The Clare Spark Blog

June 19, 2013

The Classics as antidote to science education?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 9:00 pm

With some pundits wondering if we are already fascist, see how classical antiquity has been mobilized by both social democrats and hard leftists to undercut democratic participation.

The Clare Spark Blog

   In the late 1930s, two books were published that traced the trajectory of European civilization, and found that The Greek Way (as classicist Edith Hamilton titled her book of 1930*) was clearly protofascist. One was by social psychologist Ellis Freeman: Conquering the Man in the Street:A psychological analysis of propaganda in war, fascism, and politics  (N.Y.:  Vanguard Press, 1940), the earlier by future Labour M.P. Richard Crossman:  Plato Today(N.Y.: Oxford UP, 1939). Both are available on Amazon.com and I highly recommend them, for social democratic journalists (Stanley Fish and J. M. Bernstein), blogging this week in the New York Times, are calling for renewed attention to a classical education as a remedy to a narrow science/technology education that is allegedly suppressing critical thought.  (In one case, the philosopher  J.M. Bernstein, compares the Tea Party to Jacobin terrorists, rage-driven and standing for a mythical autonomous individual…

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June 15, 2010

The Classics as antidote to science education?

Max Beckmann, Odysseus and Calypso, 1943

   In the late 1930s, two books were published that traced the trajectory of European civilization, and found that The Greek Way (as classicist Edith Hamilton titled her book of 1930*) was clearly protofascist. One was by social psychologist Ellis Freeman: Conquering the Man in the Street: A psychological analysis of propaganda in war, fascism, and politics  (N.Y.:  Vanguard Press, 1940), the earlier by future Labour M.P. Richard Crossman:  Plato Today (N.Y.: Oxford UP, 1939). Both are available on Amazon.com and I highly recommend them, for social democratic journalists (Stanley Fish and J. M. Bernstein), blogging this week in the New York Times, are calling for renewed attention to a classical education as a remedy to a narrow science/technology education that is allegedly suppressing critical thought.  (In one case, the philosopher  J.M. Bernstein, compares the Tea Party to Jacobin terrorists, rage-driven and standing for a mythical autonomous individual.  But that critic of the organic society, Ellis Freeman,  would have been outraged by such a comparison, for the test of democracy was the structure of groups: would or would not the “leader” accept criticism from individuals in the group? If not, it was fascist or protofascist. Think now of the structure of classrooms in the humanities, dominated as they are now by left-liberals and hardcore Leninists. Or the fear that some Democratic congressmen have of Town Hall meetings.)

In other words, proto-Nazis (the Tea Party) would be cured with a dose of Hegel and other German Idealists who looked to measured, balanced, communitarian ancient Greeks for their models. Having just read the Robert Fitzgerald translation of Homer’s The Odyssey, I find the idea that Homer’s epics are useful to us today as any kind of social or political model quite terrifying, especially with respect to the critical practices that make a democracy viable. But as a source for comic books and blood and gore movies and television, the adventures of Odysseus are a treasure trove. Think of the good king, the paternalistic welfare state, the touching loyalty of its servants, fatalism, magic, the intervention of wise god figures in daily life (grey-eyed Athena or a wise Latina), superheroes, shape-changing creatures, gorgeous tall women and men, the glitter of gold and silver along with artisanal triumphs designed for the aristocracy, the increasing blending of gymnastics with dance, but most of all, the aestheticization of violence that Walter Benjamin described as the culture of fascism and Nazism in his famous defense of modern mass media “The Work of Art in the Era of Mechanical Reproduction.”  Writing at the same time as Freeman and Crossman, Benjamin declared that such artists as Marinetti had glorified war to the point where humanity was contemplating its own destruction as an aesthetic experience. What would Benjamin have said about the humanizing beauty of Odysseus’s slaughter of the suitors and the female slaves who had slept with them?– A slaughter that left the poet in awe of the “lion” figure of Odysseus, covered as he was with the blood and gore of his enemies.

As the late mathematician and author Norman J. Levitt understood very well, the scientific revolution created a rupture in the trajectory of the West that had the potential to change the course of Western civilization.**  It is through science-induced skepticism that we learn to stand alone, if necessary, in confrontation with the mind-management of the past, or with power-hungry and corrupt leaders of the present. It is through the ingenuity of individual, Promethean free-thinking humans that we will conquer hostile nature without destroying life on the planet. As for the Greek way (explicitly Keynesian in the view of Robert M. Hutchins), look to its legacy in the streets of Athens.

