When the College Republicans bring a speaker to the UVM campus, watch out. That’s how many members on this campus tend to pre-judge. The author of Why The Left Hates America, sponsored by the College Republicans and labeled as a neo-conservative, spoke at Ira Allen Chapel this past Wednesday.
In front of a meager crowd of just over sixty people, Daniel J. Flynn discussed his newest book, aptly entitled Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall For Stupid Ideas. Flynn, an ex-Marine, has frequented TV News shows on MSNBC, CNN, FOX News, and Court-TV, as well as lectured at campuses across America. The basis of his book focuses on the crippling mental “strait jacket” that ideology oppresses on what he calls, “intellectual morons.”
To clarify, Flynn does not label only liberals as being the pseudo-intellectuals he takes on, despite what some of his opponents would have you believe. “The morons I discuss in my book,” explains the speaker, “are those blessed with cognitive abilities, but squander them on ideology rather than their own brain for thinking.” This definition includes both liberals and conservatives.
This talk was not about the parallels between hard lined liberal or conservative ideology, but rather an exploration of the negative effects ideology encompasses as a whole, regardless of the side spouting it. “The problem isn’t necessarily Left ideology or Right ideology, but all ideology.” He did not label these “morons” as such because of their stand on certain issues, but as a result of their undermining their own rationality for a system of “the ends justify the means” type of beliefs.
Ideology as a de-facto religion was one of the main points that Flynn worked hard to convey to his audience. “Ideology is similar to that of religion in that it promises salvation. We are going to save the world with Environmentalism, or we will have heaven on Earth with Communism, or we will save the human race through Nazism,” dramatically declared Flynn. Early on in the talk, Flynn pointed out a notorious ideologue that many on this campus consider to be a hero fighting the evils of America. Michael Moore’s movie Fahrenheit 9/11, he pointed out, is a prime example of ideology being a central theme of partisan politics.
The illustration he utilized was that of the pipeline that Moore claimed the Bush Administration had been devising, yet does not exist after over three years of US occupation in Afghanistan. “This exists only in Moore’s mind,” commented Flynn. “He erred to push along his ideology.” The talk also explored three controversial intellectuals that represent the type of ideological black hole sucking away all their rational abilities for a set form of beliefs.
The first was Alfred Kinsey, the famed sexual research pioneer, that Flynn felt represented a scientist that was so immersed and far gone in his own ideology that his research involved “having a conclusion and testing it to prove it.”
Next came Margaret Sanger, the founder of the abortion-rights movement. She represented the type of person through history that has a “white-washed” biography. In other words, how she is portrayed in history is different from her reality than what her writings would have one believe. For example from her April 1932 article entitled “A Plan For World Piece,” Flynn read a few of her passages pertaining to her multiple step proposed program for the “apportion [of] farm lands and homesteads for these segregated persons where they would be taught to work under competent instructors for the period of their entire lives.”
This Nazi like program was designed by Sanger and would function as a means of thinning from the ranks of the American population those deemed unworthy to spread their genes. The segregated would have included mentally deficient individuals as well as those that she referred to as a “secondary group” of people. This list included, “illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes” and so forth.
Yet, as Flynn pointed out in his lecture, if one was to pick up a biography on Sanger, there would be no mention of her “defending the unborn against their own disabilities,” as she referred to it. Instead, some historians have taken it upon themselves to keep these sorts of things from the eyes of the public so that the basis of her ideology can be selectively highlighted rather than her true intentions; he refers to this type of thing as “cooking the books.”
The final person that he discussed from his book was the liberals’ unquestionable god-like professor, Noam Chomsky or as Flynn referred to him as “Michael Moore with his brain on steroids.” Mainly scrutinizing Chomsky’s “unparalleled track record for being wrong,” Flynn made it obvious that of all the people from his book, this was the one that he wanted to focus on the most. “It is startling how many dumb ideas come from the brain of Noam Chomsky. Even more startling is how his ideas retain their power over the global Left.” declared Flynn. For example, he discussed Chomsky’s denial of the Cambodian Genocide that took place between 1975-1979 in which Pol Pot put over a million Cambodian’s to death. Flynn was quick to point out that later on, Chomsky would change his view on the subject, but had already left behind a number of articles proving otherwise.
There are a number of these that Flynn brought up including his claim that the standard of living in Cuba was not only comparatively equal to that of the US, but could actually be considered higher than that of our nation. Chomsky’s claim that a US lead invasion into Afghanistan would leave 3-4 million dead as a result of both military strikes and the after effects also proved to be completely off when the US has occupied the area for over 3 years and the highest death toll tally so far to be published was 3-4 thousand, with the Associated Press claiming it to be around 6-7 hundred.
“Chomsky was off by 1000% percent on this claim, if he were an accountant or broker, he would be out of a job, but instead because he is a professor he is treated like a superstar.” pointed out Flynn. It is his contention that far from losing his credibility, these Anti-American claims have earned Chomsky an even more influential status in liberal circles. Far from basing many of his ideas in fact, Chomsky, according to Flynn, is lead by an idolatrous ideology leading to crackpot theories underlined by his own personal propaganda rather than rational, flexible thought.
