From a review by S.T. Karnick of Paul Hollander's The End of Commitment: Intellectuals, Revolutionaries, and Political Morality in the Twentieth Century that appeared in the latest National Review:
Hollander provides copious examples of the appeal of Communism in the journeys of former Western sympathizers such as David Horowitz, Ronald Radosh, Eugene Genovese, Christopher Hitchens, Doris Lessing, and several lesser-known individuals. Hollander notes that Lessing eventually realized that the attraction of Communism in the West is caused "not so much because of moral indignation aroused by specific social injustices but rather due to disappointment with a wide range of unmet and unrealistic personal expectations."
The theme of alienation likewise occurs repeatedly in Hollander's descriptions of numerous non-famous American leftists who answered his call for self-revelations. Hollander writes, "Virtually every respondent harbored deep disaffection from American society and an acute awareness of its shortcomings and injustices, its unrealized ideals. . . . A wounded idealism seeking an outlet in leftist social or political activism appeared to be the most widely shared trait, indeed the defining characteristic of these respondents."
This alienation from American life and values is most evident in Hollander's account of linguist and political gadfly Noam Chomsky and his virulent, anti-American attitudes. Individuals such as Chomsky are so thoroughly alienated from their society that they find fault with everything about it and are quick to excuse any attack on it. Chomsky claimed, for example, that the 9/11 attacks pale next to the West's "deep-seated culture of terrorism." This sort of thinking has made him a hero to many American leftists.
Such a worldview leads easily to the demonization of one's enemies. Hollander observes that, like Islamic radicals, some Western leftists show a "ready acceptance of inflicting great suffering on behalf of glorious ends, in the untroubled subordination of ends and means."
Hollander ends his book on a note of hope, observing that some individuals do indeed face the evidence and change their minds. Unfortunately, these individuals appear to be rather less common than the true believers, in Hollander's revealing account. The human capacity to pursue illusions is enormous, and as a result, the work of thwarting the politics of personal alienation is never done.
People making a left turn because they feel alienated, bitter, and disaffected in their personal lives? Imagine that.