Month: May 2022
On Granville Street in Downtown Vancouver. Summer of 2018.
Granville Street is a major street in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and part of Highway 99. Granville Street is most often associated with the Granville Entertainment District and the Granville Mall. This street also cuts through suburban neighborhoods like Shaughnessy, and Marpole via the Granville Street Bridge.
The community was known as “Gastown” (Gassy’s Town) after its first citizen – Jack Deighton, known as “Gassy” Jack. “To gas” is period English slang for “to boast and to exaggerate”. In 1870 the community was laid out as the “township of Granville” but everybody called it Gastown. The name Granville honours Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville, who was British Secretary of State for the Colonies at the time of local settlement.
In 1886 it was incorporated as the city of Vancouver, named after Captain George Vancouver, who accompanied James Cook on his voyage to the West Coast and subsequently spent 2 years exploring and charting the West Coast.
During the 1950s, Granville Street attracted many tourists to one of the world’s largest displays of neon signs.
Towards the middle of the twentieth century, the Downtown portion of Granville Street had become a flourishing centre for entertainment, known for its cinemas (built along the “Theatre Row,” from the Granville Bridge to where Granville Street intersects Robson Street), restaurants, clubs, the Vogue and Orpheum theatres, and, later, arcades, pizza parlours, pawn stores, pornography shops and strip clubs.
By the late 1990s, Granville Street suffered gradual deterioration and many movie theatres, such as “The Plaza, Caprice, Paradise, [and] Granville Centre […] have all closed for good,” writes Dmitrios Otis in his article “The Last Peep Show.” In the early 2000s, the news of the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympic Games, to be hosted in Whistler, a series of gentrification projects, still undergoing as of 2006, had caused the shutdown of many more businesses that had heretofore become landmarks of the street and of the city.
Also, Otis writes that “once dominated by movie theatres, pinball arcades, and sex shops [Downtown Granville is being replaced] by nightclubs and bars, as […it] transforms into a booze-based ‘Entertainment District’.” In April 2005, Capitol 6, a beloved 1920s-era movie theatre complex (built in 1921 and restored and reopened in 1977) closed its doors (Chapman). By August 2005, Movieland Arcade, located at 906 Granville Street became “the last home of authentic, 8 mm ‘peep show’ film booths in the world” (Otis). On July 7, 2005, the Granville Book Company, a popular and independently owned bookstore was forced to close (Tupper) due to the rising rents and regulations the city began imposing in the early 2000s in order to “clean up” the street by the 2010 Olympics and combat Vancouver’s “No Fun City” image. (Note the “Fun City” red banners put up by the city on the lamp-posts in the pizza-shop photograph). Landlords have been unable to find replacement tenants for many of these closed locations; for example, the Granville Book Company site was still boarded up and vacant as of July 12, 2006.
While proponents of the Granville gentrification project in general (and the 2010 Olympics in specific) claim that the improvements made to the street will only benefit its residents, the customers frequenting the clubs and the remaining theatres and cinemas, maintain that the project is a temporary solution, since the closing down of the less “classy” businesses, and the build-up of Yaletown-style condominiums in their place, will not eliminate the unwanted pizzerias, corner-stores and pornography shops – and their patrons – but will simply displace them elsewhere (an issue reminiscent of the city’s long-standing inability to solve the problems of the DTES).
Al-Biruni: A Master of Scholarship
When learning about Islamic history, it’s hard to not be amazed at the scientific and intellectual accomplishments of Muslims in the past. From medicine to mathematics to philosophy to art to physics, during their golden age, Muslims were at the forefront of almost all sciences, making new discoveries and building on earlier ones. Names like Ibn Sina, Ibn al-Haytham, Ibn Khaldun, and al-Farabi come to mind when people think of the giants of Islamic science.
One man who is in this elite group of the greatest scholars of all time is the Muslim Persian polymath, Abu Rayhan al-Biruni. He lived from 973 to 1048 and spent most of his life in Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. During his illustrious career, al-Biruni became an expert in numerous subjects, including history, physics, mathematics, astronomy, linguistics, comparative religion, and earth sciences. Despite the unsettling political problems the Muslim world was dealing with during his life, he managed to rise above the instability and become one of the greatest scholars of history.
Al-Biruni was born in the province of Khorasan, in Northeastern Persia in 973. Like many other children in his time, he was educated at a young age, learning the Arabic and Persian languages, as well as basic Islamic studies, and natural sciences. Early on, he took an interest in mathematics and astronomy, which he specialized in under the eminent astronomers of the day.
In his 20s, he moved away from home in his pursuit of knowledge. For 3 years he traveled throughout Persia, learning from scholars about numerous subjects. When he finally settled in Jurjan (modern Gorgan) in 998, he worked for the local ruler, Shams al-Ma’ali Qabus. For the next 10 years, he lived in this small northern Irani city, doing research, writing books, and learning more.
During this time, he wrote a monumental work that analyzed historical chronologies of ancient civilizations, along with the rise and fall of empires. The book foreshadowed his future as a scholar of numerous subjects. It is more than just a history book, as it brings history, science, astronomy, and cultural studies together to explain events of the past. Al-Biruni clearly became one of the foremost minds of his day through his work in Jurjan.
