The term “Useful Idiots” has a very vague and unclear history, although many believe it was originally Lenin who coined the term by labeling American sympathizers of the Soviet Union as this specific brand of idiot. It was then used by most of the other Soviet leaders in their discussions about those individuals who choose the side of the communists over their home country in otherwise democratic states.
The modern definition of the phrase is pretty obvious:
Those people who support a malignant cause which they naively believe to be a force of good.
General Pacepa’s information from the Soviet Union is a good first look at how useful idiots can be exploited.
He was a defector from the Eastern Bloc, and wrote/discussed in detail a lot of information regarding useful idiots.
One of the most interesting things I’ve ever read from him was in his Wall Street Journal appearance regarding the Vietnam war, where he said:
“During the Vietnam War we spread vitriolic stories around the world, pretending thatAmerica’s presidents sent Genghis Khan-style barbarian soldiers to Vietnam who raped atrandom, taped electrical wires to human genitals, cut off limbs, blew up bodies and razedentire villages.Those weren’t the facts.They were our tales.But some seven million Americans ended up being convinced their own president, not communism, was the enemy.As Yuri Andropov, who conceived this dezinformatsiya war against the United States usedto tell me, people are more willing to believe smut than holiness.The final goal of our anti-American offensive was to discourage the United States fromprotecting the world against communist terrorism and expansion.Sadly, we succeeded.After United States forces precipitously pulled out of Vietnam, the victorious communistsmassacred some two million people in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, the genocide for which the anti-Vietnam War protesters were responsible.
Are Useful Idiots Responsible?
In the hearts and minds of individuals who truly believe what they do is just, would that make them responsible if the plan they support ends in harm that they did not intend?
On one hand, they are not acting with malicious intent.
But in the other sense, they are causing malicious activities to arise.
Nietzsche once said:
Out of their own consciousness, they have evolved a set of ideas in opposition to all natural conditions of living — one by one they have taken religion, culture, morality, history and psychology, and converted them irreparably into a contradiction of their natural meaning.
The result of this “change” in the natural meaning makes it difficult for most to see the truth when being feed false ideals.
Certain powerful groups are very keen at finding and manipulating voters that are extremely susceptible to emotional argumentative strategies. And emotional arguments are the easiest ones to use to persuade individuals to their side through intellectual subversion.
You can see this clearly through pretty much any political arena. There is often not much talk on actual reasoning/logic behind a policy, rather than a fight for the top of an emotional pedestal.
So would these people, the useful idiots, simply be misguided through the degradation of ideas? Or should they be held responsible for their misaligned intent?
A Subjective Tint
I’m sure this answer would differ on the basis of who is asked.
I have no doubt a devout Christian would be much more willing to forgive useful idiots much more quickly than a victim of the Cambodian genocide would.
Through my own opinion, I would find that they would have a direct responsibility in the face of their naive actions. Especially if these results are made abundantly clear to them and then they continue to support it.
With the wealth of information at our fingertips, and the detailed explanation of past historical attempts – no one is free from responsibility for their choices. And if they can’t/won’t research and try to understand them, they should abstain.
An active participation is an active involvement. And thus, it is also an active responsibility if things go downhill.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments!