The Clare Spark Blog

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

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October 6, 2013

The wild ones: Brando, Pacino, romantic rebels

Brando_-_The_Wild_OneIn prior blogs, I have tried to understand the appeal of such film masterpieces as The Godfather series. This blog will go beyond what I have written previously.

[Written in late August 2013:] Speaking of angst, on the flight home I watched all of The Godfather  (175 minutes). Like zillions of others, I thought it was a powerful and well-made movie; I have done zero research on it yet, but here are some guesses ahead of my future study. First, it was obviously Coppola’s FU to the Hollywood system. The first villain, though not identified as Jewish, was vulgar (rather like Citizen Kane/Cain). His name was Woltz (sounds German, could be German-Jewish). The corruption of Hollywood stands for a society that is utterly bought and sold by criminal elements: politicians, law enforcement, newspapers, everybody that shapes public opinion or protects us from the bad guys: (more Citizen Kane). The transformation of war hero, Ivy-educated Michael from “civilian” to his father’s successor as head of the family “business” could signify that brutalization of the young that is said by many historians to have followed the Great War. Note that conflicts between gang bosses are always referred to as wars, not disputes between criminals. In the world we see depicted everybody is guilty, except for the women, who are merely hysterical when they are not putting up with spousal abuse or neglect. They are both protected from the world of men, or are contented to be Sicilian breeders and feeders. Finally, I noted the importance of neighborhood, religion, family and ethnicity to Southern Italian immigrants. The Godfather series came out during the height of the social policy transition from an emphasis on class, to an emphasis on the durability of ethnic ties over class ties. The Corleone family has not assimilated, and doesn’t care. They hew to the colorful ways of 19th and 20th century urban ethnics with their scofflaw patronage systems, or in the case of the Corleones, Sicilian peasants and the patriarchal system. In comes localism, radical historicism, and multiculturalism. In other mass media offerings, the demonic is celebrated, in dangerous neo-Romantic fashion, see https://clarespark.com/2013/03/30/philip-roth-the-following-and-identification-with-the-aggressor/.

[This was a sentence from Hunting Captain Ahab (my book on the 1920s Melville revival), quoting a progressive American Rabbi:] Lee Levinger’s “exceptional individual,” the “genius or social discoverer” was linked to the “criminal or social rebel.” Mad and tragic misfits–like stubborn, hypersensitive, primitivistic Jews regressively merged with their “alters” or “other”– refused the “tolerant” “social self.”

In a Facebook comment yesterday, I expressed my discomfort with the Godfather series, arguing that it was typical counter-cultural in its intention and result. A few howls went up, as many view the first two in the series as masterpieces of movie-making. They are surely skillfully made, but I will continue to analyze them as morally suspect, even dangerously so.

First, are they artifacts of the counter-culture (including the Left)? In the days when I was on the radio or in graduate school at UCLA, I met countless leftists, some of considerable fame and reputation. Many of them urged me to prove my bona fides by engaging in some criminal act. One street theater fellow even urged me to steal something from a wealthy art-collector’s home. Another (in academe) attempted to borrow money from me (illegal), or to engage in an action that would help a red buddy to evade taxation. Being a first child, I am very disposed to following the rules, and such approaches were anathema. I always viewed my younger sister as the rebel in the family (which she was), which is typical first child behavior on my part. I was the Apollonian, she was the Dionysian.)

I left the Left because when the chips were down, these supposed freedom fighters did not support me when I was purged as program director by a Stalinist manager (who actually forged a document to “prove” that I had been warned as Pacifica procedures directed), and then the mostly Trotskyists or anti-Stalinist leftists for whom I went out on a limb, neither anticipated my imminent firing (which I did), nor did they go beyond letter-writing to the President of the Pacifica Foundation, a prominent Berkeley radical New Leftist, who ended up upholding “at will” firings–so much for solidarity with the labor movement and its allies. In retrospect, the leftist commitments of my “friends” did not amount to much. They were perhaps primitive rebels, of the type described by communist historian Eric Hobsbawm in one of his shorter books (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_bandit).