Al-Biruni would not accomplish some of his greatest works until he moved to Ghazni, and was under the patronage of Sultan Mahmud. Ghazni was a major city at the time, located in what is now Afghanistan. Mahmud’s empire stretched far beyond the borders of modern Afghanistan, however, into present-day Iran, Pakistan, and India. In this powerful empire, al-Biruni had the resources and ability to show what he was capable of doing.
Of particular benefit to al-Biruni was the fact that Sultan Mahmud regularly embarked on military expeditions into India to protect his domain there. Mahmud had a habit of taking al-Biruni along on all his military campaigns, so al-Biruni was exposed regularly to language, culture, and religion in India.
Blessed with a mind that was capable of picking up new ideas easily, al-Biruni quickly managed to learn Sanskrit, the language of Hindu liturgy. This opened up an entire realm of Indian books that he could learn from and compare with books from other parts of the world. He translated books from Sanskrit into Arabic and Persian, and also translated from Arabic to Sanskrit. He was a firm believer in the idea that civilizations should aim to learn from each other instead of destroy each other.
Because of his ability to read ancient Hindu texts, al-Biruni was able to compile an encyclopedia of ancient Indian history, known as Kitab Tarikh al-Hind – The Book of Indian History. In fact, much of what is known today about ancient India comes directly from al-Biruni’s book. Tarikh al-Hind does more than tell the reader about ancient India, however. It is also a testament to the fact that al-Biruni was able to put together so many different sciences to fully understand the background of historical events. The book is a window into Indian philosophy, geography, and culture, which al-Biruni immersed himself in to give himself a better understanding of Indian history. As such, Tarikh al-Hind can truly be considered one of the world’s first books on anthropology – the study of human societies and their development.
Besides being an expert in Indian history and culture, al-Biruni managed to find time to make scientific advances as well. Because of his travels, he was able to see different geographic features first-hand, and come up with theories as to how they are connected. By analyzing the different types of soil particles in the Ganges River from its source to the Bay of Bengal, al-Biruni formulated theories about erosion and how land forms are shaped, particularly noting the role of water in this process.
In a related study, he discovers fossils of ancient sea animals in the mountains that cut India off from the rest of the world – the Himalayas. It seems unlikely that lowly sea snails and other shellfish would travel thousands of miles inland and up the side of a mountain, so al-Biruni came to the conclusion that the Himalayan Mountains must have been under the ocean at one point, and moved to their present location over millions of years. This directly led to the modern understanding of plate tectonics – how continents move and shift over time.
Al-Biruni also pioneered the field of geology, as he collected, analyzed, and compiled hundreds of metals and gems. He described their properties, how they are made, and where they can be found. His books on gemstones served as a standard for understanding precious stones for hundreds of years.
Al-Biruni continued a remarkable career in the early 1000s, doing research into fields such as:
How the earth spins on its axis
How wells and springs transport water to the surface
Combining statics and dynamics into the study of mechanics
Recording the latitude and longitude of thousands of cities, which allowed him to determine the direction towards Makkah for each city
The optical nature of shadows, particularly their use for the calculation of prayer times
Separating scientific astronomy from superstitious astrology
During his 75 years, al-Biruni managed to revolutionize the way numerous subjects were understood. By the time he died in 1048, he had authored well over 100 books, of which many have not survived till today. His intellect and mastery of various subjects, and his ability to relate them together to gain a better understanding of each puts him among the greatest Muslim scholars of all time. His life serves as proof of the ability of Muslim scholars of the past to push the limits of knowledge and establish new frontiers in the sciences. It also serves to show the ability of the best scholars to rise above political problems, wars, and and general instability to still do world-changing research and make remarkable discoveries.
Schifrin: Sudden Impact
Clint Eastwood returned to one of his most enduring roles in 1983’s Sudden Impact, the fourth of five times he played “Dirty” Harry Callahan, and the only entry in the series he directed. The deliberate pacing of most of Eastwood’s directorial outings is gone, in its place a succession of violent actions scenes which make for great entertainment. The third film in the series, The Enforcer, had been scored by Jerry Fielding, but Lalo Schifrin returned this time and delivered a typically stark, modern effort.
“Modern” this time doesn’t just refer to the fierce orchestral music (though there is plenty of that), but Schifrin also incorporated the sounds of the day (including, unexpectedly, scratching records and early 80s pop in the main title) – these sections are little more than a curio today, a relic of another age which is thankfully behind us. The real meat of the score is in those orchestral passages, which finds Schifrin offering a bleak, uncompromising soundscape – often dominated by harsh, genuine dissonance.
It is not difficult to admire Schifrin for putting music like this into an early 80s action thriller – and nobody would dare offer anything like it today, such challenging music having long since disappeared from films – but many will find it difficult to actually enjoy when separated from the film. Schifrin rarely, if ever, gets mentioned with people like Fielding and Alex North as someone who really pushed the boundaries of avant garde orchestral music in films, but if anything he pushed them even further than those two composers, less concerned with using melody as his base and instead concentrating on texture. He is especially adept at an orchestral jazz fusion sound, and sections of this score simply ooze class.
