YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

May 23, 2014

Gentleman’s Agreement, Remains of the Day, “professionalism” and “prejudice”

tabudergerechten Who defines professionalism nowadays? In Melville’s The Confidence-Man (1857), “the Man from Missouri” casts a jaundiced eye on the soporifics offered by the herb-doctor. Should we not be equally skeptical? Should we not be more aware of elite resistance to modernity, a modernity that has elevated and emancipated ordinary people, including Jews, women, and labor from the “professionalism” that turns out to be yet another variant of servitude to the ambitions of arbitrary and irresponsible elites? Where are the social justice warriors when you need them?

After seeing the much-admired movie Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), I was curious to see how it might have departed from the best-selling novel. It turned out that Moss Hart’s screenplay stuck very close to the Hobson novel; moreover, both novelist and playwright were the children of Jewish immigrants; both married non-Jews, and Wikipedia reports that Hobson’s parents were socialists, while silent on Hart’s parents who are described simply as “English-born.”

It is worth noting that Hobson’s novel, like the movie, gets off to an agonizingly slow start as the hero, Phil Green, searches for an “angle” that will help him avoid the boredom of statistics and worked-over arguments regarding the Jewish problem. So, remembering that he had pretended to be of the working class in prior magazine exposés, in a Eureka! moment he decides to assume a Jewish identity. He is stunned and infuriated by the rejections he experiences and goes on to write a masterpiece of journalistic guilt-instilling that even converts his now-and- then genteel girlfriend away from silent disapproval to “action” in confronting “prejudice”. (Was this an anticipation of “the action faction” of the New Left?)

Both novel and movie carried the same theme: antisemitism was a “prejudice” that was decidedly un-Christian. Such class disdain for “the Jews” interfered with the tolerance advocated by the Founders of the US, and with the internationalism promoted by FDR and his progressive supporters. Hobson’s novel paired anti-Negro racism with antisemitism as if they were variants on the same theme. I wonder if her parents were communists in the 1930s, because the CPUSA famously opposed both antisemitism and racism during the Depression, blaming such Nazi-like appeals to the mob on Republicans. Whatever Hobson’s motives might have been, she brought up, but was non-committal on the hairy question of Zionism and Palestine, a hot and controversial subject while she was writing her big interventionist and daring book. Such identification of “prejudice” with intolerance was an effective strategy for assimilating Jews for it cleared the way for “socially responsible capitalism” and later, the notion of hate speech and political correctness in order to assuage social conflict.

Then I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s postmodern tour de force The Remains of the Day. Like Gentleman’s Agreement, the screenplay stuck fairly close to the letter and spirit of the novel (though it made “Miss Kenton” somewhat anarchistic, a departure from the novel) , and like Hobson’s novel, brought up the question of antisemitism in the British upper-classes (especially in the “Cliveden Set”, manifested in their misguided sympathy with the Germans: “gentlemen” do not abuse a defeated nation, and the Versailles treaty was un-sportsman like.

Powderham Castle/Darlington Hall

Powderham Castle/Darlington Hall

What I have written so far is easily gleaned by the attentive viewer and reader of these important works of art, but they do not address the theme of “professionalism” – a word that is repeated over and over in Ishiguro’s novel. Moreover, the theme of “professionalization” is one major focus of cultural histories that take on the trendy theme of “institutionalization.” What these studies leave out is the observation that hierarchies breed deceit, arguably the theme of Melville’s “Billy Budd.” Postmodernist critics (academics) who have praised Ishiguro’s skillfully wrought novel do not bring up the problem so obviously tormenting “Stevens” the butler of Darlington Hall, perhaps because such an emphasis would cast doubt on their internalized allegiance to their own masters.

This morning’s NPR offering waxed indignant over the Koch brother’s alleged control of economics and related fields in the University of South Florida’s colleges. It was suggested that without such “conservative” bribes, there would be no crisis of objectivity in the university system, as if today’s pacifying postmodern professoriate in the humanities adhered to the search for truth. Click on the illustration below and see what standards evaluate today’s “professionals.”


