Saturday, February 15, 2020

Iranian Theocracy and the Secular Western Left

As we watch the unfolding Middle East conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Kevin Williamson wants us to recall that the Iranian revolution received the wholehearted and fullthroated support of leftist Western intellectuals. 

In his words:

It is worth remembering that the Iranian theocracy was a great project of the secular Western Left.

Before he returned to Iran to oppress his people, the Ayatollah Khomeini was holed up in France. When he declared a revolution against the Shah, French intellectuals, led by Michel Foucault and Jean-Paul Sartre cheered. 

Williamson writes:

Foucault welcomed Khomeini’s revolution as “the first of the grand insurrections against global systems.” Sartre traveled to Tehran to flack for Khomeini. The French Left celebrated Khomeini as “the Islamic Lenin.” (American conservatives might have said much the same thing, but the French Left meant that as praise.) 

We need to keep in mind that it all happened under the aegis of the Jimmy Carter administration. The Iranian revolution is the Carter legacy:

Andrew Young, Jimmy Carter’s ambassador to the United Nations, hailed Khomeini as a “saint.” Many of those intellectuals stood by their judgment, though some of them, such as Simone de Beauvoir, recoiled from Tehran’s treatment of women and minorities.

There is a pungent irony in having Michel Foucault, notable gay activist, cheering on a theocracy that routinely executed people for the crime of being gay. But, such intellectuals were driven by their hatred of America more than their love of Sharia law.

I recall, over a lunch I had one day with Foucault, how enthusiastically he cheered acts of terrorism committed on American soil by the Weathermen. 

These great thinkers, whose great minds obviously had feet of clay, supported the Iranian revolution because it was anti-American. The French shame over World War II, its having actively collaborated with the Third Reich, after having chickened out of the war… is made more acute by any American success. 

If someone somewhere would stand up against American power and would bring it down to size, they could feel strong and empowered again. 

Obviously, Jimmy Carter, a feckless little man, wanted to be idolized by the great minds of the international left. And Barack Obama was happy to bend over and to submit to the ayatollahs. Obama wanted to empower the mullahs because they hated America and especially because they hated Israel. 

Whether in the minds of leftist French intellectuals or in the mind of a practitioner of black liberation theology, the Hegelian-Marxist narrative of revolution against one’s masters continues to do damage.


whitney said...

When I was a little girl I was in the playground playing house with the other little girls and I looked over at the boys playing King of the Hill and I had a profound moment of this is always. I have never forgotten it and it's held up over time.

Sam L. said...

French Intellectuals...are very French, and very not smart.

Anonymous said...

From my post The Perfect Enemy:

Suppose you wanted to create a perfect enemy. An enemy so vile that its evil would be recognized by almost everyone. An enemy that would inspire people to come together in order to ensure its defeat.

To be more specific: suppose you were a screenwriter with the assignment of creating a suitable villain-organization for a major motion picture. The marketing plan for this movie suggests that it will be marketed primarily to a certain demographic and that, hence, your villain-organization should be particularly appalling to members of that demographic. The demographic in question consists of people who are affluent, highly educated (college with at least some postgraduate education), not particularly religious, and who consider themselves politically liberal or “progressive.” The plot of the movie demands that the audience must see the necessity for Americans–of many beliefs, occupations, and social backgrounds–to come together in order to defeat the enemy.

Oh, and one other thing. The year in which you are given this assignment is 1999.

You will clearly want your enemy to share many of the characteristics of the Nazis–disrespect for human life, wanton cruelty, a love of apocalyptic violence. But to make the enemy particularly awful from the standpoint of your target demographic, you will want to emphasize certain aspects of its belief system.

Members of your demographic usually have strong beliefs about women’s rights. So, your enemy must have a particularly disrespectful belief set, and a violent behavior pattern, towards women. Similarly, your demographic is generally favorable toward gay rights…so the enemy must advocate and practice the suppression, torture, and killing of gays. Your demographic is generally nonreligious and often hostile toward religion…so, make sure the enemy includes a large element of religious fanaticism. Members of your demographic talk a lot about “the children”–so make sure your enemy uses children in particularly cruel ways.

Had you created such an enemy for your screenplay in 1999, you would have surely felt justified in assuming that it would achieve its intended reaction with your target demographic.

It didn’t work out that way, though.

UbuMaccabee said...

Foucault just wanted to have the opportunity to torture and be tortured in a real dungeon for once. The Iranian medievalism was a transgressive beacon for him. He wanted to check necrophilia off his bucket list.

Stuart, you are right on it with your last sentence: "revolution against one’s masters." The left has rejected any and all hierarchy (except when they are in charge). It is an ongoing authority protest against the Bible, parents, teachers, and the wisdom of the past. The new wisdom of feelings is enshrined, and feelings do not notice the glaring contradictions of apologizing for a barbaric cult just because it seems antagonistic to the West. Only reason can notice the problem with these contradictory positions.