On misidentification of Cultural fluids

More on the logically muddled "Cultural Marxist" meme (which in an outburst of hysteria I earlier called "penile correctness").

There is a serious logical error being made by the people using and promulgating the "Cultural Marxist" label. In their haste to create a grab bag "ism" for all the various things they oppose, they've confused tactics with ideological philosophy, and called things "Marxist" which are not Marxism. In addition to promoting ideas thought to be destabilizing to their enemies from time to time, Marxists also availed themselves of things like "Molotov cocktails," the AK-47, and even the atomic bomb. Yet no one would call such weapons "Marxist." Why, then, are they saying it is "Marxist" to promulgate ideas like sex education in conservative societies? Or the nihilistic idea (shared by Hitler) that there are no objective standards, and even no truth? These are no more Communist ideas than is fluoridation of drinking water.

Anyone remember this guy?


In the satirical Dr. Strangelove, General Ripper asserted that fluoridation of water was "the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face."

Let's assume for the sake of argument that fluoridation of water was in fact a communistic plot to systematically undermine our youth, by sapping them of their precious bodily fluids. I'd be willing to bet that as a military man, even the fictional General Ripper would be the first to recognize that pollution of our fluids was not Marxism per se, but a tactic meant to soften us up for the kill, in much the same manner that we might be softened up by the deliberate introduction of smuggled heroin.

The "Cultural Marxism" phrase creates another "ism" based on two fundamental errors:

  • 1. That psychological war tactics are features characterizing the ideology which promoted them as strategy; and
  • 2. That all ideas once used by Marxists in this manner are therefore wrong, and evil.
  • According to this logic, if Marxists decided to oppose segregation and support integration based on the tactical belief that integration would destabilize the South in the 1950s, then integration, too, is "Cultural Marxism." And, of course, an evil cultural threat.

    This whole thing is almost too ridiculous for extended comment, but some people will fall for anything. I feel forced to address it twice because I don't think this "Cultural Marxist" stuff (which seems to be taken quite seriously) should be allowed to in any way tarnish Eric S. Raymond's excellent essays or Jeff Goldstein's monumental work. Clearly, incalculable damage has been done by certain cultural memes originally promulgated by Marxists as tactics. But they are all individual ideas independent of Karl Marx and some of them (like sex education, tolerance of homosexuality, and racial integration) -- are arguably not evil, nor even necessarily wrong. Defeating ideas that are wrong is hard work. Ideas are not defeated by misidentifying them with a new label, or lumping them in with unrelated ideas and further mischaracterizing them, but by demonstrating that they are wrong, and why they are wrong.

    Fits of demagoguery, hyperbole, and name calling can have the opposite effect of what's intended.


    Joe McCarthy may have been the best friend the Communist Party USA ever had, but that's another essay.

    My advice to the anti-Western PoMo types has long been not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    (I still think this is good advice even if we disagree on whether the bathwater, or the baby, or neither, are, um, "polluted.")

    PRACTICAL ASIDE: I don't know whether people realize it or not, but telling people that their purely personal lifestyle decisions constitute "Cultural Marxism" is not a good way to make friends, influence people, or win arguments. (It didn't seem to play well in Canada.)

    Moreover when people are called Marxists who aren't Marxists, they're likely to feel quite insulted.

    Might as well call people "Cultural pedophiles". . .

    I'll say this, though. It's a good way to advance identity politics in the name of combating it.

    (Interesting that Lind addressed a Holocaust denial group.)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Jeff Goldstein for linking this post in his marvelous exposé of the Boston Globe's dishonest and cowardly attempt to mischaracterize the "the ultimate Enlightenment value" as "tolerance":

    This process, it should be clear, is simply a domestic variant of Said’s multiculturalism—evident in the press’ thinking behind its refusal to run the Mohammed cartoons—with the “Otherness” Said made off limits to our critical faculties no longer relegated to the exotic; instead, it is now being extended to those deemed “inauthentic” or “hostile” to a particular self-defined and self-regulating identity group here at home.

