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June 1, 2005 5:19 AM   Subscribe

The Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries from Human Events Online, a weekly conservative journal. [more inside]
posted by marxchivist (154 comments total)

 
The fact that making such a list would occur to someone is a little creepy to me, but if I was to make one I would be sure to include The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and The Turner Diaries.

I know you folks love lists. Discuss.
posted by marxchivist at 5:21 AM on June 1, 2005


On Liberty by John Stuart Mill is an honorable mention? That was actually surprising.
posted by null terminated at 5:26 AM on June 1, 2005


My first thought was, "Books?! Harmful?!?!" but then I thought, I bet Mein Kampf is on the list. You can argue that it did some harm, yes.

But some of these picks, jeez. It inlcudes The Feminine Mystique, but instead of criticizing the actual content basically says, "Betty Friedan was a commie who fucked other commies!"

Oh, and my favourite quote:

[Dewey's] views had great influence on the direction of American education--particularly in public schools--and helped nurture the Clinton generation.

Since when have the boomers been known as the "Clinton generation"?
posted by orange swan at 5:27 AM on June 1, 2005


Hahahaha. Hey, come on guys, aren't we a few days early for Friday Fun?
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:30 AM on June 1, 2005


orange swan: Since when have the boomers been known as the "Clinton generation"?

Conservative writers and talk show hosts use this often to describe boomers as liberals who have no integrity and don't take personal responsibility.
posted by null terminated at 5:31 AM on June 1, 2005


Origin of the Species [sic] gets an honourable mention.
posted by furtive at 5:32 AM on June 1, 2005


Ten of the most interesting books of the 19th and 20th century...
posted by Eirixon at 5:46 AM on June 1, 2005


It's only the 19th and 20th centuries under consideration, which explains why the Bible and the Koran failed to make the list.
posted by alumshubby at 5:47 AM on June 1, 2005


I'm not thinking of Mein Kampf when I say it, but maybe Nietzsche or Darwin (I haven't read most of these books), but maybe it's better to write something the establishment considers dangerous than to write something boring or which goes un-noticed.

Especially when the establishment goes around creating lists like this... :P
posted by nervousfritz at 5:48 AM on June 1, 2005


Conservative writers and talk show hosts use this often to describe boomers as liberals who have no integrity and don't take personal responsibility.

It's news to me that any description involving the word "generation" can be used to describe only certain members of a generational cohort. I thought a generation was everyone born at a certain time - or at least, all of those born at a certain time in a certain society.
posted by orange swan at 5:50 AM on June 1, 2005


Darwin gets two honourable mentions.

I think someone needs to evolve a little...
posted by spazzm at 5:51 AM on June 1, 2005


I think that The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged should be tied for first.
posted by rfs at 5:54 AM on June 1, 2005


If you ever had a reason to wonder what the difference between conservative and liberal thinking is, the later is the school that would never think to compile a list of dangerous books.

I hope this site stays up, as a place for people to find books that they should read, simply because pricks like these thought to label them dangerous.
posted by re6smith at 5:56 AM on June 1, 2005


My favorite: (about Keynes' book) "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."

Because, you know, initiating two wars and establishing an entirely new division within the executive branch without raising taxes had nothing to do with that debt.

In other news, I now have a summer reading list.
posted by oddman at 5:57 AM on June 1, 2005


Interesting list, thanks. The descriptions are way too short, though, leading to misleading dismissals like the despicable, "the Nazis loved Nietzsche," as if Nietzsche wasn't completely disgusted by anti-Semitism and didn't say so in print.

Funny, too, that they don't bother even attempting to explain how "harmful" is defined.
posted by mediareport at 5:58 AM on June 1, 2005


Stupid damn books. Burn 'em all.

*waits for flames*
posted by bdave at 6:03 AM on June 1, 2005


null terminated writes "Conservative writers and talk show hosts use this often to describe boomers as liberals who have no integrity and don't take personal responsibility."

...and how many boomers are in this Administration? Let's see, there's Bush himself (1946), Gale Norton (1954), Alberto Gonzales (1955), Condoleeza Rice (1954), Elaine Chao (1953), etc. (I'm tired of looking now). Yeah, damn irresponsible no-integrity boomers indeed!

I find it pretty creepy that any group should want to spend time on this, frankly, especially when that group holds all the power in Washington. Will we now see book-burnings like we saw French-wine-dumpings?
posted by clevershark at 6:03 AM on June 1, 2005


re6smith: Excellently put. Thank you.
posted by Floach at 6:04 AM on June 1, 2005


rfs: I'm with you.

*breaks out the marshmallows, goes searching for sticks*
posted by papercake at 6:08 AM on June 1, 2005


mediareport

I agree, it's frightening that so many of the judges are professors and seemingly happy to put their name to such unsophisticated propaganda.

Perhaps someone should bring this to the attention of their employers.
posted by johnny novak at 6:09 AM on June 1, 2005


re Marx: "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."

OK, I'm a capitalist, but man, this is such bullshit! ;-P
posted by mischief at 6:10 AM on June 1, 2005


Books should be spanked, not burned. Bad books! Bad books! How dare you allow conservatives to blame anyone but themselves for their own stupidity.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:10 AM on June 1, 2005


If I had to select books for a silly list like this, I might start by putting some Ayn Rand™ doorstops on it, if wasting people's time and energy is "harmful" enough. But any list concocted by Phyllis Schlafly and friends is a list I want to stay far away from. They're against evolution, against consumer protection, against environmental protection, against equal rights for women, against government protection of the needy, and against government itself. How come crazy radicals like that get to call themselves conservatives?
posted by pracowity at 6:11 AM on June 1, 2005


Damn, that list--and the very idea of such a list--is almost a parody of the troglodyte right. As an ex-conservative I have to say this list does not reflect the thinking of the conservative movement in general, just the Human Events crowd.

I mean, Coming of Age in Samoa!!!!?
posted by LarryC at 6:11 AM on June 1, 2005


This is a good beginning. Now, does anyone know where I can find "The Ten Most Harmful Musical Compositions" and "The Ten Most Harmful Works of Art" of the 19th and 20th Centuries?
posted by taz at 6:11 AM on June 1, 2005


Y'all missed the "15 greatest douches of the 21st century" listed at the bottom of the page...
posted by clevershark at 6:13 AM on June 1, 2005


Yay, they put Comte in there. As far as I can tell, positivism can be linked to all the modern projects that have killed thousands for the sake of some jerk's theory. (I'm looking at you, you loathsome neocons.)

Fuck Strauss, PNAC, the Heritage Foundation, Randians, and everyone who values their own ideas more than other people.
posted by sonofsamiam at 6:15 AM on June 1, 2005


[Marx] 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.
Thus proving that the authors have not read Capital in the first place, or any decent Marxist literature whatsoever. The world of today is far better described by Capital than the world of Marx, when capitalism was national and limited to various European nations and America. Likewise Lenin's Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism, a treatise on finance capital that might as well have been written a couple of years ago.

As a side note, the relative privelege and affluence of the American working classes are the result of long, hard struggles for unions, shorter hours, higher wages, more days off, more benefits, etc., and a lot of the people who fought those fights were - surprise, surprise - greatly influenced by the Communist Manifesto.

Anyway, blaming the Stalinist Soviet Union on the Communist Manifesto is sorta like blaming the Crusades on the Bible: yeah, there are links, but it's far more tenuous than that, and has more to do with people screwing it up than with problems in the ideas themselves.
posted by graymouser at 6:15 AM on June 1, 2005


"If you ever had a reason to wonder what the difference between conservative and liberal thinking is, the later is the school that would never think to compile a list of dangerous books.

