“Cultural Marxism” is fake news – and everyone must stop spreading this bit of misinformation.
Such fiction is created by two processes. First, a false conclusion is drawn from a true premise (known in formal logic as, “converse accident”). Second, this false conclusion is made credible by constant repetition (the “illusory truth effect”). Thus, factual terminology is given an entirely different meaning than the one it should have by virtue of its history – in order to further some agenda or ideology.
Thus, it is true that “cultural Marxism” was a term used in the 1920s, by a group of German Marxist sociologists, to explain the corruptive influence of capitalism on culture. With the rise of Hitler, some of these scholars fled to the United States, where they were casually labelled, the “Frankfurt School.” Most returned to Germany by 1954. Their “school,” the Institute for Social Research, thrives to this day in Frankfurt.
Then, a false conclusion was drawn from these facts, in the 1990s, by four writers (Michael Minnocino, Gerald Atkinson, John Fonte and William Lind). For them, “cultural Marxism” became an evil methodology, created by the sinister “Frankfurt School,” which hated the West and sought to destroy it in order to bring about Communist rule. Accordingly, political correctness, multiculturalism, postmodernism were assaults especially designed by this “Frankfurt School” to wreak maximum damage.
None of this true because these overwrought assertions do not match up with what the real Frankfurt School did or stood for. Although it is true that these various German sociologists were Marxists, it is not true that they wanted to destroy the West. In fact, the evidence suggests that they highly valued and admired the West, its tradition and its culture, and sought to redeem it from what they thought was destroying it – hyper-consumerism.
For example, one scholar, Theodor Adorno, lamented the destruction of beauty and art by Hollywood’s moneyed entertainment industry, which promoted mindless consumerism. Adorno did not want art to become a side-show for politics (precisely what it now has become).
Another member, Walter Benjamin, spoke of the “important but poorly marked road, which may serve as the image of a tradition…a European road,” which has become a “mule track, neglected and overgrown.” These are hardly the words of a man filled with hatred for the West, or one seeking its destruction.
The real Frankfurt School sought to save the West from imminent destruction, which they described as the erosion of Western tradition, and the eradication of Western history (their analysis was certainly correct). Their folly was that they could offer no tangible redemption. All they had was an effete materialism, for even their allegiances were disparate – some were anti-Stalin, some anti-Trotsky, some even ambivalent about Marx himself. This too gives the lie to a sinister Communist plot, for most were hardly committed to any political cause.
Indeed, they would be horrified to learn that they were now being vilified as destroyers of the West, given all their efforts to save it. For example, Benjamin wrote a massive work, in which he sought to preserve the character of Paris. The entire book consists of hundreds of quotations that minutely detail the essential character and contours of the city – from its ironworks, arcades, dolls, museums, catacombs, to its streets, gamblers, its literary giants, and even its criminals and conspirators.
However, to call what Minnocino, et al. have fabricated a conspiracy theory would also be wrong, because it is not a simple-minded explanation. Rather, it is a complex description of a non-existent threat, designed to provoke anger and hatred.
Thus, the fake “cultural Marxism” is Geschichtspropaganda, or “historical propaganda” (as the Germans calls it), where history is twisted to serve the demands of ideology. And ideology works best when it is engaged in agonism (two opposing sides battling it out).
The purpose of historical propaganda is to sow distrust and outrage alone; it is not about offering solutions for anything real – for how can “cultural Marxism” be fought when it does not exist? A chimera is good for rallying the troops and keeping their fighting spirit up.
Such agonism succeeds because of the preponderance of Political Religion in the West (the belief that all problems can be solved by political means), from which emerges historical propaganda, such as fake news.
This is why conservatives must stop spreading falsehood, for a lie cannot bring people to a common ground (which is the true place of peace). There comes a point when hatred becomes tiresome.
Here it is important to be reminded that the West does have its own historical definition of culture – the search for the hidden language of God, by way of beauty, harmony, symmetry, meaning and purpose. Culture can never be a materialistic explanation of reality (that is simply a vague sort of instrumentalism). Rather, culture is that brief reflection of the Divine upon the mirror of the world. Only by contemplating transcendence can humanity rise above its penchant for hatred. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,” said Oscar Wilde.
Thus, contrary to historical propaganda, the West is not being destroyed. It is far more resilient than that. It is simply sick and is seeking a cure in all the wrong places. The real Frankfurt School was right in seeking redemption for the West – though they had no idea how to offer it.
And Benjamin too was right – the once broad and bright road that was the West is now a mule track, neglected and overgrown. It is time to clear away the rank growth of historical propaganda, Political Religion, agonism, misinformation, and fake news. Once this work is done, the West will regain its soul, because it has not yet lost its hunger for truth. Such will be its redemption.
Nirmal Dass is a former university professor specializing in the Early and High Middle Ages. His areas of research are philosophy, history and ancient languages. He has written several books and is actively engaged in literary translation.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.