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Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week: Another Snag from Brad DeLong.

Brad DeLong (https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/01/eg-ben-alpers-_a-far-right-anti-semitic-conspiracy-theory-becomes-a-mainstream-irritable-gesturehttpss-usihorg2.html#comment-6a00e551f080038834022ad3866887200c) directly takes on the attempts to rehabilitate the anti-Semitic canard of “Cultural Marxism” by some contemporary. conservative pundits.

Where did David Brooks learn to use the term “cultural Marxism”? From Alexander Zubatov and his attempt to rehabilitate it from its anti-Semitic not just connotation but denotation. How does Zubatov do this? By taking Russell Blackford out of context: Zubatov claims that Blackford’s bottom line is “in other words, [cultural Marxism] has perfectly respectable uses outside the dark, dank silos of the far right”. Blackford’s actual bottom line is that the modern

The conception of cultural Marxism is too blunt an intellectual instrument to be useful for analyzing current trends. At its worst, it mixes wild conspiracy theorizing with self-righteous moralism… Right-wing culture warriors will go on employing the expression ‘cultural Marxism’… attaching it to dubious, sometimes paranoid, theories of cultural history… Outside of historical scholarship, and discussions of the history and current state of Western Marxism, we need to be careful…. Those of us who do not accept the narrative of a grand, semi-conspiratorial movement aimed at producing moral degeneracy should probably avoid using the term ‘cultural Marxism’…

Why does Zubatov misuse Blackford? In the hope that he will pick up readers like Brooks, who will take his representations of what Blackford says to be accurate. Why does Brooks take Zubatov’s representations of what Blackford says as accurate? Because Brooks is too lazy to do his homework: Ben Alpers: A Far-Right Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theory Becomes a Mainstream Irritable Gesture: “At the heart of this largely rote piece of Brooksian pablum is a claim that deserves a closer look. ‘The younger militants’, writes Brooks, ‘tend to have been influenced by the cultural Marxism that is now the lingua franca in the elite academy’. This is interesting both for what Brooks appears to be trying to say and, more immediately, how he has decided to say it…. Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik… murdered sixty-nine people… William Lind… associated with both the Free Congress Foundation and Lyndon LaRouche… Lind’s conception of Cultural Marxism was explicitly anti-Semitic…. Over the course of these years, the idea of Cultural Marxism spread across the American far right… [with] a big boost from Andrew Breitbart… Why would a columnist like David Brooks, who is himself Jewish in background (if, perhaps, no longer in faith) and who has tried to build his brand identity by peddling in respectability and civility, adopt the term?…

…Brooks… defended his use… Alexander Zubatov entitled “Just Because Anti-Semites Talk About ‘Cultural Marxism’ Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t Real”… For Zubatov, it wasn’t so much the Frankfurt School, but rather György Lukács, Louis Althusser, Herbert Marcuse, Edward Said, Judith Butler, Stuart Hall, and, above all, Antonio Gramsci who are at fault…. Zubatov… maintains that Cultural Marxism is “a coherent program” and accuses it of many of the same things that Lind does:

It is a short step from the Marxist and cultural Marxist premise that ideas are, at their core, expressions of power to rampant, divisive identity politics and the routine judging of people and their cultural contributions based on their race, gender, sexuality, and religion…. Public shaming, forced resignations and all manner of institutional and corporate policy dictated by enraged Twitter mobs, the sexual McCarthyism of #MeToo’s excesses, and the incessant, resounding, comically misdirected and increasingly hollow cries of “racist,” “sexist,” “misogynist,” “homophobe,” “Islamophobe,” “transphobe” and more that have yet to be invented to demonize all those with whom the brittle hordes partaking in such calumnies happen to disagree.

Zubatov prominently cites the English philosopher Russell Blackford…. But in the very piece Zubatov cites, Blackford concludes that the phrase is so marked by its connection to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that it is, in practice, largely unusable:

In everyday contexts, those of us who do not accept the narrative of a grand, semi-conspiratorial movement aimed at producing moral degeneracy should probably avoid using the term “cultural Marxism.”… Like other controversial expressions with complex histories (“political correctness” is another that comes to mind), “cultural Marxism” is a term that needs careful unpacking.

Of course, Zubatov, much less Brooks, is not very interested in carefully unpacking anything. Zubatov and Brooks are attached to a pejorative which they’d prefer to be uncoupled from the anti-Semitism to which it has been usually attached…. “Cultural Marxism” is a toxic expression that entered our national discourse as an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. It ought to be avoided on that basis alone, especially given the more general mainstreaming of anti-Semitism…

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