YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

April 6, 2017

Are we in a revolution?

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Fascist Revolution posterIt has bugged me for a long time that “liberals” knock their conservative or Republican opponents as fascists, while reserving for themselves the white hats of sensible (i.e., moderate/centrist) reform. Similarly, some religious conservatives may equate Bolshevism, fascism, and the Enlightenment (including the science that was spawned in the modern period).

I prefer to make a distinction between the Radical and Conservative Enlightenments. In my view, the Radical Enlightenment was a product of the Scientific Revolution that could lead to either communism or to “laissez-faire capitalism,” both of which celebrated the scientific method/empiricism. Marx himself recognized this when he celebrated the American Civil War as clearing away the feudal relic of slavery. (It is worth noting that New Left scholars, influenced by black power (?), have asserted that slavery was thoroughly capitalist. Thus there was no revolution during the Lincoln administration, and all self-made men are tainted by slavery: “You didn’t build that.”)

Turn now to the “Fascist Revolution”. I view the various fascisms as counter-revolutionary, and like social democracy, meant to frustrate not only the scientific revolution, but also the bourgeois revolution that celebrated individualism understood as the search for truth, for instance, to quote Milton’s Satan, in tracing the “wayes of highest agents.” No secrets! https://clarespark.com/2012/05/24/curiosity-and-the-femme-fatalejew/.

Almost all of the postings on this website have focused on the mystical, hence backward, character of multiculturalism. The state of Mussolini sought to make “responsible” both capital and labor where the working class threatened to join the Bolshevik revolution. Similarly, “moderate” American capitalists wedded to “social responsibility” during the Great Depression have been opposed to the notion that individuality cannot exist without the marketplace of ideas—a marketplace that celebrates individual achievement. https://clarespark.com/2015/12/29/milton-friedmans-capitalism-and-freedom-1962/.

The “moderates” have been aligned with fascism since Mussolini took power, though they contrast their progressive nostrums on behalf of human rights with the authoritarian controls ferociously asserted by the fascist regimes. Of course, for “liberals” these human rights are collectivist in nature, leading to the infamous carving up of the “body politic” that individualists protest; moreover, these rights are conferred by the Leader as opposed to the biological capacities of humans.

Turn now to the Trump election. Is it or is it not a “revolution”? I queried my Facebook friends, and few agreed with me that we were in some kind of great transformation. To be sure, private property has not been attacked as was done in the earliest stages of the Bolshevik seizure of power. But was the New Deal a revolution or not? https://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/preventive-politics-and-socially-responsible-capitalists-1930s-40s/.

To the extent that big business is asserted (laissez-faire capitalism), we are once again in the realm of the bourgeois revolution. The petit-bourgeoisie (the political foundation for both Nazism and the bureaucratic collectivist New Deal) has been frustrated in its zeal for “equal opportunity”. Big business is once again on the move as they were after the American Civil War; Trotskyists will claim that we are in a neo-fascist period catering to Big Business, and they may be correct. I honestly don’t know, but I have come to believe that we are in some kind of upheaval, comparable in some respects to the big revolutions of the past.

Scientific_Revolution_-_Thinkers

Leading thinkers of the Scientific Revolution

But it is interesting that the Democratic Party (riding on the coat tails of the Roosevelt administration and its Conservative Enlightenment) is hell bent on discrediting the achievements of the President by describing him as in bed with the Russians, hence held to be anti-American.

The “progressive” claim of Trumpian neo-Fascism in this administration will have resonance with some “moderate” Republicans, though not with all conservatives.

 

March 23, 2017

Multiculturalism and the London terror attack

Khalid Masood london attackerThe London terror attack was perpetrated by Khalid Masood, an Islamic jihadist. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new essay http://www.hoover.org/research/how-counter-political-islam) raises  the question of multiculturalism: a project advanced by German Romantics (especially Herder) and their followers in the progressive movement. Multiculturalism is explicitly reactionary with respect to the (French) Enlightenment with its enlightened advocacy of science, “materialism,” and the individual’s search for truth. Whereas Herder and his followers promoted “unity” and a collectivist discourse in order to quell any such “leveling” as science (or the recovery of a hidden history) implied.

galileo-A

So the misnamed “progressives,” fearing an abundance of free thought among “ordinary” people, came up with a plausible set of substitutes for the questing individual—“toleration,” (group) “identity,” and “diversity” in the interest of the particular types of stability and cohesion that would further their pseudo-democratic rule. We may note the “progressive” predilection for Big Government as opposed to the unpredictable “marketplace of ideas.” Upwardly mobile intellectuals (with few exceptions) went along with the masque, reaching back in history for a respectable family tree, one that was distinctly counter-revolutionary. Locke (like Hobbes) was denigrated as a “possessive individualist.” (Hip historians now link John Locke to the racism they ostensibly reject, so “bourgeois”/atomizing historians should take note.)

