Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Excerpt: Martin Jay's "Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe"

A couple of weeks ago, Sandwichman wrote to Salmagundi suggesting that they make available on the Internet Martin Jay's essay, "The Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe,"  or alternatively grant permission for me to publish the essay. I haven't heard back from them. Because of the timeliness and importance of Jay's article in exposing the right-wing echo chamber meme that inspired Anders Breivik's murderous manifesto, I am posting an excerpt from that essay below:

Although the process was foreshadowed in the l960’s when Herbert Marcuse became the media’s favorite “guru” of the New Left and was often portrayed in simple-minded terms, it wasn’t really until a decade or so ago that the School as a whole entered the netherworld of garbled memedom, and began circulating in a wide variety of narratives, such as that promoted by Estulin and Castro. Most of these, to be sure, came from a very different political direction. Patrick Buchanan’s 2001 best-selling screed against the nefarious impact of immigration, The Death of the West, was one major source, stigmatizing as it did the Frankfurt School for promoting "cultural Marxism" (a recycling of the old Weimar conservative charge of “cultural Bolshevism” aimed at aesthetic modernists). [Sandwichman comments: the involvement of Buchanan, de Todedano and Lind in promoting the fable throws into question the "lunatic fringe" label in the title. Lunatic they may be -- and extreme in terms of some abstract spectrum -- but Buchanan and de Tolenado operated at the very center of imperial power as advisers to U.S. President Richard Nixon. Lind was an aide to and co-author with Senator Gary Hart.] But the opening salvo had, in fact, been fired a decade earlier in a lengthy essay by one Michael Minnicino called “New Dark Age: Frankfurt School and 'Political Correctness'," published in l992 in the obscure journal Fidelio. [Michael Minnicino, "New Dark Age: Frankfurt School and Political Correctness", Fidelio, 1 (l991-1992); reprinted by the Schiller Institute] Its provenance is particularly telling: it was an organ of the Lyndon Larouche movement cum cult, one of the less savory curiosities of nightmare fringe politics.

Larouche and his followers have, to be sure, always remained on the fringe of the fringe, too confused in their ideology to be taken seriously by either radical left and right, with little, if any significant impact on the real world. But the germ sown by Minnicino was ultimately to bear remarkable poisonous fruit. The harvester was the Free Congress Foundation, a paleo-conservative Washington think tank founded by Paul Weyrich, who was also in on the creation of the Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority movement. Much of the financial support came from his collaborator Joseph Coors, who knew how to turn all that pure Rocky Mountain water into a cash flow for the radical right. The FCF sponsored a satellite television network called National Empowerment Television, which churned out slickly produced shows promulgating its various opinions.

In 1999, it broadcast an hour-long, skillfully crafted exposé of "Political Correctness: The Frankfurt School," which was put together largely by William Lind, one of Weyrich’s colleagues at the Foundation and head of its Center for Cultural Conservatism. Weyrich himself appeared only at the end during a question-and-answer session with viewers who called in. In addition to Lind, a number of the usual suspects—the right-wing pundits Roger Kimball and David Horowitz, and the former football star and homophobic religious preacher Reggie White—comment on the School's history. There is as well one anomalous figure, the author of the first history of the Frankfurt School, The Dialectical Imagination. The book was itself displayed at the end of the show, and recommended to anyone interested in the full story, albeit with the cautionary reminder that its author was himself a dangerous apologist for the School's philosophy. Later Lind would crow in a column in The American Conservative, "The video is especially valuable because we interviewed the principal American expert on the Frankfurt School, Martin Jay, who was then the chairman of the History Department at Berkeley (and obviously no conservative). He spills the beans."

Ever since that lamentable broadcast I have often been asked how I fell among such dubious characters, and so let me beg the reader’s indulgence for a moment to explain before moving on to the larger issues at hand. When I was approached for the interview, I was not informed of the political agenda of the broadcasters, who seemed very professional and courteous. Having done a number of similar shows in the past on one or another aspect of the history of the Frankfurt School, I naively assumed the end results would reflect my opinions with some fidelity, at least within the constraints of the edited final product. But what happened instead was that all my critical remarks about the hypocrisy of the right-wing campaign against political correctness were lost and what remained were simple factual statements confirming the Marxist origins of the School, which had never been a secret to anyone. Interweaving my edited testimony into the larger narrative may have given it an unearned legitimacy, which I now, of course, regret, but it's likely the effect would have been pretty much the same without my participation as "useful idiot." Those beans I allegedly spilled had already been on the plate for a very long time, and it would have taken no effort at all to confirm that, yes, they were Marxists, and yes, they thought cultural questions were important, and yes, they—or at least Marcuse—worried about the effects of "repressive tolerance."

