YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

April 17, 2016

House of Cards and cynical Democrats

Claire and Frank go to Moscow, season 3 House of Cards, Netflix

Claire and Frank go to Moscow, season 3 House of Cards, Netflix

I have just binge-watched House of Cards seasons three and four, set during the presidency of upwardly mobile, cynical and manipulative poor white trash Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey co-starring with Robin Wright as his teammate Claire—- a former “Dallas debutante” with a preternatural understanding of how “the system” really works. Both Spacey and Wright are actually from humble backgrounds, and perhaps retain much of their repressed rage/nihilism).

I also saw the much-preferred UK original on PBS, so long ago that I remember most of it only vaguely, but who could forget the shocking murder of the young journalist? (At least my polled Facebook friends liked that version, nearly all finding the US adaptation boring at best; I disagree, all long series are uneven, but the writing is often compelling).

Ian Richardson as PBS villain (1990)

Ian Richardson as PBS villain (1990)

So I am in the uncomfortable position of questioning my own taste for television series, which turn out to be relatively highbrow compared to the “lowbrow” network offerings. (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/02/is-i-house-of-cards-i-really-a-hit/284035/)

What frightens me most about House of Cards (I have now seen all versions, entirely), is my own naiveté as a historian and reader of texts. I have often called attention to our limited access to relevant documents as we attempt to interpret and present the past and present, but I didn’t factor in silent, underhanded deeds and interactions that confront the reader/viewer with unmitigated evil. There is enough nastiness in my own life history to temper my disbelief that such behavior could exist. Frankly, I don’t know how the writers got so much of our political situation down with conviction, for in spite of my “realism” about what to expect from other people, I could never imagine such degrees of immorality, even from “Big Government.”

What is most surprising is that the actors and writers are associated with the Democratic Party (presented as rife with corruption, including mayhem), or perhaps they lean left, like many artists confronting the philistine bourgeoisie/modernity in either political party. There is a punkish, oppositional sensibility at play in the writing and acting, though one wonders if life offers more than an Artaudian scream or Brechtian ruthlessness.

Although the plot line is said to be “implausible” I find the series, like Billions (a Showtime offering that has completed its first season), to have ripped the mask off our elites, with enough ambiguity to satisfy any educated, fearless student of human nature.

No wonder I am attracted to the writing of Herman Melville, who ventured on the dark side more than most of his nineteenth century “optimistic” contemporaries, with attention to his life and art only made possible after the horrors of World War Two. And no wonder that the trashing of his masterpiece Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852) had to be denounced in 1947 by FDR-allied psychologist Henry A. Murray, whose lies I have reluctantly exposed on this website.  (https://clarespark.com/2011/06/12/call-me-isabel-a-reflection-on-lying/).

Call me Isabel.

October 7, 2015

The Patriarchal Family: what could possibly go wrong?

patriarchal-familiesFirst read this account of patriarchy as contrasted with feminism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriarchy.

The call for the strong father-led family did not originate with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s call for the [patriarchal] family: Jindal’s antidote to the Roseburg, Oregon massacre. Like other conservatives, he blames social decadence on moral laxity, accelerated by abortion rights, bad mothers, and video games. “Garbage in, garbage out,” he proclaimed. (https://www.bobbyjindal.com/jindal-we-fill-our-culture-with-garbage/)

This battle cry did not originate with social conservatives like Jindal, but with such mavericks  as D. H. Lawrence, Gregory Bateson and Henry A. Murray, all of whom worried that relationships in the modern family were gravely flawed, as I showed in these blogs: https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/ (especially the material in bold face type on Gregory Bateson, objecting to mother-son bonding), this collage taken from various 20th century masculinists, including Henry A. Murray warning about the feminization of American culture, Picasso, and another writer for Survey Graphic: https://yankeedoodlesoc.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/image-861.jpg, and https://clarespark.com/2009/11/16/panic-attacks-and-separation-anxiety/.  Double binds inherent in social democracies (the unstated conflict between Truth and Order) were blamed on feminization, particularly the rise of the moral mother as husbands left home for offices and factories: https://clarespark.com/2009/10/24/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets-2/

Here are some of the other complications that can emerge with the stern, disciplinary father who compensates for the too-attaching, seductive mother:

Corporal punishment. It was not long ago that whips, belts, and other paraphernalia were wielded by the male. “Wait until your father gets home!” warned the unconditionally loving mother. But even if father eschews beatings, there is much evidence that parental quarreling in front of the children is also traumatic. At every stage in development, we search for safety and family division can be terrifying.

What might be the consequences of spanking and whipping? Over-identification with “authority” at the least. Any form of social protest will be viewed as illegitimate and dangerous to the adult veteran of harsh childhood discipline. Adult sexuality is likely to be sadomasochistic in practice.

Catting around for him, but not for her. I need not belabor the double standard.

Divorce. No-fault divorces, easy to get, may result in the high rate of failed marriages and traumatized children. Romantic love may fade as pre-marital idealizations are shattered by the boredom of everyday life, despite television commercials to the contrary. Community property states are deterrents, so pre-nuptial agreements are demanded before assuming the risk of dividing property half and half. [Update: some readers took this to mean that I am against all divorces, but recent research suggests that single mothers are not to blame for delinquent children; that it depends on the skills of the single parent whether or not children are raised without trauma (look up Rebecca Ryan’s research at Georgetown U.)]

Need I go on? The irony is that authoritarian families (located in either Left, Right, or middle) engender revolt in the children, especially after puberty as the peer group more and more takes over in the inculcation of “values.” Conservatives do what they can to ignore this platitude, but no study in child development will deny its validity. (For a related blog, see https://clarespark.com/2014/08/14/understanding-obamas-ongoing-appeal/.)



March 16, 2015

Who were the precursors of the New Left? The WASP establishment or Communists?

viperscoverUntil I read Philip Wylie’s best seller A Generation of Vipers (1942), I had assumed that the sprinkling of red-diaper babies who rose to prominence in the social movements of the 1960s, were the bearers of the intellectual ideas that gave rise to the women’s movement, the antiwar movement, the back to Nature movement, and to multiculturalism, with its emphasis on “race” over “class.”

(I should have known that no true communist would sort people out by “race” as the anti-racist Soviet Union was adamant about the conception of proletarian internationalism; moreover, communists wrote A World View of Race in the mid-1930s, that identified the fiction of “race” with the aims of the imperialist bourgeoisie, letting workers off the hook.)

I had already learned at Cornell U. in my course with David Brion Davis that “evil was back” with the renewed popularity of Reinhold Niebuhr, Herman Melville, and Nathaniel Hawthorne in the 1940s. And the “evil” within each of us (to cite Penny Dreadful), was there to offset excessive progressive optimism about the promise of American life, which enabled upward mobility for the Common Man or Woman.

What stunned me about the Wylie “sermon,” that echoed everything that Henry A. Murray and his Harvard associates alleged (e.g., Walter Langer, Talcott Parsons, Gordon Allport, etc.), was his diatribe against Cinderella turning into Mom, the source of all angst in the male sex, including the medical profession. Here is a sample of Wylie’s vituperative book of essays:

“MOM IS THE END PRODUCT OF SHE. She is Cinderella…the shining-haired, the starry-eyed, the ruby-lipped virgo aeternis,  of which there is presumably one, and only one, or a one-and-only for each male, whose dream is fixed upon her deflowerment and subsequent perpetual possession. This act is a sacrament in all churches and a civil affair in our society. The collective aspects of marriage are thus largely compressed into the rituals and social perquisites of one day. Unless some element of mayhem or intention of divorce subsequently obtrudes, a sort of privacy engulfs the union and all further developments are deemed to be the business of each separate pair, including the transition of Cinderella into mom, which, if it occasions any shock, only adds to the huge, invisible burthen every man carries with him into eternity….Mom is an American creation.” (Chapter XI, p.184)

Wylie, like Henry Murray, was a convinced Jungian and primitivist, and like the pagan Murray, was an avowed elitist, also a free-love kind of fellow (but not an advocate for gay rights, for “nances” were sub-textually tied to Mom.) So Wylie was obviously attacking “sentimental” conservatives of a fundamentalist religious bent. He shared with Murray an admiration for the true grit of the Russian people, a taste for internationalism, and for FDR’s personality, with Wylie going so far as to suggest that those who lacked the [independent, masculine, upper-class unsentimental education] should not even vote or hold elective office.

Moreover, the immigrants, preceded by the Nature-wrecking pioneers were a bunch of rowdy rascals. Anyone who denied this was a Mom-identified sentimental “patriot” and deserving of contempt—in short, a viper of the type that devout Christians embodied. Such conservatives, he alleged, had twisted the life and legacy of Christ, ignoring the imprecation to “know thyself,” i.e., to know thy limitations, that such (feminized) devils are not “trained to rule” (Murray’s notes to Melville’s White-Jacket).

I have reported elsewhere that Murray thought that Hitler had Jewish blood (https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/, footnote 2), and I didn’t understand this until I read Wylie on the Jews. Wylie spurned vulgar beliefs that upper-class Jews controlled the world (they were but a small portion of the elite, though they controlled the new media), but agreed with Talcott Parsons (Murray’s colleague) that the Jews were vain and believed in their chosen-ness and separateness. And Hitler’s crime was not just to persecute the Jews, but to imitate Jewish pridefulness; the Germans were the new Chosen People.

Where could Hitler have gotten this horribly mistaken idea unless he was something of a Jew himself, putting on airs and vain…rather like Mom.

The Wikipedia bio of Wylie states that he went on to become an early Green and fierce opponent of nuclear power. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Wylie.)

Philip Wylie, nature-lover

Philip Wylie, nature-lover

Although recent research has to some degree vindicated Joe McCarthy, uncovering the presence of Communist spies out to steal secrets for the benefit of Soviet-style internationalism, we should pay more attention to the dour pessimism of the old WASP establishment, who were the true parents of New Left movements, all smacking of the populism and “middle way” espoused by Philip Wylie and his contemporaries.

Wylie’s daughter, a novelist herself, has insisted that her father was no misogynist, it should be noted that “Mom” is a middle-class clubwoman married to a businessman, beguiled by materialism/consumerism/: the Northeastern elite’s idea of a Republican. And such benighted sentimentalists shouldn’t be trusted to vote.

December 10, 2014

Were Nazis “Socialists”?

stalin-mao-hitler-murderers-secret-combinationWith so many readers expecting short blogs readable on smartphones these days, it is not surprising that a limited number of my numerous Facebook friends have the patience to read deep-diving explanations of why they have swallowed the rumor that Hitler and the Nazis or others called “fascists” were indistinguishable from Communists and other advocates of “progress.” Still, I promised to deliver something that serious  readers would find digestible.

First, it is well known that communist historians in America have often blamed “Republicans” for Nazism.It is understandable that many conservatives, waylaid by the term “National Socialism” would return the favor by pouncing on the word “Socialism,” without deciphering its meaning to Germans.

Even before Hitler was appointed Chancellor by German President Paul von Hindenburg (to destroy the threatening German Communist Party and the Soviet Union, but with von Papen as Vice-Chancellor to hold Hitler in check), citizens of the Reich understood the concept of socialism to entail sacrifice of the individual for the benefit of the state. I already pointed this out: https://clarespark.com/2010/02/18/nazi-sykewar-american-style-part-four/. The exact quote in this series German Psychological Warfare: Survey and Bibliography edited by Ladislas Farago (1941) on behalf of the American “moderate” progressives is here Note the date, 1920:

“43. Spengler, O. Preussentum und Sozialismus. Muenchen: Beck, 1920.
PRUSSIANISM AND SOCIALISM. Spengler, a philosopher turned political prophet, ‘discovered’ during the war years the close identity of Prussianism to Socialism. Prussianism and “genuine Socialism”—not of Marx, but of Friedrich Wilhelm I, which was authoritarian, anti-democratic and anti-revolutionary—are consolidated in the old Prussian spirit and are equal to each other because both mean power. This thesis was taken up by the Nazis in what was called ‘Socialism of action.’ Socialism meaning comradeship, service, and duty, not class struggle.” [And what “moderate” anticommunist would not find this appealing? CS]

Second, many rightists swear by Jonah Goldberg’s best-seller Liberal Fascism. I read the book twice and blogged about its slant and deficiencies here: https://clarespark.com/2010/03/10/jonah-goldbergs-liberal-fascism-part-one/. No historian or serious intellectual takes this book seriously. It does feed into the misconception fostered by ardent anticommunists that it is proper and appropriate to paint the Hitler moustache upon any progressive, particularly those that were interested in social hygiene and public health, as Hitler really was, though in the context of Aryan superiority and “the People’s Community.”. I suspect that there is a strong misogynistic element motivating Goldberg and his followers, especially with their insistence that the welfare state is better described as the “nanny state.” Or perhaps there is less misogyny here than bitterness over the departure of the patriarchal father in the home, disciplining children and allocating family resources: a process that has been going on since the rise of industrialism and the rise of “the moral mother.” (See https://clarespark.com/2012/02/25/moral-atheists/, and https://clarespark.com/2009/10/23/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets/.

