Richard Landes taught at Boston University and directed its Center for Millennial Studies until 2015. He left late in his career to go to Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv on the front lines of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In the June 23rd issue of New English Review, Juliana Pilon, Senior Fellow, The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI), reviews Landes’s most recent book Can “The Whole World” Be Wrong? Lethal Journalism, Antisemitism, and Global Jihad (2023).
Landes, a distinguished historian, specializes in millennialism and millennial movements. He made his reputation as the decipherer of hagiography or the lives of saints. His father was David Landes, a historian at Harvard University and author of a capacious set of publications, the most dazzling of which is The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor (1999).
Dr. Pilon finds Richard Landes’s account bracing. In “The Whole World Can Indeed be Wrong. Dead Wrong.” she seconds his argument that “[t]he putatively civilized segment of humanity” does indeed appear that it will lead us to collective suicide. The new millennium ushered in, according to Landes, many intractable problems in the West. Well educated elites for a variety of reasons act with “collective folly” and “astounding stupidity” to advance us globally to Armageddon.
A neo-classical liberal, Kagan laments the failure of education in the post-modern West. It has not “done a good job of teaching each generation about what modernity has accomplished.” It has also proved ineffectual about warning of the chilling totalitarianism embedded in Heaven-on-earth schemes.
Kagan holds the mainstream media, “the bane of the West in the twenty-first century,” with particular disdain. He devotes chapters to the 9/11 attacks (2001), the illusory “Jenin Massacre” (2002), and the Danish Cartoon Scandal (2005-2006). In all those cases, observes Pilon, “Lethal journalists who report the war propaganda of one side, their own enemy’s (e.g., jihadists), as news . . .. And last—or is it first, in sheer pathology? —Jews-against-themselves, who side with their declared enemies in order to prove their good will and commitment to progressive values.”
As Landes confessed, he stressed in writing the last chapter of his book. “He is ultimately at a loss to explain,” observes Dr. Pilon, “why anti-zionist Jews could take the otherwise commendable tradition of self-criticism to such pathological extremes.” At the end of the volume, he finds what may be considered a call to arms in the words of William Blake, an eighteenth-century English Christian poet: “A pretence of Art to destroy Art; a pretence of Liberty/To destroy Liberty, a pretence of Religion to destroy Religion.” “When truth is sacrificed to pretense,” discerns Pilon, “death is not far behind.”
Dr. Juliana Geran Pilon is Senior Fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. Her eight books include The Utopian Conceit and the War on Freedom and The Art of Peace: Engaging a Complex World; her latest, An Idea Betrayed: Jews, Liberalism, and the American Left, has just been published. The author of over two hundred fifty articles and reviews on international affairs, human rights, literature, and philosophy, she has made frequent appearances on radio and television, and is a lecturer for the Common Sense Society. Pilon has taught at the National Defense University, George Washington University, American University, and the Institute of World Politics. She served also in several nongovernmental organizations, notably the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), where as Vice President for Programs she designed, conducted, and managed programs related to democratization.