Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Book to Not Read

I've never read any of Orson Scott Card's books. That's either because he came along after I left my Science Fiction cocoon sometime in the early 80s or because I wasn't aware of him while I was reading Science Fiction. I have nothing against the genre, I still have a lot of my old books and some day I may reread some of my old favorites by Lafferty, Dick, Ellison, Heinlein, Asimov, Sheckley, Sturgeon, Farmer, etc.

I do however, always read Card's columns at The Ornery American. His latest is called "Evil Fiction".
Let me tell you about an audiobook that I hated.

I didn't hate it because it was badly written -- it was mediocre in the way that mediocre thrillers usually are, and that means it would ordinarily have been tolerable.

No, the reason I stopped listening to Steve Berry's The Alexandria Link is that this book is evil.

I don't mean it's about evil. I don't even mean that it is evil-porn, like those horror books whose authors are pervertedly devoted to thinking up cool ways to torture and kill people.

I mean that this book, to the degree that it is read by people ignorant of history (i.e., practically everybody), will move us closer to a future in which our society permits or even approves of the murder of Jews and the destruction of the state of Israel.

Wait! This book is fiction! How could it have such an effect?

Well, it can't -- not all by itself. Its effect is incremental. But it's real.

Here's how it works.
Read the rest of the column. Then think about some of the current movies beloved by our current intellectual establishment like Syriana and Paradise Now. The entertainment we consume puts ideas in our head and colors our world view whether we want to admit it or not.
Naturally, the book also loathes the Bush administration -- that's a requirement in fiction today. (When I wrote a thriller in which American soldiers actually approved of the war against Terrorist nations and groups, and actually respected President Bush, I was attacked by Leftists as if I had created a piece of intolerable propaganda -- never mind that the real American military is full of people with those views, and the point of the novel, if it had one, was to deplore extremism on either side. Actual tolerance toward conservative views is regarded as a crime by America's "tolerant" and "freedom loving" intellectuals today.")
So why do so many intellectuals love what they claim to hate; theocracy (if it's Islamic) and totalitarianism? The answer to that might be in the writings of one of my favorite thinkers, Eric Hoffer, as written about by another one of my favorite thinkers, Thomas Sowell, here and here.
Among Hoffer's insights about mass movements was that they are an outlet for people whose individual significance is meager in the eyes of the world and — more important — in their own eyes. He pointed out that the leaders of the Nazi movement were men whose artistic and intellectual aspirations were wholly frustrated.

Hoffer said: "The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause."

People who are fulfilled in their own lives and careers are not the ones attracted to mass movements: "A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding," Hoffer said. "When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business."

What Hoffer was describing was the political busybody, the zealot for a cause — the "true believer," who filled the ranks of ideological movements that created the totalitarian tyrannies of the 20th century.
Eric Hoffer never bought the claims of intellectuals to be for the common man. "A ruling intelligentsia," he said, "whether in Europe, Asia or Africa, treats the masses as raw material to be experimented on, processed and wasted at will."

One of the many conceits of contemporary intellectuals that Hoffer deflated was their nature cult. "Almost all the books I read spoke worshipfully of nature," he said, recalling his own personal experience as a migrant farm worker that was full of painful encounters with nature, which urban intellectuals worshipped from afar.

Hoffer saw in this exaltation of nature another aspect of intellectuals' elitist "distaste for man." Implicit in much that they say and do is "the assumption that education readies a person for the task of reforming and reshaping humanity -- that is equips him to act as an engineer of souls and manufacturer of desirable human attributes."
Of course highly recommend that you read both Sowell and Hoffer. I may go out and buy one of Card's novels.

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