Destructive Passion


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One of modern history’s most important questions is how so many intelligent, privileged people could be seduced by a political ideology so intellectually incoherent and bloody in practice as communism.  An illuminating approach for understanding this phenomenon can be found in the memoirs and biographies of true believers who awoke from their dogmatic Marxist slumbers and wrote about both their sleep and their waking.  In its focus on how leftist ideology warps the lives and characters of those who embrace it, David Horowitz’s Radicals. Portratis of a Destructive Passion (Regnery, $27.95) is a book that can be ranked with such classics of this genre as The God That Failed and Paul Hollander’s The End of Commitment.  But unlike those other studies, Horowitz in his new book analyzes radicals who never had the “second thoughts” that lead to conversion, but instead maintained their faith in the radical progressive creed until the bitter end.

Horowitz, of course, was once one of the true believers, a leading light of the New Left that arose in the ’60s and whose baleful influence has seeped throughout the culture and poisoned the Democratic Party.  His 1997 memoir Radical Son can stand alongside The God That Failed in its brutally honest examination of the seductive power of left-wing ideology and the price one pays for rejecting it.  Radicals, with its penetrating portraits of six modern radicals, takes a different tack, exploring the psychological forces, failures of character, and moral idiocy that blocked the sort of awakening to self-knowledge and truth that Horowitz experienced himself.

The radicals Horowitz profiles range from celebrities like Christopher Hitchens and Cornel West to nearly forgotten terrorists like Linda Evans and Kathy Soliah.  The connecting thread running through all six lives is what Horowitz calls the “utopian delusion” that is the ideal of “every believer in universal progress” and the “fantasy of a redeemed future.”  But when this ideal ignores the non-negotiable, tragic limits of human action and character, it sparks a “destructive passion” that “becomes a desire to annihilate whatever stands in the way of the beautiful idea.”  Radicals thus expands further on themes that have run consistently through Horowitz’s books, like Destructive Generation and Left Illusions, to discover “what prompts people to believe in world-encompassing and world-transforming myths” and “to explore the tragic consequences of the attempts to act on them.”

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  • Chezwick

    I've read almost everything David has written and he has never disappointed. I'm looking forward to reading 'Radicals'.

    I DO find it interesting that Chris Hitchens is among David's subjects for such a book. Certainly Chris was a Trotskyite for many years, and his affection for loathsome characters such as Edward Said survived the political transformation of his later years. But fact is, Hitchens DID undergo a transformation. It may have been incomplete, but it was – at least from my vantage point – redeeming. He certainly had no illusions about Islam.

    • WilliamJamesWard

      The truest revelation of a person with no illusions about Islam is found in a picture of a woman
      buried up to her mid section wrapped in a death robe and tied, the look on her face awaiting
      the first stone tells all anyone needs to know. There are many viscious pictures of youths
      being burned alive, mutilated and hanged for so called offenses against Islam, fallen and
      craven monsters hiding behind their masks performing their duty to Allah, well for those
      who do not believe in the Devil, his minions are at work………………….William

  • RobertPinkerton

    Utopia admits of two possible derivations from the classical Greek: Either eutopos, meaning good place; or ou topos, meaning no place. It is not far to reach, to infer that, to the utopist, no place is a good place.

  • Schlomotion

    I noticed that Frontpage always likes to use crazy face pictures of their opponents, including here Cornel West, who is my acquaintance. In the interest of fairness and for educational purposes, I have assembled these photos of the Frontpage staff and how they look on a good day:
    http://www.contextflexed.com/DHFC-Portraits-of-A-

    • Omar

      Schlomotion, Front Page Magazine and the David Horowitz Freedom Center are informing people about the dangerous influence that radicals have in academia and the world today. You, on the other hand, annoy people with your propaganda. Do us a favor and keep your ignorance to yourself.

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      Google Images "cornel west" and you'll see Cornel on a typical day – gap toothed mouth open – bug eyes wide open – arms flailing.

    • reader

      Tell me who are your "acquaintance" are…. I bet your face pictures are pretty crazy – your posts definitely are.

    • Touchstone

      Actually, you've got a valid point here, but then you sabotaged it by proving with your own gallery of clown-faces that you don't mind stooping to the same level. A cheap shot is a cheap shot, no matter who does it.

      After Netanyahu's speech at the UN, some news agencies immediately circulated photos of him giving the Hitler salute. I don't remember him making that gesture from the podium, but apparently those opportunists found a few frames they could use to make him look like a Nazi. This practice should be shunned across the board. It's reminiscent of high school yearbooks. Very juvenile.

      I'm not too familiar with Cornel West's views, but whenever I've seen him on TV I've found him to be respectful towards his opponents and quite a warm and friendly man (and he's a fellow jazz fan, too). His views are fair game for political opponents, but I don't think he should be lampooned with a silly photo either.