Among the sources consulted:


May 17, 2014

Miracle Man Ralph Bunche saves the UN

Bunche and Count Bernadotte, 1949

Bunche and Count Bernadotte, 1948

My Bunche notes from UCLA Special Collections, suggest revisions of Sir Brian Urquhart’s Bunche biography and my own previous work on Bunche and his politics. Though a leftist in the 1930s, as he climbed the ladder, Bunche became a perfect social democrat and supporter of an FDR-type welfare state. The far Right Bunche critics are probably wrong to have labeled Bunche as a lifelong subversive. They underestimate his careerism, ambition, and opportunism. If he had a hidden agenda (made more overt in the Congo-Katanga episode), we have no proof as long as his letters to his wife remain sealed. Why are these letters off limits? (Could it be that he told his spouse that he was a member of a communist group?) (Further examination of his diaries and memoranda could buttress his identity as materialist: in his 1938-39 memoranda to Gunnar Myrdal, both men mocked the notion that better communication would solve group antagonisms: OTOH while at the UN Bunche preached that “discussions” led by mediators such as himself could bring about peace; even the Cold War could be ended.) (For a later blog with a slightly different emphasis see https://clarespark.com/2014/06/18/how-ralph-bunche-sold-out-and-failed-in-palestine/.)

Recent scholars who have emphasized the split between US and UK interests and ideologies, do not acknowledge that both countries wanted to prevent the Soviet Union from making inroads in the Middle East. Both countries viewed the Jews as materialistic and hence real or potential communists. Both countries wanted to protect their oil and strategic interests in the region.

The point of the UN negotiations (ostensibly to stop the fighting that erupted after the November 29, 1947 UN vote that created a partition in Palestine), was to protect Arab elites from spectral and real mass uprisings. Moreover, the “Palestine problem” was not about two peoples fighting irrationally over a small piece of land. But rather, the quarrel was about the clash of civilizations: Israel was to be a modern country, while the Arab states were economically, politically, and culturally backward. This was widely recognized at the time by modernizing visitors, but ignored in the subsequent academic literature. Rather, such groups as the Anti-Defamation League have framed “the Jewish problem” as a form of “prejudice”–a flaw that can be corrected with a change of heart. Such experts in social relations do not acknowledge that the 19th century witnessed the growing emancipation of women, Jews, labor, and ordinary people calling forth objections from displaced elites. That is why I have emphasized the transition from pre-capitalist to capitalist society as predictably violent and filled with turmoil, no matter how astutely “managed” by “mediators.”

Before the armistice talks in 1949, Freda Kirchwey and Lillie Shultz of The Nation Institute accused Count Bernadotte and Bunche of being agents for the UK, and they were probably correct—at least both men catered to UK interests. Some historians (e.g., Sidney Bailey How Wars End: bizarre title implies that wars do end with proper mediation) have covered up the visit of McClintock (US State Department) and Troutbeck (UK) to Bunche and Bernadotte three days before the assassination. The result: most of the Negev was to be awarded to Egypt (? and indirectly to UK?), and taken away from the area established in the partition resolution of the UN Nov.29, 1937. But then, CB and Bunche viewed that resolution (hated by Bevin) as a dead letter anyway. It has long been my view that the UK never intended to give up the Mandate, for the Negev was to be an air base and storage space for the weapons previously parked in Egypt.

These pages also verify my memory that Bunche and his supporters blamed all Jews for the Bernadotte assassination, directly or indirectly. All Jews are terrorists, he implied: Even the Israeli moderates in the Jewish Agency and then the Provisional Government of Israel should not have blamed the UN for partiality toward Arab interests. Hence they are terrorists too and are responsible for the “extremists” who shot Bernadotte.

There is also disagreement over security for Bernadotte. Dov Joseph, Mayor of Jerusalem, claimed that CB refused Jewish security because he didn’t want to be spied upon, but UN flaks deny this, and claim (without evidence) that Jews refused to protect the truly neutral CB; in this fable, the Jews were alleging that CB favored Arabs. My notes do indicate that Bunche wrote the Bernadotte plans, and suggest the reason that he did not accompany CB on his fatal Jerusalem survey: Bunche was completing the revised CB plan that took away most of the Negev from Jews, following the instructions he received from McClintock and Troutbeck in their secret September 14 meeting. (Bernadotte was assassinated on Sept. 17.)