“Eclectic” is certainly a word to use, though – for every piece of harsh orchestral modernism is a piece accompanied by a drum kit and electric guitars, and while these (in particular “Ginley’s Bar”) work well, the contrast with the rest of the score is perhaps a little too far. Most eclectic of all is the seven-minute “Remembering Terror”, which goes from carnival source music to avant garde orchestral experimentation to 80s pop, and back again. It’s masterful in its own way, but I’m forced to return to my observation that it’s not actually very easy to enjoy. The rapturous, gorgeous love theme that finally reveals itself during the end title is a rare exception.
Despite that – this is impressive music, and by and large follows the established Dirty Harry sound impressively while updating it to the then-current time. The album features great sound quality and informative notes from Nick Redman. Sudden Impact may not be a score for everyone, but for those who enjoy more challenging music it’s a sure-fire winner. It is available on Schifrin’s own label Aleph Records, who have also previously released the music from the first three films in the series.
Jaws by Peter Benchley #BookReview – Sci-Fi & Scary
Despite being the most obvious answer to the question “name a film that’s better than the book”, Peter Benchley’s debut novel ‘Jaws’ is an entertaining read. Published way back in 1974, it has stood the test of time pretty well and still grips today, with some themes that haven’t dated too badly.
Sian reviewed it here 2 years ago, but she wasn’t much of a fan, so I thought I’d write a review to balance things out.
Amazingly (or perhaps not, given how fickle publishers can be), it’s the only one of Benchley’s 8 novels that is still in print, in the UK at least. It was, of course, a huge success on its original release, the hardcover staying on the bestseller lists for almost a year. It’s not hard to see why. The concept both grabs the attention and makes it a great beach read. The classic cover can’t have hurt either. The first edition hardback has a more stylistic version of the shark’s head and swimmer design that became so famous. It was the Bantam paperback that carried the lower brow but more effective picture that went on to be the movie poster. And that title! Benchley claims it was arrived at out of desperation as the date of publication approached. He reminisces that he told his editor “it’s short; it fits on a jacket, and it may work”.
The setup and characters will be familiar to anyone who has seen the film. Giant shark preys on swimmers off the beaches of Amity Island, local police chief Brody tries to protect his citizens, eventually teaming up with Hooper, a young marine scientist, and Quint, a grizzled boat captain.
The plot is slightly different from the movie’s, with a much slower second act that focuses on Chief Brody’s marriage. It’s less effective than the pacier and more eventful approach the film took, but it does do a good job of building the relationship between Brody and Hooper. The final act is more similar to the film, although it lack the brilliant drunken scar comparing competition and the classic ‘sinking of the Indianapolis’ speech. What it does have in spades is the musing on modern masculinity, with Brody as the Everyman, Hooper as the trendy intellectual and Quint as the embodiment of macho charisma. The three metaphorically compare dick size whilst hunting the fish, making it feel at time a bit like low rent Hemingway.
Unfortunately, this being a popular novel from the 1970s, it’s not without its representation issues. It’s deeply racist at times, and the biggest female character, Brody’s wife, is really only there to give Brody and Hooper a trophy to fight over.
But for all that it’s great fun. The shark is a suitably menacing enemy, and Benchley manages to keep things tense despite that fact that all anyone has to do to keep out of trouble is stay on dry land. It has everything a holiday read should have and is worth a picking up even though you’ve seen the movie.
Review: Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D
I love Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. I love playing the game, hanging out with other people while they’re playing the game, reading about the game, and watching videos of the game; you name it, I love it. It would have been really hard for Konami to make it so I don’t enjoy playing one of my favorite games ever on my current favorite videogame console (the 3DS), but heavens to Murgatroyd, they came pretty close.
Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D does not come off like the paragon of technical excellence that the original title did when it was first released on the PS2 in 2004. Part of that is because the 3DS is not a PS2. Nintendo’s latest portable is capable of much more than that now-“retro” home console, as proven by titles like Resident Evil: Revelations. The other part is that Snake Eater 3D feels unfinished. There are a few cool new features here, but Snake Eater 3D is also a downgrade from the original in a lot of ways — not something you’d expect on newer hardware.
It’ll be up to the individual consumer to determine if Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater‘s technical failings are damaging enough to cancel out the worth of the port’s newly implemented features, and the original title’s impeccable writing, scenario design, and gameplay design. Maybe you’ll have a better time of reasoning that out for yourself after I break down some details for you.
Snake Eater is Kojima’s best work, combining Hollywood action-movie tropes, pure videogame logic, densely packed Japanese pseudo-science fantasy, a period-piece war story, absurdist comedy, and heart-wrenching drama into a seamless whole. As far as Metal Gear games go, this one bursts with the most personality and creativity. That goes for both the game’s scripted events and its allowance for the player to guide the story in a direction that reflects who they are.