      • Schlomotion

        Originally, I made the gallery for myself to remind myself which face I am talking to. Rather than be a purist and simply address the writing with writing, I subscribe to the idea that I am talking to people who put forth ideas, and not merely speaking to writing with other writing. I know that maybe five of the writers in the gallery occasionally look better than they do in those photos. I do think it is instructive though, that Mr. Ibrahim tries to look virile, Ms. Stillwell tries to look more revolutionary and made up, Mr. Horowitz doesn't get caught dead doing the Islamic finger wag, Ms. Coulter tries desperately to toe the line between skeleton and meat, Ms. Gabriel tried to mute her Iranian features and pass for a power WASP, Mr. Greenfield postures as older and wiser, Eric Bell tried to look like a persecuted rocker and not a chunky troll doll, Mr. Fontova, action-hero tried not to betray his life of ringer-tees and tabloid paperbacks, Lloyd Billingsley is a dandy, not an intelligence insider, Mr. Spencer is dwarfed by a podium, but tried to come across as an academic titan. Michael Widlansky is a snoozy bloviator who makes the snoozy bloviator face all the time, but hides it behind a big portrait of Byzantium. Ronn Torossian is definitely running on self-crank. Joe Kaufman is really Pee Wee Herman, Beastie Boy, and these demure, intellectual women are really fist-pounding demagogues.

        These photos I picked tend to match the writings. Still, I know that most of the time, they try not to make these faces, like sucking in a gut. I don't think I would ever publish a book with these people making these faces, because it would scream that I had to load my deck.

        Were not the descriptions of last night's Presidential debate also rife with this kind of clown-faced inference?

        • SCREW SOCIALISM

          Shariamotion,

          HAPPY ETERNAL NAKBA!

        • Omar

          You know what, Schlomotion? I'm going to make a collage of all the annoying people in the world. The people featured in the proposed collage will include you, Nakba1948, WTE, muchiboy, Luis Segui, crackerjack, Agnese and all of your totalitarian role models. This collage will be called the Totalitarian Watch collage.

          • Schlomotion

            Have fun with that. I will look forward to your little dossier descriptions.

    • trickyblain

      Love it! Bravo.

      What the hell is wrong with Vadum?

  • chowching259

    Religions or philosophy have little to do with savagery. The Rape of Nanking was carried out by the Japanese who after being nuked and then disarmed became gentle souls. Muslims can also become sweet and loving if a few million are nuked, the teachings of Moses, Jesus, or Muhammad are meaningless.

    • cjk

      Newsflash: Your opinion is meaningless.

      • Jim

        what do you mean?????

    • Sunbeam

      You are deadly wrong. I forgive your ignorance. Please do study the Scripture before you jump to this conclusion. The only religion that profess tyrannical political rule is the religion of Islam whereby is death upon apostates, and everything seems robot-es in movement and in living, leaving no rooms of free choice or freedom of individual's rights whatsoever.

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      Kidnap the Kabba (black meteorite) of Mecca,

      Hold it ransom until Muslims eliminate the Islamists within Islam which have brought so much death, destruction and shame onto Islam.

    • BS77

      You are an idiot. You and that one trick pony, Scholomolotov deserve each other. The two of you together add up to an amoeba with a learning problem.

  • stevef

    An alternative to David's thesis that these Radicals are drive by a delusion of "universal progress", …why not consider the Radical driven by a pathological need for power which is rationalized and justified by their Marxist doctrine and rantings.

  • trickyblain

    Always nice to have an employee of your website write a review of your book on your website.

  • Rick Stanich

    chowching you are obviously RETARTED if you think that the "Teachings of JESUS are meaningless" Obviously YOU have lived a SELFISH Life and Know Nothing about Self Sacrifice .

  • clarespark

    I reviewed DH's book on my website, with a slight demurrer on the subject of human nature and the Enlightenment. See http://clarespark.com/2012/09/22/materialist-hist…. "Materialist history and the idea of Progress." The book was of course precise in its description of New Left radicalism and its bloody legacy, and as usual, a great read.

  • queasy

    I look forward to reading more of Mr.Horowitz’s writings.
    Unlike the self appointed intelligentsia and our pitiful excuse for professors and scholars,Mr.Horowitz has the advantage of actual life experience .
    Combined with his unique writing skills and world knowledge ,he breathes life into what could have been a dull,self absorbed recitation of a tedious subject.

    kind of like schlomo.

  • george

    " satan " is very good at what he does !!! , we are but fools us humans !!!!! ,

  • Banastre Tarleton

    The utopian impulse is merely the religious impulse shoe horned into secular belief ; all of these radicals like Lenin , Trotsky , Hitler , Goebbels, Mao and Pol Pot were merely religious fanatics trapped in a secular world !
    After all , it's easy to imagine Lenin as a Russian ''Holy Fool '' from the middle ages or the serene iconic face of Felix Djerzinsky as as ''Grand Inquisitor '', or maybe Hitler as a German Christian fanatic caught up in the turmoil of Reformation in the 1530's …even the puritanical Himmler could , in a different time and place , of been a monk …..Chairman Mao would't of been out of place in the 19th C Taiping rebellion , ''burning with the zeal of the converted ''