A Webb of Lies


A terrific documentary from the BBC World Service (episode one available for download here; episode two airs next week) asking the age old question, "why are smart people so consistently fooled by evil regimes?" The first program, predictably titled "Useful Idiots," recounts the Sovietophilia of some very clever people, including Malcolm Muggeridge, Doris Lessing, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Claude Cockburn, HG Wells, and Walter Duranty.

For those familiar with the invaluable academic work of Paul Hollander, the cast of characters will be familiar and the zeal with which so many American intellectuals embraced totalitarianism will be unsurprising. But the mention of the Webbs and their book Soviet Communism: A New Civilization sent me to the academic database JSTOR to gauge the general reaction to the book, an almost comic hagiography of Stalin, amongst the intelligentsia. Here are samples from just the first page of results:

"The Webbs—the name by which the authors will ever be remembered—have produced, on the threshold of their ninth decade, an astonishing book. The volumes are a most helpful survey of a vast body of literature, the sifting of which has been done with a care that makes the process more than merely one of scissors and paste. While confessing to a bias, the authors strive conscientiously to achieve objectivity."—The Quarterly Journal of Economics (MIT Press), Vol. 51, No. 1 (Nov., 1936)

"This is a remarkable book, a fitting continuation of the documentary research and tract-writing with which the Webbs have enriched the social sciences during their long and fruitful collaboration. It is comprehensive, detailed and fully documented—an amazing piece of work, even granted the interest of the subject and the authors' mastery of technique."—International Affairs, Vol. 15, No. 3 (May—Jun., 1936)

"The indeed must be congratulated on the achievement of a stupendous task… The goal of Soviet medicine is to create the positive health of the population, and, so far as can be judged from this book, it seems to have made remarkable progress." The British Medical Journal, Vol. 1, No. 3917 (Feb. 1, 1936)

"The result is a most complete analysis, in the first volume, of the complicated Soviet organizational structure and, in the second volume, of the social institutions of the Soviet system in action. While practically all aspects of the revolutionary struggle and of its institutional product are touched upon, the great value of the study, in the opinion of the reviewer, is the weighting by the authors of the various facts and factors." The Social Service Review (University of Chicago), Vol. 10, No. 2 (Jun., 1936)

"In this, their latest work, a monument of industry, written with extraordinary clarity and vivid with the ardour of perennial youth, [the Webbs] win once again our enthusiastic gratitude." The Economic Journal, Vol. 46, No. 181 (Mar., 1936)

 "The comprehensive survey that the authors here provide will go far to correct many prevailing errors in regard to different aspects of Russian life, and they are on safe ground when they stress the necessity of the picture being all-embracing…It is free from the crudeness which characterises so much of this type of literature. As a sustained effort to present the Bolshevik experiment in the most attractive colours, this work of 1,200 pages is a remarkable achievement. There is a studied moderation of tone that renders the book all the more effective for its purpose." Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 25, No. 97 (Mar., 1936)

"Faced with the magnitude of the task the authors have undertaken and the breadth of vision and depth of understanding with which they have accomplished it, to cavil at minor inaccuracies and to deplore the lack of a subject index seem acts of Lilliputian dimension…These criticisms are however of little importance; the two volumes composing this work constitute a synthesis of what has taken place in the Soviet Union for which the Western world cannot but be grateful." Pacific Affairs, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Jun., 1936)

"Soviet Communism is the most balanced, scholarly and comprehensive book on Russia yet written in the English language. It has deprived all who can read English of their last excuse for prejudice born of ignorance. It should enable public opinion on Sovietism to move on to a new stage." The Australian Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 30 (Jun., 1936)

I found no critical reviews from 1936, the year Soviet Communism was released.

And apologies to the BBC for being pedantic, but while New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty was a repulsive Stalinist stooge, it isn't true that he "responded [to claims of famine] with an article in the New York Times headed 'Story of the famine is bunk.'" Duranty was more subtle than that, though only slightly. It was in private correspondence that Duranty called the stories "mostly bunk"; in print, he wrote that claims of widespread starvation were "scare stories," "exaggerated stories," and that previous accounts of Soviet brutality were "all bunk, of course."

NEXT: Justice Elena Kagan

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  1. H G Wells interviews Stalin

    1. This is the dumbest thing I’ve read all day.

      1. The Stalin interview or the Suki thing?

        1. He is replying to the Stalin thing. I think it was dumb reasoning for covering up the UFO too.

        2. I made sure not to read the Suki thing, BP. Reading H.G. Wells treat that monster with respect already made my eyes bleed.