On the surface, Snake Eater‘s central theme is survival. That’s a pretty common theme in games today, whether it’s Call of Duty or Resident Evil. Part of what makes Snake Eater special is the lengths to which it goes to first limit the player in their capacity to survive, then allow them to overcome those limits in the most incredible, imaginative methods possible. There are so many ways to deal with the problems presented to you in Snake Eater, with so many bonuses, Easter eggs, diversions, and surprises to be found by those who are creative and lucky enough to discover them.
The result of this dedication to variables is a game that truly makes you feel like a co-developer. The player is just as responsible for generating the particulars of their Snake Eater experience as Kojima and company. It’s up to you to decide if you want to kill a guard, choke him out, sneak past him, or throw a snake to at him to scare him off. That’s just entry-level stuff. The amount of choices the game gives you from there, and the truly bizarre events that you can bring about, is nothing short of astounding.
Also worth noting is how much the game focuses on minutiae. More so than any other Metal Gear title, Snake Eater is about juxtaposing quiet moments with load, boisterous action scenes. How much action you play, versus how much time you spend in nature, is largely up to you. Personally, I love the hunting and gathering aspects of the title, so I tend to approach Snake Eater as an opportunity to commune with an artificial environment in as thorough (and hopefully conflict-free) a way as possible. I can spend inordinate amounts of time just in hunting different kinds of animals, sneaking around and listening to the sounds of the jungle, and goofing off, without getting bored.
Others will focus on speed and lethality, working to move forward and take out enemies as efficiently as possible. Still others will focus on exploration and completionism, working to see every event, listen to every line of dialog, finish every task, and so on. Snake Eater is a true sandbox game. It may have a linear story, but there are many, many deviations you can take from that path to make the story your own.
I could go on and on about all the things that make Snake Eater an amazing game. Let’s get on to the specifics regarding this particular version. I’ve never liked the way Metal Gear Solid 3 controls, or the way most Metal Gear Solid games control. It’s not that they’re too limiting; it’s that they’re overly complicated and cluttered.
Snake Eater 3D fixes a few of those issues, but creates new problems. The controls are definitely less cluttered, and the touchscreen menu makes operating your sub-screen a breeze. That said, the new controls will definitely throw off veterans who like the way Metal Gear Solid games traditionally play. The use of the face buttons to aim will be especially off-putting to longtime fans. It may not bother those who are new to the series, as the controls are serviceable. That’s one of the many reasons why this port is best suited to those who’ve never played Metal Gear Solid before.
The camera, however, is sure to annoy everyone. The depth of field is very hard to get just right, which is crucial in a game that’s all about being aware of everything around you. There is also no simple way to quickly reset the camera back into position behind the player. The best way to do that is to quickly hit the “aim” button, which is pretty disorienting (especially if you prefer first-person aiming). The Circle Pad Pro definitely helps in making the camera, and all of the game’s controls, easier to manage, but it shouldn’t have been necessary. Konami could have enabled touchscreen aiming, or at the very least allowed us to customize the controls.
With or without the Circle Pad Pro, there is never a way to auto-reset the camera. What’s really weird is that with the Circle Pad Pro, there is a button for auto-resetting the character — it makes Snake automatically face north. So Konami knew that we’d want to auto-reset something. They just didn’t realize that it’s the camera, not the character, that we need more control over. It may sound like a small gripe, but it’s a huge oversight that makes playing through Snake Eater 3D a lot more confusing and convoluted than it needs to be.
Speaking of playing through the game, I may be doing it wrong, but there seems to be a lot of stuff missing from this version. The secret dream sequence mini-game is missing, as is the monkey-catching mini-game, along with a few other little touches. If anything, Konami should have been adding content to a game that most interested parties likely already own.
Snake Eater 3D is also lacking technical polish. The frame rate is low throughout, and some cut-scenes are even more choppy. This didn’t bother me too much, but if you feel uneasy spending time with videogames that struggle to stay smooth, prepare to feel awkward.
Instead of a smooth frame rate, 3DS players are presented with (what else) stereoscopic 3D effects, which look pretty nice, particularly in first-person mode. It’s never quite as enveloping as the 3D in Ocarina of Time or RE: Revelations, but it still does a good job of making an unnatural polygon-based world feel more real. The game also appears to have slightly improved character models and animations. Snake’s smirking and scowling seems just a touch more expressive, and the many colors of the jungle seem slightly more vibrant. It’s strange that Konami went the extra mile with these visual flourishes, while permitting the frame rate to suffer so badly. It really does feel like there was a time that Snake Eater 3D was intended to be a visual powerhouse, but was instead rushed out before it could be fully optimized.
Other 3DS-specific features include some occasional gyroscope controls that are difficult to acclimate to, and the ability to make your own camouflage by taking photographs of real objects with the 3DS camera. Neither feature stuck out as worthwhile to me, especially the camouflage thing, which, if abused, could completely void the value of collecting in-game camo. Probably the least flashy but most worthwhile addition to the game is the crouch walk from Metal Gear Solid 4. It really helps to keep the game flowing toward the player at a brisk pace. CQC has also been streamlined, making hand-to-hand combat much more breezy. That’s what people like about stabbing guys in the neck, right? The “breezy factor”?
