YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

February 5, 2014

Joe McCarthy and the warrior spirit

McCarthy shaded by Cohn

McCarthy shaded by Cohn

I asked a historian of communism and anticommunism what books to read regarding the dread figure of Joe McCarthy, and got this assessment of M. Stanton Evans’s Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and his Fight Against America’s Enemies (Three Rivers Press, 2007) that presented an exhaustive new biography of the demonic Senator from Wisconsin: it was too sympathetic to McCarthy, said this academic whose judgment I respect.  Perhaps he is correct: I don’t know.

This blog is about how an independent scholar views the wreckage of the academic literature on the infamous anticommunist. I write because furious accusations against former allies have at times roiled the Right, though leftists and moderates have no doubt as to the beastliness of the bully, drunk, and wild man of the Midwest, along with his unsavory associates, Roy Cohn and G. David Schine. The proposed National Standards for the teaching of US history emphasized the plague of “McCarthyism” that presumably created a climate of fear and suppressed dissent until the nirvana of the 1960s and the widespread protest of the Viet Nam war. The fight over McCarthy’s veracity and character is tied up with the propriety of the US entering the Viet Nam conflict, a matter that continues to engage the field of diplomatic history.

As I have noted many times on this website, the blandness of academics in the humanities rubs me the wrong way. Even many “radicals” are conformist and timid– seemingly afraid of their shadows, lest they cast doubts on their earnestness in the eyes of the affinity group that maintains their careers. I speak from extensive experience.

Return to McCarthy and his latest champion: the journalist M. Stanton Evans. Perhaps to maintain his credibility, Evans was not reluctant to criticize the Senator for errors of judgment, for instance in attacking George Marshall and James Wechsler, superfluous targets in McCarthy’s attempts to uncover communist and fellow traveler infiltration of US policy circles, especially the State Department that “lost China.” But in order to discredit the Evans book, should not a historian go back to his sources and show that Evans misread or otherwise exaggerated their significance? That could take years unless a platoon of advanced graduate students is in tow. A “liberal” English professor wrote to me indignantly that Evans, a native son of Indiana, was sure that fluoridation of water was a communist plot, and that Evans was probably a Klansman.

I tend to view the hatred of McCarthy as a class problem. McCarthy, the son of a farmer, was an Irish Catholic who was never part of the Northeastern Ivy League-generated establishment of moderate men. Indeed, his “populist” energy and support was diminished by UC Berkeley political scientist Michael Rogin, who made the influential judgment that agrarian populist constituencies cannot account for “McCarthyism”, but rather that “traditional conservative elites” backed the Senator. (Rogin did not distinguish between moderate conservatives–i.e., liberals, and the more disreputable type.)

Well of course. Agrarian populism was dead at the time that McCarthy entered the Senate, having been co-opted by the progressive movement at the beginning of the 20th century.  While reading Evans, it occurred to me that the focus on the changing of the guard in 1952 that elected Eisenhower and threw out the Truman administration, was crucial to the drama that followed, one leading to McCarthy’s televised fight with the Army and his subsequent censure and early death. For Evans sees the moderate Eisenhower at odds with McCarthy and his mission. The new president was tied to the New Deal state, as was the Truman administration before him.

It seems to me that McCarthy and his followers were analogous to the current breach between Tea Party conservatives (small business men and white workers) and “the Republican establishment”.  It is also the case that the Midwestern, Southern, and Western “cowboys” were the targets of wrathful professors in the Ivy League, who blamed frontiersmen and other “expansionists” for the rape of the land and non-whites in their helter-skelter rugged individualist advance against Indians,, Mexicans, and Nature (see https://clarespark.com/2014/01/08/the-frontiersmansettler-as-all-purpose-scapegoat/). It is the 21st century, and only the names have changed.

I cannot explain the transformation of myself from conforming good girl and obedient wife and daughter to the libertarian/classical liberal iconoclast evident on this website. It was probably my years at Pacifica radio, where I strongly bonded with a diverse audience of autodidacts, and I continue to feel that my relative privilege and leisure allow me to seek and relate my research and reading without retaliation from a peer group of academics. “Win or lose, one must fight” said a human rights activist of my acquaintance.  The warrior spirit is socialized out of academia, though subtly and sometimes invisibly to outside observers. It was a shock for me to go from wild and wooly Pacifica to the decorum and silence of my fellow graduate students in U.S. history, who,  in order to get a job, did what they were told.

I don’t know enough from the various McCarthy biographies I have read to account for his persistence and downfall. But I do know that there are more “moderates” on the Right than is generally acknowledged, and that valiant seekers of truth are hard to come by. Read Melville’s The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade (1857): “NO TRUST” by which Melville meant not to be taken in by illegitimate authority–especially those unregulated characters elevated by the Industrial Revolution.

And don’t miss this important essay by historian Harvey Klehr: http://www.frontpagemag.com/2013/harvey-klehr/setting-the-record-on-joe-mccarthy-straight/. A more recent article is http://reason.com/blog/2014/04/22/four-great-myths-of-the-mccarthy-era, authored by Jesse Walker (an anarchist when I knew him). Finally, there can be no reliable biography of Joseph McCarthy until his papers at Marquette University are unsealed. See http://www.marquette.edu/library/archives/Mss/JRM/JRM-main.shtml.

americaundercommunism

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January 8, 2014

The Frontiersman/Settler as all-purpose scapegoat

JacksonAs everyone knows who has followed this website, I have been trying to separate the early progressives from the post-New Left progressives, all the while noting shifts in the Leninist line. I have used changes in the teaching of the humanities as my guide to larger cultural shifts.

During the last week, I have been slogging through Sydney E. Ahlstrom’s A Religious History of the American People (Vol1 Yale UP, 1972, Doubleday, 1975, second ed. Yale UP: 2004). It is the most boring possible book, more of antiquarian interest than historical interest, because Ahlstrom, a Yale professor of note, followed Max Weber’s lead, and stigmatized “economic determinism” as reductionist. So the reader is subjected to such notions as “the American character”, “the American mind” and “Puritanism” (especially the English variety) as the primary source of evil in the settling of the American continent. Indeed, Ahlstrom, seemingly attached to the medieval order,  trashes the Radical Reformation and the English Civil War, failing to note that puritanism changed its concrete content depending on what social movement it was attached to.

In my series on the Anne Hutchinson historiography (https://clarespark.com/2010/05/15/blog-index-to-anne-hutchinson-series/, or https://clarespark.com/2013/08/05/evil-puritans/), I quoted from an unpublished paper by UCLA professor Robert Brenner in part four on the subject of historicizing puritanism:

“…if it…makes sense, in the first instance, to see a certain unity in Puritan ideology in order to understand its broad connection to an emerging social order, and its incompatibility with an older one, it is necessary also to comprehend that this unity was, only to a limited degree, ever realized in practice.  This was because supporters of the Puritan cause were themselves drawn from different, conflicting classes within the emerging bourgeois society; in consequence, they tended to shape their religious conception in correspondingly different ways, in accord with their disparate experiences and conflicting needs.  Thus, there arose quite divergent, indeed ultimately incompatible, ideologically and organizationally distinct, tendencies within a broader, loosely-defined Puritan movement.  Puritan religious groupings were obliged, in fact, to develop their movements and ideas on two “fronts”: on the one hand, against the adherents of the old religious regime in order to replace it; on the other, against one another to impose their particular notions of both the contents of the Reformation and the structure of the new social order.  Thus, there arose quite distinctive Puritan trends, with conceptions corresponding to the different social strata from which different Puritan groupings recruited their membership: from the new aristocracy, from the small producers and tradesmen of town and country; from the ministers themselves.  Indeed, these conceptions changed and developed…with the changing activity of these religious groupings…in other words, in accord with the changing nature of the movements themselves.  It was only when Puritan-type ideas became associated not only with groupings from potentially revolutionary social layers, but with actual revolutionary political movements that they took on a revolutionary character.  This did not take place, as we shall see, until after 1640.”

This interaction of economic interest and culture is what I have attempted to trace throughout the website, distinguishing between “moderate” Enlighteners (i.e., social democrats) and the more materialist figures, whether these be on the Left or Right. By contrast, Ahlstrom’s book positions itself in the timeless Center. He welcomes the Enlightenment and science, but splits the difference, praising John Locke for his book The Reasonableness of Christianity.  What Ahlstrom detests is of course Indian killing, slavery, and uncouth religious revivalism on the frontiers, along with their uncertified lay preachers and circuit riders. Since these are labeled extremists and weirdos (along with women-led movements such as temperance), one can assume that we are in the territory of the moderate men, especially since Yale professor David Brion Davis is singled out for outstanding scholarship. Along with Ahlstrom, Davis had written an article condemning the anti-Catholicism of the mid 19th Century, when German and Irish immigrants poured into the still expanding continent. Indeed, “ethnicity” is Ahlstrom’s major analytic category.

Opinion on the Jacksonians drastically changed in the US field since the days of Claude Bowers (a racist Democratic politician: see https://clarespark.com/2011/12/10/before-saul-alinsky-rules-for-democratic-politicians/.)  Such luminaries as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and numerous other historians looked  to the Jacksonians as defenders of the Common Man, the stalwart enemy to bankers and other exploitative elites.

But all that changed with the ripening of the New Left, aroused by the civil rights movements and opposition to the war in Viet Nam.  My late friend and Forest Hills High School classmate Michael Rogin made a huge splash and engendered much controversy when he published his “Marxist “ “psychohistory”  Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian (Knopf, 1975). Rogin’s argument apparently lined up with critics of US imperialism such as William Appleman Williams, but the latter attacked Rogin’s thesis. (See Rogin’s response to Williams here: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1975/oct/16/daddy/.)

