Journalist Mark Judge wants to produce a documentary about Whittaker Chambers, the conservative icon who was a communist, then an ex-communist, and finally the author of the highly praised and influential memoir Witness (Chambers, best known for testifying against former State Department official Alger Hiss, also penned one of the most poisonous reviews of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged for National Review).
Judge is trying to raise $20,000 via the website Kickstarter. Here's his pitch:
A one-hour documentary about Whittaker Chambers, journalist, theologian, and one of the great anti-communists of the 20th Century. Chambers was born in 1901 and died in 1961. His book, Witness (1952), is a political classic, but perhaps more importantly a spiritual classic. Chambers had insight into the human condition and the value of human suffering that transcended his time. He has been compared to Dante and Augustine. He was a member of the communist party after leaving Columbia University in the 1920s. he left the part in the 1930s and then, after ten years as an editor at Time, revealed his past - and fingered Alger Hiss, a prominent lawyer and government official. The Chambers-Hiss case was the trial of the 20th Century; the story had espionage, revenge, thrilling escapes and even a subtext of homosexuality. Chambers became a Quaker, and warned a young William F. Buckley about working with Senator Joe McCarthy. More than a simple spy story from the 1950s, the Chambers story touches on humankind's quest for utopias - and the role of suffering in triggering fanaticism.
At the Daily Caller, Judge adds,
“Witness” is...a story of clashing ideologies. The scenes where Chambers has defected from the communist underground and is evading potential assassins are harrowing, and will lend themselves brilliantly to film. But it is also the story of a soul. Chambers was a warrior, yes, but one who was a farmer who became interested in the Quakers. He also warned not only about communism but about any ideology that attempted to negate any meaning in human suffering. He warned William F. Buckley about making common cause with Senator Joe McCarthy, whom he was convinced would overreach and hurt the genuine cause of anti-communism. The film will feature interviews with key players and scholars of the case.
In short, we don’t want to make “Left Behind II: Tribulation Force.”
For my money, the best take on the Hiss trial (which Hiss started, by suing Chambers for libel) is from Leslie Fiedler in Commentary back in the 1950s. It's not online but it's worth buying for Fiedler's argument that not only were Hiss (and the Rosenbergs!) obviously guilty as charged, but that their support from the literary left stemmed precisely from that shared knowledge. Fiedler's perorations about Chambers' legendarily mangled teeth (which play a climatic role in the Hiss case) are worth the purchase price alone.