The most destructive books ever written

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M. Spector M. Spector's picture
The most destructive books ever written

see below

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://www.rabble.ca/babble/introductions/rewriting-bible#comment-1072430]A post in another thread[/url] quoted a list of the 10 most destructive books ever written - a list prepared by a USian conservative.

That gave me the idea to start this thread, by asking babblers to nominate books that really and truly belong on the list.

 

For example, I nominate Thomas R. Malthus's An essay on the principle of population (1798), as well as Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead.

I could name others, but I don't want to hog the list.

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Toss up. Leo Strauss On Tyranny or Milton Friedman Free To Choose. Well, if you want to substitute other writings by either of these authors I will probably agree with you.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

W.O. Mitchell's Prairie opus, Who Has Seen the Wind (1947), inexplicably ubiquitous on every Grade Nine English reading list, is responsible for ensuring that every budding young teenager's love of Canadian Literature is strangled at birth.

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Catchfire: you are so wrong, it is The Edible Woman that is responsible for that. Wink

Pogo Pogo's picture

Atlas Shrugged

skdadl

Anything of Rand's. The power of the cult is very difficult for me to understand. She is such an execrable writer.

 

Dale Carnegie, How To Win Friends and Influence People (1936), and Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking (1952). Both foundational to the plague of self-help delusions all North Americans are now to some degree or other victims of.

 

Mind you, anything Walt Disney did is worse.

remind remind's picture

The Bible

Tommy_Paine

 

 

 

#1 on my list would be the bible.

No one has mentioned Mien Kampf so far.  I wonder how destructive that book actually was (meaning, how instrumental was it to the rise of Adolf Hitler) compared against some dry political treatise that gave rise to the German state, which lead, eventually, to the catastrophe of both world wars? 

And now I'm on this  tack, perhaps an innocuous looking publication by Fritz Haber on Zyclon B pesticide is more destructive than any more widely known book. 

The economic ideas of the physiocrats*, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations?  Edmund Burke's decietfull pratlings on democracy?

 

 

On a lighter note,

For Catchfire it  was "Who Has Seen the Wind."  For me, "The Stone Angel". 

 

 

* A HA HA HA HA HA HA  (seething breaths...)  After 35 years, I finally worked into conversation the dullest essay topic I was ever assigned in high school: "Discuss the Economic Ideas of  the Physiocrats" 

 

 

E.Tamaran

The Malleus Maleficarum

remind remind's picture

Ohhhh... good one ETamaran, definitely equal, if not worse than the Bible.

al-Qa'bong

Catchfire wrote:

W.O. Mitchell's Prairie opus, Who Has Seen the Wind (1947), inexplicably ubiquitous on every Grade Nine English reading list, is responsible for ensuring that every budding young teenager's love of Canadian Literature is strangled at birth.

That's one of my favourite books.

I read it on my own when I was in Grade Eight, so maybe that's why I liked it - school didn't ruin it for me.

W.O. Mitchell's brother was our next-door neighbour, my mom tells me, when I was a wee baby back in Crocus.

 

Regarding Mein Kampf, that book is destructive only to those who manage to stay awake while trying to read it.  It's on my list of "Most Boring Books of all Time."

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Quote:
That's one of my favourite books.

I read it on my own when I was in Grade Eight, so maybe that's why I liked it - school didn't ruin it for me.

I apologize for my teenager anti-prairie bias. My grade nine english teacher used to show up every Sunday in front of a local hospital, alone, to protest abortions. I wonder if that had anything to do with my dislike of the book. He also was amazed that I knew the words "nought" and "inch."

Quote:
W.O. Mitchell's brother was our next-door neighbour, my mom tells me, when I was a wee baby back in Crocus.

My partner used to live beside Irving Layton when he lived in Niagara-on-the-Lake. He used to mow his lawn shirtless, bottle of Jack in hand, and his Order of Canada draped around his neck. That, too, is poetry.

Fidel

Here is a particulary wicked and destructive quote from the Satanic verses:

 

Quote:
"Land must not be sold in perpetuity, for the land belongs to me, and you are only strangers and guests. You will allow a right of redemption on all your landed property," and restore it to its customary cultivators every 50 years (Lev. 25:23-28). Israelite debt-slaves likewise were to go free periodically in the Jubilee Year, for they belonged ultimately to the Lord, not to any person (Lev. 25:54). -[url=http://michael-hudson.com/articles/debt/02jubilee.html]It Shall be a Jubilee Unto You[/url]

 

May their blood scream for all eternity

Rexdale_Punjabi Rexdale_Punjabi's picture

bible

torah

quran

Ghislaine

in terms of modern books, The Secret is up there for me.

