Friday, September 21, 2018

A Plague in the Heart of America

Credit: Harold Marcuse
Herbert Marcuse, the apostle of political correctness
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Political correctness is a foreign disease eating away at American freedom.

When I take timeout I have to climb a mountain of emails on my return. It takes a while to catch up and to respond. But on this occasion there was one that quickly caught my attention and spurred my intellect.

Sent by a friend who shares my general political outlook, it was a link to a YouTube video, a documentary about the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory and the evolution of political correctness, with particular regard to the United States.

In The World Crisis, his book about the causes and course of the First World War, Winston Churchill, in a particularly memorable simile, wrote that the Germans transported Lenin in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus from Switzerland to Russia. Well, cultural Marxism and political correctness, its most toxic cell, were similarly transported like a plague bacillus from Germany to the United States.

Interested? I bet you are! I’ll make things a little bit clearer further on but first a word or two about the context, the medium, if you like, carrying the message. The presenter is William S. Lind, the former Director of the Centre for Cultural Conservatism, which doubtless means that some will dismiss the thesis without further consideration. That’s a pity, for there is real meat here, a thread into the labyrinth of the present American malaise.

The argument itself is simple enough: that Marxism in its classic form was a failure because the working class did not perform the walk-on part allotted to it in a turgid drama that went by the name of Historical Materialism. But the play did not die. Instead it was rewritten as a cultural critique of Western society and civilization as a whole.

The Institute for Social Research was set up in Frankfurt-am-Main in Germany in 1924. Here a new hybrid was created as if on the island of Doctor Moreau, a melding of Marx and Freud. The basic theme was that everyone was repressed by capitalism, politically and sexually, if only they knew it, if only they weren’t so beset by ‘false consciousness.’ With the ascent of the Nazis, a particularly virulent form of false consciousness, the School relocated in America, where its ideas were to have the greatest impact of all.

The documentary did not really tell me anything that I did not already know, either about cultural Marxism, the Frankfurt School or the corrosive effects of political correctness in general. In reviewing Anthony Browne’s The Retreat of Reason, which examines the creature in a British context, I wrote;

The author identifies what might be referred to as the pre-history of PC. Although Marxism failed in both political and economic terms it made significant advances in the cultural arena, through universities and opinion-forming bodies, to the point where ordinary debate was contaminated by a new orthodoxy, one which amplified the perceived injustices done to minorities, even so far as silencing debate over uncomfortable issues.

Yes, it did not come as a revelation but it helped put things into a slightly sharper perspective, particularly in an American setting, where PC is overwhelming FC – factual correctness -, where, supported by a repressive totalitarian mindset, it has advanced to the point where liberty and free speech, those core American values, are in real danger.

The Frankfurters were quick to make an impact in the States, especially after the publication of Theodor Adorno’s book The Authoritarian Personality. In this fascism was freed from a specific set of historical and political causes. Instead it found a new home in the human psyche, in the psyche of the American people at large, who, according to Adorno, possess many of the traits associated with fascism. In other words, the supporters of traditional American culture and values are psychologically unbalanced, prone to the worst forms of sexual repression and authoritarianism.

So here, in short, we have what was to become the ideology of the counter-culture. Here we have, paradoxically, a new orthodoxy taking shape, which allowed all those who took a contrary view to be dismissed as ‘fascists’, people in need of analysis or ‘sensitivity training.’ Herbert Marcuse, who was to be the most influential of all the Frankfurters, added to the mix in Eros and Civilization, which condemned all established sexual norms, calling instead for ‘polymorphic perversity.’

While the old-fashioned working class, too wedded to the material benefits of capitalism, had been abandoned, a new carrier of Utopia was alighted on in the 1960s - the Politically Correct Coalition, a variety of fashionable causes and movements, which stormed campuses across America, in the process creating a new narrative, a new hegemony, one which continues to dominate contemporary discussion.

Know it or not, the carriers of the counter-culture, are under the direct influence of the Frankfurters, particularly Marcuse, not just in embracing ‘polymorphic perversity’ but in cudgelling any view different from their own. Free American society, Marcuse argued, was actually a deception. Instead he argued for something he termed ‘liberating tolerance’, another paradox, for the tolerance only extends to the politically acceptable.

It was tolerance for all views coming from the left; intolerance for all views coming from the right. While political Marxism killed free speech in Russia, cultural Marxism is killing free speech in America, rather ironic, don’t you think? That’s the legacy of Frankfurt; that’s the effect of a plague bacillus that continues on its course.

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Anastasia is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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11 comments on A Plague in the Heart of America

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By Notumbus Bumbus on January 13, 2012 at 10:36 am

I don't know whether to find it ironic, or merely what to expect, that this article makes no mention whatsoever of the manifestations of political correctness on the Right. One simple example being played out currently is the naked PC of the evangelical right slamming Mitt Romney for not being "Christian" and not being "right enough." Another, more in tune with the ancient history analysis presented herein, were the Red-scare excesses of the McCarthy era, in its ever-increasing claims to who was even slightly pink, based entirely, of course, on the extremist's screed that whosoever does not see things as we perfect few is thereby guilty as we so say they are. PC plays no favorites, it is merely business as usual among all political ideologies.

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By Uttam Gill on January 14, 2012 at 11:45 pm

Anastasia, I enjoy your varied subjects and certainly, I see your input carries the argument, which makes me understand the subject with your point of view. Let me say out rightly, I admire free American society and on looking into the history and the contribution made by them, I find, that is amazing. I am sure, you would agree that in a given society, there would be differing views, but at the very outset, it should not defy the core elemental belief, over which USA has build up their constitution and progressed...

