In his new book, Intellectual Morons, Daniel J. Flynn explains just what it means to be a statist in today’s America by presenting a detailed analysis of the central ideas of the "intellectual gurus" of the Left — and of the statist Right. (Naturally, he includes an entire chapter on the original nutty professor, Leo Strauss, and his contemporary followers.) The book is exceptionally well researched and documented, with 985 footnotes for 246 pages of text.
Among the statist gurus (the "intellectual morons") that Flynn discusses are Alfred Kinsey, Margaret Sanger, Michael Focault, Betty Friedan, Paul Ehrlich, W.E.B. Du Bois, Jacques Derrida, Herbert Marcuse, and Leo Strauss, to name a few. These are all people whose writings have had a significant — and in some cases, revolutionary — impact on American society, even if the average adult American has never heard of them.
The Guru of the "New Left"
So, what does it mean to be a "liberal" or a statist in America today? Well, at least in the academic world, it means that you embrace the ideas of the German communist Herbert Marcuse, the "pop philosopher of the New Left" and the academic mentor of Angela Davis. Marcuse was a "celebrated" intellectual who taught at Harvard, Yale and Columbia. He opposed not only the "exploitation" of the working class that Karl Marx was known for, but work itself! "Don’t work, have sex," was the theme of his 1955 book, Eros and Civilization.
Marcuse viewed science and the scientific method as "the enemy," for it "denies the reality of utopia," i.e., communism. He urged his fellow academics to oppose freedom of speech within academe, for such freedom produced too many criticisms of communism. Academe has taken this advice to heart, as is evidenced by the stifling political correctness that exists on virtually every campus. All opponents of socialism were to be denied free speech in Marcuse’s ideal world.
There is no need for logic, debate, and the free exchange of ideas, said Marcuse, for Marxism provides all the "correct" answers. This is also the ideology of the Straussians (discussed below), who believe that they, too, are in unique possession of THE TRUTH.
Following Marcuse, the politically-correct statists within academe believe that the totalitarian societies of the world represent "freedom" and that people "must be forced to be free," i.e., to acquiesce in socialism. They tend to be blind followers of the man Flynn describes as "cultural Marxism’s evangelist."
America’s Sexual Revolutionary
Our "intellectual gurus" also consider sex researcher Alfred Kinsey to be a pioneer of America’s "sexual liberation." Kinsey interviewed prison inmates convicted of raping young children and concluded that even babies were "sexual beings." He wrote books claiming that "even infants were capable of orgasm," suggesting that he must have engaged in the grossest form of criminal behavior to arrive at these "scientific results." Nevertheless, when Kinsey published his "research" in book form, "the reaction . . . was overwhelmingly positive," writes Flynn. "Analysis of the leading magazines found all but one favorable . . . "
The modern American statist also swallows, hook, line and sinker, the rantings of "environmentalist" Paul Ehrlich who, in his 1968 blockbuster, The Population Bomb, predicted that America’s gross national product would soon approach zero, that a new ice age was upon us, that soil deterioration will eliminate meat from the American diet, and that one-third of the world’s population would die of starvation as American cities were overwhelmed by "food riots." In the 1990s, he predicted that by 2050, "civilization will have largely disappeared."
None of Ehrlich’s lunatic predictions has ever materialized, yet he is a true icon of the Left: The Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded him its prestigious Crafoord Prize; the MacArthur Foundation gave him a $345,000 "genius grant"; he is a winner of the World Ecology Award; was given the $200,000 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, along with the $422,000 Blue Planet Prize from another leftist foundation, just to name a few. Of course, he is also an endowed chair holder at Stanford University.
Not to be outdone by Stanford, Princeton has showered honors and money on another statist icon, Peter Singer, the "father" of the animal rights movement. Send your children to Princeton to study under Singer and they will learn that the March of Dimes is an evil institution; the murderer of fashion designer Gianni Versace is a hero because Versace used fur in his designs; global warming is caused by "cattle flatulence"; killing disabled babies is the "right" thing to do; it is acceptable to kill even healthy newborn babies up to a month old; inter-species sex should be acceptable; and infanticide is acceptable as long as the benefits outweigh the costs. With such insights as these, it’s easy to see why Princeton would name Singer its first professor of bioethics, pay him a fortune, and fund a "Center for Human Values" for him to direct.
A first priority of all totalitarians is to rewrite their country’s history in order to make their "leadership" appear to be indispensable to the nation’s very survival. Thus, perhaps the most widely-used American history text in today’s universities is A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. Published without a single source citation, Zinn informs today’s college students that Maoist China, where tens of millions of innocent civilians were murdered by their own government, was "the closest thing" in all of history "to a people’s government, independent of outside control." Castro’s Cuba "holds no bloody record of suppression," Zinn writes, in another fantastic lie. By contrast, the writings of Jefferson and Madison were supposedly a "diabolically creative way to ensure oppression." George Washington’s Farewell Address, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, are not even mentioned, nor is Alexander Hamilton, Valley Forge, and the D-Day invasion. Zinn openly admits that his stylized version of American history is written with the express purpose of smearing classical liberalism and promoting socialism. Little wonder that it is so widely used on college campuses.
