Devastation and Denial: Cambodia and the Academic Left


The new regime tried to eliminate every vestige of the old government-and every vestige of society they considered a threat, including people who had committed no crime besides wearing reading glasses. The population was forced to wear a national uniform of all black, and absolute conformity with Khmer Rouge ideology was imposed on the people. According to the leaders of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia had long been led astray by the Western world, its money, its profits, and its professionals. Amazingly, even as Cambodia disintegrated, the Khmer Rouge benefitted from unsolicited apologetics from intellectuals at the West's august universities.

Just as Mao, Stalin, and Hitler enjoyed disproportionate popularity among academics and university students, Pol Pot and his promise of a communist utopia in South East Asia elicited sharp defences from many radical Western academics. In what is now known by some historians as the 'The Standard Total Academic View,' these professors downplayed reports of atrocities perpetrated in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, and printed vicious attacks against anyone who disagreed.