Posts Tagged ‘Theodor Adorno’

Three Arrows Attacks the Right-Wing Myth of ‘Cultural Marxism’

October 13, 2018

Three Arrows is a German vlogger, who makes videos attacking and refuting the lies and assertions of the internet far right. These are reactionary, anti-feminist and anti-immigrant – some would also say racist – personalities like Stefan Molyneaux, Jordan Peterson, Carl Benjamin AKA ‘Sargon of Akkad’ and Paul Joseph Watson, who was formerly Alex Jones’ little Brit buddy on Infowars. In the video below, he tackles the myth of ‘cultural Marxism’. This is the belief amongst the transatlantic extreme right that a group of Marxist intellectuals are trying to destroy western culture from within through feminism, immigration, postmodernism, gay and trans rights and other radical movements. They trace this movement back to the German Frankfurt School of radical Marxist thinkers, which included Horkheimer, Jurgen Habermas and Theodor Adorno.

I’m putting up this video as it is directly relevant to the issue of some of the extremist literature that was found at the Tory conference this week. Mike over at Vox Political reported a piece by Vice that an extremist pamphlet, Moralitis: A Cultural Virus, had been found at a meeting of the Thatcherite, right-wing organization, the Bruges group, at the conference. This used the metaphor of a virus to describe the spread of left-wing ideas, particularly a positive attitude to immigration and Islam. These were attacking western culture, and were being promoted and orchestrated by ‘Cultural Marxists’.

Three Arrows shows how similar the modern Right’s ideas of Cultural Marxism to the Nazi idea of Cultural Bolshevism. The Nazis also believed that the Bolsheviks were spreading radical cultural and intellectual movements to bring down traditional western, and especially German culture, with the Jews at the centre of this Marxist conspiracy.

The modern right-wing myth of cultural Marxism started with two Americans, Pat Buchanan and William S. Lint. Buchanan wrote two books, The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilisation and Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost its Empire and the West Lost the World. Three Arrows states that Buchanan is a palaeoconservative who has complained that there are too many Jews on the American supreme court. In the first book, he argued that the cultural Marxists, referring to the Frankfurt School, were trying to de-Christianise and subvert the country. This meant making America more open to issues like homosexuality. The second book argued that Britain should never have declared war on Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust was the consequence of its doing so.

Lint is more overtly right-wing and racist. He calls for hanging as the punishment for crime, but only in ‘urban areas’. Which is a dog-whistle reference to Black ghettos. In 1989 he told a conference that political correctness and cultural Marxism had turned American universities in little ‘North Koreas’, in which dissenters would be persecuted and punished by ‘gender feminists’ and homosexual activists. In 2002 Lint spoke at a conference organized by the Barnes Review, a Holocaust revisionist rag, in front self-described Holocaust revisionists, anti-Semites and neo-Nazis. The character of the rag is shown by the cover of the issue Three Arrows puts up, which shows Adolf Hitler at a rally, with the caption, ‘In Defence of Adolf Hitler’. Lint is not, however, a Holocaust denier. He again talked about how the Frankfurt school were responsible for the ideas destroying America, and said that they were all Jewish. For which he was greeted with rapturous applause from the stormtroopers.

Three Arrows then goes on to discuss how, contrary to what Buchanan, Lint and their successors believe, the Frankfurt school were very definitely not supporters of postmodernism, and wished to preserve western culture. Indeed, Jurgen Habermas was one of postmodernism’s fiercest critics. He attacked the founders and major figures in postmodernism – Jacques Derrida, Foucault and Nietzsche contradicted themselves by using the methods of western rationalism to attack western rationalism. He also criticized Nietzsche for destroying the unity religion had given wester culture. The Frankfurt School were also appalled at the uniformity and coarseness of modern culture and expressed this in terms that resemble some of the comments of right-wing mouthpieces like Paul Joseph Watson. The difference, however, was that Theodor Adorno, who voiced these criticisms of the modern culture industry, placed the blame for western cultural decline on capitalism. Horkheimer, Adorno, Lowenthal and the other members of the School wished to preserve and promote western values like rationality and personal freedom. They believed that capitalism itself threatened Enlightenment values, and some of them attacked postmodernism, pop culture and ‘political correctness’. Three Arrows also makes the point that they wouldn’t have supported changing the culture to bring about Communism, because this contradicted the Marxist doctrine that this could only be done through changing society’s economic base.

