The Clare Spark Blog

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/.

October 19, 2011

Sex Without Freud

    I have been trying to estimate when the “dumbing down” of America began. I asked my Facebook friends to guess when it started. One denies that it ever happened; another blames it on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the lowering of standards to accommodate affirmative action, another on television, yet another on the transformation of American history from a positive to a negative view of American “identity.”  My own concern as a historian is the attention now given to sexuality as a major engine of history. I first noticed this in graduate school, as the followers of Michel Foucault were the hippest of academics, and for Foucault, anything goes or went. Yesterday I was queried by a twenties-something (wrong! see comment below) scion of an old American family if I did not think that Abraham Lincoln’s recently discovered [or alleged] gay sexuality was not a major discovery. I asked him how sex could have affected Lincoln’s governing of America during the Civil War, and the answer agreed with my own opinion that it was irrelevant.  Yet this young man, very bright, and a published author, was stoked about what was for him a major change in the historiography on Lincoln.

Feminists in the late 1960s and 1970s fervently believed that we were in the midst of a gender revolution and nothing would ever be the same. We all objected to the reduction of girls and women to sexual objects. Yet we find ourselves in the year 2011 in a society where sex and sexual appeal, featuring the objectification of both women and men, to be more overt than ever, worse than even the supposed flaming 1920s.* And yet feminist artists often explored sexuality as a way of appealing to the art-buying public, while indulging their narcissism. Was it not interesting that many bonded with left-wing men, notorious for their womanizing?

Some 1970s feminist theorists also rejected Freud as a traitor to his early female ‘hysterical’ patients, who, it was alleged, were really abused by fathers and uncles, and not themselves the initiators or willing collaborators with dirty old men.  So the Oedipus complex was considered not only wrong, but a travesty. In graduate school, I was told to revere a book that said psychoanalysis was a Jewish invention of use solely to [typically carnal] New York Jews (see Berger and Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality.)

While conducting my dissertation research into the construction of the humanities curriculum in America and England, especially during the interwar period, I noted that Freud was even more disreputable than Marx (though both, unlike Carl Jung, were verboten. See https://clarespark.com/2010/05/10/jungians-rising/). This is an intellectual calamity, for Freud, who wrote about the horrors of civilized countries at war with each other in 1915, did not elevate sexual acting-out as many of his upper-class followers believed. Rather, he emphasized the study of libido as a life force and, like aggression, a motive that often went unexamined as the source of psychogenic illness. Neo-Freudians appealing to the counter-culture  might celebrate Eros (like Wilhelm Reich or Herbert Marcuse, see https://clarespark.com/2011/10/21/did-frankfurters-kill-the-white-christian-west/), or, in my view, they might have more fruitfully focused on the mother-child attachment and issues such as object constancy (like John Bowlby, or Winnicott or Mahler). But such a focus on separation from the mother and the importance of managing that crucial event in maturation, was not sexy enough, and perhaps could not be co-opted into the subject of popular culture growing ever more primitivist, crude, and aggressively nihilistic.

Ironically, it was Herman Melville’s first modern biographer, the overtly gay Raymond M. Weaver, who was impressed by Freud (as interpreted by A. A. Brill), and who spotted the intense and troubled attachment of Herman to his mother, Maria Gansevoort Melville. Weaver has yet to be forgiven for his insightful efforts at understanding the ever mysterious “greatest American writer.” (For more on the 1920s reception to Freud, see https://clarespark.com/2009/11/13/supermen-wanted-early-freudians-and-the-mob/.)

*Cf. E. Digby Baltzell on the sex and booze-crazed 1920s (https://clarespark.com/2011/10/15/baltzell-on-the-good-jews/), the decade that witnessed the beginning of “the Melville revival.” Yet if we consult Hemingway’s short novel The Sun also Rises (1926), the characters are indeed a lost, vicariously shell-shocked generation, reduced by the recent slaughter to meaningless wandering about France and Spain, promiscuous coupling, a fascination with violence (the bull-fight),  and regression to conversation at about the level of young children (though Hemingway probably saw his style as natural and purified).  Has our literature and/or popular culture ever recovered?