Caissa

Mein Kampf is indeed one of the most boring books I have ever read.

The Secret one of the most insidious.

The Bible is not a book but a collection of books whose destructiveness varies.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther reputedly led to the first copycat suicides. It's my understanding, although this is not depicted in the Wikipedia write-up, that there were many of them.

A book that causes people to kill themselves has got to be right up there for destructiveness.

Fidel

The Liberal Party's "red" books. Notorious for being full of lies and deceit.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Ha ha. Not a partisan comment at all, Fidel. Maybe you could save some of that venom for the Conservatives.

Fidel

Black cats, white cats, they're two wings of the same party in many respects. Very similar. Follow the Bay St money.

Caissa

I had to read the Sorrows of Young Werther in a European History course. I received the same info re. copycat suicides.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Happily (Sadly?), the powerful mythology of mass suicides surrounding Young Werther has little to no evidence to back it up. IIRC, a young woman jumped to her death with a copy of Catcher in the.., er, Young Werther in her pocket (and a poem published at the time blamed Goethe's book), but virtually no instances can be found of young cultish men following suit.

Star Spangled C...

Mein Kamp

The Communist Manifesto

Mao's Little Red Book

The Quran

Quite the body count between them.

Fidel

[url=http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/40/055.html]The Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual[/url] and various other instructional manuals like it produced by US shadow governments over the years.

 

"They say they are teaching democracy. We ask, how can democracy be taught through the barrel of a gun?" - Father Roy Bourgeois

skdadl

I loved Werther, and it's an important book in the history of the development of a certain kind of narrative voice. It wasn't as revolutionary as Richardson's earlier first-person novels or as great as Laclos would later be, but it has a place in that story. It marks the end of Goethe's youth, and it reads to me that way, as a self-conscious farewell to youth. All that is probably easier to see if you're reading it in literary-historical context, though, rather than just having it dropped on you cold.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Re: The Communist Manifesto

I'm not sure about the body count claim (what about The Capitalist Manifesto? How many bodies did that book pile up?), but I do know that the first 4000 words or so, the opening chapter, are some of the finest ever written.

Quote:
The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.

Star Spangled C...

Well, certainly many took the ideas from the Communist manifesto and their interpretations led them to rack up some pretty serious carnage throughout the last century to the tune of around 100 million murders.

Caissa

I'd have a hard time comparing Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto based on a reading of the texts.

RosaL

Star Spangled Canadian wrote:

Well, certainly many took the ideas from the Communist manifesto and their interpretations led them to rack up some pretty serious carnage throughout the last century to the tune of around 100 million murders.

 

The 100 million is a number perpetrated by anti-communists. Consider the source. But you're completely ignoring the carnage of capitalism: imperialism, slavery, WWI, and the holocaust are just a few examples. Then there's Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Again, just a few examples. 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

It's probably a good idea if we don't reach for SSC's bait. That goes for the Qur'an non sequitur too.

Caissa

Let's try to bring this back to focus. We are discussing destructive books. I guess some of this rests on how we define "destructive" and on whether we are looking at what is in the book from an objective a means by which we can knowing objectivity is not possible, or whether we look at how people who have been inspired by a book behave.

RosaL

Catchfire wrote:

It's probably a good idea if we don't reach for SSC's bait. That goes for the Qur'an non sequitur too.

 

True. Maybe I should delete my last post Frown

Star Spangled C...

Um, Japan was like the very model of imperialism. And you're going to chalk the Holocaust up to "capitalism"? Really? Yeah, slavery was an abomination. Nobody is "ignoring" the fact that capitalism has produced its share of exploitation. But it's not even on par with communism - and communism is a much more recent phenomenon. Even if you dispute teh 100 million number, you MUST be willing to grant, say, even 50 million. 6 million in Ukraine alone in a few years from genocidal famine. Not a great record.

RosaL

Star Spangled Canadian wrote:

Um, Japan was like the very model of imperialism.

Yes, I'd heard that. Imperial powers fight each other. 

Star Spangled Canadian wrote:

And you're going to chalk the Holocaust up to "capitalism"? Really?

Yes, in significant part.

Star Spangled Canadian wrote:

Yeah, slavery was an abomination. Nobody is "ignoring" the fact that capitalism has produced its share of exploitation. But it's not even on par with communism - and communism is a much more recent phenomenon.

I agree. It's not on a par with "communism". It has far surpassed it. As to the "recent" point (although it seems to me irrelevant): there's still capitalism going on, I believe.

Star Spangled Canadian wrote:

Even if you dispute teh 100 million number, you MUST be willing to grant, say, even 50 million. 6 million in Ukraine alone in a few hours from genocidal famine. Not a great record.