There are a few other little nods to Nintendo in the game, like Yoshi dolls that are hidden in nearly every stage, and the occasional issue of Nintendo Power lying around in Snake Eater 3D‘s more upscale locations. These touches are cute, but they don’t quite offset the amount of content that didn’t make the jump from the PS2 original to this handheld port.
It all results in a game with 9.5/10 ideas delivered in a 6/10 package. If you already own the original, or if you aren’t keen on playing Snake Eater on a portable, then there is no reason to pick it up again. If you do want the game on the go, you may be better off waiting for the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on the PS Vita. If you’re never going to buy a Vita and you have no other way to get your hands on Metal Gear Solid 3, you should definitely grab Snake Eater 3D. Those who were hoping for a new or improved version of the game will be disappointed.
Snake Eater 3D‘s sometimes-slapdash presentation weighs the title down. It’s a far cry from the majesty we saw from Metal Gear Solid: The Naked Sample back at E3 2010. Still, some camera failings and an unreliable frame rate are not enough to completely crush one of the finest games ever made.
Just finished watching Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014) and Evil Dead II (1987)…
Now listening to Slam Dance by Mitchell Froom and The Reminder by Feist…
Now reading The Formula by Steve Shagan…
Debunking William S. Lind & “Cultural Marxism”
Anyone who has spent considerable time participating in political discussions is bound to run across the term “Cultural Marxism” at one time or another. It is a term typically used by the most extreme elements on the right, such as neo-Nazis and their fellow travelers, but in recent years it has become more prominent within mainstream conservative circles. Up to recently, the term has been little more than an ill-defined right-wing buzzwordin the same league as “feminazi,” “gay agenda,” “politically correct” or “community organizer.”
That all changed on 22 July, 2011. On that tragic date in Norway, a neo-fascist terrorist, Anders Breivik, launched a killing spree that took the lives of over 70 people. Breivik has a well-established history in Europe’s far right-wing, and the term “cultural Marxism” was featured prominently in his political writings.
Now more than ever, it is essential that people understand the term “cultural Marxism,” and the way in which it is used by the right as a way to both scare and rally its base into action. In short, understanding the term cultural Marxism is a key to understanding how the right thinks, communicates, and works.
First, to understand cultural Marxism as a phrase is nearly impossible. The phrase itself is meaningless. Next time you find yourself in a discussion where your partner invokes cultural Marxism, ask them to define exactly what that means. Most people don’t even attempt to answer. Those that do give a definition that has nothing to do with Marxism. They may be totally convinced that cultural Marxism is destroying their society, to the point of obsession, yet they stammer and hesitate when asked for a coherent definition.
How can one be so obsessed with something they can’t readily explain? Why does the right even bother using this term if it is nearly impossible to define? The answer to the question lies in the Cold War. Here let us examine the use of cultural Marxism, rather than its intended meaning.
History of Right-Wing Smears
During the Cold War, opponents were smeared with terms like “commie” and “red.” Liberals were often labeled “pinkos,” pink being a lighter shade of red, the implication being that liberals were just peddling sugar-coated communist ideas. Another term, which is still often used today, is “useful idiots,” primarily in reference to liberals or radical leftists who don’t identify themselves as Marxists. The term supposedly came from Vladimir Lenin, who used it in reference to liberals and leftists in other countries who unwittingly did the work of the Bolsheviks.
Not surprisingly, the quote is in fact fake; Lenin never used the term. In any case, one thing was clear in the Cold War, which is that if you wanted to smear political opponents, you insinuated that they were communists. This wasn’t necessarily limited to left-wing targets. The John Birch Society developed a reputation for accusing Republicans and Democrats alike of being active agents of international communism, insinuating that they deliberately delivered China into the hands of Mao and Cuba to Castro, in addition to deliberately losing the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Though the term was often used to describe some rather conservative figures, it was used almost exclusively by conservatives. Communism meant bad, evil, and other.
The use of communist as a pejorative would continue well into the 1990’s, and indeed it has enjoyed a resurgence amid the ramblings of the Tea Party movement and pundits such as Glenn Beck, but more astute conservative ideologues recognized that words such as “commie” and “red” had lost a lot of potency due to the collapse of the USSR and the eastern bloc. Perhaps more problematic was the task of reconciling America’s full-scale embrace of neo-liberal economics and privatization with an allegation that the same country was teetering on the edge of Marxist socialism. How could America be charging full speed toward socialist revolution at the same time it was promoting policies such as NAFTA and GATT, deregulation, and the slashing of welfare programs? Marxist still carried a negative connotation in that era, especially due to the triumphalism expressed by liberals and conservatives alike. Yet it was clear that once idealistic liberals had fully abandoned the left, class politics, and the working class itself in favor of embracing neo-liberal capitalism, accusing them of being communists might cost one’s credibility. Enter “cultural Marxism.”
