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Damn Those Lying Historians

Of all the things I've taken unjustified shit for over the past week, none has generated more criticism than my suggestion that Arnold was misrepresenting his Iron Curtain upbringing. Today, via Atrios I see that Austrian historians think Arnold was misrepresenting his Iron Curtain upbringing. A lot of the bitchy emails and blog posts about this have made much of the idea that I'm too young to remember the Soviet Union. Not so, really, the USSR's collapse is probably the first big news event I recall. More to the point, though, I spent the summer of 1997 traveling around Central Europe and (particularly at that time, I'm told that this is less true today) the contrast between Austria and actual ex-communist countries like the Czech Republic was stark and immediately evident.

UPDATE: Tim Noah's on the case. I agree with him that the real outrage here is less a misbegotten anecdote about Soviet tanks than the implication that Austria's postwar social democracy was an imposition of the Soviet occupation.

September 3, 2004 | Permalink


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Ah, but you see, these are probably Socialist historians and those are Socialist facts, and thus not to be trusted. Just listen to the words of Nixon and Bush, and you don't need to know anything else.

Posted by: Mac Thomason | Sep 3, 2004 3:49:07 PM

One reason that young Arnold might have been terrified that the Soviets would find his father and send him to Siberia: Gustav Schwarzenegger was a fucking NAZI!


Posted by: Bart | Sep 3, 2004 3:51:06 PM

Matthew -

It would mean more if you had done your trip, like I did, in 1977 and not in 1997. The failure of the soviet system was even more apparent: you have only seen the patient in remission, not during its worst bout of sickness...


Posted by: John F. Opie | Sep 3, 2004 3:57:35 PM

Austria: Old Europe?

Posted by: dave | Sep 3, 2004 3:58:42 PM


don't take the 'remember the Soviet Union' bit literally. You bring up 1997 ... back in the day there was THE SOVIET UNION.


The Bad Guys.

The guy that Ruland Gardner wrestled in Sydney, only there were hundreds of dozens of him lined up ready to invade anywhere in the world if the USA were not vigilante.

You know the Soviet Union?

No, Matt, you've heard of it.

Now go watch 'Red Dawn' a couple of times.

Posted by: MYGoodness | Sep 3, 2004 3:58:55 PM

It was really quite a dumb hit-piece on Arnie.

The piece has two points:

1. The town that Arnie grew up in was not in the Soviet zone. Straw man! Arnie never said they were. He said that he saw tanks in the streets. Why is that so implauible - they were in the same country, fercrissakes. Sheesh, CNN is arguing that I can't have seen something in New Jersey because I live in New York. Is CNN even aware that people might sometimes, you know, travel from town to town? Duh.

2. Arnie said he grew up in a "socialist" country, but the ruling parties while he lived there were either coalitions or conservative. Um, maybe he wasn't talking about the ruling parties, you know? Maybe he was talking about the style of government? (And, CNN, hello - "socialist" =/= "communist".) If a conservative government came to power in Sweden, it would be wrong to call the Swedish style of government "socialist"?

This is just a really, really weak piece.

Posted by: Al | Sep 3, 2004 3:59:58 PM

One thing that Arnold also conveniently forgot is his father's role as a member of the Nazi Party. Now, of course Arnold cannot be blamed for his father's political beliefs. But, the Russians suffered horrendously during the war. I'm surprised they didn't overun all of Austria. (I'm no fan of communism, but armies are made up of individuals, after all. And the losses Russians suffered at the hands of the Nazis were mindnumbing.) Austria never had to shoulder as much of the blame for Nazism and WW2 as Germany did. Therefore, the next generation is far less ashamed of its past, far less contritie for its role, than it has a right to be.

Posted by: lansing | Sep 3, 2004 3:59:59 PM

The CNN link isn't any less misleading than Arnold may have been. The conservative Austian People's Party is a Christian Socialist party and the economic system in Austria is commonly termed 'corporatist', which can be classified as a form of socialism. Now, one might argue that lumping Soviet socialism and corporatist christian socialism is really misleading, but one ought to make this point to illustrate what Arnold is doing. Both groups called themselves socialists, and Arnold is using that language.