Multiculturalism (displacing dangerously enlightened intellectual diversity) is touted as the corrective to such “bourgeois” missteps. In our zeal to correct the errors of the past, are we rehabilitating the notion of “race” but under the rubric of cultural nationalism, which we are expected to “tolerate” in the name of diversity? https://clarespark.com/2013/09/26/cultural-pluralism-vs-multiculturalism/.

multiculturalism-australia

Given the hegemony of progressivism today, it is worth emphasizing the origin and establishment of multiculturalism, over and over. Although its advocates will deny it, MC has nothing to do with tolerance, mental health, immigration, or human rights. Like the (almost) invisible Herder’s reach into current day terrorism, Multiculturalism is a reactionary protocol. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/01/02/culture-warriors-and-the-enlightenment/, or from an entirely different angle, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_multiculturalism).

August 27, 2016

“Trump can’t win”

Viking gods tattoos

Viking gods tattoos

There are people who understand the ins and outs of “politics.” Don’t expect me to match the expertise of those glued to the ever changing map of party politics. On the other hand, since I started to focus on the big picture (such as the uneven transition from pre-capitalist societies to more developed ones, or the rise of fascism and/or progressivism in the interwar period and even before that), certain patterns became evident. This blog is about the issues in the 2016 political campaign that may be too obvious for the more attentive and practiced in “political” analysis.

In no particular order:

Race and racism. While in graduate school, I occasionally confronted liberal/red faculty with the (insulting?) question: Where is structural racism in current institutions? By the time I got up the nerve to ask, the faculty apparently knew to ignore me with silence and changing the subject. (The pro-union faculty should have mentioned at least the inner city treatment of minority children, but sectarianism precluded such an obvious answer, apparent to me now but not then, despite the UCLA History Department’s public emphasis on unequal treatment: they were all in for criticizing “white supremacy,” but mostly silent about any unsavory aspect of “the labor movement.”)

So it is hardly surprising that attacking the Democrat stranglehold on “the minority vote” should meet with resistance on the part of liberals. This last week was topped off by “trading insults” by cable news (including an indignant Fox), as if the Democrat Party was not threatened by the move of Republicans to court black and brown votes in the working class. Forget the ideology of progressivism that has sought to uplift individuals and discourses  in order to pacify and co-opt ex-slaves and immigrant masses, hence the shock that Trump would correctly label the Democrat candidate in impolite lingo.

Multiculturalism. Which brings me to the all too obvious fact that both political parties indulge in collectivist discourses built on an imaginary national unity in diversity: e pluribus unum. What has happened to the dissenting individual in this mish-mash of ideologies, indulged in by “moderates” of all stripes?

patriotic tattoo/pinterest

patriotic tattoo/pinterest

The moderate men. My proudest achievement in the study of modern history was the subject of quiet repression by the ever so “fair and balanced” moderates (who would never undermine what passes for “democracy.”) Enter Fox News Channel, the “moderate” answer to media monopoly by progressives. For Fox, “fair and balanced” seems to mean gaining the maximum number of eyeballs, while seemingly not taking sides. Since the guiding men of Fox cannot be too explicit in their bogus theory of balance (what has happened to the Enlightenment project of investigating and possibly clarifying disputed facts? Oh, I remember now, the French Revolution/science inevitably lead to communism (https://clarespark.com/2010/11/06/moderate-men-falling-down/).

Though more conservatives inhabit Fox than in the competition (network television, CNN, MSNBC) Fox must not be too obviously one-sided. I have been watching their election coverage with the eyes of a skeptical historian,  and wonder if their “moderate” alternative is to allege that Trump has only the slimmest chance of winning the Presidency.

I expect this trend (at alt-Fox) to intensify between now and November 8, 2016 unless Trump should take the lead decisively.

deathtattoo

 

June 4, 2016

Multiculturalism: the missing term in the Trump ‘fiasco’

Branco cartoon in Conservative Daily News

Branco cartoon in Conservative Daily News

Time will tell if Donald J. Trump has damaged his campaign by referring to the American judge presiding over his Trump University fraud case as “Mexican.” Such prestigious Fox commentators as Charles Krauthammer have clucked over this [allegedly horrendous gaffe] without mentioning that the hyphenated Americans are primarily identified through their “ethnicity” or “race.” (“I thought I married an Italian!” says Ancestry.com, not even bothering to hyphenate Italian-American.)

Such are the wages of the phony version of assimilation known as “multiculturalism,” now hegemonic in the world thanks to the triumph of Wilsonian internationalism—the enemy of nationalism, but thanks to the Left and even “moderate conservatives”, now de rigueur in all the hip universities as a weapon against “white supremacy.” See https://clarespark.com/2011/03/28/index-to-multiculturalism-blogs/.

(Only a few internet folk nail “multiculturalism”: such as Robert Spencer and various writers for Gatestone Institute, but alas, even these learnèd writers fail to mark the contrast between the “rootless cosmopolitan” [see Stalin on Jews] and the [preferred] “rooted cosmopolitan” celebrated by German Romantics reacting to the dreaded [materialist] Enlightenment.)

Krauthammer and others on Fox might have looked into the associations of Judge Gonzalo Curiel with Hillary Clinton and her supporters in the Democratic Party, but then CK originally worked for the Carter administration (but is said to have experienced disillusion with the LBJ’s war on poverty during the 1980s). He has made his reputation as a “board certified psychiatrist”… “open to empirical evidence” but not as a footnoting, archive-sleuthing historian or political scientist.