          1. Yes, it was sickening. I did find it ironic that Stalin basically pointed out Wells’ Fabianism.

    2. Wells was a bigger socialist cheerleader than Stanlin?


  2. Of course, the great irony of that programme is the BBC is a bastion of fabianism in the UK.

    1. Yeah, I can see them going from this programme to yet another “Cuba isn’t so bad, they have great healthcare!” programme in the next hour.

      You’dn think they’d have learned by now.

      You’dn be wrong.

  3. Saying these people were “fooled” lets them off the hook, morally. They weren’t fooled, they were in agreement with Stalin just like Chomsky was A-OK with Pol Pot.

    1. Well, of those listed, at least Malcolm Muggeridge got over being fooled, and quick.

      1. I’ll give him that.

      2. It was his courage and honesty that let the world know about the holodomor.

        1. I have a Ukraininan co-worker a few feet away whose parents lived through that. He seemed surprised I knew about it when I asked him his views on the issue last year, but blamed “stupidity” and homegrown officials as much as the Soviet regime.

  4. There certainly was something about Fabianism that attracted the intelligentsia. I’m guessing that every subculture goes through fads of fashion. And it just became fashionable to be a fabian.

  5. Oliver Stone

    1. In Oliver Stone News: Chavez fan Oliver Stone thinks that Hitler’s been unfairly maligned and blames Jewish domination for the media’s ‘excessive’ focus on the Holocaust.


      It doesn’t help that Stone kind of looks like Dr Josef Mengele from The Boys From Brazil.


      1. Stone looks like Gregory Peck???

        1. Maybe it’s just the moustache and tan jacket but that was my first thought when I saw his photo.

  6. Sean Penn

    1. Ed Asner
      Steven Spielberg
      Benicio Del Toro
      Bianca Jagger
      Jane Fonda

      As PJ O’Rourke observed, even after the coms disppeared, these folks went right on symping.

      1. Holy shit, Batman. You sure are giving a lot of undeserved credit to your lists for belonging to the “intelligentsia”. Since when did celebrity and intelligence become mutually inclusive?

        1. You have a point, but I think a comprehensive list of ivory-tower stooges for communism would be, if anything, vastly larger.

        2. How did you come by the idea that you need to be intelligent to belong to the intelligentsia?

          1. This. Agree or not, Sean Penn, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen and Tim Robbins are all part of intelligentsia.

          2. The two seem to be mutually exclusive afaict

    2. He said “smart people” who were fooled by evil regimes. That’s why I don’t mention my Representative, Baghdad Jim McDermott.

    3. I love the Hitchens piece where Chavez explains to him and Penn that the American lunar landing was fake because there’s no wind on the moon.

    4. Paul Krugman

  7. I’m not sure that the lesson is that smart lefties are easily fooled as much as its that ideology can blind all, even the most capable intellectually.

    1. Or is that most intellectually capable? Whatever.

      1. This doesn’t happen nearly as much with righties.

        1. Typos or falling for totalitarianism?

    2. I suppose part of it is that someone who is intellectually accomplished in one area can naturally fall into thinking he is a great intellect in other areas, including political thinking.

      1. Did some guy named Hayek say that?

        1. Hayek who? You mean Selma?

          1. Someone needs to make a documentary about Hayek’s march on Salma.

    3. I’m not sure that the lesson is that smart lefties are easily fooled as much as its that ideology can blind all, even the most capable intellectually.


      The message is that smart lefties and capable intellectuals weren’t fooled at all.

      They embraced an evil ideology because it flattered their egos and validated their sense of superiority.

      And incidentally was vehicle to power that they never could have dreamed of.

      1. Hmm so those on the “right” have no ego? Those on the “right” have never embraced an evil ideology? I don’t think this is a question of left and right, or even right and wrong.

        1. Also, our own Americanized notions of “left” and “right” really do a rhetorical disservice to the entire discussion.

        2. Those on the right definately have egos, but they have never embraced an evil ideology on the right.

          Because there is none to be embraced.

          Personal/individual freedom, liberty, and responsibility do not work if you try to force them on someone. The very act of forcing moves one leftward.

          And, yes, common defintions of ‘left’ and ‘right’ are woefully inadequate.

          1. +1
            It is well to remember that the same folks who lauded Stalin in the 30’s we ALSO very impressed with “The New Man” in Mussolini, and that Hitler chap.