Then, after having received the doctorate in history, I was shopping my book ms. around. Verso books solicited the book ms., one of their editors told visiting academics that my book was to be published, but when I refused to drop the chapter on Tory resistance to the rising (crypto-Jewish) Whig bourgeoisie, I was warned to look elsewhere. Again, some prominent Left friends who had been published by Verso, sympathized with my “shabby treatment” but did nothing to defend my interests in getting the book published. Bucknell UP did the same song and dance; I must tone down the politics, or else. It was the Melville descendant, Paul Metcalf, whose close friend was on the board of Kent State UP, who took interest in my work and brought the ms. to the attention of Kent State UP, who not only published it with enthusiasm, but gave me no page limit, allowed extra photos, then entered it into every conceivable book award. These were mostly women younger than I, and exceedingly supportive.

Excuse this digression: the point is that these “leftists” or “counter-culture” types mentioned while I was still on the radio or in grad school, were all talk and no action. I was being the good lefty, encouraging the labor movement, while they were protecting their air time and such power as they imagined they had.

the-godfather-part-ii-poster

Back to the appeal of The Godfather series, or for that matter, of Al Pacino in the remake of Scarface. I have written before about ritual rebellion and the primitivist gesture.  (See https://clarespark.com/2011/05/12/the-great-common-goes-to-the-white-house/, retitled “ Rappers, Primitivism, and Ritual Rebellion”). No one would argue that The Godfather series (especially the first and second installments) are not virtuoso movie-making. Some aesthetes would argue that art and propaganda are not to be intermingled. I cannot agree with that judgment. Every art work is a cultural artifact and is positioned within the larger conflicts of the time.

Who does not want respect? Who does not want the family to be cohesive and protective of each member? How many of us get such respect or loyalty, in the family or out of it? How many of us crave the safety of the imagined family? The museums are chock full of jewelry or weaponry of bygone days, and they attract that infantile part of us that loves glitter, simplicity, and “honor”—no matter how bogus, no matter how far we fall back into a re-imagined early childhood.

Movies will do that to us, whether they serve as catharsis of violent impulses, or identification with heroes or antiheroes. Primitivism is a poor substitute for concerted political action grounded in the universalist ethics embodied in the laws that civilized people make. Enjoy the barbaric yawps if you like, but don’t pretend that they are a substitute for advanced morality. Above all, take note that these gangster sons in the Coppola movies never have to suffer through individuation. They neither “kill” the father, nor forge a separate identity from the Stern Patriarch. That’s where the wild things are.

September 25, 2013

Ted Cruz, Generational conflict, and Remarque

GermanWarPosterWhile Ted Cruz was calling Republicans to arms to overturn Obamacare, I was watching the movie version of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), in its uncut version.  (Ben Urwand insists that Universal pictures caved to German pressure to remove certain incendiary scenes that impugned the older generation for mindless nationalism that slaughtered their young soldiers. I watched the uncut version that attacked the upper class older generation for murdering their unprepared lower class young men, through glorifying sacrifice for the Fatherland, teaching irrelevant subjects in schools, and for inadequate training, food, leadership, hygiene, and medical care while in combat.)

The original uncut movie reminded me of the pacifism that moved the formation of Pacifica Radio immediately after WW2. Such Remarque-like antiwar sentiments lack an analysis of the lead up to wars, but imagine an undifferentiated class of enlisted men, badly led by undifferentiated old and middle-aged men.  Indeed, Remarque himself was born into a Catholic home (his father was a bookbinder, not a politicized worker), then after his recovery from wounds in the war, went on to write numerous novels after his autobiographical first novel (that of course was banned and burned by the (relatively young) Nazis in power. His brazen book was riotously protested before the Nazis were put in power by…old men: the monarchists and conservative nationalists of Germany who hoped to control Hitler and his hotheads in order to destroy communism and the independent working class movement that opposed the Nazis.

Remarque, a handsome fellow, went on to a successful career as an author and affairs with glamorous movie stars. In trying to place him as if he existed later in the 20th century, I would have to locate him in the counter-culture, not in any political faction. In the 1960s, boys like him might have been draft dodgers or protesters against the Viet Nam conflict. But the more politicized would have had a more sophisticated analysis of WW1. For instance, they might have looked to rival imperialisms, or to the failure of the Socialist Parties to oppose the war in 1914, voting for war credits in Germany.  Or if more attuned to the errors of diplomats, they might have come to agree with Niall Ferguson’s The Pity of War.

