The Corner

Mein Kampf & The Communist Manifesto

Lots of friends and foes have been emailing me to talk about Liberal Fascism in  light of the fact that Loughner liked both the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf. I’m taking a pass on all that largely because I think it’s entirely irrelevant. Also, I have zero interest in hawking even a single book in this context.

But about those other books. When I meet young people who brag about having read Mein Kampf, my first reaction is that they’re lying, for one reason or another. And after further conversation, I usually come away feeling my initial reaction was justified.

That’s because Mein Kampf isn’t some serious book. Mein Kampf is an impenetrable, boring run-on sentence, occasionally  punctuated with “shocking” anti-Semitism and revolutionary rhetoric. It’s worth reading only as a historical document and propaganda and even then you have to realize that it’s not so much an honest portrayal of Hitler’s life and ideas so much as an honest portrayal of what Hitler wanted his readers to believe (the truly revealing book is Hitler’s Table Talk). Mein Kampf is a talisman, an icon, a provocative t-shirt or bumper sticker in more tangible form. 

And most — not all, but most — of the young men (it’s never women) who brag about reading it usually skip the part where they actually read it. Reading it isn’t the point. They want to seem edgy, different, outside the box and under the radar. They want to wear trench coats in August,  rail against the system and ostentatiously laugh at the sell-outs and conformists with conventional or even defensible political views  (in this they are more than a little Hitlerian.).

In my experience it’s not quite the same with the Communist Manifesto. First of all that tract is actually readable and interesting. Moreover it’s relevant to a lot more discussions and is assigned in a lot of classes. I’ve met lots of smart lefties and righties who’ve read it and learned from it.

But it, too, is a talisman. It’s something certain types invoke to push buttons and seem like philosophical sophisticates or political outsiders.

Maybe he read them. Maybe he even enjoyed them. But I would bet he enjoyed the idea of enjoying them, the romance of being that kind of guy, even more. This was a sick, tortured soul and trying to find deep meaning in Loughner’s favorite books list is, I think, a fool’s errand.


Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, will be released on April 24.

Most Popular


Let Alfie Evans Go to Rome

Alfie Evans, 23 months old, is hospitalized with a rare neurodegenerative disorder. Against his parents’ wishes, his doctors at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool removed him from life support on Monday evening, maintaining that further treatment would be futile. Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital in Rome has ... Read More

Is Journalism School Worth It?

Clarence Darrow dropped out of law school after just a year, figuring that he would learn what he needed to know about legal practice faster if he were actually doing it than sitting in classrooms. (Today, that wouldn't be possible, thanks to licensing requirements.) The same thing is true in other fields -- ... Read More

Wednesday Links

Today is ANZAC Day, the anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli: Here's some history, a documentary, and a Lego re-enactment. How DNA Can Lead to Wrongful Convictions: Labs today can identify people with DNA from just a handful of cells, but a handful of cells can easily migrate. The 19th-century art of ... Read More

Microscopic Dots. Let’s Look at Them.

Stuart E. Eizenstat has written a big book on the Carter presidency. (Eizenstat was Carter’s chief domestic-policy adviser. He also had a substantial hand in foreign affairs.) I have reviewed the book for the forthcoming NR. Eizenstat tells the story of a meeting between President Carter and Andrei Gromyko, the ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Alfie and Haleigh and Charlie and Jahi

When British hospital officials tried to pull the plug on 23-month-old toddler Alfie Evans on Monday night in arrogant defiance of his parents' wishes, many Americans took to Twitter to count their blessings that they live in a country that would not allow such tyranny. "Stories like Alfie Evans make me ... Read More