Day By Day

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Most Dangerous Double Standard

Claire Berlinsky points to a glaring (and dangerous) bias in historical accounts of the Twentieth Century.
In the world’s collective consciousness, the word “Nazi” is synonymous with evil. It is widely understood that the Nazis’ ideology—nationalism, anti-Semitism, the autarkic ethnic state, the Führer principle—led directly to the furnaces of Auschwitz. It is not nearly as well understood that Communism led just as inexorably, everywhere on the globe where it was applied, to starvation, torture, and slave-labor camps. Nor is it widely acknowledged that Communism was responsible for the deaths of some 150 million human beings during the twentieth century. The world remains inexplicably indifferent and uncurious about the deadliest ideology in history.
Read it here.

During World War II it made sense for American opinion makers to downplay or ignore the evils of international communism. We were, after all, allied with the Soviet Union. But that excuse lapsed with the onset of the Cold War and it hardly accounts for the wave of enthusiasm for Marxism that swept American campuses in the pre-war years . It could also be argued that for Jewish Americans the nature of Nazi crimes was so horrific that they took precedence over all other contemporary evils and that the communists at least had the virtue of having fought the Nazis. But that hardly explains the appeal of Marxism and its derivative forms for non-Jewish intellectuals. One could also argue that western Progressivism and international communism share many core values. But one would also have to note, as Jonah Goldberg recently has, that the Progressive movement also shares a number of core values with Nazism.

The broad and persistent enthusiasm for communism among Western intellectual and academic elites is an interesting historical phenomenon that is just now beginning to come in for serious investigation. It is also potentially dangerous because it carries policy imperatives that are not always beneficial, and are often directly opposed, to American interests. Until recently it was possible to ignore this danger because, if truth be admitted, intellectuals and their arguments had little or no impact on the formulation of governmental policy. Despite widespread, persistent, and [one is tempted to say] hysterical opposition among the nation's artistic and intellectual elites, the American government successfully prosecuted the Cold War and has since sustained effective military efforts in a number of arenas.

One has to wonder, though, about the current political situation in which credentialed academic elites [the self-styled "best and brightest"] have penetrated to and dominate the highest levels of power. So far the actions of the Obama administration, essentially continuing Bush-era policies in a number of areas, have been encouraging. Even in Obamaland reality can trump ideology. And one can gain encouragement from the fact that there has been significant and growing resistance in the public to administration policies that have deviated significantly from past norms. Perhaps the malignant influence of academic and intellectual elites is far less than it sometimes seems.

At least, one can hope.


Ron Radosh has a critique of Berlinski's article here.

No comments: