Failing to Live Up to Left-Wing Ideals

Ashley Herzog

9/14/2007 3:54:19 PM - Ashley Herzog

It looks as if the media will have to find another pretentious intellectual to refer to as “the conscience of the American theater” (according to The Boston Globe), “the moralist of the American theater” (The New York Times), and, most gratuitously, “the moralist of the past American century” (The Denver Post). In fact, given their track record, elitist intellectuals should probably refrain from using the word “moralist” altogether.

Those words were written about Arthur Miller, the playwright who became famous by penning dreary plays about America’s alleged failures. Miller’s pompous liberalism has been forced upon high school and college students ever since he wrote Death of a Salesman in 1949. Although most people immediately find his writing to be both pretentious and mind-numbingly boring, Miller spent most of his career denigrating capitalism and defending communists at home and abroad. So, naturally, Miller’s plays are always prefaced by fawning praise for his courage and moral insight. According to fellow playwright Edward Albee, Miller “held up a mirror to society and said, ‘This is how you behave.’”

But now it appears that communist sympathizer Miller wasn’t quite the humanitarian the cultural elites claim he was. This month’s issue of Vanity Fair includes an investigative piece on Miller’s “secret son” – a boy born with Down’s syndrome whom Miller “deleted from his life.” According to the article, Miller hid his son Daniel’s existence for forty years, did not mention him in his memoirs, and didn’t even bother to leave him a piece of his immense fortune when he died in 2005.

In fact, Miller’s friends say he had no contact with Daniel since he dumped him in an overcrowded mental institution at birth (the facility was later sued over its poor conditions). He allegedly referred to his son as a “mongoloid.” Miller’s wife wanted to keep the baby, but he refused. As Thomas Lifson wrote in the American Thinker, “[Miller] ripped apart a child and mother…all because he must have been embarrassed that his son wasn't capable of being the intellectual he wanted to pretend to be himself.”

I don’t understand why everyone is so shocked. Miller belongs to a long tradition of left-wing “humanitarians” who have wagged their fingers at the unenlightened common people, scolding them for their support of capitalism and their lack of concern for the downtrodden – and yet couldn’t manage to stop using and abusing everyone around them.

Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose theory of the general will was a precursor to modern socialism, believed that private ownership of property was selfish and destructive to the collective state. As historian Paul Johnson wrote in his book Intellectuals, Rousseau “was the first intellectual systematically to exploit the guilt of the privileged.”

So how did Rousseau conduct his personal life? After repeatedly borrowing money from his parents, he never repaid them and allowed his foster mother to die of malnutrition. He kept a peasant girl as his mistress, exploited her sexually, and forced her to abandon all five of their children at birth. He didn’t let her name the babies, and, as Johnson noted, “it is unlikely that any of them survived long.”

Karl Marx, author of The Communist Manifesto, wrote about the oppression of the working class – a subject he knew nothing about since he refused to work, keeping his wife and children destitute. He kept a young girl as his household slave, sexually abused her, and forced her to send their son to a foster home. If that weren’t enough, Marx also made his family’s life distinctly unpleasant by refusing to bathe.

Is it just me, or does there seem to be a correlation between radical socialist views and heinous personal conduct?

In fact, from the seventeenth century forward, it’s difficult to find a prominent leftist intellectual who wasn’t manipulative, abusive, selfish, or violent – including Leo Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre. That reality is covered in-depth in Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals, originally published in 1988 but updated in May 2007. Maybe the next version will include a chapter on Arthur Miller and his abandoned son.

As Phyllis Schlafly noted in a column on the book, these men were not irrelevant left-wing scolds. They were influential writers and philosophers “who arrogantly presumed to diagnose the ills of society…and to tell mankind how we should all live our lives and how society and the economy should be structured.”

From now on, before textbooks and college courses demand that we admire these intellectuals’ unique brilliance and follow their dictates for humanity, how about a few side notes on how they treated actual humans?