June 14th, 2005

Brad @ Burning Man

Not-Yet-Forbidden Lore

You may have seen this a couple of weeks ago when it was kicking around the blogosphere. A right-wing weekly newsletter called Human Events had an article in their online edition called the "Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries." I wish I hadn't been too lazy to reply to them, because even after reading the article, I'm not sure what they mean when they call a book harmful. Are they objecting to the author of the book, or to the uses the book was put to, or to the contents of the book? What exactly, if anything, do they want done about the fact that these books are harmful now that their party controls the White House, controls Congress, and is about to gain an even stronger lock on the judiciary?

Anyway, the methodology was a pretty simple preference poll of 15 right-wing intellectuals, asking them to rank the most dangerous books on a scale from 1 to 10. They then assigned 10 points for a #1 vote, 9 points for a #2 vote, and so on down the line, and totaled up the scores. They weren't given a list of nominees, it was up to them which books they thought of. They actually ended up with 30 books, and since the highest score awarded was 74 it is obvious that they didn't all agree on which book was the number-one most harmful book of the last 200 years. Anyway, it is pretty clear how 8 of the top 10 books got onto that list, as they were the mainfestos that were intended by their authors to recruit for totalitarian, anti-capitalist, or anti-theocratic movements:
1) Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto (communism)
2) Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (fascism)
3) Mao Zedong, Quotations from Chairman Mao, aka "the little red book" (communism)
5) John Dewey, Democracy and Education (free thought)
6) Karl Marx, Das Kapital (communism)
7) Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (feminism)
8) Auguste Comte, The Course of Positive Philosophy (humanism)
9) Freidrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (atheism)
And one of the ten is an argument for an economic principle that has since been mostly discredited, and which is deeply loathed by right-wingers whether it's true or not:
10) John Maynard Keynes, General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (Keynesianism)
Now, what all 9 of those 10 books have in common is that they're all works of opinion, which makes the #4 book on the list stand out like a turd in a hot tub ...
4) Alfred Kinsey, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.
... because it is not a manifesto or a philosophy or a collection of opinions, but a report of scientifically obtained facts. They specifically cite with evident anger and disdain Kinsey's finding that of the men he surveyed, 37% had engaged in at least one act of consensual homosexual sex in the course of their life, usually during childhood or early adolescence. They don't offer any contrary evidence, which leads me to think that what they hate so much about this book that it ranked only barely behind Mao's "little red book" is that it dared to report a scientific truth whose reporting had consequences they don't like.

Now, I've talked before (in part 4 of "Drunken Sex: A Manifesto") about the fact that in the English language, we don't distinguish between someone who did a certain awful thing once and someone who does that awful thing over and over again. If you know the old joke, call it the "John the Bridge Builder" syndrome. Or as I said back in January of 2004:
"if even once you ever distim the doshes, then you're a dosh distimmer, like the gostak. You could be someone who distimmed some doshes, long ago, more or less by mistake, while you were young and didn't know any better or before you went into rehab. Or instead you could be someone who's been distimming doshes for decades; you distimmed all the doshes you could find last weekend, are going to distim a bunch more doshes this weekend, and are spending all of your time in between obsessing over doshes and planning how you're going to distim. Or you could be anywhere in between those two extremes, but wherever you are on that spectrum, we have only one label to hang on you, you distimmer."
If Kinsey was accurately reporting his findings (which have been more or less supported, within the limits of accuracy of surveying technology, by every follow-up study since, so yes, he was) that means that if you define a faggot as any man who's ever had sex with another man (as so many people do define it), then Kinsey (and every scientist since then) was claiming that 37% of all American men are faggots.

So here's what I wish I hadn't been too lazy to ask them before writing this journal entry. Are they claiming that every scientist who has published this finding was lying for evil purposes, or was telling the truth for evil purposes, or was telling the truth and evil people used that truth for their evil purposes? Are they saying the same thing about all of the scientific studies that undermine their mechanism of control, the one that teaches everybody that certain activities they loathe are so disgusting and unthinkable that only a tiny identifiable minority of moral degenerates would ever think to do such things? Because if it's the first one, they're deranged. If it's the second or third one, though, then it's the most vivid example I've come up with lately of what I'm talking about when I talk about Forbidden Lore: "We're not telling you it's not true, we just think that you're better off not knowing those truths."