Friday, August 23, 2013

Ideological zealots.

In 2003 we published In Denial, which discussed how an embarrassingly large number of academics denied, minimized, avoided noticing, or, the last resort, justified Soviet espionage against the United States as well as such Stalinist mass murders as the Great Terror and the Katyn massacre.

It was bad enough that such deplorable history was written prior to the 1990s. But our outrage was prompted by the sad spectacle of supposedly trained historians continuing to distort evidence from Russian and East Bloc archives that contradicted their biases. [Footnote in article to John Earl Haynes & Harvey Klehr, In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage. (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2003).]

And it still goes on. One conclusion we have reached is that many of those who continue to write historical nonsense about Soviet espionage and communism are not consciously dishonest. It is not a matter of their knowing the truth and lying about it (although there is some of that). More frequently, we are dealing with intellectual “true believers,” ideological zealots who are mentally incapable of accepting or processing information that undermines their historical world view. To use a metaphor coined by the historian Aileen Kraditor, it is as if they wear special glasses that can only see what conforms to their world-view. Information that contradicts their fiercely held view is denied, explained-away, or, most often, simply ignored.[1]

This blindness is peculiar to the left in my opinion. The so-called Right is invariably accused of bad motive and nasty thoughts but not of a lack of realism. Leftists, by definition, subscribe to economic, social, and cultural fairy tales as their life's foundation. Hence, nothing can be permitted to crack that foundation. Haynes and Klehr are exceedingly courteous to wayward historians by characterizing their failure to deal with inconvenient facts as being a result of the historians' being ideological zealots. However, to borrow a formulation from a friend, if these historians were being dishonest, how would it be different from merely being ideological zealots.

I can't think of a lot of things that I'm zealous about except the obvious: totalitarian government will invariably be run by or taken over by human scum; free markets are better than regulated markets; government intervention in human affairs is invariably wasteful, destructive, or poisonous; the United States Supreme Court has betrayed the Constitution; it's a peculiar form of misery to have to put up with bureaucratic morons; and the civil rights revolution has failed utterly. These being true, I nonetheless cannot think how any of these beliefs impel me to ignore facts or arguments that undermine them.

[1] "Washing White." By By John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Washington Decoded, 8/11/13.

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