United in Hate will remind many of Paul Johnson’s seminal Intellectuals. Reading that 1988 book has been an eye-opening experience for many budding conservatives. A month ago, a young man I’d just met excitedly shared his latest used-bookstore discovery: Intellectuals, that anti-hagiography of modernity’s liberal heroes, the ones that same young man had been taught to revere by his professors. You could see the glow of intellectual liberation in his eyes. His eagerness to discover and share even more “unspeakable” truths was palpable.
“What’s important about Intellectuals,” observed “libertarian bookworm” Timothy Sandefur, “is that it reveals the extent to which the ideological ‘leaders’ of modern culture have been willing to lie, cheat, and steal — literally — in the pursuit of anti-rational modern ideologies like socialism, communism, and the regulatory welfare state.”
Johnson also revealed — some would say reveled in — the sexual and moral deviancy and hypocrisy of the likes of Sartre, James Baldwin, and other leftist demigods. In Intellectuals, he created a conservative Hollywood Babylon, but with bigger words and without those gruesome crime scene photos worthy of Weegee.
Alas, Johnson himself — a very public traditional Catholic moralist — was later revealed to be an adulterer with a very British penchant for B&D. For a man of renown and high social station who enjoyed private humiliation, this more public variety surely must have stung more than any cane to the bottom. Hypocrisy being the most serious sin in the liberal establishment catechism, Johnson’s reputation, and that of his most famous book, suffered enormously and never recovered.
And a generation or two later, facts that Johnson rightly considered shocking — Rousseau’s and Gauguin’s blithe abandonment of their children in search of “personal fulfillment,” for example — may not seem so troubling to today’s morally unmoored youth. After all, some of today’s children’s parents abandoned them, and who are they to judge?
Which is where United in Hate comes in.