YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

July 27, 2013

O’Reilly’s riff on ‘race’ relations

MLKJrReacting in part to the uproar over the George Zimmerman verdict, Bill O’Reilly (“number one in cable news”) started the week of July 22, 2013 with an outraged “talking point memo” on the subject of the black family and its disintegration, blaming the current polarization over the jury’s decision to aquit CZ on “’73% illegitimacy” in the ‘African-American’ population. O’Reilly’s causation is typical of culture wars argumentation. Bring the strong father back, and “African-American” culture will right itself again.

The passion, even anger, of his talking points made news all week on Fox News Channel. On Thursday, in the interests of fairness and balance, he invited an assistant professor of sociology and Black Studies from CCNY,  R. L’heureux Lewis-McCoy.  The youthful professor contradicted the notion that fatherlessness caused poverty and crime, but insisted that poverty and lack of access to jobs was the cause of the disintegration of the black family. In other words, O’Reilly had a cultural explanation for the [unruly] black population, while the sociologist offered an economic explanation to explain black problems, (The segment can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYFS_qon3zs. It starts out concerned with a hip-hop artist and Al Sharpton, but at about two and a half minutes in, pivots to a discussion of the disintegrating, tattoo-loving black family. O’Reilly gave the professor a “D” for not answering a question to his liking.)

The notion of the father-directed nuclear family as the fundamental unit of society providing for stability is a throwback to the medieval order, when peasant fathers remained at home, directing the distribution of resources. “Exit the [family] king” under an advanced industrial society, and women have too much power over young males who are thereby feminized and may go homo, another fear of culture warriors. Enter the now fashionable argot that identifies all public health initiatives as vile offshoots of “the nanny state.” (For details on Ionesco’s play Exit The King see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exit_the_King.)

On the Tuesday (July 23, 2013) edition of The Factor, trained psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer straight out told O’Reilly that not all problems could be solved, Surely he was thinking about the family and its proposed O’Reilly remedy: no illegitimacy and marriage. As I have suggested on this website, intact families are no panacea, but rather are the site of lifelong ambivalence or worse, owing to sibling rivalry, prolonged attachment to the parent of the opposite sex, and hard-to-control instinctive aggression identified by the now stigmatized Freud and his followers.  Indeed, social psychologists attached to the New Deal (such as Henry A. Murray) fretted about mother-son attachments as leading to an overactive social conscience that could go all the way to communism. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/11/07/he-loves-his-mommy-too-much/, and https://clarespark.com/2010/02/16/nazi-sykewar-american-style-part-two/, plus others in this series: https://clarespark.com/2010/04/18/links-to-nazi-sykewar-american-style/.)

I will say this for the efficacy of having a father in the home. Single mothers, no matter how many children, face an exhausting challenge. A modern male who is willing to take part in family life, including child care and housework, is a blessing.

But the presence of both parents in the family constellation is no guarantee that children will achieve upward mobility or avoid a life of crime. Bill O’Reilly, like other Fox anchors, has replicated the terms advocated by multiculturalists (“African-American Community”), avoiding the thorny questions concerning welfare policies, education reform, and the teaching of parenting skills and other useful mental health concepts. [I added welfare policies to this blog in light of Joe Nicolosi’s comments below.]

Such attention to factors other than father-headed families may be a bridge too far for the employees of Rupert Murdoch.



June 14, 2013

“Father, dear father, come home with me now”

TennightsinbarroomThere will be many tributes to fathers in the next few days. This one will deal 1. with my own father, and 2. with the efforts by social psychologists of the 1940s to rehabilitate the image of the Good Father in order to advance their moderate conservative agendas.

First, my own father, Charles Spark, M.D. My father the doctor was born in NYC, and was the child of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. During the 1930s he was a research fellow in endocrinology at Montefiore Hospital, and before that he had published a pioneering research paper while still in college. Immediately after Hitler was appointed Chancellor, he wrote and directed an antifascist play at his workplace. After Pearl Harbor, he volunteered to join the medical corps even though he was over-age (he may have been drafted, and lied to me). Henceforth, we followed him around the country as he ran pathology laboratories at army bases in Texas, Missouri, and California. His precocity, versatility, and willingness to sacrifice himself for his country was impressed upon me from early childhood. I prayed every night that he would not be killed, even though he never saw combat. That is how children think.

He was shipped off to Guadalcanal where he had a violent allergic reaction to the environment, and was shipped home, claiming later that he almost died. For reasons that escape me, he gave up medical research for general practice and we moved into a veteran’s housing project in Elmhurst, NYC. We had never lived high, so the cramped material surroundings were not deeply shocking. All that mattered was that our family was reunified and my father practiced medicine for enlisted men and their families next door.

So my father assumed the proportions of a family hero. He was not only a high achiever in his field, I was expected to live up to his accomplishments, and later in life when I asked him why he gave up medical research, he wrote to me that I was to be his “greatest contribution to medicine.” What I could not know as a child was that neither he nor my mother had any parenting skills. They were nothing like the elites of Europe, who, early on prepared their offspring to take a leading part in world affairs, to travel broadly, and to imbibe high culture and languages, preferably from tutors.

Call it benign neglect. Both parents assumed that I would be an outstanding student and would find a suitable mate (though he frequently warned me about the duplicity of men, binding me to him in the process: he almost didn’t attend my wedding in 1959). So it was their examples as intelligent individuals with high expectations for me that set me up for the future. I learned nothing from my family about sexuality, the other emotions, and neither of them had an interest in Freud or his followers. But neither indoctrinated me in any religion or ideology, though my mother often mentioned her pride in her rabbinic ancestors (see https://clarespark.com/2013/05/12/i-remember-mama-betty-spark/.) I had the impression that they must be liberals of some kind. Sadly, they are both deceased, and I cannot interrogate them on these interesting questions.

