The Clare Spark Blog

April 1, 2014

The Gwyneth Paltrow Flap: celebrities as the new socialist vanguard

PaltrowRead these first: The author, Mackenzie Dawson is a contributing editor to the New York Post. Dawson interviewed by Ronan Farrow on MSNBC. Talk is about “parents” and “families” and income inequality, and the need for “celebrities” to speak out more frequently to right these wrongs.

[Blog starts here:]  Journalists working for such diverse institutions as The New York Post, Fox News Channel and MSNBC , have all jumped on Gwyneth Paltrow for comparing the travails of movie acting with the long, hard, slog of other “working moms.”

Several observations are in order. 1. We live in an age where “celebrities” feel free to speak out on any and every social issue, regardless of their expertise in any subject—and so do journalists and academics with captive audiences; 2. In a period of mass democracy, social media, and public education, the manipulation of public opinion is critical for parties vying for our votes and financial support; 3. Second wave feminism, while making it possible for a few women to challenge the monopoly of men in business, the arts, and in the professions, was primarily a petit-bourgeois movement, dragging itself toward the Left because second wave feminism came out of the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s. Paltrow’s generation came afterwards, was more Green, and more interested in family life, diet and healthy living, including the higher consciousness. 4. Like prior would-be intellectuals laying down the timing and rules for proletarian revolution or other progressive reforms, a few physically attractive celebrities and journalists have assumed the vanguard once reserved by 19th century Marxists for the politically conscious working class. Dawson is one of these scolds (see her live with Ronan Farrow, linked above).


So when “privileged” actor Paltrow compared the difficulty of being a wife and mother while pursuing her acting career, with that of other “working moms” she stepped in it. It was inevitable that comparing “life on the set” to the lives of working class women also trying to “balance” the roles of breadwinner, motherhood and even marriage with office work, would arouse high dudgeon in the chattering class, who themselves are under the thumbs of bosses–though their working conditions are not comparable to the back-breaking labor of the old factory hands, much construction work, and farm labor. There is a reason that these office jobs are called “white-collar,” and that leftist sociologist C. Wright Mills reviled them in one of his most famous books.

I should interject here that I do not know Gwyneth Paltrow, nor have I followed her career except to recall that when she accepted her Oscar for her role in Shakespeare in Love (1998), she may have wept for her ill father, the movie producer Bruce Paltrow (he had oral cancer for some years). (Her acceptance speech is here:”And especially to my father Bruce Paltrow, who has surmounted insurmountable obstacles this year. I love you more than anything in the world.”). Moreover, she married Chris Martin soon after her father’s death in 2002. She also suffered a postpartum depression after the birth of her first male child. You don’t have to be a Freudian psychoanalyst to suspect that her attachment to her late father is more germane to her views on marriage and work than any other factor. The pain associated with that loss cannot be cured with work, beauty, money, or any other worldly success. If Paltrow tries to hold together a family with such evasive language as “conscious uncoupling,” the maintenance of family unity may be as much of a challenge to her, as to any of the women Mackenzie Dawson defends in her letter and tweets. farmlaborLife on the set.” Unless the reader knows the mechanics of movie making, especially the tedium of long waits in trailers, lighting, constant retakes, sudden changes in directors and lines, it is hard not to envy the glamorous life of a movie star. After all, mass media barrages us with images of gorgeous, ageless, perfectly happy females.

A final word on Fame. I had a taste of fame, which was synonymous with notoriety in some quarters. That many persons within listening distance of KPFK knew who I was, and even admired my work at times, did nothing to assuage the anxieties of performance. If anything, the pressure increased, as I tried to juggle the life of the creative mind with the responsibilities and emotional demands of motherhood. Paltrow seems to have peaked with her academy award performance. Similarly, even the most established authors face a blank page when they sit down to write. “Can I match my prior achievements? Can I do even better than in the past? Can I still sell books or get the better movie scripts? Can I transcend my limitations? Was my work ever good enough to please my high-achieving parents who expected so much of me? Am I aging too quickly? If I even worry about these matters, am I a bad wife and/or mother?”

Pirate Ruth, interrogated

Pirate Ruth, interrogated

January 5, 2013


common-core-standards-turtleSegments of the Right are correctly worried that the reading of government pamphlets will displace the classic works of English and American literature as currently taught in the schools. Some, including Pajamas Media and Fox News imagine that such “classics” as Orwell, Huxley, and Hemingway will disappear from the curriculum in favor of progressive propaganda as disseminated by the CORE STANDARDS, sometimes called Common Core.

