Thursday, April 08, 2010

"Aristotle was not Belgian"

"And Nietzsche was not a socialist." Yeah, it really does sound like a line from A Fish Called Wanda. But then, Glenn Beck is a lot like Otto:
Glenn Beck is wrong is kind of a dog-bites-man story, but some of the evidence he’s offering here as proof that Barack Obama is secretly a socialist is just laughably bad. It starts with bullet points about Obama’s dad, including the fact that he was a “Harvard educated economist.” Then we get bullet points about Obama’s mom, including the fact that she was “Influenced by Nietzsche and Freud.” Presumably the idea here is that since Nietzsche has a funny foreign name, he must be a socialist. But here’s Nietzsche on socialism from Human, All-Too-Human:

Socialism is the fanciful younger brother of the almost expired despotism whose heir it wants to be; its endeavors are thus in the profoundest sense reactionary. For it desires an abundance of state power such as only despotism has ever had; indeed it outbids all the despotisms of the past inasmuch as it expressly aspires to the annihilation of the individual, who appears to it like an unauthorized luxury of nature destined to be improved into a useful organ of the community.

In other words, Nietzsche’s views on socialism are a lot closer to Glenn Beck’s than to Barack Obama’s.
On the other hand, do we really want Beck to start reading Nietzsche?

I'm reminded of Walter Kaufmann's remark that Hitler's reading of Nietzsche never got much beyond the titles.

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