The Clare Spark Blog

December 22, 2019

Culture Wars

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:43 pm

For about twenty years I addressed the arts community and others on “The Sour Apple Tree,” an hour program that I performed on KPFK-FM, a Pacifica program from Los Angeles, in which I questioned all arts institutions, especially their politics ). Of course I covered with great interest the controversy over the art works of Robert Mapplethorpe (a gay man who died of AIDS,) and Andres Serrano, the creator of Piss Christ. This blog is about the issues raised in a collection of documents published by Richard Bolton, entitled Culture Wars that cover the uproar over the “obscene” art produced and exhibited during the period from late 1989-1990 (mostly in 1990).

The dispute raised important cultural problems that remain unresolved, which is why I address it today. First, the fight over the changing meanings of “obscenity”(See It mentions Pacifica, which P lost) The sensitive ears of children must be protected!)

Clearly, leftists both reds and social democrats were pitted against conservatives, a situation which persists today in the hotly contested question of the “impeachment” of President Trump.

Generally, l line up with the classical liberals in this matter (the question of censorship of art or more general ideas of morality such as abortion and divorce).

It was to be expected that Mapplethorpe’s homoerotic photographs would raise a rumpus, as the gay rights movement was relatively new; furthermore the AIDS epidemic was raging. But how to explain the Catholic Serrano’s images of Christ on the crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine? (Although Serrano supposedly interrogated his own Catholicism, was Christian America to take this obscene portrayal of God lying down?)

Again, the unresolved “obscenity”matter. Was Serrano guilty of an act of social irresponsibility? Although the fight seemed to about government funding of the arts (and humanities), it was not about that; rather it was about a matter that is currently roiling the nation: I was a government grantee myself.

Will we have a thoroughgoing pluralism or not?

December 16, 2019

Bohemia and the New Left

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:42 pm

I have been reading Richard Miller’s Bohemia: The Protoculture Then and Now (1977). RM. listed as not a scholar, but a journalist (It was not assigned in graduate school, though it does have copious footnotes. RM has read many of the same books as I did, including more than I have done about fascism, often using Nazi/German sources.)

This blog is about my reaction to RM’s thesis, which fits right into the Democratic Party since the New Deal. The book and its claims hit me like a revelation since it identified the pre-conservative Clare when I was a good social democrat, ambiguously in cahoots with the Old Left, though we differ on the sources of fascism (RM imagines that the protoculture of Germany after WWI was presaged by the Wandervogel movement, which he sees as one source of his much-praised contemporary model bohemia, which should move us into “anarchy.”

This is how I read RM: as I have recounted many times, the event of the 1960s, which energized my loyalty to Pacifica listener-sponsored radio, was the New Left emphasis on black liberation/civil rights, emphasized by RM as the claim that all music was black (clearly controversial).

RM imagines that Pacifica-FM radio in Berkeley was an outpost of acceptable bohemian thought. And a model of the tension between technology (the Bomb) and typical counter-culture protest Until the last chapter, I thought that RM was a technophobe for he disses some of Hitler’s projects, (i.e., the Volkswagen).

In some ways, RM was a typical populist, blaming “romantic Nazism” for elevating “finance capital” for the rise of Hitler. Also, he attributes “compassion” for everything good in the world, just like today’s Democratic Party liberals, while hard-heartedness is a quality of the hated conservatives.

I have not mentioned RM’s taste for gore, dwelling on the horrors of war in World War I, easily transferred to his case against US involvement in the Vietnam conflict. RM’s environmentalism is possibly located here, rather than being a proto- Green.

Finally, RM is a Francophile, locating his type of proto-cultural bohemian in the early 19th C. among the Parisian artists and poets, and reflected in his detailed discussion of the Commune (a common favorite of the Left, seen as precursor to full-blown Communism).

December 10, 2019

Richard Hofstadter on Social Darwinism in American Thought, 1865-1915 (1944)

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 8:20 pm

/ Read this Wiki bio first. As Wiki describes, though RH started out as a Red, he soon switched to social democracy. His negative opinion of Darwin was rejected by later Red graduate students at UCLA: I don’t know why (see below), especially as RH rejected materialism and the abuse of science here.

Indeed, RH wrote this early book in the tradition of Charles Beard (see, and other confusing Progressives, and yet was an inspiration to later Red historians and the New Left generation who similarly denounced racism, imperialism, expansionism, and the Industrial Revolution that exploited immigrants. And like the Progs, RH embraced pragmatism (Peirce, William James, and John Dewey). 