By the time Remarque wrote his novel, disillusion with the idea of progress pervaded what we now call the Jazz Age. Hemingway had written two antiwar novels (The Sun Also Rises about an aimless generation), then A Farewell to Arms (more overtly antiwar and vaguely autobiographical).  I have found one quote where Remarque prefigured the anti-technology sentiments of the counter culture, arguing for a vague humanism and faith in humanity; he was no nihilist.

paulandyingcomrade

The conflict du jour is over whether or not Ted Cruz is a hothead and ambitious for personal power. I am reminded of a line from the much lauded House of Cards remake, offered by Netflix to its subscribers. This time, a ruthless Southern Democrat, “Francis Underwood” (played by Kevin Spacey), explains to the audience that he isn’t in it for the money but for “power”.  Such is the charge now leveled at Ted Cruz by an older generation that hews to a more bipartisan approach to the management of social policy.

We know much more about this political war than Remarque knew about his war as an eighteen year old Catholic boy.  Given what I have studied about the moderate men—i.e, the older generation in charge today, it is difficult not to call them out for utopianism.  (See https://clarespark.com/2010/11/06/moderate-men-falling-down/.)

finalshot

May 2, 2013

Teen-age sex

Zefirrelli Romeo and Juliet 1968

Zefirrelli Romeo and Juliet 1968

The ruling that the morning-after pill is to be made available over the counter and to girls of only fifteen years of age has caused some conservatives to fret and oppose the move. This blog will surprise some of my readers because I will take a feminist  (?) position on it, and one that is also aware of changes in life expectancy. Some of it will be autobiographical.

Although teen-agers often perform Romeo and Juliet, Franco Zefirrelli’s film of 1968 reminded us of how young the star-crossed lovers were. It is often forgotten that until modern public health measures were taken, and the discovery of the germ theory of disease, plus developments in surgery and antisepsis, the life span of homo sapiens was shockingly short. Even as a teen ager I recall that life expectancy for women was 65, while men could expect to live to 62. In pre-modern times, those who made it past thirty-five were lucky.

Not withstanding our longer life-expectancy today, biology continues to prepare pubescent boys and girls for sexuality and reproduction. A general hyper-sexualization promoted by mass media and modern contraception, plus an unfortunate reading of the feminist movement (aided and abetted by ambitious pseudo-feminists), has resulted in premature experimentation with sexuality in the teen-age population.

When I was in high school in the 1950s, it was not expected that love-making would go much beyond necking and petting. To be pregnant was scandalous, and abortion was confined to back alley butchery. Even in college, girls who indulged the general animal eagerness of college age young men, kept it to themselves, for there were curfews, and the sexes were confined to separate dormitories. Many of my classmates, if they did have premarital sex, married their boyfriends. We didn’t talk about sex much at all. In those days, we might be husband shopping, but we were also intent on our education, then as now, the route to upward mobility, even if that meant marrying an engineer or pre-med or pre-law student, achieving vicariously through our husbands’ accomplishments.

After my divorce in the early 1970s, I met several men of European extraction who confessed that they never any sex whatsoever until they were roughly twenty-one years of age. They were intellectuals of middle-class parentage, and I thought nothing of their late initiation into sex.

As the feminist movement proceeded, along with my immersion in the daring life styles of the counter-culture, I had plenty of opportunity to see how differently men and women experienced the new libertine excess. Women, I concluded, took sex very seriously, and did not expect to be treated like toys, used once and then discarded. Leftist men, however, not unlike some prominent lesbian feminists, were proudly promiscuous and indifferent to the feelings of their “liberated” “community of women” and insisted that it was politically correct to sleep around, and to relate to sex as men did, not as mothers-to-be did, expecting at least serial monogamy and suffering from feelings of abandonment when their sex partners were indifferent or hostile to feminine responses.

There is no rational reason for not teaching middle school children about such matters. They should not only learn about the difference between boys and girls and how they relate to sexuality, but girls should learn to stand up for themselves and not to be doormats for predatory males (and as the comment below reminds us, women can be predatory too). The pressure on girls to conform to male demands is appalling.

Some religious parents may hide like ostriches from these facts of life and pretend that their children will be persuaded by demands for abstinence, and some children probably will conform out of religious commitments and fears. But I think that these parents are deluded at best, and wrong at least. For they are up against the most powerful impulse in the years of  adolescence.