See this apparently researched article for contrast with CK’s rejection of Trump’s alleged bigotry. http://spectator.org/rigged-the-trial-of-trump-university/. I don’t agree entirely with this article, for the so-called Left will say that it is understandable that Latino and Latina lawyers should band together on the grounds that they are “oppressed” and “marginalized.” Forget that many aspire to be hired guns on behalf of Big Government.

Such are wages of multiculturalism, which emphasizes race/ethnicity and gender, but not “class.”

Many a conservative, along with much of the Left, don’t want any workers in their clubs. So much for national unity and/or Milton Friedman.

were-different-were-the-same

February 19, 2016

Is the word “liar” un-PC?

liar-woman-lyingNumerous pundits on the Right have been stigmatizing certain candidates for calling one another “liars.” I found this startling, for in the theater of politics “anything goes.”

I have been aghast at this turn of group criticism, for in my youth, I assumed that fact-checking would be a prime responsibility of citizen-journalists and the candidates too, but I was unaware then, that “the search for truth” was considered a fool’s errand, indeed, a form of “monomania.” I blame the bad reputation that rationalism and empiricism have earned in this long period of irrationalism and the elevation of “feeling” as “freedom” over critical thought; i.e., digging into the archives with appropriate skepticism and the resuscitation of relevant contexts. https://clarespark.com/2014/05/08/index-to-blogs-on-postmodernism-and-its-spawn/.

The reason that scholars are supposed to use footnotes when challenging older versions of history harkens back to the early phases of modernity, but “postmodernism” has made the use of footnotes a bad joke, for “inter-subjectivity” and the unreliability of all “texts” fits all too snugly into multiculturalism and its “perspectivism” in which “facts” are relegated to the realm of “group facts”—indecipherable to other races, though you have to dig a bit to find that out.

Or the curious reader might consider this: an alarming number of persons, world-wide, believe in the real existence of the Devil, the Great Liar, whose antithesis is the Truth conveyed by either the Gospel or by the deity “in a better place” than “this vale of tears”; i.e., the inevitable deceptions of our earthly existence.

Of course, “everybody” knows who the greatest liars are: women and Jews. No kidding. https://clarespark.com/2014/01/16/hitler-and-the-big-lie-corrected/

British professor Simon Schama addresses a seminar entitled 'Facing the Climate Crisis' at the St James's Palace Nobel Laureate's Symposium in London, on May 27, 2009. The Symposium convenes Nobel Laureates from a variety of disciplines and world experts in climate change. AFP PHOTO/Shaun Curry/WPA POOL/AFP (Photo credit should read SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images)

SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images); found on Eddie Izzard’s AZL page

December 12, 2015

The State of the Blog (3)

zombies-historyPeriodically, I report to my readers how the blog is doing, especially in contrast with competing media that also want your eyeballs. I have noticed that the term “blog” is usually derisive, for there are millions of bloggers competing with academics and journalists, while many of the bloggers, unlike professors and writers for the major websites, lack the institutional legitimacy that makes them trustworthy.

The most important point in this blog is as follows: there is nothing I put up on the Yankee Doodle Society website that is in any way different than a paper I would present to fellow academics, or an article that I would submit to an academic publisher. Whether footnotes appear or not, they are always in my head; this does not imply that I am entirely objective, for we are all limited by life experience, preferred ideology, and our access to, and interest in, primary source materials.

Why is the blog, though relatively popular, not even more widely seen? Because “moderation” is hegemonic and my blogs have traced the mostly invisible rise of the moderate men. The New Left and the Frankfurt Institute refugees (the critical theorists) did not invent or advance the turn to culturalism in the 1930s, in tandem with the New Deal assault upon freedom and its attendant laissez-faire capitalism and so-called American “imperialism.” See for example, Barton Swaim’s WSJ review of a reissued book by Roger Scruton’s Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands, that ostensibly reveals the illegitimate domination of New Leftists and critical theorists–including Gramsci, their supposed inspiration– in the academy. What Swaim leaves out (besides the social psychologists affiliated with FDR) is the introduction of multiculturalism in the early 20th century by those intellectuals who would blot out the red specter of proletarian internationalism in favor of the “progressive” internationalism of Woodrow Wilson.  And Woodrow Wilson is currently being rehabilitated by fellow corporatist liberals, despite his well-known racism.

(For the New Deal turn to cultural history at the expense of “economic determinism” and science, see https://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/.)

We find ourselves in the early stages of an election campaign for the American presidency, horribly distracted by terrorism in France and San Bernardino, while the media establishment has kittens over the popularity of businessman and populist outsider Donald J. Trump. Currently, I am reading Milton Friedman’s popular book Capitalism and Freedom (1962), for I have exhausted myself in writing about what I already studied in graduate school and in the years following: the Melville Revival, the chief actors in the rise of cultural history and modern social psychology, the many faces of antisemitism, the founding of Israel, ongoing resistance to modernity, the various forms of fascism, and psychological warfare in general.

Stay tuned, as I find points of agreement and disagreement with the “Chicago school” of economics, and whether or not there exists a decisive international population of “moderate Muslims” who will arouse themselves to brake the (“Islamist”) jihadists among them.

