Wednesday, 1 June 2005

Irony In Human Events

It's been quite the week for eyebrow raising quotes. Somewhere on the 'Net Orson Scott Card, a Mormon, is having a go at Star Wars fans for believing in a religion someone made up.

Now comes a list of the world's most evil books by a publication called Human Events. They describe themselves as "The National Conservative Weekly" and they have Ann Coulter writing for them so they're probably somewhere to the far right in terms of politics. The list shows this; Marx gets a beating twice and comes first for the Communist Manifesto. What they say about Das Kapital seems a little odd, though:
[He] portray[s] capitalism as an ugly phase in the development of human society in which capitalists inevitably and amorally exploit labor by paying the cheapest possible wages to earn the greatest possible profits.

Maybe it's me, but Marx probably protrays it that way because that's what it is or, at least, was when he was writing. The difference between then and now, of course, is not that capitalism has put aside its self-interestedness and become more benign, but that governments have placed limits on that self-interestedness and demanded some accountability to society. However, in this era of out-sourcing jobs to poorer countries, I don't think you can quibble too much with the definition.

You can quibble with this, though:
He could not have predicted 21st Century America: a free, affluent society based on capitalism and representative government that people the world over envy and seek to emulate.

Or you can just laugh loudly and start thinking of counter-examples and that "free" and "affluent" have to have spectacularly loose definitions in order for the statement to be true. You might also wonder who envies and might want to emulate America at this moment in History.

Two places above Das Kapital, you may notice, is The Kinsey Report. This is evil because:
The reports were designed to give a scientific gloss to the normalization of promiscuity and deviancy. "Kinsey’s initial report, released in 1948... stunned the nation by saying that American men were so sexually wild that 95% of them could be accused of some kind of sexual offense under 1940s laws," the Washington Times reported last year.

As far as I can tell they mean it's a bad thing when someone tries to accurately describe an aspect of society. It suggests that, for the compilers, a book that exposes a comforting lie as a sham is evil. It's no surprise when you see Darwin is in the also rans. The whole list, apart from the few books that they couldn't ignore, seems anti-thought. Anything the forces you to look at reality and to make you notice that that reality comes up wanting is, almost by definition, evil. The description of Beyond Good & Evil by Freidrich Nietzsche manages to neatly show this, as well as an inability of the compilers to recognise themselves:
"Life itself is essentially appropriation, injury, overpowering of the strange and weaker, suppression, severity, imposition of one’s own forms, incorporation and, at the least and mildest, exploitation," he wrote. The Nazis loved Nietzsche.

Nazis may have loved him, but currently the greatest embodiment of his ideas, as stated above, seems to me to be the Bush administration...

5 comments:

Joe Herzberg said...

What about no. 10. Keynes' General Theory.
'The book is a recipe for ever-expanding government. When the business cycle threatens a contraction of industry, and thus of jobs, he argued, the government should run up deficits, borrowing and spending money to spur economic activity. FDR adopted the idea as U.S. policy, and the U.S. government now has a $2.6-trillion annual budget and an $8-trillion dollar debt.'
Surely Keynes could 'not have predicted 21st Century America: a free, affluent society based on capitalism and representative government that people the world over envy and seek to emulate.'
I'm confused so is Keynes a communist or something. Does $8trillion debt create a free affluent society. That must be why the 3rd world keeps trying to get into debt, it's seeking to emulate America. The IMF and the World Bank it's a communist, Keynesian, liberal, illuminati conspiracy. Watch out for those 12 foot lizards.

Steve said...

Thanks for the recommended reading list. Just packed with so many stimulating titles that I've been meaning to pick up.

The only surprise this list holds for me is that Darwin, the fundamentalist bigot's bogeyman, doesn't come any higher. Also "What Is To Be Done" is an interesting choice. Lenin wrote many other things that, from the intellectually stunted perspective of the compilers, could be considered as more "evil". "State and Revolution" and his writings on religion spring to mind as good examples. Maybe this title is on the list purly because it's Lenin's best known work and the only one this shower has heard of. Because, let's face it, the liklihood of these books actually
being read by their critics is slim. They could never allow anything like reasoned discussion to challenge their moral certainties.

Paul said...

Hey Steve and Joe!

Yes it's a confused list and it does work as a sort of recommended reading list for the liberal thinker.

Interestingly, and backing up Steve, it seems they've mispelt Freidrich (and I copied it thinking they must have at least researched the titles).

You can, incidentally, get Beyond Good & Evil here for free in, PDF format, along with a load of other books. If you can read onscreen (or have access to a place that'll print it out for less than buying the book) it's worth a look.

Joe Herzberg said...

Surely the list should consist of anything and everything by Dan Brown and JK Rowling. Not for their occult / anti-catholic sentiment but because they're shit.

Paul said...

Yes, but, unless you're a tour guide at one of the places in Brown's books, Brown isn't actively harmful (not "evil" has I had originally).

Neither is JK Rowling, as far as I know.

Although the list does seem to be comprised of books that the panel -- a random bunch of c-list right wing "thinkers" I gather -- have personal or ideological disagreements with. So, taking that broad definition of "harmful", Brown and Rowling should probably start to be worried.

Elsewhere on the 'Net, by the way, — and this list is all over the 'Net this week — it has been pointed out that each book description comes with a link to Amazon that would, if you bought the book, profit Human Events. So, in effect, they are trying to profit from books that they themselves have described as harmful. Irony doesn't really cover it.