On the stupidity of intellectuals

Thomas Sowell, via neo-neocon:

Bertrand Russell, for example, was both a public intellectual and a leading authority within a rigorous field. But the Bertrand Russell who is relevant here is not the author of landmark treatises on mathematics but the Bertrand Russell who advocated “unilateral disarmament” for Britain in the 1930s while Hitler was re-arming Germany. Russell’s advocacy of disarmament extended all the way to “disbanding the army and navy and air force”—again, with Hitler re-arming not far away. The Noam Chomsky who is relevant here is not the linguistics scholar but the Noam Chomsky of similarly extravagant political announcements…

Visiting the United States in 1933, George Bernard Shaw said, “You Americans are so fearful of dictators. Dictatorship is the only way in which government can accomplish anything. See what a mess democracy has led to. Why are you afraid of dictatorship?” Leaving London for a vacation in South Africa in 1935, Shaw declared, “It is nice to go for a holiday and know that Hitler has settled everything so well in Europe.” While Hitler’s anti-Jewish actions eventually alienated Shaw, the famous playwright remained partial to the Soviet dictatorship. In 1939, after the Nazi-Soviet pact, Shaw said: “Herr Hitler is under the powerful thumb of Stalin, whose interest in peace is overwhelming. And every one except myself is frightened out of his or her wits!” A week later, the Second World War began, with Hitler invading Poland from the west, followed by Stalin invading from the east.

Talking of Stalin’s fellow travellers, read this review of a book about Arthur Ransome, British ruling class Stalinist useful idiot/spy.

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. That would be the same Bertrand Russell who said in April 1961:

    We used to call Hitler wicked for killing off the Jews, but Kennedy and Macmillan are much more wicked than Hitler.

  2. Jesus. I was unaware of Shaw’s drivel. Thanks for posting

  3. A below the belt attack on Chomsky, by comparing him with Russell’s naivety. The real issue is not the naivete of some 1930’s intellectuals but the brazen pro-Nazi sympathy of much (most) of the ruling class of the day, both in Britain and the US. Does Sowell bring this up, this man who whored for the Iraq war?

  4. A below the belt attack on Russell as well that doesn’t take historical context into consideration. Bertrand Russell was not alone in advocating disarmament in the 1930s. His book on the subject is entitled Which Way to Peace? (1937), a work that he did allow to be reprinted and whose views he quickly abandoned. In retrospect, most people–not just intellectuals–were naive about dictatorships in the 1930s. The League of Nations, the precursor to the UN, failed nobly and miserably to prevent WWII and stopping Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Franco.

  5. For the full text of George Bernard Shaw’s lettter in The New Statesman on 7 October 1939, urging the British Governement to make peace with Hitler as Stalin had so wisely done see

    This is in the History section of the http://www.politics.ie website – a thread called “The Fellow-Travellers: ‘Liberals’ Supporting Dictators”. Nearby on the same thread is the text of Sean O’Casey’s letter in “Picture Post” on 11 November 1939 saying the same thing.

    Remember these letters were published at a time when Britain was at war with Germany!

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