Posted by: stefan | Sep 3, 2004 4:00:14 PM

It does seem as if Bush supporters get their history from watching 'Red Dawn'.

Posted by: theCoach | Sep 3, 2004 4:02:34 PM

You didn't merely say he "misrepresented his Iron Curtain upbringing". You said this:

Arnold's speech implies that he grew up in a Communist bloc country

This was false, and stupid if you sincerely believed it, which I don't think you did.

The historians of the CNN story seem not to grasp that it was physically possible for Arnold to have exited his home province. Nor do they seem to grasp that there is a difference between socialist (small s) and Socialist (as in, the party) - which is truly odd. Surely you agree that that's wrong, Matthew?

Posted by: Blixa | Sep 3, 2004 4:05:30 PM

Yes, those Austrian historians have absolutely no idea what they're talking about. They should consult with Patrick Swayze and Tommy Howe to find out the real deal!

Posted by: chilly | Sep 3, 2004 4:08:17 PM

New Time poll: Bush up 52-41 among likely voters.


Posted by: Abadaba | Sep 3, 2004 4:09:19 PM


Blog less. Don't get caught up in pissing matches with the anonymous hordes (like me) in the comments thread.

If you posted once or twice a day you could stick to substantive issues. It would also give you time to shore up your research so you wouldn't have to go through this kind of back and forth.

Posted by: JR | Sep 3, 2004 4:09:58 PM

Hi -

Just read the CNN bit, and it's apparent that the historians in question haven't read Schwarzenegger's speech with any degree of comprehension.

And Matthew: you're not taking unjustified shit on this. It's justified. Get back to actually reading and parsing what's written and you'll be back to form in no time. :-)


Posted by: John F. Opie | Sep 3, 2004 4:12:33 PM

New Time poll: Bush up 52-41 among likely voters.

Panic, panic, panic!

That's a 9-point bounce in Zogby, and an 11-point bounce in Time.

Posted by: Al | Sep 3, 2004 4:16:51 PM

I relinquish all earlier claims to authority over Matt's comments lines. Matt is an open-minded guy, not a hack at all, and receives enormous trollish respect, as seen here. McManus can take over for me if he feels up to it.

Posted by: Zizka | Sep 3, 2004 4:19:15 PM

Ironic post, some guy. Do you understand why? Hint: the phrase "ignore anything they say that makes me uncomfortable"

Posted by: Blixa | Sep 3, 2004 4:22:22 PM

Don't bother republicans, I've got you covered:

Historians are all librul anyway. In fact, any kinda book learnin' makes you a traitor. That they're from Old Europe seals the deal. I can ignore anything they say that makes me uncomfortable.

Posted by: some guy | Sep 3, 2004 4:22:26 PM

Yglesias, you are and were wrong. Just admit it.

Austria *was* occupied. There *were* Soviet tanks in the country and soviet soldiers *were* billeted in people's houses. The idea that Arnold spent his entire life in Styria and NEVER traveled outside to the rest of the country beggars imagination. Austria isn't that big - look at a map sometime.

Anyway, it is pretty funny seeing all the leftist apologists shitting their pants over a mention of the Soviet Union. Leftists would prefer to forget the Soviet Union ever happened, which is why they go ape when it's brought up. But YES, left wingers did murder tens of million and enslave hundreds more.

The pathetic attempts at waving the "nazi" charge against arnold's FATHER like a cross against a vampire just aren't going to get you anywhere. You see, those 100 million dead are going to have SOMEONE speak for them, and leftist Communist Holocaust denial WILL be defeated in my lifetime. This primetime speech was just one battle in that war.

Consider yourself a casualty.

Posted by: alpha | Sep 3, 2004 4:27:25 PM

Al, I think you might just be too stupid to live. Did you see that Arnold claimed he SAW "Soviet tanks in the streets"? Did you see that the article made clear that the Soviets left Austria in 1945? And that Schwarzenegger was born in 1947?!?

I mean CHRIST, a review of the record shows Kerry WAS in Cambodia on or about Christmas Eve 1968. Arnie NEVER saw a Soviet tank!

