Why do well-educated antiwar activists call the president of the United States "the new Hitler" and argue that the U.S. government orchestrated the September 11 attacks Why does Al Gore believe that cars pose "a mortal threat to the security of every nation" Why does the Princeton professor known as the father of the animal rights movement object to humans eating animals but not to humans having sex with them-and why does PETA defend that position In other words, why do smart people fall for stupid ideas The answer, Daniel J. Flynn reveals in Intellectual Morons, is ideology. Flynn, the author of Why the Left Hates America, shows how people can be so blinded to reality by the causes they serve that they espouse bizarre, sometimes ridiculous, and often dangerous positions. The most influential social movements have spawned ideologues who do not care whether an idea is good or bad, true or false, but only whether it can serve their cause. It is startling how many Americans-and particularly how many media, academic, and political elites-fall for bad ideas.
Flynn (Why the Left Hates America) takes aim at those he calls "intellectual morons," smart people who make themselves stupid by letting "ideology do their thinking"; stock or fanatical answers, bad logic and lies are all part of their putative arsenal. To make his case, Flynn lambastes a series of prominent leftist "gurus" and the ideological movements they inspired: Herbert Marcuse, Peter Singer, Margaret Sanger, W.E.B. Du Bois, Michel Foucault, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal. (Ayn Rand and Leo Strauss, hardly leftists, if hard to classify together, come in for token baiting.) Flynn does not shy away from ad hominem argument: sex researcher Alfred Kinsey appears as a pervert; Betty Friedan was apparently richer than she let on. Flynn is on firmer ground when looking at actual claims, such as those of the late Guatemalan writer and activist Rigoberta Menchu. Amusing but not consistently enlightening, Flynn's book aims at foundations but glances surfaces. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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September 26, 2005
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Excerpt from Intellectual Morons by Daniel J Flynn
"THE TRUE BELIEVER"
"A faith is not acquired by reasoning. One does not fall in love with a woman, or enter the womb of a church, as a result of logical persuasion. Reason may defend an act of faith but only after the act has been committed, and the man committed to the act." Arthur Koestler,The God That Failed
WHEN IDEOLOGY IS YOUR GUIDE, YOU RE BOUND TO GET LOST. Ideology deludes, inspires dishonesty, and breeds fanaticism. Facts, experience, and logic are much better at leading you to truth. Truth, however, is not everyone s intended destination.
This is a book about morons. The morons that we ll meet don t have tobacco juice dripping from their chins, sunburned necks, or any other stereotypical manifestations of dimness. As the title suggests, Intellectual Morons focuses on cognitive elites who embarrass themselves by championing idiotic theories, beliefs, and opinions. It is a quite pedestrian occurrence for stupid people to fall for stupid ideas. More interesting, and of greater harm to society, is the phenomenon of smart people falling for stupid ideas. Ph.D.s, high IQs, and intellectual honors are not antidotes to thickheadedness.
It doesn t matter how smart you are if you don t use your mind. Ideologues forgo independent judgment in favor of having their views handed to them. To succumb to ideology is to put your brain on autopilot. Ideology preordains your reaction to issues, ideas, and people, your view of politics, philosophy, economics, and history. For the true believer, ideology is the Rosetta Stone of everything. It provides stock answers, conditions responses, and delivers one-size-fits-all explanations for complex political and cultural questions. Despite the conviction and seeming depth of knowledge with which ideologues speak, they are intellectual weaklings joiners who defer to systems of belief and charismatic gurus for their ideas. Why bother thinking when the guru provides all the answers What s the use of examining the facts when the system has already determined the real truth
When you submit to a guru, allow a system to predetermine your views, or become a knee-jerk party-liner, you abdicate your responsibility to think. For an intellectual, this is the unforgivable sin. Intellectuals think. This is what they do. When intellectuals let ideology do their thinking, we can t with any justification continue to label them intellectuals. This is not an anti-intellectual book. It is an antipseudo-intellectual book.
And many obviously bright political leaders, academicians, journalists, and artists reveal themselves as pseudo-intellectuals.