We need a  national conversation on this sensitive matter. Personally, I surprise myself by a renewed interest in separate education for teen age boys and girls. Girls can then focus on their education, and not their clothes, make-up, and sex appeal. The teen age years are dangerous for the emotional and physical health of all children, for they are susceptible to the appeals of forces and social movements that do not have their best interests at heart.

teenage_2135455c

February 13, 2012

Whitney’s spectacular demise

Whitney with snakylocks

I have written many blogs complaining about primitivism, racism, and the decline of American civilization. (see https://clarespark.com/2010/04/08/racism-modernity-modernism/.) I am so disturbed by the mindless media frenzy following Whitney Houston’s not-so-sudden death on Feb.11, 2012, that I am incapable of more than an outline.

1. The main lesson for everyone: don’t mix alcohol with xanax or other sedatives. If you need anti-anxiety drugs, beware of addiction and read the warning label.

2. Her deterioration became a spectacle; where were her friends and physicians?

3. The Grammies celebrate a drug culture common to the music industry and its fans; the latest casualties appear to have died from mixing booze with anti-anxiety drugs. Before that, cocaine was understood to be factored into the cost of hip pop music record production.

4. (On The Grammies) From 1960s-70s light shows to the current sports-inflected pop culture world, there is barely a gap. Only the technology, athleticism, and virtuosity have advanced. The audience remains high and hypnotized by flashing lights and gaudy colors and glitter, including the clothes worn by black and brown performers of both sexes. Barbaric ornament is in, republican simplicity is out and associated with Victorian battle-axes who marched for abolition, then temperance, then urban uplift of fallen women.

5. With respect to culture, the South won the Civil War and later these organic conservatives may  have stopped the civil rights movement cold by its condemnation of [New England] “puritanism,” supposedly the force behind the mechanized slaughter and the materialistic, divisive culture that followed the conflict. The mystical white Left and counter-culture helped out by separating black culture from an integrated American history. They also shook their booties (sp?) and went primitive. 19th century blackface minstrel shows, once considered racist, are now celebrated by some folklorists as populist and satirical.

6. The plundering, vicious, modernizing “North” of the 1860s, in some cases, may return as monsters and vampires in popular films and comics of today.* Universities call for conferences on this mysterious phenomenon, while ignoring the growing public expression of antisemitism. Some cool black entrepreneurs (starting with Spike Lee?) blame Jewish money managers for stealing the money earned by superstars in the music industry.  Part of the Southern patrician legacy is responsible for this complaint, for New England=fanatical abolitionist=puritan killjoy=Sherman’s march through Georgia=predatory Yankee- Jewish commerce/filthy lucre, now famously controlling all of mass media and destroying all “communities.”

7. Whitney Houston will always be good because she sang the national anthem better than anybody, also (Dolly Parton’s) “I Will Always Love You,” attaching unconditional love to objects of dubious worth to herself, i.e. “bad boy” Bobby Brown and her entourage. The blending of the demonic with art-making is an old Romantic tic that should be recognized and condemned.  See https://clarespark.com/2010/11/16/good-jews-bad-jews-and-wandering-jews/. The same with sadomasochism, no longer a symptom to be identified and treated, or, more judgmentally, as a perversion, but an acceptable, even fashionable form of sexuality. Even a cursory examination of this culture will find a fountain of misogyny and hatred of moral mothers–the mothers who replaced male authority in the teaching of religion and other “civilizing” functions after patriarchs left the household for work in offices, factories, etc.

8. I am horrified by those doctors and hangers-on who not only failed to help Whitney Houston, but by those in the tabloids who have profited from her spectacular public deterioration. Equally, I am disappointed by those activists who oppose public health measures or the teaching of human biology/hygiene at the earliest possible age in our schools.

9. [Added 2-14-12] I have not mentioned the cost of celebrity; the loss of  privacy; the pressure to perform in order to support others; the internal pressure not to lose skill and/or fire; the fear of aging; performance anxiety. This goes for opera singers and all public performers who impersonate others. Who was Whitney Houston impersonating? What was her relationship with her singer mother? Did she adhere to the myth of the tragic mulatto? How did she respond to her own motherhood?  Journalists invested in the reproduction of “celebrity” will not ask these very obvious questions, for the answers would shorten the distance between audience and performer, and would raise the troubling issue of race and stardom. [Added 2-17-12: I wrote this blog a week ago. I saw the funeral service. Nowhere in all the media coverage has there been the mention of a strong, nurturing father in her family of origin. Presumably Clive Davis tried to fill that function, but why the silence about her biological father, John Russell Houston, Jr. (d. 2003)? Thanks to my daughter Jennifer Loeb Chocron for pointing this out to me.]

