YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

August 6, 2016

Krauthammer diagnoses Trump, long distance

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New Theater Hitler as narcissist, 1936

New Theater Hitler as narcissist, 1936

Read these short entries first. http://www.mediaite.com/online/krauthammer-diagnoses-trump-beyond-narcissism-has-infantile-hunger-for-approval/


I used to revere Charles Krauhammer as Fox’s resident genius, until I saw the homage documentary designed (?) to debut CK’s collected essays (Things That Matter); that “documentary” produced a blog that focused on CK’s search for unity https://clarespark.com/2013/10/26/krauthammer-fox-news-channel-and-the-search-for-unity/. This search for coherence in a polarized polity would suggest that he is an organic conservative, despite his claims to be a moderate, which would align him with other “moderates” on Fox News Channel. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Krauthammer), In other words, CK is a mystic, not a scientific materialist, as his medical training would suggest.

I learned from the Wiki entry that CK had indeed never been in independent clinical practice as a psychiatrist (he is board-certified), but had gone on from being chief resident in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (three whole years as a resident!), directly into politics, working for the Carter administration in “psychiatric planning.” (Wiki also states that CK contributed to DSM III, though they are not detailed.)

In other words, CK had little experience in clinical practice, yet he is a respected diagnostician of persons he seems not to have ever closely examined. (I have written extensively about another Harvard graduate, a Jungian: Dr. Henry A. Murray, who, like CK, made long-distances inferences about major figures; for instance, Murray testified at the trial of Whittaker Chambers, opining that Chambers had a “psychopathic personality” (based on reading! and linking him to CK’s highly respected opinions. (On Murray’s methods see https://clarespark.com/2012/03/26/henry-a-murray-and-the-tat/.)

Just as CK has labeled Barack Obama a “narcissist,” Dr. Krauthammer judges Donald J. Trump to be unstable, and more than a bit mad. Oddly, Adolf Hitler was judged to be a nutty criminal/psychopath by Dr. Henry A. Murray and assorted Stalinists, though none of these had any professional (psychiatric) relationship with the object of their scorn. Dr. Murray went so far as to infer that Hitler must have had Jewish blood, setting the stage for later Harvard social psychologists (https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/).

Dr. Krauthammer famously switched political allegiances mid-career. But his haughty opinions on the Republican nominee’s mental states, bear comparison with those of other “moderate men” seeking to be “fair and balanced.”

January 19, 2016

“New York values”

New-Yorker-NY-Daily-News-side-by-side-CruzWhen presidential aspirant Ted Cruz accused his rival Donald J. Trump of professing “New York values” (ultra-liberal sponsorship of gay marriage and “pro-abortion” sentiments) I immediately took offense, for I recognized the latent antisemitism in that remark. Not so on Fox News Channel, with the notable exception of Geraldo Rivera, whose mother is Jewish.  Last  night (1-18-16) Irish Catholic Bill O’Reilly sharply distanced himself from the Geraldo diagnosis, perhaps  oblivious to his semi-conscious feelings. (As a culture warrior, O’Reilly blames “secular progressives” for assaulting Christmas. His [deicide] guests from that ostensibly atheistic faction have had “Jewish” names, though O’Reilly has not been an obvious antisemite.)

This blog goes over old ground, for since 1986 I have been studying both latent and explicit antisemitism, and I will be very specific.

Cruz’s characterization of “New York values” evokes the rural hostility to “Cain’s cities” that, in the [Iowan] agrarian argot signify violence and decadence. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/11/17/melencolia-i-and-the-apocalypse-1938/.) Moreover, New York has always been a target of politicians for its Jewish population, and it is accurate that “liberal” Jews have, since they were supposedly agents of ferment hostile to WASP America, risen in the socio-economic scale, and arousing fear of “the Jewish vote” (see https://clarespark.com/2011/06/17/the-famed-jewish-vote/).

But consider the two policies specified by Senator Cruz: “pro-abortion” and “gay marriage.” First, no feminist (female or male) is in favor of slaughtering babies. That expression “pro-abortion” evokes the blood libel, an ancient fantasy that Jews murder Christian infants for their matzo-flavoring blood. (Some feminists may refer to “abortion rights” but I prefer the notion of “choice.”)

“Gay marriage” offends some ultra-conservatives, because it evokes androgyny, blurring the sharp separation between male and female that, it is believed, are necessary ingredients for abolishing poverty in the (restored) patriarchal family. Hitler (in Mein Kampf) referred to the “feminized masses” who, in my reading, were oddly both gullible and too curious about the affairs of their betters. Hitler, like many historians, abhorred “mass politics” pandering to the base instincts, unlike the displaced aristocracy.