November 12, 2015

The “free speech” muddle, or cherchez la femme

Student protest, Philipp Arndt photo, Business Insider

Student protest, Philipp Arndt photo, Business Insider

[The following blog is a lengthy excerpt from my unpublished ms. Eros and the Middle Manager. Footnotes not included, but note quotes from primary sources. This ms. excerpt is intended to clarify the problem of “free speech, by analyzing how recent (idealist) sociology has created a muddle where rational discourse is hard to find.] 

The New Pluralism-without-Snakes-and-Spiders, the “multicultural” condition of the postwar progressivism, is stressful for everyone.  Progressive institutions are only vaguely and intermittently committed to the no-holds-barred search for truth, while the very fact of any pluralism and relativism frighteningly destabilizes authority for the vertiginous veteran of authoritarian families.  The persons I have studied, Herman Melville, the Victorian poet James Thomson (“B.V.”), Columbia professor Raymond M. Weaver, Picasso, Hitler, Jungian psychoanalyst Henry A. Murray, Charles Olson, and other Symbolists, are all disturbed by Mother, the emblem of inscrutable modernity; it is Mother who sows confusion with mixed signals.  Melville has described such behavior in Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852), exhibiting the institutional double binds that demanded both artistic truth and corporatist order, independence and loyalty, making it impossible for him to please authority whatever he did and terrifying him with the scowl that marred the placid maternal gaze, the cloud that scudded before the sun.  For Melville, one defense against such lingering big chills was to divide people (or himself) into all good or all bad (switching objects); he patrolled the wall that prevented the sadness of his own black bile from leaking into and depressing the happy mother giving her all to the “perfectly happy” family.  It is her failure that must be denied, her secrets that must be kept to spare the already overburdened mother further suffering.

Ideally (for the Symbolists) authority should be rational and lucid: the good objects are predictable; they are not hypocrites; they would not suddenly turn on the child who valiantly has been trying to please them.  For Melville’s Ishmael it was the noble savage Queequeg who provided such a rescue; several Leninist critics have seen, not Ahab, but Queequeg and other non-whites on board the Pequod potentially leading the revolution (C.L.R. James, 1953, H. Bruce Franklin, 1978).  In the attempt to recapture an image of innocence, the Symbolist will defend the self from unfair and unmerited accusations.  Such crimes include soiling oneself in infancy or early childhood before one was physically ready to be “clean”; later, the budding scholar’s (solicited!) criticisms of illegitimate authority.  For the bewildered child/student, then, the bad object is above all the one who has switched, perhaps in retrospect seen as the peddler of false utopias (Mother the switching Jew of the Home) who encouraged her victim to let down his guard and then put him on trial for unpremeditated, unremembered, indescribable, but gruesome crimes.  In other words, here the urge to split has a rational component: It is the “liberals” who make us “crazy”; there was a different problem in families that demanded moral purity, conformity, and obedience.  Such environments were repressive in the sense that renunciations were excessive, but, theoretically at least, one conformed to a clear set of rules.  There were myths and rituals that channeled aggression away from the adorable new baby to defeat clearly defined enemies.  I use the past tense, because the localism of traditional societies has been destroyed by the penetration of cosmopolitan mass media and an expanding global market; the corrupting city, moral ambiguities in tow, has invaded the country.

The Symbolists are complaining about socialization in families or universities that seem to demand autonomy and unbounded criticism of their practices, but turn on the child/student when “difference” turns into opposition; again, opposition not to core values, but to hypocrisy, or what appear to be two sets of rules.  The frantic “paranoid” maintenance of firm, impermeable boundaries between good and evil might be understood in this context.  So might be the eagerness of radicals to defend blackened oppressed groups from distorted and hostile representations–other innocent children unfairly stigmatized by “Victorian culture” or “bourgeois morality.”  As academics, these radicals will pursue image studies and other variants of idealist sociologyBelieving that images, like “hegemonic” institutional forces, mold and stamp their victims, these radical pluralists move the furniture around to prevent wild “outbursts” from either Right or Left.  For this they are handsomely rewarded by élite universities invested in preventive politics.  The pluralists write funny:

[Maurice H. Krout outlines the province of social psychiatry, 1933-34:]  “It is concerned with the motivation of the hobo, the delinquent, the would-be-suicide, the prostitute, the drug-addict.  From the point of view of individual participation social psychiatry is interested in mass movements, viz., financial crazes, booms, migrations and rushes, panics and stampedes, war manias.  From the point of view of adjustment effected by deviate personalities it studies revivals, mob action, political campaigns, and organized gang rule.”

[Neil Smelser, Talcott Parsons’ collaborator, declares his fitness to the Harvard Society of Fellows, 1959:]  “At the present time my research interests have turned toward the field of mass behavior–those occasions on which organized human activity gives way to outbursts such as riot, panic, fad, boom, craze, hysteria, revivalism and revolutionary activity.  The aim of this study is to locate some of the determinants of these kinds of behavior in the social structure, and thereby attempt to distinguish the occasions on which one, rather than another, type of mass outburst is likely to occur.  The intended contribution of the study is to assemble much of what is known about mass behavior into a more satisfactory theoretical framework.”

The Tory biases of Krout and Smelser are obvious: for Krout, evangelical protestantism, criminality, politics, and mob action are similarly deviant.  Smelser adds revolution to the witch’s brew.