Posted by: Ding Dong | Sep 3, 2004 4:28:35 PM

We definitely need to reelect Bush so that he can vanquish this terrible Soviet Union I keep hearing about.

We also know there must be some "Red Dawn" fans over at the Pentagon since the operation that captured Saddam Hussein went by that name.

If you want a more clear example of Arnold telling a lie, how's this: Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey did not debate one another during the 1968 election. Arnold claims to have decided to be a Republican after watching a debate between these men that never occurred.

Posted by: Dimmy Karras | Sep 3, 2004 4:32:21 PM

Jeez, it's incredible how the Arnie-defenders can't read Matt's original note even as they carefully parse everything Schwarzenegger had to say.

Look, it's really simple. Schwarzenegger did not say anything on Tuesday that was literally untrue. However, it was highly misleading. The Soviets were at the other end of the country. Arnie was born in the British Zone, and the last soviets left eastern Austria when he was 8. The country was governed by Social Democrats at worst.

As for watching the Nixon-Humphrey debate, when there was no presidential debate in 1968?

Posted by: Dan Ryan | Sep 3, 2004 4:34:17 PM

ding dong, you fucking idiot, you are a historical ignorant. and ignorants shouldn't open their mouths.

Yglesias, pay attention!!!


The State Treaty of 1955, which ended Austria's occupation and restored the country's sovereignty, is displayed by its signatories in Vienna.
Courtesy Embassy of Austria, Washington

A key objective of post-1945 Austrian governments was ending the Four Power occupation and preventing the permanent division of Austria. The Allies' greater preoccupation with Germany delayed formal treaty negotiations with Austria until January 1947. By then, however, the larger strategic issues of the Cold War overshadowed the negotiations. The Soviet Union dropped its support for Yugoslav territorial claims against Austria in 1948 when Yugoslavia broke with the Soviet Union, but new issues arose to block progress toward ending the occupation: the Berlin blockade of 1948; the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the division of Germany into two rival states in 1949; and the start of the Korean War in 1950.

Following Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's death in March 1953, the Austrian government, headed by the newly elected chancellor, Julius Raab, sought to break the stalemate by proposing that Austria promise not to join any military bloc. The Indian ambassador to Moscow, acting as intermediary for the Austrians, went further and suggested permanent neutrality as the basis for a treaty. The Western Allies did not favor this proposal, and the Soviet Union continued to insist on the priority of a settlement in Germany.

In late 1954 and early 1955, however, the Western Allies and the Soviet Union feared that the other side was preparing to incorporate its respective occupation zones into its military bloc. In February the Soviet Union unexpectedly signaled its willingness to settle the Austrian question. In April a delegation composed of Raab, Figl, Adolf Schärf, and Bruno Kreisky went to Moscow. Four days of intense negotiations produced a draft treaty premised on permanent Austrian neutrality. The Western Allies only grudgingly accepted the draft for fear that it would be a model for German neutrality. They particularly objected to a proposed four-power guarantee of Austrian neutrality, believing that it would provide an opportunity for Soviet intervention in Austria. Under strong Western opposition, the Soviet Union dropped the proposal.

On May 15, 1955, the State Treaty was signed. The treaty forbade unification with Germany or restoration of the Habsburgs and provided safeguards for Austria's Croat and Slovene minorities. Austrian neutrality and a ban on foreign military bases in Austria were later incorporated into the Austrian constitution by the Law of October 26, 1955. The 40,000 Soviet troops in Austria were withdrawn by late September. The small number of Western troops that remained were withdrawn by late October.

Posted by: alpha | Sep 3, 2004 4:34:44 PM

But were you still in diapers when the Soviet Empire collapsed? Remember, a 16-year-old John Edwards was still in his diapers when Lt. Kerry served in Vietnam.

Posted by: Harold McClure | Sep 3, 2004 4:35:52 PM

alpha, i challenge you to prove that MattY is wrong in this post instead of mindlessly ranting.

Al, you can't argue that Arnie was correct in describing his country as "socialist" by dint of "it was socialist if he thought it was."

Why can't any of you mindless partisans simply say, "yeah, Arnold was overstepping his argument there" ? What the heck are your problems?

Posted by: Constantine | Sep 3, 2004 4:37:32 PM

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