyn's estimate), was united only by a desire for democracy thwarted by Lenin's coup. The redefined intelligentsia of 1917-1928 resisted Bolshevik totalitarianism from the start.
So consistently did this reformulated intelligentsia resist the imposition of the new Soviet dictatorship (see Brovkin, op. cit.) that, by 1928, Stalin had to consolidate the 1917 coup by means of a massive disciplinary crackdown on Russia's non-Party educated sectors: the so-called Cultural Revolution (1928-32). Shostakovich -- who, as a young man, cleaved decisively to the non-Party intelligentsia, worshipped Dostoyevsky's The Devils, set the texts of Gogol and Leskov, and preferred the free outlook of writers like Zamyatin, Bulgakov, Ehrenburg, and the Leningrad Oberiuty -- was himself a conspicuous victim of the Cultural Revolution (see The Case for Dissidence Part 2). In other words, Richard Taruskin's claim that Shostakovich was a "civic" intelligent with a viewpoint "based not on alienation but on service" is both conceptually awry and contradicted by the evidential record. Like the majority of the redefined intelligentsia after 1917, Shostakovich resisted the Soviet dictatorship. He "served" the Soviet state, as Elizabeth Wilson makes clear, only when he could not avoid doing so. Any other interpretation is irreconcilable with the facts established in Shostakovich: A Life Remembered and similar "witness" sources.
Anti-revisionism as anti-contextualism
As will be understood from the accompanying pages presented as The Case for Dissidence, the evidence for considering Shostakovich to have belonged to the Soviet culture of dissidence is sufficiently strong to call seriously into question the anti-revisionist refusal to consider it. There is only one sequence of the composer's life in which the record remains ambiguous enough to warrant a degree of legitimate disagreement: 1927-1934 -- the era of the Cultural Revolution and the initial period of the so-called "second NEP", during which Shostakovich's biography and the existing "witness" sources are, at present, insufficiently detailed to allow a completely dependable picture. Having said this, there is already enough background data to reconstruct the context for Shostakovich's otherwise somewhat opaque manoeuverings during the Cultural Revolution (MacDonald, The New Shostakovich, pp. 32-78), while recent documentary research (Brovkin, op. cit.) confirms that this period, crucial to our understanding of the development of the post-1917 intelligentsia, must be considered fundamentally formative for the composer's later life and career.
Ian MacDonald's assertion  of the importance of the Cultural Revolution for Shostakovich was concurred with by Elizabeth Wilson during a discussion at Bantry House, West Cork, in April 2000 (where she also spoke of Shostakovich's music of the late 1920s as a parallel to the dissident satirical literature of Zamyatin, Bulgakov, and Zoshchenko). A similar opinion was expressed by Moscow musicologist Inna Barsova at the Michigan University conference in January 1994, where she argued that Shostakovich became creatively alienated from the Soviet regime during the late 1920s. Aside from a brief sketch of the Cultural Revolution in Richard Taruskin's polemical essay on the reception of the Fifth Symphony (in Fanning, Shostakovich Studies ) and a passing allusion in Laurel Fay's Shostakovich: A Life, anti-revisionism has barely mentioned this era of radical disruption, let alone addressed it, instead focusing entirely on Shostakovich's significantly variable music of this period at the expense of the highly charged background which arguably elucidates its contradictions.
This lack of attention to context is the hallmark of anti-revisionism. (Fay's biography contains almost no contextual references at all.) Since it is by contextual investigation that we come to a closer understanding of an artist's work -- and since, as Taruskin's solecism concerning the intelligenty shows, the importance of contextual understanding is paramount in this subject area -- it is extraordinary that, twenty years after Testimony, leading academic specialists in the study of Soviet music should still wish to play down the role of context in arriving at an understanding of Shostakovich's music. Such is the consistency of this drive to play down context -- more or less ignoring material of the sort adduced in the attached Case for Dissidence; attempting to suggest that no statements emanating from the former USSR can be trusted; screening [Fay, op. cit., p. 3] "witness" testimony as (for unstated reasons) unreliable -- that it becomes fair to call it a form of psychological denial: an adoption of the "blind eye" to a mass of evidence which normal scholarship would take account of and at least critique. No such critique occurs in Fay's biography, while Richard Taruskin is content, without confronting any of the evidence, to describe the dissident conception of Shostakovich as a "childish fantasy" irresponsibly promulgated by a "cult" (The New York Times, 5th March 2000; cf. Tamara Bernstein's allegations of "fanatical hysteria" surrounding the "Shostakovich-as-dissident cult", National Post, 15th March 2000). Such ab initio denial, an unusual phenomenon in academia, deserves closer examination.