*Monsters and vampires are not limited to the rampaging “North”, but may represent “the return of the repressed,” i.e., images of forbidden rage against authoritarian, abusive/negligent parents or other illegitimate authority.

Recommended reading. Daniel Aaron, The Unwritten War: American Writers and the Civil War (N.Y.: Knopf, 1973). This pathbreaking book in American Studies faulted most American authors as mostly  patricians unable to share in the experience of ordinary soldiers, and who also ignored the centrality of slaves and free blacks in their fiction and poetry.  Those who did best were Melville, Whitman, De Forest, Bierce, Mark Twain, and Faulkner. Highly readable and beautifully written.

January 12, 2012

The Counter-culture vs. “the Establishment”

“America The Nation of Trampled Rights”

[Illustrated: Soviet poster. Tom Nichols translated it for me: “…an anti-imperialist passage written by Mark Twain in 1901 criticizing the Spanish-American war, but the Soviets mangled it slightly. The original goes like this: ‘And as for a flag for the Philippine Province, it is easily managed. We can have a special one–our States do it: we can have just our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones.’ The Soviet poster says: “We can set up a special flag, just the same flag with the white stripes black and the stars replaced by the skull and crossbones. — Mark Twain’  Then at the bottom: AMERICA – THE NATION OF TRAMPLED RIGHTS….”

We are now in full campaign mode, and the media are belching out polls and opinions 24/7. Our political culture is so messed up with respect to labels that it is necessary from time to time to look at the key words that many Americans take for gospel truth, for a meaningful statement of fact. In this blog, I criticize the notion of a [Northeastern] Republican establishment that is held to be the big money behind the Romney candidacy (but see my critique of the New Dealers who indeed were instrumental in politics and social psychology: https://clarespark.com/2015/03/16/who-were-the-precursors-of-the-new-left-the-wasp-establishment-or-communists/).  For “establishment” read “[one faction] of an elite.” For “counter-culture” read the Ron Paul enthusiasts and overlapping leftovers from the 1960s, or even from the coalition between the CPUSA and America First, 1939-41.

The Antifederalists were populists furiously opposed to the output of the Constitutional Convention (1787), but who plays the populist card these days? I have argued here before that populism may have had a startling recrudescence as a grass roots movement of farmers reacting to the Depression of 1893, angry at banks and railroads and railing against the gold standard; however its demands for more direct democracy were co-opted and advanced by a bipartisan progressive movement (as emphasized by Martin Sklar’s big book on the “socially constructed” transition to progressivism). Thus, it can be said, with accuracy, that there is a progressive movement that spans both major political parties, but is mostly unopposed within the Democratic Party (and that in turn often makes common cause with the Leninist Left), and that finds powerful adherents in the Republican Party, especially those espousing “compassionate conservatism.” It is also true that both political parties are internally incoherent, for they are playing to a highly diverse electorate with the same, often irrational or outdated appeals. I hope that the following key words can clear up a bit of the media-bred confusion.

1. Establishment. If classes were akin to geologic strata or rungs in a ladder, and if we had a stable ruling class with the powers of the medieval Catholic Church or the absolutist monarchies that joined King and Church, there might be some basis for the counter-culture dropping out from, or rejecting “the establishment.” But class is not a ladder or a layer of sedimentary rock; equal opportunity does exist under capitalism, and groups that were once exploited in an earlier America (slaves and many workers, including women) now have organized themselves so that they wield enough political power to make or break a federal or state election, not to speak of the power awarded to them by an ever-alert and porous progressive ruling class, alarmed by rowdy movements from below. Clearly, there are de-centered loci of power (as the postmodernists claim), and there is more fluidity and opportunity to rise than the class-warfare ideologues claim. In the case of the Ron Paul adherents, there exist such hated entities as “the military-industrial complex” or “the Fed” (aka the money power). Just to emit these key words, so resonant with authoritarian parenting styles, is enough to stir up a mob.

