YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

November 13, 2016

Apocalypse now

Apocalypse Kingofwallpapers.com

Apocalypse: Kingofwallpapers.com

This blog is about the requirement to understand the socially-induced misconceptions of the protesters, including the destructive anarchists among them.

I have changed my mind about the election blog I would write, partly because I have seen the conservative responses written by many of my Facebook friends, which roundly criticize the protesters.

Indeed, my first response was to post a message from Jenny, one of my daughters: “I know many are mourning, crying, and panicked over the election results, a reaction to which I honestly cannot relate, but let people feel their feelings, I say. I cannot understand and find totally irresponsible, however, parents who have demonized the president elect, making their children believe he is a bad man and will hurt them and our world. Children need to feel secure and confident in order to grow into happy and successful adults. Shame on parents who feed their children unfounded ideas which then make them feel unsafe. This country is home to citizens and their families with a vast spectrum of valid values and beliefs. We can’t get our way all of the time. Liberals had eight years to get it right and now it’s time to take a different approach. Let us not put our children in the crossfire while battling different opinions. Oh, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we all act like grownups—inform ourselves, work to make ourselves and the world better, and be an example to the children of how to move forward in a constructive, generous, and faithful way. Let us leave tantrums to the two-year- olds.”(end of Jenny’s post-election comment.)

I agree with this analysis, but I also see the results of a partisan education outside the family, that has thwarted the political education of the youthful protesters, even the violent ones among them. This partisan education is also a form of child abuse that should be more widely recognized. (And Jenny concurs, noting that her comment was only one thread among many.)

The protesters (including the anarchists) are a product of an education that has left them terrified. In no particular order, these are the deficiencies that have fueled their panic (this fear of annihilation was brought to my attention by my daughter Rachel). In no particular order:

  1. The notion that the Democrat Party is left-wing. It is common for many conservatives to view “the Left” as if they are all communists, ignoring the obvious fact that Democrats/progressives have co-opted and neutralized the demands of revolutionary socialists: i.e., the radical demands of the 19th and early 20th century labor movements for worker control of production.
  2. The notion that identity politics/multiculturalism is a radical innovation, and is similarly communist-inspired. Indeed, it is another example of co-optation and neutralization, substituting “race” and “ethnicity” for class interest. Here came the notion of “political correctness” that Trump appears to have violated, leaving the masses unprotected from “racist” and “sexist” conservatives.
  3. The notion that the Constitution protected “white supremacy.” Again, this is context-ignoring factor. It is true that the Constitution was a compromise between Northern and Southern slaveholding elites, but that was dramatically changed by the Civil War and the social movements it spawned. Again, the progressives were aristocratic and racist, though this is too obvious a distinction for the “tenured radicals” controlling education today. Although progressives claim the mantle of science, balance, and enlightenment for themselves, in their zeal for the social relationships of the medieval period (e.g., deference to the Good King), they may be said to have dumbed down our population by denying the sharp tools of history.

This website has been devoted the misconceptions of our socialization. The media have always been partisan, but the 1960s movements developed a cadre of activists claiming the mantle of social justice, while trashing opponents as fascists, while some conservatives, just as foolishly, equated communism and fascism. (Both forms of social organization are statist and repressive, but fascism was a counter-revolution to the Soviet coup of 1917, not its structural twin.)

Is it any wonder that our young folk are in the streets? In their own eyes, they are doing the right thing by averting apocalypse now!

3-14-16, demo outside GOP headquarters. CBS News/AP

3-14-16, demo outside GOP headquarters. CBS News/AP

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

 

July 6, 2016

James Comey: the best (moderate) man

moderation-veranstaltungen-604x442In all the wrathful outpourings from politicians, pundits, and ordinary people since FBI Director James Comey’s announcement yesterday July 5, 2016 (declining to prosecute Hillary Clinton) no one, to my knowledge, has noted that “moderation” is the quality most admired by advocates of the “neutral state,” conflict-resolution/peace studies, and other pacifiers who keep our all-too-independent polity on the “strait” and “narrow” (quoting Matthew 7.14 in the New Testament, King James version).

