|Hoodwinked: How Intellectual Hucksters have Hijacked American Culture|
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The following is a book review by Richard Nadler - from National Review, September 26, 2005
Hoodwinked: How Intellectual Hucksters Have Hijacked American Culture, by Jack Cashill
It takes a villa to perpetrate a cultural fraud: Behind every hoaxster playing fast and loose with facts stands a teeming mansion of elite supporters, from professionals and educators to celebrities and journalists. So says Jack Cashill in Hoodwinked, his executive summary of the cultural frauds of the Left over the past century.
Cashill reports ably on the intellectual crimes of the purveyors of Marxism, multiculturalism, materialist naturalism, and sexual liberation. Some highlights: Reporter Walter Duranty praised a nonexistent Soviet economic boom from the vortex of the Stalinist holocaust. In the famous Piltdown hoax, British scientists proved man’s descent from the apes with a human skull, an orangutan jaw, and a pint of furniture stain. To cover her middle-class Marxist rear end, Rigoberta Menchú wove a peasant history out of whole cloth. Aided by a fertile imagination, anthropologist Margaret Mead salvaged a Samoan sexual Shangri-La from the ruins of a botched field trip.
Professional associations have played an astonishing role in the perpetration of mass fraud. Alex Haley’s Roots: The Saga of an American Family was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize en route to its enshrinement as a centerpiece of college multicultural curricula. But as reporter Philip Nobile proved, large portions of Roots were plagiarized, and other portions simply invented.
Fudged quotes and faked data formed the core of Michael Bellesiles’s 1996 thesis that gun ownership was rare on the American frontier in the 18th and 19th centuries. But this didn’t prevent the Organization of American Historians from giving a special award to his “research,” which had been published in the prestigious Journal of American History. It took six years of stubborn fact-checking by Clayton Cramer to overturn this myth—an effort that destroyed his own career as thoroughly as it did that of Bellesiles.
Rigoberta Menchú’s Marxist pseudo-autobiography was eventually unmasked by Guatemala expert David Stoll—but not before she had received the French Legion of Honor from Jacques Chirac, the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize, and a special United Nations “goodwill” ambassadorship as a representative of the Third World.
Cashill highlights not just the phonies but their nemeses: “an unconnected and largely apolitical squad of literary detectives, biographers, anthropologists, scientists, historians, classicists, and cultural critics” who have been “picking off the frauds and their enablers one by one.”
We meet such irregulars as classicist Mary Lefkowitz, who unmasked the “African studies” misinformation about Greek and Roman culture; Army veteran B. G. Burkett, who counter-attacked John Kerry and the “Winter Soldiers” on the American role in Vietnam; and J. Gordon Edwards, who countered Rachel Car-son’s campaign against the anti-malarial agent DDT.
Many of Cashill’s heroes are leftists who refused to sell out truth for ideology. Mary McCarthy, for example, exposed Lillian Hellman as a Stalinist liar; in Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell exposed Soviet duplicity during the Spanish Civil War.
My favorite debunker in the book is liberal New York University physics professor Alan Sokal. Disturbed by the postmodernist dogma that no truth is objective, he composed a send-up titled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformational Hermeneutics of Quantum Physics.” In this article, he contended that physics is a social construct whose purpose is to conceal power relationships: “Scientific ‘knowledge,’ far from being objective, reflects and encodes the dominant ideologies and power relations of the culture that produced it.” The editors of the iconic postmodernist journal Social Text published the article, and expressed their pleasure at “the work of a progressive physicist committed to the critique of science.”
The four “progressive” tendencies Cashill scours for hoaxes are “radical naturalism, sexual hedonism, Marxism, and multiculturalism.” The proponents of these tendencies share, he says, an enmity to Western culture and an intellectual descent from Darwin and Marx. Cashill accuses them of “zero-sum multiculturalism”: the conviction that any triumph or advance of Western civilization implies an equal and opposite decline or injury inflicted upon the rest of mankind. The cultural icons whom Cashill debunks are convinced that capitalism is a system not of wealth formation, but of wealth extraction; and that the monogamous family is an instrument not of nurture, but of oppression. Above all, he writes, they believe that service to God demeans man.An interesting subtext of Hoodwinked involves the different utopias promised by cultural and material determinism. The cultural determinists were sexual liberators who believed that if the restraints of religion were removed, mankind could be refashioned to happi-ness—in the sense of subjective fulfillment based on orgasm. The material determinists, on the other hand, were national or international socialists, who believed that if the restraints of religion were removed, mankind could be refashioned to happiness—in the sense of material fulfillment built on seizure of the means of production. Both schools, however, agreed in recognizing the importance of elites—i.e., themselves— in creating the determinative conditions of the new mankind. They, at least, were free.
Ernst Haeckel, whose inaccurate portraits of embryological development still grace many contemporary biology textbooks, typifies the material determinists: He was a committed early Darwinian whose career traveled the troubled waters of eugenics to a pre-Nazi form of Aryan supremacy. The cultural determinists find their representative in biologist Alfred Kinsey. A bisexual and a masochist, Kinsey set about to prove these traits normative; he assembled a research team unrestrained by sexual taboos that proceeded to “discover” man in his own image. Childhood eroticism was essential to Kinsey’s theory; he investigated it by indirectly financing serial incidents of child abuse.
The unanswered question of Cashill’s book is why these miscreants, whose hoaxes spread so swiftly, were refuted so slowly, and with such great difficulty, if at all. Hoodwinked skillfully presents the intrigues of the elite village; but deceptions that transform an entire civilization require more than a village. They require a wholesale breakdown in the transmission of the values that these individuals are attacking.
Some readers may have encountered Kansas journalist Cashill as one of the villains of Thomas Frank’s liberal best-seller What’s the Matter With Kansas? In Hoodwinked, you will hear Cashill in his own voice: clear-spoken, witty, and erudite. For years, his journalism has been part of what is right about Kansas, and about red-state America in general; this fine book is a new highlight in an important career.
© 2005 by National Review Inc., 215 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016. Reprinted by permission.