Saturday, June 04, 2005

Read Them Before They're Banned

Human Events, a rather dangerous publication to those supporting liberty and modern civilization, has come up with a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries, along with a list of books receiving honorable mention.

Looking at the list gives some insight as to how far the right wing has become out of the intellectual mainstream of western civilization. Fortunately they lead with books which really could be considered harmful for their support of totalitarianism. Personally I would rank Mein Kampf, which truly advocated totalitarianism, above The Communist Manifesto which, although highly misguided in its own right, was no where as evil as those who distorted its meaning to justify the Communist regimes of the 20th century.

Beyond the first few, the list becomes rather disturbing. They include books such as The Kinsey Report, Feminine Mystique, and Dewey's Democracy and Education. Beyond Nazis and Communists, we see the other enemies of the far right: sex, education, feminists, science, and the environment. While I could understand opposition to various books which advocate Communism based both upon the totalitarianism they led to and their failed economic principles, including Keynes General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money as harmful is rather extreme, even if they disagree with its economic principles.

Their honorable mention continues the distrubing trends seen in their top ten, including The Population Bomb, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, Skinner's Beyond Freedom and Dignity, Silent Spring, Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa and Freud's Introduction to Psychoanalysis.

The influence of the religious right can be seen in their reasons for including many of these books, with explanations only included for the top ten. For example, John Dewey makes the list for being a "leading advocate for secular humanism in American life." Among his sins was that, "He signed the Humanist Manifesto and rejected traditional religion and moral absolutes." Auguste Comte makes the list because he "turned his back on his political and cultural heritage, announcing as a teenager, 'I have naturally ceased to believe in God.'" It is no surprise they include Nietzsche who argued that "God is dead." Their opposition to evolution leads to two works by Darwin, Origin of the Species and Descent of Man, making honorable mention. I wonder if the division of the vote between two books is what kept Darwin off the top ten.

Of course we can never underestimate the right wing's dedication to making a buck, even if it means distributing works they consider harmful. Human Events includes links to purchase its harmful books through Amazon so that they can receive a percentage of the sales.

If this list isn't enough to prove how far out of the mainstream Human Events is, take a look at their list of columnists on the left side of their site. Leading the list is Ann Coulter. Rational conservatives should realize that Coulter's irrational rants are most harmful to the credibility of the conservative movement.

Following is the complete list:

1. The Communist Manifesto — Authors: Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels
2. Mein Kampf — Author: Adolf Hitler
3. Quotations from Chairman Mao — Author: Mao Zedong
4. The Kinsey Report — Author: Alfred Kinsey
5. Democracy and Education — Author: John Dewey
6. Das Kapital — Author: Karl Marx
7. The Feminine Mystique — Author: Betty Friedan
8. The Course of Positive Philosophy — Author: Auguste Comte
9. Beyond Good and Evil — Author: Freidrich Nietzsche
10. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money — Author: John Maynard Keynes

Honorable Mention

These books won votes from two or more judges:

The Population Bomb — Paul Ehrlich
What Is To Be Done — V.I. Lenin
Authoritarian Personality — Theodor Adorno
On Liberty — John Stuart Mill
Beyond Freedom and Dignity — B.F. Skinner
Reflections on Violence — Georges Sorel
The Promise of American Life — Herbert Croly
Origin of the Species — Charles Darwin
Madness and Civilization — Michel Foucault
Soviet Communism: A New Civilization — Sidney and Beatrice Webb
Coming of Age in Samoa — Margaret Mead
Unsafe at Any Speed — Ralph Nader
Second Sex — Simone de Beauvoir
Prison Notebooks — Antonio Gramsci
Silent Spring — Rachel Carson
Wretched of the Earth — Frantz Fanon
Introduction to Psychoanalysis — Sigmund Freud
The Greening of America — Charles Reich
The Limits to Growth — Club of Rome
Descent of Man — Charles Darwin


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