Sunday, August 30, 2015

Politics of Pastiche: "voters... need someone to fire all the political-correct police"

"...voters crave the anti-status-quo politician. They want results. They need a fighter. They need someone to fire all the political-correct police." -- Sarah Palin, interview with Donald Trump
Anders Breivik
In the introduction to his "compendium" manifesto, 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, mass-murderer Anders Breivik asked, "What is Political Correctness?" and "How did it all begin?" His answer dwelt on the Frankfurt School, and singled out Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization as especially important.  Breivik's text was copied and pasted almost verbatim from a screed called "Political Correctness: a Short History of an Ideology?" by William S. Lind, "Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation."

In turn, the "cultural Marxism" thesis of Lind's "history" can be traced to a 1992 article, "New Dark Age: Frankfurt School and Political Correctness,"  published in a Lyndon Larouche cult magazine, Fidelio The article's author, Michael J. Minnicino, subsequently disowned his work as "hopelessly deformed by self-censorship and the desire to in some way support Mr. LaRouche's crack-brained world-view."

Along the way, "conservative" Republican stalwarts Ralph de Toledano and Patrick J. Buchanan have recycled those crack-brained conspiracy theories, documented by abundant footnotes that typically lead either to a source who didn't say what they were credited with saying, to some other hack propaganda recycler or to an "authoritative" emigre like Victor Zitta or Lazlo Pasztor relying extensively on official histories published by the Axis-allied Horthy regime. Martin Jay traced the strange trajectory of this propaganda meme in "Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe."

Roger Kimball
This month saw the publication by Roger Kimball's Encounter Books (an "activity" of the Bradley Foundation) of yet another rehash of the discredited crap, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West, by Michael Walsh. A credulous review of that book in the Washington Free Beacon presents the book's argument, apparently oblivious to its dubious lineage:
In The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West, Walsh argues that the current obsession with politically correct speech began with a group of Marxist academics at the Institute for Social Research at Goethe University in Frankfurt, who would come to be known as the Frankfurt School. The scholars, Georg Lukács, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Erich Fromm, and Herbert Marcuse, among others, developed a wide-ranging, if often contradictory, critique of the principal tenets of "bourgeois" Western culture—from the centrality of reason and individuality to Christian sexual mores.
As Barkley and I have discussed, the term "politically correct" probably was popularized in the late 1960s and early 1970s by left-wing student activists wary of the self-righteous dogmatism displayed by self-styled Marxist-Leninist political grouplets. But that's not the way the conventional mythology goes.

At the end of December 1982, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed, "The Shattered Humanities" by William Bennett, who at the time was chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Bennett's complaint was that "matters of enduring importance" -- "the true," "the good" and "the noble" -- had been abandoned because "we have yielded to the bullying of those fascinated with the merely contemporary." By the early 1990s, Bennett's lament about the decline of traditional values in the humanities had swelled into a moral panic about the alleged tyranny of political correctness on campus, fueled by best-selling books such as Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind, Roger Kimball's Tenured Radicals: How Politics has Corrupted Our Higher Education and Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education: The politics of race and sex on campus. 

Even President Bush I had to get into the act with a commencement address at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in which he railed against "political extremists [who] roam the land, abusing the privilege of free speech, setting citizens against one another on the basis of their class or race."
Ironically, on the 200th anniversary of our Bill of Rights, we find free speech under assault throughout the United States, including on some college campuses. The notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land. And although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudice with new ones. It declares certain topics off-limits, certain expression off-limits, even certain gestures off-limits. 
Isolated anecdotes and broad generalizations can only get you so far. The elusive scourge of political correctness needed to be explained by theory of its origins. Thus the Minnicino/Larouche conspiracy theory, taken up by Lind, Buchanan, de Toledano, Breivik and now Walsh.

In spite of being called out more than two decades ago by a President of the United States, those political extremists liberals on the left have allegedly persevered in their "unrelenting demands... for increasingly preposterous levels of political correctness over the past decade." This, according to S. E. Cupp explains Donald Trumps popularity: "Trump survives -- nay, thrives! -- because he is seen as the antidote, bravely and unimpeachably standing athwart political correctness."

Meanwhile, "A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 71% of American Adults think political correctness is a problem in America today, while only 18% disagree. Ten percent (10%) are undecided."
National Survey of 1,000 American Adults
Conducted August 25-26, 2015
By Rasmussen Reports 
1* Do Americans have true freedom of speech today, or do they have to be careful not to say something politically incorrect to avoid getting in trouble?

2* Is political correctness a problem in America today?
Hey, if they keep repeating it, it must be true, right?

Three Stooges: Lyndon Larouche, Roger Kimball, Anders Breivik


Bruce Wilder said...

Hey, if they keep repeating it, it must be true, right?

You have to keep repeating things to catapult the propaganda.

Ahsan said...

Nice said...

Oh, I guess I'll poke a bit here. Mostly fine, S-man, but in fact there is an increasingly off-the-wall trend on many campuses towards what can only be characterized as absurd restrictions on speech that is viewed as constituting "microagressions." One of the more notorious was issued earlier this year for the entire U of California system by system President Janet Napolitano. Examples of forbidden speech include

"America is a melting pot."

