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