Conflict would remain...conflict is a part of life...No one man can champion the cause and nor any ideology...As you look deep into archives you would find great civilizations perished with one reason or another...Besides natural disaster if you look into causes of downfall you would notice that in almost all the cases it were identical and that was the oppression of the masses with coercive measures; where freedom was curbed and that in turn stopped the normal course of synergy in the masses to act united to preserve the system...

Beyond the ideology I see a hope only in a society which breathe freedom...The political correctness as have been talked in academic circle is a piece of intellect flirtation with absolute sense to establish hegemony of thoughts…I have no issue with this but the most disturbing aspect is to fathom the articulated version which define reasons of correctness…It’s beyond comprehension by a common man…Common man keen to have secured environment whereby he/she can feel the freedom.

To me Marxism is piece of unimaginative ideology which was imagined by a man who for his own suffering got the belief to create wedges which certainly disturbed the equilibrium to such a great extent that it deprived the full one century (20th century) the desired peace…

It is not about good or bad …it is about preserving the system which has given freedom to the American Society …

Let me quote from the book Night by Elie Wiesel (is a work of Holocaust-WW II) -"I wanted to come back to Sighet to tell you the story of my death. So that you could prepare yourselves while there was still time. To live? I don't attach any importance to my life any more. I'm alone. No, I wanted to come back, and to warn you. And see how it is, no one will listen to me."…There were many who suffered and they have the similar tail to say…Alas they are gone…brutally eliminated but we the custodian of freedom must learn from the experience of Elie Wiesal …freedom matters.

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By Uttam Gill on January 14, 2012 at 11:46 pm

read "tale" not tail

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By Anastasia on January 15, 2012 at 05:19 pm

My goodness; what you expect! What I have come to detect is a rather unpleasant odour. Perhaps you should consider changing your socks. :-)

I say , BumBus, or whoever you are, why don’t you plough your furrow and allow me to plough mine, parallel lines never to meet, not even in infinity. I decided not long after your epiphany that I disliked your infelicitous, clunking prose, and I always I avoid the things I dislike. Might I suggest, you dear old thing, that you return the favour.

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By Anastasia on January 15, 2012 at 05:23 pm

Uttam, thanks for such an intelligent and thoughtful contribution. If you like variety do please come to my Ana the Imp blog. There you will find tales aplenty. :-)

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By Notumbus Bumbus on January 16, 2012 at 02:16 pm

And such an elegant manner of proving a point!

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By Kent5 on January 16, 2012 at 02:26 pm

Have you ever heard of Fox News? Rush Limbaugh? Bill O'Reilly? Perhaps living in England you are unfamiliar with how the mass media here is dominated by individuals like that, and by that network; and how right-wing "political correctness" from sources such as that is killing free speech here in the same ways that you say it is being killed by left-wing versions of that same thing. American culture is no more a static thing than the culture of most other countries, and the 1960s version that you seem to have focused on here is very different from what exists now, and from what existed in the decade before that (as Notumbus Bumbus so eloquently notes in his reference to the McCarthy era).

Your premise about the state of American culture is so discordant with my own everyday experience of it, living in its midst, that I am less likely to give credibility to your statements about the influence of that Institute from Germany. Would you be convinced by anything that you say, if you didn't already believe every element of it to begin with it?

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By Anastasia on January 16, 2012 at 05:32 pm

Kent, I have heard of Fox News but I am not familiar with the individuals you mention. As a general point I would say that the terms ‘right wing’ and ‘politically correct’ are contradictory. Political correctness in all of its perverse forms is a disease of the left. Fox News may express a view with which you disagree. You may even consider its broadcasts to be propaganda, but it most assuredly does not determine the forms of debate or even the language that can be used.

This is polemical piece; it’s meant to be. I mention the sixties in very general terms because that’s when the disease began to take a grip that’s got tighter over the years. A free society demands free expression, a full exposure of the facts, no matter how uncomfortable. Political correctness militates against that. Your final question makes no sense to me. I would not write or say something if I did not believe it to be true.

You are at liberty to dismiss everything I say, if you wish; that is your prerogative. However, I would refer you to a review I wrote of a book called The Retreat of Reason, which looks at PC in a British context.

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By Janey B on January 25, 2012 at 01:17 pm

I think I'm confused what you mean by "political correctness." To me, it means a certain politeness that sometimes waters down cultural disssent. You seem to take it tolerance for all ideas left.

Such is hardly the case in the US. Merely suggesting that corporations and the rich might be regulated or taxed their fair share earns one the instant epithet of "socialist," as does proposing health care for all. In this country, most of the media is a mouthpiece for right wing propaganda....which finds a fertile home in the "authoritarian personality."

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By Anastasia on January 25, 2012 at 07:48 pm

Janey, political correctness simply means that the forms of language and the terms of the debate have been pre-determined on certain issues, that boundaries have been created that are difficult if not impossible to cross. It’s not politeness; it’s hypocrisy. Using negative epithets like ‘socialist’ is quite different; that’s just polemics. The article I linked above gives some more detail on PC as a general problem. You might also consider this particular piece of lunacy.

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By Anastasia on January 25, 2012 at 07:51 pm

Off topic, what's happened to the editors? There seems to be a complete logjam. Tony, are you around?

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