*I did not mean to imply that either Freeman or Crossman criticized Hamilton, nor do I forget that Plato banished poets from his Republic. I have now read her book, and it fits in with the ongoing portrait I have painted of the Progressives: their claim to balance the claims of individuality and community through their embrace of “the Third Way,” the aspiration to aristocracy, the glorification of heroes, their organicism. But she adds a grim touch in her adulation of tragic heroes, whose fates bring us intense pleasure, not pain. S-M anyone? (For a related blog, see https://clarespark.com/2015/05/30/constructing-the-moderate-men-with-the-classics/.)

**My friend Norman Levitt was a democratic socialist, and might have been transposing his desire for a rupture between capitalism and what he thought would be a better society back into the seventeenth century.

May 30, 2015

Constructing the moderate men with the classics

authors_rectThis blog is about tranquilizing our students through indoctrination: a kind of lobotomy of the imagination.

The Wall Street Journal, stomping grounds of the moderate men, features a “counter-cultural” summer reading list for high school kids in its May 30, 2015 edition (page A-13), clearly intended to cool out extremists of every stripe. Meet the author here: http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2004/09/01/textbooks-where-curriculum-meets-child-exclusive-interview-gilbert-t-sewall (preceded last week by Peggy Noonan’s http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-trigger-happy-generation-1432245600).

Sewall advertises himself as a (sort of) conservative who opposes the radicalism of “multiculturalism” and “diversity”, going back to the “classics” with a small dollop of works likely to instill pride in (tempered) American individualism.

I suspect that Sewall’s agenda fits in all too snugly with earlier “moderates” whose project was to tame autodidacts, i.e., the barbarian hordes likely, through empiricism, science, and technology, to overthrow traditional elites. I have written about their efforts before on this website:

https://clarespark.com/2010/06/15/the-classics-as-antidote-to-science-education/,  https://clarespark.com/2009/09/23/progressives-and-the-teaching-of-american-literature/, and https://clarespark.com/2010/06/19/committee-for-economic-development-and-its-sociologists/.

Who are the enemy to the moderate men? Nietzsche, in his inimitable fashion, points the way in his first book (The Birth of Tragedy):

[Nietzsche:] Nothing can be more terrible than a barbaric slave class that has learned to view its existence as an injustice and preparing to avenge not only its own wrongs but those of all previous generations. Under such conditions, who would dare appeal confidently to our weary and etiolated religions, which have long since become “Brahmin” religions?” Myth, the prerequisite of all religion, has been paralyzed everywhere, and theology has been invaded by that optimistic spirit which I have just stigmatized as the baneful virus of society. [Compare to my next blog that quotes FN on “the Jews”: https://clarespark.com/2015/05/31/nietzsche-on-the-jews-and-non-aryan-christians/%5D

Spiritualized Nietzsche imagined by Juan Pablo Hern

Spiritualized Nietzsche imagined by Juan Pablo Hern

[Clare, cont.] So it is not surprising to see Voltaire’s Candide (with its counter Enlightenment-optimism message) on Sewall’s reading list.

What is missing from all these paeans to the classics? To be sure, they may be wonderful to read, but the biographies and sociopolitical commitments of the authors are all missing. Hence we can revel in the images and eloquence of the authors, but we have no idea of the deeper meanings of the texts, nor how incompatible social movements have appropriated them to twist their meanings.

That is the problem with the all of the humanities as taught today by either multicultural leftists or by the organic conservatives who called themselves “moderates” and have explicitly sought to enhance “social cohesion,” political stability, as achieved through the golden mean. (On the intentions of the New Critics see https://clarespark.com/2009/11/22/on-literariness-and-the-ethical-state/.)

Without rigorous training in history, political theory, and economics, youngsters of college age are left without a beacon to light their way through these classic texts, however meritorious and appealing they may be as high cultural artifacts.