It was not until I was at Pacifica and made the acquaintance of numerous New Leftists that I began to look into masculine versus feminine roles. From political scientist Carl Boggs I learned that paternal authority had been eroded for centuries. From feminists, I learned that there was a furious debate over the status of women: hard left women tended to believe that women had greater status when their labor was visible (e.g. Mary Kelley), while another faction (social democratic, e.g. Kathryn Kish Sklar) argued that domestic feminism leading to the welfare state marked the advance of all women. It was noted that by all that under industrialization, the father was no longer the paterfamilias who distributed resources in the household: father was now out of the house and the role of religious training fell more and more on mothers. (Ann Douglas wrote a best seller, still highly regarded, but controversial: The Feminization of American Culture. Douglas preferred the terrifying Calvinist God, not the feminized Jesus of the 19th century.) Hence the widespread nervousness among conservatives about “the [encroaching] nanny state.” 1970s feminism was the last straw (see https://clarespark.com/2012/09/04/links-to-blogs-on-feminism/) .

During my dissertation research, I discovered that social psychologists at Harvard University were frantically attempting to rehabilitate the good father, merging the figures of Washington, Lincoln, and FDR, in order, they said, to raise “civilian morale.” Feminization, it was believed, would lead to Marxism, not to the conservative reform that such as Henry A. Murray, Gordon Allport, Talcott Parsons, and their Harvard colleagues preferred as moderate men. Indeed, Talcott Parsons published an article in an anthology edited by Isacque Graeber and Steuart Henderson Britt, Jews in a Gentile World (Macmillan, 1942) that limned the bad father: the Jewish God was nailed as brutal, militaristic, and domineering. Whereas Murray and Allport in their notebooks on civilian morale praised the Leader/ Father/God as loving and committed to democracy, the very embodiment of Eros. (On this topic see https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/, also the postwar planning intended to continue this “moderate” agenda: https://clarespark.com/2010/06/19/committee-for-economic-development-and-its-sociologists/ .)

So on this Father’s Day, 2013, we find ourselves in a quandary. Do we want Father to be the stern disciplinarian, the masculinist role model for boys who will divert libido from too-compassionate, radicalizing mothers to [moderately] Democratic fathers (as these social psychologists suggested)? Can women raise children without a husband? Conservatives and liberals are still slugging it out on this question.

As for my own father the doctor, I remain deeply attached to him, notwithstanding his many flaws. Both he and my late mother believed in me, in some ways stimulated me, and in other ways left me alone. Perhaps by default, they encouraged me to be curious and to admire and emulate the most daring thinkers in Western civilization.

Charles and Betty Spark mid-1930s

Charles and Betty Spark mid-1930s

June 13, 2013

Hollywood’s “pact” with Hitler?

Illustration used byTablet

Illustration used byTablet

The May 10, 2013 issue of Tablet magazine featured a review of a forthcoming book published by Harvard University Press, The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact With Hitler, that is said to reveal a “creepy love affair” with Hitler. See http://tinyurl.com/lnbengk. I had a negative response to this article nailing Hollywood executives such as Carl Laemmle Sr., Jack Warner, and (by implication) MGM’s Louis B. Mayer. For many decades, I have studied the U.S. appropriation of Nazi methods in controlling the” little people” that prominent German refugees held responsible for the rise of Hitler. Indeed, the Frankfurt School critical theorists, elitists that they were, blamed mass media for Hitler’s appeal. I have detailed analysis of the populist and progressive support for Nazi methods of mind control on my website, and have shared them here.

But what I find particularly ironic is that David Mikics, the author of the Tablet piece is a postmodernist exponent of Jacques Derrida (the hero whose dubious alliances have been questioned by other postmodernists), while the author of the forthcoming book Ben Urwand, is  a Harvard Junior Fellow. How ironic? Harvard was the site of many ardent proposals that Nazi and German methods of managing the masses be taken up by progressives and populists in America. See for example this series of essays posted on my website: https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/, https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/, and https://clarespark.com/2010/04/18/links-to-nazi-sykewar-american-style/.

One of the principal disseminators of protofascist social psychological methods, Henry A. Murray, former director of the Harvard Clinic, has sealed papers at Harvard University Archives, controlled by his widow Caroline Fish Murray (I tried to get into them in 1995 and was rebuffed unless I provided Mrs. Murray with an outline of the book I planned to write!)  Murray’s role in these propaganda offensives has been effectively covered up by the professoriate. Other figures associated with Murray, such as Gordon Allport and Walter Langer, have been similarly protected from academic scrutiny.

All the facts unearthed in Urwand’s dissertation research are disturbing. But to neglect the widespread fascination with Hitler and Mussolini among American populists (Father Coughlin comes to mind), as well as the admiration of Mussolini’s corporate state by FDR, suggests to me that Urwand’s forthcoming tome on Hollywood may serve as revenge for the Hollywood blacklist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_blacklist), as if leftists and liberals were holding up Hitler signs in protests against the Tea Party and Republicans in general. It should never be forgotten that the Hollywood left and its sympathizers today nailed Republicans and big business in general for supporting the Third Reich. (For a recent interview with Urwand see http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/video/author-ben-urwand-talks-hollywoods-597114.) UPDATE: I have read the book once and will write something brief set of impressions and reservations for Friday the thirteenth and Yom Kippur.  It is a bad book, but I never dreamed that Harvard would publish anything this outrageous. [Update 12-21-13: the documentation of “fact” in the Urwand book is highly suspect and even unpersuasive to a professional historian or to any careful reader who checks footnotes. Mark Horowitz did a good job taking the book apart in a recent TABLET, probably in response to widespread academic skepticism on the social democratic Left, the political position that Urwand seems to represent.]