Of all the elements of anti-Semitism through the ages, the most relevant for Israel’s founding are Jews as liars and haters (as opposed to “neutral” peace-loving UN, Bernadotte, and Bunche). If there is such thing as forbidden knowledge, these papers are it.

[Anti-Zionists] argued that the Bernadotte assassination proved that Israel was not ready to be a sovereign state.

Christian antisemitism was deployed by Bunche in wake of Bernadotte assassination. CB presented as a self-sacrificing friend to all humanity (a Christ- type, like the UN itself), while crucified by the Jews (all of whom turn out to be terrorists, ignoring the sharp differences between moderate PGI and militant Irgun and anti-imperialist Stern Gang, the latter a breakaway movement and small.) This trope is repeated over and over in post-assassination media coverage.(compare to Wiki entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folke_Bernadotte) This mentions British and US influence on content of Bernadotte plan, but claims no one knows details. Wiki does mention Negev to be given to “Arab territory” but does not specify which Arab State would benefit. It appeared to have been Egypt.)

The UCLA National Center for History in the Schools produced a [blatantly pro-Palestinian, pro-UN] 180 page “lesson plan” for grades 9-12 that implies Bunche was a superb and impartial negotiator, but the record shows that US and UK were determined to impose a settlement based on their (divergent) interests, not Jewish interests. NEVER. But the idea of conflict resolution must be defended by moderates at all costs, so these materials go generally unanalyzed. They follow the Arab elite narrative: Palestinian Arab farmers were uprooted and expelled by heartless, displaced-persons-obsessed, deracinated Jews.

Jews in PGI understand that Bunche’s main objective is to vindicate himself as successful Peace mediator. Many letters in Bunche papers criticize him for antisemitism (but from outsiders, not from PGI). Bunche insists that Bernadotte plans meant as negotiating positions, not imposed settlement.
Above all, Bunche (and his staff, who knew almost nothing about Jews, the Middle East, and the Holocaust before they arrived with Bernadotte on the UN mission) wanted to vindicate the UN (then a new organization) as a successful actor on the world stage. His aim was to show that conflict resolution in the hands of a skillful mediator could serve the cause of world peace.


May 15, 2013

Who is Barack Obama?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:41 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Moderation taught here

Moderation taught here

My most popular blogs have dealt with the enigma of POTUS, with a consensus among many of my readers that he is a narcissist, possibly of the most malignant and incurable variety. This blog makes the claim that Obama’s personality is the wrong focus of attention. We do better to look at the incoherence of the base that elected him, and what is the bond that links him to such disparate sectors of the electorate, ranging from Wall Street liberals, Hollywood moguls and celebrities, teachers unions, the AFL-CIO, youth culture, environmentalists, and “racial” minorities, including liberal Jews still tied to the New Deal embraced by their parents. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/04/06/diagnosing-potus/ and https://clarespark.com/2010/04/05/is-potus-crazy/.)

Moreover, there is wide difference among both supporters and critics as to his “real” politics: Is he a stealth Leninist, a crypto-Muslim with jihadist sympathies, a liberal internationalist in the Wilsonian tradition, or a traditional Democratic Party centrist (the latter a diagnosis by disgusted Leftists and populists who hoped for a more radical, anti-imperialist agenda)?

Mental health professionals and cultural historians have (perhaps) unwittingly aided the current focus on personality disorders, especially with the proposed revision of DSM-IV in the news during the last year. (On the theoretical foundations of the DSM manuals see https://clarespark.com/2012/12/09/neurotic-vs-objective-anxiety-dsm-iv-and-beyond/. Also “identity politics” as promoted by social democrats.) That and the popularity of mental health and relationship advice on radio and television have taken the voting public into private space at the expense of a broader and more appropriate education in political and economic theory, about which the general public is ignorant, thanks to decades of indoctrination in schools and universities regarding remaking ourselves so that we are wiped clean of “prejudice” toward “the Other.” Such a purification ritual has served some social movements and their upwardly mobile adherents, but destroyed our critical faculties.

