“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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