If institutional double-bind theory is more explanatory than the Krout-Smelser idealist sociology, the implications for psychological counseling would be clear: the issue for “splitting” liberals and radicals would not be owning up to one’s angry but forbidden impulses against authority, the repressed childhood memories to be retrieved in treatment so as to live with appropriately “mixed feelings” or “ambivalence.”  Probably this is the relevant problem for explicitly authoritarian families (Catholics,  evangelical Protestants, Marxist-Leninists) whose veterans have been forced to idealize authority and who may not criticize the rules, not even in fantasy.  But the more heimlich approach to splitting would recognize double-binds in pseudo-liberal institutions, the Kafka-esque worlds that may not disclose their rules until they are broken, which trap parent and child, professor and student alike, and which send some of us scurrying away from “bureaucratic domination” to “alternative” “simpler” cultures or subjectivist epistemologies or levelling S-M rituals that affirm human weakness and brutality, mocking hopes for enlightenment and universal tenderness.

We have become “self-consumer[s] of [our] woes,” tubercular addicts of the disappearing body (Schwindsuchter).  I am quoting from “I am,” by the nineteenth-century “mad” peasant poet, John Clare:

“I am–yet what I am, none cares or knows;

My friends forsake me like a memory lost:

I am the self-consumer of my woes–

They rise and vanish in oblivions host,

Like shadows in love frenzied stifled throes

And yet I am, and live–like vapours tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,

Into the living sea of waking dreams,

Where there is neither sense of life or joys,

But the vast shipwreck of my lifes esteems;

Even the dearest that I love the best

Are strange-nay, rather, stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man hath never trod

A place where woman never smiled or wept

There to abide with my Creator God,

And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,

Untroubling and untroubled where I lie

The grass below, above, the vaulted sky.”

The “mad poet” laments the abandonment of intimates who trouble him because he has troubled them: they did not wish to know him as he was, really, to himself.  He yearns for a virgin nature (his own), neither touched nor touching, where he would be neither crushed by father’s disapproval nor confused and made guilty by mother’s switching emotions.  In The Future of an Illusion, Freud did not blame the unruly masses for acting out if their societies were economically exploitative; such class societies did not deserve to exist.  Moreover, his unambiguous allegiance to scientific method deflects charges of orthodoxy and reproaches those followers who ignore institutional sources of social violence or refuse to revise psychoanalysis.  Compare both John Clare and the radical Freud to conservative Freudians and Kleinians as they explain ambivalence and violence.

Persecuting parents or their surrogates are containers of the denied and split-off (Oedipal) rage of the child; the switch from friend to fiend is what Freud meant by “the uncanny,” the heimlich object which disconcertingly becomes unheimlich; it is the return of the repressed.  In the Kleinian formulation, the loved one becomes threatening because s/he is invested with forbidden (pre-Oedipal) hostile feelings projected into her/him by the child.  As the child becomes more upset, the “angry” parent/love object appears to be more and more hostile and must be controlled; thus the troubled patient has a boundary problem, confusing the Self and Other.

The usefulness of the concept of displacement and projection is said to have been born out in clinical treatment of anxiety hysteria, phobias, obsessive-compulsive neurosis, etc., but I question its application to all violent social interactions as numerous “progressive” social psychologists analyzing the “scapegoating” of blacks by whites, Jews by Christians, and “business” by “labor” had implied in the 1930s and 1940s.  Such cultural anthropologists and social psychologists were, like Ruth Benedict, adjusting society to the New Deal and circumscribing the proto-socialist imagination while deploying Marxian language.  If gut perceptions of danger are denied, will we not doubt our grasp on reality?  Is it not also possible that the troubled patient with fluid boundaries, thus unable to differentiate the self from the parent and hence experiencing “projective identification” has not developed (or has not been allowed to develop) autonomy; has not established a boundary that protects the legitimacy of personal rights and entitlements from the assaults and confiscations of authoritarian parents or parental surrogates, primarily because the culture is premodern or covertly protofascist or fascist, i.e., its corporatist rulers view “bourgeois individualism” (a.k.a. “mechanical materialism,” the body free of original sin) as the source of vanitas, feminization and decadence; that what is really threatening about “individualism” is the stubborn notion advanced by recent “mechanical materialists” that there are social-economic antagonisms that cannot be ignored or passed off as delusional; universal facts perceivable by anyone that are not “group facts” dependent on blood, soil, and institutional context as Frederick Jackson Turner and other “materialist” social historians or “new historicists” would insist?

[A former paranoid schizophrenic diagnoses modernity and fascism:]  “Protestantism has indeed its share of responsibility for the tragic situation of today, but that responsibility is largely a result of its very successes.  It has helped to produce a new mechanized and urbanized and depersonalized world with which it is unable to cope.  Its exaltation of freedom of inquiry and freedom of trade has unlocked a Pandora’s box of uncontrollable furies.  The hope of the future, as I see it, lies in the development of the inner control of conscience which is so repugnant to Dr. Fromm and of the loyalty to that which transcends the Hitlers and Mussolinis of this war-stricken world.”

“[On persecution delusions: the paranoid fantasy contains a “kernel of truth”: the patient may experience empathy with an unconscious wish of the persecutor; also]  The ‘truth’ may also relate to the observations of events during childhood that were denied at the time.  These elements later return to consciousness distorted and magnified in an irrational, delusional form.”