I hope this site stays up, as a place for people to find books that they should read, simply because pricks like these thought to label them dangerous."


Could be my words. Thanks!

Also (from the text on Nietzsche's book): “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."

Neo-cons too, I might add!
posted by acrobat at 6:17 AM on June 1, 2005


Phyllis Schlafly was one of the judges. That's enough for me. What a load of shit.
posted by interrobang at 6:20 AM on June 1, 2005


taz writes "This is a good beginning. Now, does anyone know where I can find 'The Ten Most Harmful Musical Compositions' and 'The Ten Most Harmful Works of Art' of the 19th and 20th Centuries?"

taz-I think you might be looking for something like this handy exhibit put on by the National Socialists in 1937. It can be such a relief when someone else tells you what constitutes Degenerate Art.

First they came for the books, and I said nothing. Then they came for the Musical Compositions, and I said nothing. Then they came for the Works of Art and I said nothing. Then they came for my Fashion Sense, and now I have to wear these crappy Dockers.

What an inane exercise in anti-intellectualism.
posted by OmieWise at 6:39 AM on June 1, 2005


There are so many false things in their self serving presentation, I'm inclined to believe they're trying to lick their own assholes. Such ignorant, arrogant bullshit!
posted by acrobat at 6:39 AM on June 1, 2005


This is totally insane. They're not even talking about the books in half the entries, just the authors. Good lord, we are doomed.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:42 AM on June 1, 2005


I hope this site stays up, as a place for people to find books that they should read, simply because pricks like these thought to label them dangerous.

This reminds me of an incident in grade five. I borrowed a copy of Judy Blume's Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret from a classmate. My teacher saw me with it and kept me after class to tell me I shouldn't read it. After that, absolutely nothing could have kept me from reading it, and I think I zoomed through it that very evening.
posted by orange swan at 6:43 AM on June 1, 2005


Sadly, even at the time I thought it rather lame, but I'm just positive that there's more forbidden fruit out there that is actually as toothsome as it seems. So I'll have to try to get to the books on this list that I haven't read.
posted by orange swan at 6:45 AM on June 1, 2005


Mein Kampf, and Mao's Little Red Book? OK, the ideas in there did some serious harm when put into action. You could make a case for Marx's book along those lines as well.

After that they lost me. And there's not a single title by Rod McKuen. Pheh.
posted by jonmc at 6:46 AM on June 1, 2005


Oh good, a summer reading list. Pity I've already read more than half of them -

Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan, yup. Why does this not surprise me at all? Ladies, get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed! /kinky friedman

The really sickening one to me though, is Silent Spring as an honorable mention. That's obscene; an incredible denial of the environmental movement and all the gains it has made (yes too few) over the last 40 years.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:47 AM on June 1, 2005


And where was Harry Potter? I thought those books promoted satanic practices?
posted by blindsam at 6:50 AM on June 1, 2005


Well, at least they aren't publicly calling for these books to be burned. I like the notion of "forbidden books" that people should read to understand the undercurrents in society -- books behaving badly, so to speak.

I'd definitely include some of Nesta Webster's stuff, like World Revolutions

Hmmm. this is fun.

Pat Robertson's New World Order.

John Robison's Proofs of a Conspiracy

Richard Kelly Hoskins' Vigilantes of Christendom: The Story of the Phineas Priesthood.

And, of course, the influential Iron Curtain Over America by john Beaty. This little-known book was the main vehicle for introducing Nazi race theory into American right-wing ideology.
posted by warbaby at 6:50 AM on June 1, 2005


Descent of Man
by Charles Darwin


I thought Darwin's book was Ascent of Man, Descent Of Man was a TC Boyle story about a dude who's scientist girlfriend leaves him for a chimp.
posted by jonmc at 6:51 AM on June 1, 2005


As our own rbalko points out on his blog, they include amazon links to all of the books with their own referrer code in there. Slimy.
posted by AgentRocket at 6:51 AM on June 1, 2005


..., I'm inclined to believe they're trying to lick their own assholes.

What, you think a bunch of house cats put the list together?
posted by Scoo at 6:53 AM on June 1, 2005


Whomever nominated On Liberty must have been high. John Stuart Mill rules.
posted by gsh at 6:58 AM on June 1, 2005


I found it odd that within the blurb on the Kinsey report, they quote a newspaper article about last year's film, rather than the report itself, suggesting that no one on the panel has read it.


I take that back. That's not odd at all, considering the methodology of a book-burner.
posted by foodeater at 6:58 AM on June 1, 2005


I think that The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged should be tied for first.

Because the carnage wrought by rational egoism is on par with communism-- tens of millions killed, and all...

On a related note, shit like this really makes me wonder how small-government types and Christian conservatives manage to vote for the same party.

gsh: I think Mill draws the ire of some minarchists for reasons expressed here.
posted by Kwantsar at 7:39 AM on June 1, 2005


Mill espoused strong opinions about personal liberty and rejected government control over the individual, except to protect others. Since conservatives love to legislate their version of morality I can see why they would be threatened by Mill's ideas.
posted by caddis at 7:45 AM on June 1, 2005


I can only think of one reason to make this FPP....That would be so it can be torn apart by those that disagree... which seems a bit senseless since it was openly touted as a conservative produced list...no surprises here, nothing new... move along..
posted by HuronBob at 7:45 AM on June 1, 2005


This is superawesome.

Graymouser: Anyway, blaming the Stalinist Soviet Union on the Communist Manifesto is sorta like blaming the Crusades on the Bible: yeah, there are links, but it's far more tenuous than that, and has more to do with people screwing it up than with problems in the ideas themselves.

I just wanted to see that again. Books aren't dangerous. Craven people with ideas can be dangerous, but they'd manage to find ideas no matter how many books you get rid of.

Kwanstar: Because the carnage wrought by rational egoism is on par with communism-- tens of millions killed, and all...

Yeah, capitalism never killed anyone.
posted by dame at 7:46 AM on June 1, 2005


As someone who works at a bookstore, the only book that causes me to shudder when I sell a copy is the Turner Diaires. Mein Kampf makes me a little quesy, but not like the Turner Diaries.

That said, I don't think it shouldn't be sold.
posted by drezdn at 7:52 AM on June 1, 2005


Y'all missed the "15 greatest douches of the 21st century" listed at the bottom of the page...

clevershark wins...
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:52 AM on June 1, 2005


Whoever nominated On Liberty must have been high. John Stuart Mill rules.

John Stuart Mills - or Harriet Taylor?
posted by TimothyMason at 7:54 AM on June 1, 2005


Christ, just what I needed -- more books to read this summer.

morons
posted by jmgorman at 7:54 AM on June 1, 2005


Kwanstar: Because the carnage wrought by rational egoism is on par with communism-- tens of millions killed, and all...

Yeah, capitalism never killed anyone.


Not as effeciently as Mao & Stalin did. And most honest capitalists will admit that theirs is a system based on selfishness and greed and a worlveiw based around the concept that life is nasty, brutish & short, that the world is a hostile place, and that people are basically not good. So it's not surprising that there'd be carnage spawned by that.

But Marxism claims to be all about the sharing and the caring and the freedom and the power to the people and all that shit, but it didn't work out that way. The fact remains that body-count wise, the commies outdid the Nazis. So the stink of hypocrisy hangs pretty heavily over the whole Marx thing.

Mein Kampf makes me a little quesy, but not like the Turner Diaries.

