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Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left by Roger Scruton: A Book Summary

Updated on February 13, 2020
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James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with three non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.

The Birth of the Left

The following is a summary of the book by Sir Roger Scruton – Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left.

The Left was born in the bloody French Revolution as a distinctly violent, hateful, anti-Christian movement. Its baby, the New Left, arose in Europe and America in the late 1960s. The central theme of this ideology is that the Government “ought to be in charge of society and empowered to distribute its goods.”

The Left long defended the murderous, barbarous Socialists/Communists of the Soviet Union, Red China, Vietnam, and Cuba. America it hates. Liberation and Social Justice are the stated aims—freedom from the customs, conventions, norms, values, traditions, and codes of conduct of Western Civilization. Social Justice does not mean equality before the law but to use force to end the unequal distribution of goods, and ultimately to abolish private property.

The Left continues to search out ever-new ‘victims’ it can liberate from ‘oppression.’ The Church, Holy Matrimony, the Family, and the Middle Class are its enemies.

The Left was Born in the French Revolution
The Left was Born in the French Revolution

Propaganda and Social Engineering

The Left specializes in diabolical propaganda and social engineering. It captures and transforms language to frame arguments on its terms. This is the socialist Newspeak of totalitarians about which George Orwell warned us. The Left has become clever at changing reality by changing the meaning of words. It confuses and seduces the general public; it marginalizes and vilifies its opponents. As Sir Roger Scruton says, the purpose is to "carefully avoid any encounter with reality or any exposure to the logic of a rational argument."

Freedom to think for yourself must be eliminated because people might reject what their socialist betters have planned for them. All dissent must be crushed to ensure “the triumph of ideology over reality.” People must be divided into groups of the innocent and the guilty. Voluntary, organic freedom of association must be denied; the almighty state must subsume all.

The Great Hero of the Left for Decades: Josef Stalin
The Great Hero of the Left for Decades: Josef Stalin

A Planned Society

“Intellectuals are naturally attracted to the idea of a planned society, in the belief that they will be in charge of it,” writes Roger Scruton. Leftists have no problem with horrific crimes against humanity as long as their fellow travelers commit them. All means are approved, including atrocities and liquidation. Any loyalty to anything outside the ideology must be trampled underfoot.

Leftism is an atheistic Religion of Man that demands complete devotion, complete with the annihilation of heretics and apostates. History has been rewritten as a long struggle between the oppressed and their oppressors, with the oppressed rescued over and over again by their savior, the progressive state. It is, at bottom, a pathological, satanic hatred of the normal, of reality, and the Truth.

Struggle Session in Red China: A Middle Class Person is Berated and Beaten for Having Risen Above the Rest
Struggle Session in Red China: A Middle Class Person is Berated and Beaten for Having Risen Above the Rest
In the 1960s, Leftist College Students in America Carried Chairman Mao's Little Red Book
In the 1960s, Leftist College Students in America Carried Chairman Mao's Little Red Book

Rights vs. Claims

One of the main ideas of the Left is to demolish individual rights, upon which the United States is based, to be replaced by group rights. The group that has achieved the most must be brought low and discriminated against. All ‘disadvantaged groups’ must receive special benefits by law from the government.

RIGHTS have been expanded by the Left to include an endless list of CLAIMS, such as a ‘right’ to medical care, education, a certain standard of living, etc. Such large, indefinite claims can only be satisfied by “a massive expansion of state power, a surrender to the state of all kinds of responsibilities that previously vested in individuals, and the centralization of social life in the government machine,” explains Scruton.

This obfuscation is "morally and politically dangerous and diametrically opposed to that for which the idea of human, natural rights was originally introduced," which was to limit state power not increase it.

RIGHTS should "define the boundaries behind which people can retreat and which cannot be crossed" by others or by the state; identifying what is "within the boundary of me and mine—the sphere of personal sovereignty from which others are excluded, which helps establish a society in which consensual relations are the norm." Genuine rights safeguard individual and family sovereignty.