Michael Rogin

Michael Rogin

Rogin pulled together all the 1960s major themes:  the monomaniac Jackson (another Captain Ahab) committed genocide against the native Americans, providing a model for future adventures in white domination, militarism, and violence. About this time, we renewed our friendship, and Rogin supported my work at Pacifica and at the Yankee Doodle Society. I know how shocked he was at the reception of his book, and also that he was in a friendly correspondence with David Brion Davis of Yale, who had taught American intellectual history at Cornell while I was still there, decades earlier. What I did not see at the time was that the turn toward ethnicity (as opposed to class) was a calculated response to the red specter, made worse by the Soviet upheavals in 1905 and 1917. (For an example, see quotes from Horace Kallen here: https://clarespark.com/2009/12/18/assimilation-and-citizenship-in-a-democratic-republic/.)

Rogin also recommended that I read Richard Slotkin’s Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier (Wesleyan U. Press, 1973). It was the same attack on popular Protestant religion in the 19th century that had earlier been mounted by D. B. Davis and Sydney Ahlstrom.

It was Lenin, not Marx, who criticized the imperialists, for him these were generically the international Jewish conspiracy of finance capital, as publicized by J. A. Hobson.  (By contrast, Marx hoped that the workers and their allies in the advanced industrial democracies made possible by the progressive bourgeoisie, would lead the way to socialist revolution. He was not anti-American, but rather praised the Northern victory in the Civil War as a great achievement.)

Why is this relevant today? The Leninist Left and the Social Democratic Left seem to have merged sometime after the 1960s upheavals, but they drew upon longstanding efforts by “progressives” to fend off the red specter, with the Left upholding Popular Front antifascist politics. Today, white males are seen as the enemy by the reigning academics in the humanities: like Ahlstrom’s frontiersmen they are individualistic, self-reliant, overly emotional, antinomian, ecocidal, racists, sadistic killers (Cormac McCarthy’s targets in Blood Meridian? or see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_of_the_Hunter_(film)), and probably given to (communitarian) country music, even some rock and roll. And white males (especially those in the wild South and West) are the chief villains of US history, and of course comprise the unregenerate population of the Republican Party and the even more unspeakably “anti-Christian” conservative movement. For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2013/11/30/railroading-captain-ahab/.

Jackson swatting Indian

Jackson swatting Indian

September 15, 2013

Authenticity and the “bottled-up”

Free thought by Berkozturk

Free thought by Berkozturk

As visitors to this website are aware, I am a scholar devoted to the propagation of “free thought,” whether those thoughts are directed to the search for truth, or to the unleashed imagination, as transmitted by artists and the creative self that is too often buried by “politeness” and other rules by the dominant culture (I am only criticizing excessive politeness; see https://clarespark.com/2015/03/28/the-neglected-virtues-self-discipline-and-politeness/). I call such “authority” illegitimate and to be avoided at all costs. But to assume such a confrontational posture courts financial disaster unless one is protected by an independent income. That is how censorship and self-censorship work. For purposes of this blog, I will focus on the bottled up woman, for I lived that way until recently, perhaps because I am no longer on the sex/marriage market. (I could have added anti-Semitism to the blog, for there is a strong link between misogyny and anti-Semitism: many “assimilated” Jews are as bottled up as my gender. I made the connection between anti-Semitism and misogyny through reading Symbolist poets, such as James Thomson (“B.V.”) Because this entire subject seems to be off limits to cultural historians, I have of necessity relied upon my own experience as a primary source in this suggestive essay.

In the very first essay I wrote after exposure to Pacifica radio and the civil rights movement, I wrote that “’authenticity’ consists of the right to tell the truth without being abandoned.” My friend, the late political scientist Michael Rogin, found that statement to be “breathtaking.” In retrospect, a New Leftist such as Rogin was, should not have reacted with such amazement, as if he had never thought of such a thing himself. In my naïveté, I thought that the Left had a monopoly on free thought, while everyone else lived in the shadow of self-censorship and hatred of “free spirits.”

(Recently I learned that for those who continue to believe that “race” is the primary way to sort people and their interests out, “authenticity” connotes being true to one’s racial identity. Such a ruse erases class or gender interest from the mind, which of course is the whole point.)

Which brings me to being “bottled up,” a source of harmful stress that can cause fatal diseases.  Yet most of us live with masks, for fear of offending employers, friends, mates, relatives, and our own children. Such is the price we pay for “civilization” such as it is.

What prompted this particular blog was a dispute that broke out on my Facebook page that was apparently about the pro-life versus the pro-choice position, but was, in my view, yet another round in the battle of the sexes. One of my daughters wrote a day or so ago that the two most upsetting words in the language are “God” and “Mother.” All experienced, educated parents are aware that the mother-child bond is the most powerful bond in nature, and that separation from the mother is often mismanaged, with dreadful consequences throughout life. For my insistence in defending the pro-choice position (even with reservations regarding late term abortion/infanticide), I was labeled “a militant atheist”–a term that is often applied to “the Jews.”

Also on Facebook yesterday, the subject of Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency came up on a friend’s thread. One comment stated that she was too “old and ugly” to get the nomination. A woman on the thread noted that women have “a short half-life”. This did not go over well, but I thought that she was correct. Others jumped on her because she failed to be bottled up in order to please men or other colonized women.

It will not come as a surprise to the thoughtful reader that subjugated populations, including women and many “assimilated” Jews, MUST BE BOTTLED UP. That is what precisely what subjugation consists of. Don’t expect us to tell the truth, for we will be abandoned, and every conscious woman or boundary-crossing Jew knows this.

Barbara Kruger painting

Barbara Kruger painting

On Yom Kippur eve, I wrote a blog criticizing Ben Urwand’s new book Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler. The subject of Hollywood movies, anti-Nazi or not, as collaborating with bogus versions of the real world of oppressive relationships, was not his subject matter. I left the Left (of which Urwand is a part)  because those I thought were my friends and allies thought schematically and did not value attachment to the search for truth above ideology; this loyalty to career and status  above mental health killed a few of them. (On my blog on Urwand, see https://clarespark.com/2013/09/13/urwands-collaboration-hollywoods-pact-with-hitler/.)

This website promotes a marketplace of ideas, because that is the only route I know to emancipation from illegitimate authority. [This blog dedicated to my daughters Jenny and Rachel, and to Melville’s novel Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852); see https://clarespark.com/2011/06/12/call-me-isabel-a-reflection-on-lying/.]

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)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Lincoln

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thaddeus_Stevens

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Lincoln_cultural_depictions

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Lincoln_(film)

January 7, 2013

Some backstory for Hunting Captain Ahab

MDcomicFirst take a look at this:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reception_theory. Reader-response theory was a postmodern move that contributed to the death of the author, and to the notion that there was no right or wrong way to read a text. Indeed, as publishers circulated my ms. to readers, some accused me of being another Ahab, bossy and doctrinaire, sniffing out miscreants in the profession, though there was little evidence for such a slur.

It was no miracle, but dumb luck that I came to write my big book on the twentieth century reception of a semi-forgotten Herman Melville, who was strenuously and controversially “revived” during the interwar period, then the Cold War, then again in the 1960s-70s.  This blog recounts the fortuitous conjunction of personalities and events that led to the unlikely publication of my weird and predictably unpublishable study of the Melville industry.

I begin by declaring how utterly boring most works inspired by “reception theory” are. Although the Wikipedia article starts the critical method with a gallery of leftists, historians had long been writing about the reception of major figures, for instance Goethe as received in England and America. I have always consulted such works and found them unreadable, disorganized, and boring. I had the same reaction to Peter Gay’s two volumes on The Enlightenment, which I have just mowed through, most of it unread owing to its lack of any visible method or thesis, though at the very end of Vol.2 (p.567), he brings up the Enlightenment-inspired American “experiment” and advises that the horrors that followed the generally anti-clerical 18th century (unprecedented wars and irrationalism, including class and racial discrimination in the 19th and 20th centuries) might have been averted had “the secular social conscience” (p.39) he believes join his subjects, been adopted in the supposedly progressive and exceptional USA.  Surprise, the famous Peter Gay is a liberal and advocate of the welfare state, as his discussion of Adam Smith makes clear.

What follows is a brief account of my good luck in being allowed to write about a major figure (Herman Melville), and then the peculiarities of the most important Melville revivers that led them to hoard scraps of paper that most scholars would never save, thus giving me access to their inner thoughts at the time they were reading and writing about Herman Melville. I.e., reception theory is useless without probing the inner thoughts and emotions of the critics/readers studied.

First there was my good fortune in knowing historian Alexander Saxton (who had written about Jacksonian Blackface Minstrelsy), who would be my dissertation director upon my return to graduate school after the Pacifica Radio purge of myself as Program Director for KPFK-FM (Los Angeles).  I told Saxton that I was quarreling with Berkeley professor of Political Science  Michael Rogin over Melville’s intentions in “Billy Budd,” and (perhaps) since Saxton was getting criticized by Rogin in a left-wing journal, he agreed to let me write about Melville as a history dissertation. (I was told by a Berkeley professor of English that they would never have let a graduate student tackle a major figure! From that conversation, I concluded that I had made the right decision in sticking with history over an English Ph.D.)

Second, the major Melvilleans, many of them young men at the time, complained bitterly to each other in private regarding their distressing physical symptoms while reading and writing about Herman Melville: they blamed Melville for their symptoms and accidents and were often sick of him. Normally, no researcher would have access to such private feelings, but one of my revivers, (the Stalinist) Jay Leyda, was a squirrel and hoarder of literally every letter and note paper (some written on the back of envelopes and library receipts) during his research on a chronology for HM (the Leyda Log), which could have started in 1939, though most scholars would say 1944. Lucky for me, his papers were opened after his death, and most of his Melville work was at UCLA Special Collections, twenty minutes from my house. (Leyda literally dumped his Melville materials on UCLA English professor Leon Howard, who was advised to trash most of it. But Howard too was squirrelish. Most scholars do not have protracted access to an archive, but I did, so could go through every box, and it took months and months, but the pickings were astonishing. Then I found even more material at NYU’s Tamiment Library, where a helpful archivist dug out yet more material of the kind that most scholars would kill for.)

Third, my years on the radio covering censorship in the art world had alerted me to the ways in which institutions ignored the wishes of artists (if they were shown at all), contextualizing their production to fit either the reigning ideology of the moment, or the wishes of wealthy directors and patrons. So I was diligent in reading and rereading Melville and in getting a grip on the total literary/historical output of his revivers, not just the ones who kvetched about HM to Jay Leyda (who had his own feuds and confusions).  I started reading Melville in 1976 and my book was not published until 2001.

