The cold war's Greta Thunberg

It appears that major media are now boo-hooing because Greta Thunberg, child goddess and planetary savior, has been cheated out of her rightful Nobel in favor of some interloper who merely worked for peace between two nations that had been at sword’s point for years.

It’s truly creepy how hard people fall for these would-be child messiahs. Charles Mackay, author of the classic 19th-century study Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, would have found a gold mine of material in this.

One odd thing about the Thunberg saga is the way the name of Samantha Smith has failed to come up. (Update: Except here. -ed). Smith was yet another child savior, in her case out to put an end to the Cold War. Her saga should act as a cautionary tale to anyone tempted to give too much credit – or any credit at all – to a world-redeeming child savant.

In 1982, Samantha Smith, then ten years old, sent a letter to Yuri Andropov, at that time the new chief goon of the Soviet Union. It read in part:

I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren't please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like it if you would. 

The early 80s were the period of Ronald Reagan’s effort to undercut the aggressive and recalcitrant USSR. It was a tense period, with heavy propaganda campaigns aimed at the U.S. by the Soviets, a “nuclear freeze” peace movement that was actually run the KGB, extreme pressure against new U.S. armaments programs such as the Pershing IRBM, the air-launched cruise missile, and the B-1 bomber, and continual media attacks against Reagan and U.S. policy. Amid all this, the USSR was desperate for a means of  curtailing a newly resurgent U.S., and knew a good propaganda ploy when one appeared.

Andropov, a former KGB man who had overseen the massacre of 30,000 people in Hungary in 1956, responded to her letter after a brief pause, cordially inviting young Smith the Soviet Union. Amid worldwide media uproar, most of it aimed as much at embarrassing Reagan as it was supporting Smith, the child visited the USSR, generally getting the standard Potemkin village tour.

On her return, she wrote a book about her experience, which was greeted with the same “a little child will lead us” paroxysms that have surrounded Thunberg.  Then she began a career as an actress. (Cynics asserted that this, in fact, had been the idea all along.) In 1984, she hosted a children’s special for Disney titled Samantha Smith Goes to Washington... Campaign '84, a naked political reference. She then took a role playing the daughter of aging film heartthrob Robert Wagner in a series titled “Lime Street.”

On August 25, 1985, she was returning to Maine from filming along with her father. Her plane crashed while landing, killing everyone aboard. The Soviets immediately suggested sabotage, though an investigation revealed probable pilot error. Ronald Reagan himself sent a kindly note to her mother.

A TV movie about her life was made, the Soviets put out a stamp and erected a small monument. She is remembered in her home state of Maine, but obviously not very much elsewhere.

Samantha Smith was put into a situation unsuitable for a child, and she died because of it. The simple fact is that children are not suitable for leading crusades. It is not the proper place for them. The only role that they can play is symbolic, as living chess pieces for someone else’s agenda. The dangers, as in this case, can be terminal. Followers of Greta Thunberg, please note.

Anyone who doubts this can look further into the Children’s Crusade of 1212 (which, in fact, is covered in Mackay’s book). Even Samantha Smith ended up better off than them.

It appears that major media are now boo-hooing because Greta Thunberg, child goddess and planetary savior, has been cheated out of her rightful Nobel in favor of some interloper who merely worked for peace between two nations that had been at sword’s point for years.

It’s truly creepy how hard people fall for these would-be child messiahs. Charles Mackay, author of the classic 19th-century study Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, would have found a gold mine of material in this.

One odd thing about the Thunberg saga is the way the name of Samantha Smith has failed to come up. (Update: Except here. -ed). Smith was yet another child savior, in her case out to put an end to the Cold War. Her saga should act as a cautionary tale to anyone tempted to give too much credit – or any credit at all – to a world-redeeming child savant.

In 1982, Samantha Smith, then ten years old, sent a letter to Yuri Andropov, at that time the new chief goon of the Soviet Union. It read in part:

I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren't please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like it if you would. 

The early 80s were the period of Ronald Reagan’s effort to undercut the aggressive and recalcitrant USSR. It was a tense period, with heavy propaganda campaigns aimed at the U.S. by the Soviets, a “nuclear freeze” peace movement that was actually run the KGB, extreme pressure against new U.S. armaments programs such as the Pershing IRBM, the air-launched cruise missile, and the B-1 bomber, and continual media attacks against Reagan and U.S. policy. Amid all this, the USSR was desperate for a means of  curtailing a newly resurgent U.S., and knew a good propaganda ploy when one appeared.

Andropov, a former KGB man who had overseen the massacre of 30,000 people in Hungary in 1956, responded to her letter after a brief pause, cordially inviting young Smith the Soviet Union. Amid worldwide media uproar, most of it aimed as much at embarrassing Reagan as it was supporting Smith, the child visited the USSR, generally getting the standard Potemkin village tour.

On her return, she wrote a book about her experience, which was greeted with the same “a little child will lead us” paroxysms that have surrounded Thunberg.  Then she began a career as an actress. (Cynics asserted that this, in fact, had been the idea all along.) In 1984, she hosted a children’s special for Disney titled Samantha Smith Goes to Washington... Campaign '84, a naked political reference. She then took a role playing the daughter of aging film heartthrob Robert Wagner in a series titled “Lime Street.”

On August 25, 1985, she was returning to Maine from filming along with her father. Her plane crashed while landing, killing everyone aboard. The Soviets immediately suggested sabotage, though an investigation revealed probable pilot error. Ronald Reagan himself sent a kindly note to her mother.

A TV movie about her life was made, the Soviets put out a stamp and erected a small monument. She is remembered in her home state of Maine, but obviously not very much elsewhere.

Samantha Smith was put into a situation unsuitable for a child, and she died because of it. The simple fact is that children are not suitable for leading crusades. It is not the proper place for them. The only role that they can play is symbolic, as living chess pieces for someone else’s agenda. The dangers, as in this case, can be terminal. Followers of Greta Thunberg, please note.

Anyone who doubts this can look further into the Children’s Crusade of 1212 (which, in fact, is covered in Mackay’s book). Even Samantha Smith ended up better off than them.