The questions we should be addressing are these: why are so many American voters glued to celebrity culture, including pundits of either major political party? Why are the public schools so awful in urban ghettoes, and who made them that way? Why has public speech deteriorated to the point where the English language has been ground down to such exclamations as “awesome”! “amazing”! “cool”! No tribe of grunting savages in the prehistoric ages of our species could have survived with such a limited vocabulary. If we taught Shakespeare today, would students even be able to read him with comprehension? Or a plot summary, even? Meanwhile, my blogs, deliberately written to a non-academic audience, are often deemed to be “over the heads” of many readers.

To answer the question posed in the title of this blog: we cannot look into the heart of Barack Obama. We are not psychoanalysts who have treated him for many years, with accurate information about his childhood and the many traumas he may or may not have endured. But we can look into his social policies, and evaluate their content and efficacy. These fail on the grounds of intelligibility and effectiveness. Both our economy and our safety as Americans are on the table.  Yet “moderates” in both parties urge us not to get over excited or too “extreme;” rather, find your “community” and cuddle up with it, no matter how incoherent or internally divided on major issues the “members” may be. (I am thinking specifically of Charles Krauthammer and Bill O’Reilly, who yesterday advised their viewers on Fox  to lay off POTUS and Hillary Clinton until “facts” on such matters as the AP scandal are uncovered.)

I would be happier with “the moderate men” if they refrained from cooling us out, and departed from the safety of their cliques inside the Washington DC Beltway. They won’t of course, for they are paid handsomely for their services to the status quo, specifically to the ideal of the neutral state, and of the notions of “healing” and “closure.” (See https://clarespark.com/2010/11/06/moderate-men-falling-down/.)

We are in terrible trouble, and have no one but ourselves to rely upon. We still have the internet and social media. These must be protected above all else, whatever our politics. The republic will stand or fall depending on our defense of free and inquisitive communication, let the chips fall…. (For a follow-up blog see https://clarespark.com/2013/05/16/divide-et-impera/.)

October 11, 2012

May 26, 2011

Who is a racist now?

Antique Japanese Swords

Following are two prior blogs and a bill that is before the California legislature that would further mandate the multicultural teaching of history in California schools. It is recommended that you consult them either before or after reading this new blog.




During the early 1970s, a complaint was made to the Pacifica Foundation’s local advisory board regarding one of my collages for The Sour Apple Tree (my weekly program on the politics of culture). The complaint objected to the mocking of Asian-Americans because an actor had improvised an allegedly offensive riff on the subject of Japanese swords, which were then on exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  In my ignorance, I thought that it was bizarre to aestheticize a weapon, no matter how beautifully crafted.

But what did I know? The age of political correctness was upon us, and any organized group of angry ethnics or “races” could make trouble if the media were not relaying “positive” images of their group. Here was the triumph of “identity politics” in all its manifestations. Disappeared were the material facts and institutional structures and practices (including ideals) that made history.

The identity politics lobby, following the precepts of German Idealist epistemology, argued that language and images were constitutive of “reality” and that prior racisms and discrimination could be erased through the presentation of “strong” “role-models” in the schools and media.  Or, following the lead of earlier opponents of “prejudice,” if there was a bad person of color,there must be a good person of color in order to achieve “balance,” and as my dissertation director Alex Saxton used to say, that “good” minority group member was in league with the [fascist] ruling whites. The “bad” [black, red, or yellow] man was ipso facto someone to be admired for his defiance. Enter the criminal as hero and the romantic identification with rebels of color, the badder the better.

As I have written here before, the advent of social history in the hands of populist-progressives, the Stalinist Left and then the New Left of the 1960s, displaced from the curriculum the record of  actual decision makers of history (say the statesmen and generals studied by von Ranke), for these were now prejudice-tainted “literary sources” who covered their tracks, lying even to their personal diaries. The obvious populism of this move was not a departure from the practices of the “consciousness industry,” for it had always been directed to its mass audience, which had buttons to be pushed—class resentment, a suspicion of Wall Street and bankers, and of competing savages (including the wild man within)–and the designated monsters were standing athwart the path to upward mobility.