Caruba/Flickr in Reason.com

Caruba/Flickr in Reason.com

Close reading is necessary to decode propaganda. It is unlikely that Ted Cruz intended to vilify Jews. But when sharp eyed and sensitive students of stereotypes call him out on at least latent name-calling, it behooves him and all politicians and journalists to wise up, as O’Reilly likes to say. (Update: I found the Leipzig postcard under Google images for “mass politics”; i.e., the loss of the “good King” opens the door to the “special interest group” that divides and ultimately conquers “the body politic.”)

German postcard (1906): Leipzig special interest group

German postcard (1906): Leipzig special interest group




February 3, 2015

Jews not killed for “just being Jews”?

SammyrunThis blog continues https://clarespark.com/2015/01/18/is-antisemitism-rational-or-irrational/. I add to the prior blog that such historians as Deborah Lipstadt (in Beyond Belief) have alleged that Jews were killed for “just being Jews.” This is true insofar as all Jews, including the most assimilated or atheistic, are viewed by their enemies as a illegitimately powerful “race” inexplicably surviving and thriving for thousands of years. But as a statement directed at a broad audience, it requires a more complex and contextualized elaboration. (This blog will be different from my previous discussions of antisemitism thanks to my son-in-law Maimon Chocron, whose emphasis on Jewish survival and astonishingly rapid upward mobility, seen as “unnatural” by antagonists, sent me off in unanticipated new directions.)

Briefly, “the Jews” (preferring “individual rights” over “stability”) always represented a threat as declared by rulers/demagogues: intellectual combativeness, revolutionary socialism, finance capitalism/the power of money (for Hitler, the real force behind the Soviet Union), modernity, Woman, globalism, the madness induced by urban life, the “anti-race” (Hitler) which means they were internationally cohesive and allegedly not loyal to their “nations” of temporary residence, or worse, “unnatural” and hostile to Nature itself, and to the natural order of things.

And the natural order of things is “The Great Chain of Being,” in which each of us knows her or his place. “It ain’t natural” to defy, let alone “dominate” the Great Mother Nature (see https://clarespark.com/2015/03/21/great-goddess-feminism-the-phyllis-chesler-model/). “Natural harmony,” like “the [tightly woven] social fabric,” must be preserved, at all costs. No wonder Jack the Ripper was surmised to have been a “low class Polish Jew” Aaron Kosminski (as reported in The Independent).

Aaron Kosminski: 19th C image

Aaron Kosminski: 19th C image

In other words, whereas peasants from Southeastern and Central Europe could immigrate to America and gradually climb up the class ladder, Jews seemed to their envious fellow-immigrants to be uncanny; how was it possible to go from poverty to great riches and cultural power in one generation? This is memorialized in Budd Schulberg’s popular novel What Makes Sammy Run. They must be greedy crooks, right? as shown in Once Upon a Time in America (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_Upon_a_Time_in_America). After all, Budd’s father, B. P. Schulberg was not an immigrant. Wikipedia doesn’t even see him as Jewish: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._P._Schulberg. For a very recent review of Schulberg’s novel (accurately condemned by the CP for anti-Semitism), see http://inverarity.livejournal.com/265552.html.

Moreover, Herman Melville, born a Protestant, invited eternal damnation in Moby-Dick when he referred to the pure and placid face of Nature that only masked “the charnel house within.” For this blasphemy (and others) he was furtively read as a Jew or “Hebraic” by leading critics, such as Henry A. Murray and Charles Olson, while one more daring Princeton professor titled his book Melville’s Quarrel With God. To argue with God is tantamount to deicide.

Evan B. Harris, White Whale and Shells

Evan B. Harris, White Whale and Shells

For these reasons, I rank “intellectual combativeness” (a.k.a. the close reading of texts and political moods) to be the key to Jewish success in America. Returning to “Hollywood,” first generation immigrants read the populist/progressive mood that prevailed in their adopted country, saw that upper-class Protestants were busily uplifting the masses to stave off socialism in America, and such as Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer made movies that catered to popular taste—a backwoods, country taste that Budd Schulberg would hold up to ridicule in A Face in the Crowd, or that Ben Urwand would mock in Sergeant York. See https://clarespark.com/2012/07/03/andy-griffiths-greatest-performance/.

Jon Lomberg's harmonious Great Chain of Being

Jon Lomberg’s harmonious Great Chain of Being

For such reasons, I view antisemitism as both rational and irrational. Jews, as either capitalists or communists, are seen as strange and unfair competitors (the pseudo-“rational” component of antisemitism), while the feelings of Jew haters (the irrational part), contain the residues of ancient, medieval, and modern hostilities.