A CLAIM is an imposition on another, an overriding of another’s sovereignty, and forcing of another person or persons to provide something for you. RIGHTS are what others cannot do to me or take from me; CLAIMS are demands others must satisfy, which is an invasion of their natural rights. When claims are distorted and proposed as rights, there is no end to them. A right to work becomes a right to leisure becomes a right not to be offended.

The New Left

The Left insists on being judged by its intentions, which it assures us are good (to create a utopia paradise)—not by its deeds, and certainly not by its results, which are generally immense human misery and death.

To understand the Student Rebellion of the late 1960s, the counterculture of the Woodstock Generation, we must see how the Devil manipulated those young people through Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfort School.

Roger Scruton writes: "The advocates of liberation were aware in their hearts of the benefits that they had received from the market economy. They belonged to a generation that enjoyed freedom and prosperity on a scale that young people had never previously known. To dissent from the 'capitalist' order in the name of liberty seemed faintly ridiculous when the contrast with the Soviet alternative was so vividly apparent. What was needed, in order to vindicate the new spirit of revolution, was a doctrine that would show capitalist freedom to be an illusion, and which would identify the true freedom that the consumer society denied.”

Marcuse and the Frankfort School provided that doctrine: "By constantly notching up the critique of American Capitalism and its culture, and making only muted or dismissive references to the real nightmare of communism, those thinkers showed their profound indifference to human suffering and the unserious nature of their prescriptions … that it involved mass murder and cultural annihilation."

One of the main ideas was to use the powerful lure of sex to get people to reject Christianity, by first rejecting the concept of sexual sin, or even sexual normality, e.g., heterosexuality. Real wisdom, knowledge, and meaning must be annihilated.

Leftist Pol Pot Killed 1/3 of his own Citizens to Create Socialist Utopia: Here are some of the Skulls
Leftist Pol Pot Killed 1/3 of his own Citizens to Create Socialist Utopia: Here are some of the Skulls

The Long March

It was through an assault on our culture beginning in the 1970s that the New Left did its tremendous and enduring damage to our nation. Its Long March through our cultural institutions—the means of communicating information—the university, public schools, media, entertainment, book and magazine publishing, and government bureaucracies, has seen the Left attain near-total dominance of our culture.

One of the great deceptions of the New Left was to use propaganda to make the public think that Nazis and Fascists were right-wing conservatives. The fact is that Socialism, Fascism, and Communism are different branches of the same evil tree of totalitarianism. The fact that all mass-murdering tyrants of the 20th century were leftists had to be covered up.

The Enemies of the Left: Western Civilization, Capitalism & Christianity

Since everything must be under the control of the Left, it despises Free Enterprise. It loathes the Free Market, which is “a mechanism of distribution operated entirely by the voluntary transactions of individuals.” Therefore, Capitalism must be eliminated.

Just as importantly, God is to be banished from the public square. The public must be convinced that there is no such thing as normal, no such thing as Truth. Western Civilization must be dismantled, America destroyed, and the nation-state eradicated, to pave the way for a New World Order of global governance.

In other words, the Left plans to rule the world. For that to happen, traditional Europe and America must be persuaded to commit cultural and demographic suicide.

Political Correctness

Censorship plays a significant role in the Left's modus operandi. The worldview, beliefs, and opinions of traditional conservatives must be excluded through a code of political correctness. “All serious cultures are founded on the distinction between right and wrong, true and false, good and bad, knowledge and ignorance," argues Scruton.

However, political correctness means a radical non-judgmentalism, in which nothing is declared right or wrong. It also means that anyone who challenges the views of the Left must be censored. Which must mean they are wrong, or why censor them? Political correctness causes cognitive dissonance.

“By a relentless campaign of intimidation, left-wing thinkers have sought to make it unacceptable to be on the right. Once identified as right-wing, you are beyond the pale of argument; your views are irrelevant, your character discredited, your presence in the world a mistake."

