Thursday, November 4, 2010

If Not Leo Strauss, Then How About Giovanni Gentile?

When the Reform movement first began in Canada in 1987, everyone knew what it was and no one was shy about reporting on it.

It was neoconservatism.

And the Reform Party was not the only one embracing it's political theories. Ralph Klein's Alberta, Mike Harris's Ontario, Bill Van Der Zahn's British Columbia and Grant Devine's Saskatchewan. All neoconservatives and all called neoconservative by the press of the day.

So what has changed?

The party that Stephen Harper heads up, that is now governing our country, is the same neoconservative Reform Party. Their ideology has not changed. They are still the party representing big business. The same party espousing the neocon principles of smaller government, privatization and destruction of the social safety net, including the end to things like Canada Pension, EI, Old Age Security and public healthcare.

In fact Stephen Harper won applause, and his speech at a Reform convention, declared the best; when he avowed that Reform would indeed end, or at least privatize, those things.

He has not changed, only our media has. They no longer remind us that Harper represents neoconservatism. Something that was simply matter of fact back then, is now taboo. "He is a Tory" they cry. How utterly ridiculous.

The biggest fear that many in the press may have, is that once you call it what it is, too many people are now aware that neoconservatism is the brainchild of Leo Strauss, and its success depends on the implementation of Strauss's theories.

Rick Salutin went out on a limb, in a column he wrote for the Globe and Mail: Stephen Harper – the last Straussian? He was fired for his efforts. But Salutin reminded us of the ingredients Strauss suggested to achieve and hold onto power: Secretiveness, fierce nationalism using symbols (like yellow ribbons and hockey), exploiting religion, creating false populism to stop the spread of too much democracy. Says Salutin:
Leo Strauss (like his man, Plato) never liked democracy much but his disciples are ready to use it against the real villain, liberalism. To this end, they appeal to the “anti-liberal” impulses of ordinary folk against the “liberal elites,” via “wedge issues” like gun control, abortion or attacks on high art. (That one was especially self-destructive in Quebec.)
Brooke Jeffrey in her book, Hard-Right Turn, says:
Canada's neo-conservatives have relied heavily on their ability to manipulate a disgruntled and fearful middle class. The brilliance of their strategy .. has been their ability "to convince the working majority that their fate lies with the wealthy and not with the vulnerable." Overturning the liberal ethic of community and collective responsibility, they have persuaded the middle class that they can survive only by saving themselves and throwing in their lot with the best interests of corporate Canada and the global business elites. (1)
And she's right. It's brilliant.

This philosophy is now being represented by the Tea Party movement south of the border. Though it has been revealed that their financing comes from the corporate world, those marching and chanting and carrying anti-Obama signs, have been fired up, believing that they represent the first revolutionaries. And they are using religion and symbols and fierce nationalism to achieve their goals.

And considering that the media will no longer use 'neoconservative' and definitely no longer use 'Straussian', they will never reveal what neoconservatism actually is. But I will. Or at least an Italian by the name of Giovanni Gentile, who created the basis for the movement will. From the grave.

A Doctrine of Fascism

Giovanni Gentile was the Minister of Public Education for the government of Benito Mussolini. He was a political philosopher who ghostwrote A Doctrine of Fascism in 1932, a treatise credited to Mussolini himself.

Leo Strauss believed that the "truth" should be confined to an elite few, while the "ignorant masses" only needed to be manipulated. But his theory was not original. It came from Giovanni Gentile.

Gentile promoted a system of government that ran somewhere between philosophy and politics, that only the "elite" would understand. He was the first to coin the term 'fascism'.

And by his own description, the traits characteristic of fascism, were compulsory state corporatism, Philosopher Kings, the abolition of the parliamentary system, and autarky, which is the quality of being self-sufficient. Strauss tweaked this a bit, but the principles are the same.

And to control those "ignorant masses" they used the techniques of the same man that Joseph Goebbels would tap into, to create probably the best propaganda machine in modern history: Gustave Le Bon, a French social psychologist, sociologist and author of A Study of the Popular Mind.

He brought crowd mentality to a scientific level. Joseph Goebbels used his book religiously and Mussolini kept a copy of it beside his bed. Says Le Bon: "In the collective mind the intellectual aptitudes of the individuals, and in consequence their individuality, are weakened."

And this is why the Tea Party rallies are so successful. Le Bon suggests that in a crowd the prevailing thoughts will belong to least intellectual among them, and everyone in the crowd is then brought down to the level of the things they have in common.
This very fact that crowds possess in common ordinary qualities explains why they can never accomplish acts demanding a high degree of intelligence. The decisions affecting matters of general interest come to by an assembly of men of distinction, but specialists in different walks of life, are not sensibly superior to the decisions that would be adopted by a gathering of imbeciles. The truth is, they can only bring to bear in common on the work in hand those mediocre qualities which are the birthright of every average individual. In crowds it is stupidity and not mother-wit that is accumulated.
And with mass media, crowds are no longer necessary to accomplish a collective mind.