            1. That is because, as Hayek, Mosca and Eric Hoffer have all pointed, Mussolini and Hitler themselves were of the Left. Fascism and National Socialism were no more than different denominations of the same Marxist religion.

          2. +1
            It is well to remember that the same folks who lauded Stalin in the 30’s we ALSO very impressed with “The New Man” in Mussolini, and that Hitler chap.

            1. Sorry for the double post. Spastic double click on the “submit” button.

  8. I don’t really think they were fooled. I think these “intelligent” people have such massive egos that they firmly believe in their own power to “scientifically manage” a society/economy, even if that concept is unscientific as it contradicts the founding principle of all life: spontaneous order. It is a faith in their own divinity and superiority over mankind, and, indeed, nature itself. Bastiat noted this oddity back in the 19th century, writing this in “The Law”

    “Present-day writers ? especially those of the socialist school of thought ? base their various theories upon one common hypothesis: They divide mankind into two parts. People in general ? with the exception of the writer himself ? form the first group. The writer, all alone, forms the second and most important group. Surely this is the weirdest and most conceited notion that ever entered a human brain!”

    This is, I suppose, in one sense an intellectual failure (if one is stupid enough to believe that). But I think as others have observed, this is definitely a moral failure on the part of these “intellectuals.” Their immoral belief in their own divinity obscured their ability to purse truth intelligently.

    1. Of course our minds and thoughts are the result of the same spontaneous order you speak so reverently of… so aren’t their ideas just part of it all?

      1. Sure, and their minds are marvelous devices like all others. I wasn’t trying to say that they are subhuman; that would be committing the same fallacy they did. My point is that the best way to organize very complex systems such as evolution, biological cells, or the market, is to allow them to organize themselves.

        As a side note, do you not have reverence for the spontaneous order that generated life?

        1. My point is that everything in the universe is energy and matter (or anti-matter). The way it organizes itself is determined according to the laws of physics (i.e. the way quarks and the like react with each other). Therefore, all thought we have, indeed all that we are, is just matter rearranging itself according to physics. Autonomy is a useful fiction, but a fiction nonetheless. Therefore, one school of thought is not “better” than another school of thought, it just is because it is.

          1. I said “therefore” too much.

          2. Modern physics disagrees with your premise.

            1. What, string theory? Quantum theory? I don’t if that really changes the premise.

              1. And we all know that we have autonomy, so therefore that theory of the universe is proven wrong. QED, and all that.

                1. That is unpersuasive.

    2. It could work! The problem is that we weren’t in charge. Put us in charge, and all of your problems will go away.

  9. Coincidentally, I listened to that documentary yesterday, and these two part BBC documentaries always seem to get better as the episodes go on…

    Part Two is supposed to be about the “useful idiots” of today–I wonder who they’ll finger?

    I can think of a handful of likely candidates, one from the UK right off the top of my head. …one who appears to be a friend of Reason’s.

    Anybody else out there read “Korba the Dread”?


    Live long enough, you start seeing parallels everywhere, I know, but sometimes you see ’em ’cause they’re there.

    1. George Galloway comes to mind, as does Robert Fisk.

    2. > Part Two is supposed to be about the “useful idiots” of today–
      > I wonder who they’ll finger?

      Those who are naive about and apologists for corporate communism and The Privatized Toll Road To Serfdom.

    3. > Part Two is supposed to be about the “useful idiots” of today–
      > I wonder who they’ll finger?

      Those who are naive about and apologists for corporate communism and The Privatized Toll Road To Serfdom.

      1. Corporate communism, this is indeed an extraordinary claim.

        You’ve got quite a bit of careful splainnin’ to do, Lucy.

        1. Milton Friedman:
          Communists & Businessmen want the same thing – everyone else equal, but just a little more equality for themselves.

    4. He asked who will the BBC finger, not who should be on the list.

      We can assume Fisk and Galloway will not be on the BBC’s list. Maybe Milton Friedman, for his work with Pinochet’s Chile?

  10. I have to agree with those who say these people weren’t really fooled; because it’s not about that at all. It’s fashion. It was fashionable to be a Fabian or a Marxist or a Soviet fanboi. Many times people do stupid fucking shit because it’s in fashion; just look at bell bottoms or shitty pants for a clothing example.

    They do it because it’s what their circle is doing; and they really don’t put much more thought into it than that. Which makes them very much sheep, but I think that accusation can be leveled at anyone who is a useful idiot.

    1. Well there’s the rub, isn’t it?

      I’ve been wrong about a lot of things, and I’ll be wrong in the future, but no tyrant will ever be able to use me as an apologist. It’s a character issue.