I suppose that Darwin became fashionable during the climate change offensive, though his views on marriage were retrograde. (See

If I became a sort-of conservative, it was no thanks to my graduate training at UCLA.

December 2, 2019

Four books on Hitler and the Rise of Nazism.

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 3:03 pm

The four books are Nazi Culture by George L. Mosse (1960, 1981), The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William L. Shirer (1960), Der Fuehrer by Konrad Heiden (1944). and by Georgi Dimitroff The United Front: the Struggle Against Fascism and War (1938). [Guess which one parroted the Russian Soviet line and was discarded by my Stalinist dissertation advisor, Alexander Saxton!] I have listed them in the order read (not by date of publication).

The Heiden book was my favorite, because I appreciate the amount of detail he brought to Hitler and his friends/enemies, for instance, the emphasis on obedience as opposed to racism. Sadly, his book ended after the hair-raising “Blood Purge” of the S.A. and others of Hitler’s compatriots. Also, unlike Shirer or Dimitroff, he did not blame all industrialists (or finance capital) for financing National Socialism, but specified particular individuals for helping Hitler on his way. Heiden was also unique in distinguishing the peace period (that may account for the support of the U.S., France, and Britain in ’34, when Hitler seemed more benign. He brought an ultra-Freudian analysis to Hitler’s childhood and early adult psyche, while Heiden’s portrait does not entirely jibe with the later Hitler’s amazing persona.

I don’t remember other than the popular Wisconsin professor George L. Mosse making an issue of “race,” although everyone (except the Stalinist) discussed the Aryan myth. Of course, all these histories noted the persecution of the Jews except for Dimitroff who was more interested in class struggle (bourgeoisie vs. the working class) directed against both Communists and acceptable social democrats (anti-pluralists).

October 12, 2019

The F word

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 5:42 pm
Satyr and Goat

The F word I don’t mean the common word for sexual intercourse that I used to spell “phuque” out of a surfeit of gentility unlike the constant use of that word in a bewildering variety of contexts, perhaps giving witness to the coarsening of our culture.

Rather, the f word refers to “fascism,” which is bandied about without thought to precision. I have asked if we are there yet, given the current direction of the Democrat Party. Although numerous pundits on the Left (including social democrats) used to label free market advocates with that insulting moniker in the 1930s; the accusation continues today in Democrat punditry and common usage alike.

I do not pretend to be a specialist in European history but am somewhat obsessed on the “fascism” word, partly because I lived through the beginning of World War II as a child. I have read a lot about the F word, and know that there is no generic term for “fascism.” Scholars take care to distinguish between Hitler-style fascism; Corporate State fascism (see the 1960s New Left term for capitalism (ever repressive to the working class); Mussolini-style fascism (some see the syndicalist type of fascism in Italy); or precursors such as the Action Francaise. Then Franco-style repression in Spain, aided by Germany and Italy.

I have objected in the past to the twinning of communism and fascism. That was a no-no to the Left (of which I was once a part) but Ludwig von Mises noted in his book Socialism that fascism in Germany entailed price controls, defying the free market laws of supply and demand. Taking a similar tack, Ernst Nolte in Three Faces of Fascism describes Marxism as the indispensable precursor of fascism (for which, I believe, Nolte has taken a lot of abuse from the Left in the “Historian’s Debate” in Germany,1986).

And although I generally line up with Trump-supporters, I hold fast to doing history: which means that racism, sexism, antisemitism, and imperialism are part of our US history. Despite their sharp differences, German and Italian fascisms were both racist, sexist, antisemitic, and imperialistic. Of course, few would deny that. But George Orwell objected to its promiscuous usage in Tribune, (1944) writing to accord “fascism” only to Germany and Italy:, quoting George Orwell: “the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else … Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathisers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist” That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.”

August 13, 2019

Melodrama, Jeffrey Epstein, and “The Loudest Voice” Finale

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 5:58 pm
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This blog is about my conviction that, despite the plethora of conspiracy theories swirling about the death of Jeffrey Epstein, it is all too plausible that sheer incompetence could have accounted for his death by suicide. I am that disgusted with my media contemporaries who have excelled in technology, but abandoned to melodrama the masses of ordinary people whom they ostensibly serve.  

Turn now to the final segment in the Roger Ailes/Trump saga on 8-11-19, The Loudest Voice, which represented the triumph of victim Gretchen Carlson (played by Naomi Watts) in the downfall of the villainous power behind Fox News Channel (Ailes. played by Russell Crowe), which supposedly was the final nail in the coffin condemning its unethical, sexual harassing Roger Ailes to irrelevance and death. Few would deny that “fair and balanced” Fox is “moderate,” yet this cable news channel (Fox) was supposed to be a vehicle for Trump/Hitler by Showtime.