January 3, 2015

Cass Sunstein: Nudnik-in-chief

Execmed007014Before you read this blog you might want to consult these sources:



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cass_Sunstein (“libertarian paternalism”)


Harvard Magazine’s first issue of 2015 features an eight page profile of Cass Sunstein, author, Harvard Law professor, and former Obama administration official. Sunstein, who has made enemies on both Right and Left, served as the head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs from 2009 to 2012. Lauded as “The Legal Olympian,” Sunstein remains a major player in propagandizing for the New Deal and the welfare state it spawned.

Indeed, the author of the piece, the liberal lawyer and journalist Lincoln Caplan, takes care to quote from FDR’s [populist] “Second Bill of Rights” (equated by Sunstein with The Declaration of Independence): “…rights to ‘a useful and remunerative job”; for “every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies”; to “a decent home”; to “adequate medical care”; to “adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment”; and to “a good education.” “For unless there is security here at home, there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”

Caplan assumes that Sunstein quoted from the “Second Bill of Rights” because “no one really opposes government intervention” (quoting Sunstein’s italicized sentence) but the date of Roosevelt’s fireside chat, 1944, suggests that FDR was aware that wartime spending, not New Deal largesse in the spirit of Keynes, was responsible for increased employment during the war years, and that many Americans predicted another Depression when the war was over.

But Harvard’s purpose in featuring the profile of the controversial Sunstein, seems to me to be an affirmation of typical Harvard strategies. Note that the cover photo of Sunstein shows some of his library: many books on social psychology are present. This cover article probably is intended to continue the irrationalist social theories of the Harvard social relations department; one that has been described frequently on this website as proto-fascist. A kinder term would be the continued rule of Ivy League philosopher-kings. For are they not all Olympians in their fields, now annexing the new fields of neuroscience and “choice architecture,” the better to control the masses, strategically placing food choices so that apples will be freely chosen, and not Fritos? Behind this lengthy puff piece that attempts to convince ordinary people that the biggest possible government is desirable in this best of all possible worlds, is the notion, clearly stated in the Jungian pschoanalyst Henry A. Murray’s notes to Melville’s novel White-Jacket, is that the masses are not trained to rule. Indeed, in Carl Jung’s opinion, Hitler was a guttersnipe, the man of the mob who had too much power in the modern world. Here is what Jung had to say about Hitler at the end of World War 2: mass politics had produced the modern wasteland.

[Jung:] “As I said before, the upheaval of mass instincts corresponds to a compensatory move of the unconscious. Such a move became possible because the conscious state of the people had become estranged from the natural laws of human existence. Because of industrialization, large parts of the population became uprooted, and they were herded together in large centres. And because of this new form of existence–with its mass psychology and its social dependence upon the fluctuations of markets and wages, an individual was created who was unstable, insecure, and suggestible…Germany…is by no means the only nation threatened by this dangerous germ. The influence of mass psychology has spread far and wide. It was the individual’s feeling of weakness, and indeed of non-existence, which was compensated by the upheaval of hitherto unknown desires for power…Nothing but materialism was preached by the highest intellectual authority….Hitler…was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was a highly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic individual, full of empty childish fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this is another reason why they fell for him.” C.G. Jung,”Individual and Mass Psychology,” Essays on Contemporary Events (London: Kegan Paul, 1946): xiii-xv. Originally broadcast on the BBC, Nov. 3, 1946.

And just to make sure that we get the point, the Caplan essay concludes with this adjuration derived from Cass Sunstein: “He argued that the justices of the Supreme Court should resolve questions before them as narrowly as possible, to encourage elected officials to deliberate on decisive issues and test their answers before the voters….It would energize American democracy by making it more deliberative.” Caplan goes on to defend the [living Constitution], now the preferred opponent to “tradition’s constitution.”

And so Harvard Magazine continues to leave the reader in the same old double bind: advocating for both freedom and welfare, ever the “moderate men.” We may not know what is good for us, left to our own flawed devices, but cleverly manipulated environments, arranged by nudniks, will nudge us in the correct direction, choosing apples, not Fritos.

December 27, 2014

George Orwell pitied Hitler but hated the money power

Orwell passport photo, undated

Orwell passport photo, undated

I have already posted blogs on George Orwell (https://clarespark.com/2012/11/17/index-to-orwell-blogs/), but had not yet read his essays from the early 1940s. I now have a clearer and bleaker idea of his politics, which are more clearly expressed in such essays as The Lion and the Unicorn, which dismayed me as the meandering thoughts of an anti-modern populist than that of the democratic socialist portrayed by recent leftist intellectuals. (For my most recent essay see https://clarespark.com/2015/01/22/orwells-wartime-essays-some-surprises/.)