And even more likely, the poor preparation for reading anything at all with even a shallow understanding in our dumbed down, pseudo-civilization, suggests that a humanities education at any age is a waste of time and money.

keep-calm-and-study-humanities-13

May 3, 2012

Index to blogs on education reform

ad for Spinoza toy

This series of blogs not only reviews  recent work on the reform of our education system, but points out disagreements in what is wrongly considered to be a unified establishment. Some of the blogs also insist upon the materialist epistemology of the Constitution. Culture warriors take note!

https://clarespark.com/2010/09/22/links-to-arne-duncan-blogs/

https://clarespark.com/2009/10/01/perfectly-progressive-parenthood/

https://clarespark.com/2009/09/06/the-hebraic-american-landscape-sublime-or-despotic/

https://clarespark.com/2010/01/02/jottings-on-the-culture-wars-both-sides-are-wrong/

https://clarespark.com/2010/06/15/the-classics-as-antidote-to-science-education/

https://clarespark.com/2011/08/03/jobs-program-for-education-reformers-or-the-new-prometheus/

https://clarespark.com/2012/01/21/the-persistence-of-white-racism/

https://clarespark.com/2011/08/31/review-steven-brills-class-warfare/ (Read this one first)

https://clarespark.com/2011/05/12/the-great-common-goes-to-the-white-house/

https://clarespark.com/2011/05/16/questions-for-education-reformers/

https://clarespark.com/2011/06/23/the-u-s-history-establishment-divided-and-failing/ (my correspondence with Ravitch, contrasting Ravitch with Gary Nash)

https://clarespark.com/2011/05/28/who-is-a-racist-now-2/ (retitled Diane Ravitch and the higher moderation)

https://clarespark.com/2011/07/17/literary-criticism-ravitch-variant/.

https://clarespark.com/2011/10/09/vox-populi-vox-big-brother/ (A review of Terry M. Moe’s new book)

https://clarespark.com/2012/01/28/popular-sovereignty-on-the-ropes/.

https://clarespark.com/2012/03/22/3760/ (On the great dumbing down)

https://clarespark.com/2012/01/15/prometheus-bound-but-good/

https://clarespark.com/2012/09/19/bullies/

https://clarespark.com/2012/11/09/race-and-the-problem-of-inclusion/

https://clarespark.com/2013/01/05/american-fascism-and-the-future-of-english-and-american-literature/ (On Common Core curriculum)

https://clarespark.com/2013/02/27/american-exceptionalism-retold/

https://clarespark.com/2011/01/26/obama-and-the-rhetoric-of-the-political-family/

https://clarespark.com/2014/02/01/harvard-ed-school-leads-in-vaguely-dumbing-down/

https://clarespark.com/2015/07/09/harvards-advocacy-of-simplicity-as-remedy-for-failing-schools/

https://clarespark.com/2015/07/14/depraved-indifference-to-education-reform/

Arne Duncan and Obama at play

July 6, 2016

James Comey: the best (moderate) man

moderation-veranstaltungen-604x442In all the wrathful outpourings from politicians, pundits, and ordinary people since FBI Director James Comey’s announcement yesterday July 5, 2016 (declining to prosecute Hillary Clinton) no one, to my knowledge, has noted that “moderation” is the quality most admired by advocates of the “neutral state,” conflict-resolution/peace studies, and other pacifiers who keep our all-too-independent polity on the “strait” and “narrow” (quoting Matthew 7.14 in the New Testament, King James version).

Here is a partial list of prior blogs on the barely concealed violence in the discourses of “moderation.”

https://clarespark.com/2011/12/10/before-saul-alinsky-rules-for-democratic-politicians/, https://clarespark.com/2015/04/07/who-are-the-moderate-men/, https://clarespark.com/2010/06/15/the-classics-as-antidote-to-science-education/, https://clarespark.com/2009/09/15/making-mobs-with-bad-words-and-concepts/.

But there is more to say about the indignant responses to Director Comey’s apparent exoneration of Hillary Clinton. Lawyers, trained to be rational (when it suits them), can’t dissect the term “moderate” because lawyers are supposed to be disinterested parties to “the rule of law”—a notion that has been constantly reiterated since yesterday’s “bombshell” announcement.

It is not too difficult to demonstrate that it is scattered Independents and Constitutional conservatives who respect the advanced notion that there is one set of rules for rich and poor alike, but all that changed with the Progressive movement (and perhaps before “the living Constitution” became the battle cry for the compassionate elect.

AWOL Trends

AWOL Trends

Historians agree that we live in an age of irrationalism, oblivious to “traditional” notions of law and order. How to account for Hillary’s devoted following among women and young people? Although conservatives have been vocal in denouncing the “hyper-sexualization” of our post-feminist culture, such glorification of perpetual adolescence aided and abetted by malicious mischief in the mass media, I haven’t heard anyone attribute Hillary’s following to the widespread desire for conflict-free sex with as many partners as feasible, and without the possible consequences of pregnancy and child-rearing.

Indeed, for many intellectuals, Hillary is the “moderate” alternative to Dastardly Donald—the “extremist” who (secretly) hates the “man on the street.”