"I believe the most qualified person should get the job."

"America is the land of opportunity."

"I hit that."

I could provide a link to a discussion of this on Daily Beast a few months ago, but am lazy, but there are plenty of other examples and cases from around the country.

Now, one might well argue thta any of those lines may be questionable, but to say that they should not be allowed to be said? A bit too much as far as I am concerned. I do support freedome of speech and academic freedom, and this stuff is just idiotic.

Sandwichman said...

Yeah sure, Janet Napolitano, that well-known Frankfurt School critical theorist. Anecdotes of stupid administrative edicts are precisely that, anecdotes. And lots of 'em are, if you will pardon the expression, bullshit. As in right-wing propaganda bullshit.

I don't have a lot of time to waste tracking down the REAL story behind a Eugene Volokh propaganda barrage but "restrictions on speech"? No, this looks like some stupid "sensitivity training" program that probably has about as much to do with Janet Napolitano as the pizza named after her.

These assholes are on salary to the likes of the Bradley foundation to dredge up cause celebres of "restrictions on free speech" and the best they can come up with is some dimwit seminar?

Don't repeat as "reporting" ANYthing you read in the papers, Barkley, until you've verified it.

Sandwichman said...

Lewis Lapham:

"It was at [Irving] Kristol's suggestion that I met a number of the fund-raising people associated with the conservative program of political correctness, among them Michael Joyce, executive director in the late seventies of the Olin Foundation. We once traveled together on a plane returning to New York from a conference that Joyce had organized for a college in Michigan, and somewhere over eastern Ohio he asked whether I might want to edit a new journal of cultural opinion meant to rebut and confound the ravings of The New York Review of Books. The proposition wasn't one in which I was interested, but the terms of the offer-an annual salary of$200,000, to be paid for life even in the event of my resignation or early retirement-spoke to the seriousness of the rightist intent to corner and control the national market in ideas."

Footnote: "The proposed journal appeared in 1982 as The New Criterion, promoted as a "staunch defender" of high culture, 'an articulate scourge of artistic mediocrity and intellectual mendacity wherever they are found.' Joyce later took over direction of the Bradley Foundation, where he proved to be as deft as Weyrich and Kristol at what the movement conservatives liked to call the wondrous alchemy of turning intellect into influence."

Bradley Foundation = Encounter Books = Recycled Lyndon LaRouche conspiracy theory bilge. Every word they utter is a lie, including "and" and "the."

Sandwichman said...

Eugene Volokh:

"Though UC didn’t forbid such statements, labeling them as racial and sex-based “microaggressions” tended to send a powerful message to faculty members and students, especially ones who weren’t protected under tenure — a message that you had better not express certain views if you want to stay on the administration’s good side. That’s a serious blow to academic freedom and to freedom of discourse more generally."

What a load.

UC didn’t forbid such statements...
UC didn’t forbid such statements...
UC didn’t forbid such statements...

The rest is pure BULLSHIT. Because, I repeat:

UC didn’t forbid such statements...
UC didn’t forbid such statements...
UC didn’t forbid such statements... said...

Oh, UC was just one example, and I do not think anybody has actually been fired there. There are others and recent. So, we have Teresa Buchanan fired from Louisiana State for saying "Fuck no." in a class. We have John McAdams fired from Marquette for a blog post in which he criticized the conduct of a grad student teacher who had a dispute with a student over gay rights. There is Steven Salaitis, who left a tenured position at Virginia Tech to take a position at U. of Illinois, with the offer retracted after pro-Israeli donors objected to certain statements he had made criticizing Israeli policy regarding the Palestinians. This is not just all just the pc stuff that Trump and others are whining about. It has become quite widespread and is from both political sides. There is a real issue here of boards and administrators thinking they can fire faculty for things they say, not even things in classrooms.

Sandwichman said...

Barkley, I don't disagree that administrations do stupid things that in some cases infringe on some concepts of academic freedom, but as you point out "it is from both political sides." I would take issue with your "both" as I wouldn't consider Democrats as representative of "the left," there isn't something I would consider a coherent left, and there are undoubtedly sincere Christians and other traditionalists who aren't allied with the vast right-wing think-tank/foundation propaganda mill. In other words, the petty intrusions are much more pluralistic than the mighty wurlitzer propaganda campaign that collates them into a malicious tyranny "more terrible than McCarthyism."

As for "academic freedom," I don't think it means what you believe (and we both wish) it means. My understanding is that the prevailing interpretation has to do with the relative freedom of the academic institutions from state interference, not freedom of the academic personnel to profess whatever their conscience tells them to. Of course such "freedom" is subject to budgetary constraints anyway so I would go running around thinking I could wave the black flag of Anarchy with impunity.

Now if you want to talk about something that is a major impediment to what we might view as academic freedom, consider the adjunctification of university teaching. But that is not a plague of "political correctness" so never mind.

Sandwichman said...

I would NOT go running around, waving a black flag... said...

I am not a fan of the "adjunctification" of faculty. I have long argued in many venues that the bottom line on tenure is to protect academic freedom, and that is exactly what adjuncts do not have, along with their generally lousy pay.