Here is a partial list of prior blogs on the barely concealed violence in the discourses of “moderation.”

https://clarespark.com/2011/12/10/before-saul-alinsky-rules-for-democratic-politicians/, https://clarespark.com/2015/04/07/who-are-the-moderate-men/, https://clarespark.com/2010/06/15/the-classics-as-antidote-to-science-education/, https://clarespark.com/2009/09/15/making-mobs-with-bad-words-and-concepts/.

But there is more to say about the indignant responses to Director Comey’s apparent exoneration of Hillary Clinton. Lawyers, trained to be rational (when it suits them), can’t dissect the term “moderate” because lawyers are supposed to be disinterested parties to “the rule of law”—a notion that has been constantly reiterated since yesterday’s “bombshell” announcement.

It is not too difficult to demonstrate that it is scattered Independents and Constitutional conservatives who respect the advanced notion that there is one set of rules for rich and poor alike, but all that changed with the Progressive movement (and perhaps before “the living Constitution” became the battle cry for the compassionate elect.

AWOL Trends

AWOL Trends

Historians agree that we live in an age of irrationalism, oblivious to “traditional” notions of law and order. How to account for Hillary’s devoted following among women and young people? Although conservatives have been vocal in denouncing the “hyper-sexualization” of our post-feminist culture, such glorification of perpetual adolescence aided and abetted by malicious mischief in the mass media, I haven’t heard anyone attribute Hillary’s following to the widespread desire for conflict-free sex with as many partners as feasible, and without the possible consequences of pregnancy and child-rearing.

Indeed, for many intellectuals, Hillary is the “moderate” alternative to Dastardly Donald—the “extremist” who (secretly) hates the “man on the street.”

Moderation2

June 11, 2016

Are “the People” misguided? Is America “racist”?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 8:26 pm
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establishmentThis blog is about the fecklessness of “the Republican establishment.” In prior blogs I have noticed that both major political parties cater to “the People” (a demagogic term never broken down into structural components, especially class or gender differences in needs and outlook: see https://clarespark.com/2016/06/04/multiculturalism-the-missing-term-in-the-trump-fiasco/ and https://clarespark.com/2016/06/09/sex-and-aggression-in-hillarys-following-in-either-gender/.)

Moreover, the “establishment” has refused to move away from Trump’s ostensibly “racist” remark about Judge Gonzalo Curiel, despite indications that the judge (like many lawyers) may indeed be tied to cultural nationalism, a.k.a. “identity politics”/multiculturalism, not to speak of an opposing law firm representing the plaintiffs tied to the Clinton campaign.

I include in my list of suspicious characters the obvious elitist Wall Street Journal and the more folksy Fox News Channel, both run by moderate men who do not diverge from Hillary Clinton’s fusing of workers and small businessmen.

Here is how to spot a moderate man: he or she uses the following key words: “compassion,” “teamwork”, “imagination,” “rainbow connection,” “a positive outlook,” “inclusiveness,” and “diversity”—-all in the service of “making the world a better place” and “health.” Let us recall that leading supporters of the New Deal/FDR called themselves “moderate conservatives” to distinguish themselves from Nazis and other upstart movements on either Left or Right that challenged their “centrist” (fair and balanced) leadership. FDR himself termed his opponents “economic royalists.”

PBS ad for Constitution series

PBS ad for Constitution series

Are Donald J. Trump and/or his followers among “the People” racists, as Paul Ryan and other top Republicans imply? Or does the “establishment” entirely misunderstand “racism,” forgetting its lineage?

We could answer this question if we knew more about the history of the Old Left versus the New Left. I was startled to discover that Marxist-Leninists came out against racism in the 1930s. True, some bashed the progressive bourgeoisie, but not so much after the Popular Front against fascism was declared in 1934-35.

It was the Leninist/Maoist and anti-imperialist New Left that changed all that hyping of the productive forces that would or should produce the revolutionary working class. I remember the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s very well; Amerikkka was now deemed to be classist, racist, sexist, and exploitative of Nature/Woman. Witness the popularity of Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and the nascent Green Party.

New Leftists pretending to be hard-hats

New Leftists pretending to be hard-hats

 

These “social justice” radicals went to graduate school and entered the professions, including teaching and show biz. Many formed a network of buddies, got their PhD’s and now control the humanities and mass media, the social democrats (and some communists) among them warning against white male heterosexual supremacy, going so far as to propose exterminating the literary greats of yesteryear (at Yale for instance).