[Illustrated, Marie Stopes, author of Married Love, eugenicist, and later admirer of Hitler. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Married_Love, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Stopes.]

October 15, 2011

The Protestant Establishment taps the Good Jew

E. Digby Baltzell

While still in graduate school, I met several editors then employed by the University of California Press. I was advised by one of them to read John Murray Cuddihy’s  The Ordeal of Civility (1978) that they were all talking about. I found it offensive to be told to read a book about manners. But even more offensive, if amusingly so, is Philadelphian* E. Digby Baltzell’s earnest appeal to upper-class Americans published  just as the civil rights movement was in high gear:  The Protestant Establishment: Aristocracy and Caste in America (N.Y.: Random House, 1964).

The aim of the sociologist Baltzell’s book was to distinguish between an aristocratic upper class that carried out the programs of Jefferson and Lincoln and a retardataire Republican Party that, unlike the cosmopolitan Wilson and FDR,  had not only systematically refused Jewish entry to the establishment, but was, implicitly, going to oppose the upward mobility of deserving “Negroes.” The good guys (Woodrow Wilson and the two Roosevelts) had abandoned the racist “caste” ideology of the money-mad, exclusionary Republican establishment for the truly aristocratic [co-optative] strategies of liberal democrats like himself.  Mind you, Baltzell was no extremist. He loathed such as Joseph McCarthy and his [vulgar] Jewish henchmen, Roy Cohn and David Schine; similarly he was horrified by the 1930s revolutionaries (John Dos Passos for instance) who had overreacted to the sex and booze-madness of the 1920s. (Interestingly, the horror of the First World War and the rejection of the idea of progress gets no mention in Baltzell’s cultural history of American writers of “the lost generation.”)

I had not expected to read such a friendly book about Jews coming from a Protestant professor, but wait: entry into Wall Street or the higher levels of Washington politics, signified by membership in the chic urban clubs and country clubs of the old rich was conditional: Jews were advised to bond with the “tory Reformer” type, such as JFK (p.81).   And, would-be patrician Jews had better clean up their act by following FDR’s warning to the economic royalists, who had sullied the temple of capitalism: Here is Baltzell quoting Professor Cochran: “In the early months of 1933, the term ‘bankster’ classified these erstwhile paragons of respectability with the underworld and President Roosevelt in his inaugural address promised to drive the money changers from the temple.” (p.226).

Nor was the materialism of Republicans to be an example to the better sort of Jew: Here the Roosevelt family is compared to du Pont family: “…the du Ponts surely stood for the idea of the single-minded , and scientific, pursuit of success….” (p. 250) [cf. monomania imputed to Captain Ahab, though Ahab was not interested in profits]

As a moderate man, i.e., a proponent of balance, Baltzell fears that the Roosevelt tradition will get out of hand: “Reflecting on de Tocqueville and the Republican du Pont family: “…Tocqueville would also see the possible usefulness of dynasties like the du Ponts, as ‘secondary powers’ and guardians of freedom, in an age that has gone far beyond the Roosevelt revolution on the road toward the omnipotent state. Like Aristotle before him, Tocqueville was always aware of the need for balance and the moderate mean: in the depths of a depression, the balance of power surely needed tipping in the direction of Washington, as against Wilmington or Wall Street; this may not be the case today [1964, C.S.].” (p.252) See https://clarespark.com/2010/11/06/moderate-men-falling-down/.

And we wonder why many liberal Jewish writers (including those of Jewish “origin” or Jewish “blood,” as Baltzell would say) rail against “neocons” and other defectors from the moderate consensus! Their own hard won class mobility (up from the ghettoes or Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens) might be threatened by those who have joined the unregenerate “racists”** of the Right. A gentleman hath proclaimed it so.

* Baltzell’s Wikipedia entry states that he was born to a wealthy Episcopalian family and attended St. Paul’s preparatory school.

** For an example of the racialist discourse of multiculturalism, along with its “cultural” hierarchy see https://clarespark.com/2010/10/18/the-dialectic-of-multiculturalism-helvetius-herder-fichte/.

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