I really don't want to open up this can of worms again. But no I don't think it was genocidal. I think Stalin was indifferent to suffering and death and the famine was horrible. But I don't think he set out to eliminate Ukrainians. (That thesis was more of a defense move by people who participated avidly in Nazi genocide.)

 

Slumberjack

Home Dentistry for Dummies

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

No, I don't think so, Rosa. I especially liked: 'there's still capitalism going on, I believe.' Heh. Regardless, SSC is probably alone on this board in thinking CM is destructive, or in any way responsible for the Ukranian famine.

As for bringing this thread back on topic, I really liked skdadl's suggestion (surprise!) of Carnegie's cringe-worthy HTWF&IP and Pearle's TPPT. Certainly they bear some responsibility for the hegemony-affirming The Secret (ick!). Are these really the original ur-texts of self-help delusion?

I might also blame The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1793) for the genesis (or at least its most compelling articulation) of Americal liberal (and Puritan) individualism.

ETA: Here's what Mark Twain had to say about ol' bi-focal Franklin:

Quote:
The subject of this memoir was of a vicious disposition, and early prostituted his talents to the invention of maxims and aphorisms calculated to inflict suffering upon the rising generation of all subsequent ages. His simplest acts, also, were contrived with a view to their being held up for the emulation of boys forever--boys who might otherwise have been happy. It was in this spirit that he became the son of a soap-boiler; and probably for no other reason than that the efforts of all future boys who tried to be anything might be looked upon with suspicion unless they were the sons of soap-boilers. With a malevolence which is without parallel in history, he would work all day and then sit up nights and let on to be studying algebra by the light of a smouldering fire, so that all other boys might have to do that also or else have Benjamin Franklin thrown up to them. Not satisfied with these proceedings, he had a fashion of living wholly on bread and water, and studying astronomy at meal time--a thing which has brought affliction to millions of boys since, whose fathers had read Franklin's pernicious biography.

His maxims were full of animosity toward boys. Nowadays a boy cannot follow out a single natural instinct without tumbling over some of those everlasting aphorisms and hearing from Franklin on the spot. If he buys two cents worth of peanuts, his father says, "Remember what Franklin has said, my son,--`A groat a day's a penny a year;'" and the comfort is all gone out of those peanuts.

[...]

I merely desired to do away with somewhat of the prevalent calamitous idea among heads of families that Franklin acquired his great genius by working for nothing, studying by moonlight, and getting up in the night instead of waiting til morning like a Christian, and that this programme, rigidly inflicted, will make a Franklin of every father's fool. It is time these gentlemen were finding out that these execrable eccentricities of instinct and conduct are only the evidences of genius, not the creators of it. I wish I had been the father of my parents long enough to make them comprehend this truth, and thus prepare them to let their son have an easier time of it. When I was a child I had to boil soap, notwithstanding my father was wealthy, and I had to get up early and study geometry at breakfast, and peddle my own poetry, and do everything just as Franklin did, in the solemn hope that I would be a Franklin some day. And here I am.

stellersjay stellersjay's picture

On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation by David Ricardo, for saddling us with the ugly monster known as free trade and our aversion to protectionism. As the Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang has noted, Europe and the US used protectionist measures shamelessly to nurture domestic industries, but wish to “kick out the ladder” on developing countries, preventing them from using the same measures to develop domestic industries that would challenge the established economies of Europe and the US.

skdadl

Catchfire, you are being naughty.

 

Och, but Twain was a genius, and too funny to be true. He was also a crank, and Franklin was a crank, and I'm sure the two of them would have got along ... or maybe not ... but it would be wonderful to know enough to do a dialogue des morts between them.

 

I've never read that essay before, Catchfire, so thank you. What a delight. Lately I've been trying to plod through Franklin's doubts about making the U.S. a republic (specific concern -- not anti-revolution). So I've been tending to think of him as a serious crank, not a bad crank.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

skdadl wrote:

I loved Werther, and it's an important book in the history of the development of a certain kind of narrative voice. It wasn't as revolutionary as Richardson's earlier first-person novels or as great as Laclos would later be, but it has a place in that story. It marks the end of Goethe's youth, and it reads to me that way, as a self-conscious farewell to youth. All that is probably easier to see if you're reading it in literary-historical context, though, rather than just having it dropped on you cold.

I read ABOUT it in a different context, recently, and felt obliged to look it up and read it. I could see how it might affect young people.

Regardless of the actual number of copycat suicides, there was an uproar in German society at the time. But you knew that.

kathleen

skdadl wrote:

Anything of Rand's. The power of the cult is very difficult for me to understand. She is such an execrable writer.