“Theoretical” Basis of the Term
Cultural Marxism, as best as can be determined, originates in the early 1990’s, which also coincides with the beginning of the so-called “Culture Wars.” The term factors heavily in the writings of the original Culture-Warrior, Pat Buchanan, but also those of William S. Lind. In fact it was Lind, one of the lesser-known culture warriors, who defined the term “cultural Marxism” and attempted to write its history. Lind provides a primer on his dreaded cultural Marxism in an article aptly named “What is Cultural Marxism?” Here is his definition:
Cultural Marxism is a branch of western Marxism, different from the Marxism-Leninism of the old Soviet Union. It is commonly known as “multiculturalism” or, less formally, Political Correctness. From its beginning, the promoters of cultural Marxism have known they could be more effective if they concealed the Marxist nature of their work, hence the use of terms such as “multiculturalism.
The first problem with this definition is that if these cultural Marxists understood that they needed to conceal their Marxist nature, why would they use the term Marxism at all? Later on we will deal with those Lind was accusing, and we will see that they either identified themselves as more or less traditional Marxists, refuting the idea that they were concealing anything, or they at least openly claimed Marxist influence on their work, again discrediting the idea that they were attempting to hide something. There is no evidence to suggest that anyone sought to cover up Marxist ideas under the guise of multiculturalism.
It is also noteworthy that people like Lind and Buchanan, champions of “Western culture,” are in fact “multiculturalists.” They clearly believe that there is some kind of monolithic entity known as “Western culture” or “Western civilization.” While much of European culture draws from the same sources, typically classical Greece and Rome, it also draws influence from non-European sources. The nations of East Asia were heavily influenced by Chinese culture and philosophy, but only an ignorant fool would suggest that “Eastern culture” is monolithic. Then again, pointing out that “Western civilization” is actually multicultural would open one up to accusations of “cultural Marxism,” which shows how useful this term has been in the hands of right-wing culture warriors. However problematic this definition may be, it is incredible practical in that it allows one to use the negative connotations associated with Marxists, “reds,” and “commies,” without having to account for the fact that the target in question may be a proven advocate of liberal capitalism. His economics might be free market neo-liberalism, but he’s a cultural Marxist!
Let us continue with Lind’s error-ridden, and soon to become anti-Semitic, explanation of cultural Marxism.
Cultural Marxism began not in the 1960s but in 1919, immediately after World War I. Marxist theory had predicted that in the event of a big European war, the working class all over Europe would rise up to overthrow capitalism and create communism. But when war came in 1914, that did not happen. When it finally did happen in Russia in 1917, workers in other European countries did not support it. What had gone wrong?
Note that Lind does not give a reference to explain where Marxist theory made the prediction alluded to above. What did happen just prior to the war was a major split within what was at the time known as the social-democratic movement at the end of the Second International. Some social-democrats had taken a pro-war stance, whereas others, most notably Vladimir Lenin, took a principled stand against war. This had a detrimental effect on the movement in this crucial time. The second assertion is only true to a degree. The Bolshevik revolution in 1917 was followed by revolutions in Hungary and Germany, both of which had to be crushed by military force. In the case of the former, Romanian troops invaded and put down the revolution. While revolution did not break out in many countries, the activities of communists in Europe played a role in the failure of the intervention campaign of the Russian Civil War. In the United States, unions went on strike and refused to load ships with arms bound for the White Guards in Russia. Communist revolutions could be crushed in Western Europe via force of arms, but even the victorious Entente powers were unable to strangle the Bolshevik baby in its cradle.
Lind’s conspiracy theory continues:
Independently, two Marxist theorists, Antonio Gramsci in Italy and Georg Lukacs in Hungary, came to the same answer: Western culture and the Christian religion had so blinded the working class to its true, Marxist class interest that Communism was impossible in the West until both could be destroyed. In 1919, Lukacs asked, ‘Who will save us from Western civilization?’
Here Lind actually names names. It is worth noting that neither Gramsci nor Lukacs made an attempt to conceal the Marxist basis of their theory and works, and they identified themselves as Marxists. If they were trying to conceal the Marxist nature of their works, as Lind alleges in regards to his hated “cultural Marxists,” they had an odd way of going about it. There is also nothing to suggest that they intended to conceal their ideology under the cover of something called “multiculturalism.” Feel free to search Lukacs works for the term “multiculturalism” or “multicultural”; this author was unable to find either. Having dealt with this, we see that Lind makes a claim about Gramsci and Lukacs’ answer to the question of why Europeans outside of Russia didn’t successfully overthrow their capitalist governments. The assertion begs the question, if the Christian religion so blinded the Western European proletariat to their class consciousness, why was it that class conscious workers’ movements were more active in Western Europe prior to the end of the 19th century? After all, the first worker’s revolution was the Paris Commune, not the October Revolution. Did Lind simply forget that Christianity was far more entrenched in the Russian Empire, which was not a secular state and where the Tsar was seen as a representative of God on Earth?