What these popular rightist media fail to understand is 1. that for the standards to be enforced in every classroom, government surveillance would have to accomplish what may be impossible; i.e., a form of terror; and 2. that statist progressives have long dominated the teaching of literature and the humanities in general, twisting texts to elevate the “moderate” solution to social conflict. What these progressives want, like fascists before them, is acquiescence to state directives and the obliteration of extremism, whether the hotheads targeted are communists on the Left or laissez-faire capitalists on the Right.

Hence, the rightists and liberals who look askance on the wide state support for the Core Standards, fail to teach their followers how to recognize ideology in the arts, particularly those aspects of the humanities that appropriate past cultural artifacts for present-day partisan purposes. No political faction is innocent in this culture-deadening scenario.

The first nine references (very alarming)  below lay out the controversy over the Core Standards, which threaten to diminish literary texts in order to include readings in history and science. The professed aim of these “Standards” is to prepare high school students for life and work in the modern world. But the authors of the Core Standards neglect to acknowledge that the works chosen from history and science are likely to reinforce as true and normal what are in fact policy initiatives of the evermore left-leaning and incompetent Obama administration.  The next six links are my own research, published and unpublished, on the consensus of the moderate men in the teaching of American literature with the goal of managing or obliterating class or gender conflict. Their mutual aim is the substitution of scientific, materialist history by an organicist discourse that reunites master and man/ President and the “middle class” (including “the working class”). In other words, the teaching of English is already ideological. (And on the left and liberal left, teaching is generally fiercely averse to anything that smacks of Freudian analysis, with its emphasis on ambivalence, ambiguity, and uncertainty.)

Poe's Raven

Poe’s Raven (The Great Dumbing Down in two parts)

September 11, 2012


Terry Malloy, bloodied but unbowed

While looking up prior descriptions of 9/11, a day remembered on Fox News as best treated as remembrance of the dead, owing to the “tragedy” of the event, I found myself getting more and more appalled at the rhetoric. As Mark Steyn pointed out years ago, 9/11 was not a “tragedy” [i.e., aimed at catharsis and healing as a theatrical event] but a military  “attack,” and I would add, a strike at finance capital/the city of the Jews by radical Islamists who were able to achieve their lethal goals because of outright negligence during the 1990s during the Clinton administration and/or longstanding Arabism in the State Department, not to speak of the mostly deaf response to the findings of Steve Emerson from the 1980s on,  namely that we had been infiltrated, and that no one with the power to stop them was paying attention. (See  And the DNC had the nerve to summon President Clinton to support President Obama, who, we are told by Vice-President Biden “killed” bin Laden–as if that event marked the completion of whatever liberals call “the war on terror.”

At the same time, Chicago teachers are out on strike, reportedly owing to their disdain of government testing and other evaluations that would separate the wheat from the chaff. Clearly, these teachers are proud of their tactics, and imaginatively line up with exploited labor in the bad old days before unions and collective bargaining became legal during the New Deal. Reminder: strikes have always been a violent tactic, but strikes have been endlessly celebrated by the anti-capitalists as heroic acts that do not hurt “the community” but rather that strikers are forced to use the only weapon at hand. You will not find a labor historian or social historian who disagrees with this assessment, and who does not revel at every sign and symptom of defiance by the “exploited” class. (I will gladly retract this statement if I am proven wrong.)

Chicago teachers on strike

(Reminder: one of the great movies of my youth: On The Waterfront (1954), was not about a strike, but about standing up to crooked union bosses and their thugs. Critics on the Left hated it, and attacked  Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg for ratting on their ex-comrades while pretending to purify the labor movement.)

We no longer use words such as “tragedy” with precision or with regard to their multiple and changing meanings in the past. But we do pretend that traumas of every kind can be healed. For many, September 11 is a day for meditation, remembrance, and healing. I understand that impulse for unity and solidarity with the families of the victims of 9/11. But we fool ourselves if we fail to trace the precursors, selfish interests, and corrupt, incompetent  practices that brought down the Twin Towers, and that threaten to bring down the Republic if not forthrightly and fearlessly addressed by us all, each and every one. We need to emulate Terry Malloy.

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