“Paranoid character is the term applicable to an individual whose personality structure is dominated by marked suspiciousness, querulousness, and persistent rationalized hostility against other persons or groups.  The use of scapegoats or “enemies,” the need to ‘defend’ against a hostile world (representing externalized aggressive impulses within the individual himself), the tendency to fight excessively over minor causes (often becoming litigious), and frequent contempt for others are the traits usually observed in this disturbance.  Here the characteristic and most frequently observed defense is projection–the displacement of the individual’s unacceptable wishes and thoughts onto others, who then are felt to direct these ideas back to their source (i.e., I hate him; no, he hates me, and therefore I am justified in attacking and beating him).  This permits the rationalization of the individual’s hostility, and allows him to defend his megalomanic image and fantasies.  In spite of their pathology, however, certain paranoid characters have contributed to some of the basic systematic research in science, as well as classic works in art, music and literature.

“…No personal experience has come to light which could help to explain the intensity of Hitler’s hatred of the Jews…It is a disturbing question to consider when was the last occasion on which this man, who was responsible for the death of six million Jews, actually spoke to or met a Jew in person.  But “the Jew” as one encounters him in the pages of Mein Kampf and Hitler’s ravings bears no resemblance to flesh-and-blood human beings of Jewish descent: he is an invention of Hitler’s obsessional fantasy, a Satanic creation, expressing his need to create an object on which he could concentrate his feelings of aggression and hatred.” [The last two paragraphs from Alan Bullock, writing about Hitler.]Melissa Click

 The Kernel of Truth.  For conservative Freudians the return of the repressed marks a paranoid episode; for purposes of my argument here, reading Melville, reading myself, reading my friends, the return of the repressed may be the empirical reality that we have screened out while longing for good objects to rescue us from brutality and alienation.  In the discussion of stereotypes that follows, I do not want to be misunderstood as reinforcing the “truth” of “negative images”; rather I want to defend the common sense of “ordinary people” asking for realism; I want to criticize the tactics of recent media and curriculum reformers seeking “balance” through “positive images” rather than the thoroughgoing, unbounded pluralism that makes the achievement of more accurate histories a possibility.

Social critics (including some feminists) condemn some or all of Freud’s ideas as neurotically or opportunistically formulated, while the rough formulations of anti-Freudian, Jungian social psychologists go uncriticized.  In order to demonstrate that group prejudice is irrational, the latter postulate an entirely socially constructed “Other” and, when it suits them, they deplore “scapegoating.”  Nor is it common to decry their definitions of fascism.  It is argued that the armored fascist/authoritarian personality projects his negative identity onto the Other or Alien.  We should be very suspicious of these tactics in “left” cultural criticism.  Such analyses are not only reductive, collapsing the various fascisms of the 1920s and 1930s into one vague and ahistoric hyper-nationalism and hyper-racism, moreover conflating negative images reinforcing sexism, racism, antisemitism, homophobia, xenophobia, and class resentment into one all-purpose, “dirty” or “inferior” Alien (what an insult to protean Devils!).

The theory of “projective identification” (a name object-relations psychoanalysts use instead of scapgoating or projection) can be a victim-blaming maneuver that implicitly requests the “prejudiced” person to cleanse himself  by embracing and then incorporating the evil he attributes to others; by regressively and primitivistically merging with his real “nature”as a diversion from possible political action.  (Hence the vogue for sadomasochistic forms of eroticism as mass media bring more and more of the world’s suffering to our attention, situations begging for intervention?)  Gordon Allport and his Harvard colleague Henry Murray criticized scapegoating as irrational when the target of lower-class wrath was upper-class or member of a protected group; scapegoating was encouraged when conflict managers needed to redirect resentment away from themselves toward a common enemy to enhance “group morale” or “group cohesion” (See worksheets for their seminar in Civilian Morale, Harvard 1941).  To be awarded the blue ribbon for social responsibility, then, the tolerant citizen must believe that his common sense evaluations of stubbornly hostile others are only projections of his own inner conflicts and deficiencies: there are no real individual or group conflicts out there resistant to mediation.  Sadly, the unwary youth who falls for such corporatist liberal ruses is already marching down the road to herrenvolk democracy and fascism.

By contrast, the theorists of democracy, from Locke to Jefferson to Walter Lippmann, have argued that the senses and universal reason produce useful knowledge of the visible world.  For Enlightenment rationalists the problem lay not in necessarily deluded perception by ever-passionate People, but in the invisible world erected or blanketed by arbitrary, secretive authority.  For Lippmann, stereotypes (“the pictures in our heads”) exist where we have not first-hand experience with the faraway or sequestered; such distortions were inevitable in complex industrial societies, but could be corrected by political scientists who would serve the public interest as independent fact-finders (i.e., experts separated from the policy-making function), who would then pass on their accurate pictures of reality via newspapers to laymen and their elected representatives.  Lippmann referred only to situations where people could not encounter each other face-to-face over time.  Of course, for ordinary people today, unflattering “stereotypes” opposed by the media reformers are not confined to second-hand impressions, but are felt to be verified in everyday life; such shared perceptions have been the basis for popular humor and common sense.  The problem with such stereotypes may lie in their interpretation.