Almost no one puts that much time into a single book, but I was obsessed with the “Melville problem” for it illuminated what had been murky about why individual writers were either in or out of the canon. At the same time, I came to see that the double binds and mixed messages that Melville plainly laid out in his fiction were duplicated in supposedly liberal institutions.  That is, there was allegedly no conflict between Truth and Order (i.e., the individual and society), between Science and Religion, between Nationalism and Internationalism. Supposedly, academics in the humanities were free to write what the evidence suggested, without interference from colleagues or superiors. That turned out to be grossly false, but since academic freedom was widely advertised, one could not talk about the backstabbing, departmental politics, hazing of graduate students, and other conspiracies. Unless one chose fiction to tell the tales, and the more avid readers of confessional novels located in the academy will know what I mean.

Finally, it was not until I had been into many archives and secondary sources that a pattern emerged: Melville was an autodidact, and the animus directed against him was directed against all readers who looked askance at authority since the invention of the printing press and the gradual improvement in mass literacy and numeracy.  Once I saw that, everything fell into place, and I could write a book that was logical, organized, and I hoped, readable.

What do I wish to be the takeaway from this short blog? Do not trust historians or any other experts who lack an abundance of footnotes and/or fail to demonstrate humility. It is likely that most professionals have an axe to grind, and are scared. Skepticism in the reader is the appropriate state of mind. Toward the end of my book, I warn the reader that I may be biased in favor of Captain Ahab, and that I ask myself everyday if I am not projecting my own mishegas onto Herman Melville in my insistence that Captain Ahab is speaking in the voice of the Romantic HM (sometimes blending his views with the more cautious Ishmael). The book is hefty because I included long quotes from my primary sources so that the reader could check ME.

Bartleby

For a summary of my startling research, see https://clarespark.com/2010/06/10/herman-melville-dead-white-male/, https://clarespark.com/2011/10/01/updated-index-to-melville-blogs/, https://clarespark.com/2011/03/11/review-excerpts-re-hunting-captain-ahab/. The third blog explains why everyone should read my book, not just literary scholars. As to how I organized my thoughts on the Melville pseudo-revival, see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/08/is-ahab-ahab-the-free-will-debate/.

September 25, 2012

Thought police on Fox?

You can’t say “savage” on Fox News Channel.

This morning, Jamie Colby, a Fox News anchor, explained to the audience that she could not bring herself to quote the ad, formulated by Pamela Geller, which, upon a judge’s orders, is now placed on subways in NYC and other venues.  For Ms. Colby, the words (later described as “fighting words” by her guests) were simply unmentionable in polite company. I gather from the ad that the word “savage” (along with “savages”?) takes its place with F-bombs and other evil expletives.

Here is the advertisement, part of which is a quotation from Ayn Rand:

Geller’s ad was responding to anti-Israel ads that had been placed in New York City subways for several years, and had to sue the MTA to get it posted. It was not that long ago that a Harvard professor as prestigious as F. O. Matthiessen could divide up humanity into the civilized and the savage, seeing this as a core conflict around which one could write literary history. But that was 1941, in his still read American Renaissance. And Matthiessen was no friend to American expansion.  (See https://clarespark.com/2010/12/29/f-o-matthiessen-martyr-to-mccarthyism/).

What is at issue here is the ongoing victory of the forces of political correctness. The ad in contention nowhere says that all Muslims are enemies of Israel; rather it singles out jihadists, about whose intentions to wipe Israel off the map, no one should be in doubt.

I first found out that the adjective or noun “savage” or “savages” was forbidden to the politically progressive when I read Richard Slotkin’s book Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, at the recommendation of my friend Michael Rogin, author of Fathers and Children, a controversial book on Andrew Jackson’s policies as genocidal toward native Americans, and that further maintained that all American institutions shared  Jackson’s  paternalistic and hierarchical military model.  (Rogin told me himself that he was very wounded when his colleague, political scientist John Schaar, also a famous New Leftist, had criticized Rogin for placing Indian removal at the heart of American history; perhaps the anti-expansionist line was too simplistic.) Professor Slotkin has continued his theme through decades of books and novels dedicated to his thesis, identical with Rogin’s and with other celebrities in American Studies. (For a rundown on the anti-American celebrities in academe, including Edward Said, see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/06/the-hebraic-american-landscape-sublime-or-despotic/.) Cultural relativism demands that we erase the notion of “savagery” from our memory banks, and we are ordered to understand alien cultures on their own terms. One society is not better than any other: this is what liberals mean by “diversity.” (This notion was sharply criticized by Ralph Bunche while he was assisting Gunnar Myrdal in the preparation of An American Dilemma. What the libertarian-leaning Bunche wanted was an America that would live up to its founding creed.)

Jackson swats Amerindian

Fast forward to my years in graduate school, and a visiting professor who specialized in the history of native American warfare and politics. A silence spread over the room when the professor declared that American Indians were highly various in their social organization and that they constantly fought with each other. This would seem to be common sense, but it cut into the narrative propagated by the U.S. field at UCLA that “civilized” Europeans had literally invaded America and [savagely] destroyed the indigenous peoples all by themselves. I.e., Michael Rogin’s anti-American narrative had been complicated, too complicated for persons who preferred to tell a simple story of American [savagery] at its core.

One might ask: what is civilization? To Walter Lippmann, writing in The Good Society, the idea of the individual’s equality with other individuals before God was a turning point in the rejection of barbarism. (An assimilated Jew, Lippmann awarded that honor to Christianity; he might have mentioned Judaism See https://clarespark.com/2013/03/18/babel-vs-sinai/.) Before that, the Massachusetts Senator who was notorious for his aggressive arguments against slavery, Charles Sumner, defined the liberal state as protecting individual rights through equality before the law, and his notion of law was limited mostly to national security and the protection of individual welfare, inseparable from liberty.  Here was no coward, bending the knee to those forces demanding unquestioning obedience to those supporting chattel slavery. For his efforts on behalf of equality before the law he was suspected of carrying Jewish blood through his mother by his most important biographer, a Southerner by birth. (For details on David Herbert Donald’s bio of Sumner see https://clarespark.com/2012/01/03/the-race-card/.)

We now should have an idea of what “fair and balanced” means in the practice of Fox News Channel.  As I have argued previously, this cable news outlet, though it broadcasts some dissenting voices on the Right, is centrist, moderate, and progressive. Welcome to the world of 1984. The thought police are everywhere. The founders gave us a republic, and it is up in the air as to whether or not we can summon the will to keep it.

August 7, 2010

American Music and Jewish Composers: Irving Berlin and Leonard Bernstein

Irving Berlin ca. 1910

I read Joseph Byrd’s negative evaluation of the original lyrics to Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ On The Ritz” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAZhHXsknd8) when it was first posted on a Humanities-Net list July 12 (New Deal Era and its Origins), with Byrd’s linking of the lyric to prior “coon songs” and even blackface. This is what Byrd wrote on the topic of “black female domestics and dancing” (it is followed by my response on H-Net, 8-6-2010, expanded for purposes of this blog):

[Byrd:] That’s exactly the topic of Irving Berlin’s original lyric to “Puttin’ On The Ritz” —

Have you seen the “well to do?”

Up on Lenox Avenue?

On that famous thoroughfare,

With their noses in the air?

High hats and colored collars,

White spats and fifteen dollars.

Spending every dime,

For a wonderful time!

If you’re blue and you don’t know

Where to go to, why don’t you go

Where Harlem flits?

Puttin’ On The Ritz!

Spangled gowns upon the bevy

Of high-brow[n]s from down the levee,

All miss-fits,

Puttin’ On The Ritz.

That’s where each and every Lulubelle goes,

Every Thursday evening with her swell beaus, Rubbin’ elbows!

Come with me and we’ll attend

Their jubilee, and see them spend,

Their last two bits,

Puttin’ On The Ritz.

[Byrd commentary:] Plain and simple, this is a jazz-inflected version of the ubiquitous 20s “coon songs”, like “Hard-hearted Hannah” “I Ain’t Got Nobody”, and “Big Bad Bill Is Sweet William Now”. Why “Every Thursday evening?”  Thursdays in Manhattan were “Maid’s Night Out”. That’s the version Fred Astaire sang in the 1930 hit record (also covered by Harry Richman).  Berlin later cleaned up the lyrics, e.g.,

Dressed up like a million-dollar trooper, Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper, Super-duper!

which while not racist, is not very good either.

Coon songs were the extension of blackface, and indeed, usually performed in blackface (except by women).  Even Berlin’s “Alexander’s Rag-time Band”, which on the surface doesn’t seem to be racist, was turned into a broad dialect comedy duet in its first recording, by Collins and Harlan.  Coon songs were the other side of the “plantation melodies” which expressed nostalgia for the “Old South” (i.e., slavery), songs like “Rockabye Your Baby To A Dixie Melody”, “My Mammy”, “Is It True What They Say About Dixie” et al.  [end, Byrd comment]

[Spark response:] Joseph Byrd, co-founder of The Yankee Doodle Society, has, in prior publications, boldly exposed the attempts of recent musicologists to whitewash the racist lyrics of blackface minstrelsy (for instance in the case of Stephen Foster’s “Oh Susannah!”)  But in this instance, I was not sure that I. Berlin deserved such harsh criticism. So I read several biographies of two composers who, in their contrasting ways, have come to represent American music: I refer to Irving Berlin and  Leonard Bernstein, both of whom were indebted to black and Latin music (as well in Berlin’s case, by Stephen Foster and Tin Pan Alley in general). I thank Byrd for inspiring much-needed research on my part: my curiosity opened up the tradebook genre of the intimate biography of celebrities in American music history, a genre that seems to be focused less on their artistic production and its sources and ideological messages than on inside-dope regarding the composers’ sexual and business practices. (An exception is Charles Hamm’s musicological treatment of Berlin as a participant in the melting pot: see Bibliography.)