The Showtime miniseries received mostly bad reviews; some were horrified by the monstrous Ailes, but no one of the major entertainment publications mentioned the Ailes/Fox link to Hitler or the Klan. Nor did the “paranoia”-inducing Fox as represented by Showtime mention its heavy Democratic presence as the balancing part of its “moderate” self-presentation.

Princeton professor and Christian ethicist Robert P. George appeared on Fox News Channel 8-12-19 to lament the loss of a vital civic culture, one I assume with a respect for facts and morality. The widely respected Professor Robert P. George is a moderate Democrat, though he harbors Christian conservative views which rhyme with the ethos of FNC. Surely, part of morality is presenting facts. We supposedly live in a Christian culture, which is devoted to self-improvement, civilization, and science. Yet we adhere to heroes, villains and victims, as if these outmoded categories had real-world corollaries. I suppose that heroes refer to the “objectively” neutral world of what turns out to be outright “liberal” propaganda.

To some knowable extent, women collaborate in their “victimization.” When will we grow up?

August 8, 2019

“Mental Health” as Ideology

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 8:00 pm
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Freedom by hnde

“Mental health” and gun control are the mottoes of the hour as different media try to come to terms with the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings. This blog will try to express one historian’s (my) view of “mental health.” A warning to the reader: I am a Romantic who still believes in individualism, but not a follower of R. D. Laing nor of Ken Kesey. (See 1. What is the size of the much contested character of “mental health?” To me, it is a popular term that denotes a world-view, a Weltanschauung that can be translated as ideology. To partisan “moderate” Democrats like Joe Biden, the President is identical to a Klansman, a would-be Hitler. But to “non-partisan” psychiatrists, a worldview is a perspective that should not be judged while in treatment. But who is non-partisan in a polarized society? And who can afford therapy with a thoroughly trained psychiatrist? Anyway, the “talking cure” is so over; “therapy” now is controlled by behaviorism, which treats individuals as if they are objects (to be acted upon by the environment, including rewards and punishment). See


2. A lack of connectedness to persons in favor of modern machines (along with responses to bullying (Trump again!), the internet or “violent” videogames are often blamed for mayhem. but no studies are quoted. I have opined on the subject, see Definitely off-limits are relationships within the family or anything that deviates from the norm. We make choices, and some of these are very bad, even lethal.

3. Of course, the President has chosen violent rhetoric, which supposedly  inspires violence in others. Frankly, I don’t mind the rhetoric. Are words bullets?  asked “Kennedy” on FNC, yesterday.

4. I wrote to a more liberal friend of mine from my college class, a psychiatrist of some prominence, who agrees that “mental health” is ideological, but who went on to responded (in part): “…The El Paso shooter’s choice of methods to support white supremacy and punish people of color is an indication he should not be considered mentally healthy but he is not necessarily mentally ill. None of the white supremacist ilk should be considered mentally healthy. Returning to the El Paso shooter, his brain enabled him to carry out the massacre. That he chose that method to make a statement is the evidence for the lack of health. I do not see him as that different from those who support access to assault weapons and 100 bullet magazines for the general public. They are on a continuum with the shooter.

“A more interesting question is the mental health of a society. Ours shows impaired mental health compared to some of the Nordic countries who have evolved a more just social system A large proportion of the mass murder problem in the US is not related to the mental illness/mental health issue. Much suicide and murder by guns, the overwhelming means for harming self and others, is related to mental illness and abnormal brain function. It is diagnosable and treatable. …”

July 30, 2019

The Loudest Voice: social democratic or communistic?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 4:21 pm

This blog argues that The Loudest Voice on Showtime is a predictable showdown between anti-Trump New Left liberals or even Never-Trumpers vs. conservatives who watch Fox News Channel. It took me a while to see this.

The Loudest Voice with its emphasis on private property is better seen as communist propaganda, meant to take down capitalism. The series, starring Russell Crowe as the contemptible Roger Ailes, might be seen otherwise as social democracy by casual non-historians, for it contains the usual liberal talking points: white male supremacy, upward mobility, hypocrisy, and paternalism, even “Roger Ailes”/Trump as Hitler  

It was historian Richard Hofstadter who emphasized private property as the linchpin of capitalism and the series highlights property rights (as say, in anti-“democratic” zoning laws). Property is way more important than, say, blow jobs, suggestive fondling, marital infidelity, autocratic behavior, or the other sins imputed to (Catholic) Roger Ailes.

