Matt Yglesias (who will be moderating my gig with Nick Gillespie tonight by the way) has a post up about the effort to “push back” on Leo Strauss’ “rehabilitation.” I’m not going to engage in the ongoing attempts to Nazify Leo Strauss, because so many more well-qualified writers have done that already. But whatever the merits or lack thereof of that (by my lights repugnant) campaign, there’s a larger point that drives me crazy. There is a long list of philosophers revered on the American and European left who can be directly and incontrovertibly tied to Nazism and Fascism. Forget the longstanding debate about Nietzsche and whether the Nazis msiread him. There’s Heidegger, a committed Nazi. Paul de Man, a Nazi collabrator, Gertrude Stein a fan of Hitler’s, and of course Carl Schmitt who — despite being quite influential on the American left and unknown on the American right — was recently annointed by Alan Wolfe as an intellectual patron saint of American conservatives. And there are all the leading literary critics, philosophers and bargain bin intellectuals who claim to be intellectual children of these philosophers. And yet, rather than police their own side for wayward Nazi ideas or fascist sentiments, they try to read-into Leo Strauss things that aren’t there in order to discredit him and the decent democratic idealists who can be associated with him no matter how absurdly. If the standard the left applies to Leo Strauss were applied to its own side, you wouldn’t be allowed to say the names of Heidegger, De Man, Foucault et al. in polite company, never mind admit that you admire them.
And yet, in many corners of egghead life, to call yourself Heideggerian is a sign of intellectual sophistication. But to call youself a Straussian is to admit you’re a fascist.