June 6, 2013

Morale in the time of crisis overload

MORALE_G_20110814213222[This blog is dedicated to the thousands of Americans and allies who gave their lives in the invasion of Europe: D-Day, June 6, 1944. They knew what a fascist was.] Here is an excerpt from my research in the Harvard University Archives that seems especially relevant today, in the light of multiple scandals, even panic, descending upon our electorate, for we may be in danger of losing the will to resist the juggernaut of anti-Americanism, surveillance, and corruption that has been revealed since the Benghazi affair last September:

[Book excerpt, Hunting Captain Ahab, chapter 2:] In the case of the [Henry A.] Murray-[Gordon] Allport worksheets [distributed nationally to progressive groups ca. 1941], those limits were scientistically delineated; the Jeffersonian tradition was co-opted and redefined in the indispensable “Values of the Past”: “The more awareness there is of the group’s heroic past the better the morale. (Freedom from Old World Oppression, Jeffersonian Democracy, etc.) The more awareness of a national tradition of which the group is ashamed or guilty, the worse the morale…The slogan “Make The World Safe For Democracy” was anchored neither in the historical past or future. A durable morale must be historically anchored in the past and in the future, as well as in the present (Worksheet #4, 4, 5).” So much for the messianic republican mission…. The ever-questioning, self-critical temper of the Enlightenment, the very Head and Heart of the libertarian eighteenth century, could only lead to bad morale. … they went on to say that racial or economic discrimination were bad for morale, that there could be no doubt about the prospects for a better postwar world. A hodge-podge of factors: “communism, fascism, economic chaos, depression, or uncertainty,” all would impair morale (6). Peace aims were suggested: an International Police Force would ensure that “There will be a better distribution of the goods of the earth; all classes will be benefited” (Red-bound typescript, 13).” But war aims must remain vague, for we were a “pluralist society,” not a “unified society”; there were different strokes for different folks: “Disparities of statements shouldn’t be too obvious or made visible” (#4, 7).Properly guided we would be historically anchored in promises of abundance and an illusion of unity, yet we were not fascists. [end excerpt https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/.]

I have been in red-hot conflict with some internet comments that insist we are already under the thumb of fascists (as opposed to, say, proto-fascists as the Murray-Allport worksheets suggested), and that civil war is inevitable. My line is this: as long as the internet and dissenting publications and television stations exist, the republic is not finished, and certainly not comparable to Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, or Franco’s Spain, at least not yet. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/04/21/fascism-what-it-is-what-it-is-not/.) These persons whom I oppose are either trolls, agents provocateurs (same as trolls), or paranoid. They have been egged on by the doom and gloom contingent of internet rightist magazines, that ask for our financial support in the emergency that never goes away. I am familiar with this technique having participated in innumerable Pacifica Radio fund drives.

However, I do remember David Dellinger at one of our KPFK teach-ins warning other post-60s activists not to lead “emergency lives” (his exact words). In warning against burn-out Dellinger echoed the advice of Murray and Allport, quoted above: too much emphasis on failure in the nation’s past is bad for morale. Instead they recommend that moral failures be corrected. (I didn’t care for their particular nostrums, but that is another story.)

There is something obscene in the claims of these trolls or deluded rightists that all is lost, and those who would stop this administration must mount the barricades.  It is true that thanks to checks and balances and the internal reformation of the Republican party (still in process), that there are reputable journalists who have uncovered lawbreakers and liars in the current administration. But there has been no military coup to shred the Constitution or any demonstrable move by POTUS to remain in office past his second term.

Instead, we have the most vigorous debates over key issues, possibly the best writers on the once impenetrable Middle East (Barry Rubin, David P. Goldman, a.k.a. “Spengler”) that I can remember. It is true that some conflicts seem confused and murky (such as the arguments pro and con immigration reform), and that not enough attention is paid to public education, but that too is changing.

Political affiliations are not carved in stone. We can collapse in exhaustion and depression, or we can take heart that our institutions have been exposed, which gives an opening for new political choices. Our future will depend on our ability to be flexible and alert for fresh coalitions, perhaps even to relegate the distractions of the culture wars to the bottom of our list of “must think about now.” (For my defense of secularism see https://clarespark.com/2012/04/01/secularism-and-the-affordable-care-act/.)

De Chirico: The Terrible Games, 1925

De Chirico: The Terrible Games, 1925

May 30, 2013

Nostalgia for the “Middle Ages”

old tapestry(Update: there is a big fight among academics as to whether or not the late Middle Ages were not the true originators of science and great art. New Left and Catholic scholars seem to be in the vanguard of this move. The arguments are very heated, and suggest many persons reject modernity/mass politics/technology/machines, unless they can be reconciled with religion, particularly Catholicism or its hybrids. The Greens, who merge with Nature (as opposed to modern domination of Nature) might be considered as romantic medievalists.)

New Republic literary critic Leon Wieseltier was quoted in the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, May 29, 2013 as “Notable and Quotable.” These excerpts were taken from the commencement speech delivered by Wieseltier at Brandeis University on May 19, which warned students not to yield to the blandishments of science and technology.: “There is no task more urgent in American intellectual life at this hour than to offer some resistance to the two imperialisms of science and technology, and to recover the old distinction—once bitterly contested, then generally accepted , now almost completely forgotten—between the study of nature and the study of man.  …You who have elected to devote yourselves to the study of literature and languages and art and music and philosophy and religion and history—you are the stewards of that quality….Perhaps culture is now the counterculture. “

Wieseltier believes that this “saving remnant” will protect us against “the twittering acceleration of American consciousness….” [What on earth does he mean by that?]

This imprecation to drastically sever the link between the study of man with the study of nature, coupled with his nod to “religion” rhymes very well with the occasional turn to medievalism at such bastions of ex-leftist or populist thinking as Pajamas Media (see http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/05/28/video-in-defense-of-the-middle-ages/, seen also on the Dennis Prager “university” http://www.prageruniversity.com/History/Were-the-Middle-Ages-Dark.html. These videos are based on the work of Anthony Esolen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_M._Esolen)   It has been my position as both a student of intellectual history (with a strong interest in art and literary history), that the freethinking individual was unknown and often burned at the stake for daring to deviate from the rules laid down by medieval and even Renaissance priests and monarchs.


