My review of William Pfaff's The Bullet's Song
My review of William Pfaff's The Bullet's Song: Romantic Violence and Utopia was published last year in The American Conservative but hasn't been available online. Apparently these guys have made that happen. Thanks! And since I think that the book is worth reading, I'm posting the review here:
When we recall the very violent 20th century that spanned from the start of the Great War to the end of the Cold War—the short 20th century, as British historian Erica Hobsbawm dubbed it—the names that come to mind are those of the leading monsters who masterminded the mass murders of that era (Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tsetung) and the buffoons (Hermann Goring, Nikita Khrushchev), serial killers (Heinrich Himmler), and rapists (Lavrenty Beria) who played supporting roles. We sit through this long horror movie, which opens with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 and ends with the scene of the collapsing Berlin Wall in 1989, and we feel a sense of revulsion and disbelief watching the sickening images of Kristallnacht, Babi Yar, Auschwitz, the Russian Gulag and the liquidation of the Kulaks, China’s Great Leap Forward to Starvation and Cultural Revolution, Dresden and Hiroshima. Is it possible that a homeless and failed artist from Vienna, a paranoid gangster from Georgia, and a pedophile and drug addict from Beijing led to the ruin of millions and millions of lives?
Well, they certainly did. There is no doubt that if Hollywood gave a prize for the best movie with the theme of mass murder, the three dictators would win, trouncing such deserving nominees as Il Duce, Generalissimo Franco and Marshall Tito, Fidel and Pinochet. But if you watched the entire awards ceremony, you would know that before the trophy was given for the best picture, there would be all those prizes for best direction, best script, and best soundtrack conferred to all those who generate the many elements that together constitute the soul of a film. By applying his organizational skills and leadership, the director makes the movie happen. But it is the screenwriters, the musicians, and the artists who dream the intricate plot, fantasize about the various scenes, visualize the color schemes, and hear the music playing in their heads. Through their minds and imagination, they inspire and create the movie.
In a way, The Bullet’s Song [:Romantic Violence and Utopia, William Pfaff, Simon and Schuster] is dedicated to the creative and sick minds that helped write the script and compose the soundtrack for the man-made death and destruction of the 20th century. From their imaginations sprang the delusions of utopia and the ideology of transcendent violence without which Nazism, fascism, and communism could not have succeeded in stirring up so many people to commit so much mass murder for such a long time. The achievement of the revolutionary artists, writers, and intellectual warriors was remarkable in its effectiveness in helping the big and little dictators mobilize popular support for war and revolution at home and abroad. These intellectual confidence men turned out to be the prime public relations operatives of the last century. After all, they created the conditions for the favorable reception accorded the likes of Stalin, Mao, Mussolini, and other bloodthirsty madmen by the glitterati of the day in New York, London, and Paris and by the “useful idiots” in the great intellectual centers of the West.More