      In the documentary, they talked about Stalin providing Russian beauties for these idiots to take home with them. In one case, the idiot purposefully refuted the starvation of 10 million people, denied it was even happening–which is about as disgusting as holocaust denial.

      Many of them just saw what they wanted to see, but for some of ’em, it was much more nefarious than that.

      Some useful idiots are more equal than others, and I thought the broadcast did a good job of showing that.

    2. You hit the nail on the head. It was all about fashion and fitting in. People will believe anything to do that.

      1. So, in the program, when they talked about the African-American singer, who was enamored of communism because he loved the ideal–as it was presented to him–of a classless society where race didn’t matter…

        …and when he came back to the United States, he had to live under Jim Crow. You think it was about fitting in with some white intelligentsia?

        No reasonable person hates communists as much as I do, but it is possible to be wrong for good reasons. There were some noble communists…

        …but not after The Gulag Archipelago. There’s no shame in being fooled once. I don’t understand how honest people in the west could defend it after the ’70s.

        In Central and South America, communism meant something very different–the same can probably be said for the masses who bought in in Southeast Asia as well. But for non-indigenous people in the west who never lived under colonialism, it’s almost impossible for me to understand why anyone in the west could have supported it. They’re like holocaust deniers to my eye.

        How do you know about the The Holodomor, The Great Leap Forward and the Khmer Rouge and still support communism in the ’70s? Makes we want to believe in evil.

        …and the stupidity of the young. I was never that stupid, but some people are and then can’t admit they were wrong.

        1. Gulag Archepeligo? Not after the non agression pact. And further the CPUSA knew about the famines in the Ukraine and didn’t care. Do you think the communists in the 1940s just thought Babel died a natural death? They all knew what was going on and pretended it wasn’t true.

          You can divide them into the three types

          1. Hardcore sociopaths who thought the killing was good

          2. The naively stupid (a small group that included your example)

          3. The rest of them who were not killers themselves but were willing to ignore the truth to fit in and be a part of the group.

          1. They should have known long before Thu Gulag Archipelago was published. Conquest’s The Great Terror laid it out years earlier.

            Also, if you read Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow it is very clear that the Webbs and Duranty knew what was happening and chose to lie about it. “For the Good of the Cause”* of course.

            *Which is the title of one of Solzhenitsyn’s best and most poignant short stories. A definite “must read”.

        2. How do you know about the The Holodomor, The Great Leap Forward and the Khmer Rouge and still support communism in the ’70s? Makes we want to believe in evil.

          Because you value your ego more than you do the truth that is how. For those peopel to renounce communism meant admitting their entire life’s mission was wrong. They couldn’t do it.

          1. yeah, I guess I shouldn’t buy into the elitist thing either…

            It’s tempting to think that people who know more should know better, but whether it’s the editorial writer or the kid at the grocery store in the Che Guevara t-shirt, the standard really should be the same.

            Once you know you were wrong, you gotta admit you were wrong–that’s the real difference between me and Castro, much less a “useful idiot” on an editorial board somewhere.

            Maybe it’s just that the kid in the t-shirt really doesn’t know much, so we tend to give him a pass on the dishonesty part. I didn’t always know everything I know now, but I was always pretty good at admitting when I was wrong…

            After about 14 or so.

        3. But for non-indigenous people in the west who never lived under colonialism, it’s almost impossible for me to understand why anyone in the west could have supported it. They’re like holocaust deniers to my eye.

          It’s because they had been indoctrinated by public school teachers with the idea that Communism or Marxism is a wonderful system if only it could be made to work. Unfortunately it does, but it isn’t.

          1. Of course, whether something works or not, depends entirely on what is to be accomplished.

    3. Shitty pants were once (are now?) fashionable?

  11. It’s fashion.

    “The foundation of fashion is contempt.”

    ?Iggy Pop, in an old interview that isn’t on the internet

    1. I can believe that.

  12. This just goes to show that the real class war isn’t between the Bourgeois and the Proletariat, but between the Bourgeois and the Intelligentsia, over who will rule the Proletariat.

    1. Masterful example of a false dichotomy.

      1. what we need is monkeywrench gangism on the grande scale…that or a less stupid Intelligentsia.

      2. Splitter!

  13. “why are smart people so consistently fooled by evil regimes?”

    Because people with many intelectual accolades assume that they will be in the leadership of the evil regime. Once they believe that, they find it easy to support the regime.