It is my sense that the original lyric of “Puttin’ On The Ritz” was more puritanical than “racist.” Irving Berlin was a self-educated immigrant who fled his tenement home in the NYC Lower East Side when he was only thirteen or so. He worked in various dives and was exposed to low life in general, along with the rowdy ethnic music performed in such venues. Throughout most of his productive period, false rumors abounded that he had a little “colored boy” sequestered somewhere who really was the author of his many popular songs. He was also notoriously frugal and abstemious in matters of the flesh. Numerous uptown swells had visited his early haunts, and he had no great respect for their slumming, snobbery, and primitivism. The man was remarkably class-conscious and throughout life embraced the strenuous work-ethic of the middle-class, even as he married Ellin McKay, a renegade from the upper class, who, for a time, sacrificed her relations with her father to marry [the little Jew].

It is also reported that he overcame the objections of his white actors who had refused to take a bow with a black co-star in the successful show As Thousands Cheer (1933) that starred Ethel Waters, and that protested, among other things, lynching (Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing had already made social commentary about US political culture okay on Broadway). Berlin told his leading singers that either EW joined them in their curtain calls, or nobody would enjoy that ritual. Moreover, during his marathon morale-boosting show during world war 2, his black performers and white performers were not segregated, at his insistence. (Not that a blackface act was not part of the revue “This Is The Army,” that traveled throughout both the European and Pacific Theaters of war, with Berlin present throughout.)   (My sources are biographies by Edward Jablonski and Lawrence Bergreen.)

“Puttin’ On The Ritz” (original lyric) was written for a failed film of the same name starring Harry Richman in 1930. There is a clip of the title song on YouTube, and there is no blackface. The film quality is not very good, but I think you can see a large troupe of black dancers joining Richman and the white dancers toward the end of the routine. Also, Fred Astaire’s original recording of the song is included in The American Popular Song CD series, disc one. But perhaps most interesting of all is the fact that the song was written soon after Berlin had lost much of his fortune in the 1929 crash of the stock market. He could have been lecturing himself for writing for the Ritzy upper-classes near the beginning of  his long career in Broadway theater musicals, a step upward from Tin Pan Alley and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” Whatever his possible motivation, it is not uncommon for writers with a middle-class ethos to criticize what they view as excessive consumerism in other groups. *

There is no reason to mention Leonard Bernstein in this blog, except in this respect: Irving Berlin was an uncritical patriot and moved toward conservatism, though he did not oppose FDR during the Depression (his wife was an enthused New Dealer). At least one biographer seemed intent on exposing all his frailties (Bergreen). Whereas Bernstein, the offspring of a comfortably well-off Jewish family and Harvard educated, was clearly a fellow-traveler with the Left during his musical and extra-curricular career, and has been recently criticized for not being Left enough in one biography (Barry Seldes). The much longer biography (by the Englishman Humphrey Burton) tends toward lurid gossip without much musicological or other historical analysis. I am speculating that there is an unpleasant insinuation in the Burton tell-all superficially laudatory biography that Bernstein was the epitome of “Jewish” carnality and the will to power.

To sum up, I believe that calling Berlin’s “Puttin’ On The Ritz” as racist and necessarily connected with blackface and “coon song” is to stigmatize the composer too roughly. The only reason I bring up Bernstein’s oeuvre and politics is to remind other students of American popular culture that it is commonly thought among black nationalists that twentieth century Jewish composers improperly ripped off or otherwise abused/parodied the musical ideas of non-whites. I understand that Irving Berlin was criticized on the H-Net list strictly for an alleged connection to faux black culture, but I have noticed elsewhere a larger set of criticisms directed against American popular music when its composers are of Jewish origin and, as in the case of Berlin, are seen as unreflectively patriotic, or who, like the “un-American” Bernstein, are seen as possessed by demons; i.e, as romantic, intuitive artists both are politically unreliable in the eyes of some left-wing critics.

(For a guide to the logic of black nationalism, see the postscript to my prior blog: https://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/.

*There is a summary on the internet that supports my reading of the original lyric to Puttin’ On The Ritz: “The rise and fall of a popular entertainer provides the basis of this musical drama. Harry Raymond (played by nightclub superstar Harry Richman) begins his career with nothing but his ambition, his talent and the support of friends and loved ones. Eventually he hits the big time and becomes a star. Unfortunately with stardom comes arrogance and selfishness and he disdains his lowly but loyal lover and pals to hang out with the upper crust. His downfall comes from a bottle of tainted homemade gin. Harry nearly dies and ends up permanently blind. Fortunately, at least one of his old crowd is around to help him rebuild his life. ~ Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide”  This is hardly the message of the Astaire-Rogers movies that followed in the mid-to late 1930s, where upward mobility and luxury were the message, with no down side to the rise of the hoofer, though the upper crust was still mocked. I.e., the true aristocrats are artists: in this case the virtuosic team of Astaire and Rogers. The same goes for subsequent Astaire movies with different female partners.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Bergreen, Lawrence. As Thousands Cheer: The Life of Irving Berlin. Viking, 1990.

Burton, Humphrey. Leonard Bernstein. Doubleday, 1994.

**Hamm, Charles. Irving Berlin, Songs From The Melting Pot: The Formative Years, 1907-1914. Oxford UP, 1997. Highly recommended for serious students of popular song and the impact of black culture on the “melting pot.” Corrects Rogin, I think.

Jablonski, Edward. Irving Berlin: American Troubador. Henry Holt & Co., 1999.

Rogin, Michael. Blackface, White Noise. UC Press, 1996.

Seldes, Barry. Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of An American Musician. UC Press, 2009.

July 18, 2010

White elite enabling of Black Power

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Christopher Edley debates affirmative action with Charles Fried, Harvard Law Bulletin (Spring 2004)

These materials are taken from my unpublished ms. “Eros and the Middle Manager.” Some of the quotes have already been posted in my memoir of Pacifica Radio and also in Rough Ride Through The Culture Wars, but the material from Yale is new to the website. For an index to all my black power blogs, see https://clarespark.com/2010/07/15/index-to-black-power-blogs/. But also see a recent blog that shows how the moderate men demonized pioneers and frontiersmen as the worst racists, whose legacy haunts us today: https://clarespark.com/2014/01/08/the-frontiersmansettler-as-all-purpose-scapegoat/.

[From Black Studies in the University: A Symposium, edited by Armstead Robinson et al (Yale U.P., 1969), a transcript of papers presented at a conference organized by the Black Student Alliance at Yale, late spring 1968, and featuring among its speakers Harold Cruse and Ron Karenga, two prominent spokesmen for cultural nationalism (an irrationalist ideology); they and other speakers hold up urban and campus violence as a warning, noting that time is running out for the advancement of social peace.

Harold Cruse defines cultural nationalism, Q&A (26-27):  …in a society such as America, in which you have the ideas and achievements of black people constantly de-emphasized, “overlooked,” unrecorded, or excluded in the general realm of ideas, any attempt to re-emphasize these ideas must take the form of cultural nationalism. Cultural nationalism is nothing but the attempt of a group or nation or minority to express what is indigenous to its own historical background in order to enhance its public image–social image–in the eyes of the world. Unless there is a spirit of cultural nationalism, you would not have any national or ethnic group resurgence on any level, in any sphere. In America, where it is difficult for the white outlook, and often the black outlook, to accept the fact that the black group exists in many ways in a world separate from the whites, it is difficult to accept the validity of cultural nationalism on the part of the Negro as a group in American society because this is not the way we have been conditioned, educated, or trained to see this particular aspect of social reality. Cultural nationalism is nothing but an attempt to prevent the cultural particularism of the dominant white group from continuing to overshadow and submerge the essence of the black experience in America. If you examine this society as a whole, you will notice that all American groupings and sub-groupings have resorted in the past to the cultivation of their cultural nationalism in their attempt to adjust and gain recognition in American society. Without this impetus, there cannot be a concerted drive or thrust toward the creation and perpetuation of a course of black studies in the university.  You have to have this as a motivation, or else the whole idea of the institution of a black studies program becomes very meaningless.

[Ron Karenga explains his separatist educational philosophy  (Q&A, 44-45)]: I feel that black people should communicate black things. Why? We teach that methodology is very important in instruction, but unless one understands that education is more than just the communication of ideas for political effect, we’ll never see that education is basically two things: the provision of inspiration and the provision of information.  Now, we put inspiration first, because black people are an emotional people and our first commitment is an emotional one. Quite a few times myself I have been extremely rational, and blacks have no counter to it, but they disagree–either out of a false sense of Socratic tradition, which says that it is intelligent to disagree even if someone is right, or because he has been emotionally estranged from me.  We teach that the first commitment is an emotional one.  I cannot become emotionally committed to a white person, no matter what he says: I can laugh at what he does if it’s ridiculous enough, but I cannot become emotionally committed to him. I must have an image to identify with and that image must be personified in the man who’s communicating that thing to me or the image he projects. I’m saying that education is basically an inspirational thing and that methodology should take into consideration inspiration before information….

[Gerald A. McWorter introduces a theme that others amplify: there is very little scholarship available on “the black experience” or “the black community” so Yale and the other preserves of white financial power will have to develop curricula and scholars almost de novo. (Karenga offers his services as a consultant during the question period.)  This is how McWorter, a sociologist teaching at Spelman College, characterizes the worthless work of Gunnar Myrdal and his nameless black collaborators (after criticizing the work of the Chicago sociologists around Robert Park as overly focused on race relations):]

[McWorter:]  One must also mention in this concern with “race relations” the book by Gunnar Myrdal, AN AMERICAN DILEMMA, which to black people contains the white Myrdalian dilemma, not the dilemma of black people. Here I want specifically to note the whole question of “race relations,” because in the beginning period of empirical inquiry, it was race relations that was a concern–that is, people were concerned about the relationship of black people and white people and not, not, the life within the black community.  I suppose that’s natural, since these people were concerned about the survival of the society which was white. Now, the Myrdalian dilemma essentially is that, even though he had tremendous contact with a significant number of black scholars, he saw black people basically the same way as William Faulkner, the white racist novelist of the South. That is, he said that white people presented all of the alternatives available to black people, and if one ever wanted to understand black people, you merely had to look at white people who were around them, calculate the obverse of what you saw and you’d come up with what black people are about. There was no inkling in his mind that over a period of time black people could create a community, a culture, that would be functionally autonomous from the white oppressors who raped them from Africa.  Again, it seems to me that this should be clear to anyone with knowledge of recent research who is listening to voices coming from the black community.