The Promethean impulse was sorely punished before the Enlightenment, and even Voltaire had to publish anonymously. And that pioneer Spinoza was hounded as a heretic for his materialist philosophy that joined Man with Nature and for his support of the short-lived but pathbreaking Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century.

But what is most disturbing, almost laughable, is Wieseltier’s posture as a revolutionary naysayer to the most advanced democracy in the history of our species, when he comes out as a diehard reactionary. Perhaps he likes girls with long tresses. The Middle Ages lingered into the 19th century with the vogue for William Morris craftsmanship, or before his ascendancy, the prestige of the Pre-Raphaelites, now in revival as a protest against the “desecration of nature.”

A contemporary version of Archangel Raphael

A contemporary version of Archangel Raphael

The real Middle Ages were a period of anarchy and arbitrary authority, localism,  interminable warfare, short life expectancy, institutionalized Jew-hatred, material deprivation, and slavery to powerful overlords, whose control over the lower orders was reinforced by “religion” that Wieseltier lauds as the proper study of his new counterculture (note that he does not distinguish between religions at odds with each other and with secularism. Such vagueness is typical of the moderate men who do not want anyone to be angry with them).  The centuries of struggle and sacrifice that brought us to pluralist, secularized modernity should not be so casually overturned by Brandeis University and its supportive media institutions. As for the study of cultural artifacts that Wieseltier recommends, it is not so easily accomplished as he imagines. Art works do not speak for themselves: they are always positioned against competing ideas and rules: look to their patrons and you will find the key to their artworks. Indeed, one of the great neglected themes in Melville scholarship (and the same might be said for his contemporary Victor Hugo) is ambivalence, as artists struggle with themselves either to accept or reject their freedom to write as they feel, for social cohesion is at stake, including their own interior conflicts that they imagine can hurl them into the abyss of poverty and artistic failure. (Melville’s father-in-law was Lemuel Shaw, a conservative Whig and Chief Justice of Massachusetts, also his patron.)

There is much to be criticized in this modern world, but its defects are not traceable to the “imperialism” of science and technology, but to the reactionary forces that thought that the transition from feudalism to capitalism could be managed without quality mass education and the preservation of the individual conscience and its rights as institutionalized in the First Amendment to the American Constitution. I remember Dr. Henry A. Murray, mind-manager extraordinaire, complaining about religious pluralism because the very fact that some had different belief systems suggested that one’s own religion  might be fallible. Such self-doubt (often described as ambiguity) fostered social division, not the desired social cohesion. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/03/26/henry-a-murray-and-the-tat/, or https://clarespark.com/2014/12/29/the-leader-principle/, or https://clarespark.com/2012/09/22/materialist-history-and-the-idea-of-progress/.) Is it any wonder that so many artists and writers must write under a mask, simply to express their inner selves?Mask-SuttonHoo7thC

March 28, 2013

“Power,” Foucault, and other aristocratic radicals

Foucaltcard03For those interested in how others interpret “power” in socio-political terms see  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_(social_and_political).

Several Facebook friends have expressed concern about “power,” seemingly equating it with illegitimate desires for malevolent control over other persons. Such notions of total control are usually implied in the notion of “totalitarianism” especially as the latter word equates communism and Nazism (a notion that I have challenged here: https://clarespark.com/2012/10/15/orwell-power-and-the-totalitarian-state/.)

This blog tries to sort out how one fashionable academic ideology abuses the notion of “power.”

Postmodernists/poststructuralists and Foucauldians. For these intellectuals, power is what the bourgeoisie, through total surveillance, wields over hapless Others, and one of the “pomo” villains is the bourgeois Enlightenment figure of “Freud”. For instance, take these sentences from Terry Eagleton’s chapter in “Self-Undoing Subjects” in Rewriting the Self, ed. Roy Porter (Routledge, 1997): p.264. “Isn’t Freud all about the unfathomable subject of the unconscious, about the production of some eternally elusive psyche folded upon its own inscrutable depths?” This is a wild misreading of Freud, the inventor of psychoanalysis, as if he preached helplessness, not insight and potential cure in a collaborative relationship between psychoanalyst and analysand, wherein, through a variety of techniques, the patient would ultimately gain a measure of power over neurotic anxiety and psychogenic illnesses: “Where Id was, let Ego be!”*

Freud, even in his time, was a master in stepping outside the self to observe self-sabotaging subjectivity, but Eagleton has taken this power away from Freud and his followers, for like other contributors to this volume, there is no “self” except that which is constituted through dominant discourses in modern/bourgeois institutions intent on doing us in.

It is not irrelevant that Eagleton is writing from the Left, and that psychiatrists were incarcerated in the Soviet Union.

There is no doubt in my mind that numerous authoritarian forces push us around, diminishing political participation, or that language matters and can affect political and/or personal choices, not to speak of our emotional configurations, our loves and taboos, our sense of the possible and impossible. But to so drastically historicize “the self” to the point where we may not distinguish between sanity (having a relatively accurate grip on reality) and insanity (being ruled by delusions) is a romantic fantasy, and it is no accident that R. D. Laing’s name is mentioned in other articles in this volume, as if he were an accepted authority on mental illness, and not a marginal Romantic who saw schizophrenia as an adventure into the world made invisible by the uptight [bourgeois]. See https://clarespark.com/2012/02/19/the-romantic-repudiation-of-freud-co/.


What is wrong with the Foucault/poststructuralist picture? Their panopticon makes no distinction between sectors of the bourgeoisie, for instance between classical liberals and social democrats, for the latter do favor “the watchbird state,” and their suspicious movements have been traced throughout this website, for instance here: https://clarespark.com/2011/01/02/the-watchbird-state/.

