YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

May 4, 2012

Charles Murray Dreaming

Perhaps the most interesting items in Charles Murray’s book talk to members of the David Horowitz Freedom Center on April 30, 2012, were 1. His recommending the educational theories of E. D. Hirsch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._D._Hirsch) and McGuffey’s Readers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McGuffey%27s_Reader); and 2. His reluctance to answer the question from one attendee: “Why do upper-class [white, Hollywood, Left Coast] people support the Left?” (He did blame “political correctness” for its failure to demonize unmarried women e.g., families without fathers.)

Perhaps Murray did not want to get into a lengthy answer, but were I to be asked that question about progressives/liberals who support the leftism, statism, and the ostensible decay of a common white civic culture that worries Murray, I would simply point to the observable fact that corporatist liberalism was not concerned with popularizing revolutionary socialism, but was a calculated deceptive move to “the Left” in order to preserve upper-class wealth against the red specter that had been haunting Europe since the French Revolution. (See http://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/.) Indeed, FDR thought that it was a risible notion that he was a revolutionary, as his big business critics alleged until a bunch of them went over to Keynesian economics in 1942, inspired by such as Robert M. Hutchins and Harold Lasswell (http://clarespark.com/2010/06/19/committee-for-economic-development-and-its-sociologists/) .

As for Hollywood liberals, the answer should have been obvious to the questioner. Throughout history, class resentments have existed. The recent immigrants to the US who founded the big studios were hardly artistes, but were businessmen eager to make money by entertaining a mass audience, an audience that Protestant middle-class progressives had spurned unless they could be improved through uplift. (See the project to uplift “Marja” in http://clarespark.com/2009/11/13/supermen-wanted-early-freudians-and-the-mob/. ) Early Hollywood had no illusions about mass taste, and provided adventure, sex and violence to a readymade audience that already was alienated from snooty and exclusive nativist old families. The Mayers or Goldwyns or Laemmles and their movie or television offspring still adhere to populist feeling and a hefty dose of primitivism. Social realism and didacticism do not sell, except as a warning to other “liberals” that the natives are restless and gun toting, or that criminals may be running everything. But Dr. Murray is worried that the white working class is obese and watches too much television, as if the upper classes do not enjoy the more sophisticated adventures, romance, soft porn, escapism, and even artiness provided by the younger writers and producers, affected as they have been by counter-culture naughtiness, identification with Marlon Brando or James Dean, clever parodies, and fun.

In my view, the notion that there was once a common civic culture that united the white working class with upper-class elites (the theme of his talk) is wishful thinking.  Murray recommended his earlier book Losing Ground for its emphasis on family, vocation, passionate avocation, motherhood, community, and faith: these together would promote longevity. This is culture wars talk, and though some of it makes sense, I have the nagging feeling that Murray, like other moderates, is emphasizing human weakness and dependency, not independence and the critical thought I have presented on this website. (See this excerpt from Eros and the Middle Manager: http://clarespark.com/2010/01/02/jottings-on-the-culture-wars-both-sides-are-wrong/.)

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5 Comments »

  1. Wow

    Comment by Rose — June 17, 2012 @ 11:22 pm | Reply

  2. There’s a much simpler explanation as to why Hollywood has leaned left:

    Many, perhaps most, of its biggest producers and many of its talented writers were Jews. And Jews have always been sympathetic to socialist labor movements–especially the immigrants from Europe and Russia who became successful here in America.

    Take MGM, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer. Samuel Goldwyn was of Polish Hasidic descent. Louis Mayer was of Russian Jewish descent (his original name was Lazar Meir).

    Howard Fast was a Jewish Communist. Etc.

    Comment by rightslant — June 16, 2012 @ 10:52 pm | Reply

    • This is nonsensical. The movies that were made in Hollywood by producers you have named were in no sense “Jewish” or tied to “Jewish” interests. As I said in the blog, movies are pitched to a diverse, mass audience. The overall tone of movies appealed to relatively uneducated persons who craved escape from difficult material conditions, and who enjoyed the appeal to adventure, sex and aggression. If anything, the movies tilted toward Catholicism, especially during the late 1930s, when Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum agreed with Roosevelt’s New Deal.
      The reason I approved this comment is that it is an all too common antisemitic trope that “the Jews” control not only mass media, but the world. An absurd claim that retains its glamor despite a mountain of facts to the contrary. This rumor about “the Jews” has multiple sources, but perhaps its chief source is the New Testament claim that what we now call “the money power” is an expression of the superceded religion. In this narrative, only “Christians” have heart, unlike the warlike, bigoted, worshippers of the Golden Calf they glean from the (superceded) Old Testament.

      Comment by clarespark — June 16, 2012 @ 11:06 pm | Reply

  3. [...] And what were the order-loving nativists of the Progressive movement doing after the war? They were certainly not manning the outposts of the grand innovations of mass media, including radio and the movies. Rather, that task fell to recent immigrants, who sought audiences among the masses whose instinctive populism was fully exploited, as I described here in my blog on Charles Murray (http://clarespark.com/2012/05/04/3957/): [...]

    Pingback by Progressive uplift vs. “New Left” nihilism « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — May 15, 2012 @ 8:57 pm | Reply

  4. [...] such an outcome of American history is on the face of it, absurd, as I pointed out in my last blog (http://clarespark.com/2012/05/04/3957/, “Charles Murray Dreaming.”  (Murray’s overall project in his latest book was to reinstate [...]

    Pingback by Unity and utopia: the case of David Horowitz « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — May 5, 2012 @ 8:54 pm | Reply


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