After all, if Shakespeare and Milton were widely read by the slobs, they must be part of the paranoid “People” and we all know that “the People is an ass.” https://clarespark.com/2009/08/24/the-people-is-an-ass-or-a-herd/.

Our betters insist upon it.

January 6, 2016

Technophobia

Damian Gordon slideshow image

Damian Gordon slideshow image

(Update 1-8-16: This is NOT an anti-religion blog. My point is that secular, pluralistic societies are notorious for undermining the claims of particular religions.)

The agitated response to the claim by N. Korea that it had tested an H-Bomb reminded me of Eisenhower’s seminal 1961 farewell speech warning of a [godless] “military-industrial complex.” The heart of progressivism lies in this warning: that the Bomb unleashed powers that heretofore were reserved for the deity. The (moderate conservative) remedy is love in the service of international understanding, i.e., multiculturalism, cultural relativism, and the prophetic vision of Woodrow Wilson that eventuated in the United Nations (preceded by the League of Nations).

That is the overarching message of Carroll W. Pursell Jr.’s Readings in Technology and American Life (Oxford UP paperback, 1969).  The running theme in this solely “progressive” roundup of source readings was echoed by historian Friedrich Meinecke’s explanation for the rise of Hitler: technology, unharnessed by the moderating power of religion, would raise a race of monster technicians from the lower orders, unimpressed by elite leadership. (The German historian’s analysis is found here: https://clarespark.com/2010/04/12/multiculturalismethnopluralism-in-the-mid-20th-century/.)

Make no mistake: Pursell is a devoted progressive, hence not hostile to the rule of experts (a salutary effect of professionalization in the applied sciences): experts who would be motivated by such dodgy and indefinite notions as a knowable “public interest,” the planning state, and “service” (a.k.a. “duty”). What Pursell is pitching is Conservative Enlightenment in the service of Big Government. (Radical Enlightenment leads to free market economics, not bureaucratic collectivism. See https://clarespark.com/2015/12/29/milton-friedmans-capitalism-and-freedom-1962/.)

Where would godless technology lead in a secularizing society? To the rule of robots with selected human features? If we feel ourselves turning into mindless machines, perhaps we should look to the apparent benefits of conformity to rules handed down by “experts,” not to advances in our particular understanding of the material world we inhabit.

robot_main

December 29, 2015

Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom (1962)

lassiz_faireI recently read Friedman’s magnum opus for the first time, and was surprised to see how far current Republican, conservative and libertarian politics have conceded to the progressivism that many of them abhor as excessively statist and even communistic. The Wikipedia entry (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milton_Friedman) plays up Friedman’s divergence from Keynesian economics, which is true enough, but fails to note the novelty of his adherence to free market principles, given the domination of New Deal policies in postwar administrations, and in progressivism in general.

I have written before of the regression to medieval economics and culture, but now I must revise my old blogs, for Friedman’s big book made me realize that we have only partly emerged from the Late Middle Ages into modernity; that is how vanguard Friedman’s free market capitalism is, given his emphasis on equality of opportunity as opposed to equality of condition/outcomes.

In its first summary of his accomplishments, the Wiki condenses his contributions:

[Wiki:] “Friedman was an advisor to Republican U.S. President Ronald Reagan[12] and Conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. His political philosophy extolled the virtues of a free market economic system with minimal intervention. He once stated that his role in eliminating U.S. conscription was his proudest accomplishment. In his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman advocated policies such as a volunteer military, freely floating exchange rates, abolition of medical licenses, a negative income tax, and school vouchers. His support for school choice led him to found the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.” [End, Wikipedia excerpt]

[Clare:] A reader could have concluded that Friedman was an antagonist to Big Government, with its bloated bureaucracies, illegitimate claims to mandatory regulations, and obsession with “income inequality” and legislating minimum wages, but Wiki highlighted his most problematic view—that doctors were jacking up prices for medical care by monopolizing the field. (My sole objection to the abolition of licenses: before the market has done its work in expelling frauds, the patient may have suffered irreparable harm, even death. The same could be said with respect to harm to the environment: there is no room for trial and error when we entirely deregulate pollution, for instance. Indeed, Friedman declares that the case for deregulating medical care is the most difficult to allege.)