In any event, the "documentary," soon available on the net, spawned a number of condensed textual versions, which were reproduced on a number of radical right-wing sites. These in turn led to a welter of new videos now available on You Tube, which feature an odd cast of pseudo-experts regurgitating exactly the same line. The message is numbingly simplistic: all the ills of modern American culture, from feminism, affirmative action, sexual liberation and gay rights to the decay of traditional education and even environmentalism are ultimately attributable to the insidious influence of the members of the Institute for Social Research who came to American in the l930’s. The origins of "cultural Marxism" are traced back to Lukács and Gramsci, but because they were not actual émigrés, their role in the narrative is not as prominent. Nor do most of the commentators attribute responsibility to the Communist International, although occasionally, as in the case of Cry Havoc!, a 2007 book by a founder of the National Review, Ralph de Toledano, the crackpot claim is actually advanced that the Frankfurt School was a Commie front set up by Willi Muenzenberger. [Ralph de Toledano, Cry Havoc! The Great American Bringdown and How it Happened (Washington, 2007).]

There is a transparent subtext in the original FCF program, which is not hard to discern and has become more explicit with each telling of the narrative. Although there is scarcely any direct reference to the ethnic origins of the School's members, subtle hints allow the listener to draw his own conclusions about the provenance of foreigners who tried to combine Marx and Freud, those giants of critical Jewish intelligence. At one point, William Lind asserts that "once in America they shifted the focus of their work from destroying German society to attacking the society and culture of its new place of refuge," as if the very people who had to flee the Nazis had been responsible for what they were fleeing! [In later incarnations of his narrative, Lind would elaborate this point, arguing in a chapter of a 2007 book edited by Pat Boone and Ted Baehr, The Culture-Wise Family: Upholding Christian Values in a Media-Wise World.] Airtime is also given to another of Weyrich’s colleagues at the FCF, Lazlo Pasztor, who is innocently identified as a "leader of the Hungarian resistance against Communism," but had already been discredited a decade earlier as a former member of the pro-Nazi "Arrow Cross," who had to leave the Bush campaign in l988 when he was outed.

A number of years later a fringe neo-Nazi group called “Stormfront” could boldly express what had hitherto only been insinuated, and in so doing really spill some foul-tasting beans:
Talking about the Frankfurt School is ideal for not naming the Jews as a group (which often leads to a panicky rejection, a stubborn refusal to listening anymore and even a "shut up") but naming the Jew by proper names. People will make their generalizations by themselves - in the privacy of their own minds. At least it worked like that with me. It was my lightbulb moment, when confusing pieces of an alarming puzzle suddenly grouped to a visible picture. Learn by heart the most important proper names of the Frankfurt Schoolers - they are (except for a handful of minor members and female "groupies") ALL Jews. One can even quite innocently mention that the Frankfurt Schoolers had to leave Germany in 1933 because "they were to a man, Jewish." as William S. Lind does. [For similar anti-Semitic rants against the Frankfurt School, see, for example, Kevin Macdonald, a Professor of Psychology at California State, Long Beach, who has written several unapologetically anti-Semitic books blaming the Jews for the fall of Western civilization, in which the Frankfurt School figures prominently.]
Now that the real origins of political correctness in the cultural Marxism devised by a clever bunch of foreign-born Jews had been revealed, the full extent of the damage they had caused could be spelled out. Here is a list cited verbatim from many of the websites devoted to the question:
1.The creation of racism offences.
2. Continual change to create confusion
3. The teaching of sex and homosexuality to children
4. The undermining of schools’ and teachers’ authority
5. Huge immigration to destroy identity.
6. The promotion of excessive drinking
7. Emptying of churches
8. An unreliable legal system with bias against victims of crime
9. Dependency on the state or state benefits
10. Control and dumbing down of media
11. Encouraging the breakdown of the family [Timothy Matthews, "The Frankfurt School: Conspiracy to Corrupt," Catholic Insight, March, 2009]
Well, I suppose at least the second plank has been realized, with perhaps the self-inflicted help of the sixth. In this confused world, it is only a short step to blaming everything from Roman Polanski's lust for underage girls to the allegedly liberal curriculum at the Naval Academy to Obama's health care initiative—these are among many of the wild assertions one can find on line--on the sinister influence of Horkheimer and his friends. One site even asserts that the Fabian Society, the reformist intellectuals of late l9th-century British socialism, was "a division of the Frankfurt School," which suggests that linear chronology can be swept aside when it comes to exposing the work of the devil. The ultimate goal of "cultural Marxism" in their telling is thus far more than the leftist thought-control that denies alternative positions under the guise of restricting hate speech. It is the subversion of Western civilization itself.

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