First, there is his pity for Hitler, published in his review of Mein Kampf in New English Weekly, 21 March, 1940. [Orwell:] “I should like to put it on record that I have never been able to dislike Hitler. Ever since he came to power—till then, like nearly everyone, I had been deceived into thinking that he did not really matter—I have reflected that I would certainly kill him if I could get within reach of him, but that I could feel no personal animosity. The fact is that there is something deeply appealing about him. One feels it again when one sees his photographs—and I recommend especially the photograph at the beginning of Hurst and Blackett’s edition, which shows Hitler in his early Brownshirt days. It is a pathetic, dog-like face, the face of a man suffering under intolerable wrongs. In a rather more manly way it reproduces the expression of innumerable pictures of Christ crucified, and there is little doubt that that is how Hitler sees himself. The initial, personal cause of his grievance against the universe can only be guessed at; but at any rate the grievance is there. He is the martyr, the victim, Prometheus chained to the rock, the self-sacrificing hero who fights single-handed against impossible odds.

“…Also he has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life…. However they may be as theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarized version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their people….” [End, Orwell excerpt]

Second, there is the strongly embedded populist antisemitism in his declaration of his own English brand of Socialism in The Lion and the Unicorn, published in December 1940. For he not only wants a distinctively English Socialism (think of IngSoc in 1984), he is adamant about the outrageous role of usury, the domination of the money power, and the resultant income inequality derived from the English class system. He means to expropriate the English aristocracy and their unearned wealth, all along believing that his statist plan is part of the English tradition that spreads itself uniquely into past, present, and future. I.e., he believes in English national character, defined as vaguely Christian, but not observant.

And his view of Jews is often characteristically European. Nowhere, though he believes himself to be an anti-antisemite, he fails to understand that Jews represent modernity and its endless intellectual combativeness. Indeed, he professes great admiration for the admittedly reactionary poets whose anti-Semitism is too little noticed by literary historians: Eliot, Pound, Lawrence, Yeats, even Kipling (on the latter see http://www.heretical.com/miscella/kipling2.html).

Finally, there is the homoerotic and misogynistic poem of his own that he quotes in Looking Back on the Spanish War, published in 1943. I quote only the first two verses of a longer poem written to an Italian militiaman “two years after the war was visibly lost.”

[Orwell:] “The Italian soldier shook my hand/ Beside the guard-room table;/ The strong hand and the subtle hand/ Whose palms are only able/ To meet within the sound of guns,/ But oh! What peace I knew then/ In gazing on his battered face/Purer than any woman’s!….”

What may we infer about these excerpts? Putting them together, we must ask, given Orwell’s ambivalence about Trotsky, what should we make of “Emmanuel Goldstein”? “Emmanuel” is a synonym for Christ, while the populist animus to gold is all too apparent. In combining these names, is Orwell rejecting Jesus as Jew? Is Eric Blair (Orwell’s birth name), perhaps, the crucified Christ he projected into Hitler?


And yet conservatives frequently cite Orwell in their general critique of “totalitarianism”—a term that I have criticized as outdated and historically incorrect, as the various fascisms and communism have nothing in common but their use of terror as a method of disciplining the masses. Still it should be kept in mind that some of the essays I read (1940-43) were written during the shocking Nazi-Soviet Pact; moreover Orwell predicted that if Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, the Russians would not resist. So his initial views on “totalitarianism” are not so surprising. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/02/02/totalitarianism-polarization-and-single-issue-politics/.)

I continue to find George Orwell as problematic as in my earlier blogs, and am disgusted with the British Left’s failure to cite these obvious motes in the great man’s eye. Might it be his own sadism that is most salient in the Orwell biography?

Eric Blair with Mother, 1903

Eric Blair with Mother, 1903

May 10, 2014

Why I left “the Left”

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:25 pm
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Lefties.another-perfect-day-four-songs-for-the-left-behind-2012Although I share many of the more libertarian proclivities of social democracy, readers of this website must have noticed that I am a fierce, obsessive critic of social democrats—a passion that may be found on either the neoliberal Right or the Marxist-Leninist Left. Today, under the Obama administration, it is almost impossible to separate social democrats (New Deal liberals/conservative reformers) from any of the Marx-derived sects that dot the landscape of liberal-leftist dissent. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/, for the source of confusion.)

In the sense that most readers will understand “the Left” I was never a member of any Marxist or Leninist sect, but my positions at Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles gave me access to leading figures in the arts in Los Angeles and New York. It seemed to me during the 1970s upheavals that the leftist intellectuals were by far the best educated and incisive on the ills of society that I addressed on the radio in my coverage of the art world and its institutions. Indeed, while Program Director of KPFK-FM I put as many as possible on the air.Then, when I was fired by the manager, Jim Berland, and I lost “power” nearly all of them drifted away, or perhaps I left them.

This blog is about some of the incidents that bothered me while I was in that milieu, and that still disturb me. One reason I went to graduate school in history was to understand my own prior attachments. I will not name names, but assure the reader that my contacts were with leading figures in the arts and scholarship. Many of these nameless ones are superstars in their fields.