That's warped. The book that was actually put into action by an entire nation makes you mildly queazy, but the one that was put into action by one demented redneck scares you more?
posted by jonmc at 7:55 AM on June 1, 2005


You could make a case for Marx's book along those lines as well.

No, not really. Marx is best when he's describing the mechanisms of capitalism, which, frankly, he nails. It's the "inevitable" conclusions where he screws up.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:55 AM on June 1, 2005


I can only think of one reason to make this FPP....That would be so it can be torn apart by those that disagree... which seems a bit senseless since it was openly touted as a conservative produced list...no surprises here, nothing new... move along..
posted by HuronBob at 7:45 AM PST on June 1 [!]


Really? You mean, you see nothing wrong with pronouncing books "harmful" (not silly, stupid, ignorant or anything like that) at all? Then, you wouldn't mind burning some of them, eh?
posted by acrobat at 8:01 AM on June 1, 2005


oddman writes "My favorite: (about Keynes' book) "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." "

I also found that interesting. Has the US never been debt free since FDR?
posted by Mitheral at 8:01 AM on June 1, 2005


What, no Jonathan Livingston Seagull?

As our own rbalko points out on his blog, they include amazon links to all of the books with their own referrer code in there. Slimy.

No, just capitalism, the best machine ever invented for transforming dissent into cash.
posted by melissa may at 8:02 AM on June 1, 2005


You mean, you see nothing wrong with pronouncing books "harmful"

Well, books contain ideas, and ideas put into action can certainly be harmful. I'm still 100% against banning or burning books though.
posted by jonmc at 8:06 AM on June 1, 2005


Not as effeciently as Mao & Stalin did.

Can you really prove that? The death and misery wreaked by capitalism isn't conveniently carried out by a government, which makes it easier to count, but by a decentralized network of businesses. And capitalism has been killing people since the seventeenth century. Stalin and Mao only had a century. So I bet that if you could compile all the records, capitalism would win. But that's just a hunch.

As for the hypocrisy argument, that isn't what we're discussing. But I do find it worse not to even appeal to the best in people and to dismiss cruelty with the laziness excuse of "human nature."

To get back on topic, you do realize that people buying books written by wackos aren't necessarily doing it because they are wackos looking for someone to emulate or inspiration. Some people read them to understand the wackos. You know, for curiosity's sake.
posted by dame at 8:07 AM on June 1, 2005


Kwantstar: Yeah, capitalism never killed anyone.
jonmc: Not as effeciently as Mao & Stalin did.

Mao and Stalin, to be blunt, were about as concerned with communism as Bush is with democracy: it's great for propaganda, and useful to implement some of the outer forms, but when you come right down to it it's all window dressing for the benefit of the leader and his cronies. I think Lenin had some real principles at least at first, but as things went downhill (i.e., 14 nations invading Russia during the war between the Reds and the Whites) he lost touch with it and became more dictatorial. Stalin worsened this by several orders of magnitude.

I'd like to see authentic communism, just like I'd like to see authentic democracy. I worry about whether either is achievable.
posted by graymouser at 8:10 AM on June 1, 2005


That's right, dame, I often decide to read a book purely because it's seminal and I want to understand the origins of a certain movement.
posted by orange swan at 8:11 AM on June 1, 2005


The fact remains that body-count wise, the commies outdid the Nazis. So the stink of hypocrisy hangs pretty heavily over the whole Marx thing.

I guess that I missed the part where Marx discussed the wholesale slaughter thing. The USSR was to Marxism what the Philippines is to democracy.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:12 AM on June 1, 2005


Another reason for the right to hate on J.S. Mill:

"Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compels all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism."
posted by bashos_frog at 8:12 AM on June 1, 2005


some ommissions:

1. The Savage Nation: Saving America from the Liberal Assault on Our Borders, Language and Culture, by Michael Savage. 240 pages of racism and paranoia and not a smidgeon of bibliography in sight. it said that everyone who has read this book will go on to throw an empty beer can at a spanish person.

2. Deliver Us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism, by Sean Hannity. as if fox fans need any help linking "liberals" and "terror." this book officially killed any fox commentator's right to accuse someone of "partisanship," but it looks like no one told them.

3. The Collapse of Evolution, by Scott Huse. thoroughly debunked from cover to cover, and yet it remains a consistent shower on creationist bibliographies.

4. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. woe is the class assigned to read this one. it's the high school literature class equivalent to military hazing (psst, bush fans: pay attention to the underlying anti-fascism themes).

also, does anyone remember the chapter in "The Communist Manifesto" that said, "oh yeah, one more thing: you must kill EVERYONE!" (on preview: leftcoastbob said it better.)
posted by mcsweetie at 8:13 AM on June 1, 2005


Because the carnage wrought by rational egoism is on par with communism-- tens of millions killed, and all...

The number of inane conversations I had to have with co-eds who'd just discovered Rand and needed to tell me how "it changed their world," when all I wanted to do was get in their pants is reason enough for me.
posted by papercake at 8:14 AM on June 1, 2005


And, of course, this makes the right apoplectic:

"The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest."

(All emphasis is mine, not Mill's)
posted by bashos_frog at 8:14 AM on June 1, 2005


Boy, I can't even begin to describe the ways in which this list offends me. I love that the Kinsey Report is on there. Because of course, investigating human sexuality is the same as being a child molestor, don't you know.

And as for dear, dear Phyllis, DK said it best some years ago.
posted by lumpenprole at 8:19 AM on June 1, 2005


Really? You mean, you see nothing wrong with pronouncing books "harmful" (not silly, stupid, ignorant or anything like that) at all? Then, you wouldn't mind burning some of them, eh?
The post & post's comments are equal. Really, you see nothing wrong attacking the list? If you said, "yes," you're them. The list advertises the books, just not the way you would. Worse, if the books had no mention at all, forgotten.
posted by thomcatspike at 8:21 AM on June 1, 2005


John Dewey? Wow, they really do hate knowledge and education. Considering that Dewey is pretty much the cornerstone of modern american education, it's no wonder that the home school movement is so huge. I just really, really don't get that one.
posted by absalom at 8:21 AM on June 1, 2005


The book that was actually put into action by an entire nation makes you mildly queazy, but the one that was put into action by one demented redneck scares you more?

My reasoning has been (in an attempt to see good in people), there's the possibility that a person is reading "Mein Kampf" for historical background, or to try to understand how Germany ended up going down such a dark path. Imagining a scholarly reading for "The Turner Diaries" seems like too much of a stretch.
posted by drezdn at 8:23 AM on June 1, 2005


But I do find it worse not to even appeal to the best in people and to dismiss cruelty with the laziness excuse of "human nature."

see: Good Intentions, Road To Hell Paved With.

My first question of any ideology is "What's in it for me?" and judging by Marxism's track record, the answer is "Not much."

I guess that I missed the part where Marx discussed the wholesale slaughter thing.

I doubt Adam Smith or any other capitalist ideologue discussed starving the workers or polluting the enviornment. Dosen't mean those criticisms of capitalism should be off limits. Same goes for Marxism.
posted by jonmc at 8:24 AM on June 1, 2005


Good point about the criticism not being off limits, jonmc, but I still don't understand the "stink of hypocracy" hanging over Marx.

Marxism claims to be all about the sharing and the caring and the freedom and the power to the people and all that shit is what you said. And, although simply put, that's the philosophy. No hypocracy about it.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:36 AM on June 1, 2005


jonmc: I doubt Adam Smith or any other capitalist ideologue discussed starving the workers or polluting the enviornment. Dosen't mean those criticisms of capitalism should be off limits. Same goes for Marxism.