Though it would seem the lecture went about knit picking away at what many consider to be respectable intellectuals, Flynn did not forgo providing a paradigm for what he considered to be a model intellectual mind free from the blinding effects of misguided, tenacious ideology. He found Stephen Hawking to be just such an embodiment of real intellect.
During a point in Hawking’s career, he produced an early theory on black holes and their energy consumption. When the paper was released it was greeted with heavy criticism. Flynn used this example because although Hawking’s felt his work was correct, he did not completely shrug off his colleagues or dismiss them because they opposed his way of thought. Instead, he reexamined his research and eventually, earlier this year, admitted that his theory had indeed been flawed and needed to be reevaluated.
“This is the difference between a real intellectual and a pseudo-intellectual, they can admit when they have made a mistake. He is an example of a real scholar,” explained Flynn. “C.S. Lewis once said ‘If you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.'” Admitting that if he were to place a label upon himself in the political spectrum he would lean towards the conservative side, he illustrated his points well when he came to a brief discussion of the Bush Administration. Confidently, he made it clear that he supported Bush on a number of issues, including social security, but did not approve of all of them. Though he supported Bush in some regards, he admitted his opposition to the Iraq War, which many liberals would not understand since they tend to believe that all Bush supporters love the US going to war.
This gave validity to the fact that what Flynn preaches he also practices. Though he supports one side, he does not abstain from allowing himself to come into opposition with that same side when his rationality leads him in that direction. Now many would say that since he had confirmed himself to be a conservative that he was just that, a conservative bashing respected liberal thinkers. However, he did a good job in his talk by not making it into a liberal versus conservative ideology. Instead, he worked hard at trying to just show the absurd nature of an ideological driven mind versus that of rationality directed mentality.
The talk lasted just under an hour and closed with a question and answer period. However, it turned out to be more of an abrasive comment session. It was blatantly obvious that many of the audience members had come with closed ears, but didn’t leave their “I hate conservatives at all cost” sort of mindset.
One student that stepped up to the microphone actually became so irate at Flynn’s rebuttal that he stormed out of Ira Allen Chapel. The student had been trying to defend Noam Chomsky as if he himself somehow was the liberal role model in the flesh. This act of frustration only seemed to affirm the close-minded attitude many students seem to adhere to at UVM and many liberal schools across the country. The Book
The content of his actual book far surpasses the lecture given by Flynn. It delves much deeper into the three “intellectual morons” that he brought to the audiences attention. Composed of 246 pages, the book reads quickly, but does not lack on insight. A mixture of essays with sarcasm that at times turns some of the absurdities of certain individuals into an informative satire that will make one ponder the fallacy of falling into an unquestionable devotion and the dangers of misguided zeal.
Intellectual Morons also scrutinizes ideology on a deeper level than the one presented in his short talk. In it, the sections explore ideology in an approach that encompasses not only the “gurus” that find them, but also the systems themselves and the people that connect themselves to them or what he refers to as “joiners.”
Though it seemed in his talk he only discussed liberal ideologues, the book explores a number of other cases that span the political spectrum. Flynn, however, does come off as a bit too cynical in some sections. At some points his arguments deconstruct certain individuals he deems “intellectual morons” or slaves to their ideology in such a way that some things seem to be taken out of context. In other words, in some parts he manipulates certain quotes or actions of certain individuals to shape his thesis. These situations occur only a rare few times and do little to hurt his argument.
The book is a must read for any individual, whether liberal or conservative, and is especially significant to students. Whether one agrees with Flynn or not, he puts forth a view of politics past and future that will make any reader with a truly open mind, not necessarily change their belief systems completely, but at least open themselves to new ideas and debate rather than adhering to an ideological “set in stone” sort of dead end.
Why Does Any Of This Matter?
One of the individuals that posed a question for Flynn began with the statement: “I respect you for coming to this school.” What does that mean? The comment, intentional or not, alluded to the nature and atmosphere of UVM both politically and philosophically. It is no secret that this university is one of the top liberal bastions in the Northeast. Not many students can say they do not come across some form of heated debate, whether political or not, in either their classes or social life here at our beautiful university.
The problem is not debate amongst students, but rather, the ideological oppression some professor try to impose upon their students through their determining the curriculum. According to Flynn, “The UVM faculty looks like the United Nation, but thinks like a San Francisco coffee house.” Though the comment may be a bit off-color, it should make all of the students at this school think.
Think outside the box, explore outside of class, and learn through rational thought processes rather than sitting back and simply regurgitating back all the ideology imposed upon you. Allow yourself to be your own free thinker, it is all right to have beliefs, just don’t follow them blindly, without question. That’s what college is, a time in all of our lives to learn, grow, and find out who we are. This is a point that it seems Flynn fails to understand.
He uses ideology as a synonym for beliefs, when they differ. Have beliefs, beliefs are important, just don’t fall into the trap of one way thought and loyalty to one system of thought to the point that you become blind to your own rationality. Work to gain knowledge on issues rather than allowing pre-conceived notions to determine how you feel about something. Just because you’re a liberal, it is okay to see eye to eye with a conservative once and a while and vice versa, if your mind tells you that what you feel is true; not that what type of party you associate with tells you how to decide.
There is an old Chinese proverb, “Be as the bamboo. Though it is strong and rigid it is flexible and bends to the wind, so thus it will not snap.”