Many a “leftist” intellectual has more in common with displaced aristocrats than with the working class they claim to champion. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/10/11/the-other/.) While researching various social psychologists affiliated with the Roosevelt administration, I noted that some stigmatized the rising [crypto-Jewish] middle class as having a wicked yen for “power,” which they then “projected” upon minorities and women, even “business.” It was these potential quasi-fascist agitator-adoring usurpers who projected their illicit “will to power” upon favored authority figures, and knuckles were rapped accordingly. If you know your Nietzsche, you will recognize an aristocratic anti-plebeian ideology, one that spurned “history” as written by “the plebs.” Is it any accident that the sub-title of the anthology referenced above is “Histories from the Renaissance to the Present.” There is no one magisterial history dominating academia; there are only histories, or as is widely bruited about, only unreliable points of view. Granted that we all struggle with subjectivity, even seeking the power to see through ourselves and others, but to throw out a coherent self, able to make sense of her surroundings, to identify friends and enemies, is not only to kill off the author of literary texts (as some academics nail Foucauldians), but is a new peak (or low) in the annals of nihilism, one worthy of the Marquis de Sade himself.

*Another questionable reading of a classic text is found in Jonathan Sawday’s chapter “Self and Selfhood in the Seventeenth Century” (p.44), where he gets John Milton’s ambivalent reading of Satan all wrong: “Technology, invention, discovery, in Milton’s political poetics, are ideas associated with the absolutist, monarchical world of Hell.” I suppose Blake and Shelley were poor readers of Paradise Lost when they suggested that Milton was secretly of the Devil’s Party. A reminder that the regicide Milton was writing under censorship and could have been hanged for his role in the Interregnum.

Glenda Jackson, Marat/Sade

Glenda Jackson, Marat/Sade

February 9, 2013

LINCOLN (the movie) as propaganda

Apotheosis of Lincoln and Washington 1860s

Apotheosis of Lincoln and Washington 1860s

How they did it:

First, detaching Lincoln from the (Hamiltonian) Republicans to reattach him to (Jeffersonian) Jacksonian Democrats: the Andrew Jackson administration was famous for initiating the “spoils system” and by promising Democrats federal jobs as a reward for supporting the Thirteenth Amendment, Spielberg’s Lincoln affixed Honest Abe to the Jeffersonian faction. (Contrasting Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians is one route to  making sense of U.S. political history: see Stephen F. Knott’s book on the Hamilton myth.)

Second, the 2012 movie, with its positive portrayal of Lincoln, vindicated the power of the Executive branch today. There is a hidden link to New Deal propaganda, for progressives Gordon Allport and Henry A. Murray recommended in their nationally circulated notebooks on “civilian morale” that FDR be joined with Lincoln and Washington, as strong leaders and father figures.  See https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/, or https://clarespark.com/2011/09/29/the-abraham-lincoln-conundrum/. The latter takes up Bill O’Reilly’s efforts to render Lincoln as the pre-eminent healer, one like himself, the good father who is “looking out for you.” (See https://clarespark.com/2011/03/30/eric-foners-christianized-lincoln/.)

Third, the unnecessary death scene linked Lincoln to Christ and to national redemption, a tactic that was effective in the North, but certainly not in the South.  See http://tinyurl.com/acbqkza on the religious response to Lincoln’s assassination, the paragraph possibly derived from Michael Rogin.

Fourth, by emphasizing the widespread Congressional resistance to the Thirteenth  Amendment, the impression reinforced the New Left line that racism is the overarching theme of American history, and that blacks are owed reparations. (See https://clarespark.com/2011/03/26/race-class-and-gender/. I do not intend to minimize the importance of “race” and “race relations.”)

Fifth, the flashback to the Second Inaugural Address, coming immediately after the assassination serves to bind the Nation as an organic entity. This is the most reactionary feature of the movie. In truth, we remain fragmented, and neo-Confederate flags still fly. By relying upon Doris Kearn Goodwin’s book, Spielberg portrayed Lincoln as the moderate man who could unite warring factions, even within his own party. I.e., all conflicts are reconcilable. The irony is the American Civil War (the “irrepressible conflict”) as the primary locale for this “moderate” strategy of manipulation and compromise. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/11/06/moderate-men-falling-down/, or https://clarespark.com/2012/11/19/abandonment-anxiety-and-moderation/.)

Sixth, Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens was turned into a pragmatist, like Lincoln, not a wild-eyed ideologue like Charles Sumner. This was another reactionary move, designed to counter Stevens’s rehabilitation in the neo-abolitionist historiography. (See https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/. There is much detail here on Sumner and Stevens as they fought to prepare the freedmen for economic and political independence.)

Seventh, the producer-director chose John Williams to score the movie. With the exception of some plausible period fiddle tunes, Williams looted Aaron Copland, except for George Root’s The Battle Cry of Freedom. Ignored was most popular music of the period in question. Also missing in action were Stevens’s and Sumner’s program for Reconstruction, too sizzling for today’s audiences. (On slanderous depictions of Sumner, and by extension Stevens, see https://clarespark.com/2012/01/03/the-race-card/.) Moreover, by focusing strictly on a narrow period of the Lincoln presidency, there was no opportunity to demonstrate land reform by some of the Northern generals (Sherman!) as they marched through the South.

Taken all in all, I can only suggest that the emphasis on the organic Nation, as led by the moderate men (delineated above), demonstrates how the South won the cultural battle for how we remember the American Civil War. Think of the stately brief portrayal of Robert E. Lee, riding away from Appomattox on his horse Traveler, preceded by  horrific shots of the Confederate dead in Petersburg, Virginia.  That the 2012 LINCOLN movie was done skillfully and under the radar speaks to the propaganda skills of the better Hollywood producers and directors.