    1. Come to think of it, it works much like the old Brittish system of appointing local monarchs to rule the natives in the colonies.

      1. Except that the British didn’t
        exterminate the local monarchs, and sent their children to Oxford and Cambridge. The totalitarians invariably wipe out the intelligentsia, the Brits just coopted the ruling class. It’s no accident that cricket is hugely popular in India.

    2. That’s my take as well. These extremely smart, educated, well connected people are so self evidently an elite that they will naturally rise to the nomenklatura and take charge.

      Which might be an understandable delusion provided you thought Hitler was the smartest guy in Germany, Mussolini Italy, Mao China, Lenin and Stalin Russia, Pol Pot Cambodia, Castro Cuba.

      On the other hand, every fellow traveller reporting back from such places has raved about the leader’s breadth of knowledge, how well read he was, his razor like insight, his keen wit, his astonishing powers of observation… so there has to be strong self delusion that the turgid and repetitive Hitler, the coarse and brutal Stalin, or the ignorant and rapacious Mao were shining exemplars of the smart set.

  14. Never really thought about it but it does make sense.


    1. That’s the definition of a “useful idiot”, Lou.

  15. I keep hearing how stoopid are the likes of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, GW Bush, Joe the Plumber and pretty much anyone who dares to question the keep fresh dates on John Stagliano’s Vitamin D milk.

    Yet, none of the ‘dolts’ mentioned above would fall for such shenanigans.

    Not even Jan Brewer would fall prey to such nonsense.

    Yet, just about every Democrat buys into some part of the Soviet program. Not that it matters, because there’s no difference between the two parties.

    But don’t take my word. Just ask your doctor, car salesman, tax attorney and banker. Oh, wait, don’t ask. Just keep still and don’t say a word.

    Interpersonal communication may cause a spike in that pernicious and known pollutant CO2.

  16. You can divide them into the three types

    1. Hardcore sociopaths who thought the killing was good

    2. The naively stupid (a small group that included your example)

    3. The rest of them who were not killers themselves but were willing to ignore the truth to fit in and be a part of the group.

    I’d make the first group larger.

    I think quite a few of them knew about the killing, and approved of it in the way that average people approve of political and military violence undertaken by nation-states.

    They just lied about it because they thought that other people were too weak to know about everything that the Revolution made “necessary”.

    Marxism is deterministic, and holds that most men’s thinking is entirely the result of their class origins. This means that the part of the bourgeoisie that did not turn to Marxism had to be physically liquidated for the classless society to be born.

    None of us lose that much sleep over the Nazis we killed in World War II. Sometimes we chat about civilian casualties in the fire-bombings, but we aren’t really all that broken up about it. And to a Marxist, the Kulaks and the “counter-revolutionary” internal party opponents of Stalin were just the equivalent of Nazis. If they died, well, the Revolution was the moral equivalent of war.

    1. I think quite a few of them knew about the killing, and approved of it in the way that average people approve of political and military violence undertaken by nation-states.

      Spot on. Shaw, I believe, made an offhand remark dismissing reports of purges from the nascent USSR as neccessary and desirable to eliminate a class of parasitic speculators. You know, eggs and omelets. The deaths were needed, and not particularly regrettable because the victims had it coming.

      Although I have eaten many omelets in my life and not one has required so much as a single death. Either the Che tee shirt wearers are doing it wrong or I am.

      I have always been astonished at the moral disconnect that enables people committing the most vile and brutal atrocities to believe they are ushering in a new utopia. How can you reconcile the evil you do with the beauty you expect to arise from it?

  17. There are some ideas so stupid, you have to be an intellectual to believe them.

    I came across two studies done at Harvard, that raise the question of whether that school is our national intellecutal treasure, or a retard ranch.

    First: all incoming freshman were photographed naked for years: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/01…..wanted=all

    Then, there was a study where a professor had Harvard students write personal essays about thier hopes, dreams, sexual experiences and fantasies. Once done, the essays were handed to psych assistants who proceeded to mock and humiliate the students for their most privat thoughts. Then, the students were forced to watch the video tape of the humiliation week after week. Most famous participant: the Unabomber. http://www.theatlantic.com/pas…../chase.htm

    A camden County Comunity College student wouldn’t fall for this type of bullshit.

    1. There are some ideas so stupid, you have to be an intellectual to believe them.


    2. That Atlantic article was great, although centered on Harvard and the Unabomber it addresses this issue at the end:

      “THE real story of Ted Kaczynski is one of the nature of modern evil — evil that results from the corrosive powers of intellect itself, and its arrogant tendency to put ideas above common humanity.”