 

 

For some illumination on the power of the Ayn Rand cult, there's a novel by Mary Gaitskill-

"...Two Girls, Fat and Thin follows the childhood and adult lives of Justine Shade (thin) and Dorothy Never (fat). Justine works through her sadomasochistic issues while Dorothy works through her up-and-down commitment to the philosophy of "Definitism" and its founder "Anna Granite" (thinly-veiled satires of Objectivism and Ayn Rand). When journalist Justine interviews Dorothy for an exposé of Definitism, an unusual relationship begins between the two women..."

At least I thought it was illuminating.

Ayn Rand's books are totally devoid of humour! The Floating Head of Ayn Rand - a Timeline (below) is, however, pretty funny.

http://www.saintaardvarkthecarpeted.com/ayn_rand/

 

Tommy_Paine

I wish I had been the father of my parents long enough to make them comprehend this truth, and thus prepare them to let their son have an easier time of it. When I was a child I had to boil soap, notwithstanding my father was wealthy, and I had to get up early and study geometry at breakfast, and peddle my own poetry, and do everything just as Franklin did, in the solemn hope that I would be a Franklin some day. And here I am.

 

Genius indeed, Skdadl.    I have a soft spot for both Ben and Sam.  Both go in and out of fashion according to the whims of the age.

 

nicky

for a wonderful send up of Ayn rand see Old School by Toias wOLFF. hE DESCRIBES RAND'S VIST TO A PRIVATE SCHOOL TO EXTOL AN ABSURD SHORT STORY BY A LOSER STUDENT WHICH SHE COMPLETELY MISINTERPRETS.

stellersjay stellersjay's picture

I read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged when I was about 18 and said “Ick!”. I like to refer to her more rabid fans as Randroids. Haven't had time to look too closely, but The Floating Head of Ayn Rand looks fun. Thanks, kathleen.

George Victor

Ayn Rand.   Is it pronounced Ann or A-in?  Attempted to re-read Atlas Shrugged last year to try to understand what I looked at as a teenager, and could not do it. Would like to describe my feelings to friends, but want pronunciation first, if I'm going to come on all high-minded.  :)

siamdave

Semantics, maybe, but the very question made me a bit uncomfortable - after reading a few posts, I think I understand why. No book is dangerous or destructive by itself - I read Mein Kampf and didn't become a slavering Nazi, I read Communist Manifesto and did not become a Stalinist, I read Wealth of Nations and did not become a rabid neocon - a book is a book is a book, and they all have interesting ideas in them that an intelligent person should put in the idea blender to flavor everything else, or something like that. A better title for the thread might have been something like 'What books have been used in the most destructive way?' or something like that. (and the posters obviously have very different approaches to the questions - 'books I really don't like' is not exactly the same as 'books that have been used for destrucitve purposes'. )

George Victor

How to pronounce Ayn  (as in Ayn Rand) made you uncomfortable?  :D  Take a shot at it anyway.

Skinny Dipper

In the forum that lists the top ten destructive books as mentioned by an American conservvative, one of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's books was listed.  That conservative indicated that JJR's book provided the seeds of totalitarianism including the French Revolution.  I did not know that France was a thriving democracy before the revolution.Surprised

Not all revolutions are bad.  Ranging in degree, there were good ones in the late 1980's and early 90's in Eastern Europe.  However, there was a supposedly evil revolution in 1776 somewhere in the world.  Hmm.

When I think about Rousseau, I do think he was evil.  I remember mentioning Rousseau to a bishop at my cousin's ordination as a priest.  That bishop wanted to get metaphysical with me and encouraged me to join the priesthood.  Thankfully, I wasn't Catholic and am still not.

 

George Victor

You think Rousseau was "evil" , a concept straight out of religious belief, but you're thankful to not be Catholic.  Do you see "evil" as having transcended religion to become a value in the secular world, or do you use it from another religious base of belief?

Skinny Dipper

Hi George,

You're not used to my sarcasm especially the humour in the last paragraph.  Translation: Rousseau is not evil.  He is only evil because some bishop tried to seduce me into joining the priesthood.  I enjoyed watching a priest wave the incense canister inside the cathedra at the ordination ceremonyl.  My little sister who was about five years old at the time asked my mother why that man was making smoke inside the cathedral.

My mother replied, "It's to get rid of the mosquitoes."  (Does mosquitoes have 'es' or just 's' at the end?  I'll have to ask Dan Quayle.)

I did appreciate the ordination ceremony.  My family had second row seats.  Unfortunately, when the ordination was nearing the end, communion took place.  I felt like a leper as my family stayed in our pewey seats.  Everyone of our relatives and friends looked at us.  I didn't get a chance to sneak a bite of the wafer cracker or host.

al-Qa'bong

Dr. Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child Care.

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