YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

June 23, 2013

The origins of political correctness

Glitterati crushing The People

Glitterati crushing The People

I asked Facebook friends where they thought “political correctness” came from, and I was referred to three authors: William Lind, Roger Kimball, and Diana West. I am in sharp disagreement with their work, which is all too reminiscent of the John Birch Society, “paleoconservatism,”  and the most paranoid populism. (The second in this sequence is https://clarespark.com/2013/06/30/the-origins-of-political-correctness-2/. A must-read on the origins of “cultural Marxism” is found here: https://clarespark.com/2013/07/31/the-nefarious-cultural-marxists/.)

In fact, it was the moderate conservatives, who then called themselves the Progressives, who imposed speech rules in academe. Their sources were the Counter-Enlightenment German Romantics, who invented the fields of cultural anthropology, comparative literature, and popularized the notions of national and racial character, also Zeitgeist (the mythical “spirit of the age”). These were all collectivist, organicist notions directed against the “atomizing” forces of modernity, including “capitalism,” science and technology, mass literacy and mass numeracy, the emancipation of Western European Jewry, the rise of the modern woman, the self-organizing of former slaves in America, and the growing labor movement. Ultimately, the pseudo-progressive target was equality under the rule of law, most importantly as embodied in the American Constitution, including its Amendments.

It should not be surprising that modern conspiracy theorists, emboldened by the internet and social media, have pinned rules forbidding “hate speech” on powerful, omnipotent ‘Jews’ on the lam from Hitler (i.e., “cultural Marxism” as brought by the Frankfurt School critical theorists). What these refugees accomplished was continuous with the German Enlightenment and its mystical, German Idealist notions that were demonstrably protofascist, and indebted the Hegelian notion of “the ethical state.”. The importance of language and images in the constituting of a deceptive “reality” (to be “deconstructed”)  stems from German Idealism.

Before the bad demonic Frankfurters arrived, moderate conservatives everywhere during the Industrial Revolution had already figured out that religion could keep the working masses in line, hence such movements as Christian Socialism (in Britain) or the Social Gospel (in America) were in place, and formed the matrix of the progressive movement, which was always elitist, manipulative, and “pragmatic” whether it was in its initial anticommunist phase, or its anti-imperialist New Left phase. Voltaire, while preaching freethought in his anonymous works, advocated religion to keep the lower orders in line. He didn’t like Jews either. Religion, for Voltaire and for his successors, was purely instrumental: i.e., it was not grounded in a system of ethics, but as a means to an end: social cohesion and political stability. The search for truth, the Head and Heart of the Enlightenment, was off limits to these “freethinkers.”

https://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/t-w-adorno-and-his-funny-idea-of-genuine-liberalism/

https://clarespark.com/2009/06/04/modernity-and-mass-death/

https://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/ (this quotes conferences from 1968, showing the buying off of black power advocates with separatist black studies programs)

https://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/ (This is about the “culturalist” turn in history ca. 1939, before the “cultural Marxists” established themselves in academe. It was carried out by social psychologists close to the New Deal.)

https://clarespark.com/2011/03/28/index-to-multiculturalism-blogs/ (especially https://clarespark.com/2010/10/18/the-dialectic-of-multiculturalism-helvetius-herder-fichte/, and https://clarespark.com/2010/07/20/german-romantic-predecessors-to-multiculturalism/.)

https://clarespark.com/2012/01/21/the-persistence-of-white-racism/

https://clarespark.com/2012/12/18/blogs-on-mental-health/

https://clarespark.com/2013/03/18/babel-vs-sinai/ (mentions political correctness as the mode preferred by “Babel” not “Sinai”)

(to be continued)

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January 15, 2012

Prometheus Bound, but good

Rubens's Prometheus BoundThis blog responds to a heated interchange this last week over whether Republicans or Democrats were more “anti-science.” I complained bitterly about the foolish framing of the question, but since few non-scientists may understand my own indignation, I thought I had better explain.