    Today, citing “tolerance” as the ultimate Enlightenment value, our press is able to justify what amounts to (self) censorship. Fear of offending the Other is paramount, because the western press has no “right” to inflame those to whom they must defer on matters of their own culture.

    Which, sadly—but predictably—plays right into the hands of our enemies as they learn to use the same memetic tools the Soviets used against us to great affect.

    No one says it better, and it needs to be said again and again.

    Jeff asked a question which concerned tormented me for entirely different reasons:

    Is Edward Said the new Alexander Hamilton?
    (I think such questions should only be asked quietly, and among trusted friends. That's because I've heard rumors that they're taking Hamilton off the ten....)

    MORE: Think I'm kidding?


    Betcha ten I'm not!

    UPDATE (02/25/06): Nick Packwood's comment below caused me to bend over backwards in search of "Cultural Marxism," and I actually found that in certain circles, it is alive and well! Marxist cultural revisionism has been revised accordingly in this post.


    UPDATE (03/03/06): Ed Driscoll has more on fluoridation and General Ripper. Bottled water will not save us.

    posted by Eric on 02.22.06 at 03:25 PM


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    Tracked on February 23, 2006 1:48 PM


    "...but a tactic meant to soften us up for the kill, in much the same manner that we might be softened up by the deliberate introduction of smuggled heroin."

    Now you're getting it. We see it today in Santa Monica and Spokane, where tag has been banned from the schoolyards.

    I'm glad to hear that Raymond is still going strong. I was just about to bring up Gramsci. Another aspect of the trend is the weakening of the family. That we see in the rise of single-parent families, and things like the overtly propagandistic "Why Mommy is a Democrat", in which father is conspicuously absent.

    Mike Z   ·  February 22, 2006 5:41 PM

    I think you're exactly right. Its the "Hitler was a vegetarian" argument.

    Adam   ·  February 22, 2006 5:53 PM

    But isn't the "nihilistic idea (shared by Hitler) that there are no objective standards, and even no truth" exactly Marxist? At least as it was practiced in the 20th century?

    It is the lack of objective standards that enables the state (or Stalin, or whoever has the power) to control the individual, because then the individual has no recourse to objective truth -- only power matters. The individuals have no courage in such a system, because objective truth has been hidden from them. Which I pose is why religion was eliminated in the 20th century Marxist states (and, conversely, why the resulting fall of the Empire that was at least accelerated by the Pope's visit to Poland).

    You are right that ideas must be considered on their own merit or lack thereof. But it is not difficult to see that "cultural Marxism" might be found in a "movement" that seeks to extinguish objective standards, using the tactic of attacking a large number of traditional mores.

    pikkumatti   ·  February 22, 2006 6:17 PM

    Even though Marxists are by definition atheists, atheism predates Marxism, and to call it "Cultural Marxism" ignores the fact that many atheists oppose Marxism.

    Similarly, extinguishing objective standards, while odious to reason itself, is no more Marxist than gun control. True, this aids power, but not necessarily Marxist power. While I believe in objective truth, I don't see it as necessarily synonymous with religion (especially Islam, which tends towards subjective truths).

    Eric Scheie   ·  February 22, 2006 8:48 PM

    Extinguishing objective standards is also no less Marxist than gun control. Both serve to ensure the subjection of the individual to the state.

    Objective truth is perhaps not synonymous with religion, but it certainly is a feature of religion (for lack of a better word). Once one accepts the existence of objective truth (i.e., truth that exists outside of ourselves), the obvious question is "What is that truth?" Which eventually leads to "Where does truth come from?".

    Not to get, like, all scriptural on you or anything, but it is interesting that Pilate asks Jesus "What is truth?" in the biblical story of the crucifixion. Why that question? Is he asserting that there is no objective truth (as he is about to take the political way out of the dilemma (offering the crowd the choice between the thief and Jesus)?

    pikkumatti   ·  February 23, 2006 10:15 AM

    Gun control is also favored by fascists -- and liberals, for that matter. And Marxists believe in paved roads. My point is, that does not mean gun control and paved roads are "Marxism."