[From a small conference “to explore the role of education in combating racial discrimination,” Martha’s Vineyard, July 1968, published as Racism and American Education: A Dialogue and Agenda for Action, Foreward by Averell Harriman, Harper and Row, 1970:]  

[Kenneth Clark (President of the Metropolitan Applied Research Center, Inc. Member of the New York State Board of Regents, and Professor of Psychology at City College of New York):]…I don’t see how we can avoid coming to the conclusion that teachers, who are supposed to be professionals with confidence in the potential of human  beings, are deficient in areas in which higher education is supposed to provide knowledge.  In some research among teachers selected by their principals to discuss teaching with us, the common denominator, interestingly enough true of Negro teachers as well as white teachers, was a profound illiteracy on what you would consider critical areas of knowledge.  I mean the attitudes, well not just the attitudes, but the knowledge of cultural anthropology or modern and contemporary knowledge about race and racial differences and racial potentialities or social psychology...They were really illiterate…in areas of social science that were relevant to their jobs (52).

[C. Van Woodward (Sterling Professor of History at Yale University):]…Americans in the early phases of nationalism did really foolish things.  In order to establish what they would now call their identity, Americans denigrated everything European in culture, and at the same time exalted everything American.  If it was American, it was beautiful, and if it was European, it was not.  Of course, that resulted in a lot of third-rate art and letters and sculpture and so forth.  I think we have recovered from our earlier excesses of nationalism in this respect, but by no means are we free from nationalism as a country.  The black nationalism, I think, will manifest many of these same excesses.  I think this is inevitable, and I think we are going to have to live with it in the colleges, in the public schools, all down the line.  We’re going to have to adjust to it.  I think we must think about it with as much dispassionate wisdom as we can muster, because it’s likely to get out of hand (64-65; see Kenneth Clark rejecting tolerance of black nationalism, 68).

[Christopher Edley (Program Officer in charge of the Government and Law Program at the Ford Foundation):]…I’m convinced that the way you eliminate prejudice and racism in America is not by talking and education and explanation.  I think you have to start with a simple cliché‚ like God, motherhood, or country.  You have to have something that has a noble ring.  And it seems to me that what this country needs is a movement, and I don’t know that this is the appropriate group to sponsor it.  This country needs a movement.  The way to eliminate prejudice is to smother it.  If we could bring about a climate in this country where no one could express a prejuducial viewpoint without being challenged, we would begin to drive prejudice underground.  And I submit to you that prejudice unexpressed and unacted upon dies–it doesn’t fester and grow–it dies.  Now this is high sounding, and I don’t expect people to agree with such a simplistic solution.  But I really believe that you can stamp it out.  And if you look at our national figures today, there are certain people who cannot make a prejudicial remark.  Many of our Governors, the President, many responsible Senators are precluded in their public lives from ever making a prejudiced public statement, and if they make a statement that sounds like it’s prejudicial, they’re called on it and the next day, as General de Gaulle found, it was necessary to recant.  So we don’t allow them to get away with anything.  But at the lower levels, over the dinner table…[ellipsis in original, Edley is an African-American now teaching at Harvard Law School.]

[Franklin Roosevelt (Former Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Congressman from the Twentieth Congressional District in New York during the eighty-first to the eight-third Congresses):]  The citizen level…[ellipsis in orig.]

[Christopher Edley:]  At the citizen level, we say it’s perfectly all right for a bigot to express his bigoted thoughts.  If you’re anti-Negro you can speak out against the Negro at supper.  The simplicity of the idea I submit to you is the thing that gives it some national potential for changing the climate (145).  [Identifications as published, xiii-xv].

[Ed Goodman, Manager of New York City Pacifica Station WBAI, report 1972:]  The tension between access and quality appears to me to be inevitable.  The tension is now more pronounced due to the heightened consciousness of various disenfranchised groups such as gay people, blacks, women, etc.  The problem is particularly acute within the context of the electronic media where the opportunities are limited by the numbers of hours in the day, and the licensing prerequisites.  These limitations are absent in the theater, print journalism, and other areas of expression.  Though the assertion that we should hire talented people and the hell with other considerations is, on the face, appealing, it is much too simplistic and ultimately self-limiting and suicidal.  It denies the contention that there are unique points of view and perspectives that are reflective of one’s ethnic background, sex, sexual proclivity, life style, and economic status.  The station is therefore enriched if its staff can reflect the diversity of the listening audience.  Of course, if diversity of this kind is sought for political expediency to the exclusion of talent and intelligence, this course too is limiting and destructive. [end, Goodman excerpt]

Erasing “class” as an analytic category.  The maturing academics who entered the professoriate after their baptism in tumultuous 1960s social movements, movements without linkage to the disorganized and quiescent working class whose members were often understandably resentful of privileged “draft dodgers” and “anti-Americans,” responded indignantly to the claims of “equal opportunity,” the pride of upwardly mobile urban ethnics embracing the tradition of Jackson and Lincoln.  Since women and non-whites were so obviously underrepresented in university faculties and curricula, and since many 1960s veterans were sympathetic to black power and other national liberation movements (viewed as responding to internal colonialism and imperialism), some insurgents accounted for the absence of women and non-whites in leadership positions as symptoms of “white male” or “patriarchal” intolerance/hegemony.  The “multiculturalists” did not argue that the position of women/non-whites in the family and labor force precluded the lengthy period of leisure, privacy, travel and acculturation anyone (including working-class white males) needed to become a scholar; rather their “difference” made their cultures of “the Other” unfathomable to transparently obtuse white males.  The new pluralists settled into ghettoized ethnic studies and women’s studies programs which, by virtue of their particular institutionalization in response to the 1960s black power and radical feminist movements suggested ethnic and gender difference as the most relevant variables, the engines of history for non-whites and women (however often “class” might be dropped into the mix of “class, race, and gender”).  As was feared by the conservative liberals at Martha’s Vineyard promoting the coöptation of black nationalism, race (and gender) had virtually erased class as an objective category.  Not surprisingly the dissenting individual also went the way of all flesh, collapsed into a notion of “individuality” as a feature of groups (race or ethnicity).

Fitting neatly into the idealist counter-Enlightenment which had promoted the concepts of racial, ethnic and national character, many theorizing young scholars, adopting a pseudo-Marxist, pseudo-Freudian rhetoric and, following the subjectivism, irrationalism, and group-think of Herder, Kant and Max Weber, defined themselves as revolutionary postmodernists, declaring that the categories of race, class, and gender, like literary taste, were all “socially constructed,” historically rooted, and thus “radically Other,” i.e., resistant to empathic readings or universal standards of truth and craft. [I understand that my characterizations of Kant and Weber are controversial.]  These anti-pluralist pluralists, champions of diversity and tolerance, have not been promulgating “hegemonic” Enlightenment or Victorian notions of species-unity (other than Herder’s international yet localist crazy quilt); they have mostly attempted to demolish the rationalism and universalist ethics spawned by the radical Reformation and scientific revolution then born by the philosophes, “Old Jewry”–radicals like Price and Priestley as they were characterized by a hostile Edmund Burke–liberal feminists, abolitionists, English Chartists, the independent labor movement, and the civil rights movement.

The underlying unity between apparently warring generations (authoritarian liberals and Stalinists versus the New Left generation) is illustrated by their common periodization of Cold War-style repression of civil liberties in “McCarthyism.” Little attention is paid to centuries-old élite resistance to mass literacy and numeracy and the torrent of democratic ideas that followed.  After the brief hiatus of the Nazi-Stalin Pact (1939-1941), American Stalinists dropped that short-lived campaign against American warmongers, once more supporting corporatist New Deal policies against the assaults of “fascist Republicans” or “monopoly capital.”  The prolific Carey McWilliams, editor of The Nation and foe to racism and censorship, was impressed by the methodology of Talcott Parsons and other “moderate” top-down planners who, after the war, opposed the arms race as an excessive drain on the welfare state.  Like many of the other corporatist thinkers described here, McWilliams was a regionalist and a populist; whether or not he was a member of the Communist Party as charged, he was certainly never a materialist Marxist.  His papers from the 1930s (at UCLA) suggest that he was following the Communist line, switching from a view of the New Deal as “social fascism” to best friend of the working class during the Popular Front (1935-1939).  Like other New Deal social democrats, he wanted to strengthen capitalism by bringing good labor unions and racial minorities into the system to stabilize the base.  After the war, “McCarthyism” was bad because it confused conservative reformers like himself with real communists.

Writing in the late 1960s, political scientist Michael Rogin denied that populists were antisemites, as neoconservative Richard Hoftstadter had charged in his Age of Reform (1957).  McCarthy was not a populist, Rogin argued, but a spokesman for traditional conservative élites, the selfish laissez-faire crowd of materialists participating in the (bad) American Lockean consensus.  Denouncing white supremacy (hitherto an emblem for Wall Street and the power of Jewish money), New Left radicals like McWilliams and Rogin internalized the Soviet-Tory terror-gothic scenario for the history of the last five centuries: Frankenstein monsters, the unique progeny of crazy scientists, Victorian prudery, and “the culture of narcissism” i.e., the ever unitary [Jewish] West, have produced genocide, exploitation of the Third World and the colonization of domestic minorities, mind-control by the mass media and CIA, urban snobbery, reification, commodification, luxury, and consumerism.  The radical scholars apparently hate money (commercialism) more than they love the creative, questing individual.  Do these populists resist the market as a coercive, brutal mechanism or, like displaced feudal clerics and aristocrats, would they ban the site of judgment by upstart “consumers” they cannot control?  Or, as anticapitalists and anti-imperialists, have they carved out their own super-moral niche on the market while apparently rejecting it?

More from the Martha’s Vineyard conference.

