In This Review

Joe Alsop's Cold War: A Study of Journalistic Influence and Intrigue
Joe Alsop's Cold War: A Study of Journalistic Influence and Intrigue
By Edwin M. Yoder, Jr.
University Of North Carolina Press, 1995, 220 pp.

An affectionate and amusing biography, largely focused on the 1950s, of one of the premier columnists of his day. A militant cold warrior perennially sounding the tocsin against the worldwide Kremlin conspiracy, Alsop -- along with his younger brother and collaborator, Stewart -- also saw early the poison of McCarthyism and fought bravely against the various idiocies then perpetrated in the name of loyalty and 100-percent Americanism. The interplay between their fierce anticommunism abroad and their insistence on civility at home is the large theme of the book. Yoder advances the obvious paradox -- that the Alsops were "fighting a fire that they themselves had helped to set" -- but in the end clears them of that charge. Less plausible is his claim that the Alsops' dire forecasts of tumbling dominoes and missile gaps "turned out to be not so much incorrect as inconsequential." "Inconsequential" is an epitaph that Alsop would doubtless have loathed, and rightly so: his alarums did have consequences, Vietnam among them, and it is odd that Yoder would so casually exorcise that particular ghost. But the author's stumble here is uncharacteristic; he is normally sure-footed and indeed graceful in evoking the controversies of the 1950s and uncovering the complicated role that Alsop -- an inveterate intriguer and fearsome iconoclast -- managed to play in nearly all of them.