D.W. Griffith Lincoln 1931

D.W. Griffith Lincoln 1931

BIBLIOGRAPHY (highly recommended)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cs6cIi_mKfg Adlai Stevenson reads text of Copland “Lincoln Portrait” (1942) 15 minutes and well worth comparing the Lincoln of the “fiery trial” with the Lincoln of the Spielberg movie.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln_Portrait  (1942)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln_(2012_film) , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution,

http://tinyurl.com/avdpq2x (James McPherson’s review of Doris Kearn Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: the political genius of Abraham Lincoln)

http://tinyurl.com/b7kh6ak (Michael Rogin essay on D. W. Griffith and racism in American culture)





December 2, 2012

Index to sadomasochism blogs

Bondage dress: Rolling Stone 1992

Bondage dress: Rolling Stone 1992

When I first studied the Sadomasochism Collection at UCLA, I viewed S-M as a perversion, but also the sexual expression of besieged middle management, given impossible tasks, and aspiring to the position of second-in-command (like mothers). Now it is mainstream and considered by some to be therapy, for instance the new Bondage club at Harvard University. But most strikingly, the world wide success of Fifty Shades of Grey is indicative of widespread interest in what was once considered to be a shameful perversion. I now view S-M as  indicative of patterns of obedience throughout pseudo-democratic institutions.

https://clarespark.com/2009/10/25/the-ultimate-s-m-humiliation/ (Men chained to women’s work)

https://clarespark.com/2009/11/07/dream-girl/ (Linda Darnell, silenced and constricted)

https://clarespark.com/2009/07/13/eros-and-the-middle-manager-s-m-with-implications-for-multiculturalism/ [revised and updated 2-15-2015]








https://clarespark.com/2012/01/31/the-numbers-game/ (and the decline of magic)

https://clarespark.com/2012/07/31/censorship-bohemia-and-the-big-sleep/ (photo of vagina dentate vampire shoes)



cat o' nine tails

November 15, 2012

Female genitals as Red Flag

militant Judy Chicago

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), the great gesture of defiance for Winston Smith is his sexual liaison with the promiscuous Julia. It was the same for Herbert Marcuse, writing to the Sixties’ generation in his Eros and Civilization (1955).  And before that publication, Harvard social psychologist Henry A. Murray and his colleague Gordon Allport suggested that an American “Leader” like FDR, the antithesis of Hitler, should embody the Eros of democracy (https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/).  A few years earlier, Wilhelm Reich, a refugee from Nazis, first published his seminal work arguing that Nazism was anchored in the German psyche through repression of the orgasm (The Mass Psychology of Fascism, 1933, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Reich).

So when Judy Chicago and other feminist artists took on the Woman Question in the 1960s and 70s, it is not surprising that in-your-face sexual emancipation, focused on a populist critique of “white male modernist supremacy” in the art world, would be their Red Flag. There were sturdy precedents in 20th century culture, and soon Marcuse would be warning about “repressive de-sublimation”—a move that would only impel more consumerism and false consciousness in the working class as the Frankfurt School refugees liked to argue as Marxists and pseudo-Freudians.

I have been studying the sumptuous catalog published by the University of California Press in 1996, Feminist Politics: Judy Chicago’s ‘Dinner Party’ in Feminist Art History, edited by Amelia Jones, a post-structuralist art historian, attuned to queer studies, performance art, and Da Da (!).  Jones’s Wikipedia page lauds her for her anti-elitist stance, while the catalog rehabilitates kitsch and popular culture– an accurate reflection of the populist politics she brings to her ambivalent study of the work that made Judy Chicago and feminist art a topic of heated debate within the art world and elsewhere.

Frida with cat

Frida Kahlo with cat in classic come hither position

A review of the major claims of the pseudo-revolutionary character of this populist art world move seems timely, now that the Democratic Party has highlighted the supposed War on Women launched by their ostensibly uptight, hyper-puritan adversaries on the Right.

Amelia Jones’s major essay in the catalog is a treat for those readers who define liberation as focus on female genitals.  In guilty liberal fashion, she does complain that a feminist movement that ignored women of color is problematic, but her main point is that Chicago’s representation of great women through the ages is not “essentialist” (“biological determinism” is off the table), but female identity is, rather, “socially constructed,” hence it follows that the “patriarchy” can be demolished by feminist art and criticism.

Since Chicago’s Great Genitals are a colorful and shiny mish-mash, mixing up artists, writers, and an assortment of antique heroines of various religions (many pagan), the entire conception of her mammoth piece is necessarily mystical, perhaps barbaric, which fits in with the Woman as Goddess motif that is the most lasting legacy of the Sexual Revolution. I wonder if Chicago’s fame/notoriety is as original a move as her fans imagine.

Hannah Wilke

Keith Thomas, the late British historian, argued that modernity and puritanism elevated the status of women in marriage. So-called feminist art betrays its critical promise by reducing women to their sex organs.  Men got there first. [On how the Democratic Party has co-opted feminism see https://clarespark.com/2012/10/03/the-sexual-revolution-2/]

(For a related blog that documents misogyny in some famous poets and critics, see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/23/murdered-by-the-mob-moral-mothers-and-symbolist-poets/. For a partial index to all my blogs on feminism see https://clarespark.com/2012/09/04/links-to-blogs-on-feminism/.) Historian Ruth Bloch has traced the “rise of the moral mother”, whose status was improved by Lockean tabula rasa psychology and the decline of paternal authority in the family. Mothers, now the decisive instructors in religious sentiments,  could be seen as malevolently usurping the male role, as father left his castle/home for offices and factories; father was no longer the supreme authority and distributor of material resources within the household economy.

November 3, 2012

The social work of Progressives

Anna Andlauer

Review: The Rage to Live: The International D.P. Children’s Center Kloster Indersdorf 1945-46. By Anna Andlauer, transl. and revised by Tobe Levin. (E-book, 2012, ISBM 978-1479322893) (Originally publ. in German as Zurück inse Leben. Das international Kinderzentrum Kloster  Indersdorf 1945-46, Antogo Verlag, Nuremberg, 2011.