    As to religious scriptures, these are writings of people -- collections of differing assertions which are offered as the truth. To disbelieve in all of them or some of them (to believe in the Bible but not the Koran, for example) in no way denies objective truth.

    Nor (in my view) does atheism deny objective truth.

    Frankly, I do not know what was on Pilate's mind when he asked "What is truth?" Assuming that he did ask that question, he might very well have realized he was in the presence of a mind greater than his own, and wanted to pick his brain a little with a complex philosophical question -- which Pilate may have done even as he was being pressured to put Jesus to death.

    That's not inconsistent with what one might expect from even a cynical and brutal Roman procurator. (Personally, I think Pilate would have preferred to spare Jesus -- but I can't prove it.)

    Eric Scheie   ·  February 23, 2006 11:20 AM

    Everyone beleives in some truth. For instance, Hitler seemed to beleive strongly that Jews were detrimental to his society, and felt that was an objective standpoint. Which is why he rallied his countries to eliminate the jews(and gypsy, homosexual, handicapped etc) on the face of the planet.

    I am often accussed of being a 'cultural marxist' because I say that there is more than one side to every story. Take a look at the christian religion for example: Most of the denominations beleive in certain truths that they call 'objective'. But they also disagree very strongly on others, to the point where they used to kill each other over them. This is an example of 'objective standards' being so strong that all that oppose them are crushed (for more information see: crusades, spanish inquisition, pilgrims, Egyptian pharoahs, Saudi Arabia, et. al)

    Is there one factual, objective truth to all history? Sure, but you'll never be able to find it, because we all view events through our own rose tinted glasses. The only thing that covers objective truth is a security camera. And everything that happens outside of that gaze becomes speculative...

    My opinion:there is rarely such thing as pure subjective or objective viewpoints, they are usually mixed, and we find ourselves stuck in the grey zone between them.
    And, no, I do not like being called a marxist.

    alchemist   ·  February 23, 2006 4:13 PM

    Thanks Eric. I understand your point, and I accept it. My point was only that things like elimination of objective truth and gun control are features (hallmarks?) of Marxism. Quacks of a duck, so to speak. So given enough quacks, some people start looking for a duck. Sometimes they find a duck. Sometimes they find a man with a duck call. So I agree with you -- one must look for what is quacking before drawing conclusions.

    If you're interested in the Pilate thing, I'd suggest looking to the context of the story, and to what Pilate responds with his question. You'll get more insight from it, and it'll seem (I think) that he isn't just being intellectually curious.

    alchemist: I'll beg for a semantic difference, perhaps. I consider the concept of subjective truth to mean that you and I each believe in truth, but that my truth is no better than yours, and yours no better than mine, and ours no better than that of the guy down the street. There's no measuring stick. If my truth says I deserve your money, that money is mine to take if I have the power or guile to do so. So it is not surprising when PoMo deconstruction (i.e., truth depending on one's own rose-tinted glasses) is considered to be contrary to objective truth -- it is tantamount to no one having the right to say that dead old white man Shakespeare's works are better than those of 50 Cent, because one must consider viewer's viewpoint more than the work itself. That's a quack to me (see above). But you otherwise sound like a person with a duck call instead of a duck.

    I don't understand your point about the inquisition and crusades business. Are you saying that none of the denominations can have any objective truth because it leads to evil acts? Or that objective truth doesn't exist so they shouldn't act this way? Or . . .?

    pikkumatti   ·  February 23, 2006 7:25 PM

    "If my truth says I deserve your money, that money is mine to take if I have the power or guile to do so."

    Logically, that statement is not a "truth," but an opinion -- most likely grounded in a rejection of most people's religious/ethical/moral beliefs about right and wrong. His naked assertion that it is "the truth" does not make it so. If he takes the money, he faces punishment regardless of whether he agrees with society's morality -- or believes that his conduct is grounded in some "truth."

