YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

November 7, 2014

‘Cultural Marxism’ blogs and immigration reform


[Update 11-11-14: The illustration that heads this blog is horrid racist propaganda, which I do not endorse. I posted it because it embodies the fear of miscegenation that dominates all ideologies that fear racial mixing.]

This is only a partial index on the subject that has dominated this website. I have been disturbed by those Facebook postings that blame a group of refugee [assimilated, “Marxist-Freudian”] Jews fleeing Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s (sometimes known as the critical theorists) for what is perceived as “identity politics” (“multiculturalism”) and/or “political correctness”. These men (plus Hannah Arendt) include T. W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich, and Leo Lowenthal: each of these prolific social critics found sponsorship in already existing social psychology and cultural anthropology as emboldened by FDR’s New Deal.

By focusing on these “critical theorists,” the older revolutions in the West, that of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, have been conveniently ignored by conservatives and liberal Republicans alike, yet the fights between and within Protestantism and Catholicism are among the most portentous events in world history, encompassing a policy that remains current and hotly contested: immigration reform that would presumably increase the number of Catholics likely to support the Democratic Party. [E.g, the nasty aspects of capitalism and “Social Darwinism” are generally attributed to [Hebraic, puritanical] Protestantism, while social democracy, “compassionate conservatism,”  and even some aspects of communist ideology echo much of Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891). This is not to ignore the liberal Protestants and secularists who supported the Social Gospel, and now the Democratic Party.]

Journalism, so-called “progressivism,” and even the writing of history could be drastically modified were Barack Obama’s plans to massively increase the Catholic population adopted.


Here is my index that 1. Highlights the stakes for writing about social movements and “change” in ignoring the Reformation; and 2. Clears up the misidentification of the Frankfurters as the initiators of PC, identity politics, and the culture wars. The Frankfurt School focus was restricted to “fascism” and Nazism, which they generally blamed on mass media and demagogue-loving popular culture (with its elevation of “social imperialism,” consumerism, bad taste, the Leader principle and celebrities in general). I.e., the supposedly revolutionary working class had been bought off with vanities and luxuries of every type. Such as Erich Fromm located the source of Hitler’s appeal, not in the racial state and the elimination of ‘Jewish domination,’ but in “working class authoritarianism.”

In other words, the critical theorists were bohemian philosphers and, upon closer examination, organic conservatives beholden to German Idealism who disliked the impetus that the Enlightenment brought to the self-confidence of ordinary “puritanical” naifs who pretended to understand “things as they are.” With such a stance, the refugees from Hitler’s Germany were welcomed and promoted by the liberal “progressive” establishment in the most prestigious American schools.











"Cultural Marxism produces matriarchy"

“Cultural Marxism produces matriarchy”


July 31, 2013

The nefarious “cultural Marxists”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Donahue

March 15, 2013

Nirenberg’s mischievous ANTI-JUDAISM

David Nirenberg

David Nirenberg

[Abstract: Norton has published a wandering, lengthy, unreadable book whose unintended consequence may be the weakening of the current coalition between Jews and their (conservative) Christian allies in defense of Israel and of Western values.]

Nirenberg summarizes his argument here. http://chronicle.com/article/Anti-Judaism-as-a-Critical/136793/.  It is reviewed by poet and critic Adam Kirsch in a publication aimed at assimilated Jews who are either social democratic or “moderate.” http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/123971/a-world-without-jews.

I recently heard that the hot new book for students of relations between Jews and Christians was David Nirenberg’s Anti-Judaism (Norton, 2012). Though I wondered why this superstar cultural historian did not deploy the usual phrase “antisemitism”, I looked forward to learning how Jews were viewed in periods where I had neither languages nor deep reading knowledge: Egypt, ancient Greece, and medieval Europe. (Nirenberg is an endowed professor in the University of Chicago’s History of Social Thought department, educated at Yale and Princeton: see publications http://home.uchicago.edu/~nirenberg/publications.shtml.)  Not content to remain within his specialty, DN takes us up through the present, for this is a cross-over book, intended for the eyes of the lay reader.

I tried valiantly to make my way through this long tome, but finally gave up on it, for I find it unreadable and one step above gossip, skipping back and forth in time. I did note along the way that Nirenberg had done no archival research himself, but had mined the labors of the trendiest historians working today. The project of the book seems to be an assault not only on the bigoted West (and Islam too), but a rough ride through thousands of years of history, quoting the famous and the less famous, but ever noting continuities in “civilization’s” negative references to Jews and Judaism. (We never learn what Judaism is or was, for his topic is images disseminated by pagans, Christians, deists, atheists), nor does he adequately explain why he discards the customary phrase antisemitism.) It is my view that in a book addressed to the lay reader, an author has a responsibility to be organized, chronological, and to clearly state arguments, with constant guideposts to the uninitiated reader. For instance, you first lay out the project of the book and why non-scholars should care about it, acknowledge prior scholarly and popular literature on the subject, state an allover argument that breaks new ground, then recapitulate the journey in the conclusions. Conclusions should synthesize a new narrative, something for the reader to take away, something new in the world of thought and feeling that corrects and refines the work of colleagues.


What to make of this failure to commit to either method or objectives, especially since in his last chapter he quotes Hannah Arendt, Adorno and Horkheimer, though distancing himself from their particular rationales for antisemitism or counter-Enlightenment (e.g., Jews were really “overrepresented” in commerce and finance, so who can entirely blame Hitler’s base, an accusation I have heard from other bigots.). He does, however, cite Edward Said, famously anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist. (See long footnote on the anti-Western Said in https://clarespark.com/2009/09/06/the-hebraic-american-landscape-sublime-or-despotic/.)

It was not until I googled “Judeo-Christian heritage” that I could guess at the project of the book (that may be invisible to Nirenberg): besides throwing yet more red meat for the nourishment of living, active antisemites (not noted in the Tablet review), Nirenberg may intend to break up the alliance of many Christian Zionists, other non-bigoted Protestants and Catholics, with their Jewish partners in defense of Israel and of “the West” in general. It is all suggested here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judeo-Christian. (The Judeo-Christian coalition began in the 1950s, and is strong today on the conservative New Right.) Call me Paranoid.

Finally, consider the jacket to the hardback edition ($35, no pictures). It refers to anti-Judaism being built into the “genome” of the West. This is a misappropriation of genetics for a tendentious argument that “the West” has transmitted its deplorable characterizations of “Jews” through its very DNA. I have already written about such binary opposites as Nirenberg describes, but for the purpose of understanding Nazi ideology, not in undermining (consciously or not) a political coalition that is aimed to protect Jewish life and those humanistic values that are shared by Christians and Jews, notwithstanding a problematic history of persecution and religious/political/economic antagonism. See https://clarespark.com/2010/08/15/nazis-exhibit-der-ewige-jude-1937/ or for a more refined distinction between two strands of “Western” thought, see https://clarespark.com/2013/03/18/babel-vs-sinai/.

Judaism and Christian Art

Judaism and Christian Art

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