Third, although virtually all historians agree that the populist/anti-bourgeois S.A., one obstreperous faction of the new Nazi party, was finished by June 30, 1934 (the Night of the Long Knives), one recent scholar agrees that a minimal socialist element persisted throughout the Nazi regime (see Robert O. Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism for this judgment, that I have not seen duplicated elsewhere in the English language, though in his earlier book The Racial State, co-written with Wolfgang Wipperman, he makes no such claim). For my rundown of Paxton’s most recent book, see https://clarespark.com/2014/11/13/the-anatomy-of-fascism-robert-paxtons-analysis/.

Finally, rightist culture warriors have spread the inflammatory myth that the refugee scholars of Jewish descent (the Frankfurters fleeing Nazism, who unsuccessfully attempted to fuse Marx and Freud) have turned the heads of the American electorate, propagating the notion of political correctness. I find this particularly infuriating and even likely to be antisemitic. See one of many blogs on this subject: https://clarespark.com/2011/10/21/did-frankfurters-kill-the-white-christian-west/. Rather, it was the early Progressive movement, all Christians by the way, who invented identity politics; i.e. “ethnic” or hyphenated American identity would suffocate “proletarian internationalism.” Later, to mollify and co-opt the social movements of the 1960s, similar elitist statists deployed the crypto-racism of “multiculturalism” and “cultural relativism” to quiet the new “extremists” (some of whom did sympathize with the Old Left, especially Leninist anti-imperialism).

I can understand that many conservatives remain hung up on anticommunism and continue to defend Joe McCarthy, for major scholars have examined the briefly opened Soviet archives after 1989, and found that many of McCarthy’s claims were based in fact. But these same scholars have also documented the fall of the KGB and the sharply dwindling communist movement in America. I refer to Mark Kramer, Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Ron Radosh, to name a few. None would deny that Hitler’s task, as patronized by German conservatives, was to destroy the independent working class movement and its inspiration, the Soviet Union.
To imagine that Hitler was “really” a communist/Socialist, is to weaken the argument against the increasing statism demonstrated by the Obama administration. As Paxton and his inspiration Martin Broszat, convincingly demonstrate, Leader, Party, State, and sub-agencies (such as the SS) were in constant conflict during the Third Reich. Earlier scholars failed to see that the State was up for grabs during the Third Reich, partly because of sequestered documents.


Ironically, where conservative have ammunition linking “socially responsible capitalists” to Nazism, they fail to use it. For instance, to my knowledge, only I have uncovered ignore the important role that New Deal-affiliated social psychologists played in mind-management during the late 1930s and early 1940s: if you want to dig up scandals, this one is a dilly, for such luminaries as Henry A. Murray, Gordon Allport, and Walter Langer consciously adopted Hitlerian methods of controlling the little people (the mob or “the people, untrained to rule”) they held responsible for Nazism. (See https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/, and https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/. Henry A. Murray argued that Jewish blood would explain Hitler’s success in fooling other world leaders.

September 24, 2014

Are “liberals” control freaks?

Control_FreaksA few days ago one of my FB friends, an intelligent and educated scriptwriter and novelist, posted a photo claiming that all liberals were not only evil, but were interested in controlling every aspect of our lives. I see the same sort of collective condemnation frequently on Facebook, emanating usually from conservatives, even from  neocons who should know better, having once been either [moralistic] leftists or [moralistic] social democrats.

This blog seeks to counter all-inclusive claims that demonize the opposition.

Do Americans believe in the devil? An alarming number of Christians do (80%), compared to Jews (17%). The Devil is nowhere to be found in Judaism, so I am assuming that uneducated Jews, perhaps engorged with pop culture, comprise the shocking figure of 17%. See http://washingtonexaminer.com/57-believe-in-the-devil-72-for-blacks-61-for-women/article/2536055. (On the conception of Satan as evil inclination in Judaism, see http://judaism.about.com/od/judaismbasics/a/jewishbeliefsatan.htm.) This is a worrisome number, for belief in the Devil signifies disbelief in science and what used to be called “empiricism” but it is now stigmatized as “materialism.” And “materialism” is associated with [demonic] communists, a corrupt working class, and even “secular progressives” who are anything but red, but rather “moderates” or “moderate conservatives.”

Belief in the devil is a catastrophe for democratic republics that demand of their citizens that they rationally focus on those issues that confront them in this world, rather than abjuring “worldliness” in favor of fixation on “another world.”

Control freaks. The notion that liberals and leftists want to control everyone and everything is possibly a projection of authoritarian and conformist rightists, who bristle at the thought of being “forced” to do anything by the state. It is not as if there are no rational conservative intellectuals, but the latest tactic in the political wars advanced by a few pundits demands that they play dirty just like the enemy, grabbing mass culture away from the devious, demonic enemy.

Some conservatives, on the other hand, advise their fellow rightists not to smear liberalism as “evil” or “demonic” but to patiently explain liberal mistakes, especially with respect to economic theories. As for the fantasy of taking mass culture away from “Hollywood”, fat chance of that. As I have argued here before, movies and other mass media have always been populist, appealing not to an aristocracy but to mass resentments of any and all elites who are believed to be repressive—and demonic, like Jews, gays, and femmes fatales.

Populism comes in many flavors, spanning the political spectrum from left to right. Populists are always self-righteous and enraged, encouraging demagoguery and reverence for the Leader who stirs them, vaguely enough to encompass a variety of targets for their hate.

Anyone who has ever studied the progressive movement knows that the statists were paternalistic and in their own minds, deeply moral, hearts bleeding for the oppressed masses. “The People” of course were oppressed by Jew-ridden capitalism and puritanical Mothers seeking to expand their empires over feckless sons. Progressives, taking their lesson from the Good Kings of fictional yore, would vanquish “laissez-faire” economics, bad Jews and battle-axe females, to reinstate “social cohesion” and “political stability” through the re-imposition of mystical bonds between competitors in the marketplace and in the workforce. In other words, they were upper-class moralists and true gentlemen. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/, or https://clarespark.com/2014/09/03/solidarity-on-the-left-vs-disunity-on-the-right/.)

The overall aim of the progressive movement, then and now, was the uplift and cooling out of the proletarian immigrants. Believing themselves to be the only ones trained to rule (see the career of Henry A. Murray of Harvard), they had no qualms about imposing self-control on themselves and others in order to restrain “greed” in their opposition on “Wall Street”. Nothing as vulgar and/or distruping as the nouveaux riches, so the Old Money (especially in New England) lived modestly and eschewed “conspicuous consumption.” I.e., they controlled themselves as examples to the consumerist masses, a tic that the Left copied in their zeal to stigmatize the anti-revolutionary working class that wanted material goods over red revolution.

“Madame Mirage”

This was my Rosh Hashanah blog. As long as the majority of Americans persist in believing in the devil or other forms of irrationality, I remain howling in the wilderness, a Jew till the end of time.

February 7, 2014

Herman Melville on the [materialist, solitary] “backwoodsman”

possumMelville’s chapters on “the metaphysics of Indian-hating” in The Confidence-Man (1857) are often cited to defend multiculturalism and to instill liberal guilt for the fate of “les pauvres Peaux-Rouges.” This is a typical error of ideologues who rip pages out of context to appropriate an eminent writer to their cause du jour.

Not long ago, I wrote about Sydney Ahlstrom’s influential history of religion in America, pointing out that the frontiersman was his bête noir, “the anti-intellectual” bad boy of US history. (See https://clarespark.com/2014/01/08/the-frontiersmansettler-as-all-purpose-scapegoat/.) But see how Melville (speaking through the skeptical Man from Missouri/”Coonskins”) describes this same archetype: the frontiersman’s sin is primarily a deficiency of deference to his betters, a mood Melville might embrace or reject:

“The backwoodsman is a lonely man. He is a thoughtful man. He is a man strong and unsophisticated. Impulsive, he is what some might call unprincipled. At any rate, he is self-willed; being one who less hearkens to what others may say about things, than looks for himself, to see what are things themselves. If in straits, there are few to help; he must depend on himself; he must continually look to himself. Hence self-reliance, to the degree of standing by his own judgment, though it stands alone. Not that he deems himself infallible; too many mistakes in following trails prove the contrary; but he thinks that nature destines such sagacity as she has given him, as she destines it to the ‘possum. To these fellow-beings of the wilds their untutored sagacity is their best dependence. If with either it prove faulty, if the ‘possums betray it to the trap, or the backwoodsman’s mislead him into ambuscade, there are consequences to be undergone, but no self-blame. As with the ‘possum, instincts prevail with the backwoodsman over precepts. Like the ‘possum, the backwoodsman presents the spectacle of a creature dwelling exclusively among the works of God, yet these, truth must confess, breed little in him of a godly mind. Small bowing and scraping is his, further than when with bent knee he points his rifle, or picks its flint. With few companions, solitude by necessity his lengthened lot, he stands the trial—no slight one, since, next to dying, solitude, rightly borne, is perhaps of fortitude the most rigorous test.

…Whatever the nation’s growing opulence or power, does it not lackey his heels? Pathfinder, provider of security to those who come after him, for himself he asks nothing but hardship. Worthy to be compared with Moses in the Exodus….he rides upon advance, as the Polynesian upon the comb of the surf.” (Chapter XXVI)

Herman Melville went back and forth on the American mission, sometimes lauding his countrymen as the Chosen People, sometimes criticizing them as reckless killers–hence the wild divergences of interpretation as to his politics. But in the case of the backwoodsman, quoted above, I have no doubt that deference to illegitimate authority was ever Melville’s overwhelming concern. He may have had discovery anxiety, but in the end, he pushed through it, “Ishmael” may have survived, but “Ahab” kept returning to unmask the confidence-men. No wonder Henry A. Murray and Charles Olson, in their private notes, accused him of being a Jew or Hebraic.


January 16, 2014

Hitler and the Big Lie, corrected

[“Romantically” “Jewish”] Hitler encounters the restless, skeptical, switching ‘Jewish’ mind

 pinocchionose While reflecting upon Hitler’s publications (along with the productions of other “moderate men”), I have seen an incoherence and madness which, however affected by family history, seems primarily structured by class position; my synthesis supplements the work of those historians who have stressed counter-Enlightenment as the centerpiece of Nazi ideology.[1] Racial thinking, I argue, is not about some ahistoric group superiority per se, ever present and perhaps inevitable, as the functionalists who write our school curricula would have it, but about corporatism/organicism: Tribal or feudal social relations are upheld or applied to halt developing societies; such localisms are undermined by concepts of international species-unity, by capitalism supposed to be moving leftward.  In spite of ultra-conservative or hippie brakes, industrial societies are science-driven, hence retain their capacities to promote the wandering imagination to the point of global solidarity.

     My particular interest in Hitler’s Jewish problem stems from study of the moderate men, led by Henry A. Murray, who have revived/not revived “the forgotten” Herman Melville (1819-1891) after 1919.  I inferred that double-binds specific to modernity (the demand for both truth and order, independence and loyalty) structure ‘liberal’ socializing institutions, that Melville pointed this out most powerfully and unambiguously in Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852), and possibly for that reason Melville, tracer of lost persons, both fascinated and upset many readers who then either continued to puzzle over him, or distorted his positions or rendered him persona non grata  in American letters.  Hitler’s revealing table talk,” taken with the passages on propaganda in Mein Kampf, bear out my thesis: There are analogies between readers hostile/attracted to Ahab’s/Melville’s modernism and Hitler’s extremely anxious response to bold, expressive critical thought above all, his own and his father’s.  Some key Melville readers and Hitler alike simultaneously try to hold the center/flee to the margins.  They are not alone in their spaced-out confusion.

[A Pennsylvania educator, 1949:]  “This wonderful something which we call life comes to the teacher in its most plastic, pliable state and condition.  The teacher’s mind, will, and conviction mold the plastic mind of the pupils.  It is clearly evident that the teacher’s position is important in the social and cultural relations of the group…Nervous activities must be normal to enjoy one’s work.  Then the teacher speaks in a well modulated voice and not in shrill or harsh tones which disturb the orderly procedure of the class room.

