The Magazine

Ideas in Battle

A publisher's reflection.

Jul 21, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 42 • By ROGER KIMBALL
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Indeed, September 11 precipitated a crisis the end of which we cannot see. Part of the task that faces us now is to acknowledge the depth of barbarism that challenges the survival of culture. And part of that acknowledgment lies in reaffirming the core values that are under attack. That reaffirmation is another part of Encounter's mandate. Ultimately, victory in the conflict that besieges us will be determined not by smart weapons but by smart heads. That is to say, the conflict is not so much--not only--a military conflict as a conflict of world views, of ideas.

And that is where institutions like Encounter Books can play an important role. My point is that when we speak of publishing and the power of ideas, we need to give at least as much attention to criticizing seductive bad ideas as we do to promulgating the good ones. Indeed, because vital good ideas that impinge upon politics and social life tend to be elaborations of relatively simple home truths, the critical project of exposing bad ideas is often tantamount to revealing the good ideas that the bad ideas had obscured or perverted.