The angry, frightened “bigot” or “paranoid” imagines class, gender, racial or ethnic “character” as the primary source of threatening social evil (the bloated capitalist, the deceitful woman or “Oriental” or Jew, the lazy/violent black or brown person).  But this is a misconception: people are not born to be cunning or greedy; they respond to historically specific, systemic institutional imperatives; no one has yet demonstrated genes for troubling behavior resistant to self- or social correction.  Therefore to the extent that “negative” stereotypes are accurate, their “kernel of truth” is situational, a reflection of structural position (business or job competition, exclusion, dependency) not a typical or imperishable attribute like fallen flesh necessarily to be erased through mass death or iconoclasm, or its rage diverted into Sade’s/Gorer’s “constructive Sadism.”  So denying the validity of at least part of the cultural “stereotype” by labeling and ostracizing the frightened person as “hysterical” or “paranoid” or “racist” or “misogynist” disarms persons who need to defend themselves now against real (partly) hostile adversaries, who should not be asked to wait for the structural change (the reform or revolution) that promises relief.  The antidote to “negative” images of “The Other” is not a switch to a “positive image” or to an impossibly benign pseudo-pluralistic society, a “multicultural curriculum” curiously lacking dissenting individuals, structural antagonisms, or hierarchy.  Rather, as Lippmann insisted in 1922, we must “see the world steadily and see it whole”; to be informed of current events is not the same as knowing the truth.  We urgently require an historical analysis which reconstructs all the institutional structures and the social relations such structures necessarily call forth, precisely recording the measurable behaviors of the state, the family, the market, education, and the media.  How do these institutions legitimate authority or create and discover new knowledge?

Only after this question is answered, will we understand the opportunities and constraints within which individuals or artists are asked to make political, moral, or “aesthetic” choices in order to function and survive.  An historian might argue that moral choices are ultimately produced or limited by abstract and impersonal social property relations; hence “stereotypes” are personified or frozen (“reified”) social processes.  Crucially, our analysis should note the presence or absence of social movements offering realistic options for more humane behavior and more cultural freedom by achieving the material preconditions for universal creativity, meaningful participation in decision-making, equality and tolerance.  The longed-for “self-esteem” that upper-class reformers would bestow upon “the oppressed” comes with increasing understanding and mastery of the material world, not moralistic admonitions and glorious ancestors.

September 30, 2015

Pacifica Radio and how I achieved free speech

The day I got my Ph.D. 1993

The day I got my Ph.D. 1993

Several Facebook friends have sent me the same Guardian article claiming that the Pacifica Foundation is dying and on its last legs. That Pacifica is on its last legs may be true, but the blog is about how loose organization at the top enabled my own intellectual development and courage.

As I have mentioned in my sort of scholarly Pacifica memoir, Pacifica was a creation of corporatist liberals in coalition with such as the Ford Foundation and many Stalinists or Quakers.

Its glory days were at the height of the 1960s civil rights movement, which is when I got involved with it. From 1969 on, that decade was a happy and productive time for me, because I had my own radio program, The Sour Apple Tree, which was devoted to the internal politics of the art world, which few of the radicals then in charge knew of or cared about. These uncensored years were the happiest decade of my life, for management hardly noticed me, and I developed a following of curious listeners, many of them in the arts, academe, or even math or science.

Being connected to a diverse audience willing to put up with long, detailed interviews and an increasing number of essays (all initiated after I had started graduate school in history, 1983-1993, especially during the Bush campaign of 1988) gave me courage to strike out wherever the evidence led me, and I felt loyal to a growing, supportive, audience.

It was not until I became Program Director in 1981 that I learned that free speech at KPFK was sharply circumscribed by Stalinists whose influence till then was unnoticed by me. As I have written before, multiculturalism was enforced at all the stations shortly before I was appointed PD, and I misunderstood it, thinking it to be some kind of inclusive history with no holds barred. (The complete history is laid out in this set of links: https://clarespark.com/2010/07/04/pacifica-radio-and-the-progressive-movement/.)

I have written this very brief blog because many on the internet and Facebook believe that they are, in fact, practicing free speech. I questioned this assumption here: https://clarespark.com/2015/01/12/what-free-speech/.

Two factors enabled my political and intellectual development: lack of editing by higher ups, and connection to an audience that cared about the issues I raised. If my graduate education in US and European history was fraught with conflict and took many years, it was because I had already experienced relatively “free speech” and had no intention of regressing to the docility and ignorance that had marked my young adulthood. Loyal to my audience of autodidacts who expected me to “kick against the pricks,” I spoke up where other graduate students or faculty were silent.

In retrospect, I understand why my blog posts seem to be eccentric or ornery at times. Once you have experienced real intellectual freedom (limited only by your ignorance), you can’t go back to unquestioning deference to individuals or institutions. Luckily, I have found kindred souls (other misfits?) on Facebook and elsewhere.

The Pacifica Foundation has been ruined by underdisciplined anarchists or overdisciplined Stalinists. But I shall ever be grateful for the experiences that unleashed me before it was too late.

free-speech

July 18, 2015

Political Correctness and Chattanooga shooting

Painting by Jeff Wilkie

Painting by Jeff Wilkie

The moderate men have done it again in generally declining to investigate a precise motive for the Chattanooga shooting, while using the word “extremist” to designate their enemies on either Left or Right.

