In his new book, "Intellectual Morons," Daniel Flynn exposes the dangers of blindly following intellectual elites who support and promote idiotic ideas and theories. Chris Banescu, who recently wrote the review of the book, interviewed Flynn about the origins of the material and the impact its revelations will have on our culture.
Chris Banescu: What inspired you to write this book?
Daniel Flynn: My goal in writing Intellectual Morons is to get more people to think with their brain rather than their ideology. By exposing ideologically-inspired hoaxes and frauds, the book not only rebuts falsehood but helps immunize readers against future frauds and hoaxes by putting them on alert.
The phenomenon of intellectuals justifying dishonesty when it serves their agenda inspired me to write Intellectual Morons. As evidenced by the mottoes of countless universities (Yale: lex et veritas, Harvard: veritas), truth is (was?) the sine qua non of scholars. For too many intellectuals, political concerns now override truth.
Banescu: How did you select the "gurus" that you analyzed and exposed?
Flynn: The individuals discussed in the book all have massive cultural import, and have fallen for or propagated foolish ideas. Sex pervert Alfred Kinsey's reports helped launch the sexual revolution. The modern feminist movement began as a result of Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique. Stalinist W.E.B. Du Bois finds his face on a U.S. postage stamp, his life the subject of two Pulitzer Prize-winning biographies, and his name gracing the tallest library in the world at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
According to one study, anti-American propagandist Noam Chomsky is the most cited living person in scholarly journals relating to social sciences and the humanities. Paul Ehrlich touted a coming environmental apocalypse and received foundation prizes and bequests well into the seven figures; appeared frequently on The Tonight Show, Today, and other widely watched television shows; and sold millions of books. Other movements and personalities discussed in the book have had similar impacts on the world of ideas.
Banescu: Which three intellectuals in your book do you think will be the hardest and take the longest to debunk?
Flynn: A lie is easier to counteract than an entire system that embraces dishonesty as an integral part of its program. Herbert Marcuse, Jacques Derrida, and Leo Strauss spawned intellectual movements that incorporate dishonesty as an endorsed method of discourse.
Herbert Marcuse, the guru of the New Left of the 1960s, waged war on language by renaming intolerance as tolerance, violence as nonviolence, and dictatorship as democracy. Marcuse's Newspeak led to the Left rationalizing censorship, acts of violence by radicals, and support of totalitarians like Castro or the Palestinian terrorists--all while claiming to advocate tolerance, non-violence, and democracy.
Jacques Derrida is the father of deconstructionism, which directs readers to ignore the intentions of authors and insert their own meaning into texts. This nonsense has expanded beyond literature into architecture, music, and scores of other fields.
Leo Strauss is the Right's deconstructionist. He saw the entire history of philosophy as a massive conspiracy theory, in which nearly all of the world's great thinkers--Plato, Machiavelli, Locke, etc.--dishonestly advanced one message suitable to the masses while encoding their real message "between the lines" to other wise men. Strauss purports to find these hidden messages by using a form of numerology, searching for implied contradictions, projecting special meaning on the first and last words of a text, and adding importance to passages in certain locations of a book. These crackpot methods have led to confusion rather than enlightenment.
Banescu: What can be done to counteract the influence these intellectual hypocrites have over the minds of the American people, especially on college campuses?
Flynn: Since the release of "Why the Left Hates America" in October of 2002, I've lectured at more than 70 schools across the United States through Young America's Foundation and the Leadership Institute's Campus Leadership Program, the outfit that I now direct. I probably would have sold more books had I focused on conservative audiences, but I would have made less of an impact.
Professors, textbooks, and guest lecture programs aren't going to fairly present conservative ideas to students. Conservatives need to do that themselves. More conservative leaders need to stop preaching to the choir and start going out to the campuses to make new converts. Conservative donors need to stop subsidizing liberal ideas by supporting their liberal alma maters, and start supporting the student groups on those campuses responsible for getting the conservative message out. More conservative students need to come out of hibernation and get active with the young conservatives who are already making a difference. Conservatives have already succeeded in bringing more balance to the media. It's time to put our dollars, time, and energy into doing more to bring intellectual balance to academia.
Banescu: How do you deal with those critics who seek to silence you, rather than to confront the actual issues you bring up?
Flynn: Attempts to shut me up have in effect resulted in the Left putting a megaphone rather than a muzzle in front of my mouth. Speaking at Berkeley a few years back, a mob shouted me down, an activist "mooned" me, and a group of thugs rounded up copies of my writings and held a Nazi-style book-burning. At Michigan State in 2003, a director of the building I was scheduled to speak in threatened me with arrest if I took the podium. Last year, spoiled rich kids at Connecticut College erupted in random shouts throughout my lecture, with one student standing in front of the podium for the duration of the speech to obscure the audience's view. In each of these cases, the actions of the Left backfired and resulted in more publicity and debate for the issues that I was raising.
Banescu: Does Dan Rather's forged memos fiasco provide even more support to your theory that ideology is more important than truth to this crowd?
Flynn: Rathergate is a microcosm of the main idea of this book, which is that ideology makes smart people fall for stupid ideas. Had Dan Rather and his underlings at CBS been motivated by getting at the truth rather than advancing a specific political agenda, they would have never fallen for the forged memos.
Banescu: As someone who has lived and suffered under the tyranny and insanity of communism, I am truly astounded by the passionate support for this deadly ideology displayed by many in academia, the mainstream media, and the Democratic party. How do you explain such complete ignorance of an ideology that is responsible for the enslavement of billions and the agonizing deaths of roughly 100 million people since its beginnings?
Flynn: Communism works perfectly in textbooks. Within nations, it doesn't operate so flawlessly. Since academics inhabit the theoretic world and not the practical world, it's unsurprising that they would embrace something that works in the former but not in the latter.
Communism promises heaven on earth. If you deluded yourself into believing that Communism could deliver on this bold guarantee, what would you do to empower Communists? Lies, oppression, and murder are a cheap price to pay, they believe, for earthly salvation. The road to heaven on earth always detours to hell.
Banescu: Ultimately, what kind of an impact do you think and hope your book will have on our culture, especially in the world of academia?
Flynn: The book is an antidote to postmodernism, cultural Marxism, and most of the other "isms" that pollute lecture halls on campus. Some people don't want the antidote. They prefer flattering lies to uncomfortable truths. For these people, the book will have no impact. For the openminded, the book will shatter myths and alert them to the negative role ideology plays in their own response to issues, ideas, events, and people.
Banescu: Are there any closing thoughts or remarks you would like to make in regards to your new book?
Flynn: "Intellectual Morons" breaks new ground in a number of areas. Specifically, all of Margaret Sanger's major biographers fail to mention her very detailed plan for American concentration camps housing millions. I do. None of Alfred Kinsey's biographers even bothers to interview one of Kinsey's child victims. I do. The book contains a lot of important information, but it's a fun read geared toward all readers and not a tiny coterie of academics. I spent several years of my life writing this book. I'm excited that tens of thousands of people will spend several days of their lives reading it.
Chris Banescu is an attorney, entrepreneur, and university professor. His business, ethics, and management articles and podcasts can be found on www.ChrisBanescu.com. He is a regular contributor to OrthodoxyToday.org, manages the conservative site www.OrthodoxNet.com, writes articles, and has given talks and conducted seminars on a variety of business and management topics. He has also written book reviews for Townhall.com and articles for Acton.org.
Read this article on the Town Hall website. Reprinted with permission of the author.