Wiki also downplays Friedman’s belief in both (limited) public and private sectors, instead (?) devoting much space to Friedman’s effects on the Chilean government after the Pinochet coup, perhaps a slap at classical liberalism tout court. But Wiki does acknowledge Friedman’s chief claim: that economic freedom is the necessary foundation of political freedom, and hence that Chile would eventually become more democratic.

To conclude, today’s Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians, while embracing many of Friedman’s advocacy of free market principles, have a long way to go in meeting up with his thoroughgoing classical liberalism. For instance, in the “debates” (https://clarespark.com/2015/12/21/debates-as-pseudo-events-with-pseudo-moderators/), no moderators or candidates are taking up the necessity for school choice, or, for that matter, choice in general.

Apparently, religious orthodoxy, not Friedman-esque economic freedom, controls the Right in this election season, at least for the influential “social conservative” wing of the Party.

laissez-faire

December 17, 2015

Whither the white working class?

gilded-age-populism“Independent” Megyn Kelly mentioned William A. Galston’s op ed in the WSJ (“The Bleak Reality Driving Trump’s Rise,” 12-16-15). This blog takes issue with Galston’s characterization of the flagging economy that is supposedly driving [racist] white labor to the open arms of Donald J. Trump.

Galston, had he been an honest journalist and a reader of Milton Friedman, for instance, might have blamed the slowing economy on the statist practices of the increasingly left-wing Democratic Party.

There used to be a major dispute among historians of the condition of the English working class in the early 19th century after the rise of industrialism, but such figures as Marx, Dickens, Carlyle, Toynbee, Beatrice and Sydney Webb, the Fabians, and more recently Eric Hobsbawm, fixed all that, declaring (against entirely contrary statistics) that life was hell for the new industrial working class. Their twentieth century “progressive” followers are now in charge of the public school system and the major universities, buttressed by cultural nationalists who hate “capitalism and imperialism,” so it is any wonder that a contempt for “white supremacy” is now characteristic of students in the “better” private and public schools, and whose spokespersons can now be heard on the “moderate” and “balanced” newspapers and cable news shows?

Are your college-age kids English majors? If they are not besieged by medieval literature and “ethnic” literatures, they might choose to drown in the anti-modern, proto-Green fulminations of the Romantics, deemed today to be the advocates of soothing Nature, certainly not the beguiling “Nature” identified by “Romantic” Herman Melville, who saw the White Whale as not only Leviathan but a representative of Nature with a false face, harboring “the charnel house within.” Moreover, Melville rejected either Whiggish “optimism” or Tory “pessimism,” plumping for “realism.” [For the UCLA English syllabus see http://www.english.ucla.edu/academics/course-listing/660. Whether or not many of these entries are anticapitalist/antimodern, the reader can decide for herself. Thanks to Prof. Jon Morse of the U. of Hawaii for the  reference to the UCLA course list.]

Galston’s final paragraph gives his politics away: Warning “professional elites” against complacency, he writes “Cultural liberalism is not enough. Without a plan that offers a better life for Americans born to fewer advantages, populism, not progressivism, could capture the future.”

nwswkpopulism

The WSJ  is apparently unaware that the populist movement was originally for “the people” (mostly small producers but not workers, who may inhabit the entire spectrum of socioeconomic opinion; see https://clarespark.com/2011/02/02/the-legitimate-aspirations-of-the-___-people/). Even worse, Democrat William A. Galston doesn’t know that the progressive movement co-opted populist demands. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/, especially the footnotes.)

 

 

 

April 17, 2015

The ongoing appeal of the Leftist-dominated Popular Front

popular-front-boxThis blog is about why Popular Front political coalition continues to exist, and why it is hard for the Right to resist “leftist” smears of fascism and racism. But it is primarily about the emotional appeal of a far left faction within American “progressive politics.”

