How the German intellectuals adored Hitler!

Carl Schmitt (right)

Dalrymple writes:

The penetrating clear-sightedness and benevolence towards humanity that intellectuals often claim for themselves by comparison with the benightedness of the rest of the population is at least sometimes—and maybe often or always—self-serving and mythical. The fact that the most educated part of a modern society supports such-and-such a policy is no evidence that it is right.

It was harder, he points out,

for non-German intellectuals to admire Hitler than Stalin because of the nature of Hitler’s ideas: claiming the inherent and ineradicable superiority of one’s own race and nation in everything from time immemorial is not the best way to attract foreign adherents.

Martin Heidegger

Nevertheless,

many German intellectuals, notoriously Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt, rallied to Hitler, and few actively opposed him.

How far their support was motivated by fear or opportunism is impossible to say, but

years of study and intellection did not protect them from gross misjudgment.

Even before Hitler attained power,

support for him was greater among university students and the professoriat than in the nation as a whole.

 

Sartre’s serial dictator-worship

Its religious nature is evidenced, writes Dalrymple,

in the title he gave the newspaper he relaunched in the 1970s and which still publishes today: Libération. Liberation from what? France is hardly a tyranny.

The sense conveyed is of

a mystical or other-worldly liberation from the existential conditions under which mankind is constrained to labour forever.

What we are dealing with is the

religion that dare not speak its name.

Foucault and his idol

Dalrymple explains why intellectuals are so often attracted to the oppressors of foreign multitudes

The fanatically puritanical WikiLeaks Weltanschauung

It is scarcely worth arguing against such a childish view of life

We hardly needed WikiLeaks to tell us, writes Dalrymple,

that Nicolas Sarkozy is a vulgar man with authoritarian inclinations, or that Silvio Berlusconi is interested in sex. It isn’t even particularly reassuring to have our judgments confirmed for us by US diplomatic messages, for if they had said anything different we shouldn’t have believed them.

At first there is a

slight frisson of pleasure at the discomfiture of powerful people and those in authority , a pleasure akin to that of seeing a pompously dignified man slip on a banana skin.

Censor to the world

But when this wears off,

the significance of the greatest disclosure of official documents in history—without, that is, the military downfall of a great city—becomes apparent. It is not that revelations of secrets are always unwelcome or ethically unjustified. It is not a new insight that power is likely to be abused and can only be held in check by a countervailing power, often that of public exposure.

Totalitarianism

WikiLeaks, says Dalrymple,

goes far beyond the need to expose wrongdoing, or supposed wrongdoing: it is unwittingly doing the work of totalitarianism.

The idea behind WikiLeaks

is that life should be an open book, that everything that is said and done should be immediately revealed to everybody, that there should be no secret agreements, deeds, or conversations. In the view of WikiLeaks, no one and no organisation should have anything to hide.

The effect of WikiLeaks

is likely to be profound and the opposite of what it sets out to achieve. Far from making for a more open world, it could make for a much more closed one.

The possibility of secrecy is not the enemy but the precondition of frankness

WikiLeaks

will sow distrust and fear, indeed paranoia; people will be unwilling to express themselves openly in case what they say is taken down by their interlocutor and used in evidence against them, not necessarily by the interlocutor himself. This could happen not in the official sphere alone, but in the private sphere, which it works to destroy. An Iron Curtain could descend. A reign of assumed virtue would be imposed, in which people say only what they do not think and think only what they do not say.

The dissolution of the distinction between the private and public spheres, Dalrymple points out, is

one of the aims of totalitarianism. Opening and reading other people’s e-mails is no different from opening and reading other people’s letters.

WikiLeaks plays a role

that requires an astonishing moral grandiosity and arrogance to have assumed. Even if some evils are exposed, or some necessary truths aired, the end does not justify the means.

Forces beyond the criminal’s control

Dalrymple’s 2017 work

In the prison where Dalrymple works, there are at the moment

three stabbers (two of them unto death) who used precisely the same expression when describing to me what happened. ‘The knife went in,’ they said when pressed to recover their allegedly lost memories of the deed.

Dalrymple comments:

The knife went in—unguided by human hand, apparently. That the long-hated victims were sought out, and the knives carried to the scene of the crimes, was as nothing compared with the willpower possessed by the inanimate knives themselves, which determined the unfortunate outcome.

De Vrijheid-laureaat

The doctor-writer photographed by Thomas Sweertvaegher

All or nothing

Dalrymple writes:

Every way of earning a living that is of service to others is honourable.

We have been infected, he says,

with the idea that only the highest achievement—either in academic status, monetary reward, or public fame—is worthy of respect, and all else counts as failure. From that premise it follows that there is no point in making a vast effort only to be a quiet, respectable, useful, God-fearing failure.

He points out that

it is the absence of this impatient, immature, all-or-nothing attitude to ambition that accounts for the success of Asian immigrants.

Why Dalrymple voted for Brexit

Dalrymple spends part of every year in his house in Shropshire

Despite the fact that the European Union is far from being the cause of all the country’s problems, the outcome of the 2016 UK EU membership referendum steers Britain away from a potential monster, Dalrymple tells an interviewer.

Although no sensible person would liken it to the Third Reich or the Soviet Union, the EU nevertheless bears the seeds of an unfree state. It wants to force different peoples together in an artificial union. Dalrymple notes that Belgium is such a union: it holds together, more or less, but to do such a thing on a larger scale is to court major problems.

And the argument that the EU is the only way for Europe to play a role on the world stage can be swept aside. The EU has shown only weakness.

The European project, says Dalrymple, is little but misplaced megalomania.

 

Alpine ways

Dalrymple tells an interviewer that the Swiss tradition of representative democracy is admirable, though he would not want to have to trudge to the polls every time a decision is needed on, say, bus fares.

A filthy, degraded country

England, Dalrymple points out to an interviewer, is a corrupt country. Not in the way that, for instance, Italy is corrupt, but morally and intellectually corrupt, which is worse. The educational system has been ruined, there are large social problems (of which public drunkenness is an example), and the country is the dirtiest in Europe — Britishers routinely fling rubbish out of car windows to pollute the beautiful countryside, for instance. There has been a cultural revolution in the country, making it quite the opposite of what it once was.