On Archives. One critical theorist of great note, up there with Jacques Derrida, asked me to write him a memo on “the archive”. I love archives as I do all research in primary source materials, and I did not know that “the archive” as such was under attack from both Left and Right. (Leftists claim that they are elite-controlled, hence exclude the good stuff—daily atrocities suffered by ordinary people– while one biographer of Joe McCarthy, M. Stanton Evans, is also suspicious, claiming that key documents have disappeared, owing to political hanky-panky from his enemies.)
After reading my memo in praise of archives, my friend confessed that just entering a library gives him panic attacks.

On Hitler. One Leninist read my original work on Hitler’s psyche and we met for coffee to discuss it. He excitedly told me that he agreed with Hitler on many points, but then telephoned me after I got home to deny that he had ever said such a thing. He sounded panicky, so I didn’t argue with him.

On lawlessness. I was advised (almost ordered) by one figure in the arts, to steal from some wealthy art collector so that I would have the experience of rejecting bourgeois rules and morality. This sort of duplicity was advocated by more than one lefty I knew, trying to draw me into opposition.

On fighting to win. I intuitively knew ahead of my firing as PD that it was about to happen as I would have nothing to do with the commandments of multiculturalism and populism, and warned my anti-imperialist supporters at KPFK on a Friday night that we should prepare to defend my job. Sure enough, I was fired the following Monday afternoon; we could have shut down several of the news rooms at Pacifica in protest, but the most action in the defense of the direction I was pushing the station was a letter-writing campaign. The President of the Pacifica station begged me to test the administrative procedures he had put in place, and, naively, I complied, but he still upheld “at will” firings–a no, no among labor activists. (It is interesting that this was in the midst of fund drive preparation in which the theme for the Fall Fund Drive was to be science versus myth.) I concluded that “the Left” at Pacifica was weaker than I am on my own. It was then that I went back to school to study witch hunts and the history of multiculturalism as social policy.

On switches. I had been a Democrat all my voting life, but as I read the critiques of academic neo-orthodoxy by David Horowitz and Peter Collier in the 1990s, I found their observations to be exactly accurate and in line with my own experience in graduate school—where I found myself highly critical of most of the lines handed down by senior faculty—most of whom were somewhere on the Left, either as left-feminists or as anti-Americans. Graduate school was no different than Pacifica Radio or other “liberal” institutions. I ran into David Horowitz on the street in Pacific Palisades where he was then living, and we struck up an acquaintance. When David H and his wife came to my book signing party in Brentwood (shortly after 9-11-2001), one former very prominent lefty faculty friend of mine was present and interrogated my sister regarding the anomaly of David H’s attendance. Sometime during that same period, another academic of the Left asked me if it was true that David H was a friend of mine. Neither of these scholars is speaking to me today. You can’t leave the mob.

Along these same lines, I unwarily told a mentor and close friend, a liberal, that I had voted for Bush in 2000 (on the theory that Al Gore was unstable and that “Dubya” was an acceptable alternative). I didn’t expect him to lash out at me, though, true to his self-image as a liberal, he did call me the next day to apologize for his harsh criticism. Things were never the same after that between us.

On schematic explanations for everything bad. It occurred to me after reviewing my disastrous attachments to persons on “the Left” that the attraction to Marxism and then Leninism on the part of my former friends was the simplicity of Marxist ideology. It was easy to master, and even the most sectarian memberships gave one a substitute family of like-minded individuals, all of whom were, in their own minds, morally and intellectually superior to the rest of America.

Real scholarship is messy, tentative, and you rarely know if your readings of documents or syntheses (narratives) of what really happened are even close to accuracy.

I left the Left because this sort of open-endedness and inconclusiveness is frowned upon. Seemingly, it is imagined by prominent and/or blogging leftist academics that I am either a neocon or a conservative scholar, and a dastardly turncoat. I would rather be known as a scholar with strong pluralist tendencies who never betrays evidence or prematurely draws conclusions—including why I left the Left. This is a partial inventory, nothing more, and is always subject to revision and correction.

[For a more recent blog on internal contradictions within “Marxist Leninism” see https://clarespark.com/2014/06/07/marx-vs-lenin/.%5D

UK politician Ed Miliband

UK politician Ed Miliband

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.