A good, careful preparation for one’s work is the chief source of confidence.  One knows what he is going to do.  He knows his material.  Confidence utilized in the right way helps him to be positive and constructive in his teaching.  He will help to have all sides of a question discussed and try to arrive at a definite decision as far as possible.  It might be remembered that an opinion expressed does not constitute the teaching of social studies.  The result to be achieved must be definite and not probable.”  [2]

Lord Bullock (1991, 164) and his predecessors in the aristocratic Hermann Rauschning historiographical tendency in Hitler studies have constructed an extremist, a cynical demagogue descended from Marat and Robespierre.  Strangely, this Hitler is a paranoid merged with narcissistic masses worshipping the Goddess of Reason/themselves, yet at the same time, the detached puppeteer gloating over the credulity/cynicism of “mob society” swallowing the Big Lie; this curious character is now a cliché in American high and popular culture.[3]  Besides Murray and Mosse, their ranks include Hannah Arendt, T.W. Adorno, Leo Lowenthal, Georg Lukács, and Joachim Fest.  I have seen nothing in Hitler’s published writings, however, to support such a view; on the contrary, it is almost always “the Jew” who manipulates the helpless; Hitler defines himself as the good teacher-saviour defeating Social Democratic/Jewish “artistry in lying.”  As a representative of European high culture and (conservative) Enlightenment, Hitler loathes Weimar mass culture (also Jewish); if he must carefully craft his messages for the masses, it is in response to the imperative of mass psychology (not to be equated with individual psychology, cf. LeBon and Freud) and for their own good.  Moreover, inexact translations of some small but key words in Mein Kampf have made it more difficult to spot Hitler’s consistent obsessive need for clear boundaries between categories, images, and feelings.  Similarly, typing Hitler (the brute) hides the particular psychodynamics (the switch) that seem to lead him to despair/purging/more switches.

Hitler’s construction of  the Jew cannot be attributed solely to family trauma and individual psychology, the authoritarian family ahistorically conceived, but was probably a function of the historically specific hopelessness of a declining class, the small producer competing with more efficient rivals.  Charting his class position would reveal collapse and quagmire.  If Hitler was a psychopath then neither his craziness nor his elusiveness is unique to himself or the Germans; therein lies the true horror and the lesson for ourselves as “progressive,” “moderate,” “public interest” intellectuals similarly positioned in middle-management, and decrying both the “insane” hard-hearted bourgeoisie and Marxist labor unions, both wings needlessly inciting class hatred.  In the section that follows I quote passages from the knightly Hitler’s writing that suggest a pattern of blended phobia, hysteria, paranoia, and time-tested conservative reform.

[Hitler:] “These men [his fellow construction workers in Vienna] rejected everything: the nation as an invention of the “capitalistic” (how often I was forced to hear this single word!) classes; the fatherland as an instrument of the bourgeoisie for the exploitation of the working class; the authority of the law as a means for oppressing the proletariat; the school as an institution for breeding slaves and slaveholders; religion as a means for stultifying the people and making them easier to exploit; morality as a symptom of stupid, sheep-like patience, etc.  There was absolutely nothing which was not drawn through the mud of a terrifying depth. (Mein Kampf, Chapter 2, 40, Manheim transl.).

…Millions of workers were surely inwardly hostile to the Social Democratic Party at first, but their resistance was overcome by the manner, often quite insane, in which the bourgeois parties opposed any demand of a social nature.  The simply hidebound obstruction of all attempts to improve working conditions, of safety devices on machines, of prevention of child labor and of protection for women at least during the months when she carries the future comrade of the people beneath her heart–all this helped to drive the masses into the nets of Social Democracy, which gratefully seized upon every case of similar contemptible sentiments.  Our political citizenry, our bourgeoisie, can never make good such past sins.  For by resisting all attempts to cure social ills, it sowed hatred, and apparently justified the claim of the deadly enemies of the whole people that the Social Democratic party alone represented the interests of the working people (56-57).”

[Hitler:] [A standard for good trade unions:] If union activity envisages and attains the goal of improving the position of a class that belongs to the pillars of the nation, its effect not only is not hostile to state or fatherland, but is “national” in the truest sense of the word.  It is helping after all, to lay the social groundwork without which no generally national education is thinkable.  It deserves the highest credit for destroying social cancers by attacking both intellectual and physical bacilli, and thus contributing to the general health of the body of the people (57).

…Our present struggle is merely a continuation, on the international level, of the struggle we waged on the national level.  Let everyone, in his own field, take care to do his best, with the knowledge that on every occasion we were pushing the best of us forward; that’s how a people surpasses itself and surpasses others.  Nothing can happen to us if we remain faithful to these principles, but one must know how to advance, step by step, how to reconnoitre the ground and remove, one after another, the obstacles one finds there.

If one neglected to appeal to the masses, one’s choice would be rather too confined to intellectuals.  We would lack brute strength.  Brute strength consists of the peasant and worker, for the insecurity of their daily life keeps them close to the state of nature.  Give them brains into the bargain, and you turn them into incomparable men of action.

Above all, we must not allow our élite to become an exclusive society.

The son of an official, at the fifth or sixth generation, is doomed to become a lawyer…So what kind of role can a nation play when it’s governed by people of that sort–people who weigh and analyse everything? One couldn’t make history with people like that…The bourgeois with whom we flirted at the time of our struggle were simply aesthetes. (Table Talk, Nov. 1-2, 1941, 108).

[Hitler:] It was a fundamental error to discuss guilt from the standpoint that Germany could not be made solely responsible for the outbreak of the catastrophe; the right way was to load the guilt solely upon the enemy, even if this had not corresponded to the actual situation, which in this case it really did.  What was the result of this half-measure?  The great masses of a people do not consist of diplomats or even of teachers of international law, in fact not even of people capable of a reasoned judgment; they are human beings, wavering, inclined to doubt and uncertainty.  The moment their own propaganda concedes so much as the faintest glimmer of justice to the other side, the seeds for doubt of their own cause have been sown.  The masses are in no position to tell where the enemy’s misdeeds end and their own begin.  In such cases they become uncertain and suspicious, particularly if the enemy is not guilty of the same foolishness, but puts the guilt lock, stock and barrel upon his adversary.  What’s more natural than for one’s own people at last to believe the hostile propaganda, more concerted and single-minded [geschlossener, einheitlicher] as it is, rather than one’s own.  This is most easily proved to be true with a people who suffers from the objectivity craze [deutsche Objektivitätsfimmel] as severely as the Germans do!  For here everyone will strive to do no injustice to the enemy, even at the risk of accusing, nay destroying, his own people and State.  The masses never become conscious that it is not thus intended in high quarters.  The overwhelming majority of the people is so feminine in tendency and attitude that emotion and feelings [gefühlsmassige Empfindung] rather than sober consideration determine its thought and action.

But this feeling is not complicated; it is simple and firm [einfach und geschlossen].  There are not many shadings [Differenzierungen], but a positive or a negative, love or hate, right or wrong, truth or lie, but never half this or half that, or partly, etc.

All these things English propaganda in particular realized–and took account of with positive genius.  Here were no half-measures which might have raised doubts. (Mein Kampf, Part One, Chapter 6, “War Propaganda”).

[Clare:] The Ludwig Lore translation of these passages misleadingly renders einfach as “simple,” geschlossen as “firm,” gefühlsmassige Empfindung as “emotion and feelings.”  Other translations add the theme of coherence, but neither singleness nor closure.[4]

Although these last paragraphs are usually excerpted (briefly) by rival propagandists to prove that Hitler preached the necessity for the constantly reiterated Big Lie directed on behalf of his own power lust and against the interests of the masses, there is no support for such a reading; indeed he would have been crazy to have made such a statement in a book heavily promoted during the Third Reich and intended to win over farmers, workers, and small businessmen to the Nazi program.  Rather, to evade “the objectivity craze” (Stackpole ed. 1939) or “the mania for objectivity” of “the German people” (Houghton Mifflin, 1939), Hitler copies the British by stressing the necessity for simple/single, clear, conclusive propaganda images to match the single intuitive emotion (gefühlsmassige Empfindung) of the masses that determines their thoughts and actions (Diese Empfindung aber ist nicht kompliziert, sondern sehr einfach und geschlossen).  Hitler is not only protecting the people from the indecision that leads to defeat, he nervously seeks and roots himself in one monocausal, internally consistent historical explanation/image with no moral mix-up, no refusal of closure, no “frightful daubs.”  Unlike “Hitler”–the lover of Romantic fogs and mists/ruins and rubble of the long Marxist night transmitted by the moderates–Hitler is a neo-classical morning man like themselves.  Weighing and analysing everything, however, immobilizes him; close to “nature”–the idealized rustic or small-town family, the good labor union–his capacity for effective action (briefly?) returns.

Later chapters of Mein Kampf bear out my argument (see MK Part Two, Chapters 6 and 11).  Sentences from Chapter 6 are frequently taken out of context to confirm Hitler’s cynicism, irrationalism, protean character, and power-hunger; i.e., Hitler is read as an archetypal Jew.  But in Hitler’s text, mass suggestion is deployed solely to build community, to fortify the isolated, meek individual in his adherence to a new, more historically truthful idea, to help the worker switch more comfortably away from the ruin of Marxist internationalism/war guilt which, thanks to Jewish orators/agitators, has captured the irrational, emotionally resistant portion of his psyche: the heart.  Crucially, the focus of Hitler’s discussion of propaganda is the question of the war guilt or innocence of the German people, a matter obviously intertwined with Hitler’s inhibitions about criticism of authority within the family, but also a genuine confusion given the secrecy and duplicity of the ruling class of Germany.[5] There is a tortuous line from doubt to parricide, a pattern possibly related to his father Alois’ cosmopolitanism, perceived by Hitler as contradicting “pronounced national sentiments” and described without apparent rancor:

[Hitler:] …he had arrived at more or less cosmopolitan views, which, despite his pronounced national sentiments, not only remained intact, but also affected me to some extent. [M.K., 51, Manheim trans.].

[Clare:] Calm will switch to hysteria for the tension between cosmopolitanism and nationalism is loaded for Hitler, though apparently invisible to some Freudians.[6]  Compare several parallel passages from Mein Kampf (publ. 1925-1927) and the Secret Book (written 1928).  Here is an increasingly vertiginous Hitler at wits end.

Hitler wants his antisemitism to be understood as rational: grounded in fact, in study and personal experience.  At first he was a cosmopolitan like his father, opposed to “organized hostility” against the Jews.  But in Vienna, Hitler meets an “apparition” (an orthodox Jew with black caftan and black hair locks), becomes disillusioned with the Jewish “world press,” and feels the need to separate Germans from liberal Jews and liberal Jews from Zionists.  Now he will unmask the hidden Jewishness (Zionism) of the liberal Jew, then the secret Jewish control of both white slavery and Social Democracy.

[Hitler, from “Learning and Suffering in Vienna”:] “If one knows this people, the veil of misconception about aim and meaning of the party fall from his eyes, and the ape-like meaning of Marxism rises grinning from the fog and mist of social talk (62).”  Personal contact has brought demystification; Hitler switches from confusion to clarity and (temporary) peace: “When I recognized the Jew as the leader of Social Democracy, the scales began to fall from my eyes.  With this a long spiritual struggle came to an end (MK, 70).” No sooner has he seen the light when suddenly Hitler switches to a topic not set up in the immediately preceding paragraphs, moving in and out of hypnotic confusion:

“Even in daily contact with my fellow-workmen I was struck by the extraordinary chameleon power by which they took several attitudes toward a single question, often within a few days, sometimes even within a few hours.  I could scarcely understand how people who, taken singly, still held reasonable views could suddenly lose them the moment they came under the spell of the masses.  Often it was enough to drive one to despair.  I would argue for hours, and finally believe that this time at last I had broken the ice or cleared away some piece of nonsense, and would be feeling heartily glad of my success; and then I would be grieved to find that I had to begin all over again.  It had all been futile.  The madness of their opinions seemed always to swing back again like a perpetual pendulum.

I could understand everything; that they were dissatisfied with their lot, cursed Fate, which often dealt them such hard knocks; hated the business men, who seemed to them the heartless tools of this Fate; railed against government offices, which in their eyes had no feeling for the workers’ situation [they, the workers, are scapegoating? C.S.]; that they demonstrated against food prices, and marched through the streets in support of their demands–all this one could still understand without referring to reason.  But what I could not understand was the boundless hatred they felt for their own people, the way they despised its grandeur, defiled its history, and dragged great men in the gutter.

This struggle against their own kind, their own nest, their own homeland, was as senseless as it was incomprehensible.  It was unnatural.

They could be temporarily cured of this vice, but only for days, for weeks at most.  If later one met a supposed convert, he had fallen back into his old self.  His unnatural tendencies would have him again in their grip. (MK, Ludwig Lore translation, 1939, 70).”