Where did the Popular Front originate? Stalin’s sectarianism persisted until 1935, when he decided to bond with the hated bourgeois parties against variants of fascism as it emerged in China (on Chinese massacres, see Harold Isaacs, The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution), Germany, Italy, and Spain. Whereas social democrats had formerly been stigmatized as warmongers and enablers of repressive anti-communist regimes, now it was deemed expedient to join with other “bureaucratic collectivists” (statists) to defeat laissez-faire capitalism (specifically finance capital) against creeping or already existent “fascism.” (https://clarespark.com/2013/04/21/fascism-what-it-is-what-it-is-not/)

Popular Front politics persist today in the “progressive movement” (Mrs. Clinton!) that confusingly blends “the working class” with “the middle class.” (See the distinction here: https://clarespark.com/2010/09/11/is-wall-street-slaughtering-the-middle-class/.) It remains moot for me whether the Reds swallowed the New Deal or the conservative reforms initiated by FDR swallowed and defanged the Communists. What is obvious is that such New Deal innovations as multiculturalism (covertly racist but in line with the “tolerance” that ameliorated “prejudice”) were taken up by academics and journalists once associated solely with the “hard Left.” Reading such as Alan Wald (a Trotskyist who lauds Stalinists, and is  a prominent cultural historian of the literary left teaching at the U. of Michigan: https://www.lsa.umich.edu/english/people/profile.asp?ID=299), it is hard to discern a clear line that would separate Wald from the New Dealers, for instance, in his recent book Trinity of Passion (2007), Professor Wald adopts the lingo of the Pan-Africanists, referring to his “Black” victims and heroes as “African Americans.” This tic should be, but is not, anathema to an anti-racist of the Left. (Liberal feminist and internationalist Martha Nussbaum adopts the same “multicultural” terminology.)

ww2-women-factories

What is the appeal of Leninism, apart from its obvious advantages in gaining employment for leading academics and journalists?

First, it appropriates an already existing emotional repertoire promoted by mass and high culture alike: that of melodrama with its vocabulary of clearly defined heroes, villains, and victims. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/08/09/melodrama-and-its-appeal/.)

Second, with such clear boundaries between categories, even the most humble person can identify with the lineage of heroes speaking truth to power and, at least imaginatively, lifting up the “oppressed” to the role of major actors in the melodrama of history.

Third, the script is easily mastered. It takes no deep knowledge of political history or economics to assume the mantle of heroism, even Prometheanism at its most masochistic. Marx’s theory of exploitation and/or his concept of alienation are easily mastered axioms, resonant with pre-existent popular resentments of the wealthy and privileged. (Academic social theorists of the Foucauldian or Thompsonian Left will find this blog hilariously retarded, but I am assuming that it was vulgar Marxism that appealed to the populist-progressives.)

Fourth, progressivism affords to the misfits and escape artists “a kind of home” (to quote Pacifica Founder Lew K. Hill’s suicide note) for the nerds and the marginal, who do not see themselves reflected in popular culture. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/10/21/links-to-pacifica-memoirs/.)

pureprogressive

Fifth, the affiliation with New Deal progressivism and communism alike, purifies the self of negative emotions, such as envy. As long as “equality” refers solely to equality of condition as opposed to equality of opportunity, one need not blame oneself for what the “dominant culture” refers to as “failure.” The (imaginary) “system” is “rigged.” (Just ask any Democrat.)

I started this entry with a brief mention of the persistent Popular Front Against Fascism. It is obvious that for all “progressives” the Republican Party and/or the Tea Party are the current “fascists” who must be defeated, lest the Dark Night (“reaction,”  i.e., proto-fascist nationalism and imperialism) of the twentieth century returns.

November 7, 2014

‘Cultural Marxism’ blogs and immigration reform

racialsuicide

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

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

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

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

totalitarianism_01

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

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

https://clarespark.com/2009/07/04/unfinished-revolutions-and-contested-notions-of-identity/

https://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/t-w-adorno-and-his-funny-idea-of-genuine-liberalism/

https://clarespark.com/2010/01/02/jottings-on-the-culture-wars-both-sides-are-wrong/

https://clarespark.com/2011/10/21/did-frankfurters-kill-the-white-christian-west/

https://clarespark.com/2013/05/30/nostalgia-for-the-middle-ages/

https://clarespark.com/2013/06/23/the-origins-of-political-correctness/

https://clarespark.com/2013/06/30/the-origins-of-political-correctness-2/

https://clarespark.com/2013/07/31/the-nefarious-cultural-marxists/

https://clarespark.com/2014/06/04/did-bureaucratic-rationality-cause-the-holocaust/

https://clarespark.com/2014/09/20/taking-responsibility-for-ourselves-and-society/

"Cultural Marxism produces matriarchy"

“Cultural Marxism produces matriarchy”

March 28, 2014

Populism and pop culture: good or bad for the republic?

