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Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory

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Cultural Marxism is a far-right and antisemitic conspiracy theory which claims Western Marxism as the basis of continuing academic and intellectual efforts to subvert Western culture.[1][2][3] The conspiracists claim that an elite of Marxist theorists and Frankfurt School intellectuals are subverting Western society with a culture war that undermines the Christian values of traditionalist conservatism and promotes the cultural liberal values of the 1960s counterculture and multiculturalism, progressive politics and political correctness, misrepresented as identity politics created by critical theory.[2][3][4][5] The theory originated in the United States.[6](Abstract)

Origins

The conspiracy theory of Marxist cultural warfare originated in the essay "New Dark Age: Frankfurt School and 'Political Correctness'" (1992) written by Michael Minnicinno,[1]:30–40 published in the Schiller Institute, a LaRouche movement organization journal associated with the fringe American right-wing political activist Lyndon LaRouche.[7] In a speech to the Conservative Leadership Conference of the Civitas Institute in 1998, Paul Weyrich presented his conspiracy theory equating Cultural Marxism to political correctness. He later republished the speech in his syndicated culture war letter. In the United States, the conspiracy theory is promoted by religious fundamentalists and paleoconservative politicians such as William S. Lind, Pat Buchanan and Paul Weyrich as well as the alt-right, neo-Nazi and white nationalists organizations.[8][9][10]

For the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, Weyrich commissioned Lind to write a history of Cultural Marxism, defined as "a brand of Western Marxism [...] commonly known as 'multiculturalism' or, less formally, Political Correctness"[4] which claimed that the presence of openly gay people in the television business proved that Cultural Marxists control the mass media; and that Herbert Marcuse considered a coalition of "Blacks, students, feminist women, and homosexuals" as a feasible vanguard of cultural revolution in the 1960s.[11][12] Moreover, the historian Martin Jay said in the Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe (2011) that Political Correctness: The Frankfurt School (1999), Lind's documentary of conservative counter-culture, was effective Cultural Marxism propaganda because it "spawned a number of condensed, textual versions, which were reproduced on a number of radical, right-wing [web] sites".[1] He further writes:

These, in turn, led to a plethora of new videos, now available on YouTube, which feature an odd cast of pseudo-experts regurgitating exactly the same line. The message is numbingly simplistic: All the 'ills' of modern American culture, from feminism, affirmative action, sexual liberation, racial equality, multiculturalism and gay rights to the decay of traditional education, and even environmentalism, are ultimately attributable to the insidious intellectual influence of the members of the Institute for Social Research who came to America in the 1930s.[1]

Aspects of the conspiracy

Cultural pessimism

The Cultural Marxism conspiracy recycles Joseph Goebbels opinions from the Degenerate Art Exhibition (July–November 1937) which the Nazis said proved that modern art was part of the cultural Bolshevism conspiracy meant to morally weaken German society[13]

In the essay "New Dark Age: The Frankfurt School and 'Political Correctness'" (1992), Michael Minnicino explains the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory on behalf of the Schiller Institute, a LaRouche political organization. Minnicino said that the "Jewish intellectuals" of the Frankfurt School promoted modern art in order to make cultural pessimism the spirit of the counterculture of the 1960s which was based upon the counter-culture Wandervogel, the cultural liberal German youth movement whose Swiss Monte Verità commune was the 19th-century predecessor of Western counter-culture in the 1960s.[14][15] The historian Martin Jay pointed out that Daniel Estulin's book cites Minnicino's essay as political inspiration for the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.[1]

In Fascism: Fascism and Culture (2003), professor Matthew Feldman argues that the etymology of the term Cultural Marxism derived from the antisemitic term Kulturbolschewismus (Cultural Bolshevism), with which the Nazis claimed that Jewish cultural influence caused German social degeneration under the liberal régime of the Weimar Republic (1918–1933) and was the cause of social degeneration in the West.[16] Moreover, the academic Andrew Woods writes in the essay Cultural Marxism and the Cathedral: Two Alt-Right Perspectives on Critical Theory (2019) that "although the Frankfurt School conspiracy has anti-Semitic components, it is inaccurate to call it nothing more than a modernization of cultural Bolshevism."[17]:47