Persistently, Hitler tries to disabuse his “own little circle” of their “Marxist madness”: “The more disputes I had with them, the better acquainted I became with their dialectics.  First they would count on the stupidity of their adversaries, and then, if there was no way out, they pretended stupidity themselves.  If all else failed, then they claimed they did not understand correctly, or being challenged, instantly jumped to another subject [!], and talked truisms; but if these were agreed to they at once applied them to entirely different matters, and then in turn, being caught again, they would dodge and have no exact knowledge.  No matter where you seized one of these apostles, your hand grasped slimy ooze, [7] which poured in separate streams through the fingers, only to unite again the next moment…I was often simply paralyzed.  One did not know which to admire more–their fluency or their artistry in lying…(72). ”

Next, Hitler has another (?) odd idea of what constitutes a logical opposition; he seems to be oscillating between class collaboration and antimodernism; once again the theme of the vulnerable small producer dependent on fluctuations in money interest and prices enters his rhetoric: “On the one hand it was the duty of every thinking person to force his way into the front ranks of the accursed movement, thus perhaps to prevent it from going to extremes; on the other hand, however, the actual creators of this national disease must have been true devils.  Only in the brain of a monster–not of a human being–could the plan take shape for an organization the eventual result of whose activity must be the collapse of human civilization and the desolation of the world (73).”

“The ultimate expression of this general valuation is the historical, cultural image of a people, which reflects the sum of all the radiations of its blood value or of the race values united in it.

Blood mixing and lowering of the race are not seldom introduced through a so-called predilection for things foreign, which in reality is an underestimation of one’s own cultural values as against alien peoples.  Once a people no longer appreciates the cultural expression of its own spiritual life conditioned through its blood, or even begins to feel ashamed of it, in order to turn to alien expressions of life, it renounces the strength which lies in the harmony of its blood and the cultural life which has sprung from it. It becomes torn apart, unsure in its judgment of the world picture and its expressions, loses the perception and the feeling for its own purposes, and in place of this sinks into a confusion of international ideas, conceptions, and the cultural hodge-podge springing from them. Then the Jew can make his entry in any form and this master of international poisoning and race corruption will not rest until he has thoroughly uprooted and thereby corrupted such a people. The end is then the loss of a definite unitary race value and as a result, the final decline. [Hitler’s Secret Book,1928, 28-29].”

[Clare:] Is Hitler re-experiencing the suspended contradiction which did, in imagination, shatter the “intact” father? Is father the hypercritical devil whose excesses, treachery and ambiguity empty the world of meaning, demanding obedience without a clear set of rules? Had the desire to escape such confusion turned the adolescent boy into a murderer?  These passages may take our understanding of Hitler’s psyche beyond the suggestions of Erich Fromm, Wilhelm Reich, Adorno and Horkheimer, and other Freudians that Hitler, with other authoritarian personalities, possesses a sadistic-anal social character, is constantly callous and overarmored, is torn between defiance and submission, and perceives Jews as sexual aggressors and castrating fathers.

Such psychoanalytic explanations are too abstract and ahistoric, unrooted in Hitler’s subjective experience of his life, his self-understanding.  By following his psychodynamics as Hitler himself defined them, we glimpsed a man with no boundaries and terrified that he may lose his balance: open the door even a crack to the German craze for objectivity and Hitler (unlike Bartleby the Scrivener) literally does not know where he is standing, where he begins and others leave off, who is a Jew and who is not.  There is no “I” there, no safe prospect, no cognition, no “bourgeois subjectivity,” therefore no observing ego, no possibility of a relatively complete history, no sublimity. [8]

When Hitler says “they” to whom is he referring?  Workers, Jewish whoremasters, Social Democratic pamphleteers and the masses have run together like “slimy ooze.”  Is this an image of the dissolution of his class seeping through the crystal clean facade, a quicksand so powerfully dragging him to hell that Hitler, even armed with “exact knowledge” and “racial value,” may not enter the movement to moderate it?  Like any gentle chivalrous knight he steels himself only to destroy the monster; in this mood he is turning away from class collaboration and its intolerable suspension of cosmopolitanism and nationalism.  If the Jew perishes, Hitler saves himself from father, and father from himself: thus he has reconstructed the lovely family with no double-binds; is this the flight to romantic authoritarianism that some of “the children” of democratic pluralism have taken since the 1960s?  Obviously, Hitler’s panic in the Gorgon face of ambiguity could have been transferred to the perception of interpenetration of categories and points of view expressed in cubism and other forms of aesthetic modernism (Hinz: “problematic or unfinished work”) proscribed by the Nazis. From Mein Kampf to the Table Talk, then, Hitler constantly returns to the theme of his painful confusion when asked to understand modern (abstract, constantly revised, internally contradictory) analyses of society; indeed he will directly associate to talk of exterminating or otherwise removing the Jews. [9]

Misleading and wrong

Misleading and wrong


[1] See Bernard Semmel, Imperialism and Social Reform: English Social Imperial Thought 1895-1914 (Harvard U.P., 1960): 41.  The social imperialists adopted Darwinism, but made tribes and races the competing units; Karl Pearson held that race or national feeling were stronger factors shaping conduct than market forces.  Also, see Eberhard Jäckel, Hitler’s World View (Harvard U.P. Paperback, 1981, orig. publ. 1975); Hans Staudinger, The Inner Nazi: A Critical Analysis of Mein Kampf (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State U.P., 1981).  Hitler was of course not supporting laissez-faire industrial capitalism favored by Social Darwinists, rather the reactionary utopian agrarianism one would expect from a member of the declining petit-bourgeoisie; parallel movements can be discerned in the English Distributists of the early twentieth century, American Southern Agrarians of the 1930s and in the more nostalgic sectors of the New Left, especially in those who have repressed the anti-Semitic side of populism; intellectual mentors of this tendency include William Blake, the Christian Socialists, William Morris, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, Van Wyck Brooks, Waldo Frank, Aldous Huxley, and Lewis Mumford.  See Meyer Schapiro, review of Mumford’s The Culture of Cities, “Looking Forward to Looking Backward,” Partisan Review (June 1938), 12-24, for analysis of Mumford’s reactionary organicism; John L. Thomas, Alternative America (Harvard, 1983). These radicals would probably agree with Sombart that it was “the Jewish spirit” that created economic determinism, that is, the domination of money and the market as Parson argued in 1928, quoted above.

  [2] Charles William Heathcote, “The Teacher of Social Studies: A Reappraisal,” The Social Studies, Vol.40 (1949): 67,68.  The author was “Head, Department of Social Studies, State Teachers College, West Chester, Pennsylvania.

  [3] See T. W. Adorno, Leo Lowenthal, and Paul W. Massing, “Anti-Semitism and Fascist Propaganda,” Antisemitism: A Social Disease, ed. Ernst Simmel with a Preface by Gordon Allport (N.Y.: International Universities Press, 1946): 132: “…it is a deceptive idea, that the so-called common people have an unfailing flair for the genuine and sincere, and disparage fake.  Hitler was liked, not in spite of his cheap antics, but just because of them, because of his false tones and his clowning.  They are observed as such, and appreciated….The sentimentality of the common people is by no means primitive, unreflecting emotion.  On the contrary, it is pretense, a fictitious, shabby imitation of real feeling often self-conscious and slightly contemptuous of itself.  This fictitiousness is the life element of the fascist propagandist performances.”  See also Hannah Arendt, “The Concentration Camps,” Partisan Review, July 1948, 745: “Hitler circulated millions of copies of his book in which he stated that to be successful, a lie must be enormous–which did not prevent people from believing him….”  This claim, the center of her irrationalist argument, is not footnoted; in any case, she implies that Hitler was boasting about his own successful lying in attaining the support of the German people (and which I challenge in this essay).  Arendt argues that Nazis were philistines, relativists/nihilists, not pseudo-aristocrats defending “individuality” in terms similar to her own (for Arendt: “the uniqueness shaped in equal parts by nature, will, and destiny,” 758).  Note the refusal of former critical tools: “An insight into the nature of totalitarian rule, directed by our fear of the concentration camp, might serve to devaluate all outmoded political shadings from right to left and, beside and above them, to introduce the most essential political criterion of our time: Will it lead to totalitarian rule or will it not? (747).”

See Georg Lukács, The Destruction of Reason (London: The Merlin Press, 1980): 721-726 for the claim that Hitler learned his demagogical techniques from American advertising (imperialist Americans were the new Nazis in 1950s Stalinist propaganda). Citing Rauschning as his source, Lukács wrote, “In their speeches and writing, the fascist leaders poured out with a nauseating show of emotion their national and social demagogie, whose public second names were honour, loyalty, faith and sacrifice, etc. But when they came together in private, they spoke with the most cynical, knowing smiles of their own messages and manifestoes” (721).  It was of course English wartime propaganda that Hitler credited in Mein Kampf and he disavowed manipulativeness, see below; Cf. Jim Fyrth, Britain, Fascism, and the Popular Front (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1985): 10: “…fascism posed as a form of socialism and its anti-capitalist rhetoric was directed at the working class and lower-middle class.” The Tory/Stalinist characterization of Americans as the new Nazis persists in anti-imperialist movements today; see for instance, Alexander Cockburn’s ill-timed insinuation in The Nation, 8/17-24/92, 163 that Jews (in the persons of Edward Alexander and the Jews who publish him) selfishly and callously minimize the suffering of other oppressed groups (American Indians and Southern slaves) by resisting [ahistoric] attempts to equate “the Holocaust” with other forms of mass death.  Cf. The New Masses during the 1930s which defended the revolutionary bourgeoisie and its development of the productive forces in the same progressive America that would be treated as a country of Bad Jews after the war.

Also see Joachim Fest, Hitler (Harcourt Brace, 1973): Fest presents a bouquet of diagnoses in “the manic simple-mindedness with which he traced all the anxieties he had ever felt back to a single source.” (101-102); “[Hitler learned everything from Marxism and its idea of the vanguard.]  He also went much further than his model.  In his nature there was an infantile fondness for the grand, surpassing gesture, a craving to impress.  He dreamed of superlatives and was bent on having the most radical ideology, just as later he was bent on having the biggest building or the heaviest tank.” (126) i.e., both Marxism and Hitler are crazy.

Although E. Jäckel criticized the Hermann Rauschning tendency, such arguments appeared before Rauschning’s book.  See for instance, George Sylvester Viereck, 1923 (his self-published journal, with the “explosive” Hitler as Byron, vagina dentata, Jewish intellectual, and Gorgon); also Johannes Steel, Hitler as Frankenstein, with a preface by Harold Laski (London: Wishart, 1933): 7.  Describing Mein Kampf: “Eight hundred pages full of curses against Pacifists, Jews, Marxists, Internationalists, and Capitalists without a single productive idea.  His political faith as proclaimed in this book is, that everybody is wrong and only he is right.  A curious book…in which he never speaks about himself, his family, his life, or even his program for the future, but only about generalities.  Metaphysical theories on the necessity of the purification of the German race, of which he is not a member, and in addition to that, nothing but hate and again hate…. (7).  At the end of his speech he registered a child-like happy self-satisfaction” (9).  Hitler is drawn as a Henry Ford-type, not a corporatist liberal: “[Henry Ford] like himself, was a bourgeois, did not like Jews, Socialists, Communists or Revolutionaries, or government interference with private business.” (33).  On Jew-hatred, Steel writes of  “black-haired Jews who seemed to have such an easy life, just trading, arguing and talking and yet getting on and on more rapidly than he, or anyone around him” (3).  The Hitler-Robespierre-syndicalist connection was explicit in Hendrik Willem Van Loon, Our Battle (N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1938): 68 ff, 77.

On 7/17/92 Los Angeles public television broadcast a British film, Führer: Seduction of a Nation, advised by Lord Bullock, which carried these themes, depicting Hitler as an inflamed narcissist, “a face from the crowd” taking in the masses with a line that “sounded democratic”; the grandiose Hitler was too close to his mother, the father was described as “authoritarian” and perhaps half-Jewish.

For other works by conservatives that promulgate the Big Lie theory of Nazi propaganda/Nazi narcissism see the Fireside Discussion Group of The Anti-Defamation League of B’Nai B’rith, Hitler’s Communism Unmasked (Chicago, 1938); Louis W. Bondy, Racketeers of Hatred: Julius Streicher and the Jew-Baiters International (London: Newman Wolsey, 1946); Adolf Leschnitzer, The Magic Background of Modern Anti-Semitism (N.Y.: International Universities Press, 1956): 142-143; Stanley G. Payne, Fascism: Comparison and Definition (Madison: U.of Wisconsin Press, 1980): 7.  In his typology of social movements, Payne describes Nazi style and organization as “Emphasis on esthetic structure of meetings, symbols, and political choreography, stressing romantic and mystical aspects”; David Welch, Propaganda and the German Cinema 1933-1945 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983): 44-45; Ian Kershaw, The ‘Hitler Myth’: Image and Reality in the Third Reich (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986): 3, 147, 259-62; Martin Broszat, “A Plea for the Historicization of National Socialism,” Reworking the Past, ed. Peter Baldwin, op.cit., the (populist) Nazis [not Plato et al] invented the idea of the Big Lie! (84).

