101 of 115 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2004
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.
178 of 214 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2004
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. On the next page (page 22), Flynn, in a footnote, bizarrely refers to the movie The Hours as a "boring feminist film" when the film was neither, unless by `boring' is meant it was not a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, and by `feminist' is meant that most of its stars were women.
Further examples abound, all of which are to the detriment of Flynn's overarching thesis that the intellectual left is bereft of cogency and a commitment to an objective standard of truth. To wit: on page 34, he cites as an inevitable consequence of Alfred Kinsey the playing of music videos on MTV that resemble "soft-core porn." When was the last time MTV played music videos? The nineteen-eighties? So why does Flynn mention Aguilera and Spears as the soft-core porn stars?
On page 39, he relates the story of Alfred Kinsey mutilating his genitals, and offers as the explanation for this act merely that Kinsey was perverse and repulsive; he refuses to explore the possibility that Kinsey's homosexuality caused him distress and that his genital mutilation was an attempt at a kind of self-flagellation. This is a path of inquiry that is at once obvious and worth pursuing. It certainly would not be the first time that someone shamed about their sexuality or sexual proclivities attempted self-mutilation.
Page 102: "According to [Howard] Zinn, [Christopher Columbus] and those who followed him to the New World ventured for one reason: profit." This isn't news; it's well established that Columbus convinced Ferdinand & Isabella to finance his voyage with the promise of jewels and gold and silver for Spain's empire. Indeed, the whole of the mercantilist economy that developed when the new world was discovered depended on the assumption that exploration was undertaken for purposes of earning a profit. Flynn argues that Zinn reduces everything to economics; if it happened in history, Flynn says, Zinn believes it has a profit motive. While this may be a stretch, and Flynn is correct to point out that Zinn has an unhealthy obsession with trying to point out the alleged evils of capitalism, it does not follow from this that Zinn is incorrect in claiming that Columbus had money on his mind when he proposed his voyage.
These criticisms are a shame because his book attempts to highlight a very important fact that most other commentators conveniently ignore: much of what passes as intellectual conversation and inquiry among the political left these days (as well as the reactionary right) is ideological in nature and not really intellectual. Most of it is artifice, some of it is conjecture, and all of it ignores the inconvenient reality that, as Lynn notes at the end of his book, ideas have consequences. Lynn makes the point that Marx's publication of Das Kapital presaged the death of 100 million people in the twentieth century. He implies that we ought to ask what will the consequences of some of the more outlandish ideas proffered by today's intellectuals be?
72 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2004
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.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2005
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.
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. Many other conservative writers would avoid covering this because some of the content conflicts with their own ideology about the nature of America and it's to Flynn's credit that US involvement is covered here. But the section is written with uncharacteristically euphemistic and passion-free prose. The moral comment present in most of the rest of the book is missing here. I just wish that some of the people who pointed this out, like Chomsky (who certainly does have a tedious 'reflexive anti-Americanism' among his flaws), could be a bit more of a balanced treatment.
But to sum up, this is a book that stands above most of the polemics I've read recently and I recommend it.
35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
I'd never read this author until I saw this book and, intrigued by the title (honestly!), I decided to browse. Several hours later, I was on chapter 4 and cloud 9: this guy can write, and it makes sense! The style is approachable and the points are (almost) un-impeachable: ideology will lead you down the wrong path everytime and I daresay there's not much I can find wrong with his assertions.
He describes ideologues as falling into several categories, with Joiners being the largest: those poor souls who heedlessly and unthinkingly swallow then regurgitate (usually in the form of bumper stickers and protest signs accompanied by the Banshee screams of the self-righteous) whatever their trend of choice is, from Abortion Rights to Hyper-environmentalism, take your pick.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2007
A number of years ago, I spent 1-1/2 years working as a volunteer on the McGovern campaign. Over the years, my life experience has slowly nudged me more and more to the right. It has been a long (and continuing) journey for me to gradually own my ignorance and misprogramming. This book deals with major nontruths which have shaped widely-held views of the world, much to the detriment of our culture, our educational institutions, our families, and our communities.
This book really was a painful read for me, but it helps me to understand how it is that I and so many others got programmed to believe much of what we came to believe.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2005
Intellectual Morons finally exposes the rampaging insanity so often found among intellectuals, particularly in our nation's universities. Many other comments here itemize the topics that Flynn covers, so I'll limit myself to other issues.
1. Yes, Flynn is conservative. This fact does not make any of his arguments intrinsically wrong or his research shoddy. Moreover, Flynn does devote a chapter to Ayn Rand -- objectivist mainstay of many libertarian conservatives, and Leo Strauss -- father of Neo-Conservatism. Some have pointed out that beyond these two individuals the remaining belong to the Left. This is true -- however, the sampling roughly reflects the proportion of Leftists to "Everyone Else" among academicians in the humanities and social sciences.
2. Flynn's research appears sound. I have not seen many comments here dispute the facts he presents. Did Margaret Sanger advocate concentration camps for the retarded and disabled, or didn't she? Did Chomsky support Pol Pot after his genocidal crimes were made plain, or didn't he?
