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The Cultural Marxists: Cancel Culture
This column is based on the work of social philosopher Os Guinness, eloquently explained in his book: The Magna Carta of Humanity: Sinai’s Revolutionary Faith and the Future of Freedom.
The left has adopted a new Marxism. The old one articulated by Karl Marx, was based on economics and the perception of exploitation of workers by the wealthy elite. Os Guinness explains how leftist professor Herbert Marcuse and others overhauled Marxist doctrine to focus on cultural dominance as opposed to economic exploitation as its core message.
In doing so it shifted its constituency from the working class, which was never quite comfortable with its dogma, to the cultural elites throughout the world.
They focused on liberation, transformation, and revolutionary change. The 1960s were animated by the “great refusal” (Hell no! We won’t go) that met the war in Vietnam. This habit of refusal morphed into the current cancel culture that refuses to embrace the core beliefs of Americans about our history, democracy, idealism, race relations, pluralism, economic progress, self-improvement, and sense of justice.
Marcuse called for a “long march”, echoing Mao’s history, “through the cultural and educational institutions of society” spreading the doctrine of refusal to accept our societal narratives.
This long march was intended to change the way our cultural leaders reacted to our problems. Instead of bolstering a constructive national narrative that underscored our values and institutions while accepting the need for reform, it led to a total rejection of almost everything. It became known as the cancel culture.
Critical race theory was one expression of it, but the revolution extended to the realms of climate change, sexuality and mores, gender fluidity and changes. Particularly sweeping were the changes in our educational system that sought to undermine our collective narrative about American exceptionalism and enlisted teachers as instruments spreading the new gospel of cultural Marxism.
Traditional Marxism seeks to bring about change in the economic society by giving government control of the means of production. In this new Marxism, the goal was to change the culture of our information society by giving the left control of the means of information dissemination and education so that it’s doctrines and dogma could spread through the entire society.
Large scale scholarship aid and student lending dramatically expanded the university population, assuring that this cultural message would spread widely, spawning a new generation of professionals who, in turn, carried the message to the media, advertising, high technology, entrepreneurialism, entertainment, and every other field of human knowledge.
Google had centralized all human knowledge into one search engine and that made it possible to attack this choke point and use it to spread a new Gospel of counterculture and woke ideology.
Then, young billionaires got into the act — having themselves been nursed by these cultural Marxist ideas — using their vast financial resources, unheard of even in the industrial Gilded Age, to control the flow of information — the equivalent of the means of production — for cultural Marxism.
The organizations and causes fathered by this movement are constantly changing. They are a kind of beehive of causes from Black Lives Matter to the green revolution to racial equity preferences for minorities to reproductive freedom to trans studies and every imaginable form of movement. But they all had the common denominator of being powered by the Marxist cultural revolution and financial power of its billionaires.
So, the cultural Marxists extended their power through the malignant growth of slanted information, one-sided narratives, false facts, and distorted perceptions. It particularly focuses on exploiting the envies of various racial, economic, social, and intellectual cultures against those who they felt have held them in domination. So diverse was its penetration and so extensive that it became impossible to root out, just as the cultural Marxists intended when they made their “long march through the cultural institutions” and gatekeepers.
Their central goal is hegemony (power) over all of society. In their construct, there is no objective reality, no right or wrong, but only the power of cultural hegemony imposing a world view on the people. This moral relativism deliberately leaves no room for God or religion and the lust for hegemony causes a strong anti-religious bias that infuses the entire movement, just as it did in revolutionary France in 1789.
In this drive for cultural hegemony, the left seeks to change the language. It wants to ban gender pronouns, exchange equality for “equity” (i.e. giving preferences to minorities), and redefine freedom of speech to mean echoing and repeating a common cultural script.
And, since there is no objective truth, right and wrong are determined by a global hegemony or tyranny. Everything, every human relationship, every institution of society is a manifestation of the power of one over the others. Whites exploit blacks, men exploit women, the old exploit the young, the rich exploit the poor, Europeans exploit indigenous people, straights exploit gays, bosses exploit workers, men exploit pregnant women, and so forth. And, for each victimized cohort, there is an organization and a movement dedicated to its liberation, creating a mosaic of grievance to power political change.
Political power stems from harnessing the envy and resentment of the “victims,” welding them into a mosaic of change agents and a revolutionary army of cultural Marxists.
Mao famously said that political power flowed from the barrel of a gun. But to cultural Marxists, it flows from a dogma of ideas imposed through all of society’s sources of information.
A social media platform can replace Mao’s entire army in creating a hegemony of its ideas.
But a singular feature of this revolutionary movement is that it can never succeed. The grievance remains forever, festering, and empowering change agents. No reform legislation, no civil rights law. no degree of social acceptance, no alteration in vocabulary, can ever remedy the grievance. The need for the social movement is permanent and thus, so is its political power.
In achieving greater racial justice, for example, we have banned slavery, integrated schools, elected blacks in direct proportion to their population, chosen an African-American president, assured that minorities are heavily represented in the top ranks of politics, economics, media, and entertainment. But the envy festers and each new victory simply whets the appetite for more. A temporary movement, meant to remedy a specific injustice, becomes a permanent political force once the evil that impelled is vanquished.
While democratic society moves from a zero-sum analyst of power (I win, you lose) to a more enlightened non-zero view (I win, we both win. If I lose, we both do too), the cultural Marxists will have none of it. Power is competition with winners and losers and all losers must fight together to upend the social order so they can win.