Moderation2

April 7, 2015

Who are the moderate men?

hd wallpapers

hd wallpapers

[Update 1-31-17: briefly, the moderate men are bent upon resolving conflicts, no matter how irreconcilable others find them. This search for “stability” trumps the search for truth every time.]

My last blog (a lubricious ad from the Wall Street Journal) may have aroused confusion. Although I wrote a long essay/blog on the moderate men years ago, I should summarize why I find them repellent, even though I consider myself “moderate” in many ways, as eager to resolve conflict as the best of them. Whereas the moderate men I spurn are not concerned with finding truth (no matter how tortuous the trail).

1.Calling oneself the “moderate” alternative to “extremism” on either Left or Right is a strategy devised by psychological warriors in social psychology that was exposed as sykewar by Ellis Freeman in 1940, in his chapter “Beating the Dead Horse,” in Conquering the Man in the Street (see favorable abstract here: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ellis-freeman/conquering-the-man-in-the-street/).Freeman explained that everyone is for “moderation”; but the term needs to be analyzed as a strategy in precise context, without necessarily implying that everyone who is “immoderate” is nuts.

2.Social psychologists allied to FDR and the New Deal (progressives) used to call themselves “moderate conservatives” (just like FDR, the conservative reformer, who viewed his Depression measures as averting red revolution), but using today’s argot, they should be seen as left-liberals or social democrats, or even populists. For they believe that such problems as “income inequality” can be solved through measures imposed by a strong, paternalistic state. I see them as pre-fascists, but not fascists, at least not yet.

beanforest etsy.com

beanforest etsy.com

3.The moderate men at the WSJ or Fox News aim to get eyeballs, whether on the left or on the right. They also believe fervently that the state is neutral and that all conflicts, no matter how structural in nature, can be arbitrated or mediated with a skillful “moderate” at the helm, capable of manipulating the “crazies” at the extremes. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, who advertises himself as an “independent” comes to mind.

4.Another favored moderate term is “balance” as in “fair and balanced.” I wrote about the moderate men and “balance” here https://clarespark.com/2010/11/06/moderate-men-falling-down/, and here: https://clarespark.com/2010/06/15/the-classics-as-antidote-to-science-education/, and here: https://clarespark.com/2010/02/10/a-brooding-meditation-on-intimacy-and-distance/ (retitled, “Balance, equilibrium, and psychological warfare”).

Yesterday’s advertisement from a WSJ insert (https://clarespark.com/2015/04/06/the-moderate-men-endorse-spoiled-brats-in-readers/) was meant to convey that “moderation” is usually exercised upon behalf of an elite, who can have anything they want from life. More FDR again, and Franklin Roosevelt was misportrayed by his social psychologists (the ones whose views are reflected today on PBS and network television alike) as the polar opposite from such super-villains as Hitler: the good father sharply contrasted with the bad father.

FDR in top  hat: NBC News

FDR in top hat: NBC News

June 1, 2014

The Hunger Games trilogy: reactionary and postmodern

Catching_Fire_Katniss_Everdeen_WallpaperI am going to try not to have any spoilers in this blog, so will be more general in my critique than usual.

I have now read all three volumes of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, at the request of my daughter Jenny who studied with Jacques Derrida and Samuel Weber, champion promoters of postmodernism. It was she who made the connection between the film version of The Hunger Games and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, especially in its posing of the question “Real or Fake?”

Before this latest read, I had thought primarily of the anticapitalist, antimodern aspect of postmodernism: its emphasis on indeterminacy/uncertainty, the fallibility of the human senses, its critique of science as a bourgeois plot to snare the unwary mass man and woman (misappropriating Thomas Kuhn), but above all its assault on the ordinary, overly credulous reader of “texts.” And for the “pomo” everything is a text to be “deconstructed” for the purpose of revealing the silences of official language, the relevant clues pushed to the margins or entirely submerged. I find postmodern theory useful in many cases; see https://clarespark.com/2013/09/08/postmodernism-cultural-pluralism-and-the-will-to-power/–retitled “Reading between the lines.” Also https://clarespark.com/2014/08/07/modernity-versus-modernism/.

Postmodernists believe they are enablers of the voices that have been submerged by official inhuman modern cultures—worshippers of consumerism and nature-killing technology. Hence their primitivism, celebration of the archaic and/or tradition (potlatches!), including the empirical wisdom of hunting societies, but also peasant cunning and use of herbal remedies for injuries and disease, and above all the celebration of Greek popular culture as I laid out here: https://clarespark.com/2010/06/15/the-classics-as-antidote-to-science-education/.