Alleged aims

In The Wanderer Catholic newspaper article "The Frankfurt School: Conspiracy to Corrupt" (December 2008), Timothy Matthews said that the Frankfurt School was "Satan's work" and listed their eleven alleged culture-war aims:[17]

  1. Codification of hate crimes
  2. Causing constant social changes to provoke confusion
  3. Teaching children sex and homosexuality
  4. Weakening the authority of schools and teachers
  5. Mass immigration to destroy national identity
  6. Promoting alcoholism
  7. Reducing church attendance
  8. Weakening the legal system and causing it to be biased against crime victims
  9. Making people dependent on the state or welfare
  10. Controlling the media
  11. Encouraging family breakdown

Despite the falsity of the list, conspiracists use Matthew's allegations to promote the Cultural Marxism conspiracy in right-wing and alt-right news media as well as in far-right internet forums such as Stormfront.[17]

Othering of political opponents

In "Taking On Hate: One NGO's Strategies" (2009), the political scientist Heidi Beirich said that Cultural Marxism demonizes the cultural bêtes noires of conservatism such as feminists, LGBT social movements, secular humanists, multiculturalists, sex educators, and enviromentalists, immigrants and black nationalists.[18] In Europe, the Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik quoted Lind's culture-war conspiracy in his 1,500-page political manifesto 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, stating that the "sexually transmitted disease (STD) epidemic in Western Europe is a result of cultural Marxism"; that "Cultural Marxism defines Muslims, feminist women, homosexuals, and some additional minority groups, as virtuous, and they view ethnic Christian European men as evil"; and that the "European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg is a cultural-Marxist-controlled political entity."[19][20][21][22] About 90 minutes before killing 77 people in the 2011 Norway attacks, Breivik e-mailed 1,003 people his manifesto and a copy of Political Correctness: A Short History of an Ideology.[19][20][21][22]

In "Collectivists, Communists, Labor Bosses, and Treason: The Tea Parties as Right-wing, Populist Counter-subversion Panic'" (2012), the journalist Chip Berlet identified the culture war conspiracy as basic ideology of the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party. As a self-identified right-wing movement, the Tea Party claim they are suffering the same cultural subversion suffered by earlier generations of white-nationalists. The populist rhetoric of regional economic elites encourages counter-subversion panics, by which a large constituency of white middle-class people are deceived into unequal political alliances to defend their place in the middle class. Moreover, the failures of free-market capitalism are scapegoated onto the local collectives, communists, labor organisers, non-white citizens and immigrants by manipulating patriotism, economic libertarianism, traditional Christian values and nativism to use Cultural Marxism in defense of the racist and sexist politicians opposed to the big-government policies of the Obama administration.[23][24]

In "Cultural Marxism and the Radical Right" (2014), the political scientist Jérôme Jamin said that "next to the global dimension of the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory, there is its innovative and original dimension, which lets its racist authors avoid racist discourses, and pretend to be defenders of democracy in their respective countries."[2] The article "How Trump's Paranoid White House Sees 'Deep State' Enemies on all Sides" (2017) reported that NSC advisor Richard Higgins was fired from the National Security Council for publishing the memorandum '"POTUS & Political Warfare" that alleged the existence of a left-wing conspiracy to destroy the Trump presidency because "American public intellectuals of Cultural Marxism, foreign Islamicists, and globalist bankers, the news media, and politicians from the Republican and the Democrat parties were attacking Trump, because he represents an existential threat to the cultural Marxist memes that dominate the prevailing cultural narrative in the US."[25][26][27]

Political correctness and antisemitic canards

In the speech The Origins of Political Correctness (2000), William S. Lind established the ideology and the etymology of the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory, stating:

If we look at it analytically, if we look at it historically, we quickly find out exactly what it is. Political correctness is Cultural Marxism. It is Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms. It is an effort that goes back not to the 1960s and the Hippies and the peace movement, but back to World War I [1914–1918], to Kulturbolshewismus. If we compare the basic tenets of Political Correctness with the basic tenets of classical Marxism, the parallels are very obvious.[28]