 Since this harrowing and yet optimistic book is a tribute to the unsung heroic social worker Greta Fischer, primarily for her work in Germany on behalf of UNRRA (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UNRRA) ,  I begin this short review with an overall look at progressive/postmodern views of the human psyche and social organization. We shall see that though the author nods to Anna Freud as major proponent of the lifelong benefits of a tight mother-infant bond (p.173), the general approach of the Kloster Indersdorf D.P. Children’s Center was “behavior modification” toward the goal of “physical health and the beginning of a moral and spiritual rehabilitation” (p.160, quoting Greta Fischer, p.161). The notion that Anna Freud would have approved of the appropriations of her work for the encouragement of either ego psychology or behavior modification is misguided. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Freud.  Did Anna Freud ever recover from her depression and/or her inner conflicts?

Anna Freud

Which raises crucial questions about the overall ideology guiding the immense field of “social work,” especially given the triumphalist tone of Anna Andlauer’s book, which tells the stories of hundreds of severely traumatized displaced children, uprooted during World War 2 (many of them Holocaust survivors), but identity politics inform Andlauer’s view of recovery, and she uses the code words we associate with that ideology: a healthy “identity” is understood as “rootedness,” hence a reconstituted self is maintained through renewed contact with native language and local cultures. Indeed, Andlauer provides numerous photos of individual survivors of varied nationalities, smiling broadly and showing their names in placards covering their presumably healed hearts, but she is less enthused about the value of “assimilation”, for the youngsters who made it to Palestine/Israel and various kibbutzim are mildly criticized for accommodation to a “sabres”[sic]  identity (p.167). Especially troubling to this reviewer is the notion of “resilience” as applied to these survivors, given to the “rage to live,” notwithstanding watching or learning about the destruction of their entire families, then the deplorable waiting for the Western Democracies to either allow them into their countries or to go to the newly constituted Jewish State.

With respect to “behavior modification,” although that term is not used until the last pages of the book, we understand that cleanliness, medical treatment for scabies, lice, and infectious diseases, family-style meals, plentiful food, different china for different courses, vocational training for farming and other “trades,” behavioral boundaries intended to return the often aggressive youngsters to traditional  notions of order, plus contact with kindly but firm and trustworthy mentors listening to the children’s stories (over and over), presumably prepared the deeply traumatized children for a healthy adjustment to life in either their countries of origin or in the few societies that allowed them entrance (for the Jews, Palestine/Israel, or the U.K., Canada, Australia, and the U.S.).

Another project of the Kloster Indersdorf Displaced Persons Center was to reverse “Germanization” in those children who had been performing forced labor either in Germany or in the Third Reich’s occupied zones. It is unclear what this means: were some of the children not only replacing their original mother tongues with German, or was it necessary to de-Nazify them?  I have asked the translator for the original German word, and am awaiting her response. This is no minor point, for the overall project of “identity politics” is indistinguishable from Nazi Blut und Boden racialist theories. [Added 11-4-12: Tobe Levin tells me that the original German word in Andlauer’s text was Germanisierung. The Wikipedia gloss of this word explains that under Nazi rule, this conception signified the extinction of all other languages (e.g. Polish), as an outcome of Nazi expansion for the purpose of Lebensraum. Hitler, writing earlier in Mein Kampf, rejected the notion that other races could become German. In my own research, I found that in Hitler’s second “secret” book, he called for a global völkisch form of social organization, without racial mixing. Compare to völkisch multiculturalism as social policy.]


Here is the Wiki quote that aligns “social work” with the major tenets of postmodernism, multiculturalism, and the contemporary writing of cultural or social history: “The International Federation of Social Workers states, of social work today, that

‘social work bases its methodology on a systematic body of evidence-based knowledge derived from research and practice evaluation, including local and indigenous knowledge specific to its context. It recognizes the complexity of interactions between human beings and their environment, and the capacity of people both to be affected by and to alter the multiple influences upon them including bio-psychosocial factors. The social work profession draws on theories of human development, social theory and social systems to analyse complex situations and to facilitate individual, organizational, social and cultural changes.’”

In one part of my book on Herman Melville and his 20th century revivers, I included this excursus that delineates the organicist methodology underlying contemporary theories of pedagogy and psychiatry: https://clarespark.com/2010/02/10/a-brooding-meditation-on-intimacy-and-distance/. (This was a controversial inclusion to the late Roy Porter, the famed historian of science, medicine, and psychiatry, himself torn between materialist and idealist pictures of the human psyche, but I finally brought him around, or perhaps wore him down.)

To complete this compressed survey of Anna Andlauer’s book, I remind the reader of Herman Melville’s bitter chapter on the interactions between the Invalid Titan and the “herb-doctor” in The Confidence-Man (1857). Melville’s relatives were impatient with his own brooding and prolonged suffering, probably adding to his malaise. It is ever so much more comforting to believe that all psychic wounds, no matter how profound, can be healed and managed with positive thinking and other progressive nostrums. One of the more entertaining ones is appended below.

Appendix: Henry A. Murray advises FDR, 1943:

[Dr. Henry A. Murray, Director of the Harvard Psychological Clinic, advises FDR, October 1943, on the best ways to apply the lessons of (patrician) psychoanalysis to the postwar treatment of the German people:]

It can be predicted that we will find the German people profoundly humiliated, resentful, disenchanted, dejected, morose, despairing of the future. Accustomed to obeying an arbitrary external authority, they will have no dependable inner guides to control behavior. There will be a wave of crime and suicide. Apathy will be wide-spread. Having passed through a period of intense unanimity and cooperation, Germany as a social system will fall apart, each man to suffer pain and mortification in private.

Disorganization and confusion will be general, creating a breeding ground for cults of extreme individualism. A considerable part of the population will be weighted down by a heavy sense of guilt, which should lead to a revival of religion. The soil will be laid [sic] for a spiritual regeneration; and perhaps the Germans, not we, will inherit the future.

It is assumed that the Allies will demilitarize Germany, will insist on efficient guarantees against future conspiracies, will take steps to liquidate the Junker Class, will prevent rearmament and the misuse of raw materials. As Dr. Foerster has said: a soft peace for Germany will be a very hard peace for the German people, delivering them to the Prussian caste who led them astray.