The quote from Lukacs is also presented in a deceptive manner. It appears as though Lukacs is lamenting the fact that those ever-pious Christians and their “Western culture” seemed impervious to Marxist class consciousness. Here is the actual quote, in context:
When I tried at this time to put my emotional attitude into conscious terms, I arrived at more or less the following formulation: the Central Powers would probably defeat Russia; this might lead to the downfall of Tsarism; I had no objection to that. There was also some probability that the West would defeat Germany; if this led to the downfall of the Hohenzollerns and the Hapsburgs, I was once again in favour. But then the question arose: who was to save us from Western civilisation? (The prospect of final victory by the Germany of that time was to me nightmarish.) – Preface to The Theory of the Novel, 1962
Several facts become immediately obvious once we see the quote in context. First, it clearly has nothing to do with class consciousness in Western Europe or the failure of other revolutions after 1917. Also Lukacs clearly makes a distinction between the very Christian Russian Empire, the German and Austro-Hungarian empires, and “the West,” which must refer to the entente powers. As a side note, some other culture warriors from the interwar period would also accuse that “West,” consisting of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, of being multicultural degenerate societies. Lastly, and more importantly on this note, the quote, if Lukacs ever actually said it out loud, was from 1914, not 1919 when the failure of other European revolutions would have been on his mind.
The next bit in Lind’s accusation against Lukacs is a bit revealing:
That same year [1919, which in fact would have been five years after the quote referenced above], when he became Deputy Commissar for Culture in the short-lived Bolshevik Bela Kun government in Hungary, one of Lukacs’s first acts was to introduce sex education into Hungary’s public schools. He knew that if he could destroy the West’s traditional sexual morals, he would have taken a giant step toward destroying Western culture itself.
This was quite an impressive feat, given that the Hungarian Soviet Republic under Bela Kun lasted from March 23rd to August 6th, 1919. Does that still seem like enough time to destroy sexual morality in the historical heart of European culture that is Hungary? Well Lukacs was also a commissar serving in the 5th division of the Hungarian Red Army. Do the math.
As for these alleged traditional sexual morals of “the West,” here are a few facts. A sort of mini-sexual revolution occurred in the 1920s, something which culture warriors would likely be quick to condemn. What they don’t realize is that prior to that revolution, prostitution was far more widespread, and young men were far more likely to have their first sexual experience with a prostitute. So while they may have been proper gentlemen to the virginal girls they were courting, they were preparing for their wedding night with the help of working girls. Given that William S. Lind is a military expert (despite having never served in the military), one would expect him to know about the prevalence of prostitution and how it goes hand in hand with the military.
The Spanish conquistadors often used young native girls as sex slaves in Colombus’ time, and the prospect of owning a prepubescent sex slave was a major factor in motivating some Spaniards to cross the Atlantic. Rape of slaves was common practice in the antebellum South. Even the crusading knights which so inspire the likes of right-wingers like Breivik were known to travel with a large company of prostitutes. These are all well documented facts, but people like Lind aren’t fazed by such trivial matters. Afterall, they can just accuse those who gathered them of being “cultural Marxists.” Damn that’s a useful term!
Before we continue with Lind’s idiotic screed, be warned. We’re about to enter anti-Semite territory.
In 1923, inspired in part by Lukacs, a group of German Marxists established a think tank at Frankfurt University in Germany called the Institute for Social Research. This institute, soon known simply as the Frankfurt School, would become the creator of cultural Marxism.
Note that the founders of the Frankfurt schools never called their theories “cultural Marxism.”
To translate Marxism from economic into cultural terms, the members of the Frankfurt School – – Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Wilhelm Reich, Eric Fromm and Herbert Marcuse, to name the most important – – had to contradict Marx on several points. They argued that culture was not just part of what Marx had called society’s “superstructure,” but an independent and very important variable. They also said that the working class would not lead a Marxist revolution, because it was becoming part of the middle class, the hated bourgeoisie.
Yes, all the names mentioned there were of Jewish descent, some assimilated, some not so much. Was the reader not warned? Anyway, let us make a very important observation about the Frankfurt school. They didn’t just contradict Marx on a few trivial points regarding culture and the superstructure (the body of laws and ideas which arises from a particular mode of production, e.g. capitalism). Claiming that the working class would not lead a socialist revolution is a pretty serious rejection of Marxism. Of course, proponents of the “cultural Marxist” idea aren’t really concerned with what Marxism has to say. It should be noted here that Marx himself acknowledged that under capitalism there can be a rise in real wages which can deaden the class consciousness of the proletariat. This is why he wrote that the minimum wages necessary to “reproduce the worker,” in short to get him or her to come into work the next day, vary depending on the standards of living in a particular country. It is also important to note that by the time capitalism had become dominant in the 19th century, the bourgeois were no longer the “middle class.”
Who would (lead a Marxist revolution)? In the 1950s, Marcuse answered the question: a coalition of blacks, students, feminist women and homosexuals.
Be honest, it’s nice that Lind was so willing to provide us a list of people he hates. What he doesn’t provide is a source to this assertion. Marx’s theory that the working class would lead the revolution was to hold true for any capitalist country; is Lind alleging that Marcuse was speaking only of America? Marcuse was clearly a follower of Marx’s ideas, but his own ideas differed from traditional Marxism so much as to be something other than Marxism. There comes a point when one must ask, “If cultural Marxism contains so much that is contradictory to Marxism, can it still contain the word Marxism at all?” Of course the answer is an emphatic yes, if only because some other name wouldn’t carry the stigma that Marxism has amongst conservatives.