Especially read this paragraph:”Think of the good king, the paternalistic welfare state, the touching loyalty of its servants, fatalism, magic, the intervention of wise god figures in daily life (grey-eyed Athena or a wise Latina), superheroes, shape-changing creatures, gorgeous tall women and men, the glitter of gold and silver along with artisanal triumphs designed for the aristocracy, the increasing blending of gymnastics with dance, but most of all, the aestheticization of violence that Walter Benjamin described as the culture of fascism and Nazism in his famous defense of modern mass media “The Work of Art in the Era of Mechanical Reproduction.” Writing at the same time as Freeman and Crossman, Benjamin declared that such artists as Marinetti had glorified war to the point where humanity was contemplating its own destruction as an aesthetic experience. What would Benjamin have said about the humanizing beauty of Odysseus’s slaughter of the suitors and the female slaves who had slept with them?– A slaughter that left the poet in awe of the “lion” figure of Odysseus, covered as he was with the blood and gore of his enemies.”

Has not Suzanne Collins aestheticized violence in her trilogy? And why do so many of our young people live without hope, expecting to die young?

During the second wave of feminism, there was a strong tendency on behalf of matriarchy and Amazon- or Goddess worship: the long-dead and discredited Bachofen was de rigueur in some circles. The left feminists thought that goddesses were bogus and reactionary, but to the extent that the audience for The Hunger Games is “feminist,” it is the goddess-worshipping counter-cultural tendency that has prevailed.

Suzanne Collins, a Roman Catholic and an admirer of Greek antiquity, the daughter of an officer in the Viet Nam war, probably set out to write a dystopian novel attacking war, income inequality, and modern mind-control, in the spirit of Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four. But she has instead arguably added to modern paranoia, and undermined the confidence of the ordinary people she ostensibly wishes to protect, like the Übermenschen (Gale, Peeta, and Katniss), oddly (given the multicultural times we live in), all white people of apparently Northern European extraction. (And who are the agricultural workers in District 11, obviously all black people, like Katniss’s pet “Rue”?)

By naming the President of the rebels “Coin,” Collins takes her place among petit-bourgeois populists of the past.

Prometheus, once the friend of humanity, is vanquished, along with world-destroying and Nazified industrial capitalism: Oh so “Green” Katniss Everdeen has taken their places. Has anyone noticed that the novels and movies are culture war events that deserve our close attention, especially as its target audience won’t know how to read its sub-text? For more on reactionary nostalgia see https://clarespark.com/2014/05/03/elie-kedouries-nationalism-am-i-stumped/ (retitled “The Good Old Days”).

The author in her favorite color

The author in her favorite color

May 25, 2014

Links to blogs on mass murder/pop culture

Draper: Ulysses and the Sirens (1909)

Draper: Ulysses and the Sirens (1909)

(Image from populist website: painting by Herbert James Draper (1909) attacks “vampire bankers” who send Sirens to destroy Ulysses—an image of The People beset by finance capital. By using this painting, I am not endorsing populist demagoguery. See comments below.)

https://clarespark.com/2010/06/15/the-classics-as-antidote-to-science-education/ (Ulysses)

https://clarespark.com/2010/08/15/nazis-exhibit-der-ewige-jude-1937/ (“Christian” love as antidote to “Jewish” hate)

https://clarespark.com/2011/01/15/healing-trauma-mystery/ (Jared Lee Loughner)

https://clarespark.com/2012/07/24/the-cracked-and-cracking-loner-as-mass-murderer/ (James Eagan Holmes)

https://clarespark.com/2012/12/15/sandy-hook-massacre-and-the-problem-of-evil/ (Adam Lanza)

https://clarespark.com/2013/08/22/how-i-spent-my-summer-vacation/ (retitled “The Godfather….)

https://clarespark.com/2013/03/10/what-remains-useful-about-freud/

https://clarespark.com/2014/03/02/roy-porter-and-the-anti-psychiatry-movement/ (How the punkish Foucauldians discourage mental health interventions.)

Elliot Rodger

Elliot Rodger

April 29, 2012

Fred Siegel’s melodrama of 20th C. cultural history

Fred Siegel of Manhattan Institute

The April 2012 issue of Commentary features an article by Fred Siegel, http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/how-highbrows-killed-culture/#.T5mYHo0AEuZ.facebook. (See his mini-bio here: http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/siegel.htm). The essay is illustrated with a picture of Sir Lawrence Olivier as the diabolical King Richard III.* Originally a lecture delivered to the American Enterprise Institute, the essay has been featured on Facebook, and is highly recommended by John Podhoretz and Richard Miniter.

