When Norwegian right-winger Anders Breivik invoked “cultural Marxism” as the reason for his 77-person killing spree in 2011, many observers placed the notion in the same category as the killer—the fringe. But since the election of Donald Trump, Brexit and the rise and re-election of other far-right governments around the globe, “cultural Marxism” has become a well-known nationalist buzzword, alongside “globalism”: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro denounces it, and the media empire of former White House advisor Steve Bannon revolved around fighting it.
The phrase is seeping into mainstream media discourse, a far cry from its former days as an extremist catch phrase, and it’s creating a dangerous situation with an ominous historical context.
Doing his usual shtick of a more refined version of Abe Simpson, columnist David Brooks (New York Times, 11/26/19) lamented that today’s youths “tend to have been influenced by the cultural Marxism that is now the lingua franca in the elite academy,” giving them a “clash of oppressed and oppressor groups” worldview. Also in the Times, contributor Molly Worthen (4/20/19) quoted the phrase “cultural Marxism”—not approvingly, but not explaining what it meant, either, just offering it as an example of what “conservatives” were complaining about. A Times story in 2017 (8/11/17) about a former White House aide reported that the aide believed “globalists” would “impose cultural Marxism in the United States”—again, without defining for the layperson what that might mean.
The Washington Post (like other newspapers) invoked the phrase in its reports on Bolsonaro’s rise to power last year, and even on the hipster styles of the new wave of American white nationalists: In November 2016, the Post (11/30/16) reported that the style of shaved sides with long hair combed back is “worn by men who feel their whiteness has been infringed upon by the ‘cultural Marxism’ of the Americas.” And opinion-haver Andrew Sullivan took to New York (2/9/18) to denounce “cultural Marxists” for inspiring social justice movements on campuses.
What does cultural Marxism mean for the far right? In the modern iteration, in spaces like Breitbart or Infowars, it is the belief that a failure by communists to topple capitalism through worker revolt has led to a “Plan B” to destroy Western society from the inside. By tearing down the gender binary, de-centering Christianity values, championing the weak over the privileged and creating a multicultural society, revolutionaries have unanchored traditional Western order. Everything from gay rights to Muslim immigration is, in the language of the far right, part of a plot to finish the job that radical worker organizing could not.
Suffice it to say, this is a most paranoid fantasy. Most Marxists don’t speak in these terms, and people who do advocate for immigration, multiculturalism or secularism do so out of a certain regard for human and civil rights. But the far right still obsesses that this is a historical cultural struggle.
Like others on the right, the National Review (8/9/18) saw proof of the plot in the Frankfurt School, which
was born out of a psychological need to explain why communism had failed to take root, initially in Germany but more broadly in the West. The answer that Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer and others settled on—after borrowing some ideas from Freud and Nietzsche—was that the structure of capitalist society (which they perversely and ludicrously equated with fascism) was even more totalitarian than they had realized. In other words, communism couldn’t take root because fascism already had.ADVERTISEMENT
It’s far from a cultural grappling with the Frankfurt School’s actual ideas, which live mostly in academia. As Spencer Sunshine, an associate fellow at Political Research Associates, points out, the focus on the Frankfurt School by the right serves to highlight its inherent Jewishness. “A piece stands in for the whole,” he said.
This isn’t one of those “yeah, it could be interpreted as antisemitic” things—it’s straight from Nazi ideology, with just enough cosmetic changes to make it acceptable for the modern right. “Cultural Bolshevism” was the term used by Nazi critics of modernist art, which they believed to be rooted in Jewish decadence and thereby, according to Nazi logic, connected to the communist specter. As Dominic Green (Spectator USA, 3/28/19) wrote in a conservative critique of conservatives’ complaints about “cultural Marxism”: “For the Nazis, the Frankfurter School and its vaguely Jewish exponents fell under the rubric of Kulturbolshewismus, ‘Cultural Bolshevism.’”
It came into the American sector through paleoconservative writers William S. Lind and Paul Weyrich, who in a series of articles recraftedthe Nazi idea of “cultural Marxism” as a scare tactic for the American right. “These guys were all Jewish,” Lind told a Holocaust denial conference in 2002; Lind would be later be cited as a prominent influence on Trump’s nationalist agenda.
As Sunshine noted:
It is deeply disturbing that it is used by mainstream conservatives when it’s clearly antisemitic…. They attribute it to all these things, anything from Black Bloc to Hillary Clinton, any kind of social liberalism.
It’s not too surprising that the nationalistic right still clings onto such fascist anachronisms; it’s clearly helping them at the voting booth, from the United States to Europe to Brazil. It’s an important mobilizing call for the far right, depicting things like immigration and secularism not simply as liberal values, but as far-left revolutionary tools.
Trump pits Apollo 11 astronauts against NASA chief — he thinks he understands space travel better
President Donald Trump welcomed surviving Apollo 11 crew members Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the White House Friday, using the occasion to tell his space chief he would prefer to go straight to Mars without returning to the Moon.
It is a theme he had touched upon earlier this month in a tweet, and this time drew on the support of the two former astronauts, who are taking part in celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of their mission, to make his case to NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.
"To get to Mars, you have to land on the Moon, they say," said Trump, without looking convinced.
Babies born near oil and gas wells are up to 70% more likely to have congenital heart defects, new study shows
Researchers at the University of Colorado studied pregnant women who are among the 17 million Americans living within a mile from an active oil or gas well
Proximity to oil and gas sites makes pregnant mothers up to 70 percent more likely to give birth to a baby with congenital heart defects, according to a new study.
Led by Dr. Lisa McKenzie at the University of Colorado, researchers found that the chemicals released from oil and gas wells can have serious and potentially fatal effects on babies born to mothers who live within a mile of an active well site—as about 17 million Americans do.
Mueller testimony ‘is going to be a devastating day for the president’: former White House lawyer
The eyes of the nation will be on Capitol Hill on Wednesday when former special counsel Robert Mueller publicly testifies before Congress.
Mueller, who was a federal prosecutor, top DOJ official, and director of the FBI before serving as special counsel, is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning and the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday afternoon.
"As Democrats prepare for the arrival of special counsel Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill next week, their plans for his day of wall-to-wall testimony is becoming clearer: if Donald Trump were anyone but the president, he would be charged with the crimes Mueller uncovered," MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace reported on Friday.