I have traced on this website the German Romantic influences that led progressives to adopt their collectivist lingo as part of their view that “national character” could be ascribed to every race or nation.  That this “cultural nationalism” was racialist in its very conception is not widely seen, and it now rules the anti-imperialist Left and the school curricula in California and other states.  The U.S.A., rather than being an exemplar of equality before the law, self-correction and (in its Puritan origins) republican simplicity, became conflated with the most vicious totalitarian societies or with the rigid war-crazed aristocracies of the Old World. For these racist “anti-racists”, there are no boundaries between past and present: the achievements of Freud and Einstein are supposed to shed their grace on me, but such ancestor worship does not help me master life skills. In spite of “Jewish” triumphs in psychology and physics, the rampaging White Man continues to infect and infest all “peoples of color,” and if we look very closely, we can often detect a Jewish nose, dragon claws, and a tail upon that oppressor.

August 22, 2009

Left-liberal social psychologists and “civilian morale” at Harvard

pop culture paradise

pop culture paradise

[This blog should be read along with another book excerpt, https://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/preventive-politics-and-socially-responsible-capitalists-1930s-40s/ for equally determined elite initiatives to improve “social cohesion” at the expense of critical thought.]

One internet journal pitched to educators, Inside Higher Ed (see Scott McLemee, August 19, 2009),  has resuscitated the fascinating book by Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman, Prophets of Deceit, a guide to the tricks of  right-wing agitators. I suppose that political scientists of the center-Left admire this book, and I enjoyed it too when I read it years ago, twice. But it is hailed by McLemee (though it was published in 1949) as an attack avant la lettre on the tactics of conservative spokespeople in the media (with Glenn Beck as chief example), alleging that racist demagogues of the Father Coughlin stripe are at large and duping the electorate in order to massacre “health care reform.”

   To pin “sykewar” on “the Right” as if “progressives” had not been practicing their own style of mind-management is to ignore the historical record. While I was studying the social psychologists and propagandists who had played leading roles in the Melville revival between the wars, I found materials in the Harvard University Archives that were so startling that even my jaded dissertation committee at UCLA was shocked. So I am putting an excerpt from the second chapter of Hunting Captain Ahab on the blog to warn the Sparkists not to trust politicians and their academic supporters without the most scrupulous and detailed investigations of their rhetoric, claims, and sources. The sociologists, psychologists, and political scientists I studied included Talcott Parsons, Henry A. Murray, Gordon Allport, and Harold Lasswell. A slightly revised excerpt from my second chapter follows, and this is only a tiny sample of the horrors I found in my research. (Footnotes not included).

[From Hunting Captain Ahab:] According to the Kleinian psychoanalytic theory of “projective identification” the self projects forbidden aggression into an external object which must be controlled. In the case of the upwardly mobile middle class, their (contemptible) will to power is supposedly projected upon the Jews. Stubborn adherence to non-dualisms was identified with scapegoating, obviously a bad thing for mental health. Social psychologist Gordon Allport denounced group prejudice in his frequently reprinted Freedom Pamphlet of 1948, The ABC’s of Scapegoating. Allport advised Americans to adjust to pluralism by looking inside to check their “moral cancer” (7). Whites should stop scapegoating blacks, Christians should stop scapegoating Jews, “labor” should stop scapegoating “the spokesmen for ‘business’ ” (like Allport?), and conservatives should stop confusing liberals with communists by scapegoating FDR (26). Allport’s pamphlet is illuminated by comparison with the worksheets he earlier devised with Dr. Henry A. Murray for the Harvard seminar Psychological Problems in Morale (1941), meant to be disseminated to “private organizations” throughout the nation. As part of the Harvard Defense Council, the seminar was to be “an important component in a general program of coordinated research.” The materials for the course consisted of one short red-bound typescript, and numerous stapled worksheets, each methodically dealing with some aspect of propaganda, including a summary of Hitler’s personality and psychodynamics that would inform counter-propaganda. Hitler’s duplicity, irrationality and contempt for the masses was constantly compared with American rationality, which oddly enough, was derived from the protofascist and irrationalist social theorist, Vilfredo Pareto.