There is no such thing as a “science” that encompasses all the worldly, materialist efforts to grasp the facts of life and death, thence to intervene to enhance life and forestall death. What the electorate is debating is the power of ultraconservative evangelical Protestants and Catholics to roll back the achievements (or, in their views, atrocities) of the modern world, a modernity that is held responsible for decadence and mass death, owing to the mistaken notions of progress and “enlightenment;” a secular wasteland that is gleefully responsible for “the death of God,” or, failing that, banishing Christian symbols from public space. Such a dive into the muck betrays “life” itself.  In other words, the question regarding “anti-science” serves culture warriors in both political parties and is intrinsic to the current polarization.

Scientism versus science.   In my book Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, I made a distinction between the Radical and Conservative Enlightenments. The Radical Enlightenment (a 16th century development that educated and raised the morale of “the lower orders”) was co-opted by anxious elites fearing the leveling tendencies of science and its alleged worship of the Goddess of Reason. These “moderate conservative” elites formed the progressive movement, and used “scientific management” to forestall servile revolts, arguing that free markets, left unregulated, would generate mobs who would abolish private property tout court. Similarly, social psychology was harnessed to the New Deal, using statistics and other scientistic (i.e., pretending to scientific method) strategies to get a consensus behind the ever more powerful federal government and the authority of the presidency.  I call this co-opting of “science” the Conservative Enlightenment. The social bonds it advocates are based on mystical bonds between leaders and the led, not upon the convergence of real interests within groups. Such are the methods espoused by the troops of the allegedly “pro-science” Democratic Party.

Science versus Magic. Scientific method, i.e., relying on material evidence and following facts wherever they lead, does not come naturally to a growing child. As an infant and toddler, and even into adolescence, magical thinking will dominate the psyche. Seeing “things as they are” may be fraught with fear, pain, and conflict. In my own examination of Herman Melville’s writing, I have seen the anguish with which the idealizations of childhood are relinquished. His kaleidoscopic imagination, that constantly reconfigures the world we think we see, so apparent to readers who have gone that route themselves, is generally suppressed in the scholarship, or dismissed as “incoherence,” or as a pre-Freudianism that is easily dismissed as bogus, carnal, and hence “Jewish.” Melville himself never resolved his inner war between science and religion, at times demonizing his “dark” Promethean characters, including “Margoth” an apostate secular Jew, who bears comparison with Twain’s Yankee.

Dialectical materialism versus materialism. Realism and naturalism in the arts have gotten a bad rap because of their association with the marxiste notion of dialectical materialism. The latter is a form of Hegelianism that banishes the real world in favor of an unalterable march toward communism/the reign of Spirit, a march supposedly led by the politically-conscious working class, but in practice, guided by intellectuals. These same intellectuals decry (undialectical) “materialism” as atomization and hyper-individualism of the most hateful “bourgeois” variety. I have been called that atomic bomb by more than one Leninist. As culture critics, they purportedly espouse “realism,” which for them consists of unveiling the mystifications of the bourgeoisie, pulling back the curtain to expose exploited masses and wily magicians in the urbanized land of Oz. Where these mystical anti-mystics go wrong is in their condemnation of the Promethean bourgeoisie, a class that relies on science and technology to improve the world and the life chances of its inhabitants.

Science is not dogma, and is constantly self-correcting in the collective criticism of the community of scientists (unless they are bought off by patronage). But that is not the view of those relativists who now study the history of science in order to discredit is as “essentially, a swindle.” (See https://clarespark.com/2010/02/10/a-brooding-meditation-on-intimacy-and-distance/ or https://clarespark.com/2010/01/03/this-witch-is-not-for-burning-science-as-magic/.)

In the world of true science, quacks are driven out, and commonly held beliefs subject to alteration in the face of new evidence. Would that our political culture were as discriminating in extruding frauds.

    

January 26, 2011

Obama and the rhetoric of the political “family”

Fragonard’s Happy Mother, 1753

[Here is a new blog that relies on this earlier one on the rhetoric of “family.” See https://clarespark.com/2013/03/18/babel-vs-sinai/.

The President’s State of the Union speech, January 25, 2011, began with a declaration that we (the American people) are a “family”* and then went on to list the “investments” in a happy future that would be originated and subsidized by the federal government. Hegel once said that the family delivers the child to the state. I am not a Hegelian, but he got that right.