Just keep hammering the same message: "not a leader", "just visiting", "Obama is a socialist". It doesn't have to be logical.

Neoconservatism was first articulated by the Italian, Giovanni Gentile who called it 'Fascism'. The science of propaganda by a French sociologist, Gustave le Bons. So will the media feel better if they can instead of fascism or neoconservatism, or Straussian, refer to Stephen Harper as a Gentilist? No. That sounds too elite. How about Giovannist?

But then wouldn't it be simpler to use the original term 'fascist'?

I know that Lebonaga doesn't roll off the tongue like propaganda, but then Harper prefers "communication", a misnomer since he doesn't communicate.

Still not convinced?

In 1944, Henry Wallace when asked about fascism in America, said that:
" If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful.
"The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity ... They use every opportunity to impugn democracy."
But if you don't want to listen to Gentile, Le Bon, Wallace or Salutin, then at least listen to that little voice in your head that is now screaming "This is not democracy!"


1. Hard Right Turn: The New Face of Neo-Conservatism in Canada, By Brooke Jeffrey, Harper-Collins, 1999, ISBN: 0-00 255762-2, Pg. 442


  1. HarperLand: NOT A DEMOCRACY

    True Story.

  2. Love the book. Did you read it? Martin leaves it up to the reader to draw their own conclusion, but the revelations are astounding. "clash of civilizations"?

  3. Good Lord, this is truly dire nonsense. I have like many Salutin articles and been annoyed by others, but as a reader of Strauss it is clear that his notion of what is "Straussian" is seriously impaired by his ignorance. Strauss does not defend duplicity in politics generally. If you have a single quotation that is not taken out of context to support your absurd claim that Strauss taught that "the 'ignorant masses' only needed to be manipulated" I as that you furnish it. I doubt you have read three sentences written by Strauss so I won't expect your answer any time soon.

  4. I have read Strauss and the Politics of Exile and Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss, as well as assorted essays on he web.

    But that's irrelevant.

    If you google Leo Strauss and "ignorant masses" you will find many sources. But even if the quote is not verbatim, the notion that only an "elite" few are capabale of knowing the "truth", and must therefore manipulate the masses is evident in his thought process.

    From: The Truth about Leo Strauss
    Political Philosophy and American Democracy
    Catherine and Michael Zuckert

    The truths discovered by the philosophic elite "are not fit for public consumption." Philosophy is dangerous and must conceal its chief findings. Philosophers must cultivate a mode of esoteric communication, that is, a mode of concealing the hard truth from the masses. "Only philosophers can handle the truth." The elite must, in a word, lie to the masses; the elite must manipulate them—arguably for their own good. The elite employ "noble lies," lies purporting to affirm God, justice, the good. "The Philosophers need to tell noble lies not only to the people at large, but also to powerful politicians." These lies are necessary "in order to keep the ignorant masses in line." Thus Strauss counseled a manipulative approach to political leadership. In sum, the media writers conclude, Strauss held that "Machiavelli was right." When read with "a skeptical mind, the way he himself read the great philosophers . . . Strauss . . . emerges a disguised Machiavelli, a cynical teacher who encouraged his followers to believe that their intellectual superiority entitles them to rule over the bulk of humanity by means of duplicity."

    The Calgary School that moulded Stephen Harper, promoted many Straussian qualities.

    And there's no denying that this is a prime minister who keeps us out of he loop.

  5. When responding to the criticism that you have not (and probably cannot) supply a single quotation of Strauss to defend your insulting misconstrual, you

    (a) do not supply any quotation;
    (b) assert that you have read a book ABOUT Strauss; and
    (c) say reading Strauss is irrelevant.

    Let me tell you conclusively, that the line about keeping the masses in line, does not come from Strauss, nor is does it have any resonance in his teachings.

    Nor do you produce any evidence that Harper ever read Strauss and I have no idea what "the Calgary School" (capital "C," capital "S") is, if it denotes anything at all.

    The formative experience of Strauss's life was seeing a bloody fascism conquer Europe. He concluded that modern philosophy, which he viewed as tending towards relativism and nihilism, did not have the resources to respond the crude fascist doctrines that glorified the brute exercise of power. He taught that a return to the philosophy of the ancients would disclose notions of justice more expansive than the popular wisdom of contemporary culture that holds that "that may be right for you, but it's not right for me." If there is no right, period, than there's no argument against whatever notion of right which has might on its side.

    You may disagree with Strauss's criticism of relativism, as I have construed it. I don't agree with some aspects of it myself. But it is anti-intellectual in the highest degree to inflate your sense of self-righteousness with your ignorance.

  6. I don't pretend to understand Strauss. Few people do. But right or wrong he has been called the father of the Neoconservative movement. In the U.S. many blame his ideals for the Iraq War, though I don't believe he held any imperialist views.

    So I don't have to understand Strauss to accept his historical significance.

    And Stephen Harper is following the blueprint, even if it is a distorted one.

    I don't believe he ever read Strauss, but he is following the path of the neocon movement.