Hardly anyone gets to the heart of our present difficulties. Most conservatives tend to their own fields — foreign policy, social issues, economics — and very rarely talk to the others.
To mix metaphors, such a thing is called “stove-piping.” Sure I care about the family, but what does that have to do with ISIS? Yes, I’m concerned about ISIS, but we must tend to our economic woes first and foremost.
There was a time, however, when the domestic issue of statism animated by the foreign communist threat united all conservatives in a grand common cause. The conservative movement has spent the past few decades dealing with the fraying of our movement that began almost immediately after the Berlin Wall fell.
These days, conservatives see an ever-encroaching state, a cultural hollowing of our military, a foreign existential threat marching from strength to strength, one that we seem incapable even of acknowledging let alone checking, and a culture that has clearly and almost completely turned against us. Yet still we stove-pipe, we tend to our own field and do not see the connection among all our concerns. But there is such a connection.
We defeated an empire but we did not defeat an idea, and that idea is at the heart of our present difficulties and one that should unite all strands of the center right. Former Breitbart editor Michael Walsh is one of the few among us who sees this connection and gets to the heart of the matter.
Walsh comes from the print business where he wrote influential classical music criticism for the San Francisco Examiner and Time Magazine. He has published novels, non-fiction, and biographies, along with screenplays, some produced, others in production. He began writing about politics for National Review in 2007 using the name David Kahane and published Rules for Radical Conservatives under that name. He is a hugely entertaining writer careening from age to age, discipline to discipline, from scripture to opera to movies.
Walsh’s new book deals with cultural Marxism, which is the heart of the matter.
Interesting to Breitbart readers, it was Andrew Breitbart’s introduction to cultural Marxism at Tulane University that began his journey to the right. What Breitbart saw was his professors running down America, our founding, and the institutions that undergird the health of our civil society. Andrew Breitbart got it immediately; Walsh gets it, which must be why they founded Big Journalism together.
The highly readable The Devil’s Pleasure Palace (Encounter Books) tells the story of a group of European intellectuals decamping to the United States from Germany during and after the war. It follows how they became influential university professors and how pretty much every single awful thing you see happening at the University of Missouri and Yale and every other cultural center came from these wicked men.
Are there dozens of gender and gay and black studies courses at Yale and only a few on the American founding? Cultural Marxists did that. Can professors be tried before secret Kangaroo courts? Cultural Marxists did that. Are high-powered corporate executives too frightened to refuse a gay rainbow sticker on their office door? Cultural Marxism at work. Are we as a society so unsure of ourselves that we cannot even think, let alone assert, that Western civilization is superior to any and all others? They did that, too. Gays in the military? Boys in dresses peeing in the girl’s room? You get the idea.
After the Second World War, the United States stood astride the world as a military, political, and economic colossus. Even so, American elites felt intellectually and culturally inferior to those we had either just saved or defeated. Walsh writes, “…a burgeoning transnational elite in New York City and Washington, D.C. embraced not only the war’s refugees but also many of their resolutely nineteenth-century ‘modern’ ideas as well.”
Few of these ideas have proven more pernicious than those of the so-called Frankfurt School and its reactionary philosophy of ‘critical theory’. At once overly intellectualized and emotionally juvenile, Critical Theory — like Pandora’s Box — released a horde of demons into the American psyche. When everyone could be questioned, nothing could be real, and the muscular, confident empiricism that had just won the war gave way, in less than a generation, to a fashionable Central European nihilism that was celebrated on college campuses across the Untied States. Seizing the high ground of academe and the arts, the new nihilists set about dissolving the bedrock of the country, from patriotism to marriage to the family to military service.
The cultural Marxists concluded early on that the proletariat would always let them down. To get to the same place, to get to where the state defines all terms and where cultural Marxists run the state required a “long march through the institutions” with the manure of “critical theory” spread along the way. They would liberate the elites and all else would follow.
The Frankfurt School is named for those who founded or came from the Institute for Social Research started to advance Marxist-oriented propaganda. It included sociologists Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, psychologist Erich Fromm, and philosopher Herbert Marcuse. The Institute actually became affiliated with Columbia University in New York. Another seminal figure connected to this school of thought included the Italian Antonio Gramsci, whose grave in the Protestant cemetery in Rome is even now approached reverently and decorated by his followers.
Their central poisonous proposition, critical theory, seeks societal transformation through the emancipation of mankind from all forms of slavery. Who are the slavers? The Church and its morality, the suffocating patriarchal family, and the rapacious market. Such revolutionaries remain always hungry, and even now they are tearing down the redoubt from which they first launched their attack upon our country, the academy.
More than anything, the book is about story telling, how the “Unholy Left” — radicals, not run-of-the-mill liberals — have changed mankind’s story, our narrative, that is, by our nature, heroic. The story of Western civilization, indeed the story of every man, is a venturing forth into horrifying danger, facing it down, and finding salvation. Or not. The critical theory of the Frankfurt School has deliberately taken away our story, and many of us have been utterly lost with many more to follow.
Walsh writes, “Make no mistake: The crisis in which the Unites States of America currently finds itself enmeshed is a moral crisis, which has engendered a crisis of cultural confidence, which in turn has begotten a fiscal crisis that threatens — no guarantees — the destruction of the nation should we fail to address it.”
It is likely you have never or only vaguely heard about cultural Marxism. You may have never known that it was critical theory your professors ladled out to you, or how it poisoned you. But now you know, and Walsh would say your job is as simple as World War II; find “Berlin” and destroy it. He calls all men of goodwill, conservatives of whatever stripe, to band together to defeat the Cultural Marxists now commanding the heights and threatening us all.
Michael A. Walsh’s The Devil’s Pleasure Palace deserves a wide audience, especially among patriots. Reading it, you may even come to like opera; well, listen to some anyway.
Follow Austin Ruse on Twitter @austinruse