You can't really say much about Marxism based on the Soviet Union. Russia before the Revolution had a very active, but fairly small, engaged proletariat. However, when they tried to take over, with the Bolshevik party at their head, there was a massive war. The Bolsheviks won, but at the expense of much of their core supporters. Before a Marxist system - like that spoken of when the Bolsheviks had cried "All power to the Soviets!" (Workers' Councils) where workers would have direct control - could take hold, Lenin mitigated it with the New Economic Policy, and Stalin subverted everything with industrialization and collectivization under bureaucratic control. The Soviets went from highly democratic organizations to puppets of the CPSU; basically, in under a decade, every real Marxist element was expunged from the USSR.

The moral: proletarian rule doesn't work when the conscious proletariat gets killed in a war and a psychotic dictator takes over.
posted by graymouser at 8:38 AM on June 1, 2005


see: Good Intentions, Road To Hell Paved With.

Yes, jon, that means that even in attempting to do good you can fuck up. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to do good and instead give in to your worst impules and encourage the same in others.
posted by dame at 8:38 AM on June 1, 2005


"I think that what might be called the sanctified chauvinism of the Bible is one of the curses of the planet today."
-Joseph Campbell
posted by JohnR at 8:40 AM on June 1, 2005


And, although simply put, that's the philosophy. No hypocracy about it.

But when put into practice, it didn't work out that way, in fact it came out quite the opposite: witness Soviet Russia, Mao's China, Pol Pot, The Berlin Wall, etc. Thus, hypocrisy.

Yes, jon, that means that even in attempting to do good you can fuck up.

On a large scale, there's some truth to that. Utopian systems like communism (and to be fair, capitalism) inevitably have to face those who dissent from their Utopia, and the fact that there system is imperfect, and they usually respond badly-repression, purges, gulags, etc. The best thing one can do politically is to avoid ideologies and ideologues completely. But that's just my opinion.
posted by jonmc at 8:42 AM on June 1, 2005


jonmc writes "The fact remains that body-count wise, the commies outdid the Nazis."

Your logic is very, very flawed. If you're going to say with a straight face that Stalin was a real communist -- when in fact he was just another Czar in the history of Russia -- then you'll have to count the victims of all the other Czars as having been caused by Christianity.

And of course since Communism was only around for a short time in the 20th century while Christianity has been with us since the 3rd century AD (I'm being very generous and excluding some 200 years in which it wasn't the major player) then I'm confident that Christianity can be said to have killed more than Communism could ever hope to.
posted by clevershark at 8:48 AM on June 1, 2005


papercake writes "The number of inane conversations I had to have with co-eds who'd just discovered Rand and needed to tell me how 'it changed their world,' when all I wanted to do was get in their pants is reason enough for me."

Dude, you need to learn to tune out boring conversation and concentrate on the benefits that will come if only you can fake interest.
posted by clevershark at 8:50 AM on June 1, 2005


Hypocrisy: The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness.
An act or instance of such falseness.

Still wondering how Marx is a hypocrite.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:50 AM on June 1, 2005


Still wondering how Marx is a hypocrite.

I didn't say that Marx was a hypocrite. I said that "there's a stink of hypocrisy hanging over Marxism," which is my way of saying that professed Marxists, such as Stalin, Mao, and co. have committed acts that are in direct conflict with their professed ideologies values.

Did I state that unctuously enough for you, sir?
posted by jonmc at 8:54 AM on June 1, 2005


jonmc writes "I said that 'there's a stink of hypocrisy hanging over Marxism,' which is my way of saying that professed Marxists, such as Stalin, Mao, and co. have committed acts that are in direct conflict with their professed ideologies values."

So admittedly you can hardly blame the Communist Manifesto for those crimes.
posted by clevershark at 8:56 AM on June 1, 2005


Also, in the immortal words of Eugene Levy: "I'm opposed to Communism, because Communism will not draw in attractive women ages 18 to 25."
posted by jonmc at 8:56 AM on June 1, 2005


The best thing one can do politically is to avoid ideologies and ideologues completely. But that's just my opinion.

You can't avoid having an ideology. Even by appearing neutral or "pragmatic," you're just buying into whatever is being presented as normal or common sense. So really jon, you're the worst utopian of all. Way to go.
posted by dame at 8:58 AM on June 1, 2005


"I came back from my first Communist Party meeting tonight and told my dad how the system keeps the proletariat from their due. "I am the proletariat, you dumb bastard," he said "and I think these motherfuckers are off their rockers. Now get inside and do your homework."

--Jim Carroll, The Basketball Diaries
posted by jonmc at 9:00 AM on June 1, 2005


jonmc: I said that "there's a stink of hypocrisy hanging over Marxism," which is my way of saying that professed Marxists, such as Stalin, Mao, and co. have committed acts that are in direct conflict with their professed ideologies values.

That I'm in agreement with. Like I said...Stalin and Mao were as good as examples of Marxists as Bush is a good example of a (small-d) democrat. Much rhetoric, big show, little reflection in reality.

Most Marxists (there are still a few Stalinists and Maoists) today disavow the USSR and China, if even they once thought they were positive forces. As someone put it to me once: capitalism took four hundred years to really get to a stable, working form. Why is communism expected to get it right the first try (to the limited extent you can say the USSR was the first try)?
posted by graymouser at 9:00 AM on June 1, 2005


Why is communism expected to get it right the first try (to the limited extent you can say the USSR was the first try)?

Why should fuedalism? How about fascism? They deserve another shot, too, by that logic. Look, when something is as big a disaster as Communism was, people are understandably disiclined to give it another try. Not that I'm worried about a Communist takeover of the US or anything. First of all, the paranoid response to domestic Communism was a disaster as well, and second of all, American Marxists couldn't put together a Tupperware party, let alone a revolution, so I'm not losing any sleep over this, just having some fun.
posted by jonmc at 9:04 AM on June 1, 2005


I want to see John Stuart Mill rise from his grave and slap these assholes around with his cold skeletal hands.

As someone already pointed out on this thread, they screwed up the title of Darwin's book. Origin of The Species? Argh.
posted by palinode at 9:08 AM on June 1, 2005


jonmc: Look, when something is as big a disaster as Communism was, people are understandably disiclined to give it another try.

Communism wasn't a disaster, which is precisely where you miss the point. Stalin and Mao - they were disasters. Their disasters, frankly, had nothing to do with Marx or Marxism or the idea of communism in general. They were dictators, and their ideology was just a prop, just as most dictators nowadays talk about democracy while they hold sham elections and kill their people. If you claim that Stalin and Mao discredit communism in any way, then every "democratically" elected strongman in Africa discredits democracy too.
posted by graymouser at 9:12 AM on June 1, 2005


I hope this site stays up, as a place for people to find books that they should read, simply because pricks like these thought to label them dangerous.

That is how I chose most of the books I read between ages 15-21.: listened to what James Dobson and the pastors at my parents' church blacklisted and then went to the library. I haven't ever read Mein Kampf and don't plan to, but I can tell that the panel has either never read a great many of the books on the list, or they have terrible reading comprehension. The critique of Das Kapital is, as noted above, especially ironic.

What I think is most interesting is that there are no works of fiction or poetry on the list.

Also interesting: to think about the way people who made this list see the world - hard data about how men behave sexually is dangerous, according to these people - they prefer fantasy and ignorance if reality and truth threaten to disrupt their various social engineering projects.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:16 AM on June 1, 2005


Communism wasn't a disaster, which is precisely where you miss the point. Stalin and Mao - they were disasters. Their disasters, frankly, had nothing to do with Marx or Marxism or the idea of communism in general.