Nothing permanent, however, can be achieved by such measures alone. What is required is a profound conversion of Germany’s attitude: abandonment of the idea (1) that they are innately superior; (2) that they are destined to govern the earth; (3) that there is no human law or authority higher than the good of the German State; (4) that power is to be admired above everything; and (5) that Might makes Right.

In treating the Germans psychologically we must realize that we are dealing with a nation suffering from paranoid trends: delusions of grandeur; delusions of persecution; profound hatred of strong opponents and contempt of weak opponents; arrogance, suspiciousness and envy–all of which has been built up as a reaction to an age-old inferiority complex and a desire to be appreciated.

Possibly the first four steps in the treatment of a single paranoid personality can be adapted to the conversion of Germany. In attempting this we must not forget that the source of their psychic sickness is wounded pride.

3.(a) First Step.-The physician must gain the respect of the patient. (i) Individual paranoid.– Paranoids cannot be treated successfully if they are not impressed (consciously or unconsciously) by the ability, knowledge, wisdom, or perhaps mere magnetic force, of the physician. Special efforts must sometimes be made to achieve this end, since paranoids, being full of scorn, are not easy to impress.

(ii) Germany. The regiments that occupy Germany should be the finest that the United Nations can assemble – regiments with a history of victories, composed of tall well-disciplined soldiers commanded by the best generals. Rowdiness and drunkenness should not be permitted. The Germans should be compelled to admit: “These are splendid men; not the weak degenerates (democratic soldiers) or barbarians (Russian soldiers) we were led to expect.” The Germans admire orderliness, precision, efficiency.

3. (b) Second Step. The potential worth of the patient should be fully acknowledged. (i) Individual paranoid.-The indwelling burning hunger of the paranoid is for recognition, power and glory–praise from those he respects. This hunger should be appeased as soon as possible, so that the paranoid thinks to himself: “The great man appreciates me. Together we can face the world.” It is as if he thought: “He is God the Father and I am his chosen son.”

(ii) Germany.– Germany’s countryside, its music, historic culture, and monuments of beauty should be appreciated and praised. The army of occupation should manifest intense interest in the culture of Old Germany and complete indifference to all recent developments. The troops should be instructed and coached by lectures and guide-books covering the district they will occupy. They should be told that the war is not won until the heart of the German people has been won.

Germans of the old school should be hired to teach the German language, to guide the soldiers on tours of the country and of museums, to teach native arts and skills. Concerts should be arranged, omitting pieces that have been specially favored by the Nazis. Editions of books burned by the Nazis should be published and put on sale immediately.

All this will serve a double purpose. It will provide education for our troops and occupy their time; thus helping to maintain morale. Also the submerged inferiority feelings and resentments of the Germans will be alleviated.

3 (c) Third Step.Insight should be tactfully provided, a little at a time. (i) Individual paranoid.– Very gradually, step by step, the patient is enlightened as to his own paranoid mechanisms. Pride in being uncriticizable and always in the right must be gradually replaced by pride in being able to rise above his own mechanisms and criticize himself, pride in being strong enough to admit some weaknesses and erros [sic]. He should be made to understand that he has been victimized by unconscious forces which gained control over his proper self. During the course of these talks the physician should freely confess his own weaknesses and errors, the patient being treated as an equal.

(ii) Germany. The last ten years of German history should be interpreted as a violent infectious fever, a possession of the spirit, which took hold of the people as soon as they gave ear to the false prophets of Fascism.

A series of articles, editorials, essays and short books should be written now by Germans in this country (Thomas Mann, Reinhold Niebuhr, Foerster, and others), aided possibly by suggestions from psychiatrists, to be published in German newspapers and distributed soon after the occupation. They should be therapeutic essays essentially- perhaps signed by a nom de plume as if written by a minister, physician, or writer in Germany.

Not too much should be said in any one paper; but, in time, the lies, delusions, treacheries and crimes of the Nazis should be reviewed objectively and in historical sequence. The German people should be made to understand that the world regards them as unwitting and unhappy victims of instinctual forces. The Allies should be magnanimous enough to admit their own errors and misdeeds.

3. (d) Fourth Step. The patient should be insociated in a group. (1) Individual paranoid. Having attained a measure of satisfaction by winning the respect and friendship of his physician and then having gained some insight and control, the patient is ready for group therapy. Later, he can be persuaded to join outside groups. Gradually he must learn to take his place and cooperate on an equal basis with others. The group he joins should have a goal.

(ii) Germany. If Germany is to be converted, it is of the utmost importance that some strong and efficient super-government be established as soon as possible, providing a new world conscience, that her people can respect. As said above, Germans must have something to look up to – a God, a Fuehrer, an Absolute, a national ideal. It can not be a rival nation, or a temporary alliance of nations. It must be a body – a strong body with a police force–which stands above any single state. A supranational symbol would eventually attract the deference that is now focussed upon Hitler. Lacking such a symbol, many Germans will certainly fall into a state of profound disillusionment and despair. At the proper time Germany should be insociated as an equal in whatever league or federation of nations has been established.

From here on the therapy of a single paranoid personality fails as an analogy, principally because the German people will not be in the position of a patient who comes willingly to the physician’s office. The Nazis will be in no mood to be educated by their enemies. Furthermore it would be very presumptuous of us to try it. The most that the Allies could do would be to close all schools and universities until new anti-fascist teachers and faculties had been recruited. The greatest problem will be in dealing with a whole generation of brutalized and hardened young Nazis. (Perhaps exhibition games of soccer, football, lacrosse and baseball between American and English regiments would serve to introduce ideas of fair play and sportsmanship; but much else must be done – by German educators).

For the conversion of Germany the most effective agency will be some form of world federation. Without this the Allied victory will have no permanently important consequences.[3]

(For how I contextualized Murray’s report on the website see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/20/jungians-on-the-loose-part-one/.)

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