The “Gluing” of the Brain

(This is with a hat-tip to a friend, Tanner.) I loved this Front Page Magazine article (also in National Review) by David Horowitz, it reads in-part (I invite you to also read the CS LEWIS quotes after the excerpt):

The Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky once described Stalinism as “the perfect theory for glueing up the brain.” What he meant to dramatize was the fact that a regime as monstrous as Stalin’s, which murdered 40 million people and enslaved many times more, was nonetheless able to persuade progressives and “social justice” advocates all over the world to act as its supporters and defenders. These enlightened enablers of Stalin’s crimes included leading intellectuals of the day, even Nobel Prize winners in the sciences and the arts like Frederic Joliot-Curie and Andre Gide. Brilliant as they were, they were blind to the realities of the Stalinist regime and therefore of the virtues of the societies they lived in.

What glued up their brains was the belief that a brave new world of social justice – a world governed by progressive principles – existed in embryo in Soviet Russia, and had to be defended by any means necessary. As a result of this illusion, they put their talents and prestige at the service of the totalitarian enemies of democracy, acting, in Trotsky’s words, as “frontier guards” for the Stalinist empire. They continued their efforts even after the Soviets conquered Eastern Europe, acquired nuclear weapons and initiated a “cold war” with the West. To the progressives seduced by Stalinism, democratic America represented a greater evil than the barbaric police states of the Soviet bloc. Even half a century later a progressive culture still refers to the formative phase of the Cold War as years of a “Red Scare” – as though the fifth column of American progressives whose loyalties were to the Soviet enemy, whose members included Soviet spies, was not a matter of serious concern, and as though a nuclear-armed, rapacious Soviet empire did not pose a credible threat.

How were these delusions of otherwise intelligent and well-intentioned people possible? How were otherwise informed individuals able to deny the obvious and support the most brutal and oppressive dictatorship in history? How did they come to view a relatively humane, decent, democratic society like the United States as evil, while regarding the barbarous communist regime as its victim? The answer lies in the identification of Marxism with the promise of social justice and the institution of progressive values, which will take place in a magical socialist future. Defense of the progressive idea trumped recognition of the reactionary fact.

Once the Stalin regime was identified with the imaginary progressive future, everything followed – its status as a persecuted victim, and its adversary’s role as a reactionary force standing in the way of the noble aspiration. Every fault of the Stalin regime, every crime it committed if not denied by progressives was attributed to the nefarious actions of its enemies, most glaringly the United States. Once a promise of redemption is juxtaposed to an imperfect real world actor, all of these responses become virtually inevitable. Hence the glueing of the brain.

[….]

Our country is at a perilous crossroads, one that is made immeasurably more dangerous by a treacherous national party, which blames its own country for the crimes of its enemies, and by a political opposition too feckless and timid to hold its fellow citizens accountable for their treasonous acts.

“If we are to be mothered, mother must know best…. In every age the men who want us under their thumb, if they have any sense, will put forward the particular pretension which the hopes and fears of that age render most potent. They ‘cash in.’ It has been magic, it has been Christianity. Now it will certainly be science…. Let us not be deceived by phrases about ‘Man taking charge of his own destiny.’ All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of others…. The more completely we are planned the more powerful they will be.”

[….]

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. But to be punished, however severley, because we have deserved it, because ‘ought to have known better,’ is to be treated as a human persons in God’s image.”

C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2002), 292 (Full text).

I can imagine no man who will look with more horror on the End than a conscientious revolution­ary who has, in a sense sincerely, been justifying cruelties and injustices inflicted on millions of his contemporaries by the benefits which he hopes to confer on future generations: generations who, as one terrible moment now reveals to him, were never going to exist. Then he will see the massacres, the faked trials, the deportations, to be all ineffaceably real, an essential part, his part, in the drama that has just ended: while the future Utopia had never been anything but a fantasy.

C.S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night (New York, NY: Mariner Books, 1984), 131.