That's debatable, but the fact remains that when you say "Communism" to most Americans, Stalin, Mao, and the Iron Curtain is what they see. That's what the banner of Communism flew over, regardless of what it was meant to be. So that's why people would be disinclined to show any interest in a revival, IMHO.
posted by jonmc at 9:17 AM on June 1, 2005


Not as effeciently (sic) as Mao & Stalin did.

not as efficiently. more effectively. when you can make people believe you aren't killing on a large scale, so that you can go on and on with it decade after decade, you are more effective than either tweddle dee or tweedle dum.

and while communism converted to leninism and then stalinism, the whole of the ussr was under attack by western expeditionary forces, including the taking of ports. they kind of had their own little 911 going on for about 20 years, just all the time and everywhere at once. stalinism was forged. not to mention the 23 million of them who died so you could say you "won" wwii.
posted by 3.2.3 at 9:18 AM on June 1, 2005


jonmc writes "Why should fuedalism? How about fascism? They deserve another shot, too, by that logic. Look, when something is as big a disaster as Communism was, people are understandably disiclined to give it another try."

I think you might want to read Dickens to get a true picture of capitalism's "first shot" and ask yourself, "had I been around then wouldn't I consider capitalism to be such a big disaster?" I mean, you had people literally starving to death on the streets of London -- at least those that hadn't already died of syphilis contracted when they had to start selling their bodies to feed their children. Does that sound like such a huge success story to you?
posted by clevershark at 9:18 AM on June 1, 2005


The hatred the Right holds for Dewey shouldn't be hard to grasp; his ideology was extremely collectivist.

Exactly what John Dewey heralded at the onset of the twentieth century has indeed happened. Our once highly individualized nation has evolved into a centrally managed village, an agora made up of huge special interests which regard individual voices as irrelevant. The masquerade is managed by having collective agencies speak through particular human beings. Dewey said this would mark a great advance in human affairs, but the net effect is to reduce men and women to the status of functions in whatever subsystem they are placed. Public opinion is turned on and off in laboratory fashion. All this in the name of social efficiency, one of the two main goals of forced schooling.

And The Road to Serfdom explains, (quite neatly, IMO) how communism leads to totalitarianism.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:19 AM on June 1, 2005


Thank you, mediareport, for saying exactly what I was going to about Nietzsche and the Nazis. Saying the Nazis loved Nietzsche is such a fucking red herring.

On preview, ditto Johnny Novak.
posted by malaprohibita at 9:21 AM on June 1, 2005


At first I asked myself, what about A charge to keep? Then I was reminded that this was a list of "harmful" books, not laughably awful ones.

The idea that the Kinsey report should be condemned as somehow setting a bad example for people is quite risible, at an age when America has elected two admitted drunk drivers to the two highest offices of the land.
posted by clevershark at 9:22 AM on June 1, 2005


jonmc: That's debatable, but the fact remains that when you say "Communism" to most Americans, Stalin, Mao, and the Iron Curtain is what they see. That's what the banner of Communism flew over, regardless of what it was meant to be. So that's why people would be disinclined to show any interest in a revival, IMHO.

Yeah. I (and most leftists) tend to avoid the term "communism," preferring such words as "democratic socialism" (which has kind of an ideological tug-of-war about it). I'm just trying to communicate that "really existing socialism" as the Stalinist USSR billed itself was just as propagandistic as the US's post-WWII talk about democracy; none of it is true, and I don't consider democracy disgraced by the horrid acts of the US any more than I consider Marx disgraced by the horrid acts of the USSR.
posted by graymouser at 9:23 AM on June 1, 2005


Yeah, the admonition of Nietzsche is beyond bizarre, especially when one considers that he abhorred his brother-in-law's anti-semitism and waxed eloquent more than once about how he hated Germany.

Then again I don't expect that too many of the pseudo-intellectual posers listed as panelists there actually read more than one of the listed books.
posted by clevershark at 9:25 AM on June 1, 2005


I'm not so sure graymouse's defense of ur-trotskyism would hold water, and I don't think jonmc got what I took as his point -- which was that "real" Marxism was never put into practice anyway (so you can't blame the Gulag on Marx) -- but then I agree with Bakunin on Marx so it's a "you kids have fun with your argument" kind of thing.

But anyway. Hey jonmc, if you include among your Utopian systems those of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Jaininsm, Confucianism, Buddhism, etc. etc., you'll get no argument from me, provided you also remember that the issue you're discussing is not so much "dissent from their Utopia" as "rebellion against their power and 'authority'". You don't hear American Jains or Bahais going on so much about the Evils of (Secular?) American Life not because they don't disagree with oh gangsta rap and bikinis but because they don't have enough power and "authority" for anybody to care what they think whatever it is, while the Christian churches DO have those things. The Christians have so much more breath to save -- or to blow hotly all over.

Incidentally, anyway, I'm tempted to agree with dame on the unavoidability of ideology, but I'll have to give more thought to the issues implicit in the "it's all ideology" ideology. The first biggie is that most people don't give enough serious thought to whatever ideology they claim for it to have any real content apart from whatever they mimic people doing on TV.

And on preview:

Look, when something is as big a disaster as Communism was, people are understandably disiclined[sic] to give it another try.


It's too damn bad people weren't smilarly disinclined about Christianity, the biggest damn disaster since the Caesars. You'd've thought all the riots, repressions and killings, many of them State-based, over the various Christological controversies during the first half-dozen Byzantine reigns alone would have disinclined more people from trying to realize the Christian "Utopia". As in "I the Emperor have decided that the Son is consubstantial with the Father, and everyone who won't agree must be tortured to death!" What's more is that Christianity as we know it became such a big deal precisely because it had the power of the armies behind it -- till Constantine it was just one dinky mystery cult among dozens (that were rather similar).
posted by davy at 9:25 AM on June 1, 2005


OK, graymouser, sounds like we're more or less on the same page. And if you look at my initial comment, I only said that "you could make a case" for Marx's condemnation based on what was done in the name of his philosophy, not neccessarily that I'd buy it. I condemned Hitler and Mao much more strongly, and believe it or not, you still do see the occasional nitwit walking around NYC with a Mao button or hammer and sickle t-shirt. I don't believe Marxists are all evil, I just believe their mistaken.

As Lenny Bruce put it: Communism is like living in one big phone company.
posted by jonmc at 9:29 AM on June 1, 2005


jonmc writes "and believe it or not, you still do see the occasional nitwit walking around NYC with a Mao button or hammer and sickle t-shirt."

Yeah, I've seen a few of those. Peripherally, I've always wondered if Che Guevara would be such an icon if he had been born ugly. Something tells me history wouldn't have been so kind then.
posted by clevershark at 9:32 AM on June 1, 2005


Yeah, I've seen a few of those.

Hearteningly, I was in a Czech restaurant a couple months ago, where I overheard a Czech guy around my age talking about his years at an American college "My roommates would have 'bull sessions' about Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim all the time. Fucking morons. I lived under that shit" It was hard not to want to hug him.
posted by jonmc at 9:36 AM on June 1, 2005


davy: The first biggie is that most people don't give enough serious thought to whatever ideology they claim for it to have any real content apart from whatever they mimic people doing on TV.