Cultural Marxism has no room for the individual. It doesn’t matter who gets the Nobel Prize or the gold medal or who becomes president or who gets what financial reward. The cohort must move up or down together with its unity powered by a common sense of victimization and a resulting tribal demand for unity. A sprinkling of success stories doesn’t matter.
How To Counter Cultural Marxism?
Leftists have laid the groundwork for their offensive against our culture by following the advice of Herbert Marcuse to “take a long march through cultural institutions and gatekeepers,”
Now we must retrace their steps in their long march to counter and offset their propaganda in each of the institutions they have corrupted.
But before we begin our own long march, lets realize that our best defense against the evils of cultural Marxism is our own spirited and voluble opposition to its tenants. Once we have understood its roots and grasped the extent of its branches, we can prune it back and ultimately uproot this dangerous weed.
In our free society, we cannot use government to police entertainment or, in most cases, news reporting. It is for us, the marketplace, to do so. We have already so manifested our displeasure with CNN, for example, that we have driven its ratings into the dust and are forcing important changes.
But our vigilance must extend further and we must direct our purchasing dollar to the companies and vendors who are willing to stand up against cultural Marxism — and to say so!
On TV, we should watch Newsmax. Home improvements and repairs? Use Home Depot. Pillows and bedding? (you know the answer) …
But there is much we can do through government action to level the playing field with the cultural Marxists.
Colleges And Universities
We must start where Marcuse started: In colleges and universities, lately transformed into hotbeds of cancel culture and wokeness.
To do so, we must wield the power of the federal government extensively. We will never root out woke hegemony over our higher educational system — and, stemming from that, our future opinion leaders — without federal power.
There is no reason to transcend the limits set by the First Amendment. But we must use the vast and expensive network of federal aid, subsidies, contracts, loans, and scholarships that undergird the financial base of leftist higher educational institutions to counter the counterculture!
The precedent of the anti-segregation mandates under the federal civil rights law, that forced integration in federally aided school districts, clearly show a path to regulate education constitutionally and legally.
We need to insist that federal student aid and spending on higher education and university research and consulting contracts follow an America-first, MAGA agenda:
1. Require free speech on campuses that get federal aid and contracts.
2. Ban racial and other discriminatory preferences in institutions that get federal funding. Soon, the US Supreme Court will rule on affirmative action. We must take care to use federal funds to promote to the limit merit-based programs to the extent that the Court decision allows them.
3. Require, as a condition of federal scholarship aid, contractual funding, and other financial supports that no program of any college or university block, impede, restrict, denigrate, or limit free speech in any way except to prevent imminent violence.
4. Require that institutions receiving federal aid assure that faculty and administrative appointments and tenure decisions in must balance ideological and partisan views to present a true diversity of opinion.
5. Among federally funded institutions, ban ideological bias in PhD dissertation topics and require that they reflect a full range of views and opinions so we can turn out new faculty unencumbered by cultural Marxism.
Elementary And Secondary Education
Public schools have become the “super-spreaders” of the pandemic of cultural Marxism. Through their curricula, teaching personnel, union rules, and administrative bias, they assure that our children are all put through a ringer to make them conform to the dictates of work ideology.
To counter this trend, we must enact federal legislation requiring that all school districts, as a precondition of federal funding, create a comprehensive voucher system where the funds allocated to public education also be equally available to students in private, church, parochial, and home schooling.
We should demand that public schools receiving federal funds not bias hiring or tenure decisions based on political views or partisan affiliation.
As a condition of federal funding, we must apply to elementary and secondary education the same rules we suggest for higher educational institutions.
In all public schools’ boards that receive federal funding, we should require that a majority of the members be parents of students actually and currently enrolled in the schools they administer and that these parents be elected by other parents with no outside participation by unions, teachers or administrators.
We should require, of all federally aided schools that no literature or school curricula promote or encourage trans-sexuality, or gender change without explicit, written permission of the parents.
All school athletic programs, that operate with federal funds, must separate trans-athletes from others in all competitions, creating three lanes for competition: male, female, and trans.
And we must ban the teaching of such creations of the left as critical race theory and the 1619 historical project.
Limiting The Power Of Social Media
Cultural Marxism spread through social media to all parts of our nation. We must treat social media platforms as utilities, granted their quasi-monopoly status in return for obedience to certain rules.
Former president Donald Trump laid out a sweeping agenda to use government power to restore free speech in his address of December 15, 2022. He called for:
1. Amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to permit a private right of action — including lawsuits by state attorneys general — against social media platforms to enforce political neutrality and prohibit partisan bias or censorship.
2. Banning any federal employee or contractor from attempting to restrict free speech by calling it disinformation or misinformation without proof. Trump said that “within hours of my inauguration” he would sign an executive order banning federal agencies “from colluding” with others to censor or otherwise limit lawful speech by individuals.
He also said he would begin a process to identify and fire “every federal bureaucrat who has engaged in domestic censorship.”
3. Prosecuting, as Trump proposed “all parties involved in the new online censorship regime and probing for “possible violations of federal civil rights law, campaign finance laws, federal election law, securities law and antitrust laws, the Hatch Act, and a host of other potential criminal civil regulatory and constitutional offenses,” he said.
But throughout the culture war against Marxism, we must be alert to changes in enemy strategy and tactics. This is a sophisticated adversary who has nearly completed the conquest of America right before our eyes.
We must not let them complete the job.
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