The chief villains in Siegel’s piece are a motley crew of intellectuals who ostensibly spurned “mass culture” and “mass man”: Nietzsche, the Frankfurt School critical theorists (he mentions Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marcuse), Ortega y Gasset, Dwight MacDonald, Aldous Huxley, H. L. Mencken, the disillusioned authors of the 1920s (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Waldo Frank, Sherwood Anderson). Siegel’s positive models are few, but include Robert M. Hutchins, T.S. Eliot, and apparently himself, as one who would rescue “middlebrow” taste and  “American” culture from its hatchet men. Presumably this rectified “mass culture” is the best defense against leftist and liberal statism and elitism. (Using the word “rectified” was a Marcel Duchamp joke, readers.)

Siegel, seizing the populist moment, perhaps, wants to rehabilitate the middle class and its cultural preferences away from European-friendly snobs, Western Marxists (i.e., the Frankfurters), Trotskyists, and New Leftists too. How he manages to upgrade organic conservatives such as Hutchins and Eliot to his camp is a mystery, for Hutchins was a leader in the semi-public move toward elite rule, relying for instance on Plato, no friend to the masses. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/06/19/committee-for-economic-development-and-its-sociologists/, https://clarespark.com/2010/06/15/the-classics-as-antidote-to-science-education/ .  Hutchins and his cohort of “moderate men” were frank and public manipulators of the masses Siegel says he wants to protect, while Eliot abhorred “free thinking Jews” (1933) as well as the decadence they brought to the modern world, e.g. “damp souls of housemaids” in his “Morning at the Window” (1920).

I have been thinking how to transmit my horror upon reading this type of “cultural” history. There have been other such essays and books purporting to give the reader a cultural or intellectual history of the 20th century, similarly detached from politics, economics, social movements, divergent ideological/class tendencies, and the ongoing controversies over the causes of wars and mass death. For these “culturalist” authors, “ideas” or “philosophy” are the very engines of history, and anyone who protests such a narrow view is ipso facto a “historical materialist,” i.e., a communist or fellow traveler: I am not one of this dragon crew.

There is simply no way to describe “culture” in a vacuum. It is the same problem that I have found in other culture war manifestoes. The organic conservatives (like the apparently “moderate” Siegel) ignore all of history since the invention of the printing press. (For a summary of elite moves against autodidacts see https://clarespark.com/2011/03/11/review-excerpts-re-hunting-captain-ahab/, especially the “letter to the editor” that explains why non-literary critics should read my book.) Without examining constant offensives against the newly literate and numerate, there can be no “cultural history.” That would entail, pace Siegel, a grander sweep than he has attempted. Since the Reformation, elites threatened with displacement have drenched ordinary people with counter-revolutionary, irrationalist propaganda, whether this takes place in the realm of language, or ongoing debates about human nature, or the Promethean impulse (always a bad thing for fact-hoarding elites), or what is or is not fascism.

To summarize, readers and other consumers of “culture” want to know (or should want to know) what they are experiencing. They (should) want to know who made this or that artifact (including her or his biography), who paid for it, what it is saying about past and present conflict (for instance, the range of permissible emotions, disobedience to authority or the role of Church and State in everyday life). Whereas organic conservatives are interested in none of the above. They value social cohesion/stability over the search for truth, and trot out their celebrities or institutions du jour to guide the autodidact away from the abyss they most fear:  rupture with the past—a past that is irrationalist to its very core, that makes objective reality a phantasm pursued only by monomaniacs.

Fred Siegel wants to be a friend to mass man, and to the middle class consumer of masscult. Yet he does not respect the very tools that ordinary people have developed, against the wishes of their betters, critical tools such as science and empiricism that point the way to understanding past and present.

*Siegel actually praises the large audience for the television presentation of Richard III, as part of his defense of 1950s popular culture, but the deployment of Richard III’s face by Commentary suggests a group assassination to me. And where oh where is John Milton and Paradise Lost? It was once the case that Shakespeare and Milton were paired as the leading voices in English poetry, but Milton, the puritan whose “Satan” “traced the ways of highest agents,”  and, with Eve, purveyor of the Fortunate Fall, is nowhere to be found in the new dispensation.

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