December 1, 2012

Petit-bourgeois radicalism and Obama

Black Jesus poster

Black Jesus poster

A spirited discussion broke out on my Facebook page over a recent article in the New York Times characterizing Thomas Jefferson as a “monster.” (http://tinyurl.com/d6cnc3o.) During the course of the discussion, I decried hatchet jobs in general, pointing out that there was usually a lurking target that was not obvious to the reader. For instance, in the case of Jefferson and slavery, the historian author (Paul Finkelman) might be solely interested in Jefferson’s racism and moral failures regarding slaveholding, or there might be a larger agenda:  namely the post-60s campaign to regard the Founding Fathers and the framing of the Constitution as morally tainted, with subsequent Americans battening off their ill-gotten gains. (See https://clarespark.com/2011/10/30/collectivism-in-the-history-establishment/. )

As I have written frequently, for leftists and left-leaning corporatist liberals alike, America is seen as essentially racist, sexist, imperialist, and anti-environment. In other words, we not only fail to historicize the individual and intellectually diverse Founders in their 18th century context, we are reiterating the most virulent Soviet and even Nazi propaganda. (In the latter case, it was held that Jews controlled the US, pushing it to such atrocities as the extermination of the Aryan-like indigenous “Indians,” or, during WW2 and more recently, Nazis and their sympathizers argued that Americans were fighting what was in effect a war that solely benefited “the Jews.”)

Since the election that re-elected the first black president, I have seen much gloom emanating from Romney supporters. I myself have suggested that there is something proto-fascist about the current direction of our country, while others declare that POTUS is a straight out Communist/Third Worlder, seeking to destroy America, aiming at its very foundations as a capitalist, free market society.

Both these pessimistic, if plausible, views are speculative, but perhaps we can get more precise if we understand the rationale behind “petit-bourgeois” radicalism (populism), both as it has existed in “middle class” America, and as an explanation for Hitler’s base in the so-called Mittelstand (i.e. the lower middle-class in Germany, dominating the working class and resentful of the haute bourgeoisie). For after WW2, liberal journalists and academics seized upon the petit-bourgeoisie as responsible for Hitler’s rise to power, stressing their mobbish susceptibility to propaganda and the class resentments that Hitler exploited so effectively. Unfortunately, they ignored the conservative nationalists who put him in power, and even worse, structural continuities with Weimar social democracy and Bismarckian strategies against the rising German Left. Instead, they depicted Hitler as crazy and/or as a failed artist/thug, and explained his popularity as the effectiveness of images and propaganda in general. (This was the legacy of German Idealism that held images to constitute “reality,” a view that ignored institutions and other structural and cultural factors.)

Young James H. Cone

Young James H. Cone

During the period of my life starting in 1969 at Pacifica Radio and on through getting my doctorate (1983-1993) and then shopping my expanded dissertation (1993-1999), I watched the direction of the civil rights movement/the women’s movement that had stirred me out of somnolence during the 1960s. What stunned me was the success of upwardly mobile persons of color and women in climbing the ladders of academe, the media, and to some extent, in business and the professions. What I was not prepared for was the failure of the integrationist project in favor of cultural nationalism and even black supremacy as urged by such theologians as James Cone and his allies in the Chicago Democratic machine. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hal_Cone.) I was even more startled to see that black nationalism had pretty much taken over the civil rights movement by the mid-1960s (see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/, or https://clarespark.com/2012/11/09/race-and-the-problem-of-inclusion/.)

The Way We Live Now

The Way We Live Now

What does this have to do with Obama’s character and motives, open or hidden? We might do better to see him as an ambitious petit-bourgeois radical, i.e., a populist, rather than as either a fascist-in-waiting or a communist. Like his wealthy liberal supporters, he protects his own reputation by attacking [Republican] elites as the originators of “inequality,” while he satisfies his minority constituencies by increasing public sector employment and supporting teachers unions who promulgate the anti-American history curriculum described above. The aim is to instill liberal guilt and hence unquestioning support of the first black president, even as he moves toward dictatorship and reverses prior economic positions that gained him support as a “moderate.”

But keep in mind that although Marxist-Leninism supposedly focuses on the working class as the agent of revolutionary socialism, there is a strong populist appeal to this ideology, for instance in the demonization of “finance capital.” (See https://clarespark.com/2012/08/05/hating-finance-capital/.)  For more on populism see https://clarespark.com/2009/12/16/perceptions-of-the-enemy-the-left-looks-at-the-right-and-vice-versa/. And right-wing populism was undoubtedly the decisive factor in Hitler’s rise to power and to popular support for his entire regime.  I remain worried about the transition from populism/progressivism to full-throated dictatorship, call it what you will.

March 21, 2012

Big Cities and the Mob

Hip cultural historians are still studying the anomie (rootlessness) they impute to big cities. While watching a recent PBS documentary on the achievements of Oscar Hammerstein II, it occurred to me that his oeuvre as a whole pointed back to a period of imagined rural or small-town neighborliness, to a time before his mother died when the lyricist was only fifteen (Fordin bio). That “neighborliness” (a soothing social bond represented in the mother-child dyad) was then translated to his idealized anti-racist international community, as then proposed by the United World Federalists (also a pet project of Harvard’s social psychologist Henry A. Murray) or in the premises of the United Nations. Although Hammerstein was a noted liberal anticommunist, his attempt to unite groups and nations with clashing political and economic interests, reminded me of Hitler’s populist elevation of the Volk, and also the Soviet attempt to merge peasants and workers, notwithstanding that peasants and workers had different material interests, as explained in this blog. https://clarespark.com/2009/08/27/hitler-and-the-jewish-mind-part-three/.