A somewhat differing impression of Nazi propaganda is carried in Leonard W. Doob, “Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda,” Public Opinion Quarterly, vol.14 (Fall 1950): 419-442.  Doob believes Goebbels defended the “truth” of his propaganda, but “credibility” was sought in the spirit of Machiavellian expediency, not morality.  But, according to Richard Crossman (British M.P.), this was (also?) the Allies’ position!  See his “Supplementary Essay” to Daniel Lerner, Sykewar (N.Y.: George Stewart, 1949): 334-335.  For Crossman, the “arch propagandist” Goebbels was sincerely deluded in his Big Lie (then described as necessarily duplicitous): “Where the Germans differed from us was not in their means, but in their ends.  The Nazis really believed that the Germans were a Herrenvolk, with the right to dominate the world; that democracy was an expression of decaying capitalism, and civil liberty a relic of a decadent bourgeois civilization; that the Soviet Union was simply a Mongolian despotism, and Communism a disease; that the Slavs were natural slaves and the Jews vermin, fit only for extirpation.  The real lie of which Goebbels was guilty was the attempt to conceal from the rest of Europe the implications of his Herrenvolk idea…. (334)  Earlier, he claimed that Nazis “took over and vastly refined Bolshevik techniques of mass persuasion (323).”  (Compare Hitler’s admiration in Mein Kampf of British war propaganda for its clarity regarding guilt and innocence; in the Crossman essay, he states that the same propaganda was solely dedicated to urging the Germans to overthrow the Kaiser and establish democracy.)

In Doob’s account, Goebbels himself did not evolve criteria for measuring the effectiveness of differing media, so tried everything to catch his fish.  As often happens, mind-managers have less confidence in their tactics than their critics.  But see Weinreich, “The Jew As A Demon” (Hitler’s Professors, 1946) for evidence of hypocrisy among Goebbels’ disciples.  In my essay, I make no further claim than the absence of Hitler’s bragging about manipulating the masses (against their interests) in either Mein Kampf or Table Talk.

  [4] See for instance Hideya Kumata and Wilbur Schramm, “Propaganda Theory of the German Nazis,” Psychological Warfare Casebook, 1958, p. 49.  The authors translate the sentence as “This sentiment, however, is not complicated but very simple and complete.”  The “Nazi socialists” oppose “objectivity” (48).  The article was originally prepared for the USIA by the University of Illinois, Urbana, Jan. 1955, and part of Four Working Papers on Propaganda Theory. (It would have been more correct to say that all propagandists desire closure and hence oppose ambiguity and mixed-messages.)  A few pages later, the authors quote Goebbels as he established the Propaganda Ministry, “…Monopoly control of all media of mass communication within the movement’s zone of influence must be accomplished.  These include music, art, theater, architecture, books, tourist trade, fairs, exhibitions and schools, as well as the usual channels.  If possible, however, control of communications will be exercised in such a way as not to give an impression of direct manipulation (52).” See Ernest K. Bramsted, Goebbels and National Socialist Propaganda 1925-1945 (Michigan State University Press, 1965): 26. Bramsted accurately transmits Hitler’s notion of simplicity but ignores the point about the general German craze for objectivity, maintaining that Hitler looked down upon the masses. “As we have seen, it was the success of Allied propaganda which made Hitler realize that propaganda had to be primitive and to be attuned to the very limited understanding of the masses. It had to be confined to a few points and to be carried out with persistency. Hitler was convinced that the Allies had looked at the masses with the same contempt that he himself felt for them. In Mein Kampf Hitler made made much of the subjective character of the people, who, he declared, are “so feminine in their nature and attitude that their activities and thought are motivated less by sober consideration than by feeling and sentiment.” Their sentiment was uncomplicated, and very simple. It did not allow for differentiation; it was positive or negative, based on love and hatred, it only knew right or wrong, truth or lie, but no shades, no ability to see two sides of a question. English propaganda had “understood and considered all this in the most ingenious manner.” From these observations Hitler arrived at a basic tenet of all propaganda, “it has to confine itself to little and to repeat this eternally.” (He cites pp. 240, 237, 238, 239 of the 1939 translation.)

     I am not arguing that the Nazis were not advocating the most rigid control of culture to propagate their ideology; rather that they would never have boasted about a Big Lie, and moreover, they believed in the correctness and goodness of their Weltanschauung as they skillfully mobilized the Germans for war and sacrifice.  I have written this essay to alert liberals that what has passed for “the Left” bears a striking resemblance to the racialist thinking of the Third Reich; that they have a common origin in German Romanticism, and that this lineage must not be discounted in reassessments of  policy choices.

[5]See Fritz Fischer on German war aims, quoted above.  Fischer had access to archives not opened until after the war;  he has shown that the German people had no evidence to contradict the apparent responsibility of  Russia, France and England in starting the war.  His revisionist account has been neglected by the Left.

 [6] This sentence was absent in Saul Friedländer, Nazis et l’antisémitisme, 1971; also in his Introduction to Gerald Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution (Berkeley: UC Press, 1984): 3.  Fleming is describing the debate regarding the exact period when Hitler became antisemitic.  He quotes (but does not footnote)  Mein Kampf, Chapter 2: “It is difficult if not impossible for me to say today when the word ‘Jew’ first gave me pause for serious reflection.  I cannot recall ever having even heard the word in my father’s house while he was still alive.  I believe that the old gentleman would have regarded as entirely backward a particular emphasis given to this word….At school I found no reason to question the picture I received from home, either [what picture?!!]….It was not until I was fourteen or fifteen that I came across the word ‘Jew’ more frequently, possibly in connection with political discussions.”  This lapse of course supports the author’s thesis that Hitler was a frustrated artist losing himself in Wagner, hewing to racial theories that placed Jews “at the bottom end of the scale,” the “anti-race” representing “worthless life (8).”  Cf. California high-school curriculum quoted above in The Material Body.  In this context, “anti-race” could mean pollutant to pure races, not cosmopolitanism as hostile to the politics of national identity.

See also Rudolf Binion, HitlerAmong the Germans (N.Y.: Elsevier, 1976). Binion obliterates the father’s opposition to Hitler’s artistic ambitions and blames mother: “The Oedipal-minded will ask where Hitler’s father came into his politics.  The answer is: in a by-motive. His pampering at the breast left him especially vulnerable to the classic moment of untruth when, in coming to fear castration by the father, a boy will remember his weaning, construed as a warning.  Little Adolf saw his father, then, as the culprit behind his weaning–as liable for the mother’s breast having been removed.  Bloch (the Jewish doctor who treated Klara Hitler’s breast cancer) threw back to the father once the mother had committed herself to his close care and to the castrating father when he ordered the mother’s breast removed, especially as the mother too was thereby castrated after a fashion…”  But Hitler’s style is both Jewish and American:  “Now for the touchiest riddle left.  Hitler’s image of “the Jew” was a self-image over and beyond its distorted reference to Bloch in 1907.  More exactly, one part of it was a self-reflection and he aped the other part…He styled himself like a Jewish prophet…[Hitler took the theme of racism and extermination from] the American heritage–by way of cowboys-and-Indian stories in the first instance.”

The absence of the theme of filial criticism as parricide in the psychoanalytic scholarship on Hitler is not noted by Wolfgang Benz, “Warding Off The Past,” op.cit., even though he describes the outrage in Germany following an attempt by Niklas Frank “to engage in memory work in public, merciless toward both his own person and his father, Hitler’s infamous governor-general in occupied Poland….” (211).  This incident confirms my impression that “the Jews” represent the critical spirit (objectivity) that spares no one in the search for an accurate history.  It is curious and disturbing that the late Tim Mason, an historical materialist, claiming that there was no immediate revolutionary threat after 1930, found theories of the authoritarian family unhelpful in his attempt to grasp Nazi brutality;  see “Open Questions on Nazism,” op.cit., 209.

 [7] In other editions translated as “slimy jelly” (Houghton Mifflin, 1939, ed. John Chamberlain, et al); and “jelly-like slime” (Houghton Mifflin, 1943, 1971, ed. Ralph Manheim).

[8] Cf. E. Jäckel’s very different observation of Hitler’s “panic fear of changing his mind.” This is not the same as being caught in double-binds and switched no matter what he does. Some call the double bind “Catch 22”.

 [9] It need not be the Jew, it may be a modern woman who switches Hitler into panic.  See Table Talk entry for Feb.5, 1942 on Baroness Abegg, in Dietrich Eckart’s opinion, “the most intelligent he’d ever known”: “I’d have been willing to accept the intelligence if it hadn’t been accompanied by the most spiteful tongue imaginable.  The woman was a real scorpion.  She was as blonde as flax, with blue eyes and excessively long canine teeth, like an Englishwoman.  I admit she was remarkably intelligent…She had travelled a lot, all over the world.  She was always in one or other of two extreme states.  The first kept her at home in a state of almost complete collapse.  She would sprawl on her veranda, like a run-down battery, whilst everybody around her was kept busy attending to her.  The second state was one of incredible petulance–she’d fly into a rage, sweep out like a whirlwind, climb up somewhere and come rushing torrentially down again.”  See his earlier remarks against feminism in a speech to the National Socialist Women’s Organization, Sept. 1934: “…It is not true, as Jewish intellectuals assert, that respect depends on the overlapping of spheres of activities of the sexes; this respect [Nazi] demands that neither sex should try to do that which belongs to the sphere of the other.  It lies in the last resort in the fact that each knows that the other is doing everything necessary to maintain the whole community….” quoted Documents on Nazis, 1919-1945, introduced and edited Jeremy Noakes and Geoffrey Pridham (London: Jonathan Cape): 364.

January 15, 2014

Was Nazism a symptom of bourgeois decadence?

Immanuel.Deviant Art

Immanuel.Deviant Art

Many cultural historians and social psychologists see Nazism as bourgeois decadence.  Popular among nativist radicals, this theory brings out the latent antisemitism in some New Leftists and in counter-culture anti-imperialism.  Both the Soviets and American crypto-Tories have made Hitler (the consummate anti-bourgeois, anti-sentimentalist!) into a product of disintegrating capitalism and sentimental bourgeois culture.  They and similar thinkers have conflated American puritans/bad Jews and Nazis, functionally equating “genocides,” in this case, the extermination of European Jews, the American Indians, American blacks, the Vietnamese, etc.

Harvard professor F.O. Matthiessen, “a Christian and a Socialist,”identified Melville’s Ahab, a prototypical American, with the alleged savagery of the Hebrew prophets (1941, 1948).[1]  Also centered at Harvard were the Walter Langer team, authors of The Mind of Adolf Hitler, originally a 1943 report for the OSS but revised for publication in 1972 to diagnose hippie-fascists.  Langer, aided anonymously by Henry A. Murray, Ernst Kris, and Bertram Lewin, attempted to account for his subject’s “ambitiousness” and “extraordinary political intuition” (atypical of a “basically illiterate peasant family”); Langer and Murray actually gave credence to rumors that Hitler carried Jewish blood: Langer reported that Hitler’s grandmother might have been a servant in the home of the Baron Rothschild; Murray was impressed by a Jewish godfather to Hitler;[2] what’s more Hitler’s brilliant (Jewish) insights into the minds and hearts of the little men (the class base of fascism for the CIA and other moderates during the 1950s) should be adapted by American mind-managers.  Here are more excerpts from the declassified Murray report to FDR, 1943:

[The following diagnosis of Hitler’s condition was prepared by W.H.D. Vernon, under the supervision of Henry A. Murray and Gordon Allport, all Harvard men:]  Now it is known that syphilophobia often has its roots in the childhood discovery of the nature of sexual congress between the parents.  With a father who was an illegitimate and possibly of Jewish origin, and a strong mother fixation, such a discovery by the child Adolf may well have laid the basis of the syphilophobia which some adventure with a Jewish prostitute in Vienna fanned to a full flame. [fn: “This is mere conjecture and must be treated as such. But it is the sort of explanation which fits known psychological facts”]…Hitler’s personality structure, though falling within the normal range, may now be described as of the paranoid type with delusions of persecution and of grandeur.  This stems from sado-masochistic splits in his personality…Just as the father is the cause of his mixed blood, the source of his domination and punishment, and of the restrictions of his own artistic development; just as in the childish interpretation of sexual congress, the father attacks, strangles, and infects the mother, so the Jew, international Jewish capital, etc., encircle and restrict Germany, threaten and attack her and infect her with impurities of blood…But the mother is not only loved but hated.  For she is weak, besides he is enslaved to her affections and she reminds him all too much, in his role as dominant father, of his own gentle sensitive nature.  So, though he depends on the German people for his position of dominance, he despises and hates them, he dominates them, and because he fears his very love of them, he leads them into the destructiveness of war where multitudes of them are destroyed.  Besides, the Jewish element in his father identification permits him to use all the so-called “Jewish” tricks of deceit, lying, violence, and sudden attack both to subject the German people as well as their foes (78-80).