Flynn also examines the ideas of the right-wing guru Leo Strauss, the "intellectual godfather" of America’s newly embarked-upon path of foreign policy interventionism and the quest for empire. After discussing how America was lied into going to war in Iraq, he pins the blame on Strauss’s students, or his students’ students, such as Paul Wolfowitz, Abram Shulsky, Stephen Cambone, and other "Straussians." He also notes how the "followers of the mysterious academic among the intellectual class" include, most prominently, Harry Jaffa, Harvey Mansfield, Irving Kristol, his son William, and Allan Bloom.
Carefully surveying many of Strauss’s writings, Flynn notes that although he was an atheist and "scoffed at the idea of God," he nevertheless thought that appeals to religion could be helpful in duping naïve Christians, especially, into going along with his interventionist foreign policy agenda. It seems to have worked, since "evangelical Christians" are among the most bloodthirsty warmongers in American society today.
The Straussians are portrayed by Flynn as a bizarre cult whose members believe they know a truth "that lesser mortals failed to grasp"; they talk "in a kind of code to one another"; and "genuflect to their great guru, but allow for intramural debate," i.e., between the followers of Jaffa and Mansfield.
Straussians are ridiculed by most academics not so much because of their specific policy ideas, but because of their quintessentially unscholarly method. Like the academic Marxists, they believe that their guru revealed all of THE TRUTH about the world, and that all dissenters must be crushed or eliminated, not debated with. Other academics are also of the opinion that Straussians tend to be sickeningly hypocritical. The atheist Strauss preached about the importance of religion (in the service of pursuing empire), while "his popular evangelist Allan Bloom preached family values but practiced anonymous sex until stopped by AIDS."
The cornerstone of "the Straussian method" is creative lying or creating "the noble lie" in support of nationalism, authoritarianism, and world empire. This is all laid out in Strauss’s 1952 book, Persecution and the Art of Writing. According to Strauss, generations of scholars have totally misinterpreted the works of Plato, Spinoza, Machiavelli, Locke, Hobbes, and others, because they do not read between the lines, as Strauss does.
Most people recognize that what lies "between the lines" of any book is blank space. Not so with Strauss and the Straussians. They make things up. They fabricate. They lie. And they use the dark art of numerology (!) to create their fabrications. According to Strauss, a book’s first and last words have some sort of special meaning. "Some numbers, such as seven and thirteen, alert Strauss to a text’s hidden meaning." "The Prince consists of 26 chapters," writes Strauss about Machiavelli. "Twenty-six is the numerical value of the letters of the sacred name of God in Hebrew, of the Tetragrammaton. But did Machiavelli know this? I do not know. Twenty-six equals 2 times 13. Thirteen is now and for quite sometime has been considered an unlucky number, but in former times it was also and even primarily considered a lucky number. So u2018twice 13′ might mean both good luck and bad luck, and hence altogether; luck fortuna." Was this man insane?
Armed with this "tarot-card philosophy," Strauss ("a major-league screwball," writes Flynn) and the Strussians argue that John Locke covertly undermined Christianity, although Locke never indicated as such; that Plato’s Republic means exactly the opposite of what all other scholars take it to mean; that Locke was not really in favor of natural rights; and of course that the white supremacist Abraham Lincoln was a racial saint, that his suspension of habeas corpus, shutting down of the opposition press and the mass arrest of political dissenters was consistent with constitutionalism, and that waging war on innocent civilians made him a "great humanitarian." These of course are just a few of the absurdities perpetrated by Jaffa and his fellow tarot-card philosophers.
By ignoring the study of actual history, and of other disciplines as well, and relying exclusively on the bizarre interpretations of the nutty Strauss, his students and followers "become ignorant and stay that way until they break-out of Strauss’s mental straightjacket," writes Flynn.
Straussianism is form of "deconstructionism," as practiced by such left-wing luminaries as Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, and Michael Focault. With these deconstructionists, as with the Straussians, "What maters is not so much what the author says but what the reader wants the author to say," notes Daniel Flynn. The left-wing deconstructionist "produce[s] his own meaning . . . by an activity of semantic u2018freeplay.’" As with the Straussians, deconstructionism "seeks to institutionalize dishonesty as a legitimate school of thought." They both "exalt dishonesty in the service of supposedly noble causes . . ."
Flynn also documents how Margaret Sanger, the Planned Parenthood founder and another leftist icon, referred to Jews and Italians as "human weeds;" embraced Nazism; defended a group of lowlifes who plotted to murder John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and then openly called for the man’s assassination; actively supported eugenics; routinely used the N-word to describe black people and advocated abortion to reduce their numbers; spoke at a Ku Klux Klan rally in New England; and was "for decades" the "leading hater of Catholics in America." Not surprisingly, the National Organization of Women labels her as "one of the five most admired u2018sheroes’ of history," and Time magazine called her "one of the hundred most important people of the twentieth century."
Flynn also shows how "civil rights" icon W.E.B. DuBois was a communist, a racist, a segregationist, and a Nazi sympathizer, and that Betty Friedan’s promotion of "feminism" is rooted in her past as a communist and left-wing rabble rouser. ("Abolition of the Family" was a central tenet of The Communist Manifesto).
All in all, it’s hard to determine who are the bigger morons: the "intellectuals" whose warped ideas Daniel Flynn so clearly and extensively documents, or those who have embraced them as the unquestionable truth about the modern world.
Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] is the author of The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, (Three Rivers Press/Random House). His latest book is How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold Story of Our Country’s History, from the Pilgrims to the Present (Crown Forum/Random House, August 2004).