 [Kenneth Boulding:] Suppose we do something like this: We go to a voucher plan.  You give every child $500 to $1000 a year, and he can spend it any way he wants.  And give every Negro child $1500.

[Jerome Wiesner:] But that’s racism.

[Kenneth Boulding:] But I mean I am in favor of racism.  I think racism is important.  Well, they call it discrimination–not the same thing as racism at all.  These are two quite different subjects.  If you want to introduce some kind of counterweight to discrimination, this is where the federal government comes in.  We may see the federal government, the whole taxing-and-subsidizing business, as a total picture weighted toward correcting some of these ills of society.  This seems to me to be its major function (32).

[Christopher Edley, explaining that his support of black power in the 1950s and 60s did not entail a belief in racism:]  Now some excesses have come to the fore.  There is a danger of black nationalism, there is a danger of black separatism that goes beyond the temporary withdrawal to recoup our strength, to regroup and to seek out the powers that we want–the economic and social powers that seem to be attainable for us as a group only through the use of black identity.  Now I think there are roles that Negroes have to play.  It seems to me that the power structure has only responded to the excessive demands that have been made in the Negro community, and that there are certain Negroes who because they are bold and courageous, because they have little to lose, must demand things of the power structure which are excessive.  And I think that if we–the Ken Clarks and the Chris Edleys and perhaps the Lisle Carters–have a role to play, it is to capitalize on the softening up process that results from the excessive demands… [Black identity and race pride] will enable [students] to band together to overcome the obstacles.  I think that subconsciously they are seeking to get into the melting pot and the mainstream of American life.  I don’t believe that black nationalism will be the major thread…I don’t think that we need condemn [black-power studies], and I think many of us get caught in the situation where we have to think as Americans, as Negroes, and perhaps as something in between.  And I think it is possible to identify rationally the roles that people are playing and to realize that really in the long run they complement each other rather than being antagonistic to each other (71-72).*

So much for checks and balances.  In all cases, the Romantic Wandering Jew (the Byronic hero, Ahab, Peer Gynt as historian, myself) and our critical apparatus curse the strange diagnostics of democratic pluralists and anti-pluralist multiculturalists alike; s/he totes “the melting pot”[1] that jams Durkheimian solidarities too close to bad Jews, the latter identified in the nineteenth century by one republican theorist with “the moral nature of Anglo-Saxondom, with its virile instincts of right, freedom, and humanity, defending our cause against all comers, with indomitable courage and constancy of faith.”[2] Such troubling figures were revising and reconfiguring the past and present to produce what the “pluralists” regard as protofascist anomie, the alarming switch from homey, heimlich Gemeinschaft to intrusive and alienating, unheimlich Gesellschaft. [3]

[Untitled poem submitted to London Mercury by an Englishman, Lawrence Binyon (a William Blake reviver of the 1920s):]

From the howl of the wind/ As I opened the door/ And entered, the firelight/ Was soft on the floor;/ And mute in their places/ Were table and chair/ The white wall, the shadows,/ Awaiting me there./ All was strange on a sudden!/ From the stillness a spell,/ A fear or a fancy,/ Across my heart fell./ Were they awaiting another/ To sit by the hearth?/ Was it I saw them newly/ A stranger on earth?    [4]

*Christopher Edley, Jr. rose quickly to powerful positions in academe. For twenty-three years he was a professor at Harvard Law School, later becoming Dean of the UC Berkeley Law School, Boalt Hall.  He was an informal adviser to Barack Obama. In the illustration, he was debating the Solicitor General in the Reagan Administration, Charles Fried. The latter argued that affirmative action had done its job and should be phased out. Edley strongly disagreed according to the “Brief” in the Harvard Law Bulletin.

Postscript. This week (July 19-23) was largely devoted to shoddy reporting of the Shirley Sherrod tape of her NAACP talk, a snippet of which was revealed by Andrew Breitbart, who has since been held up to ridicule by the MSM, howling in unison. One of the few accurate reports I have seen was Andy McCarthy’s Corner piece in NRO. http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YjVmMjg3MDZlNDBmOGY1ZmQyOWNmNmM4MGNiZDdjZDM%3D. I watched the entire tape, took notes, and discerned a clever propaganda ploy, in which Sherrod laid claim to the heritage of the integrationist civil rights movement while actually reiterating the main tropes and story lines of black nationalism. It is interesting to note that Fox News Channel has been unable to describe the actual content of the Sherrod talk; either its pundits do not recognize the narrative, or are afraid to appear guilty of accusing black people as “racists” (it is the claim of black nationalists that the oppressed are incapable of racism; as victims of white supremacy they are simply freedom fighters on behalf of suffering humanity).

Ms. Sherrod’s line can be summarized as follows: Just as her father was murdered by whites (who were never punished) and just as the Klan burnt a cross on her lawn as she involved herself in civil rights (they too, though recognized, went unprosecuted), “mean-spirited” Republicans are resisting health care reform: i.e., powerful whites have been killing blacks  and getting away with it, but this may change with this administration or the election of a second black president. But most astonishingly, she invents an even longer heritage for white racism. There was once a golden age of race relations in colonial America, when black and white indentured servants intermarried. Wealthy whites, appalled by miscegenation (analogous to the black-white unity in the service of social justice she was calling for in her talk), invented slavery and racism. Thus she established the narrative: (wealthy, hate-ridden) whites will continue destroying black people until reparations are instituted and whites experience a change of heart, demonstrated by a statism and redistributive policies implemented by savvy blacks like herself. In other words, she represents the chief tenets of black liberation theology. For my numerous blogs on black power see https://clarespark.com/2010/07/15/index-to-black-power-blogs/. And don’t miss the ones on Arne Duncan.

NOTES.

[1] The particular menace of the melting pot is made explicit by the Catholic, Irish Nationalist, pro-Nazi James Murphy, Adolf Hitler, The Drama of His Career (London: Chapman & Hall, 1934): 120-121.  Catholic Centre coalitions with godless Prussians and socialists promoting a secularising Jewish press were similarly disasters for the simple, insightful peasants Murphy defends throughout.  He cites and recommends Hans Ehrenberg, Deutschland im Schmelzhofen (“Germany in the Melting Pot”).

[2]See Charles Sumner: An Essay by Carl Schurz, ed. Arthur  Reed Hogue (U.of Illinois Press, 1951):97. Schurz was referring to the Englishman John Bright, linking his character to Sumner’s.

[3] See Ferdinand Tönnies, Community and Civil Society, ed. Jose Harris, transl. Jose Harris and Margaret Hollis (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 2001. Originally published in 1887, Tönnies’s book is considered to be a classic work of sociology, but not until after the first world war (xxviii-xxviii) was it canonized. At first seen as a “communist tract,” it was taken up by German “ultra-nationalists,” and in America during the 1930s was read as “an essay in consensual structural functionalism.” The editor of this edition seems favorably disposed to this elusive and mysterious work. Tönnies was the son of a merchant banker, and given his hostility to modernity, one wonders how much of his disgust with the modern world was intertwined with his feelings about his father. In 1892 he “helped found Society for Ethical Culture, the vehicle for his life-long involvement in various co-operative, social reform, and self-improvement movements.” (xxxi-xxxii)

[4] Lawrence Binyan was an English Blake scholar, and a key figure in the William Blake promotion that followed World War I; the poem is in the J.C. Squire Papers, UCLA Special Collections.

April 5, 2010

Is POTUS Crazy?

Edgar Allan Poe

[I am adding this query to what was a popular blog: If Obama is actually suffering from a narcissistic disorder, what might be the effect of close advisors stepping down? What would be the effect of substantial Republican gains on November 2?  For a follow-up blog that quotes this one see https://clarespark.com/2012/04/06/diagnosing-potus/.]

Roger Simon, CEO of Pajamas Media, posted his article “President Weirdo” on April 3, 2010, postulating the Obama’s conduct suggested a serious personality disorder. It generated 263 or more comments, some of them exhibiting great fear of what may lie in store for us. I posted Roger’s article on my Facebook page, and was reminded that Charles Krauthammer, trained in psychiatry, had also mentioned that Obama was narcissistic,* while Michael Callis, another of my Facebook friends, a professional psychologist, thinks that Obama may be a “malignant narcissist.” By contrast, Victor Davis Hanson wrote a piece, published in Pajamas Media today, on Obama as a postmodernist (i.e., as a Third World ideologue), without additional commentary as to his possibly pathological mental states.  Still other highly visible opponents of Obama (Glenn Beck for instance) continue to see him as a Leninist/progressive with an agenda derived from community organizer Saul Alinsky. (The latter two diagnoses are close to democratic leftist law professor and blogger Stephen Diamond, who comments on the “social justice” mafia pushing identity politics as Obama’s chief allies. Cf. https://clarespark.com/2010/04/08/racism-modernity-modernism/, posted today, April 8).

This blog will try to place these diagnoses in an historical context, and comment too on the uncertainties that historians face when describing the personalities of great men and women.

It was not long ago when psychohistory was all the rage in political science and history circles. Figures such as Michael Rogin (authors of studies of Nixon, Reagan, and Andrew Jackson) and Peter Loewenberg became celebrities in their respective fields. But by the time I hit graduate school at UCLA in 1983, such studies were thought to be ridiculously reductive. I remember (Trotskyist) Professor Robert Brenner, with (social democratic) Professor Loewenberg in attendance, telling his seminar that in his view, putting all your analytic eggs on relationships in the family of origin was absurd. And before this instance, Philip Rieff took  Freud to task for ignoring history as the engine for human conduct. Similarly, professional psychiatrists, epistemological materialists that they are,  tend now to dispense medication for problems ranging from anxiety attacks to schizophrenia.

Psychoanalysis is often mocked as the ineffectual and expensive “talking cure,” while clinical psychologists are as divided among themselves as to clinical method as are psychoanalysts, with their famous internal debates between Kleinians, Jungians, orthodox Freudians, neo-Freudians, eclectics, etc.     So it takes a lot of self-confidence for someone without a Dr. after his name to propose that the President of the United States might be possessed of mental states that are dangerous to our national and personal security.  I am siding with Roger Simon here, perhaps because I am defending my own work as an intellectual historian along with his and that of every honorable artist. Although existentialists and their postmodern descendants will scoff at his/my (bourgeois) hubris, if you can’t think yourself into another person’s head, if you cannot piece together a history of thoughts and actions in your subject, then you have nothing to say, and nothing to give to the world but received opinions and other official platitudes. You might as well put down your pen and find a job that earns you an honest living.

