Tyrannophilia: Intellectuals and their love affair with tyrants

Dr. Jose Azel in PanAm Post:

“Tyrannophilia”: The Love of Tyrants

Sadly, some leading intellectuals have a long history of admiration for dictators, on both the left and the right.

The political scientist, and historian of ideas, Mark Lilla has coined the term tyrannophilia to explain the love of tyrants shown by many intellectuals. Lilla is a self described liberal with book titles such as “The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics,” where he argues that American liberals need to emphasize commonalities in their politics rather than differences of identity.

The “identity politics” that Lilla criticizes are those political positions based on the interests and perspectives of social groups with which people identify such as age, religion, social class, race, sexual orientation, etc. Identity politics are strategic for minorities and civil rights organizations. No wonder that Lilla has been described as a liberal with as many critics on the Left as on the Right.

Psychologist Steven Pinker singles out in “Enlighten Now,” that tyrants have enjoyed the support of intellectuals. He lists Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt as Hitler acolytes; Ezra Pound, George Bernard Shaw, William Yeats, Wyndham Lewis as devotees of Mussolini; Shaw and Wells also prized Lenin; Sartre, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Bertolt Brecht, W. E. B. Du Bois, Pablo Picasso, Lillian Hellman, were admirers of Stalin; add, Michael Foucault, Louis Althusser, Steven Rose, and Richard Lewontin as devotes of Mao. And, most offensive to me as a Cuban, the gushing over Castro of Sartre, Graham Greene, Günter Grass, Norman Mailer, Harold Pinter, Susan Sontag, and others.

Western intellectuals have a long history of loathing their own society and romanticizing its enemies. I am sure my readers can add to this list of tyrannophilic intellectuals.

I can not think of a more offensive passage to illustrate the intellectual’s love of tyrants than the paragraph, cited by Pinker, from Susan Sontag’s “Some Thoughts on the Right Way (for us) to Love the Cuban Revolution.” Sontag, who passed away in 2004, was a beloved intellectual icon of the Left. In the passage below, she is referring to the forced labor camps of the Military Units to Aid Production or UMAP operated by the Castro tyranny in the mid 1960s. The UMAP were concentration camps for undesirables considered counter-revolutionaries that would not serve in the military; they included Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seven-Day Adventists, Protestant ministers, Catholic priests, and homosexuals.

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3 thoughts on “Tyrannophilia: Intellectuals and their love affair with tyrants”

  1. “a country known mainly for dance music, prostitutes, cigars, abortions, resort life and pornographic movies.” WTF? Where the hell did Susan Sontag get that grotesquely twisted and sickeningly perverse mish-mash? Obviously she didn’t know shit about the real Cuba, but how could a renowned “intellectual” be so blithely ignorant and appallingly superficial?

    Simple: she was typical of the rest of the “intellectuals,” fashion was on her side, and she felt so superior to the island savages that it didn’t even occur to her to tone it down a bit. After making such a spectacularly disreputable pronouncement as if she were eminently qualified to pontificate on Cuba, there is absolutely nothing the woman could ever say to me about anything. Talk about a pompous, self-absorbed comemierda wallowing in pretentious, toxic banality–which is ultimately the banality of evil.

  2. I expect Sontag really believed she “got” Cuba, so she presumed to educate her fellow “radicals” (because among other things, it was absolutely unthinkable for them to learn from actual Cubans, especially “those people”). I genuinely don’t see how anyone who’s reasonably well-informed and reasonably intelligent can even begin to give such an “intellectual” the time of day.

  3. American intelligentsia hated even the very gay Reinaldo Arenas because he was anti-Castro. I just found out that, when he died, a gay writer for New York’s Village Voice claimed that “Before Night Falls,” Arenas’s scathingly anti-Castro memoir, was the product of AIDS-related dementia. Such solidarity, no?

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