     In worksheet #4, “Determinants of Good and Bad Morale,” the authors outlined “aggressive needs in group coherence.” First, there must be “outlets for grievances”: “Provision for the free expression of opinion improves morale.” Second, “scapegoat outlets” were another aid to good morale:
     “The direction of aggression against a subversive minority group may reduce tensions, and will be least disruptive if the scapegoat group is one which is in conflict with the total group in respect of major immediate aims. Aggression had better be directed against the external enemy, but if this is frustrated, or the group becomes apathetic, the subversive minority group may improve morale by either (1) reducing frustrated tensions of aggression or (2) reawakening aggression, or (3) displacing aggression away from intra-group aggression, or (4) displacing aggression away from the leaders of the group, if and when reversed [sic] are suffered (p.8).” [The worksheets are vague about what “subversive minority group” is meant. Could it be “the Jews”? For instance, Keynes once wrote in a letter complaining about the terms of the postwar loan from the U.S. to Britain, and referring to Truman’s “Jewish economic advisers (who, like many Jews, are either Nazi or Communist at heart and have no notion of how the British commonwealth was founded or is sustained)….” (Skidelsky bio of Keynes, Vol. 3, p.445) In other words, despite Allport’s pamphlet skewering “scapegoating in  1948,” only a few years earlier, expediency virtuously demanded that such techniques were appropriate in the interest of a national consensus. Given the widespread impression that Jews were always subversive, no matter what their social class, my conjecture is not unwarranted. Added, 8-22-09]

   I am suggesting that the ahistoric, irrationalist concept of “scapegoating” or “negative identity” cannot explain “prejudice”; rather, the pluralists are admitting there is no basis for unity in class societies whose politics are organized around national or ethnic “peaceful competition.” If the only unity is found in differing groups worshipping one “ideal self” (or artwork, which will, in practice, be designated by at least one segment of the elite), then the bad individualist like Melville will be attacked. Thou shalt not question the good parent’s benevolence or the possibility of “group adjustment” by reconfiguring the social structure along materialist, i.e., “Jacobin” lines. As Sartre noted in his wartime essay Anti-Semite and Jew, German unity was forged solely in the common project to remove the social irritant that prevented natural harmony. This “prejudice” against the Jewish intellect and its sulking reverence, so corrosive to “natural” family bonds, was specific to a pluralist society whose objective divisions could not be overcome without some measure of institutional transformation. The rooted cosmopolitanism of the moderate men, by definition masking class and gender conflicts with the bizarre notion of competing, yet peacefully co-existing, mutually adapting ethnic groups, is thus deceptive and discredits all science: its “pluralism” and “tolerance” attack the moral individual seeking common ground by straying outside the boundaries set by elites. In the case of the Murray-Allport worksheets, those limits were scientistically delineated; the Jeffersonian tradition was co-opted and redefined in the indispensable “Values of the Past”:

      “The more awareness there is of the group’s heroic past the better the morale. (Freedom from Old World Oppression, Jeffersonian Democracy, etc.) The more awareness of a national tradition of which the group is ashamed or guilty, the worse the morale…The slogan “Make The World Safe For Democracy” was anchored neither in the historical past or future. A durable morale must be historically anchored in the past and in the future, as well as in the present (Worksheet #4, 4, 5).”

     So much for the messianic republican mission and Wilsonian Progressivism. The ever-questioning, self-critical temper of the Enlightenment, the very Head and Heart of the libertarian eighteenth century, could only lead to bad morale. Although the authors had discarded the Wilsonian project, they went on to say that racial or economic discrimination were bad for morale, that there could be no doubt about the prospects for a better postwar world. A hodge-podge of factors: “communism, fascism, economic chaos, depression, or uncertainty,” all would impair morale (6). Peace aims were suggested: an International Police Force would ensure that “There will be a better distribution of the goods of the earth; all classes will be benefited” (Red-bound typescript, 13). But war aims must remain vague, for we were a “pluralist society,” not a “unified society”; there were different strokes for different folks: “Disparities of statements shouldn’t be too obvious or made visible (#4, 7).”