      I think arrogance/ego is a contributing factor for why intellectuals fall into such traps but I think the need for a religion/cause to live by (and sometimes kill for) is the main reason. Simpletons cling to old religions, intellectuals develop convoluted theories to create their own.

  18. “One’s view of the world is more a measure of one’s mind than it is a measure of the world.” (J Maritain). See also JM for the fix.

  19. Read the book, intelligence does not equate with critical thinking or rational thought.

    1. Intelligence and wisdom often do not correlate, a prime example would be Bobby Fischer.

  20. Claude Cockburn ?. Its interesting to see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (Patrick and Alexander). Speaking of Alexander Cockburn, I saw an interview with her delicious daughter, Olivia Wilde, and shes just as much of a flaming pinko as the rest of the family.

  21. “why are smart people so consistently fooled by evil regimes?”

    Because intelligence doesn’t infer wisdom. As Gracian said, “A fine intellect wedded to a wicked will is always an unnatural monster.”

    The statists’ views of human society are no different than those that were held by the nobility they replaced, except that instead of genetics being the determinant of the right to rule, the statists espouse “the intellect”…well, the properly attuned intellect.

    “For men, as they have been hitherto educated, are incompetent to form a correct or sound judgment on any subjects except those which are connected with the certain sciences in which they have been instructed. On all others, in consequence of being compelled from infancy to receive the absurd doctrine of free will and responsibility, they have necessarily been rendered irrational.” ? Robert Owen, father of American socialism

    Today what we see is the same old dynamic that was in place nearly 100 years ago: namely, the true believers and their useful idiots.

    Duranty and his ilk weren’t “fooled”…they were evil human beings who believed that human society should be “directed” by a class of elites. Today this group is represented by people like Bill Ayers and Van Jones.

    The garden variety Leftists that you find in places like JournoList are the useful idiot variety: intellectually incurious, indoctrinated fools who, being unable to conceive of any other belief system in which to anchor their sense of self, blindly cling to their Leftist ideology because if they can’t be “progressives”, then what can they be?

    1. They weren?t evil, they gave in to their emotional side and let it govern their reason, they were seeking a cause and they found one.

      Don?t get me wrong. Actions have consequences. When a military junta throws marxists out of helicopters I won?t pretend to care. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

  22. Common men’s reflex: totalitarian bad, freedom good.

    Smart people disdain the common men, an unruly mob that must be reined in. Natural order must be maintained. What’s more natural than for the smart people to tell the non-smart people what to do? E.g. a majority of American people opposed Obamacare before it passed. Well, what do they know? The smart people know what’s good for them.

    Smart people are just smarter, they know what’s good for the dumbasses. The people must be made to learn that sometimes they must sacrifice, or be sacrificed for the common good. The smart people are to decide what is “common”, what is “good”. In less civil societies, the people are even dumber than the Americans. What else can smart people do, but to use stronger persuasions to persuade them. After all, the death of one is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.

    Stupid people sacrifice themselves for their beliefs, smart people sacrifice stupid people for their beliefs.

    Totalitalians do what smart people want to do. Ergo, smart people support totalitalians.

    1. Smart people will glom onto any moral fantasy as a distraction from the pointlessness of their own miserable lives. Any lie will do, so long as it allows smart people the pretense of elevation above their contemporaries.

  23. Clever people (and people who think they are clever) are very partial to the idea of a top-down technocratic state run by “experts”. By “experts” they mean people like themselves.

  24. It’s a mistake to act as if this sort of thing is history. Tom Friedman displays the same mindset in the pages of the NYT with his gushing admiration for the Chinese dictatorship.

  25. George Orwell said something to the effect there was no nonsense so great that an intellectual wouldn’t believe it.

    1. Yeah. Reminds me of when my sociology professor showed the class a film on the Tasaday. He practically had an orgasm over it, when it was obvious to me and many of the other students that it was pure bunk.

    2. “…it is the liberals who fear liberty and the intellectuals who want to do dirt on the intellect.” — George Orwell

      Says it all.

  26. I dispute the premise that the elites who fall for totalitarianism are ‘smart’. They are the Ellsworth Twoheys, not the Hank Reardons.

  27. “why are smart people so consistently fooled by evil regimes?”

    As a home owner, I’m responsible for home maintenance. With a wide range of tools from yard tools to paint tools to electrical and plumbing, I’ve had to learn how to best use those tools. Initially I was a bit of an idiot, frequently doing more harm than repair. Learning proper use of the tools and developing efficiencies, my home is in better condition now.