Three Arrows also makes the point that there is absolutely no evidence for this ‘cultural Marxist’ conspiracy. Wikipedia had to move its entry for it to that of the Frankfurt School, because none of its readers could provide any. There are no Marxist countries in the West. And in Three Arrows’ homeland, Germany, in which Marx was born, the two biggest Marxist parties – the German Communist Party and the Marxist-Leninist Party together got less than 0.1 per cent of the vote combined. He suggests that instead of a secret Marxist conspiracy, these changes in western society owe more instead to politicians and businesses adopting ‘political correctness’ to appeal to a wider audience. As for left-wing students, they have always been around, and some of them do stupid things. Like the two young women in the late ’60s who took off their clothes and started kissing Adorno as a protest against ‘patriarchal structures’. For which Adorno called the cops and had them removed.

Three Arrows then argues that the similarity between the Nazis’ Cultural Bolshevism and the ‘Cultural Marxism’ of modern right-wing internet pundits like Stefan Molyneaux, Sargon of Akkad and Paul Joseph Watson isn’t coincidental. They both require their audience to accept the existence of this conspiracy on their word alone, without any supporting proof. The only difference is that Molyneaux, Sargon, Watson and the others aren’t anti-Semites. For them, the group responsible for this conspiracy aren’t the Jews, but the globalists. But their opinions do validate the Nazis’ own conspiratorial beliefs about Marxism, even while they decry the Nazis’ actions and murder of the Jews.

Three Arrows also makes the point that Molyneaux et al are massively wrong about the ‘Decline of the West’. According to them, Germany should have collapsed several times over by now. But Three Arrows declares with biting irony that he has no doubt that the Caliphate will be declared soon.

This is a good, short account of the idea of cultural Marxism, which makes it clear that it is just another extreme right-wing conspiracy theory, advanced and promoted by fringe ideologues with no real understanding of what the Frankfurt School actually was. Buchanan, Lint and the rest of them have mixed it up with the ideas of the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, who did believe that a change in culture could be use to alter social relations and society’s economic base.

As for Buchanan himself, he’s a Republican politician notorious for his extreme ideas. A pro-gun nut, he and his followers once went through a crowd
holding their guns in the air, crying ‘Lock and Load’ – basically, ‘take aim and fire’. Back in the 1990s he won an election in New Hampshire as part, I think, of the presidential primaries. The edition of the Radio 4’s Postcard from Gotham, a weekly show covering events in America over the previous week, began with a piece of Italian dialogue from the film Il Postino, which was then in cinemas. The show’s presenter, Joe Queenan, instead joked that it was Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini congratulating Buchanan on his success. He and his guests discussed the rise of the Right in America and Europe, and one of them, a Jewish woman, stated that despite his denials Buchanan was an anti-Semite. Going back to the subject of New Hampshire, Queenan joked yet again that now Buchanan had won the nomination for that state, all you could hear up there were cries of ‘Duce! Duce!’

Cultural Marxism doesn’t exist. It’s just a malicious conspiracy theory promoted by extreme right-wingers to attack the Left, and provide a spurious explanation for the social changes they fear and dislike – like gay rights, immigration, particularly Muslim communities and the decline of traditional morality. But while Cultural Marxism is a myth, those promoting it are a real threat to today’s culture of tolerance and pluralism.

The Smearing of the Innocent: The 1950s Anti-Comics Scare and the Anti-Semitism Smears against Labour

May 5, 2018

Frederic Wertham is a figure, who casts a very long shadow over the history of the American comics industry. Born Friedrich Wertheimer, he had emigrated to America from Germany in 1920. A psychiatrist with left-wing political views, he had moved to England to study medicine at King’s College and been influenced by the Fabians before finally moving to America. He was an expert in the study of the brain, and the neurological causes of behaviour, working under the leading expert in the organic causes of madness, Emil Kraepelin.

The carnage of the First World War made him concerned to understand the causes of violence, and the outbreak of the Second World War made him into an activist determined to combat it. In so doing, he became one of the leaders of a moral crusade against comics. The funny papers were supposed to contain all manner of subversive attitudes and doctrines, and were spreading criminality and sexual perversion amongst their young readers.

In some ways, he was an admirable figure. He was particularly concerned with the problem of children and violence, working with kids living in some of the most violent and exploitative environments of America. He gave the results of his studies into the mental health of children in racially segregated schools over to Thurgood Marshal, where it became part of the evidence civil rights activists used in the court cases that ended segregated schooling. With the support of prominent civil rights leaders, he opened a free psychiatric clinic for the poor in Harlem.

