The Clare Spark Blog

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

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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.

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