Concerning the real-life political violence caused by the conspiracy in the editorial "The Alt-right's Favorite Meme is 100 Years Old" (2018), law professor Samuel Moyn said it is an antisemitic canard, arguing:

Originally an American contribution to the phantasmagoria of the alt-right, the fear of 'cultural Marxism' has been percolating for years through global sewers of hatred. Increasingly, it has burst into the mainstream. Before President Trump's [NSC] aide Rich Higgins was fired last year [2017], he invoked the threat of 'cultural Marxism' in proposing a new national security strategy. In June, [retired senator] Ron Paul tweeted out a racist meme that employed the phrase. On Twitter, the son of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's newly elected strongman, boasted of meeting Steve Bannon and joining forces to defeat 'cultural Marxism.' Jordan Peterson, the self-help guru and best-selling author, has railed against it, too, in his YouTube ruminations.[29]

Moyn concludes that "'cultural Marxism' is a crude slander, referring to something that does not exist [Jewish Bolshevism], unfortunately [it] does not mean actual people are not being set up to pay the price, as scapegoats, to appease a rising sense of anger and anxiety. And for that reason, 'cultural Marxism' is not only a sad diversion from framing legitimate grievances, but also a dangerous lure [to political violence] in an increasingly unhinged moment [in world history]."[29]

Scholarly analysis

Contrary to the claims and underlying assumptions of the conspiracy theory, academic Joan Braune explained that Cultural Marxism is not an academic school of thought; that Frankfurt School scholars are "critical theorists", not "Cultural Marxists"; that academics of postmodernism and feminist scholars are not Marxist theorists, and have slight connections to the Frankfurt School, to Marxism, or to critical theory; and that "Cultural Marxism does not exist — not only is the conspiracy theory version false, but there is no intellectual movement by that name."[30]

Promoters

The conspiracy theory of Marxist culture war is promoted by right-wing politicians, fundamentalist religious leaders, political commentators in mainstream print and television media and white supremacist terrorists.[31]

Politicians

  • Fraser Anning, former Australian Senator, initially sitting as a member of Pauline Hanson's One Nation and then Katter's Australian Party, declared during his maiden speech in 2018 that "Cultural Marxism is not a throwaway line but a literal truth" and spoke of the need for a "final solution to the immigration problem”.[32]
  • Cory Bernardi, former Australian Senator for South Australia and leader of the Australian Conservatives. While sitting in government as a member of the Liberal Party wrote in his 2013 book The Conservative Revolution that "cultural Marxism has been one of the most corrosive influences on society over the last century".[33]
  • Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, whose administration members promoted the conspiracy theory, "enthusiastically described Steve Bannon as an opponent of Cultural Marxism".[30]
  • Suella Braverman, the British Conservative Party MP, said in a pro-Brexit speech for the Eurosceptic thinktank the Bruges Group that "[w]e are engaging in many battles right now. As Conservatives, we are engaged in a battle against cultural Marxism, where banning things is becoming de rigueur, where freedom of speech is becoming a taboo, where our universities — quintessential institutions of liberalism — are being shrouded in censorship and a culture of no-platforming." Her usage of the conspiracy theory was condemned as hate speech by other MPs, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the anti-racist organization Hope Not Hate. Braverman dismissed that the term Cultural Marxism is a antisemitic trope, stating: "We have culture evolving from the far left which has allowed the snuffing out of freedom of speech, freedom of thought. [...] I'm very aware of that ongoing creep of cultural Marxism, which has come from Jeremy Corbyn."[34]
  • Nigel Farage promotes the cultural Marxist conspiracy as dog-whistle code for antisemitism in the United Kingdom.[35][36][37]
  • Rich Higgins, while acting as an aide to Donald Trump, wrote a memo framing Trump's presidential campaign as "a war on Cultural Marxism that needed to be sustained during his presidency". Higgins wrote of "a 'cabal' (an antisemitic trope) promoting Cultural Marxism that included 'globalists, bankers, Islamists, and conservative Republicans,' and had captured control of the media, academia, politics, and the financial system, as well as controlling attempts to tamp down on hate speech and hate groups through CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) government programs." Higgins also asserted that the Frankfurt School "sought to deconstruct everything in order to destroy it, giving rise to society-wide nihilism."[30]
  • Matt Shea, a Washington Representative from the Republican Party, is a proponent of the conspiracy theory as outlined in a conspiracy-minded seven-page memo by Rich Higgins, a National Security Council staffer in the Trump administration who was fired after the document became public in July 2017.[30][38]