The suggestion that POTUS might be a “malignant narcissist” is particularly intriguing to me. And here is where one might be able to collapse all the competing narratives as to Obama’s mental states into one historical explanation.  Read the Wikipedia article on that diagnosis, and note that “malignant narcissism” is not in DSM-IV, though narcissistic personality disorder is, and narcissism is a feature of other personality disorders as the authors of DSM-IV defined them. It is conceivable to me that Obama’s family history (especially the abandonment by his father and who-knows-what-relationships with his doting mother and doting grandparents), set him up to be the perfect candidate for ambitious politicians in Chicago, who could count on the incoherent constituencies of the Democratic Party (big labor, public sector employees, cultural nationalist minorities, dependents of the welfare state, feminists, gays, veterans of the civil rights movement, wealthy liberal Jews, post60s academics and journalists, liberal internationalists, environmentalists) to be taken in by his charisma and passionate promises for a national healing that would reconcile the irreconcilable demands and interests of  his base, an equally apocalyptic change inside the Washington  Beltway, and an avowedly anti-imperialist foreign policy. It makes sense too, in explaining his obvious rage at being criticized and blocked, to suspect that his “narcissistic supplies” are threatened. As for the grandiosity that characterizes the narcissist and other would-be healers or “moderates”, such a high opinion of himself attracts others who aspire to greatness and a cohesive human community, and who therefore tend to idealize him and overlook his contradictory statements and broken promises–for he could not and can not please the diverse elements of the base that elected him and continues to support him.

I recall that one analyst of pathological narcissism (Kohut? Kernberg? Klein?) mentions the coexistence of grandiosity and emptiness that exists simultaneously in the same breast.  If you read the Wikipedia article, note that the more power the malignant narcissist gets, the more dangerous he becomes, and the more paranoid. Even if you do not find this suggestion of a pathological personality disorder to be persuasive, and prefer an ideological explanation instead (“transnational progressivism,” postmodern anti-imperialism, crypto-Leninism), there is no way to please everyone in a “mixed economy” that depends on redistribution alone to stave off “disruption” or worse. One must step outside the premises of progressivism with its incoherence and double binds (see https://clarespark.com/2010/03/10/jonah-goldbergs-liberal-fascism-part-one/ in which I criticize JG for not seeing the double bind inflicted by the authoritarian liberals who are at bottom organic conservatives averse to rupture, though they do not call themselves that).

In closing, I must add that when I read Obama’s first book in early 2008, I became alarmed and suspicious, for it was obvious to me as a reader that there was not one coherent voice in the narrative (could there be, given the diverse interests of his audience?), and moreover, that he could not possibly have remembered all the incidents from his childhood in such detail. In the acknowledgments, he thanks his mother for refreshing his memory and helping him with the writing (tell me, reader, if I am wrong). I should also say that all the opinions expressed in this blog are provisional and speculative, but then so is medicine and its related fields in mental health. But without the power of such free thought, tireless in its search for clues, we are mindless followers, not citizens. Hail to thee, Roger L. Simon, C. Auguste Dupin, Captain Ahab, John Milton (!), Sigmund Freud, and all those other Prometheans who have leaped from light into darkness.

*Obama was described as “narcissistic” by David Remnick in his Jon Stewart interview,  4-8-10. Remnick’s bio is entitled The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama. Has anyone commented on the odd title? Is Obama the Savior who has rescued America from right-wing materialism and racism? There is narcissism and narcissism. One definition of healthy narcissism refers to the ability to soothe oneself without “supplies” from the outer world. But for centuries the myth of Narcissus was deployed by organic thinkers to stigmatize the dissenting individual/mad scientist, who was deemed indifferent to Echo (the call of community and social responsibility). Think Dollhouse; think Flash Forward.

[Added, Dec.15, 2010: Narcissistic personality disorder is being dropped from DSM-V. We don’t know why. Has Obama become more dangerous since November 2 as his narcissistic supplies fade away? Dinesh D’Souza diagnoses him as a post-colonialist; Dick Morris sees him as a conventional social democrat (not a communist). His most left-leaning base is predicting a one-term presidency. And I continue to be baffled, but most impressed by the incoherence of both political parties, and his erratic behavior, moving from committed radical to “centrist” compromiser as opportunistic and a sign of his determination to stay in power. Meanwhile, Robert Reich calls for a vast new statist initiative to reinstate the WPA, rebuild the country’s infrastructure, financed with a perfectly reasonable 70 % federal income tax on the idle, non-consuming enough rich. Thorstein Veblen, where are you when we need you?

I had a thought that was cut off on Facebook. All this speculation about Obama’s mental states sells books and rivets audience to the great mystery of his personality. I say, go back to the coalitions that comprise both major parties and ask yourself how you could please everyone in your party if you were president. The No Label, neo-moderate solution is yet another evasion of the conflicting interests that have always characterized our democracy, and that no amount of compromise can resolve. We are not yet fully modern. Remnants of tribalism, antiquity, and feudalism remain undefeated and there is little agreement on what is truly “modern.”

Is the essence of modernity irrationalism? I hope not.

October 5, 2009

Charles Sumner, “moderate conservative,” on lifelong learning

Charles Sumner as sculpted by Anne Whitney

Readers of this website have shown interest in primary source materials, so I am posting my notes on the speeches of a founder of the Republican Party, Charles Sumner, the anti-slavery Senator from Massachusetts, and later a “Black Republican” (i.e., an advocate of a far-reaching Reconstruction that would have transformed U.S. history). I took these notes from Sumner’s speeches up through the period that Herman Melville was writing Moby-Dick to demonstrate affinities between the thought of Captain Ahab’s and Sumner’s. (The bold-face headlines are taken from Melville’s own phrases or themes. Some notes from Jonathan Israel’s book on the Radical Enlightenment are also included because J. Israel’s idea of “free thought” is not the same as the empiricism and science that Sumner advocated. )

I ask my readers to compare the value placed on science, lifelong learning, and human brotherhood in Sumner’s speeches, which were also turned into pamphlets and commanded a broad following, at least in the North. What is significant as we contemplate the vacuousness of the current discourse on education (begun in the blogs on Arne Duncan’s statism), is the literacy that Sumner expected from his nineteenth-century audience. What “moderate” intellectuals today would dare to write for a popular audience with the expectation that the audience would read important books or share his passion for an excellent scientific and moral education? Also, note that “local control” in today’s debates over educational policies can signify resistance to Sumner’s conception of liberal nationalism. See my blog https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/. The Wikipedia article on Sumner is almost unremittingly hostile, like some of his contemporaries, blaming his moral intransigence for the Civil War.  (For an opportunistic (?) appropriation of Sumner, see https://clarespark.com/2011/03/30/eric-foners-christianized-lincoln/, or more recently, https://clarespark.com/2012/01/03/the-race-card/.) Moreover, the cultural history establishment (social democrats all) have defined him as paranoid, as a hater or as harsh in his proposals for Reconstruction, though that may be changing.

[Added, 11/21/09: The roots of the Republican Party are not found in the Reagan administration, but in the pre-Civil War Republican Party, founded by such as Charles Sumner, the great proponent of modernity, and with Thaddeus Stevens after the war, opponent to those who would rehabilitate the Southern rebels, hence injuring the freedmen for decades. Had the “Black Republicans” prevailed, American history would have been transformed. The essay on Robert E. Lee, linked above, lays it out, with Melville’s postwar views on the fate of the freedmen suggesting a departure from his earlier anti-racism.]

MY NOTES:  CHARLES SUMNER, HIS COMPLETE WORKS With Introduction by Hon. George Frisbie Hoar [The bold-faced capitalized prefixes to Sumner’s speeches refer to Melville’s common phrases in his more advanced works.]
VITAL TRUTH OF HUMAN BROTHERHOOD
[Sumner, from “Fame and Glory.  An Oration Before The Literary Societies of Amherst College At Their Anniversary, August 11, 1847”, Works, Vol.2 (Negro Universities Press, NY, 1969] p.183 (on the cynical promotion of evil characters)
“  …our own English Dryden lent his glowing verse to welcome and commemorate a heartless, unprincipled monarch and a servile court. Others, while refraining from eulogy, unconsciously surrender to sentiments and influences, the public opinion of the age in which they live,—investing barbarous characters and scenes, the struggles of selfishness and ambition, and even the movements of conquering robbers, with colors to apt to fascinate or mislead. Not content with that candor which should guide our judgment alike of the living and the dead, they yield sympathy even to injustice and wrong, when commended by genius or elevated by success, and especially if coupled with the egotism of a vicious patriotism. Not feeling practically the vital truth of Human Brotherhood, and the correlative duties it involves, they are insensible to the true character and the shame of transactions by which it is degraded or assailed, and in their estimate depart from that standard of Absolute Right which must be the only measure of true and permanent Fame. (183)
…Such labors [promoting “the happiness of mankind”] are the natural fruit of obedience to the great commandments. Reason, too, in harmony with these laws, shows that the true dignity of Humanity is in the moral and intellectual nature, and the labors of Justice and Benevolence, directed by intelligence and abasing that part which is in common with beasts, are the highest forms of human conduct. (184)
[on p.185, he quotes Milton, Paradise Regained, Book III, 71-80, condemning war and conquest]

ENCELADUS LIKENED TO SLAVE POWER

, pp. 211-212, Springfield Mass, Whig State Convention, Sept. 29, 1847. “Necessity Of Political Action Against The Slave Power And The Extension Of Slavery.”

