Saturday, October 16, 2004

Flynn on Strauss:

Thomas DiLorenzo is an accomplished anti-war, Lincoln hating paleo-libertarian scholar and academic who often writes for As such, his distaste for Straussians (pro-war, pro-Lincoln) should be obvious.

Interestingly in this column, DiLorenzo reviews a book, Intellectual Morons, by a fairly influential up-and-coming right-wing conservative scholar, Daniel Flynn, who, in this book takes pot-shots at the usual hard-left intellectuals that have so influenced the forces of PC-Academia: “Alfred Kinsey, Margaret Sanger, Michael Focault, Betty Friedan, Paul Ehrlich, W.E.B. Du Bois, Jacques Derrida, Herbert Marcuse….” But there is one other name that Flynn lumps in with this distinguished crop of sophists: Leo Strauss (and his followers):

Flynn also examines the ideas of the right-wing guru Leo Strauss, the "intellectual godfather" of America’s newly embarked-upon path of foreign policy interventionism and the quest for empire. After discussing how America was lied into going to war in Iraq, he pins the blame on Strauss’s students, or his students’ students, such as Paul Wolfowitz, Abram Shulsky, Stephen Cambone, and other "Straussians." He also notes how the "followers of the mysterious academic among the intellectual class" include, most prominently, Harry Jaffa, Harvey Mansfield, Irving Kristol, his son William, and Allan Bloom.

Carefully surveying many of Strauss’s writings, Flynn notes that although he was an atheist and "scoffed at the idea of God," he nevertheless thought that appeals to religion could be helpful in duping naïve Christians, especially, into going along with his interventionist foreign policy agenda. It seems to have worked, since "evangelical Christians" are among the most bloodthirsty warmongers in American society today.

The Straussians are portrayed by Flynn as a bizarre cult whose members believe they know a truth "that lesser mortals failed to grasp"; they talk "in a kind of code to one another"; and "genuflect to their great guru, but allow for intramural debate," i.e., between the followers of Jaffa and Mansfield.

It gets worse:

Other academics are also of the opinion that Straussians tend to be sickeningly hypocritical. The atheist Strauss preached about the importance of religion (in the service of pursuing empire), while "his popular evangelist Allan Bloom preached family values but practiced anonymous sex until stopped by AIDS."

The cornerstone of "the Straussian method" is creative lying or creating "the noble lie" in support of nationalism, authoritarianism, and world empire. This is all laid out in Strauss’s 1952 book, Persecution and the Art of Writing. According to Strauss, generations of scholars have totally misinterpreted the works of Plato, Spinoza, Machiavelli, Locke, Hobbes, and others, because they do not read between the lines, as Strauss does.

Most people recognize that what lies "between the lines" of any book is blank space. Not so with Strauss and the Straussians. They make things up. They fabricate. They lie. And they use the dark art of numerology (!) to create their fabrications. According to Strauss, a book’s first and last words have some sort of special meaning. "Some numbers, such as seven and thirteen, alert Strauss to a text’s hidden meaning." "The Prince consists of 26 chapters," writes Strauss about Machiavelli. "Twenty-six is the numerical value of the letters of the sacred name of God in Hebrew, of the Tetragrammaton. But did Machiavelli know this? I do not know. Twenty-six equals 2 times 13. Thirteen is now and for quite sometime has been considered an unlucky number, but in former times it was also and even primarily considered a lucky number. So ‘twice 13’ might mean both good luck and bad luck, and hence altogether; luck fortuna." Was this man insane?

Armed with this "tarot-card philosophy," Strauss ("a major-league screwball," writes Flynn) and the Strussians argue that John Locke covertly undermined Christianity, although Locke never indicated as such; that Plato’s Republic means exactly the opposite of what all other scholars take it to mean; that Locke was not really in favor of natural rights; and of course that the white supremacist Abraham Lincoln was a racial saint, that his suspension of habeas corpus, shutting down of the opposition press and the mass arrest of political dissenters was consistent with constitutionalism, and that waging war on innocent civilians made him a "great humanitarian." These of course are just a few of the absurdities perpetrated by Jaffa and his fellow tarot-card philosophers.

Straussianism is a form of what?

Straussianism is form of "deconstructionism," as practiced by such left-wing luminaries as Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, and Michael Focault. With these deconstructionists, as with the Straussians, "What maters is not so much what the author says but what the reader wants the author to say," notes Daniel Flynn. The left-wing deconstructionist "produce[s] his own meaning . . . by an activity of semantic ‘freeplay.’" As with the Straussians, deconstructionism "seeks to institutionalize dishonesty as a legitimate school of thought." They both "exalt dishonesty in the service of supposedly noble causes . . ."


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