The Slavery of Socialism

Scruton writes: “So let us replace the word Capitalism with a true description. People in our societies own things, their labor included, and can trade those things freely with others. They can buy, sell, accumulate, save, share, and give. They can enjoy all that their freely exercised labor can secure for them, and even, if they choose, do nothing and still survive. You can take away the freedom to buy and sell; you can compel people to work on terms that they would not freely accept; you can confiscate property or forbid this or that form of it. But if those are the alternatives to 'capitalism' there is, now, no real alternative save slavery.”

Salvation from Ideology

“When all our aims are appetites, then all we pursue is ephemeral and replaceable. The things that really matter to us cannot be traded. In every area of human interest, the distinction shows itself, between things with value and things with a price. Our happiness depends on wanting the right things, not the things that happen to capture our attention or inspire our lust. Overcoming temptation is a spiritual task. No political system, no economic order, no dictatorship from above can possibly replace the moral discipline that we each must undergo,” to find true happiness.

Our salvation will not come from politics or ideology. Our lives need to be transformed by God. The change can only come by utilizing the spiritual resources that will enable us to stand against our fallen nature.

Resentment

The conservative “advocates autonomous institutions that mediate between the state and the citizen, and a civil society that grows from below without asking permission of its rulers.”

Doesn't it seem backward that after a century of socialist disasters, it is conservatives who are marginalized and denounced by our universities, public schools, and mass media? Maybe Nietzsche was right that resentment is “the default condition of human beings, who know only that the other has what they want, and must be made to suffer for it.”

Roger Scruton – Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left

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    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      6 days ago from Chicago

      T ~ Yes, thank you for that excellent meme. I appreciate you taking the time to come by and read my work. The book is pretty awesome. I just skimmed the surface. I find it fascinating that you said, “Many would take pride in the author's description of who they are.” That is profound.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      6 days ago from Chicago

      Pamela Oglesby ~ You are quite welcome. Thank you for reading my writings and for your comments. The book itself is great. And Roger Scruton my favorite thinker. Along with Thomas Sowell.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      6 days ago from Chicago

      Alexander Silvius ~ It is a distinct pleasure to hear from you here, my friend. Thank you for taking the time to read my book summary. I appreciate your insightful commentary, with which I agree wholeheartedly.

      You are wise to point out that godless capitalism can be a bad thing. Since Capitalism came out of Christianity, it depended on Christian ethics to keep it honest. We could add to that, though from a different angle, that Capitalism depended somewhat on patriotism to remain a social ‘good’ for our country. It is one thing for capitalist corporations to uphold traditional American values and provide jobs for Americans; it is quite another to be corporate ‘citizens of the world’ with no allegiance to America other than as a marketplace to sell their products, while working on destroying America’s moral fabric by supported evil cultural movements.

      I do believe the ideology of Socialism is inherently Satanic. Socialism has a long, ugly history of hatred; being venomously Anti-Western Civilization, Anti-America, Anti-Freedom, Anti-Constitution, Anti-Founding Fathers, Anti-Middle Class, Anti-Democracy, Anti-Truth, Anti-Normal, Anti-Reality, Anti-Achievement, Anti-Marriage, Anti-Family, Anti-Parenthood, Anti-Morality, Anti-God, Anti-Bible, AntiChrist. The spirit that animates this movement is Evil Incarnate.

      I wrote about the origins of Socialism here: https://hubpages.com/education/The-Father-of-Socia...

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      6 days ago from Chicago

      Wba108@yahoo.com ~ You made the best comment of the week: “I keep hearing the word "responsibility" from Democrats but not for individuals but for the government.”

      That had escaped my notice before you pointed it out. Well done. You are absolutely right. Conservatives think everybody should be free to live our own lives, which includes, yes, responsibility for it. The Left believes the government should run out lives and take responsibility for them, or us one should say.