Terrorists

The counterfeit police identity card used by the far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik while executing his terrorist 2011 Norway attacks which he justified as defense of the Western world against Cultural Marxism
  • Anders Behring Breivik justified his terrorism by citing Marxist cultural warfare as the primary subject of his political manifesto.[39] Breivik wrote that the "sexually transmitted disease (STD) epidemic in Western Europe is a result of cultural Marxism", that "Cultural Marxism defines Muslims, feminist women, homosexuals, and some additional minority groups, as virtuous, and they view ethnic Christian European men as evil" and that the "European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg is a cultural-Marxist-controlled political entity."[19][20][21][22]
  • Jack Renshaw, convicted for plotting the assassination of Labour MP Rosie Cooper and threatening to kill a policeman as well as being accused of criminal pedophilia, promoted the conspiracy theory in a video for the British National Party.[40][41][42]

Media personalities

  • Andrew Breitbart, founder of Breitbart News, was a proponent of the conspiracy theory.[30]
  • Pat Buchanan promotes the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory as meant to "de-Christianize" the United States.[43]
  • Paul Gottfried is one of the three main proponents of the conspiracy theory.[30]
  • Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, has promoted the conspiracy theory.[30]
  • William S. Lind, the principal promoter of the conspiracy, said that Marxists control much of the mass communications media and that political correctness can be directly attributed to Karl Marx.[44][45]
  • Kevin MacDonald is one of the three main proponents of the conspiracy theory.[30]
  • Jordan Peterson blamed the conspiracy for demanding the use of gender-neutral pronouns as a threat to free speech. Peterson often misuses the term postmodernism as a stand in term for the conspiracy.[7]
  • Ben Shapiro promotes the theory, especially that "Cultural Marxist" activity is happening in universities.[30][46]
  • Paul Weyrich promoted the conspiracy theory as a deliberate effort to undermine "our traditional, Western, Judeo-Christian culture" and the conservative agenda in American society, arguing that "we have lost the culture war" and that "a legitimate strategy for us to follow is to look at ways to separate ourselves from the institutions that have been captured by the ideology of Political Correctness, or by other enemies of our traditional culture. [...] We need to drop out of this [liberal] culture, and find places, even if it is where we physically are right now, where we can live godly, righteous and sober lives.[8][47][48]

Media organizations

  • AltRight Corporation, an alt-right organization that promotes the theory via its website altright.com, featuring articles with titles such as "Ghostbusters and the Suicide of Cultural Marxism", "Sweden: The World Capital of Cultural Marxism" and "Beta Leftists, Cultural Marxism and Self-Entitlement".[49]
  • American Renaissance, a neo-Nazi site that has run stories with titles like "Cultural Marxism in Action: Media Matters Engineers Cancellation of Vdare.com Conference"[49]
  • InfoWars, an alt-right site, has promoted the conspiracy with several articles such as "Is Cultural Marxism America's New Mainline Ideology?"[30]
  • The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi site that regularly runs stories about "Cultural Marxism" with titles like "Jewish Cultural Marxism is Destroying Abercrombie & Fitch", "Hollywood Strikes Again: Cultural Marxism through the Medium of Big Box-Office Movies" and "The Left-Center-Right Political Spectrum of Immigration = Cultural Marxism".[49]
  • National Policy Institute (NPI), a white supremacist think tank and lobby group which promotes the conspiracy theory via its website, Radix Journal.[49]
  • VDARE, an alt-right site that has promoted the conspiracy with several articles such as "Virginia (Dare) There Is A Cultural Marxism—And It’s Taking Over Conservatism Inc".[49]

See also

References

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  9. ^ Promotion of Cultural Marxism by William S. Lind, neo-Nazis and white nationalists:
  10. ^ Promotion of Cultural Marxism by William S. Lind, Pat Buchanan and Paul Weyrich, the alt-right, neo-Nazi and white nationalists:
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Further reading