[THE QUARTER-DECK OATH?] ANTISLAVERY LINKED TO FRENCH REVOLUTION AND ATTACK ON BASTILLE (p.229)
(“Union Among Men Of All Parties Against The Slave Power And The Extension Of Slavery.” Speech Before A Mass Convention At Worcester, June 28, 1848). “[the Slave Power:] Lords of the lash and lords of the loom….” (233) p.234: “This [new coalition of antislavery men] will be the Freedom Power whose single object will be to resist the Slave Power. We will put them face to face, and let them grapple. Who can doubt the result?” [cf. Ahab, chapter 135: “…Towards thee I roll, thou all destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee….”]  Continuity with American Revolution, p.237. pp.238-239. [To our principled leader] we commit the direction of the engine. …Let Massachusetts, nurse of the men and principles that made our earliest revolution, vow herself anew to her early faith. Let her once more elevate the torch which she first held aloft, or, if need be, pluck fresh coals from the living altar of France, proclaiming, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,”–Liberty to the captive, Equality between master and slave, Fraternity with all men, –the whole comprehended in that sublime revelation of Christianity, the Brotherhood of Man. …the great cause of Liberty, to which we now dedicate ourselves, will sweep the heart-strings of the people. It will smite all the chords with a might to draw forth emotions such as no political struggle ever awakened before….”

DESCARTES AND LIFELONG LEARNING (“The Law of Human Progress. An Oration Before The Phi Beta Kappa Society Of Union College, Schenectady, July 25, 1848) quoting Descartes, “Discourse on Method” (1637): “In these new triumphs of knowledge, he says, ‘men may learn to enjoy the fruits of the earth without trouble; their health will be preserved, and they will be able to exempt themselves from an infinitude of ills, as well of body as of mind, and even, perhaps, from the weakness of old age.’ As I repeat these words, uttered long before the steam-engine, the railroad, the electric telegraph, and the use of ether, I seem to hear a prophecy, the prophecy of Science, which each day helps to fulfill. …There is grandeur in the assurance with which the great philosopher announces the Future. (258)

ROMANTIC WANDERING JEW

? Quoting Pascal (same essay), a repressed chapter in Les Pensées (first ed. 1669), “Of Authority in Matters of Philosophy”. “Not until the next century was the testimony of Pascal disclosed to the world. ‘By a special prerogative of the human race,’ says he, ‘not only each man advances day by day in the sciences, but all men together make continual progress therein, as the universe grows old; because the same thing happens in the succession of men which takes place in the different ages of an individual. So that the whole succession of men in the course of so many ages may be regarded as one man who lives always and who learns continually…. “(258-259)

GEOLOGY

“THAT UNIMPEACHED INTERPRETER OF THE PAST…” (p.271) (Post-Civil War, Melville wrote Clarel, distancing himself from his Promethean characters, Taji, Ahab, and Pierre. The geologic Jew Margoth is mocked by the other characters, but it is not clear if Melville shared their views.)

ON RACE, BROTHERHOOD AND UPLIFT LED BY AMERICA. (CF. WHITE-JACKET)

(P.271). “It is true, doubtless, that there are various races of men; but there is but one great Human Family, in which Caucasian, Ethiopian, Chinese, and Indian are all brothers, children of one Father, and heirs to one happiness. Though variously endowed, they are all tending in the same direction; nor can light obtained by one be withheld from any. [Melville agreed with this, though racial difference is hotly disputed today.] The ether discovered in Boston will soothe pain hereafter in Africa and in Asia, in Abyssinia and in China. So are we all knit together, that words of wisdom and truth, which first sway the hearts of the American people, may help to elevate benighted tribes of the most distant regions. The vexed question of modern science, whether these races proceeded originally from one stock, does not interfere with the sublime revelation of Christianity, the Brotherhood of Man. In the light of science and of religion, Humanity is an organism, complex, but still one,–throbbing with one life, animated by one soul, every part sympathizing with every other part, and the whole advancing in one indefinite career of Progress.”

THE ISABEL FACTOR: ORDINARY PEOPLE AND THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH: DESTINY AND THE RAINBOW (p.285)

“Thus ever has Truth moved on,–though opposed and reviled [by resistant conservatives, not the moderate ones], still mighty and triumphant. Rejected by the rich and the powerful, by the favorites of fortune and of place, she finds shelter with those who often have no shelter for themselves. It is such as these that most freely welcome moral truth, with its new commandments [i.e. abolition of slavery, C.S.]. Not the dwellers in the glare of the world, but the humble and lowly, most perceive this truth–as watchers placed in the depths of a well observe the stars which are obscured to those who live in the effulgence of noon. Free from egotism and prejudice, whether of self-interest or of class, without cares and temptations, whether of wealth or power, dwelling in the mediocrity and obscurity of common life, they discern the new signal, and surrender unreservedly to its guidance. The Saviour knew this. …[Let everyone embrace this new law (of progress) “It will give to all…a new revelation of their destiny”: Progress] will be as another covenant, witnessed by the bow in the heavens, not only that no honest, earnest effort for the welfare of man can be in vain, but that it shall send a quickening influence through uncounted ages, and contribute to the coming of that Future of Intelligence, Freedom, Peace we would now secure for ourselves, but cannot. (285-287)
OUT ON (caste) PRIVILEGES,” p.81(AHAB). “Equality Before The Law: Unconstitutionality Of Separate Colored Schools In Massachusetts. Argument Before The Supreme Court Of Massachusetts In The Case Of Sarah C. Roberts v. The City of Boston, December 4, 1849.” (vol.3, 51-100)  The term equality before the law is introduced in America for the first time: its precedents are Diderot, Condorcet, Declaration of Independence, and Massachusetts State constitution [Sumner should have included legislation in the Dutch Republic. C.S.]. (Editor’s comment: “…Shaw reduced it to very small proportions, when he said that it meant “only that the rights of all, as they are settled and regulated by law, are equally entitled to the paternal consideration and protection of the law for their maintenance and security.” This made it mean nothing; but such was the decision.” (The legislature repaired the error in 1855) On stigma of separation: (p.88) “The Jews in Rome are confined to a particular district known as the Jewish Quarter. It is possible that their accommodations are as good as they would be able to occupy if left free to choose throughout Rome and Frankfort; but this compulsory segregation from the mass of citizens is of itself an inequality which we condemn. It is a vestige of ancient intolerance directed against a despised people. It is of the same character with the separate schools in Boston.”

ABSOLUTELY INDEPENDENT SUMNER/AHAB

, the Faneuil Hall speech against the Fugitive Slave Bill as prompting his election as Senator (April 23, 1851), and the signal for break in the Union; pp.158-159 (editor’s comments, then quotation from London Times, May 24, 1851): “The election of Mr. Sumner to the Senate is everywhere regarded as an emphatic declaration, on the part of his own State, that the law is at least not to remain in its present form unassailed. The South responds to such an election by louder declarations of its resistance to all infractions on its local institutions, even at the sacrifice of the integrity of the Union.” (Sumner has succeeded Daniel Webster as spokesman for Massachusetts principles.)

Sumner’s Faneuil Hall speech: “Our Immediate Antislavery Duties. Speech At A Free-Soil Meeting At Faneuil Hall, November 6, 1850. (122-148, Vol. 3) Links the current struggle with Pilgrims and Revolutionary Fathers, resistance to Stamp Act. Shortly after this, Sumner is made Free-Soil candidate for Senator, and elected. [Lemuel Shaw upholds the Fugitive Slave Law in April, 1851. All these events take place before the completion of Melville’s Moby-Dick. See Michael Rogin, Subversive Genealogy: The Politics and Art of Herman Melville, Chapter 4 “Moby-Dick and the American 1848”. Rogin, aware of the Shaw decision and of the label “monomaniac” applied to abolitionists, plays off the abolitionist Theodore Parker against Leviathan, viewing Ahab as an egotistical merchant capitalist enslaver of the working-class crew and interested only in his own power. There is no reference to Charles Sumner in the book. When Rogin wrote his book (published in 1983), the Melville annotations to Paradise Lost had not yet been revealed.

[Cf. Margoth. The following notes refer to Jonathan I. Israel, The Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001).] God’s decrees are Nature’s order. “Thus when in Genesis 9:13 God tells Noah He will set a rainbow in the clouds, this action is definitely nothing other, contends Spinoza, than the reflection and refraction of the sun’s rays in droplets of water in the sky.” The Bible exists to instill “wonder” and “piety in the minds of the multitude”, not search for truth. (221-222; also 246-47: his preoccupation with the rainbow). [Spinoza’s enemies equate atheists, scientists, and Jews: all are enemies of Christian Scripture.] [J. Israel, deploying Spinoza, is apparently arguing against empiricism and experimentation in favor of “a broadly correct, wider, theoretical and philosophical framework.” (249) Cite chapter 15, “Philosophy, Politics, and the Liberation of Man” for Radical Enlightenment stress on free speech and expression as opposed to freedom of conscience. [I think this is incorrect insofar as Spinoza is concerned. C.S.] References to Spinoza as “Jew”and fanatic, 503, 504, 537.

Samuel Clarke objects to freethinkers like Anthony Collins: “there could be no such thing as liberty or a power of self-determination.” P.616.  (Freethought for Israel means freedom to philosophize and speculate; Vico, a radical, believes that “the truth of the philosophers can never be the truth of the people and must remain segregated, excluded from the sphere of commonly held and publicly approved notions which underpin institutions, laws, and government.” P.668) Incredulous mechanical materialists are worse than the Jews, Mohammedans, or Idolators: (The Venetian scholar Concina, author of Theologia Christiana Dogmatico-Moralis, 1754) “The deists and spiriti forti of our days are incomparably more blind, obstinate, and more malign, that [sic] the Jews themselves.” P. 681 Concina’s hostility to Saint-Evremond, Toland, Collins, and Mandeville, p.682. Also pantheists like Epictetus.

Final words (in Jonathan Israel): (approving of “the general will”) “Spinoza, Diderot, Rousseau: all three ground their conception of individual liberty in man’s obligation to subject himself to the sovereignty of the common good.” (720) Cf. Lippmann, The Phantom Public. At a UC:A conference, I asked Prof. Israel to either declare himself a statist social democrat or to deny it, but he appeared nonplussed at my question. After reading Ayn Rand again, I could have been more confrontational.

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