[compare with this excerpt from another essay of mine, describing the Bunche-Myrdal dispute: “…wise progressive planning and foresight, included the sighting of threats to order, and was reiterated in a Q. and A. booklet from the Office of War Information, “What Do Students Do In The War and After” (numbered M-3227,  slipped into the Ideologies volume in the Bunche Papers at UCLA, though not bound). On page 8 the Committee for Economic Development [business leaders adopting Keynesian economic policies, created in 1942, C.S.] is mentioned as promising “maximum employment and high productivity” after the war. Page 9 quotes Ambassador Winant in a speech to English miners: “Anti-Fascism is not a short term military job. It was bred in poverty and unemployment. To crush Fascism at its roots we must crush depression. We must solemnly resolve that in the future we will not tolerate the economic evils which breed poverty and war. This is not something that we solve for the duration. It is part of the war.”  Page 10 announces “There is a growing sense of social responsibility among business leaders and a wide-spread acceptance of the inescapable duty of business to maintain full production and continuous employment to maintain the purchasing power upon which prosperity depends.” Page 11 ff., states that the curricula for history, the social sciences and the liberal arts will be revised and adjusted accordingly: Education must stress science, interpersonal human relations, and international affairs, the “larger world of other peoples and other cultures with whom we must collaborate in establishing world order.” [end, excerpt from my essay on Bunche-Myrdal interactions]

    Properly guided we would be historically anchored in promises of abundance and an illusion of unity, yet we were not fascists. The section “General Attitudes Toward Leaders” anticipated the criticism that American propaganda duplicated Nazi methods. First the authors warned “the less the faith in sources of information, the worse the morale.” The next item suggested “Linking of Present Leader to the Idealized Leaders of the Past”:

     “The more the present leader is seen as continuing in the footsteps of the great idealized leaders of the past, the better the morale. (Picture of Roosevelt between Washington and Lincoln would encourage this identification.) The more the present leader is seen as falling short of the stature of the great idealized leaders of the past, the worse the identification (11).”

    “By effective leadership the group’s latent communality may emerge through identification with the leader. If this smacks of the Führer-Prinzip, we would insist that identification is a process common to all societies, and that what distinguishes the democratic leadership from the Nazi leadership is not the process of identification but the content of what is identified with. It is the function of the democratic leader to inspire confidence in the democratic way of life, in its value for the individual or the society and not mere identification with his person, or the mythical Volk (16).”

    For the tolerant materialists Murray and Allport, as with David Hume before them, there is no foreordained clash between individuals and institutions, no economic relationships to undermine altruism and benevolence: man is naturally communal and “society” as a coherent entity, a collective subject, actually exists. The good leader is neither autocratic nor corrupt, “does not waver, is not self-seeking, is impartial, accepts good criticism” (#4, 10). As we have seen, tolerance, i.e., criticism of leadership, had its limits. Jefferson’s legacy had to be reinterpreted because critical support of political institutions in the Lockean-Jeffersonian-Freudian mode is not identical with “identification,” an unconscious process whereby primitive emotions of early childhood are transferred to all authority, coloring our ‘rational’ choices and judgments. Only the most rigorous and ongoing demystification and precise structural analysis (with no government secrets) could maintain institutional legitimacy for political theorists in the libertarian tradition, but, for the moderates, such claims to accurate readings as a prelude to reform were the sticky residue of the regicides.
And where is the boundary between good and bad criticism? Alas, just as Martin Dies had suggested that the poor should tolerate the rich, Murray and Allport advised Americans to tolerate (or forget) “Failure in the Nation’s Past.” We must do better, of course.

    The worksheet continues, recommending that traditional American evangelicalism embrace the disaffected, for there may be moderate enthusiasts in the new dispensation:

   “The submerging of the individual in enthusiastic team work is not altogether foreign to the American temper. This means Jews, the “lower” classes, the draftees, labor unions, and so on. It cannot be done by fiat, but the inequalities might be mitigated if not removed, so that otherwise apathetic groups would feel a stake in the defense of the country, and the middle and upper classes more aware of the meaning of democracy (16).”