    A tool can be your friend when properly employed. Or, it can taunt you into submission.

    Just because someone makes good grades doesn’t mean they are quite so smart.

  28. These people are merely clever, and cleverness is not a very useful aspect of intelligence. Wisdom is much rarer than cleverness, and truly valuable. That much the Obama administration has made clear.

  29. I think the issue is more fundamental. People who are educated tend to feel they deserve a greater role in society as a result of their education/intellect. Non-democratic regimes tend to elevate intellectuals before they kill them off.

    Essentially, the educated classes prefer these regimes as it allows them to seize power they would not hold in a democratic/capitalist state.

    In the democratic/capitalist state a limited number of decision makers are in fact needed and these are provided by elections. The intellectual who feels he should be a decision maker, when he has not earned this via the ballot box, is naturally repulsed by this selection process largely made by the uneducated/non-intellectual classes.

    It is further amplified by alot of the liberal arts types who essentially have no place in the “successful” side of a capitalist/democratic society. Success in these societies is measured off of wealth or attracting people to your cause via the ballot box, neither of which have anything to do with you intellect or level of education.

  30. Big error here – Malcolm Muggeridge was the writer sent by the Webbs (his parents-in-law) but wrote the reality — broke the Leftist intellectual blockade if you will.

  31. The left views this country as morally reprehensible so will ALWAYS seek out other regimes to lay their hats on, be they communistic ones or despots. They speak of human rights, but it’s always in reference to the evils of this country. Other countries, not so much. The left of the sixties defined itself as the counterculture, and the left of the sixties were simply the continuation of the communists of the 50’s with a few additions and subractions thrown in. Rock and roll and the bohemian culture could be the new reference point for their critique, but it always has a communist undertone. Same with the environmental movement. (they’re Watermelons, green on the outside, red on the inside). Same with Reverend WRights’ black liberation theology. White man guilty of all crimes, capitalism evil, socialism is the way to go.
    The libs really have a very limited playbook,despite their ever changing face. It’s always Amerikkka is at fault and socialism is the answer.
    So you can see them falling for communism, or despotic reimes like the Vietcong or Pol Pot since those naturally are aligned with their sensibilities. And despite the human rights rhetoric, they don’t really care so much. Only this country, or wester countries need to have the charge of anti humanism leveled against it. When Pol Pot rounds up the teachers and kills them in Killing Fields trying to remake society at Year Zero, silence.

    Just remember, the left is anti this country. They’ll ally with anyone who’s rhetoric is anti american, since they have so much in common with the viewpoint expressed. Thus, the left critiques the US for our causing 9/11 with our policies. Which policies are never expressed, but apparently only we can have policies that can cause countries to hate us. Their polcies are never at issue. It’s almost as if they are blank slates and have no interests, until the US imposes a policy on them, and then they react to our policies. It’s never even considered that we might have a policy in place (like for example trying to get Iran to not produce nukes) because of their policies.
    but note, the default reaction of the left is always anti US. Even if it’s kids of today who don’t even know about communism, they are still aping the talking points from 50 years ago which are essentially communist critiques of the country, coupled with Anti Americanism
    Amerkkka is not great or exceptional. Amerikka must be changed to match the ideals of liberals, and then Amerikka could be great. Until then, Amerikka is the source of evil in the world.
    Is it any wonder then that lefties are constantly “fooled” by evil regimes? They’re not fooled, they are fools. They play the role of the useful idiot again and again, by choice.

  32. Ah Walter Duranty, The Paul Krugman of his generation.

    “The indeed must be congratulated on the achievement of a stupendous task? The goal of Soviet medicine is to create the positive health of the population, and, so far as can be judged from this book, it seems to have made remarkable progress.” The British Medical Journal, Vol. 1, No. 3917 (Feb. 1, 1936)

    And thus the NHS was born, for Krugman in his turn to tell us similar stories about its wonders.

  33. “Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises.”

    John Galt

  34. What is at play in this country is nothing new and has been repeated throughout history. All great civilizations start out strong, vigorous and supremely confident in their vision. As time moves on said civilizations become complacent, fat and happy. Eventually, the rot sets in and the civilization overextends itself and/or becomes thoroughly corrupt eventually imploding or being conquered.

    When reading histories about the rise and fall of great civilizations it’s obvious when the rot sets in and one wonders why those living then didn’t see it themselves. Of course some of them did see it but lost out to those who promoted destructive policies or were so complacent they didn’t care.