When I complained about the use of the F word to drastically and unforgivably describe the individual citizens of a democratic republic, I was immediately reminded by one Facebook friend that it was the Right that proclaimed “family values.” This blog will attempt to analyze the political speech that misdescribes citizens with diverse and opposed opinions about economics and culture as members of a potential “family,” for the F word is one of the most potent items in the arsenals of mind-managers, while “the Right” is by no means unified in their use of the word.

First, on “family values.” Liberals today should stop for a moment and contemplate the massive changes in our political culture since the movements of the 1960s and 70s began their assault on the traditional family, an institution that for many signified protection and solidarity, notwithstanding such divisive emotions as sibling rivalry and flawed parenting strategies or bad examples (i.e., clinging mothers, absent fathers, deadbeat dads, etc.). The middle class family was held to be “a haven in a heartless world” and a bulwark against the State as Christopher Lasch famously wrote in his study with that title.  The culture wars have been fought over the perceived decadence and/or dysfunction that “liberation” movements brought in their wake, and I have written about them here: primitivism, bohemianism, early adolescent sexuality and a frightening rise in teen age pregnancy (See https://clarespark.com/2013/03/11/do-paleoconservatives-want-a-theocracy/) . Add these rational fears to the propaganda churned out by social psychologists after World War 2, namely that fathers must stay at the helm of the family in order to avoid too strong an attachment between sons and mothers–an attachment that led straight to feminization and Marxist adventurism. (I wrote about it here: https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/.)

I have not studied libertarians on their positioning regarding “family values,” but suspect that most would prefer that the state keep its nose out of the choices of individuals, whether these be marijuana use, abortion rights (Ayn Rand supported them, but limited abortions to the first trimester for the sake of the mother’s safety), or the freedom not to reproduce at all.

I have noticed with some outrage that the image of Gabrielle Giffords has been deployed by liberals, and it is here that I complete this blog. The moderate Democrat was the focus of public concern for many weeks, and we still do not know that she will fully surmount the bullet to her brain. But as a famously “caring” politician she fulfilled the happy mother archetype, eager for face to face contact with her constituency where a very bad boy assaulted her and killed six other innocents. Hence Democratic propaganda blaming excessively harsh political speech on the Republican Party and on conservative talk radio and television could be effective in raising Obama’s approval rating, especially after his speech calling on civility (by which he could only have meant the toning down of “right-wing” radio and television). The good father was protecting the good mother from resentments internal to the national “family.” In his call for a national healing, Obama benefitted from decades of “family” rhetoric and the faith in the possibility of  national unity, notwithstanding the glaringly opposed political philosophies that confront each other today as Keynesians and proponents of the laissez-faire economy (or limited government) slug it out in public space. Of course by healing and moderation, POTUS means yielding to statism as he defines it, for one cannot through “common ground” or “compromise” reconcile irreconcilable facts and strategies to achieve a “national consensus”.

As I wrote in my last blog (https://clarespark.com/2011/01/25/american-slavery-vs-nazi-genocide/), the year 2011 will see a rise in public talk about the Union and the Civil War that was fought to vanquish slavery and enable the modernization process stalled by the Southern slaveholding politicians in the antebellum period. I predict a resurgence of the far Left and its stigmatizing America as a very bad, essentially evil entity whose sins overwhelm its positive achievements. They will press for a reconstructed, redistributionist “family” that repents and makes reparations to its millions of victims, using the failure of Reconstruction as a talking point. Given the positioning of the 60s-70s generation in the commanding heights of the education establishment and in the media, get ready for the Happy Mother who gathers all her children to her ever lactating breast once “social justice” is finally achieved. And the milk-fed “children” will never notice that they are in a state of strategic regression, enlisted men and women in the eternal war against Evil.

*Here are the President’s exact words:

“…It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation.

But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passion and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater -– something more consequential than party or political preference.

We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.

That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation. (Applause.)

Now, by itself, this simple recognition won’t usher in a new era of cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow. (Applause.)”

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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