2. Experts. The stubborn  hatred directed against Walter Lippmann by followers of Noam Chomsky is impressive in its magnitude. Apply to antagonism to Mitt  Romney as “technocrat”. See https://clarespark.com/2009/08/19/noam-chomskys-misrepresentation-of-walter-lippmanns-chief-ideas-on-manufacturing-consent/.

3. American exceptionalism. Anti-Americans, whether Soviet or Nazi/Fascist, have wreaked havoc on the writing of history. Partly because of the way that the corporatist liberals (i.e. the pseudo-moderate men of either Party, see https://clarespark.com/2011/12/02/the-whiteness-of-the-whale/, etc.) absorbed movements from below during the 1960s and 70s, catering to cultural nationalists (subtly racist)  of all kinds, and because there was much ammunition available in the American past, owing to our particular history, the most self-critical,  open and pluralistic society on earth has a terrible international reputation, just as does democratic Israel with its authoritarian neighbors. With a very few exceptions, our most prominent intellectuals and opinion-makers see us as no more than rapacious white people/Jews plundering the other “races” and Mother Nature herself. Who wouldn’t want to drop out and turn on Nirvana in such a hellhole? Hence, the demand for cheap narcotics and other forms of escape, strongly reinforced in the popular culture. (I developed this paragraph further here: https://clarespark.com/2013/02/27/american-exceptionalism-retold/.)

4. The moderate men. There is pseudo-moderation and true moderation. But the word itself is a staple of psychological warfare. No better way to affect public opinion than to name your opponent as “extremist” while claiming the rational position for oneself. And rationality has come to mean the willingness to find the middle ground so that compromises can be effected and wars averted. Pseudo-moderates are often found in those statists who see regulatory agencies and the bureaucracy in general as floating above the fray, able through artfulness to bring extremist antagonists to the bargaining table, where the mediator will accomplish his [magic tricks]. Since everyone wants to be reasonable (i.e., not crazy), we often let this buzz-word go by without critical reflection, without asking for a detailed analysis of the policy that is under review by its citizens or their representatives. A mob is never moderate; a citizen is always thoughtful, self-examining, and prefers the marketplace of ideas as the best place to separate reconcilable from irreconcilable conflicts, taking action accordingly without fear of “flip-flopping.”

5. Flip-flopping.  Any person who has never changed her or his mind is a slave to institutional authority. I have flipped-flopped numerous time, from housewife to radio personality (and with much internal role conflict); from liberal to leftist; from leftist to independent or classical liberal or just plain seeker after truth as a scholar. If a politician is merely an opportunist who changes his/her line depending on the audience, rather than speaking from soundly analyzed and specified policy preferences, then I understand the animus against flip-flopping. But someone who cries “liberty” without spelling out what that means in the most detailed and concrete manner, to be judged by American citizens accordingly, is a charlatan. But then, is our most visible culture not given to the most abstract buzz words and expressions?

From “establishment” to “counter-culture” we are not only speaking past each other, we are not speaking at all.

October 21, 2011

Did Frankfurters kill the white, Christian West?

[For a more recent blog on this subject see https://clarespark.com/2013/07/31/the-nefarious-cultural-marxists/.]

This video linked below has recently been uploaded to Youtube.com, and is produced by a paleo-conservative outfit calling itself the Free Congress Foundation. It entirely misconceives the origins of “political correctness” and the establishment of separate academic departments for women’s studies, black studies, and ethnic studies or cultural studies in general. I suggest that my readers view both parts of this travesty of history. You also might want to google Willis Carto and Kevin MacDonald who peddle the same ultra-conservative, white supremacist, panicky line. Martin Jay, one participant in the video, recently denounced the entire right-wing for promoting the antisemitic anti-critical theory line, here: http://ecologicalheadstand.blogspot.com/2011/08/martin-jays-dialectic-of-counter.html.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4v6CVcHUXY&feature=player_embedded.

[Wikipedia entry on Free Congress Foundation, producers of the video claiming that Frankurt School critical theorists invented political correctness and were out to destroy the West:]

[Wiki:] FCF played a founding role in galvanizing religious conservative political activism. By the late 1990s, [Paul] Weyrich declared that social conservatives were no longer a majority having a liberal agenda forced on them by an elite but rather are a dwindling minority that have lost control over the culture; that traditional culture and the counterculture have traded places. He acknowledged the need for continued political involvement as a matter of self-defense but stated that politics could not restore traditional values, nor could what were in his views hopeless efforts to recapture institutions such as prestige media, academia and mainline churches that had been lost to the Left.

