Stupid Publicity Stunt

 Posted by on 3 June 2005 at 8:39 am  Uncategorized
Jun 032005

This list of the ten most harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries has got to be the stupidest publicity stunt ever. I won’t bother to comment on the absurdity of the particular selected books (e.g. The Feminine Mystique as #7, Origin of the Species as Honorable Mention). Nor will I comment on the absurdity of the reasons given (e.g. the atheism and naturalism of Compte’s The Course of Positive Philosophy). Let me make some more general comments instead.

First, the list is obviously a big package deal, in that the whole list of books is associated with the mass death of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao through the first three books, The Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf, Quotations from Chairman Mao. So encouraging women to work is only slightly less harmful than mass murder, apparently.

Second, the list does not use any consistent notion of harm. Some books clearly inspired great evils, such as The Communist Manifesto. (I doubt that book was the most influential of Marx’s work, in any case.) Yet others were merely incidental to such evils. Quotations from Chairman Mao, for example, was merely a tool of the Cultural Revolution, not its inspiration. Hegel, whose state-worship was the source of both communism and fascism, is nowhere to be found. (Pathetically, that’s probably because he’s not an atheist.) Also, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is omitted, despite its role in pogroms in Russia, the Holocaust of Nazi Germany, terrorism against Israelis, and more. It’s all hit or miss, thanks to the lack of standards.

The list is an interesting idea, but so poorly executed as to be laughably absurd. As it stands, it’s little more than a list of “The Books We All Hate The Most.” Done properly, such a list would be developed by first examining the worst disasters of the last two centuries by the clear standard of the requirements of human life, then identifying their intellectual roots. That method would result in a fairly interesting — albeit very different — list, I think.

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