Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 9, 2002
WAR/POLITICS: The Blindness Of The Left
The Corner had a link to this marvelous NY Observer piece about leaving the Left, with regrets. Here's a brilliant analogy, one reminiscent of Allan Bloom's assault on Heidegger as the paradigm of intellectual folly and cowardice in The Closing of the American Mind, but with props to Little Green Footballs:
[L]et me make an analogy here, one that I believe goes to the "root cause" of Left idiocy of this sort.
The analogy that occurred to me grew out of a conversation I had several years ago with the philosopher Berel Lang, author of Act and Idea in the Nazi Genocide, a talk that took place in the course of researching my book, Explaining Hitler. Mr. Lang is an extremely thoughtful and meticulous thinker on the question of degrees of evil, and the role of intentionality in determining them. He was speaking about the question of whether one could say there was "a history of evil"ówhether Hitler represented a new fact, a new landmark in that history, and if so, what the next step might be.
I suggested the "next step" might be Holocaust denial, because the deniers had found a diabolical way to twist the knife, compounding the pain of the survivors by negating and slandering the memory of the murdered.
Mr. Lang demurred, because he had his own notion of what the next step in the history of evil might be. The paradigm for it, he told me, was the postwar career of Martin Heidegger, the Nazi-friendly philosopher beloved to distraction by postmodernists (and Hannah Arendt).
All of whom apologized for him, despite an increasingly damning series of revelations that disclosed his toadying to Hitlerís thugs in order to attain professional advancement, hailing Hitlerís Reich as the ultimate synthesis of politics and his philosophy.
But that wasnít what made Heidegger a new chapter, Mr. Lang said; it was his astonishing postwar behavior. After everything came out, after it was no longer possible to deny at least post facto knowledge of the Holocaust, nothing changed for Heidegger. He felt no need to incorporate what happened into his philosophy. "His silence," Mr. Lang said, "it wasnít even denial. For him, it wasnít important! It wasnít important Ö. Now if you ask which of them is worse Ö the Revisionists [Holocaust deniers] deny it occurred, but their official position, at least, is that if it occurred, it would have been wrong. But Heidegger knows it occurred, but itís just not importantóitís not something to distort history to deny. For Heidegger, this is not history to concern oneself with.
Not history to concern oneself with Ö.
Hereís the analogy: Heideggerís peculiar neutrality-slash-denial about Nazism and the Holocaust after the facts had come out, and the contemporary Leftís curious neutrality-slash-denial after the facts had come out about Marxist genocidesóin Russia, in China, in Cambodia, after 20 million, 50 million, who knows how many millions had been slaughtered. Not all of the Left; many were honorable opponents. But for many others, it just hasnít registered, it just hasnít been incorporated into their "analysis" of history and human nature; it just hasnít been factored in. America is still the one and only evil empire. The silence of the Left, or the exclusive focus of the Left, on Americaís alleged crimes over the past half-century, the disdainful sneering at Americaís deplorable "Cold War mentality"ónone of this has to be reassessed in light of the evidence of genocides that surpassed Hitlerís, all in the name of a Marxist ideology. An ideology that doesnít need to be reassessed. As if it was maybe just an accident that Marxist-Leninist regimes turned totalitarian and genocidal. No connection there. The judgment that McCarthyism was the chief crime of the Cold War era doesnít need a bit of a rethink, even when put up against the mass murder of dissidents by Marxist states.
The point is, all empires commit crimes; in the past century, ours were by far the lesser of evils. But this sedulous denial of even the possibility of misjudgment in the hierarchy of evils protects and insulates this wing of the Left from an inconvenient reconsideration of whether America actually is the worst force on the planet. This blind spot, this stunning lack of historical perspective, robs much of the American Left of intellectual credibility. And makes it easy for idiocies large and small to be uttered reflexively. (Perhaps the suggestion I recently saw on the Instapundit.com Web site calling for an "Anti-Idiotarian" party might be appropriate.)
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:12 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)