[Henry Murray: Hitler’s “revengeful dominance” is “a counteraction to insulted narcism” presumably inflicted by his (possibly half-Jewish) father:] …Knowing something of the character of Alois Hitler, we can safely infer experiences of abasement and humiliation suffered by the son….(196)…Since many of the prominent positions in Vienna were held by Jews, some of Hitler’s anti-Semitism, as well as his hatred of Vienna, can be attributed to humiliations received from the upper classes during these years…(199)  [The “determinants” of Hitler’s antisemitism:]…3. The suitability of the Jew as an object on which to project his own repudiated background and traits: his Jewish god-father (and possibly his Jewish grandfather), his physical timidity and sensitiveness, his polymorphous sexual impulses…5. The realization, after having once embarked on the road to militarism, that the stirred-up aggression of his followers needed some outlet…7. In building his military machine the anti-militaristic Jewish people could not be of much help to him.  At bottom, Fascism is the advocacy of the aggressive drive over and above the acquisitive drive (with which the Jew has generally been identified), and, by the same token, it is the substitution of Power and Glory for Peace and Prosperity, a materialistic paradise on earth (with which Communism and the Jew have also been identified).  Finally, the Nazi doctrine of fanatical irrationality (thinking with the blood) is antipathetic to the intellectual relativism of the Jew.  Thus there are several fundamental points of opposition (as well as certain points of kinship) [where?!! C.S.] between Nazi ideology and Jewish ideology (207-209).

[Murray, cont.]  Hitler has a number of unusual abilities of which his opponents should not be ignorant.  Not only is it important to justly appraise the strength of an enemy but it is well to know whether or not he possesses capacities and techniques which can be appropriated to good advantage.  Hitler’s chief abilities, realizations, and principles of action as a political figure, all of which involve an uncanny knowledge of the psychology of the average man, are briefly these: [21 items follow, including:]…Heiden speaks of “Hitler’s frequently noted incapacity to impose his will in a small circle, and his consummate skill in winning over a crowd prepared by publicity and stage management, and then, with its aid, vanquishing the small circle, too” (211).

[Clare:]     So what is this “Jew”?  Brutal/humiliating/hypermasculine or timid and gay?  Or both, as in Jewish switching, a.k.a. “sudden attack”/”intellectual relativism”?  Not surprisingly, Hebraic types (for Murray, Melville as Ahab) were deplorable to the crypto-Tories/New Dealers, because, after instructing guileless WASPS in mind-control, they turn around to blast good non-humiliating father-figures, to decode the mythic narratives that alone  confer national unity or group solidarity in a pluralist society.[3]  The writing of George L. Mosse, distinguished mentor to a generation of New Left cultural historians at the University of Wisconsin, similarly transmits the ambivalence of the moderate conservatives.


Mosse’s investigations into the sources of Nazi culture address modernization theory and develop a utopian, mass political lineage for Nazism.[4]  What were the Nazis: moderns, antimoderns, or a distinctive, confusing new blend of both?  In answer to my letter requesting a clarification of his influential formulations, Mosse replied that he once believed “National Socialism was largely a critique of modernity,” a view he has since revised: “…I think it was part of a protest of modernization…I would say that National Socialism masked modernity even as they were furthering it.” [5] Mosse seems to be saying that, on second thought, the Nazis were cunning and dishonest in their goals.  I wonder if Mosse’s “switch” overrelies on a definition of modernity as the advent of industrialization, not the institutionalization of civil liberties in the state; the unintended effect is to relativize Nazi brutality and level distinctions between autocratic and democratic bourgeois societies, a difference Mosse is elsewhere careful to maintain, cautioning me that I could “certainly compare völkisch movements to American conservatism,” but not “Nazi Germany to the United States.”  He does not say which American conservatives he thinks are völkisch; probably the right-wing populists, not the (élite) ethnopluralists!  Mosse went on to distance himself from analyses like my own that discern analogies between the world-views of ethnopluralism (identity politics) and national socialism.  He wrote, “I reject the current controversy over macho multiculturalism or postmodernism having anything whatever to do with Hitler’s psyche.  That seems to me totally unhistorical.”

The confusions of conservative Enlightenment permeate Mosse’s writing when he is not in his materialist mood.[6] In The Holy Pretence: A Study in Christianity and Reasons of State from William Perkins to John Winthrop (1968), a book about “emancipation of political action from moral restraint,” Mosse frets that “…the victory of the Dove can lead to unbridled idealism, and the ignoring of secular realities; while the victory of the Serpent means the total acceptance of what the sixteenth century called ‘Machiavellism’” (154).  Mosse lauds the Baroque synthesis that prudently balanced the Serpent and the Dove so that “neither obliterates the other.”  The realism of the secular world was not achieved through science and libertarian ideas, he argues, but through wise adjustments in religion itself (152) [cf. Dumont, 1977].

The leftward trajectory of the Reformation is an ongoing concern for anyone who analyzes propaganda and fascism.  Writing seven years later in The Nationalization of the Masses (1975), Mosse makes the crucial point that the modern intellectual constantly historicizes and demystifies symbolic discourses; this habit militates against the maintenance of a stable national identity expressed through symbols.[7]  When inside the anti-materialist Aristotelian civic humanist tradition, Mosse will not turn around and demystify “moderate” mind-managers in the West, the followers of Durkheim, Weber, and Parsons.  Given his reputation among New Leftists and other antifascists, Mosse has presented a disturbingly inaccurate synthesis for the intellectual origins of fascist brutality in his “General Theory of Fascism.”[8]  Arguing against the “stereotype” that fascism is a reaction to liberalism and socialism (1), Mosse claims throughout that fascism (Nazism more than Italian fascism) selectively appropriated and, through its control of mass media, put a corporatist spin on Western ideals (5, 14, 17-19).  Hitler and Mussolini are carefully separated; Hitler came out of the jacobin antipluralist, antiparliamentary tradition of mass politics and popular culture (the repulsive part of the West); the more pluralist Mussolini allowed new and old élites to co-exist because he respected aristocratic culture and tradition; this aristocratic culture embraced the German idealism that Mosse suggests was foreign to Nazis (3, 10, 28, 33, 35).  Fascist violence originated in the brutality and camaraderie of World War I (which Mosse blurs with youth and the mobs of the French Revolution, aka Napoleon, “Romantic Nationalism,” “popular sovereignty” and “workers movements,” even “middle-class virtues”), not the medievalism of the aristocracy (4, 6, 9, 10, 17-19, 21, 25, 31, 37, 38).  There was no counter-revolution and no civil war; weak bourgeois institutions simply collapsed, and Hitler and Mussolini presented themselves to fill the void.  Conservatives left the Nazi government after six months (19).

Mosse is politically allied to the pluralists and pragmatists of the moderate center (many of whom were intrigued with Italian Fascism during the 1930s) and who have abandoned the open-ended processes and unpredictable outcomes of liberal nationalism, instead redefining American nationality on the basis of a mosaic of rooted ethnic groups; i.e., they are ready to play ball inside the fences erected by élites.  With intellectuals like Talcott Parsons and Henry A. Murray, the moderate nationalists have recommended that the state rely on the manipulation of symbols to enforce “integration” and “national unity” while simultaneously denouncing the tyrannical animal called mass politics!

Of course, as Mosse also realized, one problem with the formulation of a clear-cut Nazi radical conservatism or reaction [9] was Hitler’s desire to bring railroads, improved tools, and “welcoming farms” to central Europe; and, like other eugenicists, Hitler believed he was scientific, critical, and independent, following the truth wherever it might lead.  No less than the Burkean conservatives (including “socialists” like Karl Pearson, then the Fabians), the weaving, quilting Hitler wanted modernity and progress without the loss of a stable national/ethnic identity: capitalism without tears, slavery without guilt.  Sentimental Christians and Jews were de trop.

[Hitler, Table-Talk, Oct. 15, 1941:]  Inflation is not caused by increasing the fiduciary circulation.  It begins on the day when the purchaser is obliged to pay, for the same goods, at higher sum than that asked the day before.  At that point, one must intervene.  Even to Schacht, I had to begin by explaining this elementary truth: that the essential cause of the stability of our currency was to be sought for in our concentration camps.  The currency remains stable when the speculators are put under lock and key.  I also had to make Schacht understand that excess profits must be removed from economic circulation….All these things are simple and natural.  The only thing is, one musn’t let the Jew stick his nose in.  The basis of Jewish commercial policy is to make matters incomprehensible for a normal brain.  People go into ecstasies of confidence before the science of the great economists.  Anyone who doesn’t understand is taxed with ignorance!  At bottom, the only object of all these notions is to throw everything into confusion (65-66).

[Hitler, Nov. 5, 1941:]  The Jew is the incarnation of egoism…The Jew has talent for bringing confusion into the simplest matters, for getting everything muddled up…The Jew makes use of words to stultify his neighbors. And that’s why people make them professors….

If the Jew weren’t kept presentable by the Aryan, he’d be so dirty he couldn’t open his eyes.  We can live without the Jews, but they couldn’t live without us.  When the European realizes that, they’ll all become simultaneously aware of the solidarity that binds them together.  The Jew prevents this solidarity.  The Jew owes his livelihood to the fact that this solidarity does not exist (119-120).

[Hitler, Feb. 3-4, 1942; Hitler identifies with heretics; Jews have instigated the “collective madness” of witch hunts carried out by organized Christianity:]  A Jew was discovered to whom it occurred that if one presented abstruse ideas to non-Jews, the more abstruse these ideas were, the more the non-Jews would rack their brains to try to understand them.  The fact of having their attention fixed on what does not exist must make them blind to what exists.  An excellent calculation on the Jew’s part.  So the Jew smacks his thighs to see how his diabolic strategem has succeeded.  He bears in mind that if his victims suddenly became aware of these things, all Jews would be exterminated.  But, this time, the Jews will disappear from Europe.

The world will breathe freely and recover its sense of joy, when this weight is no longer crushing its shoulders (288).

[Hitler, June 13, 1943:]  I cannot make up my mind to buy a picture by a French painter, because I am not sure of the dividing line between what I understand and what I do not understand.  I have the same feeling when I look at paintings by Corinth and Trbner–to mention only two of our German artists.  These men started by painting pictures of great merit, and then, urged on by pride, they started to produce the most startling and extraordinary works. [THE SWITCH] In literature the Jew has already blazed the same pernicious trail, and artists like Corinth and Trübner have followed them.  The result is the frightful daubs with which they now inflict us (703-704).

[Clare:] Less is more. Like many conservatives, Mosse has placed Nazi excess in the tradition of mass politics and youth revolt, i.e., Jacobin democracy and terror.  But Hitler’s own writings place him securely in the ranks of the reactionary romantic anticapitalists; he was a typically vulnerable petit-bourgeois, railing against fluctuating money markets, terrified of status loss, and choking off the intellectual curiosity and expression that will cast him into the abyss reserved for lapsed conservative Christians and blue-collars.  He wants an enduring structure, a familiar terrain.  How many of those who have attempted to analyze him and/or the appeal of national socialism pay attention to his panic in the face of naturalistic romantic art and poetry? As with other neoclassicists, the consequence for Hitler is a deficient vocabulary; he cannot define his situation in concrete, descriptively precise language—words, tones, and gestures that chart the rise and fall of feelings, their switches, subtle interpenetrations and metamorphoses.  How might the scientistic social critic (his vocabulary similarly limited insofar as he turns away from the living world to his non-interactive models, ideal types and abstractions) react with phobic intensity to the finely differentiated emotions of everyday life, emotions that he cannot grasp without the words and detail that match the distinctive qualities, nuances and motions of each?   Might his own person become the loathsome, super-demanding, ever elusive creature that Hitler disowned as Jewish, the muddling (female) body that even after repeated exterminations inevitably returned to terrorize him again?  Might the tasteful planner or architect taken with structural models that may be encompassed at a single glance feel the same? Are there not escapist, mystical, and submissive longings , underneath such “aesthetic” preferences;  postures or dreamy states that quiet the rage of seeing, mop up the blood on the floor?[10]

The blurred formulations of Nazi ideology crowding the field of cultural anthropology and cultural history sharply contrast with the clear view of the enemy available in the straightforward writing of Hitler and other National Socialists.  They explicitly and plainly oppose independent labor unions, the rootless cosmopolitanism associated with capital, liberalism and international socialism, and the universalist ethics and the too-attractive no-holds-barred intellectual procedures associated with science and democracy, all products of the radical Enlightenment and identified with “the International Jew.”[11] Because the idealist social theorists described above are corporatist liberals wedded to the calming closures of Christian eschatology (and unconditional surrender?) their explanations for Nazi antisemitism are marred by the abstractness and vagueness of ideal types and antitheses.[12]  Above all they must carve a clear channel between Hitler and themselves as supporters of FDR and other self-sacrificing good fathers; as bureaucratic collectivists supposed to be different from fascists they necessarily construct Hitler as a creative figure, the failed, unbalanced romantic artist concocting an original, eclectic, incoherent ideology that may not be construed as another case of corporatist liberalism.[13].