This will be a short blog, for I have beaten this horse to death, investigating the origins of political correctness in German Romanticism, the hegemony of multiculturalism (shockingly taken up by the once anti-racist Left), and the reluctance to admit to antisemitic subtexts in our political discourses. (For one example among many see https://clarespark.com/2013/07/02/groupiness-group-think-and-race/.)

In the weekend Wall Street Journal, for instance, linguistics professor at Columbia U, John McWhorter, ostensibly a neocon, writes at length about changing meanings of curse words as if they evolved, without identifiable causes. (http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-dare-you-say-that-the-evolution-of-profanity-1437168515.) What he left out in his essay was the time-tested tactic of the liberal establishment, acting in the interests of the neutral state, to promote politeness as a tactic in bringing warring factions into line, so that artful mediators could promote social harmony and their version of stability. For these liberals, offensive language only polarizes the conflict, promoting hate, not love and mutual “understanding.”*

Image by Jesse Lenz

Image by Jesse Lenz

Even Andrew McCarthy, in a National Review piece that correctly identifies the Palestinian background of Muhammad Youssuf Abdulazeez (http://www.nationalreview.com/article/421346/chattanooga-shooting-muslim-jihad-muhammad-abdulazeez), does not identify the stakes in the widespread reticence in even suggesting that international terrorism, not some radicalized “lone wolf” was responsible for the mayhem. For we cannot suggest that all Muslims might not be agreeable to peaceful co-existence. That would evade the tenets of mandatory collectivist discourses, prompting broader investigations into individual motives, and in this bogus “lone wolf” case, polluting the dominant “moderate” view that finds moral equivalence in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Social media, rightly or wrongly, has become the new facilitator of terrorism. Yet these media are our only route to dissent in the cultural monopolies staffed by the moderate men.

*In fairness to McWhorter, in his WSJ piece, he does historicize taboo expressions, brings up middle class mores, and mentioning that groups may not be stigmatized by outsiders, but he doesn’t go far enough. All we are left with is changing times, with examples of outdated naughty speech. This from an author frequently identified with the Republican “right-wing.”

McWhorter

June 19, 2015

Multiculturalism and the Charleston Massacre

RoofcapturedThe Wall Street Journal completed an editorial on June 19th, 2015 with “…the reality that evil still stalks the land.”

The notion that racism can be overcome by moralistic arguments is grotesque and misguided. What ever happened to clashes of economic interest, for instance, labor competition? Oh, I forgot, we don’t do materialism any longer. That would be too “modern.”

Instead the event has been interpreted through a medieval religious framework: Human nature is evil; this world belongs to the Devil. “Reality” is too mysterious or deceptive to penetrate—again the (lying) Devil’s work, and he is out to get us.

Entirely missing from this discourse is the assumption that “multiculturalism” (MC) is an effective remedy against “racism.” (I will use the abbreviation MC for multiculturalism in the rest of the blog.)

This entire website has been devoted to the insight that MC was a product of German Romanticism, aka German Idealism in the late eighteenth century (Loren Goldner, a leftist, warned me about it years ago, then I read the intellectual history of the concept in English translations for years, noting how the liberal establishment institutionalized MC as a weapon against “racism.” For links to prior blogs on the subject see https://clarespark.com/2013/07/02/groupiness-group-think-and-race/).

H. Strickland Constable, Harper's Weekly 1899

H. Strickland Constable, Harper’s Weekly 1899

Briefly, the collectivist notion that racially or ethnically defined groups can peacefully co-exist is an evasion of all the material considerations that actually divide groups. 19th C. “scientific racism,” supposedly transcended in the new dispensation, persists when we imagine that all whites, all Jews, all blacks, all Latinos, etc. each share a common, indivisible rootedness and world-view, incomprehensible to other groups. Nostrums such as “tolerance” or “diversity” supposedly avert conflicts that are only understood (by enlightened persons) through analyses of clashing material interests within the “collective” entity. Marxists and advocates of free market societies disagree about how to resolve such clashes, but no materialist would deny that they exist..

The better historians understand that ideology attempts to create consensus through scapegoating. Dylann Storm Roof, perhaps egged on by deteriorating “race” relations, blames blacks for “taking over the world.” This is racist ideology, pure and simple. Although family relationships should never be discounted, we don’t have to look only for mental illness specific to his family history as psychiatrist Keith Ablow declared on Hannity (March 18, 2015, the day that Fox News Channel mostly focused on the massacre made even more somber by its taking place in an historic black church). Ideologies provide the representations that feed into specific cases of mental illness.

woodrow.cooper_md

There is blatant racism, acted out by the shooter, but there is the more subtle racism inherent in MC. We are one species, and MC, the moderate (Wilsonian) solution to war and conflict, has joined other völkisch movements, in confusing well-meaning progressives with a bogus solution to hateful aggression. When the arguably racist but “internationalist” Woodrow Wilson called for “self-determination” he didn’t refer to individuals, but to the group-think/collectivism inherent in cultural nationalism (http://www.e-ir.info/2014/04/17/what-is-self-determination-using-history-to-understand-international-relations/).

MC is a mental illness (i.e., it distorts reality), and it is hegemonic in America and in the United Nations too.

photo Keith Bacongco

photo Keith Bacongco

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