Loving the Enemy
Proclaiming himself a conciliator and a moderate with a vision of Americans "stand[ing] with each other" and "paying their fair share," President Barack Obama is in fact one of the most partisan presidents ever to occupy the White House. Fine-sounding words notwithstanding, he is a leftist ideologue and no-holds-barred political fighter whose practice has consistently been to demonize the American equivalents of the hated kulaks (farmers) and petit-bourgeoisie (small business owners) persecuted in the Soviet Union. Obama's enemies include those "bitter" people who "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them" as well as the presumably benighted bigots who fail to realize that "the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam." With his anti-American, neo-Marxist outlook shaped by mentors and heroes such as Frank Marshall Davis, Bill Ayers, Saul Alinsky, and Jeremiah Wright, Obama is naturally inclined to be suspicious of freedom and to feel sympathy for groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
Reflex affinities such as Obama's have a long, bloody history, and anyone wishing to understand the threat posed by the Obama administration to the fabric of America is well advised to place its policies and rhetoric in a comprehensive historical perspective. How is it that an educated person can be attracted to totalitarian ideologies and predisposed to reject the freedoms of the western world? This was, arguably, the central question of the twentieth century, and it has assumed a renewed urgency since 9/11, a time when leftists have applauded terror attacks on the United States and claimed that America's enemies are in fact righteous victims. What is one to make of their seemingly sophisticated arguments justifying atrocity? Can such people really believe, to cite only a few examples, that the 9/11 hijackers were motivated by a longing for social justice? That the Palestinian leadership is committed to peace with Israel? That people are better off in Cuba, with the highest per capita imprisonment rate in the world, than in the United States?
Jamie Glazov responds to such questions in United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror (2009), a brilliant investigation that not only extensively documents leftists' support for brutal regimes, but also diagnoses their worldview as a psycho-social syndrome of pathological dimensions. Leftist hatred, Glazov demonstrates, has less to do with specific political programs or economic systems than with a deep-rooted disenchantment with democratic freedoms and a corresponding "negative identification" with violence.
The objective evidence for leftists' love of tyrants is substantial, and Glazov presents it convincingly with a blend of facts, anecdotes, and analysis. We learn, for example, about the massive effort on the part of western Communists to repress, distort, and recast the horrors of Stalinist Russia, including the purges that killed millions and the forced famine in the Ukraine that brought the peasantry to its knees. New York Times reporter Walter Duranty turned the reality of Ukrainian starvation into a cheerful tale of abundance, lying so aggressively in favor of Stalin's policies that when the Manchester Guardian's Malcolm Muggeridge tried to report the truth-that peasant were dying en masse-he was mocked and derided, ultimately losing his job.
When leftists turned their attention to other bloody Communist regimes in Cuba, North Vietnam, China, and Nicaragua, many high-profile members of the western intelligentsia were eager to travel there to report on the miraculous gains that had supposedly been achieved. Susan Sontag wrote of Castro's Cuba with fanatical admiration, denying the dictator's atrocities and downplaying limitations on freedom, even going so far as to claim that "No Cuban writer has been or is in jail," and that "the great majority of Cubans feel vastly freer today than they ever did before the revolution." Making his pilgrimage to Hanoi in 1970, Noam Chomsky accepted as gospel all the nonsense his North Vietnamese hosts told him about the regime, as did Gunter Grass after a tour of a model Nicaraguan prison, which led him to enthuse that there was no room in the new regime for revenge-this in a country that had executed 8,000 political enemies and jailed 20,000 in the first three years of the revolution. (Hollywood's Oliver Stone, with his glorification of Stalin and denunciation of the U.S. as "an Orwellian state," is a current exemplar of this suicidal distemper.)
After the collapse of Communism, it has been déjà vu all over again with radical Islam. Immediately following the terrorist assault of 9/11, a jubilant chorus of university professors and progressives across North America refused to express horror for the attacks; instead, they blamed America, with Ward Churchill calling those who had died "little Eichmanns" and Nation columnist Katha Pollitt lecturing patriots who wanted to fly an American flag that it stood for "jingoism and vengeance and war." Hundreds of so-called anti-war demonstrations were organized almost immediately to express solidarity with the Taliban regime that had harbored the attackers and to paint the United States as a warmonger. Since then, droves of leftist lawyers have worked to obtain release for the terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay and to strike down legislation intended to help the United States guard itself against future attacks. Even when Islamists testify in court that their terror quests are inspired by Koranic injunctions to kill infidels, leftists insist that they are (justly) resisting American oppression. Western feminists routinely defend Islamic misogyny-wife beating, honor killing, genital mutilation, the burqa-and will not admit that women live better lives in the western democracies. And leftist gays march in anti-Israel rallies, joining with Muslim queer-bashers to denounce the only country in the Middle East where homosexuals can live securely.
How to understand such blindness, such moral lunacy, such self-destructive fantasy? The heart of United in Hate is its analysis of the psychological mechanisms that drive the left's embrace of terror and repression. This is the most fascinating aspect of the book, balancing its riveting survey of progressive misalliance. Glazov argues that underlying the progressive's disdain for his own culture and his support for its enemies is a deep-rooted alienation from modern democratic life. Feeling that his society has somehow betrayed him by failing to supply him with meaning and purpose, the "believer," as Glazov aptly dubs him, turns away from it with fury, magnifying its failings and projecting his longing for fulfillment onto a utopian order. Because he rejects the perilous satisfactions and anxieties of individual freedom, he "craves a fairy-tale world where no individuality exists, and where human estrangement is thus impossible."
With his swollen sense of grievance, the believer identifies with all others supposedly wronged by his society and imagines those who attack his country to be attacking the same injustices that anger him. But his outrage on behalf of his country's ostensible victims is really a displaced form of his own disillusionment and hunger for collective belonging. Guilt is often a powerful motivator also, for the believer is frequently a member of a privileged class and therefore feels shame "that he is not a genuine victim." By identifying with the oppressed, he feels "a sense of atonement" for his high caste. As he agonizes over those his own society has putatively harmed, he minimizes or outright denies the suffering of those who are really victimized by the regimes he adulates; their pain and deaths do not count for him, for they stand in the way of the realization of utopia. His greatest longing is to subsume his identity into the totalitarian entity, to experience power and purpose through it. This deep-seated craving explains the two most disturbing facets of the believer's behavior: his willingness to die for the cause-think of those leftists who wanted to serve as human shields for Saddam Hussein-and the fact that his greatest support for a totalitarian regime tends to occur when its (thrilling) violence is at its height.
Glazov's emphasis on the pathological element of the believer's mindset is effectively supported by his book's roll call of blind allegiances and feverish denials. There is no other way to explain how people so fully formed by western culture and so uniquely equipped to appreciate all that it offers -- elite intellectuals and rebel thinkers such as Susan Sontag and Michel Foucault -- could actively seek its destruction. Their fanatical commitment is rightly approached as a mental disorder with a specific etiology and symptoms.
The question raised by the book is a disturbing and salutary one: how is one to counter such an illness, colluded in so widely by the intelligentsia and possessing a fascination for so many? Springing from needs and desires that seem to develop with particular vehemence in societies that are most free, the believer's disorder is by its nature irrational, seemingly immune to proofs and argument. It reminds us of the vulnerability of democracy and the necessity for conservatives to counter leftist delusions with inspirational ideas, images, and stories of freedom. Despite our best efforts, it may take nothing less than a national catastrophe to awaken the general populace to the utopian peril. In the meanwhile, we have no choice but to pursue the truth as winsomely and tirelessly as we can, to confront leftist ideologues with the results of their utopian blueprints, and to write and read powerful books like United in Hate.