Instead he urged conservatives to invest their time and money in alternative institutions, which would, in his viewpoint, eventually become the norm due to the superior efficacy of traditional values. This sparked a firestorm of criticism from other conservatives who accused Weyrich of giving up.

FCF has also been willing to spark controversy on other fronts. It rejects what it calls Political Correctness, dubbing it “cultural Marxism” and blaming it on the Frankfurt School of left-wing thinkers. Accordingly, it has been more willing than many other conservative groups to endorse or entertain views that some, especially on the left, would consider offensive and evidence of bigotry. It is arguably hostile to Islam as a whole, rather than confining its criticism to extremist Islam or Islamism. With regard to Judaism, in his column of April 13, 2001 (Good Friday) titled Indeed, He is Risen!, Weyrich argued that “Christ was crucified by the Jews…. He was not what the Jews had expected so they considered Him a threat. Thus He was put to death.” [end: Wikipedia entry]

[My comment:]   It is true that critical theory has had a foothold in some universities. Martin Jay, for instance, is a famous and honored professor of history at UC Berkeley, and his major work has been in writing the history of the Frankfurt School (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Jay). But what the video neglects to mention is the meshing of “critical theory” (the Frankfurt School advocacy of “negative critique”) with long-term developments in 20th century American culture, for instance, the revolt against puritanism/laissez-faire capitalism, starting in the last third or quarter of the 19th century, then exacerbated after the Great War as “the lost generation” turned against the idea of progress, specifically the Providential Protestant mission to save the world.

To imagine that five or six immigrant (non-cohesive, unobservant) German Jews (T. W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse,Leo Lowenthal, maybe George L. Mosse) could have debauched a “traditionalist” American culture is simply paranoid, and reflects the hold that the racist myth of the omnipotent Jew has over some American imaginations. Moreover, the main message of “critical theory” was to blame Nazism on the revolt of the masses, i.e., the kitsch-loving, obedient masses who preferred Hitler-style demagogic tricks or Big Lies to Marxism as guides out of the Depression (https://clarespark.com/2011/06/19/index-to-links-on-hitler-and-the-big-lie/). The imbibing of high culture and the rejection of consumerism would have prevented such catastrophes that were blamed on “mass culture” (as if such a thing really existed as a coherent entity). True, Erich Fromm and, earlier, Lukács blamed “false consciousness” or working-class authoritarianism for the failure of communism to mobilize the Western working classes. And Wilhelm Reich, later echoed by Marcuse, argued that fascism was anchored in the puritanical psyche, so the flowering of Eros was recommended as antidote, but such 1960s faddishness was no more potent in corrupting the American young than the bohemianism of Greenwich Village before and after the Great War, and that was imitated by the upper-class misinterpreters of Freud, and by the Jungians who did throw off the genteel tradition in private carnivals of primitivism and paganism.

The other project of critical theory, especially in the writing of Adorno and Horkheimer, was to blame the Enlightenment for the Holocaust. Thus the high value placed on technology, science and empiricism could only lead to “bureaucratic rationality” that in turn enabled the automated killing of millions (Zygmunt Bauman). This counter-Enlightenment stance endeared critical theorists to reactionary critics of urbanization and modernity (catalysts to the preeminence of “the money power” or “Wall Street”), especially during the 1960s counter-culture.

But of most significance is the false notion, perpetuated by the FCF video, that PC was part of the program of “cultural Marxism.” Rather, the moves against hate speech and the promotion of muliculturalism were the progressive elites’ attempts at co-opting oppositional movements from below during the 20th century, and publicized throughout this website. That is, liberal elites micromanaged group conflict from the commanding heights. These were the efforts of “moderate conservatives” adhering to “the golden mean”, not to extremists of any stripe. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/t-w-adorno-and-his-funny-idea-of-genuine-liberalism/, also https://clarespark.com/2011/10/15/baltzell-on-the-good-jews/, Or, some documents and comment here: https://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/. On Freud’s conservatism, see https://clarespark.com/2013/02/23/peter-gays-freud/.

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