The Rebel Scribe - Carleton Beals and the Progressive Challenge to US Policy in Latin America.
A guest lecture by Christopher Neal.
Christopher Neal is an author, journalist and retired communications manager specialized in international affairs, development issues and Latin America. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in political science at Carleton University, he started his career in the 1980s as a reporter for the Montreal Gazette and Ottawa Citizen, including three years as a freelancer in Latin America. He later shifted to communications management for the non-governmental international development organizations CUSO and the Canadian Council for International Cooperation. From there, he was recruited by Canada’s federal Canadian International Development Agency (now part of Global Affairs Canada), where he held various posts, including Director-General of Communications. In 1998, joined the World Bank, managing media relations and communications, respectively for its Latin America department, its chief economist and research department, and its energy practice. He also completed a master’s in international policy and practice at George Washington Univerrsity. In 2016, he returned to his native Montreal, where he has been a board member of the Quebec Community Groups Network and Quebec Writers’ Federation. In 2022, he published a book, The Rebel Scribe – Carleton Beals and the Progressive Challenge to US Policy in Latin America.
Abstract: Carleton Beals was among America’s most distinctive foreign correspondents. His colorful, combatively critical reporting of U.S. intervention in Latin America had a fearless energy and authority that won him millions of readers. He interviewed the Nicaraguan rebel leader Sandino in the camp from which he fought thousands of U.S marines in 1928, covered two revolutions in Cuba (1933 and 1959), and interpreted the Mexican Revolution for American readers. Beals’s dispatches and features appeared regularly in the Nation, New Republic, Current History and the Progressive, and often in the New York Times. Time magazine called him “the best informed and the most awkward living writer on Latin America.”
At once biography and analytical history, The Rebel Scribe tells the story of this fiercely independent non-conformist. It probes Beals’s interactions with political leaders, democrats, demagogues, populists and revolutionaries, and reveals how his ability to immerse himself in their societies gave his accounts a palpable authenticity and, time has shown, a prescience that is almost prophetic. Christopher Neal’s book traces how Beals identified patterns of political behavior and concepts that later became fully-fledged schools of thought, such as the idea of a Third World, dependency theory, U.S. neo-imperialism, and aspects of critical theory. His story sheds light on the evolution of U.S. foreign policy and intervention, from Mexico and Nicaragua in the 1920s, to Cuba and Vietnam in the 1960s. It reveals the fraught trail that faced—and still faces—contrarian journalists who challenge conventional assumptions, while also showing how probing journalism drives change.