I have watched four episodes so far; when is Showtime going to treat Fox News Channel as “fair and balanced”—the “moderate” cable channel, paired with the equally “moderate” Wall Street Journal ?

As it stands so far, the series, emphasizing private property is vintage anti-American and communistic, not social democratic.

July 19, 2019

Is “America” racist?

Is “America” racist? I have already written about “the Squad” and their mistaken women of color meme, here:

Since the liberal media won’t let go of “the Squad’s” antics, another blog is merited; this one is about their claim that “America” is racist. But is “America” racist? “America” is a collectivist category; we do better to emphasize individuals.

What is “racism”? The belief that  mental, and moral characteristics are inherited and confer mental or moral superiority. Physical characters are indeed inherited, but mental and moral characteristics are not.

Upon reflection, In our history men did indeed remove and kill Indians, fight Mexicans for the Southwest, and exclude and exploit Chinese and other workers, inter Japanese during WWII, enslave blacks….but that was in the past.

 Antisemitism (a separate category from racism) was fierce after WWI and WWI and is still present in many persons, some unconsciously. But that does not mean that racism is utterly vanquished;  that does not mean that ”America” is racist, though some persons clearly are. Jews are definitely not a race.

The accusation that “America” is racist (and ecocidal), is part of the hard Left’s repertoire, and now, it appears that moderates and social democrats are picking it up. Just read the Wall Street Journal and watch Fox News Channel. 

Again, I ask, are we fascists yet?

July 15, 2019

The “women of color” meme is bogus

The “Women of Color” meme is ungrounded in historical reality. Even Fox News conservative guests like savvy Buck Sexton, while criticizing “The Squad,” have failed to identify what is confusing or incorrect about the “women of color” meme (or perhaps their minds are on more pressing issues). No wonder, for that meme is leftover from the all-encompassing 1960s civil rights movement that a few conservatives still oppose. or misunderstand.

  One cannot simply blend “the Yellow peril” (Chinese), Reds (the dissimilar but  often lumped together Indian tribes), Blacks, recent immigrants from Central America (“Mexicans” or Africans), all Latinos and women, yet moderates like Heather Mac Donald, deny the basic facts of American and/or World history.

Enter “multiculturalism,” that ostensibly exists to eradicate “discrimination” based on “race” or gender, while erasing individual difference in favor of collective discourses. The same goes for “people(s).” Take ex-slave Blacks, originating in West Africa during the age of expansion. Yet “multiculturalism” (a holdover from German Romanticism), designates “African-American” as if Africa, a huge continent, is a single society (which hides the history of Muslim enslavement of other black Africans.)

The German theologian J.G. von Herder, whose collectivist followers or inspirations included Kant (a comtemporary) and Fichte (a follower), is considered to be the founder of “cultural history” are legion (including postmodernists), got the ball rolling in the late 18th century. There was a Herder revival in The Third Reich (1933-1945), which is damning enough, but leave the question of Western “fascism” aside for now. What is the matter with Herder and postmodernists? Like other collectivists, they omit individual difference, thus all blacks are supposed to share the same personalities and interests, enabling multiculturalists to claim that there is no difficulty in lumping them together. Clearly, “the pomos” are not figures of the Left, for class difference is also eliminated.

No matter how corporatist liberals appeal to “white supremacy,” their protestations fall onto (my) deaf ears. You don’t have to a Marxist to smell rats.

What about the other “colors”? “Asian-Americans” are not a category at all. Chinese are not Japanese or Vietnamese or Indonesians, though Chinese workers were a threat to  working-class “whites” as did foreign labor in general in the 19th Century. Labor competition is invisible to most liberals.

But to conflate Indian “removal” or near-extermination with slavery or immigration is also ridiculous. What about Mexicans or other (often part-Indian and un-removed) “Latinos” who are part of the debate over open borders vs. current laws? We may look to current cultural nationalist tendencies since Mexico lost a substantial amount of land in the 19th C. War with Mexico. I see the current immigration flap as enmeshed in the understandable desire to reverse that victory of “Yankee imperialism” as if William Walker (have you heard of this Southern adventurer?) was from New England.

The case of “women of color” is more complex, since “white women” are considered to be exploiters of the “colored,” as some surely are. But one cannot conflate working-class women with other “whites.” “The Squad” may have a point in this restricted case, but I have not, for personal reasons, investigated that crucial matter.

I do know that I am not a Marxist, having too much regard for individuals and, also, I look askance at actually existing “socialist” movements and countries. Forgive me for belaboring the obvious, but I am a historian.

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