Some past columns of mine have detailed the highly questionable behavior of some librarians. While there has been no short supply of critics within the profession, including two long meetings arguing that I must “cease and desist” writing about these shortcomings, my critics should be happy to learn that this column tackles other useful idiots. It turns out that useful idiots are now ubiquitous in our culture, including not only librarians but teachers, pastors, the media, especially university professors, in short, every profession that seeks, wittingly or not, to advance the illiberal cause.

The phrase “useful idiots” has been long attributed to Soviet madman and murderer Vladimir Lenin. Stalin surpassed him as he proved madder and killed even more. The phrase may not have been used by Lenin in this exact format, though “useful fool” may well have been.

Whatever the provenance, useful idiot is now short speak for anyone oblivious to the harmful effects of a given cause, political or otherwise. Useful idiots are not what one would call stupid; they are highly intelligent and aware of the circumstances. The problem appears to be that they attribute to a given cause its positive effects only while turning a blind eye to its derogatory ones. The most benighted of useful idiots will even argue against any accusations that what they have supported may not, in fact, be wrong at all. Still, the accusers are wrong and even mean-spirited.

Useful idiots proved abundant during WWII when famed New York Times reporter Walter Duranty refused to report on the nine million who died in the Stalin-led Ukrainian famine, Roosevelt made sure Stalin survived the war with billions put at Stalin’s disposal, and Treasury Secretary Harry Dexter White and other White House officials continually coddled the Soviet leader.

This lengthy introduction does have a point as useful idiots have made a strong return to this side of the Atlantic, but in social matters as opposed to specifically political ones. It isn’t as if we were not warned. In 1993, the late, brilliant Charles Krauthammer, in “Defining Deviancy Up,” argued that “it is not enough for the deviant to be normalized. The normal must be found to be deviant.” More than half a century earlier, Hilaire Belloc contended that when the process of normalizing deviancy is mature, it will not stop at mere insults to beauty and right living “but a positive coordination and organized affirmation of the repulsive and the vile.” Useful idiots everywhere have gotten us here, and the Biden administration is hellbent on codifying it into law.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris celebrate the Senate passage of the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion spending package. Photo via The White House Facebook page)

What this should alert every parent to is the devolution of education has declined so far that every avenue is open to indoctrination. Public education has become a swamp of left-wing wokeism to the extent that it may well be impossible to find a public school that isn’t seeking to indoctrinate your children.

This madness is everywhere one turns: church, state, school, retail, television, movies, and theatre. That we are in a battle for the soul of this country should be evident by now, but the struggle is much more difficult than trying to correct this or that feature. Because useful idiots are everywhere, and they move forward with wokeism in unthinking but highly effective ways. They ignore the damage that wokeism is wreaking and will even argue with you that it cannot be all that bad. This month alone, we incessantly celebrate new agendas for human sexuality, but only after we dispensed with celebrations of the birthdays of some of our founding fathers. Argue against limits to this trend, and you’re racist, homophobic, and bigoted—and that’s just the beginning. What may have begun as a fad has turned into fanaticism.

Gas prices are now pushing beyond the $5-mark, illegal immigrants are overrunning our Southern borders, Putin is ransacking central Europe, inflation is soaring, and the stock market teeters on disaster every other day. The Biden Administration, however, is singing the Émile Couè song: “every day in every way, I’m getting better and better.” To say that Biden is fiddling while America burns is sadly not a metaphor but the Godawful truth. The Supreme Court may have provided only a respite by overturning Roe v. Wade. The truth is we need more cultural renewal and pushback against the insanity of illogical policies and moral chaos. 

Shakespeare once said, controversially mind you, that the first thing we must do is kill all the lawyers. I think had he lived today he would have said something about the professors in so many American universities. Professors license all these professions with the flotsam and jetsam of liberalism. Consider recently when an elementary school teacher in Wake County, North Carolina thought it an innovative idea to teach preschoolers colors by using flashcards that depicted a pregnant man. Thankfully, she was removed along with the flashcards. 

University professors teach librarians, teachers, pastors, politicians—in short everyone who interacts in society, and they know it. Medford Evans, father of M. Stanton, called them “treacherous and stupid.” while H.L. Mencken famously said that an intellectual was a person who would say a stupid thing, twice. Having spent forty years in academe, I can tell you that it was an off week not to hear a stupid thing more than twice a day.

While November cannot get here soon enough for conservatives, we must know that we have far more work to do that electing the right men and women.  

November is only the starting line.

Mark Y. Herring is professor emeritus, dean of library services from Winthrop University. Herring spent 42 years as dean or director in academic libraries in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. He was most recently appointed by Gov. Henry McMaster to the South Carolina State Library Board. He resides with his wife, Carol, in Rock Hill.