[Henry A. Murray to FDR, 1943:]  [Hitler] was a compound, say, of Lord Byron and Al Capone (143)…It was not Germany as it was or had been that Hitler represented but rather the ideal social pattern which he wished to impose on the country.  Not only during his days of rumination in Vienna but later it was necessary for him to construct an ideology from diverse sources in terms of which he could preach to the people.  None of the elements were original with him but some inventiveness was required in developing the precise combination of principles that became the creed of the Nazi Party.  Besides this, he was continually preoccupied with inventing means to his goals, which involved a considerable amount of creative thought; thus, to a certain extent, he functioned as a creative artist and certainly conceived of himself as such (178-179).

[Clare:] The only switch visible to the moderate men is the metamorphosis of extreme nationalism to antisemitism and xenophobia, a change that moderate nationalism resists after the social psychologists have cooled it out.  In the mass media that have interpreted the Third Reich to millions, the outsider Hitler’s own voice has been presented, perhaps invariably, as a rant in the German language, shadowed by domineering Jewish blood, lapped up by cheering fresh-scrubbed German Aryan women.



                [1] See F.O.Matthiessen, American Renaissance (Oxford U.P., 1941); From The Heart of Europe (Oxford U.P.,1948): 182-183.  See Lord James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, Vol.II (N.Y.: Macmillan, 1891): 275-276, 278, 281-82, for a more ambivalent account of American [Chosen People]: “If you ask an intelligent citizen why he so holds [incorrect majorities will be persuaded of the right], he will answer that truth and justice are sure to make their way into the minds and consciences of the majority.  This is deemed an axiom, and the more readily so deemed, because truth is identified with common sense, the quality which the average citizen is most confidently proud of possessing.  This feeling shades off into another, externally like it, but at bottom distrust–the feeling not only that the majority, be it right or wrong, will and must prevail, but that its being the majority proves it to be right.  This feeling appears in the guise sometimes of piety and somtimes of fatalism.  Religious minds hold–you find the idea underlying many books and hear it in many pulpits–that Divine Providence has specially chosen and led the American people to work out a higher type of freedom and civilization than any other state has yet attained, and that this great work will surely be brought to a happy issue by the protecting hand which has so long guided it (276).”

 [2] Walter Langer, The Mind of Adolf Hitler: The Secret Wartime Report (Basic Books, 1972): 102-103. Murray, op.cit.

  [3] The Zionist writer Alex Bein (cited above) relies on Alan Bullock and the Langer report in his presentation of Hitler’s personality.  The influence of the crypto-Tories in American Studies is the terrain of my doctoral dissertation on the Melville revival.  One of the central debates in American history surfaces in an essay by Barbara J. Fields, “Ideology and Race in American History,” Region, Race and Reconstruction, ed. J. Morgan Kousser and James M. McPherson (N.Y.: Oxford U.P., 1982): 143-177.  This subtly argued essay challenged the New Left/American Studies interpretation of white supremacy (not class conflict) as the motor of American history.

[4] Compare to Sternhell, Zeev. Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France, translated by David Meisel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986. Pre-fascist ideology in France set the stage for the Vichy Revolution in 1940-41. Revolutionary syndicalism and radical nationalism of the late 19th century were fused in the 1920s and 1930s to create a novel, mass based, youth-inspired revolt against materialism and decadence blamed on liberalism, democracy and reformed Marxism (i.e. social democracy). For the prefascists, the enemy was finance capital and monopoly, seen as Jewish, American and British. The deracinated individual was the source of decadence, and the compensatory discourse was corporatist/communitarian and meant to integrate the proletariat into the nation through a strong planning state, coterminous with the nation. Emphasized family, work (in tradition of medieval guilds), and region. Did not eliminate profit or private property. Neither ideology nor economic crisis alone could have created this revolutionary departure from the principles of 1789; hence the implicit warning to other social democrats: don’t allow economic crisis to develop: this ideology is still extant. Sternhell somewhat plays down the antisemitic, Christian character of the sources of the ideology, though he does not deny it. France was “impregnated” by the ideology of fascism (a revolution of the spirit: modern, aesthetic, and moral, exalting blood and soil, instinct, force, violence, the healthy body, sacrifice, and monkish asceticism, futurism, modern architecture of Le Corbusier, and Freud). The nonconformist journalist politicos in the 1930s penetrated popular culture; only a few of them, however, explicitly embraced nazism and fascism, though they came very close. Henri De Man the principle theorist of an idealist Marxism. (Sternhell does not consider historical materialism to be idealist.)

This book is directed against Marxist interpretations of fascism as a reaction by monopoly capital to working class militancy in a period of economic crisis. Sternhell thanks A. James Gregor (a self-described fascist and biographer of Mussolini) in the acknowledgments.(vii) and places five of his books in the bibliography. Also Mosse’s General Theory of Fascism, and Masses and Man.

Sterhell does not explain how Freud could contribute to fascist ideology, given that Freud did not advocate unleashing the instincts, as did Jung, for whom the unconscious, home of the racial ancestry and spirits, was a source of creativity.

[5] Cf. Erik Levi, Music In The Third Reich (N.Y.: St. Martin’s Press, 1994): 124, commenting on the paradoxical Nazi views of technological progress misted over with anti-industrial romanticism. , a conflict that was apparent in confused music policies.

 [6] See The Crisis of the German Ideology (1962), and Toward The Final Solution (1980).

  [7] George L. Mosse, The Nationalization of the Masses: Political Symbolism and Mass Movements in Germany From the Napoleonic Wars Through the Third Reich (Howard Fertig, 1975).

  [8] See Mosse, “Introduction: A General Theory of Fascism,” International Fascism, ed. George L. Mosse (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1979): 1-41.

  [9] Mosse’s Nazi Culture was criticized by readers as ignoring the role of technology in the Third Reich, he reports.  See also Barrington Moore, Jr., Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967).

[10]Cf. the Tory poet and editor J.C. Squire, quoted above.

 [11] Cf. Sander L. Gilman, Jewish Self-Hatred; Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U.P., 1986).

 [12] See Erich Dinkler, “Earliest Christianity,” The Idea of History in the Ancient Near East, ed. Robert C. Dentan (New Haven: Yale U.P., 1955): 187-190 for the ways Christian eschatology (a world of cycles and repetitions, filled with “anticipations,” types and antitypes) is incompatible with history and critical thought but not anthropology (a view which I feel applies to anthropology as practiced by Carl Jung, Ruth Benedict, Geoffrey Gorer, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Henry Murray, etc.).

 [13] See Victor Serge’s suggestive comment of 1944, reminiscent of pre-Popular Front communist definitions of “social fascism”: “The Soviet regime, fascism, Nazism, and the New Deal undeniably share common traits determined in the last instance by the collectivist tendencies of the modern economy…As a consequence of the exhaustion of the working class, these tendencies take on the form of bureaucratic collectivism.” Quoted in Susan Weissman, doctoral diss., 459-460.


November 30, 2013

Railroading Captain Ahab

Everett Henry's Map of the Pequod's Voyage

Everett Henry’s Map of the Pequod’s Voyage

[What follows is an excerpt from my book Hunting Captain Ahab; it sums up my argument that progressives are incapable of describing this “great book” with accuracy, for they would have to admit their overweening statism as embodied in the White Whale (Leviathan).

Rockwell Kent's Starbuck shielding his eyes

Rockwell Kent’s Starbuck shielding his eyes

[Clare:] One feature of the (reinstated) organic society favored by many progressives is central to the Melville problem. Before the age of science, discovery, and increasing lower-class demands for a fully-realized popular sovereignty, Church and State conducted their affairs in secrecy. Their subordinates, ordinary people, were free to confess their sins to their betters, but without reciprocity; when Ahab fleeced double-talking “liberals,” from one point of view the gesture was tantamount to deicide and fratricide. For many of the corporatist thinkers who shaped the Melville Revival, Captain Ahab was the classic American type: a frontiersman, a “nosey Hebrew” (as D.H. Lawrence would say) whose curiosity must be moderated; similarly Melville’s dubious “character” as husband and father would preoccupy numerous Melville critics in the twentieth century. Much of the history I shall present is derived from published or archival materials long available but hitherto undescribed to students of American literature; literary scholars and curators have examined the astonishing archives of Henry A. Murray, Charles Olson, and Jay Leyda and biographies of Murray and Olson have been published by the most reputable presses. Many questions still remain tantalizingly unanswered and invite further research, but it is clear to me, if not to previous investigators, that in the unmonitored autodidact Herman Melville, Murray, Olson, and Leyda had an able instructor, a mirror, and an irresistible adversary who, insofar as he was Captain Ahab, must have been nervously deranged, twisted by hate. The isolato Ahab was the paradigm of social irresponsibility and his own worst enemy, while sociable Ishmael was the scholars’ antecedent doctor to society. Here is Ishmael’s ominous blood and soil account of Ahab’s origins in his native habitat: Nantucket was originally settled by peaceful Quakers, but they have been invaded by outside influences, they were “variously and anomalously modified by things altogether alien and heterogeneous.” (As Melville’s antebellum readers would have known, “…Nantucket Quakers [were] members of a sect notorious for its literally visionary beginnings and its subsequent antislavery zeal.” [i])

[Ishmael as narrator:]”…For some of these Quakers are the most sanguinary of all sailors and whale hunters. They are fighting Quakers; they are Quakers with a vengeance.

” So there are instances among them Nantucket Quakers of men, who, named with Scriptural names—a singularly common fashion on the island—and in childhood naturally imbibing the stately thee and thou of the Quaker idiom; still, from the audacious, daring, and boundless adventure of their subsequent lives, strangely blend with their unoutworn peculiarities, a thousand bold dashes of character, not unworthy a Scandinavian sea-king or a poetical Pagan Roman. And when these things unite in a man of greatly superior natural force, with a globular brain and a ponderous heart; who has also by the stillness and seclusion of many long night-watches in the remotest waters and beneath constellations never seen here in the north, been led to think untraditionally and independently; receiving all nature’s sweet or savage impressions fresh from her own virgin voluntary and confiding breast, and thereby chiefly, but with some help from accidental advantages, to learn a bold and nervous lofty language—that man makes one in a whole nation’s census—a mighty pageant creature, formed for noble tragedies. Nor will it at all detract from him, dramatically regarded, if either by birth or other circumstances, he have what seems a half wilful overruling morbidness at the bottom of his nature. For all men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness. Be sure of this, O young ambition, all mortal greatness is but disease.” (73-74).

[Clare:] In Moby-Dick’s pivotal chapter “The Quarter-Deck,” Starbuck, echoing Ishmael’s earlier diagnosis, reproaches Captain Ahab for abandoning his proper search for profits; the quest for vengeance against a “dumb brute” is blasphemous and mad. Ahab reproaches the imperceptive first mate, suggesting twice that he adopt the ways of geology and dig: “Hark ye…the little lower layer.” Then, lest Starbuck or other dense readers remain in the dark, Melville spills it: “Who’s over me? Truth hath no confines.”[ii] Starbuck is briefly won over, but protests in a chapter that directly follows Ahab’s railroading speech:

[Chapter 37, “Sunset,” Ahab:] “Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents’ beds, unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!”

[Chapter 38, “Dusk,” Starbuck:] “My soul is more than matched; she’s overmanned; and by a madman! …he drilled deep down, and blasted all my reason out of me. I think I see his impious end; but feel I must help him to it. Will I, nill I, the ineffable thing has tied me to him; tows me with a cable I have no knife to cut. Horrible old man! Who’s over him, he cries;-aye, he would be a democrat to all above; look, how he lords it over all below!…Oh, life! ‘tis in an hour like this, with soul beat down and held to knowledge,–as wild, untutored things are forced to feed–Oh, life! ‘tis now that I do feel the latent horror in thee! but ‘tis not me! that horror’s out of me! and with the soft feeling of the human in me, yet will I try to fight ye, ye grim phantom futures! Stand by me, hold me, bind me, O ye blessed influences!”