He became concerned about the influence of comics through his work with youngsters at the clinic. He noticed that all of them read comics. This should have been no surprise, as 90 per cent of all American children read comics. Those who didn’t were generally the children of the rich, who were kept away from such cheap literature. He was also strongly influenced by his fellow √©migr√© from Germany, Theodor Adorno, who blamed the rise of the Nazis on the mass culture created by capitalism.

He began his attack on comics in 1948 when Collier’s ran an interview with him, entitled ‘Horror in the Nursery’, and which ended with him declaring that ‘the time has come to legislate these books off the newsstands and out of the candy stores’. As a result, churches organised the boycott of retailers selling comics and citizens’ groups wrote to their politicians demanding action. More than 50 cities passed laws restricting the sale of comics. Comic books were also burned in a weird parallel to the book burnings in Nazi Germany. These began in Binghampton, New York. Volunteers went from house to house, asking if there were any comics. They’d then try to persuade the householder of their dangerous nature, encouraging them to surrender the offending literature, which would be taken to the local schoolyard to be burnt.
The comics industry managed to survive by passing voluntary codes of conduct. This managed to allay fears for a few years, until 1952-4 when Estes Kefauver, running for the Democratic presidential nomination, began his campaign against juvenile delinquency. Kefauver discussed the issue with Wertham, who had just written his book, The Seduction of the Innocent. This has become rightly notorious for its wild claims against comics. In 1953 Wertham became psychiatric adviser to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. In May the following year, the Subcommittee came to New York to examine the influence of the funny papers. It was this hearing that led to the near annihilation of the comics industry and the passage of legislation outlawing the crime and horror comics.

Among the allegations Wertham made were that Wonder Woman was a lesbian and Batman and Robin were a gay couple. Crime comics encouraged children to emulate the crimes contained in the stories. He also accused comics of spreading racism and Fascism, including Superman. He said of the Man of Steel that ‘superman has long been recognised as a symbol of violent racial superiority’. It’s rubbish, of course. Superman has never been remotely Nazi. The two creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were both Jewish, as were most of the creators of the American comics industry. In 1946 the Superman radio show had broadcast a story, which had been partly created with the assistance of the Anti-Defamation League. In this, the Man of Steel fought against a KKK-style organise intent on destroying an interfaith organisation run by a rabbi and a Christian priest. The show was praised by organisations like the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the Negro Press Association for its work combatting racial and religious prejudice and promoting respect.

Superman wasn’t the only comic Wertham and the others smeared as racist, but comics generally. Wertham often went against the explicit content and moral of the stories, and twisted them to suit his own prejudices. One example was a horror novel, in which a father organises the lynching of his daughter’s boyfriend because he’s Latino. The thugs he gets to the job instead kill his daughter. It’s a nasty tale, but clearly not an endorsement of racism by any means. But because the strip included a racist term for Hispanics, Wertham and the rest seized on it as an example of the racism in comics.

This reminds me of the anti-Semitism used by the Tories, the Israel Lobby and the Blairites in the Labour party today against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. This has led to decent, anti-racist people being smeared and libelled as racists and Holocaust-deniers. This includes Jews, many of whom are anti-racist activists, who themselves or their families have suffered anti-Semitic abuse and assault. The parallels become even closer as Comics were also suspected of spreading Communism. in 1948, the police commissioner of Detroit declared that comics were full of ‘communist teachings, sex and racial discrimination.’ Which is similar to today’s smears that Corbyn’s supporters and Momentum are really hard-left Trotskyites and Communists, rather than real, middle of the road socialists wanting a return to the Social Democratic consensus and a proper welfare state.

The people making these smears against the Labour left go through their posts on-line, and then, like Wertham, take things out of context, twist their meaning and omit anything that shows that their victims are not the racist monsters they wish to paint them. And they are utterly despicable. And it’s a nasty, politically motivated campaign to prevent Labour coming to power, at least under Jeremy Corbyn.

Now some comics at the time of wertham’s campaign were very definitely unsuitable for children. But not all, and certainly not Superman and the rest of the DC favourites. But as Martin Barker shows in his book, Comics, Ideology and Power, it was another incident in a long history in which the upper classes have been suspicious of popular literature, and have attempted to censor and control what the hoi polloi read. Just as the upper classes and the media are now attempting to use smears again to stop people voting for and joining Corbyn’s Labour party.