The Clare Spark Blog

May 5, 2012

Unity and utopia: the case of David Horowitz

Akiva Gottlieb

( See a review of DH’s latest book Radicals here: https://clarespark.com/2012/09/22/materialist-history-and-the-idea-of-progress/.)

Tablet magazine, an online periodical dedicated vaguely to “a new read on Jewish life,” hired a liberal  journalist  Akiva Gottlieb, to “profile” David Horowitz, who famously switched his politics in the early 1990s, after a decade of relative silence and depression. You can find Tablet’s heartfelt hatchet job here, with a cartoon that declares its willingness to deploy Satanic, possibly antisemitic,* images against its opponents: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/98401/david-horowitz.  I am beginning this blog with a reference to David H. because 1. it is my view that no young writer (such as Gottlieb) can comprehend the lives of those in my age group, who have lived through the second world war, the Cold War, the civil rights movement, the counter-culture revolt, and the rise of the New Right; not to speak of chronic illness, the loss of energy as we age, the loss of our parents and possibly other family members (or family members with different politics); and 2. I suspect that most people spent their lives in a fruitless search for “unity”.

The premise of the blog is that the search for unity is a fool’s errand, though it is understandable as a [regressive] longing to be reunited with protective, ever nurturing and inexhaustible parents, even to live our lives over again, without errors in judgment or crimes against the truth that divided us from our better angels.

In thousands of Catholic paintings, baby Jesus is lovingly watched over by benevolent protectors, and the Child has no siblings with which to contend. Nor will he ever have to contend with a “blended” family as the child of divorce or other forms of estrangement from the idyll of perfect familial unity. But if the soothing-seething emotions of “the perfectly happy family” color many of our political preferences across the political spectrum, then why do we appear to be nonplussed in the face of factionalized politics and party platforms that are fraught with internal contradictions, here or elsewhere?

Raphael, The Holy Family

Akiva Gottlieb wants to paint David Horowitz as friendless and hopelessly alienated from politics, alienated even from his own magazine. But DH has suffered multiple losses in his life (some but not all noted by Gottlieb), has looked death in the face, and neither political party offers a coherent political vision of past and present, or what social policies would best serve both individuals and the public at large. Indeed, hoping for such an outcome of American history is on the face of it, absurd, as I pointed out in my last blog (https://clarespark.com/2012/05/04/3957/, “Charles Murray Dreaming.”  (Murray’s overall project in his latest book was to reinstate his imagined unified civic culture among white people.)

Moreover, we are in the predictably violent throes of modernization in a globe noted for its uneven development and hostility to the American experiment; America itself is unevenly developed, and the phrase “E pluribus Unum” is a wish, not a fact. To imagine an “international community” is equally delusional. Still, artists make sculptures and paintings that reflect this longing for something more in what they depict as a coldly heartless, handless age of the machine. Like baby Jesus, this sculptor has outstretched hands reaching for succor.

*See Joshua Trachtenberg’s 1943 volume The Devil and the Jews. Even friends of “the Jews” may associate them with modernity and its anomie, predilection for demagogues, narcissism, Jacobin bloodthirstiness, etc. For a comprehensive survey see https://clarespark.com/2010/11/14/the-abcs-of-antisemitism/. For a blog that treats disunity within ourselves, see https://clarespark.com/2010/11/06/moderate-men-falling-down/. For a valuable talk on attachments and how parental stress affects the development of children’s brains see http://tvoparents.tvo.org/video/177892/dr-gabor-mat-parental-stress-and-its-impact-kids.

shoebox sculpture

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

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