    In every civilization there is a struggle between groups who promotes good policies and those who promote bad policies. As a civilization ages the groups who promote bad policies become larger/more dynamic than those who don’t. Once the tipping point is reached that civilization is doomed.

    All too often it’s the intelligentsia who are the harbingers of doom. One would assume that they would be the most likely to foresee the looming disaster and try to head it off since they are usually the first groups to die off in a collapse. One wonders why that is.

    The similarities between the lifecycles of civilizations and humans are too much to be a coincidence. I think as humans are genetically programmed to die to make room for younger, possibly fitter generations; civilizations are programmed to die to make room for new, possibly superior civilizations.

    1. Bread & circuses should have been a clue, but buying votes was more important.

  35. “why are smart people so consistently fooled by evil regimes?”

    Answer: Because they ain’t smart! Being fooled is NOT a sign of intelligence and we would be wise to stop allowing those people to be referred to as smart. They are just arrogant, power hungry, smug SOB’s.

    There are plenty of highly intelligent people who are not fooled by evil regimes. They don’t make headlines/history because they aren’t destroying life.

  36. Hollywood is an anomaly. Actors are people who have a skill, either inborn, or trained. They do “tricks” like trained ponies. To equate this skill is a mistake. It has nothing to do with intelligence. They ought not be role models except to people who want to act. Ever see one in a discussion? Backed into a corner, they holler “F you” and walk away the victor. Also, they have to espouse the liberal line to work. By and large, they are incredibly uneducated and ignorant of history, except what they are spoon fed by their peers. Sad, kindof.

  37. Sorry:
    to equate this skill with intelligence is a mistake.

  38. Much of this ground was brilliantly covered by Thomas Sowell in his latest book “Intellectuals and Society”. If you have an interest in this subject I strongly recomend reading Dr. Sowell

  39. Even Einstein didn’t condemn the USSR until very late.

    “According to Einstein in 1948, ‘I am not blind to the serious weaknesses of the Russian system of government and I would not like to live under such government. But it has, on the other side, great merits and it is difficult to decide whether it would have been possible for the Russians to survive by following softer methods’ ”

    Thanks a bunch, Al.


  40. Because they are not smart. Intelligent, maybe. Smart is how you use intelligence.

  41. They are fooled because they’re smart, but not wise.

  42. Muggeridge was enthusiastic about the Soviet Union until he had lived there for a while. After he saw firsthand what was going on, he became very cynical.

  43. I would feel a lot more comfortable thinking these people are smart if they would only admit what happens to the smart people every time their crowd comes into complete power.

    After the French Revolution, most of the smart people got their heads chopped off.

    After the Russian Revolution it was the firing squads and the Gulags.

    After Hitler it was the Camps/ After Mao it was the Great Leap Forward.

    After Kindly Uncle Ho, it was more camps and then being “sent south along the Trail, to end up with explosives strapped to ones body to explode in the wire.

    After Pol Pot, more of those wonderful camps.

    And, yet, intellectuals never manage to learn that THEY are the ones killed by the thugs they help create. Sigh.

  44. If they are fooled by evil regimes, they are not smart.

    The question posed by the BBC is therefore wrong.

    It should be, how did so many stupid people get the reputation (which is all it is) for being smart?

  45. All the people you mention had a reputation for being clever. You don’t get a reputation for anything without working for it, and you don’t get a reputation for being clever by promoting ideas that are generally accepted.
    These people got there reputation as intellectuals by promoting new untried ideas- and in my view expressed approval for these regimes of which little was generally known at the time, as a means of “proving” their intelligence. Whether they really thought through any of it is a moot point- they got the reputation they craved.

  46. Neville Chamberlain

  47. People often argue the absurd rather than admit that they were wrong. Clever people do it better but fool themselves in the process. Secondly, the intelligentsia often believe that only intelligence is important. Those with IQs below 120 simply don’t matter in the same way. In the 30s H.G.Wells, the Webbs etc believed that the intelligentsia was safe in Soviet Union; the fate of a farmer in Ukraine didn’t mean much to them. Put these two facts together and you have a reason for the dumb acceptance of Soviet Communism by educated people who should have known better.

    Malcolm Muggeridge’s admiration of the Soviet Union did not survive more than a few days living there. If you read his book “Tread Softly for you Tread on my Jokes” you will find withering criticisms of Soviet Union, the Webbs, Bernard Shaw etc. Well worth a read if you can get hold of it.

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