[Clare:] Standing by Starbuck, one Melville scholar has construed these pages as evidence of Ahab’s protofascism:

[Christopher Durer:] “Like Adolph Hitler, Captain Ahab reaches for the “folksoul” of the crew, and manipulates their minds with the sinister skill of Joseph Goebbels. As in Nazi Germany, so on board the Pequod, the excesses of the will play a major role, as is illustrated in the various speeches of Ahab, and her fated course is, in effect, another triumph of the will. Again, paralleling the transformation of the German nation under the Nazis, the crew of the Pequod becomes “a folk organism and not an economic organization,” since Ahab deliberately rejects the commercial advantages of whaling for a collective psychological fulfillment, resulting from the revengeful pursuit of one whale, seen as the enemy of the state…Ahab is in reality a prototype of a twentieth-century fascist dictator.”[iii]

Ahab and Starbuck as imagined by John Huston and Ray Bradbury

Ahab and Starbuck as imagined by John Huston and Ray Bradbury

[Clare:]For many Melvilleans, ineffably tied to their tormentor, the most unassimilable element of Melville’s psyche has been Ahab’s materialism yoked to universal standards of ethical conduct. To the extent that Melville is Ahab, he is mad, self- and socially destructive, tyrannical, and an arch-villain. Such views conform to the terror-gothic scenario, amplified by conservatives since the Radical Reformation, the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, the American and French Revolutions, then the intertwined reform movements of the 1830s-1850s, especially abolitionism. In the “tale of terror” brains and mobs are indissolubly merged; the pregnant bourgeoisie, swollen with a new class and its chimerical socialist utopias, has delivered catastrophes from the French Revolution to Bolshevism and Nazism. In two-dimensional artworks, this aristocratic narrative of the drowning Narcissus/crashing Icarus is frozen as the apocalyptic sublime, the style attributed to mass politics and America. Harold Lasswell, political science consultant to the influential postwar Committee For Economic Development, transmitted such neo-classical diagnoses of “romantic Fascism” and urged the adoption of Murray’s projective testing to implement a program of personnel screening and preventive politics, sighting latent radicalism in prospective leaders in government, industry, labor, and education before they succumbed to the blandishments of Ahab, thereby obviating sleazy witch hunts. Threatened or dispossessed elites continue to flood popular culture with identical antidemocratic propaganda, shaping academic disciplines and mental health treatments to blunt the tools of fiery artisans and their radical descendants.

Defining Melville’s mental states, then, was not simply grist for variously voyeuristic or discreet literary historians, but part of ongoing “Cold Wars” to diagnose and delimit normality and deviance. For some Melvilleans, the divisive apostate Melville, like his characters Ahab, Pierre, Isabel, the “Hegelised” German-Jewish geologist Margoth, and other Bad Jews, has been cast out; ‘Melville’ and other Good Jews have been taken in and ‘tolerated’ by ‘the nation.’[iv] The national bedrock is the sanctity of (upper-class) property (i.e., overweening state power: Leviathan), not the republican principle of equality before the law. Melville has been selectively embraced by a reconstructed lovely family–an erasure of conflict evident in the letters of Melville’s mother and wife. In my study of the Melville Revival, I challenge Starbuck’s view of Ahab as totalitarian dictator along with the concomitant argument followed by some Old and New Leftists that the voyage of the Pequod is an unambiguous allegory of capitalist technology and exploitation, Manifest Destiny, and mind-management in its harshest aspects.[v]

Labor Vincit Omnia

[i] 22. Carolyn Karcher, Shadow Over The Promised Land: Slavery, Race, and Violence in Melville’s America (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1980), 172.

[ii] 23. Neither statement was included in the dialogue of the movie Moby-Dick (1956); thus there is no way to link Ahab’s quest to Mapple’s Sermon (which in the film does include the imperative to seek and preach the truth in the face of worldly opposition); moreover the interchange takes place in Ahab’s cabin and Starbuck challenges his authority immediately. The director was John Huston; the script writer Ray Bradbury.

[iii] 24. Christopher S. Durer, “Moby-Dick and Nazi Germany,”Melville Society Extracts 66 (May 1986): 8. Constructions of Ahab as Hitler invariably depend upon irrationalist explanations for the appeal of fascism and Nazism; rational political and economic interests have been erased.

[iv] 25. See William Braswell, Melville’s Religious Thought: An Essay in Interpretation (Durham, North Carolina: Duke Univ. Press, 1943). “Melville was aware of the deification of science in some quarters. Henry Kalloch Rowe, in his History of Religion in the United States, writes: ‘Many scientists were so enamored of their facts and hypotheses that they claimed too much. They seemed to take pleasure in the destruction of that which was old. They inclined toward a materialistic explanation of all phenomena to the exclusion of spiritual reality altogether.’ It is scientists of this type that Melville derides in Clarel in the character of Margoth, a Jewish geologist who says that ‘all’s geology,’ and who would do away with the ‘old theologic myth.’ Because of Margoth’s insensibility to spiritual things, the pilgrims condemn him severely, and Melville adds an extra touch by causing an ass to bray after certain of Margoth’s speeches” (111, my emph.). Even more crudely put, see Vincent Kenny on Margoth: “…a geologist, a ‘Hegelised–/Convert to science.’ He calls the Bible a tissue of lies and insists that the so-called Holy Land must be made over in the name of progress. Unlike the Syrian monk with his gentle appeal, Margoth repels everyone within sound of his loud voice.” In Companion to Melville Studies, ed. John Bryant (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986), 382-383. Insofar as Melville is seen to espouse these classically Christian antisemitic views, he would be a positive figure to organic conservatives discussed in this book.

[v] 26. D. H. Lawrence (1923) is cited by Ronald Mason, The Spirit Above The Dust (London: John Lehmann, 1951), as characterizing the Pequod as a sign for American industry. (Indeed,  Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature demonized America as a mongrel country that would, aided by the machine, destroy Europe and the white psyche. Ahab was destroying phallic power as epitomized in the White Whale, hence for Lawrence, Moby-Dick was a warning to true aristocrats.) With the exception of the try-pot, however, the technology of whaling ships had not changed for three hundred years when Melville wrote Moby-Dick. The mechanics of whaling partook of craft in hunter-gatherer societies, not the increasingly divided labor and mastery of nature characteristic of industrial processes. The few exceptions to the bad Ahab reading include Raymond M. Weaver, Herman Melville: Mariner and Mystic (New York: Doran, 1921); Granville Hicks, The Great Tradition (New York: Macmillan, 1935), 7; Henry Alonzo Myers, Are Men Equal? An Inquiry into the Meaning of American Democracy (Ithaca: Cornell Univ.Press, 1955, c.1945), 51-55; Cecil M. Brown, “Through a Looking Glass: The White Whale,”Partisan Review (1969): 453-459; and Toni Morrison,“Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature,”Michigan Quarterly (Winter 1989): 16-17. Hicks and Myers see Ahab as reformer; Myers, a pluralist, recognizes Ahab’s driving (but misplaced) intensity; he is the romantic “earnest reformer” (like those 19th C. crusaders assaulting “ignorance, clericalism, slavery, alcohol, capitalism, war”); whereas Cecil Brown sees a heroic revolutionary (contrasted with the “jew-bastard” surviving liberal, Ishmael); for Toni Morrison (a cultural nationalist), Ahab is a great foe to racism: “the only white male American heroic enough to try to slay the monster that was devouring the world as he knew it.” Most recently, Richard C. Doenges presented a paper “Ahab Redux: or Playing the Devil’s Advocate,”at the “Melville and the Sea” Conference, June 19, 1999, Mystic Connecticut. Doenges sees Ahab as both mad and a tragic hero with the whale a representation of Nature in its hostile mode; I view this as a moderated reading, not one entirely favorable to Ahab, who, unlike Ishmael, as the author argues, was blinded by the fire.

Readings by liberals and leftists hostile to Ahab include Charles H. Foster, “Something in Emblems: A Reinterpretation of Moby-Dick,” New England Quarterly (Mar. 1961): 3-35, who views Father Mapple as an ultra-abolitionist the likes of Garrison, Richard Hildreth, and Gilbert Haven, but Ahab as Daniel Webster, an apologist for slavery and a demagogue. Some see Melville, or Ahab (or both) as ineffectual bohemian, consummate narcissist or world-destroying arch-capitalist; or anticipator of Hitler and Stalin: see V.F. Calverton, The Liberation of American Literature (New York: Scribner’s, 1932), 272-273; Henry Bamford Parkes, “Poe, Hawthorne, Melville: An Essay in Sociological Criticism,” Partisan Review 16 (Feb.1949): 157-166; Richard Chase, Herman Melville: A Critical Study (N.Y., Macmillan, 1949), 101; John Howard Lawson, The Hidden Heritage (New York: Citadel Press, 1950): 428; James B. Hall, “Moby Dick: Parable of a Dying System,” Western Review (Spring 1950): 223-226; C.L.R. James, Mariners, Renegades and Castaways (self-publ.1953), its last chapter (suppressed in a later edition) linked Ahab to a duplicitous Jewish communist named “M.” See also Leo Marx,”The Machine in the Garden,” New England Quarterly 29 (Mar. 1956): 27-42; and H. Bruce Franklin, The Victim As Criminal And Artist: Literature from the prison (New York:  Oxford Univ. Press, 1978): Chapter Two.

July 31, 2013

The nefarious “cultural Marxists”

CulturalMarxism[Update 1-5-16: progressive jurist Felix Frankfurter was already praising balanced expertise and lamenting the effects of mass media on the people in 1930, long before the Frankfurt Institute refugees came to the US.]

There is a Facebook page “Smash Cultural Marxism.” One must wonder why a handful of German refugees, some with Jewish ancestry, are getting blamed for the sharp turn toward statism in the Democratic Party.

I have written before about this terrifying cohort.  See https://clarespark.com/2011/10/21/did-frankfurters-kill-the-white-christian-west/.  Also https://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/t-w-adorno-and-his-funny-idea-of-genuine-liberalism/.

Even if you are a fashionable behaviorist and loathe Freudian ideas, the Adorno blog establishes that his idea of the ever-so-balanced (pseudo)Freud suited the Harvard social psychologists who were proponents of psychological warfare in the interests of “civilian morale.”  Such as Adorno and Horkheimer achieved fame because they blamed the Enlightenment and bureaucratic rationality for Nazism and the Holocaust. How convenient for the Harvard cohort that also called a halt to the Enlightenment (see  https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/).

As refugees from Nazism, the critical theorists were vocal about the causes of Hitler’s rise to power, and their indictment of mass culture and by extension, technological society, were understandable. For instance, Erich Fromm blamed working class authoritarianism for the failure of the German working class to deliver a socialist revolution. In the end, all the Frankfurters had explanations for the rise of Hitler, and to a man (whoops! I forgot Hannah Arendt), they blamed “mass culture.” Adorno, that elitist, went so far as to condemn American jazz.

I don’t know of a German refugee whose ancestors were Jewish who identified in any way with Judaism. They were first and foremost philosophers in the German Idealist tradition. Still, some of the ideas of Herbert Marcuse remain useful today in decoding authoritarianism in our political culture. I refer to “repressive tolerance” and “repressive desublimation.”

Repressive tolerance simply states that the social critic loses when s/he allows the opposition to define the terms of debate. Thus, the analysis of propaganda and/or the “rules” of combat allow us to see through authoritarian statists of every stripe, but especially the tricks of the pseudo-moderate men–as delineated in the mass-circulated materials written by Gordon Allport and Henry A. Murray, that were nationally circulated to other progressives, ca. 1941. (See link above.) [Update 12-27-13: It is true that Marcuse was writing from the Left, but such libertarians as Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate in The Shadow University (1998), ignore the collectivist, top-down discourse of the moderate conservatives who shaped current conceptions such as the neutral state and ethnicity/’race’ in the early years of the 20th century. See for instance https://clarespark.com/2009/09/23/progressives-and-the-teaching-of-american-literature/, and https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/, for the gentlemanly approach to social control of subversive elements. No analysis of academic freedom and the origins of political correctness can proceed without those actions of “moderates” who imposed an organic conservative vocabulary on American institutions–all of them.]

Repressive desublimation argues that the loosening of sexual morals benefits consumerism, in which self-worth is defined with respect to mass media definitions of sexual attractiveness and glamour. One would think that conservatives critical of hyper-sexuality in pop culture would welcome such a critique.

Or take Norbert Guterman’s and Leo Lowenthal’s manual for identifying right-wing agitators, Prophets of Deceit (1949). I read it twice and modified my own self-presentation on the radio accordingly. Some of their guideposts that stick in my mind are as follows: 1. The agitator confides personal “secrets” to the target audience to bind them more closely; and 2. The agitator exaggerates the hurdles that were necessary to overcome in finding the audience: he or she is in physical danger for revealing the secrets s/he is confiding to the target audience; and 3. The agitator wants your money.

While I reject the German Idealism of the Frankfurters, the study of propaganda, of images, and of deceptive language that they favored, are indispensable tools for historians, journalists and all others who would protect liberty and freedom of speech.

I have no doubt that antisemitism accounts for the continued blaming of “cultural Marxism” for “political correctness” and anti-Americanism in general. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/06/30/the-origins-of-political-correctness-2/, and https://clarespark.com/2010/06/19/committee-for-economic-development-and-its-sociologists/ including the internal links. Look to the pseudo-moderate men for the threat to “American culture,” not to the “secular progressives” who represent emancipation from the dead hand of illegitimate authority. (For instance, Henry A. Murray of Harvard, one of their affinity group, argued for the return of the moderate father, for an authoritarian father would drive the children into radicalism. Such a perfectly moderate father (like the Good King or Platonic Guardian) was of course Franklin Delano Roosevelt.)

Bill Donahue

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