    These latter remarks were intended to answer the question Murray and Allport had posed at the beginning of their book: “Certain themes in Axis propaganda are continually stressed, notably the self-righteousness and hypocrisy of the democracies in general and of the U.S. (and President Roosevelt) in particular. What’s to be done about it?” (4). Virtually the entire postwar program of conservative reform was foreshadowed in these pages. As formulated in the mid-nineteenth century, abolitionist and working-class demands for universal education, equal rights, and enforcement of the Constitution would be redirected into the quotas of affirmative action or multiculturalism. In worksheet #17, “Long Term Aspects of Democratic Morale Building,” a program of integration and deferential politeness would rearrange the American people’s community:

   “…far from ignoring or suppressing diversities of intelligence, the objective of democratic morale-building should be their conscious integration into an improving collective opinion. The techniques of such integration exist. They are inherent in the democratic tradition of tolerance and the democratic custom of free discussion. They exist, however, in outline rather than in any ultimate or perhaps even very high state of development (4). [Quoting Gordon Allport:]…Our pressure groups are loud, their protests vehement and our method of electioneering bitter and sometimes vicious. In the process of becoming self-reliant Americans have lost respect, docility, and trust in relation to their leaders. Our habit of unbridled criticism, though defended as a basic right, brings only a scant sense of security to ourselves in an emergency, and actively benefits the enemies of the nation (5).”

    And one such source of insecurity (i.e., subversion) was anti-war education and pacifism: “insofar as the disapproval of war was based on a rejection of imperialist patriotism, it engendered war-cynicism” (Red-bound typescript, 4). In other words, Murray and Allport were admitting that involvement in the war could not be legitimated as an anti-imperialist intervention, nor could there be any other appeal to reason. Leaders, past and present, would have to be idealized; all criticism bridled in the interest of “integration.” The disaffected should moderate their demands, settling for mitigation, not relief. And if, despite the neo-Progressive prescriptions, the road to national unity remained rocky, scapegoating, properly guided by social scientific principles, would certainly deflect aggression away from ruling groups.

[Ernest Kalibala, graduate student in the Harvard Department of Sociology, to Ralph J. Bunche, 30 August 1943:] “Our University is now in the hands of reactionaries. ”

   The famous Harvard Report General Education in a Free Society (1945) addressed the “explosive growth” of high schools populated by the working-class. Fellow-feeling, common ground and common standards as conceived in traditional culture would bind potentially wayward youth, protecting them from the atomizing society made even more divisive and menacing by the baleful influence of mass media. Moreover the Murray-Allport (depoliticized, irrationalist) interpretation of mass politics informed their efforts: youth revolts were exacerbated by “extreme skepticism.” The Report asked “How far should we go in the direction of the open mind? Especially after the first World War, liberals were sometimes too distrustful of enthusiasm and were inclined to abstain from committing themselves as though there were something foolish, even shameful in belief. Yet especially with youth, which is ardent and enthusiastic, open-mindedness without belief is apt to lead to the opposite extreme of fanaticism. We can all perhaps recall young people of our acquaintance who from a position of extreme skepticism, and indeed because of that position, fell an easy prey to fanatical gospels. It seems that nature abhors an intellectual vacuum. A measure of belief is necessary in order to preserve the quality of the open mind. If toleration is not to become nihilism, if conviction is not to become dogmatism, if criticism is not to become cynicism, each must have something of the other.”

   Like the rest of the Report, this statement co-opts the language of enlightenment, but whenever it gets down to cases, actually mentioning writers and documents, those “landmarks” or critical methods of the Western heritage that point to possible irreconcilable structural conflicts are missing. The double bind operating at Columbia University in 1917 was in full force: there shall be no contradiction between “belief” and the open mind.

   Harvard has not gone out of its way to publicize the Allport-Murray contribution to “civilian morale.” In a 1995 exhibition of photographs celebrating Harvard’s participation in the war effort mounted near the entrance to Harvard University Archives, neither Murray nor Allport was represented. Similarly, the Fall 1995 issue of Harvard Magazine featured “Harvard in World War II,” but omitted their role in psychological warfare at home: Gordon Allport was mentioned once in connection with army propaganda and Murray was invisible, while rationales for American involvement described a fight for “liberty,” not democracy. [end, excerpt from chapter two, Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, Kent State UP, 2001, paperback rev.ed. 2006]

German poster WW1

German poster WW1

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.