Populism3Much of this website has been devoted to the analysis of populist demagoguery, with ample quotations from the past and present. Another priority of mine has been the state of popular culture criticism, emanating from both Left and Right. This blog is a guide to my own thinking about 1. Populism as ideology and its targets; 2. Populism as reasonable suspicion of elites and “experts”; and 3. The populist character of major television shows and movies despite the impression that single figures or “billionaires” directly direct their content.

First, the original populists were farmers demanding that currency be placed on both gold and silver standards. They also resented the excessive rates demanded by railroads that transported their goods. Muckrakers like Frank Norris (The Octopus, 1901) appealed to this constituency and their progressive sympathizers, who went on to co-opt the original populist demands, for instance, Louis Brandeis’s first major study was of railroads, their practices and finances. (On Norris see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Octopus:_A_Story_of_California. On Brandeis’s career, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Brandeis#Against_monopolies. I read Melvin Urofsky’s biography, that highlighted the early interest in railroads.) populistantisemitism In a mass society, “flooded” with “swarms”  of immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was not surprising that the invention of movies would appeal to the new arrivals and their taste for spectacle, glitter, adventure, shape-shifting, scandalously naughty and corrupt rich people (not dissimilar from those who had dominated the European countries from which they had fled), sex, and violence (part of their everyday lives, both here in the new tough cities, and in the old country), triumph over adversity, and shows of virtuosic force, either military or in sports.

Movies and television shows remain populist in the sense that they appeal to ordinary working class and middle class viewers (“ordinary people”), with only a few arty movies made to maintain respectability and an aura of literariness to the more educated urban viewer. And such offerings might be reactionary, as in the esteemed film The Remains of the Day (1993); I wrote about its content here: https://clarespark.com/2014/04/21/remains-of-the-day-revisited/.

In my experience, leftists that I once knew did not depart from this essentially Leninist populism. (Marx was more favorable to the bourgeoisie, who were developing the productive forces, and who were likely to split over the inevitable working class revolution that he anticipated. Whereas Lenin was influenced by J. A. Hobson, who publicized the notion that an international cabal of Jewish financiers would not only inspire imperialist war, but would control newspapers and other media. Marx’s early essays “On The Jewish Question,” or on money as the universal pimp, however, dealt with Jews as hucksters and the embodiment of the money power, whose reign would be overthrown in the new dispensation.)

For instance, Pacifica radio [where I was program director for eighteen months (2-81 through7-82), and before and after that, a volunteer program producer on the politics of the arts–1969-1998] was plainly populistic and anti-imperialistic, not radical in the Marxian sense, though the news department supported the uprising in El Salvador and the Nicaraguan revolution. I recall my boss, the manager Jim Berland, warning me not to allow programmers to use the term “capitalism.” Our target should be “big business.” This is a typical petit bourgeois (populist) move, and bears no resemblance to European or American communism as originally formulated. Similarly, like other “community broadcasters” we were to appeal to the listener sponsors by mentioning our deviation from “corporate/commercial media”—this referred to presumably billionaire-controlled outlets intended solely for the spread of propaganda favorable to imperialism, finance capital, and rich people in general.

The flaw in this reasoning is that big bad mass media always was populist—but with commercial interruptions. NPR and PBS make their appeals on that basis (sometimes claiming the higher objectivity and gravitas). The antisemitism of the old WASP elite is retained in its denigration of “Hollywood” as generically Jewish—a claim that may be taken advantage of by some professional right-wing pundits , who want to return “traditional Christian values” to “popular culture.” Populist impulses exist across the political spectrum, but are frequently reactionary.

What is not populism?Elites” or “experts” may be corrupt or legitimately superior in their talents, labors, and contributions to society. To view each and every one with skepticism may be populistic, or it may be valuable inquisitiveness that we must support, even as “discovery anxiety” sets in. But don’t look to the bought-intelligentsia and kept-journalists who “analyze” politicians, social policy, education, and mass media productions. They are part of the legitimacy apparatus that is partly responsible for the Great Dumbing Down of our country. Ask your children to make a distinction between a democracy and a [democratic] republic, and watch their puzzled faces. I am sometimes told that my blogs are “over the heads” of even educated readers. I welcome questions if I yield to esotericism or obscurantism. It is probably my writing, which is sometimes dense and compressed, and not the usual thing on the internet. populistrage

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