Although I had not thought of nostalgia for the pre-urban America as an underlying theme in the social thought of the early progressives, I suggest that fear of Cain’s cities, with their imputed urban neurasthenia and exacerbated individualist striving, not to speak of class warfare, animated the emotions of the intellectuals described below. The Scary City is a theme now being taken up by cultural historians, mostly writing from the left, who may have more in common with these agrarian critics of modernity than they realize. (If you have time for only one blog, choose the scary city.)








It is important to remember that “mass culture” was considered to be a mobbish urban phenomenon that explained Hitler’s support and rise to power (the Frankfurt School story, see https://clarespark.com/2011/10/21/did-frankfurters-kill-the-white-christian-west/), but it was also the explanation for all manner of mental illnesses, particularly narcissism (vainglory), deranged relations between the genders, and constant back-stabbing. For an example, see the NBC series Smash, which although it appears to sympathetically portray the New York theater world from a feminist, pro-gay perspective, Smash also calls into question the values it apparently celebrates, for instance contrasting the loneliness of stardom with the mutual solidarity offered by chorus members to the Katherine McPhee character. (In the last installment, nothing “works” in NYC, including the plumbing and heating. I have watched all seven episodes again, and wonder if the contrast drawn between country and city life will now evolve into the corruption of the innocent Karen, who will, like Marilyn, be ruined by the mercenary, anti-art values of show business.) (For more on Smash, see https://clarespark.com/2012/05/18/smash-season-finales-and-the-demonic/.)

We are so wrong about the imputed innocence and wholesomeness of the  [judenrein] small town life hitherto enjoyed by “Karen Cartwright” who starts Smash with a truncated performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (JFK used “innocence” and “wholesome” to describe Marilyn Monroe’s lascivious Happy Birthday song). Alongside of tight families and neighborliness, there were also troubled social relationships and authoritarian conduct pushing toward mindless conformity, as such writers as Sherwood Anderson were quick to identify and condemn. We do better to read Anderson (Winesburg, Ohio), along with such authors as Mark Twain and Cormac McCarthy for a better reading of force and fraud in American 19th century frontier life and beyond. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/03/20/links-to-cormac-mccarthy-and-mark-twain-blogs/.)

It is time to rehabilitate the “rootless cosmopolitans” who have been unfairly demonized by multiculturalists: Stalinists and Nazis alike. As the black novelist and ex-communist Richard Wright once implied: “any place I hang my hat is home.” Thornton  Wilder’s Stage Manager, in Wright’s scenario, is nowhere to be found. (For one rendition of the Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer song alluded to, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mtEp2paaes.)

Thornton Wilder as Stage Manager in Our Town

July 7, 2011

“Network” and its offspring

Ned Beatty as "Arthur Jensen"

On July 4, 2011, comedian Conan O’Brian picked the movie Network (1976) as the feature film for Turner Classic Movies.  It has been lauded as a prefiguration of “reality television” (and, I gather, a major cause  of the dumbing down of American and world culture). This was probably the third time I had seen the movie, but the first time that it bothered me as a counter-culture and antimodern script, following a strong tendency in post-WW2 America to blame the rise of Nazism on mass culture and its susceptibility to technological advances—advances that only enhanced the power of demagogues such as Hitler and Mussolini—themselves the stooges of hidebound big industry/ finance capital.

Paddy Chayefsky was the script-writer of Network. In one interview, he said that his friend Budd Schulberg’s previous movie, A Face in the Crowd, made it possible to write Network. (Chayefsky also wrote the teleplay for Schulberg’s novel What Makes Sammy Run.) We may now add the names of Chayefsky, Schulberg, the Frankfurt School of critical theorists, and Friedrich Meinecke to the network of those intellectuals attributing the rise of Hitler to mass media (particularly to radio); i.e., to “the revolt of the masses.” I have written about such claims here (https://clarespark.com/2009/12/16/perceptions-of-the-enemy-the-left-looks-at-the-right-and-vice-versa/;* and here: https://clarespark.com/2011/06/19/index-to-links-on-hitler-and-the-big-lie/).   (I have not written about such counter-culture authors as Gerry Mander or Jacques Ellul or Ivan Illich, or Theodore Roszak, whose stars have dimmed.)