    Eric Scheie   ·  February 23, 2006 8:26 PM

    Thanks, Eric. I see your point on my example, and I'll concede. But I'll stand by the rest of my comment if you strike that sentence. Until proven otherwise. ;-)

    pikkumatti   ·  February 23, 2006 8:58 PM

    A few points that may be off point...

    pikkumatti: I think your claim that "elimination of objective truth" is a "feature of Marxism" unintentionally supports Eric's against about a mushy, catch-all use of the term Marxism to refer to policies with which one might disagree. Objective truth is, in point of fact, exactly what Marx claimed to advance with his science of history. That I think he was obviously mistaken does not change the nature of his truth-claim.

    Eric: I recently used the term "cultural Marxism" in a specific, technical sense to refer to a way of thinking that now predominates in American and Canadian arts and social science departments. While I disagree with most of the complaints made by The Conservative Voice he is entirely correct to attribute "cultural Marxism" to the Frankfurt School and its subsequent influence on what is now known as cultural studies. Though this is a revision of Marxist thought which I believe is in direct contradiction of Marx's own writings it is now taken for granted in the thinking of most academics (who for the most part have not read Marx). It is a school of thought independent of whatever "memes" are now circulating by the same label or indeed of its relationship to Marx, let alone facts. That many people teaching cultural cultural studies (as I did for two years) or influenced by cultural studies in traditional arts and social science departments support a variety of "progressive" policies and causes (as indeed I do) is perhaps not purely coincidental.

    Flea   ·  February 24, 2006 1:01 PM

    Thanks Nick. The thing is, I considered myself a Marxist in the 1960s when Marxism still meant understanding and agreeing with the economic theories of Marx. At the core of what's now being called "Cultural Marxism" may be the implementation of an anti-bourgeoisie strategy, which took whatever form was most convenient to the Marxists of the Frankfurt school decades ago. That it is "in direct contradiction of Marx's own writings" and has never characterized life in Communist countries seems to matter not one bit to anyone.

    And while it's certainly true that many people teaching cultural cultural studies support "progressive" policies and causes, they also support extreme decadence as a fad, to be in style. I'd go so far as saying that these attitudes have become thoroughly bourgeois. Blue State, even. But isn't calling them "Marxist" a perversion of the word? Couldn't it be said that the class struggle Marx wrote about still persists in the Red State versus Blue State phenomenon? For example, traditional Marxists saw homosexuality as "bourgeois decadence," and they called it precisely that. Today's working class Red State "proletariat" aren't the ones lining up to see "Brokeback Mountain" are they?

    There are a lot of ironies, and I think if Marx was alive today he'd feel as if something went very, very wrong.

    I think "Cultural Marxism" is a poor descriptor, and was primarily coined as an insult. (What fascinates me is that it is more likely to resonate among today's proletariat class....)

    Eric Scheie   ·  February 25, 2006 7:37 AM

    Hello admin, nice site you have!

    Junior   ·  March 6, 2006 7:44 AM

    Cultural Marxism: The redistribution of (fill in the blank) in order to make life "fair" by whatever means necessary.

    It is Marxism translated from the economic classes into cultural. Instead of just the burgeosie and the proletariat, we now have separations and redistributions based on race ("affirmative" action for "minorities" and the favored classes; Asians need not apply), religion (Christians need not apply), gender ("affirmative" action for women), sexuality (special status to homosexuals, tranvestites, and other favored classes), and ectera that the cultural Marxists play off of each other. We also see this in speech codes and "hate crimes" where some thought is favored and others punished. All cultures are "equal", except for Western culture. Western culture is deemed to be the oppressor (the burgeosie) and is not to be celebrated. All other cultures are deemed to be the victim of Western culture.

    Capitalism's big middle class put the lie to Marxism, so they spread out and searched for other classes they could play off of each other.

    In cultural Marxism the oppressors are: white people, males, hetereosexuals, Christians, and Americans/Westernors.

    Watch the leftists around the world. When Western culture, usually signified by economic success, Hollywood, and Western style dress and music, moves into another country (especially a poor one), the multiculturalists and cultural Marxists will bemoan the "economic and cultural imperialism". On the contrary, when any other culture moves into a Western country and takes root, it is heralded as "diversity" and is celebrated.

    likwidshoe   ·  March 9, 2006 8:47 PM

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