I guess I was going at ideology from what Websters lists as the 2a and 2b senses, not the 2c one:

2 a : a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture b : a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture c : the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program


So I would say that someone's ideology isn't what she professes, but the "systematic body of concepts" she uses to ogranize the world in her head. Most people do so unconciously and mostly operate according the most pbvios received opinion, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. In fact, I guess I'd argue that "mostly unconscious" is fundamental to ideology. I wish people questioned themselves more, but if we questioned our own system at each and every turn, we'd be too paralyzed to ever move.
posted by dame at 9:37 AM on June 1, 2005


What are The Turner Diaries? I don't want to look it up on Amazon because I'm at work and also I don't want it linked to my cookie.
posted by matildaben at 9:38 AM on June 1, 2005


What are The Turner Diaries?

Aryan Supremacist fantasy novel. Tim McVeigh was supposedly a big fan.
posted by jonmc at 9:45 AM on June 1, 2005


I once dropped Ulysses on my foot and almost broke a toe. Now that's a harmful book.
posted by fungible at 9:52 AM on June 1, 2005


Incidentally, anyway, I'm tempted to agree with dame on the unavoidability of ideology, but I'll have to give more thought to the issues implicit in the "it's all ideology" ideology. The first biggie is that most people don't give enough serious thought to whatever ideology they claim for it to have any real content apart from whatever they mimic people doing on TV.

ideology: a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture

It seems impossible not to have an ideology... at least past the age of four. By then you've gotten a point of view about the world, and that will determine how you see it and make decisions. I think that one of the simplest ways to find a person's ideology is to ask them what they think of as "normal." Also, keep in mind that television is one of the most effective means of spreading dominant ideology to the masses, so "mimicking people on TV" is exactly how many people form their ideology.
posted by heatherann at 9:56 AM on June 1, 2005


They need to put Pale Fire on that list. NOW!
posted by gsb at 10:08 AM on June 1, 2005


The comparison between Nazism and communism is a specious one that gives comfort to the Right while making it seem as if the intent of the Left is nefarious. You'll get no apologia from me about Stalinism, or any totalitarianism, for that matter, but the fact remains that the philosophical bases of Left and Right wing totalitarianisms are in no way equivalent. Communism may not work in practice, but it's an ideology of hope and equality where the goal is to help everyone equally. One may disagree with it, one may even argue that communism leads inevitably in practice to totalitarianism, but the ideological basis is not hatred or fear or dictatorial power. Nazism, on the other hand, was totalitarian not by mistake but by design. The success of Nazism was just that, the fulfillment in practice of what had been developed as an ideology.

When someone reads Marx they are reading a book that starts from a good place, a place of equality, humanity, justice and hope; even if the ideology ends in disaster the roots are to be respected. Even if one does not agree with Marx, I would argue that good people need to come up with an argument for why their way of acheiving his central ideas is better. "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his need" seems like far to humanitarian a goal to be dismissed.

When someone reads Hitler, they are reading a book founded on hate, designed to foment hatred and destruction. This isn't my opinion, it's very clear in the text. There is no equivalent humanism in Hitler, his project is explicitly anti-Humanist and elitist (in the most pernicious meaning of that word).

I am not, by the way, making an argument for intentionality. I hate what Stalin did as much as I hate what Hitler did, although in a different way. I just don't think that the rhetorical trick of talking about the ideologies they supposedly represented is without consequence; and I think the consequence is to make it seem as if communism is predicated on the same kind of hatred that Right wing ideologies hold near and dear.
posted by OmieWise at 10:15 AM on June 1, 2005


Aww, see, I love the Mao stuff not because I espouse his political philosophy (well, to be fair, his revolutionary rhetoric is pretty tight, but the Great Leap Forward was pretty shitty, and the cultural revolution was a horrible spasm from a party losing power), but because I love the idea of omnipresent iconography. I also like what the hammer and sickle originally represented, though I'll admit that it was coopted by a buncha kooks.
On a side note, as a polisci student, this list is hilarious. It was neat to see that Adorno got an honorable mention, but I was disappointed by the lack of Being and Nothingness by Sartre. C'mon, that's gotta beat Margret Mead... And the Franz Fanon really IS a dangerous book (but so good!), much more so than the Feminine Mystique. And for Neitzsche, don't they want Also Spracht Zarathustra?
Hey, you know what's really dangerous? The Federalist Papers. Or Thomas Paine's Age of Reason!
posted by klangklangston at 10:23 AM on June 1, 2005


Not a single "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book made the list? What a friggin' joke.
posted by Gamblor at 10:31 AM on June 1, 2005


No one even mentions the Left Behind series by LaHaye & Jenkins???

And gsb--I assume you had a bad grad school experience with one of the most intriguing books ever written?
posted by beelzbubba at 10:38 AM on June 1, 2005


hey klangston! I want my Foucault back!
posted by beelzbubba at 10:40 AM on June 1, 2005


You know, I kinda feel like the entire purpose of this list was just to dramatically emphasize the right-wing mantra that's developed as of late about Communism being the worse thing ever, even worse than the Third Reich.

It's the "beyond Godwin" strategy- since it's taboo and ineffective to compare liberals and other non-conservatives to Nazis, the Right wants to make Communism the great evil of the next generation in order to make more effective comparisons. Both socialist and fascist rhetoric exist in today's version of democracy- yet only the former are villified by the right because of this strategy. "Socialized medicine" is enough to destroy months of proposals for universal health care, yet the suggestion that indefinite incarceration of declared state enemies is somewhat contrary to the Framers' intentions is met with horrific scowls of "partisanship."

Additionally, Nazis were before Reagan, and emphasizing the evil of the Soviets by comparison adds even more weight to the righteousness of Saint Ronald. This is one of those subtle excercises from right-wingers in branding Communism as the greatest evil to face mankind, not out of actual belief that's the case, but in the knowledge that shaping it as such makes those depicted as its conquerors even more majestic.

That doesn't mean Communism wasn't bad [/understatement of the century] but it's quite clear that there are political motives behind taking an evil power and emphasizing its evil to make your opposition to it seem even more righteous. Those who disagree haven't been reading the news for the last 36 months.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:50 AM on June 1, 2005


I might be kinda mistook, here, but it seems that many are arguing that ideological movements are somehow planned, directed and coercered by an underlying agreement to follow a manifesto from a book. Purely by way of example, jonmc argues that communism and fascism don't "deserve" another chance.

I point this out only because Karl Marx argued that communism wasn't a planned movement, but rather an innevitable growth from the seeds of materialist history. In other words, things happen with out need for recourse to a "director" (evolution anyone?) I would argue that things get fucked up severly when a director or directing ideology takes hold of social or economic growth and attempts to force it into a mold of limited choosing ... just like Stalin, Mussolini, and the neo-cons have done.

Most of the books on this list describe certain movements, behaviors and beliefs. They don't "cause" them or lend any credence to their value as anything other than descriptions. As such, anybody here who lends most of these books some form of causal authority are makiing the same mistake as the writers of the list. That said, there are writings that attempt to cause movements and they can be very dangerous in the wrong hands. The Federalist Papers and The Turner Diaries are two sides of the same coin. They are calls to action for a particular ideology.

(Note: Mein Kampf was not a manifesto for Nazi Germany, it was only Hitler's reflections on his own ideas. That he came to power was harmful, not the book.)
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:11 AM on June 1, 2005


Where's The Exorcist? Don't laugh, but that book and movie was damned to hell and back, and kids back then didn't dare read it in school.

