It’s an interesting question. Why is it that the left doesn’t want mainstream liberals to know the history of the left?
Even taking it a step further, why try to convince those liberals that conservative discussion of that history is a conspiracy theory?
For a decade, the Southern Poverty Law Center and others on the left have been trying to hide and distract from one of the main origins of both radical academia and media hostility towards capitalism: the ideology of cultural Marxism and Critical Theory that arose from the Frankfurt School.
[pullquote align=”right”] Political Correctness didn’t appear out of thin air…[/pullquote]
The SPLC and others dismiss the facts about the German think-tank and its subsequent influence in America as a conspiracy theory. Understanding these attacks is an object lesson in how the left creates self-sustaining mythology by demonizing the people who dare expose their ideology while misdirecting their own followers as to the real story behind liberal ideas.
Organizations on the institutional left such as the Southern Poverty Law Center didn’t just appear out of nowhere or in an ideological vacuum. The SPLC in particular has a specific role of designating organizations as ‘hate groups’, often smearing mainstream conservatism by falsely tying it to tiny, violent and racist organizations.
The SLPC’s designation of what does and doesn’t constitute a hate group has clear foundations in the world of academic political correctness and censoring of speech it considers ‘racist, sexist and homophobic’; all terms that it defines in leftist terms and very selectively. For example, in the wake of last year’s shooting at the headquarters of the Family Research Council, the SLPC went out of their way to double down on it’s claim that the FRC is a ‘hate group.’
Even political correctness, however, didn’t just suddenly pop up out of thin air; it has its basis in a group of academic Marxist philosophers that came together in Germany between World War I and World War II called the Frankfurt School. Their cultural Marxist approach would go on to have a profound influence in the United States after many in the Frankfurt school fled Germany and came to America in the 1930s.
Due to the work of writers like the late Andrew Breitbart, many conservatives now have at least a passing familiarity with the Frankfurt School and their influence. Leftist groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center don’t want liberals to know this history, however, as evidenced by their disinformation campaign that pretends that conservatives who bring up the Frankfurt School are crazy racists who shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Typical of this ‘nothing to see here and you’re a nut-job for even looking’ tactic is a piece from Red Phoenix (described as ‘the newspaper of the American party of Labor’) which defines cultural Marxism as ‘a meaningless phrase used to signal that the writer or speaker has no idea what he or she is talking about’, and then says:
First, to understand cultural Marxism as a phrase is nearly impossible. The phrase itself is meaningless. Next time you find yourself in a discussion where your partner invokes cultural Marxism, ask them to define exactly what that means. Most people don’t even attempt to answer. Those that do give a definition that has nothing to do with Marxism. They may be totally convinced that cultural Marxism is destroying their society, to the point of obsession, yet they stammer and hesitate when asked for a coherent definition.
So, without stammer or hesitation: Cultural Marxism is a branch of Marxism advocated by the Frankfurt School of philosophers such as Erich Fromm, Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse that focuses on cultural factors as agents for social change, as opposed to the traditional Marxist view that focused on economic factors.
That’s a short definition but one of the best summaries of the Frankfurt School and the impact it had on America is Andrew Breitbart’s highly lauded chapter entitled Breakthrough from his book Righteous Indignation. Although it may appear self-serving for this suggestion to come from a friend of Andrew Breitbart’s, nearly anyone who has read the chapter will tell you that Breitbart’s explanation of the Frankfurt School is scholarly, detailed and actually fun to read. Breitbart explains the history and significance of the Frankfurt School, cultural Marxism, critical theory and the impact on contemporary issues such as political correctness and multiculturalism. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in learning more about the influence of these ideas on our national politics.
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In 2003, the Southern Poverty Law Center made a preemptive strike against anyone exposing the Frankfurt School in an essay by Bill Berkowitz entitled ‘Cultural Marxism’ Catching On. Although it was published a decade ago, the article has been referenced in many other pieces on the same subject; such is the power of the Southern Poverty Law Center brand on the left.
An in-depth dissection of the article is warranted, since the article is frequently cited by those on the left who are keen to sweep the facts about the Frankfurt School under the rug.
Take the following paragraph from the SPLC article that tosses buzzwords likes racist and extremist in with accusations that anyone looking into the Frankfurt school is anti-Semitic. Berkowitz writes:
Right-wing ideologues, racists and other extremists have jazzed up political correctness and repackaged it — in its most virulent form, as an anti-Semitic theory that identifies Jews in general and several Jewish intellectuals in particular as nefarious, communistic destroyers. These supposed originators of “cultural Marxism” are seen as conspiratorial plotters intent on making Americans feel guilty and thus subverting their Christian culture.
The charge that discussing the Frankfurt School is anti-Semitic gets raised a number of times by those like the Southern Poverty Law Center wishing the bury the truth, so let’s dispense with it as soon as possible. In short, the Jewish heritage of the Frankfurt school is irrelevant. It’s equally true that the major figures at the Frankfurt School were all Jewish and also that some of the major figures exposing the Frankfurt School such as Andrew Breitbart and David Horowitz are also Jewish. Anti-Semitism is a false, collectivist view that has no more place in any legitimate argument than any other form of actual racism trotted out by tribal mentalities. However, in exactly the same way that it would be invalid to criticize the ideas of the Frankfurt philosophers on the basis of them being Jewish, it’s equally invalid to exempt them from any criticism for that reason.
