Of Lies and Dissent
The Flight of the Intellectuals
by Paul Berman
$26.00 List Price
Two broadsides against American intellectuals after 9/11 hit harder than most. The first came from Paul Berman, who, in Terror and Liberalism (2003), chastised his fellow liberals for turning a blind eye to the fascist roots of “Muslim totalitarianism.” The second came from Tony Judt, who denounced intellectuals like Berman for being George Bush’s “useful idiots” and rationalizing the “War on Terror.” Judt and Berman shared the same social-democratic background but were haunted by different demons of the twentieth century. Where Judt saw the shadows of McCarthyism in the Bush years, Berman was relieved the president did not make the Middle East his Munich. In more tempered times, one might have been spared the choice between them—with Berman defending liberal values from without and Judt from within. But the times were not tempered. American liberals chose Judt.
Berman’s new book, The Flight of the Intellectuals, deeply reflects his pain at being rejected. He borrows his title from Julien Benda’s 1927 polemic against European intellectuals who abandoned their principles in the high tide of nationalism, substituting “Flight” for Benda’s “Betrayal.” This is fitting, for Berman writes as if the entire liberal establishment has left him behind on the tarmac to fend off the ideas of Muslim extremists. Or rather the ideas of one man in particular: the theologian Tariq Ramadan, who is, by Berman’s reckoning, an Islamist wolf in a Dolce & Gabbana suit. Berman especially resents the kid-glove treatment Ramadan has received from journalists, most notably Ian Buruma, who comes in for
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