      I have no doubt you are right in this: “Obama was more dangerous in that he positioned himself as a centrist, a unifier and Christian when in practice he a far-left radical with a love for Islam.” I do not share some of my friends’ views that Obama IS a Muslim. I believe he is an Atheist and that he loves Muslims because they are against Christianity, which he sees as the enemy.

    • tsadjatko profile image

      7 days ago from now on

      Well James, after reading your summary of this book I wonder why I need to read the book! There can’t be much you’ve left out.

      What a revealing exposé of the left. Yet, based on the interactions I’ve had with the left I believe many would take pride in the author's description of who they are!

      And I love your memes ... Paula sent me this one I think you will like:

      https://usercontent1.hubstatic.com/14881500_f520.j...

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 days ago from Sunny Florida

      I am not going to try to write a detailed comment to this complicated book. I have not read this book but it sure sounds like it gives a vast amount of detailed information about the left. I appreciate all the information and I did know some of the it, but it is a real eye-opener. Thanks for the information.

    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 

      8 days ago from Portland, Oregon

      Well said brother. I love also the section titled "Salvation from Ideology" because without Christ, I believe capitalism is just as bad in the long run as socialism. Greed and the lust for power infect both systems - as anything human made can be corrupted. But I would certainly say that the ideology of socialism is inherently Satanic as it robs every person of individual choice from the very beginning of its implementation. The problem today is exactly what is stated in the Max Horkheimer quote - that it happens incrementally and that is why even today, those who are conservatives don't realize how many rights have been taken away over the decades. I know that I am constantly learning new things about how things should be in America and constitutionally and that I am much more ignorant of the rights and freedoms Americans who are even twenty years older than me know about.

      But I am becoming more and more aware of the insidiousness of liberalism. When I was living in California, I couldn't make any headway financially (as a largely uneducated blue collar worker) and money and freedom got tighter and tighter. I moved up here to Oregon and at first things were definitely much better than life in California, but slowly, this state has become California as people and corruption moved in. Where there is power and money, thieves and liars come in. I have been marginalized because I do not smoke pot, and I am not worldly enough to get accepted in many workplaces.

      The state of living in Oregon is not peaceful, you have to learn to walk on others - and walk around the homeless drug addicts all over the place while the use of plastic forks and bags are fineable offenses, and drive through potholes on every road. This was always a liberal state, but it wasn't until the money started pouring in that the liberal rats started getting active.

      Until recently, I admired Bernie for being a "real" liberal, but the problem is as you stated above: "The Left insists on being judged by its intentions, which it assures us are good (to create a utopia paradise)—not by its deeds, and certainly not by its results, which are generally immense human misery and death." I think it's obvious by now that they talk peace but wage war. They preach tolerance and are intolerant in the name of tolerance. They speak out against racism while marginalizing all races but their own (white) - why else would they call them minorities? Their strategy is so obvious, only a person whose mind has been twisted and clouded by Satan and their own selfishness (I want what you have) cannot see their hypocrisy.

    • wba108@yahoo.com profile image

      wba108@yahoo.com 

      8 days ago from upstate, NY

      "Such large, indefinite claims can only be satisfied by “a massive expansion of state power, a surrender to the state of all kinds of responsibilities that previously vested in individuals"

      No wonder I keep hearing the word "responsibility" from Democrats but not for individuals but for the government.

      "The Left specializes in diabolical propaganda and social engineering. It captures and transforms language to frame arguments on its terms. This is the socialist Newspeak of totalitarians about which George Orwell warned us. The Left has become clever at changing reality by changing the meaning of words. It confuses and seduces the general public;"

      For a long time, I've heard liberals scoff at the charge that their policies lead to socialism and now their leading presidential candidate admits he is one. Obama was more dangerous in that he positioned himself as a centrist, a unifier and Christian when in practice he a far-left radical with a love for Islam.

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