Now, just try to find a goth kid who hasn't bought it used for $1 or seen the movie.
posted by mischief at 11:24 AM on June 1, 2005


What? No links on the site to buy them at Amazon? I mean, come on...a commission is a commission.
posted by jasn at 11:24 AM on June 1, 2005


XQUZYPHYR, you'd be hard pressed to get away with the statement "Communism is bad" in any meaningful sense. That's probably why people spend their lives researching these things. But then, I suppose that's the real point of this list. It's not even about conservatism, really, these people just don't want any kind of nuanced thinking.
posted by nixerman at 11:33 AM on June 1, 2005


Would be much more useful if they expanded on why they are so dangerous.
posted by iamck at 11:47 AM on June 1, 2005


iamck, I think they made it abundandtly clear. These books cause Communism, Fascism, free-thought, enviromental regulation and the Gay.
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:57 AM on June 1, 2005


Whoops, my inner sexist forgot; they also cause FemiNazis.
posted by Wulfgar! at 12:00 PM on June 1, 2005


Man, I can't believe all the damage those books did. Making people do all those things. Clearly it's the communicating of ideas that is what is truly dangerous.
We need people to sweep floors, so feel free to limit your scope of thought if you wish. Try and limit mine and, well, I did study up on marksmenship.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:03 PM on June 1, 2005


IMHO, the most dangerous book of the 21st Century is He's Just Not That Into You. It raises the bar of what one is expected to do on a date to Romantic Comedy Levels, which as the old Onion article will tell you, just doesn't work in real life.
posted by AccordionGuy at 12:31 PM on June 1, 2005


I find it touching and beautiful that there still exist people who believe so strongly in the power of the written word that they could consider books to be harmful.
posted by Kattullus at 12:49 PM on June 1, 2005


Wulfgar: The Federalist papers and the Turner Diaries are no more two sides to the same coin than The Mismeasure of Man and Penthouse Variations. First off, the Federalist papers are pretty diverse. They are policy debates held in public, and their "danger" comes from them shaping the way in which public and private rights were interpretted by the public at large. They were a prescription for a new world, which is why they'd be dangerous to a Burke-ite. The Turner Diaries are written as fiction, and follow a narrative. They're a fantasy work, and are a pamphleteer's masturbatory Aryan sci-fi. The similarities are that they both deal with politics, one directly and one through fiction, and that they were both dissatisfied with the current political outlook. To conflate the two is to accuse Noam Chomsky of being the same as Sean Hannity.
posted by klangklangston at 1:04 PM on June 1, 2005


>beelzbubba, not a grad school thing, more of a "decided to read it one day and now it plagues my mind."

Who needs doubt in the 21st Century?
posted by gsb at 1:38 PM on June 1, 2005


The best parts in this article are the little personal digs at the authors. Friederich "Limousine Leftist" Engels, John "Thinking 'Skills'" Dewey, and so on.

Hoo boy, Ronny Reagan coulda whupped all of 'em in a fistfight.
posted by sellout at 1:45 PM on June 1, 2005


On a related note, shit like this really makes me wonder how small-government types and Christian conservatives manage to vote for the same party. -- Kwantsar

Seriously. Though, as a conservative, I disagree with some of the ideas presented in the books on this list that actually exist (or, more often, the hasty or improper implementation of those ideas), but I can't see how the books themselves are harmful. That's a ridiculous notion. Conservatism is not about anti-intellectualism, and I would certainly recommend more books on the list than not. Burke instructed us to rationally assess a wide selection of human thought, and in fact, stated it as critical to conservative ideology.

I think this suggestion is one of the core differences between conservatives and the "religious right." Conservatism demands empirical rigor.

Also, despite frequent disagreement, jonmc can still make my day.
posted by rush at 2:14 PM on June 1, 2005


Wow, that second sentence is a train wreck. I apologize.
posted by rush at 2:15 PM on June 1, 2005


XQUZYPHYR writes "You know, I kinda feel like the entire purpose of this list was just to dramatically emphasize the right-wing mantra that's developed as of late about Communism being the worse thing ever, even worse than the Third Reich."

Well that view was certainly implied earlier this year when Dubya threw a cold shower on VE-day celebrations by bringing forward the idea that the liberation didn't really happen 60 years ago.
posted by clevershark at 2:18 PM on June 1, 2005


matildaben, if you like, I'll bring my collection of ugly books to the next meetup. Bowling and brainwashing, what fun!

Trust me, after a browse through Iron Curtain Over America or Hunter, you'll want your brain scrubbed out with soap.
posted by warbaby at 2:28 PM on June 1, 2005


To conflate the two is to accuse Noam Chomsky of being the same as Sean Hannity.

You've never seen them photographed together, have you? Aha!
posted by beelzbubba at 2:38 PM on June 1, 2005


To conflate the two is to accuse Noam Chomsky of being the same as Sean Hannity

It's been done, you know.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:27 PM on June 1, 2005


> "My roommates would have 'bull sessions' about Karl Marx
> and Emile Durkheim all the time. Fucking morons. I lived
> under that shit"

So what the fuck harm did poor old Emile Durkheim ever do to anybody? Who was victimized by the concept of Anomie?

Given that Durkheim is generally regarded as a conservative thinker, I suspect the person responsible for the quote is actually the *real* moron here.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:44 PM on June 1, 2005


HUMAN EVENTS asked a panel of 15 conservative scholars and public policy leaders to help us compile a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

one thing i learned from this list is that 15 conservative scholars don't know how to read.

the other thing i learned is that some books are harmful, and need to be listed , and quarantined so as to not contaminate anyone else. fortunately the above mentioned scholars and public policy leaders were not infected because they properly avoided prolonged contact with the source material.
posted by nola at 3:49 PM on June 1, 2005


I think this suggestion is one of the core differences between conservatives and the "religious right." Conservatism demands empirical rigor.
Thanks, Rush. The ether ate my post, but I had been wondering how conservative came to mean "anti-reason" in this country. This list seems more anti-intellectual than anything else. It starts off with madmen [Hitler, Mao, Lenin], but quickly devolves.
posted by kanewai at 3:56 PM on June 1, 2005


What no Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard? Such limited imagination on the part of the Judges.

And then missed the most harmful book of the 19th and 20th century—Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. A book that inflicted more pain on the populace than anything ever put to paper since the Necronomicon.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:20 PM on June 1, 2005


I'm a bit disappointed that neither Kerouac, Camus, nor Sartre made the list. Aren't they dangerous enough?

My off-hand list of dangerous books [all more recent] ...

Chariots of the Gods Past
by Erich Von Daniken: Science has yet to fully recover.

The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda: Old stereotypes are replace with new, as indigenous people all become "wise and spiritual." The commodification of indigenous tradition begins, under the guise of new-age enlightenment.

Anything by Alesteir Crowley: Helping make social outcasts just a little bit scarier for almost half a centruy.

Anything by Michel Foucault: Critical theory finally becomes completely incomprehensible, and leftist thinkers lose the ability to communicate with the masses.

Toss in the Turner Diaries, Dianetics, and Atlas Shrugged, and I'll call it a day.
posted by kanewai at 4:52 PM on June 1, 2005


They also forgot The Anarchist Cookbook.
posted by furtive at 5:00 PM on June 1, 2005


Years ago, Human Events was so far out of the mainstream and into John Birch Society territory that nobody took them seriously. They're still far-right extremists, but the differences between them and America's current rulers are frighteningly subtle.

Read some of what Janice Rogers Brown has written and think about what kind of a U.S. Court of Appeals judge she is going to make, once Bush and Frist finish railroading her through to her lifetime appointment.
posted by bcamarda at 5:31 PM on June 1, 2005


The Kinsey Report. Five years later, he published Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. The reports were designed to give a scientific gloss to the normalization of promiscuity and deviancy.

Because reporting on what men really were thinking and doing sexually as opposed to what everyone thought men were thinking and doing is just nasty. We don't want any of that smutty reality tossed in our face.

