Over at Real Clear Politics , Thomas Sowell counters Nicholas Kristof’s pleasure that in the Obama administration, “intellectuals”the ones who are “interested in ideas and comfortable with complexity” and “read the classics”will be back in power. I’m all for an interest in ideas and comfort with complexity, though Kristof and I might have disagreements on what the classics are and how often they will be read in the coming administration.
But I was struck by the final section of his brief article, which hammered home again how the intelligentsia in America and Europe advocated communism and other evils in the face of strong evidence to the contrary:
During the 1930s, some of the leading intellectuals in America condemned our economic system and pointed to the centrally planned Soviet economy as a modelall this at a time when literally millions of people were starving to death in the Soviet Union, from a famine in a country with some of the richest farmland in Europe and historically a large exporter of food.
New York Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize for telling the intelligentsia what they wanted to hearthat claims of starvation in the Ukraine were false.
After British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge reported from the Ukraine on the massive deaths from starvation there, he was ostracized after returning to England and unable to find a job.
More than half a century later, when the archives of the Soviet Union were finally opened up under Mikhail Gorbachev, it turned out that about six million people had died in that famineabout the same number as the people killed in Hitler’s Holocaust.
In the 1930s, it was the intellectuals who pooh-poohed the dangers from the rise of Hitler and urged Western disarmament.
It would be no feat to fill a big book with all the things on which intellectuals were grossly mistaken, just in the 20th centuryfar more so than ordinary people.
We young people need to be reminded again and again of these facts. We need to hear that ideas whose strong forms we now find repugnantsuch as Marxism and eugenicswere heralded as progressive and good by the media and the academy, and were shown to be horribly wrong. We must also be reminded that many of the same voices now advocate soft forms of these repugnant ideas, and that these too must be opposed with vigor and conviction.