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Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas Hardcover – September 21, 2004


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Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas + A Conservative History of the American Left
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Forum; First Edition edition (September 21, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400053552
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400053551
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #829,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Inside Flap

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 spawnedideologues 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. The trouble is, their lies become institutionalized as truth, and we all suffer as a result.
In Intellectual Morons, Flynn reveals:

•How rabid anti-Americans simply parrot the delusional claims of a few gurus
•How the environmental movement, spawned
by a "scientist" whose doomsday predictions are almost always wrong, has bred fanaticism, stupidity, and dishonesty
•How the hero of the animal rights crowd is a crank who promotes infanticide and euthanasia
•How a scientific fraud—and pervert—launched the sexual revolution
•How abortion rights activists ignore (or cover up) the fact that their matron saint advocated eugenics and concentration camps
•How our universities have become hothouses of leftist ideology
•How historians and journalists have airbrushed history to turn a racial separatist into a civil rights icon

Filled with jaw-dropping lapses in common sense from even our most celebrated opinion leaders, Intellectual Morons is a welcome reality check for the glaring excesses of today's political and cultural debates.

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Customer Reviews

The book is well written, humorous, and entertaining.
Richard Munson
In some cases it is, but to not ever provide analysis of the actual ideology, but rather just saying ideology is bad, is not the best way to prove your point.
Erik Anschicks
He had particular disdain for old-fashioned liberals like Hubert Humphrey.
Avid Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Bunker on September 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Unlike many who have "reviewed" this book, I've actually read it. Some have called it a right-wing screed and taken Flynn to task for not denouncing people like McVeigh. Understand that Flynn is explaining why some will grasp onto an idea, regardless of its factual integrity, and promote it. These are not ignorant folks, but well-educated professionals and educators. "Ideology trumps all" is his thesis.

I'm sure someone else could take some right-wing ideological tenets and do the same thing, but they haven't.

If you read this with an open mind, and disregard your own biases, it may allow you to take a fresh look at some of your own opinions. In the chapters dealing with Animal Rights and Environmentalism, Flynn makes a good argument that people blinded by ideology have actually caused more pernicious problems by "solving" a simpler one through their efforts. What he points out is how ideology becomes an overpowering force in some people's lives, and that is something we should all consider.
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177 of 213 people found the following review helpful By D. Friedman on October 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Ideology is at odds with logic and consistency because logic and consistency require that, occasionally, a sacred cow must perish. Ideology and its adherents require that those loyal to the cause never stray; fundamentalist religion and followers of a particular ideology can be said to suffer from the same myopic affliction. Thus, what we have in Daniel Flynn's Intellectual Morons is an exploration of how otherwise intelligent people-mainly Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and other intellectual luminaries of the left-have jettisoned the principles of logic and intellectual rigor in favor of chicanery, deceit, and manipulation to further their political agendas.

The premise for the book is promising, and, in some of the chapters (each of which chapter is devoted to a particular `intellectual moron' and his or her adherents) Flynn succeeds at this admittedly ambitious goal. For instance, the first chapter on Herbert Marcuse is generally excellent (though it too has its flaws); Lynn eviscerates the idea that Marcuse's obscurantist prose contained worthwhile ideas. Rather he compares Marcuse's often contradictory and perplexing phrases to that of Orwell's Newspeak in 1984 ("Ignorance is Strength," etc.) Unfortunately, this effort is inconsistent throughout the book, and some of the claims Flynn makes are bizarre, unsubstantiated, or just plain vicious in their nature.

Flynn believes that Marcuse's writing leads to the logical consequence of courts' upholding gay marriage, Clinton's lechery, Madonna, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears (page 21 of the hardcover edition). It is not clear how this follows; certainly, if we are to adduce causes for these pop culture phenomena we can point to many strains of thought over the past 100 years that have allowed vapidity to flourish.
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70 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on December 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Unlike other "reviewers" I did read the book. Flynn, through several vignettes, tries to explain modern American culture through the prism of "intellectuals" whose ideas affected our society. The author makes 3 salient points that bear repeating: With the decline of religion, intellectuals increasingly turned to ideology for meaning, the core of ideology is political and, most importantly, ideology values ideas over people.

The first chapter brilliantly summarizes Marcuse and "Cultural" Marxism wherein every facet of human existence is politicized. His ideas permeated our culture - from "diversity" wherein the Left was supported and the Right silenced, to identify politics (gay/ethnic/gender group rights) to victimization to anti-Western bias to a redefinition of education. He had particular disdain for old-fashioned liberals like Hubert Humphrey. He was astute, though, in recognizing that the common worker would never accept his ideas and therefore must be "forced" to be free.

Elements of violence and authoritarianism are present in all these groups; the "truth" must prevail and violence is necessary for the greater good. This explains the perplexing notion of "liberals" praising despots whole first act would be silencing them or of commentators praising Arafat while condemning Israel. Each ideology seeks Utopia - from an (ir)rational Randian world to Strauss's American Empire to a primitive garden of Eden where humans live in peace with nature and its creatures and have sex without consequences or emotion.

The article on Chomsky and his continual excuses/espousing of various events (to this day he denies the Kymer Rouge killed millions of Cambodians) was another tour de force. He emphasizes that the mjority of those in non-academic studies (identity politics) drift into three major areas: Academia, politics and the media.
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Format: Hardcover
Flynn writes well and unlike many other polemicists, bases his arguments on stacks of verifiable facts. This hooked me early on and I read the whole book in one go.

The introduction alone is worth the price of admission. To an alarming extent people do believe what they read in the papers, and, worse, they believe demagogues and gurus. People love to find heroes and to give up the effort of thinking for themselves.

The chapters on Kinsey and Sanger were particularly powerful. In parts they were actually hard to read because of extent of the misdeeds of these people. It's really important that more of this stuff is in the public domain because of the glib treatment afforded many of these types.

Two caveats.

First, Flynn often moves from fact-based, reasonable argument to more fanciful hypotheses, but states these as fact without really backing them up. According to Flynn, Kinsey is responsible for initiating the largely damaging changes in sexual behavior following his reports and the remarkably fawning coverage by much of the press. That might be an idea worth exploring, but there isn't much to go on in the book itself.

Second, it's a terrible pity that a writer with a mind as acute as Flynn's cannot turn his scrutiny on conservative ideologues. I wonder if he is a bit torn here. On pages 82-83 of the book he describes the recent civil war in Guatemala at some length. This began with a US-backed military coup which replaced a democratically-elected left winger with links to communism, with a brutal military dictator ("the man the Americans helped install"). Large-scale atrocities ensued, committed by the guerrillas but also by the US-backed government.
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