The SPLC throws in the charge of anti-Semitism in its attempt to hide the truth about the Frankfurt School for one reason; it’s exactly the kind of politically correct smear that is the modus operand of the SPLC throughout their work. It’s no small irony that it’s the exactly the technique made possible by the Frankfurt School ideology.
As the Southern Poverty Law Center article continues, they use a number of subtle (and not so subtle) linguistic tricks to create the utterly false notion that the Frankfurt School is some kind of boogeyman invented by conservatives. Take the next paragraph and note that they also continue to push the ‘anti-Semitic’ notion:
In a nutshell, the theory posits that a tiny group of Jewish philosophers who fled Germany in the 1930s and set up shop at Columbia University in New York City devised an unorthodox form of “Marxism” that took aim at American society’s culture, rather than its economic system.
The first alarm bell goes off over the use of the phrase ‘the theory posits’ in a sentence that goes on to factually describe the Frankfurt School philosophers. There’s not one thing in that sentence that is theoretical or in the least bit in factual dispute but describing it as a ‘theory’ gives the Southern Poverty Law Center audience the impression some of it could just be made up by wacked out right-wingers.
Next, note the use of scare quote around the word “Marxism”, which has the same goal of trying to give the reader the impression that maybe those crazy right-wingers are tossing the word Marxist around loosely, as some sort of insult rather than a 100% factual descriptor that’s beyond question.
Just as one example that the members of the Frankfurt school considered themselves Marxists, here’s a video interview with Herbert Marcuse explaining in his own words the group is firmly in the Marxist tradition despite their criticism of some aspect of Karl Marx’s original theories. Please note that the video link is presented here as a quick & easy way to confirm the Frankfurt School’s self-avowed Marxism, not to suggest the SPLC writer did or didn’t see it. The fact that the Frankfurt School is made of up self avowed Marxists is so clearly beyond any dispute that it’s easily confirmed by even the slightest amount of research.
As just one other example, here’s the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as it defines Critical Theory:
“Critical Theory” in the narrow sense designates several generations of German philosophers and social theorists in the Western European Marxist tradition known as the Frankfurt School.
However, like a wily attorney trying to plant reasonable doubt about the guilt of a confessed suspect, the SPLC wants their readers to believe that ‘Marxist’ is just a wild accusation. Note the repetition of ‘theory’, charges of anti-Semitism and scare quotes in the next paragraph of Southern Poverty Law Center article:
The theory holds that these self-interested Jews — the so-called “Frankfurt School” of philosophers — planned to try to convince mainstream Americans that white ethnic pride is bad, that sexual liberation is good, and that supposedly traditional American values — Christianity, “family values,” and so on — are reactionary and bigoted. With their core values thus subverted, the theory goes, Americans would be quick to sign on to the ideas of the far left.
Once again, the SLPC uses the word theory at the top of a paragraph that is describing undisputed facts.
Marcuse was the philosophical hero of the New Left in the 1960s; at marches in Paris, they carried banners that read “Marx, Mao and Marcuse.” As Andrew Breitbart described Herbert Marcuse in Righteous Indignation:
Marcuse’s mission was to dismantle American society by using diversity and “multiculturalism” as crowbars with which to pry the structure apart, piece by piece. He wanted to set blacks in opposition to whites, set all “victim groups” in opposition to the society at large. Marcuse’s theory of victim groups as the new proletariat, combined with Horkheimer’s critical theory, found an outlet in academia, where it became the basis for the post-structural movement–Gender Studies, LGBT/”Queer” Studies, African-American Studies, Chicano Studies, etc. All of these “Blank Studies” brazenly describe their mission as tearing down traditional Judeo-Christian values and the accepted traditions of Western culture, and placing in their stead a moral relativism that equates all cultures and all philosophies–except for Western civilization, culture, and philosophy, which are “exploitative” and “bad.”
Is there any doubt whatsoever that Americans influenced by Frankfort School ideas on American ‘racism’ and sexual liberation (Marcuse coined the phrase “Make Love, Not War”) quickly ‘signed up’ for the radical anti-war movement of the late 1960s? It’s equally obvious that the various cultural studies programs that sprouted in that era have thrived in academia in the past fifty years and that such programs have had a tremendous political influence, seen in contemporary news stories ranging from the Trayvon Martin shooting to immigration reform.
This is what the Southern Poverty Law Center calls ‘theory’; the very notion of pointing out the existence of political correctness and multiculturalism and pointing out the clear origins. The coup d’ grace is that SPLC actually uses political correctness in their attempt to claim that the Frankfurt School is a fever dream of conservatives; they argue anyone using the term ‘cultural Marxism’ to describe cultural Marxism is a racist lunatic to be dismissed. They write:
The very term, “cultural Marxism,” is clearly intended to conjure up xenophobic anxieties. But can a theory like this, built on the words of long-dead intellectuals who have little discernible relevance to normal Americans’ lives, really fly?
Conservatives know better. The average well-read conservative understands the Frankfurt School much better than the average well-read liberal. Such is the nature of the hermetically sealed media environment that mainstream leftists find themselves in due to groups like Southern Poverty Law Center, utilizing the ideas of the Frankfurt School.
Let the circle be unbroken.