by N. A. Halkides 4/27/16
When the literal ship is sinking, it probably doesn’t matter all that much how the hole in the boat got there: would it have mattered if the Titanic, for example, had hit a land mine (as her sister ship Britannic supposedly did four years later) instead of an iceberg? You either seal the compartments and turn on the pumps, if that can save you, or prepare to abandon ship. But I will suggest in the case of a ship of state, especially a once-free nation like America now well into the “soft” tyranny phase, it matters very much how we got to this point, because no free nation devolves into tyranny on account of a single calamity.
So looking at it from a very high level, how did we get here? By “here” I mean with the Left in control of all our major institutions and our largest political party, and poised to take over completely. Most ST readers are probably painfully familiar with the theories of Antonio Gramsci and Saul Alinsky in this, the age of Obama: Gramsci the strategist who developed the idea of what we now call “Cultural Marxism” and Alinsky the tactician whose “Rules for Radicals” have guided many of Obama’s allies in today’s Left. It’s true that our decline into statism began a long time ago with the advent of Progressivism (say approximately 1890 – 1920), yet I would suggest that Cultural Marxism only began its “long march through the institutions” during the 1960’s. That era is within living memory for many of us, and we should be able to examine it and see what exactly began to go wrong.
What strikes me as most significant is that our side lost almost all its battles by default. Even near the beginning, say during the “Free Speech Movement” at Berkeley in 1964, the radical elements ran into no serious opposition as they began to make the first of fifty years’ worth of demands on various university administrations. We all know how that’s played out, as now pampered little snowflakes demand “safe spaces” where their ideas will never be challenged and where a rigid quota system will guarantee that the Left’s foul ideology will only become further entrenched.
In the cinematic arts, Hollywood was always a one-party town. The history of cinema is too long to get into here, so let’s just look at television for a moment. Although once the Golden Age of live original drama ended around 1960 some decline was inevitable, I would say the serious rot didn’t begin to set in there until the westerns began to recede in the mid-60’s, followed by and the shorter-lived spy era right after that (c.1970). Once police melodrama had taken over, think of all the times when a businessman was the villain, plotting to steal someone’s land or invention, or to engage in massive pollution, etc. The heroes were the cops, which was o.k., or the fearless investigative reporter, which was ludicrous when you think of how incurious actual journalists were at that time when the target wasn’t Richard Nixon. (What a breath of fresh air Absence of Malice was in 1981 with its portrayal of an ambitious reporter not particularly concerned about ruining people’s lives if it would lead to a story!) Easier: try to remember a cop show where the villain wasn’t a businessman; you’re left with maybe Mannix or Mission: Impossible (which switched to law enforcement once the spy genre became passé) or a few episodes of Kojak.
Now, none of those few shows were great drama, but at least they didn’t advance a subtly (or not so subtly) Marxist view of businessmen as rapacious predators preying on the proletariat as was the case with the vast majority of the genre. When people see businessmen portrayed not as hard-working people trying to get ahead in the world but rather as villains, and this is repeated week after week, it begins to have its effect. Eventually, the TV audience gets up from the couch long enough and votes for the anti-business party pretending to uphold the interests of the common man. This is a prime example of cultural Marxism in action.
Let’s go back to journalism, which we only touched on. Until rather recently, alleged “journalists” attempted to cover up just how wedded they were to the Democratic Party (which should always be thought of as The Party of the State). Of course the signs were always there: the treatment of Nixon and Reagan; economic statistics that were only mentioned when they favored Democrats; not a single story anywhere on how citizens armed with guns saved themselves or others from vicious thugs. The media’s (for let us refer to them no longer as “journalists”) technique is simple, yet effective: forget about the Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why school of factual reporting and instead construct whatever narrative fills the Left’s needs at any particular moment. But how did the Left come to dominate the media?
Real journalism is hard work, not difficult intellectually in the sense that advanced mathematics is, but the “factual reporting” requires interviewing people with access to information and digging through piles of documents (figuratively, in the internet age). It is, in fact, a kind of drudgery: how much more fun for those who think their job is to bring about social change to simply supply a narrative that supports that change rather than undertake the plain hard work of assembling pertinent facts and writing them up intelligibly (which is all good journalism is). No one needs a four-year degree from Columbia University to do that, and no doubt the Left’s domination of journalism schools has done much to corrupt and transform this important profession.
In politics I think most of us understand what happened: The Democratic Party became more and more radical until by 1972 it was actually socialist even though it still had some elder statesmen around from an earlier and better era (Hubert Humphrey, Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, etc.). The Republican Party had been stumbling around blindly for decades after losing to FDR four straight times. Clearly it wasn’t anti-statist; very few Republican politicians publicly questioned the welfare state. It was more resolutely anti-communist than the Democrats for the simple reason the Democrats were becoming more communistic. It offered no real ideological opposition to the statism of the Democrats, thus the Democrats won by default and the country moved Left.
Two other factors were the increasing size of the government, meaning more welfare dependents and more government workers, and mass immigration beginning with the 1965 immigration bill of Senator Teddy Kennedy. Of course Republicans offered no opposition to these factors either, acquiescing to one big government program after another and signing on to the Kennedy immigration bill. Thus they became complicit in undercutting their own political viability.
In essence, then, cultural and political Marxism has been winning because it has met no real opposition. We fix the hole in the boat, therefore, by opposing it loudly, publicly, and repeatedly. In politics, we need to control a political party, as I and others at ST have pointed out repeatedly (Mission: Take the GOP). In journalism, we need some young Conservatives to go into the profession and start doing it right, and of course we need some businessmen who realize that networks and websites that practiced real journalism instead of Progressive advocacy have commercial potential (newspapers I’m not too sure about as they may all become unviable financially).
I left the arts for last because there has been very little written about what Conservative esthetics would look like. Aristotle’s Poetics and Ayn Rand’s The Romantic Manifesto come to mind, but neither of them was written recently. Without some intellectual support for Conservative esthetics, which would presumably emphasize traditional artistic virtues just as Conservative politics emphasizes traditional political virtues, I fear that simply repeating my advice regarding journalism – get some young Conservatives involved in the arts and start doing them right, replacing the awful dreck we have today – would fail because too many editors, producers, etc. have been steeped for decades in cultural Marxism and wouldn’t know a good work of art if they encountered one. (Apologies for yet another reference to one of my past articles on ST, but see Mosquito Man: The Sad Story of a Funny Super-Hero for what happens when the people judging your work think all the zombie crap littering comic books and airwaves are the height of artistic achievement).
Conservatives tend to be achievers, people with good jobs or their own businesses, and heavily involved in family. This has worked against us because while we were doing the truly vital work in our society, the Left was taking on all the professorships in the humanities, the writing and editing positions in journalism, the seats on college boards of trustees, the ownership of Hollywood, and of course the management of the Republican Party. On any given day, what we did was a thousand times more important what they did (we kept the lights on, the kids fed, and the bad guys in jail while they spouted their crazy Deconstructionist bat guano theories in the classrooms), and yet after a few decades they ended up owning the culture and thus shaping public opinion in a way we could not. That is what needs to change.
Nik is a freelance writer, former professor, and has written for FrontPage Magazine.
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