3. While the research seems solid, Flynn errs significantly by pursuing ad hominem or irrelevant details that unnecessarily expose his thesis to criticism. For example, it is enough to describe Kinsey's fraudulent research on sexuality. Flynn goes further by describing Kinsey's perverted sexual practices. If Kinsey were not a sexual pervert, his research would still have been fraudulent. By pursuing this sort of ad hominem against Kinsey (however distasteful he may be), Flynn permits opponents to claim his arguments are personal attacks and to ignore the substantiative side of his thesis. Similarly, Flynn need only describe Straussian doctrine to show the pompous exclusivity apparent in it. Unfortunately, he needlessly inserts a bit of his own America First isolationism and flirts with the asinine contention that US foreign policy is rigged by "Neocons" (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Congressional Democrats - all Neocons?).
On the whole, Intellectual Morons is an important contribution to public discourse. It is particularly useful to parents who will soon see their children off to college. Too easily do we defer to intellectuals on social and ethical issues because we feel intimidated, or feel unqualified to assess often specious contentions couched in obscurantist language. At the same time, Flynn's self-defeating interjections and light (but omnipresent) flippancy mar this rare look at a serious subject.
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
This book has an exciting premise--that ideology trumps reason. I have independently studied four of the people Danieal Flynn profiles in "Intellectual Morons:" Alfred Kinsey, Paul Ehrlich, Alger Hiss, and Ayn Rand.
I read Alfred Kinsey's "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" 20 years ago and I wanted to verify Kinsey's research. I thought that Kinsey's percentage of homosexual males in America was at least ten times too high. Easy enough to prove--look at sales of homosexual literature. Either the gay man doesn't read as much as the straight man, or using Kinsey's research as a marketing strategy is flawed because Kinsey's numbers don't match up. Kinsey's research may have increased the number of homosexual males who "come out of the closet." Still, the large quantity of remandered books make me wonder.
Paul Ehrlich's gloomy book, "The Population Bomb," was a depressing read three decades ago. By 1990, Ehrlich's predictions had been proven wrong. For the faithful, contrary facts are just the devil playing tricks. So the environmentalist has become an anti-human activist, promoting a negative population growth agenda.
Alger Hiss is one of the many spies I studied. I had some professional work because of the US Army's anti-subervsion and counter-espionage program (every American service member gets security briefings!) and I was astounded at how much this man got away with. My formal studies were conducted in the 1970's and 1980's. I found the case against Hiss as conclusive as the case against Adolf Hitler. Today, after the archives of the old Soviet Union have been made public, and after Project Verona (much like President Bush's current NSA "wire tapping" flap) has been mostly declassified, the only people who can't be convinced of Hiss's treason are those who thought spying for Stalin was a noble enterprise that was for the good of humanity.
I read Ayn Rand's works--at least all of the major works--upon graduating from high school and entering the Marines. Several friends were Rand fans. A few were Libertarians. I rand into a problem--if I followed Rand's dictum of thinking for myself, I disagreed with some of Rand's opinions. One example was her opinion that gun control was a good thing--that personal safety was the responsibility of "society's fighting cohorts" and not something achieved by "having a gun in your pocket." That was at odds with Rand's individualism and her anti-statist philosophy. Who watches the watchers? The Libertarian Party's foreign policy appears bankrupt to me--how do you achieve piracy suppression and patent/copyright protection if you won't "initiate force?" Sometimes, you either intervene on the world scene, or you wind up with a smoking crater where your proudest city once stood. How can you enforce ecological measures when your neighbor dumps raw sewage and industrial wastes into the ocean? Libertarianism has its roots in Ayn Rand's writings.
There are several more issues raised by Flynn in "Intellectual Morons." I'm sure that others will find that Flynn's arguments are not convincing--and that's good! General Patton was quoted as saying "if everyone is thinking alike, then nobody's thinking." The eco-terrorists that torched a 1,500-unit housing project in Southern California may find sympathy among diverse groups--there is a housing shortage that negatively impacts Black and Hispanic families in that region. It is a fact--destroy a creature's habitat and the creature must live elsewhere, or perish.
Read "Intellectual Morons" and do your own research. I don't know everything. I learn things all the time (forget things, too!) New information crops up often. Why let ideology ruin my life when I can have more fun doing it on my own?
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2005
Remember all the obtuse longwinded authors you were required to read as an undergraduate - after which you quickly forgot about because they seemed not to make any sense? Well here they are again - and guess what? they didn't make any sense! This book is not about Clinton, Kerry or Kennedy - it's not even about Moore, Streisand or Asner. The book is about the morons who inspired them - it's about Marcuse, Fromm and Rousseau - Kinsey, Chomsky and Strauss - Sanger, Rand and Friedan. And as astounding as it might sound - it's a great read! Check out the last line of the Ayn Rand section -- it's a gasser!
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2006
When this book first came out, I thought it was another one of those Ann Coulter-type, "let's bash the Democrats" kind of thing. The thing that convinced me to buy it was all the intelligent people who had read it (Thomas Sowell, William F. Buckley, Jr.), people who I admire. I picked it up, and to my very pleasant surprise, it is a very smart, intelligent, hard-hitting book about the "looney left", and the whacky ideas the people believe in. Really excellent book that is at once intelligent and very funny at times. I highly recommend it. People will think it is exagerrated, but if you doubt that, go to any major U.S. university and spend some time, or look up PETA and see what they are about, or the insane theories of Noam Chomsky, which millions of people eat up as if it were a religion. I particularly liked the chapter on Kinsey, because that movie came out recently that basically "beatified" him. This book reminded me of being back in college in the 1980s. I hope that a lot of college students read this book, as a counterweight to the looney left theories that they will be force-fed on U.S. campuses.