I was particularly interested in the naming of the movie’s arch-villain “Arthur Jensen” for that is the name of a geneticist who, it is said, is a downright white supremacist, along with a cohort that includes Richard Herrnstein, J. Philippe Rushton, Charles Murray, and others who aroused the ire of the Left and New Left. Since Jensen’s work was already known and controverted in the 1960s and 1970s by such left or liberal luminaries as Harvard professors Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lowentin , I gather that the name selected for the head of the mega-corporation that controlled the fictional network in the movie, was no accident. Moreover, “Arthur Jensen” invites “Howard Beale” into a conference room that Jensen describes as “Valhalla.” The connection between Nazism and globalization could not have been made more clear.

Although Network was released decades ago, its analysis of the decline of our political culture, particularly the destruction of the individual as a human being, may remain timely. One aspiring academic (a Ph.D. Candidate  in American Studies and  Film Studies has called for papers at an upcoming conference titled “On Television.” Here is the call for papers as issued by  Claudia Calhoun at Yale U. It was posted on the Humanities Net for American Studies.

From: Claudia Calhoun <claudia.calhoun@yale.edu>

Date: Sat, Jul 2, 2011 at 6:03 PM

On Television

Yale University

February 3-4, 2012

We all watch television. But in this moment of dispersed and fragmented viewership, we all engage with television differently: as an entertainment medium, a home appliance, a range of program content, a
description of viewing behavior, a set of technologies, a media industry, and a means for collective social experiences. Both technological platform and cultural form, television sits at the intersection of a number of humanities and social science disciplines. As observers of — and participants in — this contemporary moment, we are compelled to ask: What makes television television?

This conference will address contemporary trends in the field of television studies and reconsider the historical currents that inform our understandings of the present and prospective future of the medium.
Proposed topics include:

– the changing contexts of production and issues of labor

– the politics of television

– aesthetic and formal responses to the changing
landscape of programming

– television as a national and transnational space

– theorizing contemporary television

– the place of “television studies” in a new
media context. [end, excerpt from CFP]

It would not be surprising if the same generational angst that produced Network, will be visible in some of the papers accepted for the Yale conference. If so, we can expect the same dim view that Schulberg and Chayefsky took of the new dehumanizing techniques that (racist) global corporations had inflicted upon an unwary public mind, defeating true artists such as themselves–always looking out for the little guy.

* What follows is the material on Schulberg that possibly inspired Chayefsky, included in a prior blog:

“As for those artists who once were reds in the 1930s, many of them shifted to populism/progressivism when they saw that the Communist Party wanted to control their work. Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan, both anathematized for “naming names”  are two examples. I was particularly disturbed by their film, A Face in the Crowd (1957), that pinned fascism on the media-worshipping mass audience that had elevated the loutish “Lonesome Rhodes,” whose meteoric career had been aided and abetted by a female sentimental liberal–a stand-in for the moral mother, perhaps the figure who had driven them into the arms of the 1930s authoritarian Left. In other words, though Schulberg and Kazan  professed themselves to be progressives, they replicated the aristocratic explanation for fascism as “the revolt of the masses,” bamboozled by the new mass media (radio and television), and shadowed by anti-progressive old money, particularly as embodied in immoral and hidebound Southern politicians.

Here are some quotes from the screenplay: Lonesome Rhodes (the demagogue who has risen from the People):  “You made me, Marcia.  You made me, Marcia, I owe it all to you.” [Marcia, the arty, sentimental Liberal]:”I know it.”  Marcia, explicitly linked to “marshes” (i.e.,quagmires) and ever the guilty mother, finally aware of the duplicity of her monstrous birth, opens the microphone to expose Lonesome’s secret contempt for the TV audience (the common folk) who adore him and who would turn the State over to his fascist backers. [Lonesome Rhodes is ruined:]  “It was the sound man.  I’ll get that dirty stinking little mechanical genius [who did this to me].”  [Marcia:] “It was me.”  The Muckraker’s last words rectify the sentiment of Lonesome’s banner (“There’s nothing so trustworthy as the ordinary mind of the ordinary man.”)  [Muckraking journalist to Marcia:] “You were taken in.  But we get wise to him [the Lonesome/Hitler type]; that’s our strength.”  Mama’s boy, a.k.a. Lonesome’s last words wailed from a balcony (and the night) as Marcia and the muckraker depart:  “Marcia, don’t leave me…come back.” That Marcia destroyed her monstrous birth is missing from Nicholas Beck’s “bio-bibliography” of Schulberg (2001), where Lonesome is supposed to be the agent of his own destruction (p.59, fn4, quoting Donald Chase).” [end, excerpt from my blog “Perceptions of the Enemy….”]

For a New York Public Library short biography of Chayefsky, see http://www.nypl.org/sites/default/files/archivalcollections/pdf/thechaye.pdf.

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