In Democracy and Education, in pompous and opaque prose, he disparaged schooling that focused on traditional character development and endowing children with hard knowledge, and encouraged the teaching of thinking “skills” instead.


Because teaching children how to think is not desirable during an authoritarian regime.

Silent Spring

Because DDT is really very tasty and nutritious!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:47 PM on June 1, 2005


I didn't even have to check the list to know that the site was full of shit. Check out their top viewpoint "author".

I hope this list results in increased sales for most of these books.
posted by purephase at 5:59 PM on June 1, 2005


petermcdermott: I have only the vaguest idea who emile durkheim is, and I'm sure he's beyond my comprehension anyway, philosopher types usually are. I'm just the messenger. It was more the Marx part of what the guy said that was gratifying.

Also, despite frequent disagreement, jonmc can still make my day.

What did I say to make your day? I'll do it more often.
posted by jonmc at 6:07 PM on June 1, 2005


Kwanstar: Because the carnage wrought by rational egoism is on par with communism-- tens of millions killed, and all...

Yeah, capitalism never killed anyone.


Actually, the laissez-faire policies of the British Raj during the Indian famines of the 1870s and 1890s also killed tens of millions of people, a very similar number to Mao's policies during the Great Leap Forward. Interestingly enough, both tragedies were related to severe droughts caused by the El Nino Southern Ossilation, but the starvation might have been relieved if only the government policy had been different.

As for the argument that railroads saved lives - a higher percentage of people died in districts near railroads than those away. Death tolls were highest in the most commercially advanced regions. (Mike Davis, Late Victoran Holocausts, pp 111-112. Everyone should read this book.)

Just because tuna sucks, it doesn't mean that salmon is any better.

(No disparagement to tuna or salmon, both of which are delicious. It's a metaphor.)

As for Marx - no matter if you agree with what he recommended or not, the man had very good insights (for the time in which he was writing) into the nature and development of capitalism and the effect of wage-dependency. I don't agree with his dichotomising the bourgeosie and the aristocracy - I think the division between those two groups in 18th/19th century England was much less than he thought it was. But increasingly historians of the period are realising that the loss of the means of production had a very real and significant impact on the well-being and stability of the working classes.

Just take Marx for what he was - not a prophet or a demon, but a nineteenth century thinker and writer with some interesting insights into society and economy which have signifcantly influenced the questions asked by many people from all sides of the political spectrum. The very fact we sit here and talk about class shows the importance of his thought. (I'm curious - who else was talking about class at the same time or earlier? Certainly Marx is the most famous to write on it, but I'm sure he was not the only one.)
posted by jb at 8:57 PM on June 1, 2005


Marx was pretty late to the discussions on class; communism and class-based antagonistic views were already over 100 years old when he got to them (though I can't seem to find my History of Ideologies text that could give exact cites).
What his big innovation was, to echo Civil Disobedient above, was that he took the idea of the Platonic dialectic and spliced in a materialist view of history. Historical movements interpreted by an economist just hadn't been done up until Marx, and that's why he was fucking brilliant. As a material historian, he's tits. As a futurist, he's kinda weak. He did a little better than Jules Verne, but no one's seriously tried to base a government on circumglobal balloon transit or squid-shaped submarines.
Still, for some of the funniest writing in economic political theory, check out The German Ideologies. It's Marx in a nutshell, and he hates on Germans almost as much as Neitzsche does.
(Rush: Burke was always my favorite conservative, and one of the only ones that I could read straight. I had a class where he was the Classical Conservative contrasted against Bork as the Modern Conservative, and while Burke's pleas for caution in the face of the Reign of Terror exemplify all of the true virtue of conservatism, I couldn't read Bork's reactionary bullshit without laughing or crying... And they wanted him on the Supreme Court!)
posted by klangklangston at 9:20 PM on June 1, 2005


communism and class-based antagonistic views were already over 100 years old when he got to them (though I can't seem to find my History of Ideologies text that could give exact cites.

I would really be interested in knowing even just the names of some people. I only know British stuff, but as far as I know, the word "class" in English was popularised in the late 18th century (There's a book by Dror Warhman on the development of the idea of "middle class" from c. 1780 on, as opposed to the earlier "middling sort" which has a very different connotation) - are you talking about that period, or the earlier eighteenth century?

I'm sure you can find class based (or social-economic status based) antagonism throughout most of human history, even if it doesn't have the name "class". It's there in Kett's rebellion of 1549 (Eng), in the peasants' rebellions of 1525 (Germany), 1381 (Eng). But they don't have this word class, and they tended to divide the world into "rich" and "poor" (the complainers being the abused poor, of course). They didn't really systematise in the way that Marx did, or have this idea of set classes (working, middle, upper) that we do today. I really see it as an intellectual shift, rather than an economic one (there have always been labourers and landlords and merchants in most of written history - they just didn't always perceive themselves that way).
posted by jb at 9:50 PM on June 1, 2005


Anything by Michel Foucault: Critical theory finally becomes completely incomprehensible, and leftist thinkers lose the ability to communicate with the masses.

Actually, in French, he's fairly comprehensible. The English language translations are, uh, lacking, to say the least.
posted by Kattullus at 3:00 AM on June 2, 2005


I thought Darwin's book was Ascent of Man...

Nope, they got that one right at least: The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex.
posted by rory at 4:16 AM on June 2, 2005


pdf

"conservative scholars" - Bwahahaha!
posted by warbaby at 6:08 AM on June 2, 2005


Anything by Michel Foucault: Critical theory finally becomes completely incomprehensible, and leftist thinkers lose the ability to communicate with the masses.

Actually, in French, he's fairly comprehensible. The English language translations are, uh, lacking, to say the least.


Interesting. So campus intellectuals are not mimicking Foucault, they're mimicking poor translations of Foucault. The end result is the same: no one outside academia knows what the fuck they are talking about.
posted by kanewai at 1:57 PM on June 2, 2005


You know, some Foucault is admittedly difficult, but stuff like History of Sexuality is pretty accessible, IMO. There are many theorists, before and after Foucault, far more incomprehensible.
I also don't see how Foucault = all leftist thinkers either.
posted by papakwanz at 10:43 PM on June 2, 2005


Warbaby- tell me that flyer is a joke, PLEASE
posted by papakwanz at 10:45 PM on June 2, 2005


My friend's fiancee just finished taking a PoliSci course with Marshall DaRosa (one of the "15 scholars and public policy leaders" who compliled this list) at Florida Atlantic University.

According to her, in the course of one semester he:

1. informed the class, in response to a question asked by an African-American student, that the Supreme Court made the wrong decision in Brown v the Board of education and schools should have remained segregated;

2. used articles written by people such as Bill Lind and David Horowitz (without anything supporting any other viewpoint) to "prove" that political correctness is taking over U.S. universities;

3. announced after a quick survey of the class to find out if anyone thought pre-marital sex was wrong (no one did) that it meant that in the next 10 years people would find pedophilia and bestiality morally acceptable.
posted by the_bone at 8:35 AM on June 3, 2005


Foucault's "Discipline and Punish" is actually quite understandable, and dead-on in its portrait of the evolution of the panopticon-style prison mindset. kanewai, I think you're engaging in just the kind of kneejerk dismissing that the 15 judges are.
posted by mediareport at 6:54 PM on June 3, 2005


the_bone : She should just report him to David Horowitz's Students for Academic Freedom website for belittling students based on their beliefs and overpoliticising his classroom. Make them put their money where their mouths are.
posted by jb at 7:02 PM on June 7, 2005


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