Fatefully for America, when Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, the Frankfurt School fled – – and reestablished itself in New York City. There, it shifted its focus from destroying traditional Western culture in Germany to destroying it in the United States.
Read those sentences very carefully. Hitler’s coming to power drove out his country’s evil Jewish professors, causing them to emigrate to America. Perhaps Lind, like many of his ideological fellow travelers, would prefer that they had stayed in Germany. In any case he alleges that they are actively seeking to destroy Germany, as Hitler would have agreed, and that they set about trying to destroy Western culture in the United States. Apparently Lind believes that both Germany and the United States share one common Western culture; see, he is a multiculturalist!
To do so, it invented “Critical Theory.” What is the theory? To criticize every traditional institution, starting with the family, brutally and unremittingly, in order to bring them down. It wrote a series of “studies in prejudice,” which said that anyone who believes in traditional Western culture is prejudiced, a “racist” or “sexist” of “fascist” – – and is also mentally ill.
The most important response to this passage is that no example is given to substantiate any of these claims. It is true that critical theory criticized institutions such as the family, but then again so did Marx and Engels. Why doesn’t Lind attack Engels’ Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State? Perhaps because he never read it, or possibly never even heard of it? Lind also once again refers to “traditional Western culture,” yet the nature of families throughout European society and history varied greatly. As Stephanie Coontz points out in her book The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, most Americans’ understanding of the traditional family is not traditional at all, rather it tends to borrow bits and pieces from different historical eras. Then again, she’s probably a cultural Marxist.
Most importantly, the Frankfurt School crossed Marx with Freud, taking from psychology the technique of psychological conditioning. Today, when the cultural Marxists want to do something like “normalize” homosexuality, they do not argue the point philosophically. They just beam television show after television show into every American home where the only normal-seeming white male is a homosexual (the Frankfurt School’s key people spent the war years in Hollywood).
That the Frankfurt school attempted to meld the ideas of Marx to those of Freud is a fact, and the results of this combination are among the reasons why many Marxists reject the Frankfurt school. The second part of this passage is simply bizarre. First of all, the “normality” of homosexuality has been argued not philosophically, but scientifically, by trained medical professionals. Next, Lind here alleges a direct connection between the cultural Marxist intellectuals and the entertainment industry, as though the two work in concert. Of course the thing about the last sentence which is no doubt literally screaming at the reader is the assertion that numerous television shows portray the “only normal-seeming white male” as a homosexual. Please, count up the number of television shows and films which do this. One would think that if this practice were as widespread as Lind alleges, films like Brokeback Mountain wouldn’t have drawn so much attention. Let’s move on to Lind’s final paragraph.
The next conservatism should unmask multiculturalism and Political Correctness and tell the American people what they really are: cultural Marxism. Its goal remains what Lukacs and Gramsci set in 1919: destroying Western culture and the Christian religion. It has already made vast strides toward that goal. But if the average American found out that Political Correctness is a form of Marxism, different from the Marxism of the Soviet Union but Marxism nonetheless, it would be in trouble. The next conservatism needs to reveal the man behind the curtain – – old Karl Marx himself.
Here Lind has yet to provide clear definitions for multiculturalism and political correctness, despite using the latter as proper noun as though it were an actual ideology. In reality, the ideology of the Frankfurt school actually diverges so far from Marxism that it becomes something almost anti-Marxist. One could make the argument that the influence of the Frankfurt school ideas on the so-called New Left actually did far more harm to Marxism and class consciousness than good, and the ultimate result of this influence was to sever the left from class based consciousness and materialism, rendering it fractured and ineffective. In that sense, Lind should be praising the Frankfurt school, not condemning it. That, however, is a matter for another article.
In his conclusion, Lind confirms what the author has asserted previously, to wit, that conservatives use the term cultural Marxism because they wish to preserve the pejorative value of “Marxist,” and in particular this term helps them avoid difficult questions as to how leaders and individuals who clearly embrace capitalism or neo-liberal economics could possibly be Marxist. Lind’s article is instructive as it is one of the few times we see an honest attempt by a conservative intellectual to actually define and explain cultural Marxism. Yet in his attempt to “unmask” it, he only unmasks himself as an ignorant, a bigot, a liar and a hack.
More often than not, the label “cultural Marxism” will be thrown around by conservative rank in file, as well as their more extreme neo-fascist associates. Most of the time, it is a source of amusement when they are asked to explain what the phrase actually means. But as Lind’s article proves, this word has a history, and it originated not within the halls of the Frankfurt school but in the minds of extreme right-wing ideologues who wish to provoke an automatic negative response toward concepts like equality, justice and accountability. They do this through the use of meaningless words and phrases such as multiculturalism, political correctness, and cultural Marxism. Next time you encounter someone spouting off about “cultural Marxism,” unless you want to amuse yourself by asking them for a definition and watching them squirm, simply refer to the following definition.
Cultural Marxism n. 1. A meaningless phrase used to signal that the writer or speaker has no idea what he or she is talking about.