In a post where he also gives his opinion of the 2016 presidential candidates, Victor Davis Hanson spends the latter part of the article under the subtitle of “End of the Summer Reading”:
I’ve read now twice Michael Walsh’s The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West. As Walsh shows, one of the most depressing things about the 21st century has been the habitual whining of elites, and the vast abyss between their own privileges and their constant haranguing against the culture, politics, economics, and social life of America.
Walsh senses our anger with that disconnect, and he demonstrates that while in the past we always suffered through such nihilistic fits — self-critique is the lubricant of Western culture — the prewar and postwar importation of ideas from charlatans of the Frankfurt School in Germany was something new, and far more malignant.
Note that Republicans have taken back both houses of Congress, often win in the Supreme Court, have majorities in the state legislatures and governorships, and may win the presidency in 2016. And yet if one examines the schools and universities, Hollywood, the art world, what shows up on televisions and the news, whom the foundations are funding, what the clerks in government do — everything really from our monuments to poetry — it is hard not to confess that “we lost.”
In a word, relativism seems to have won. There are few standards left. Everything is negotiable, from the now fossilized idea of a traitor like Bergdahl to a neo-Confederate sanctuary city. A play, a movie, a building, a novel — anything really — cannot be assessed by absolute criteria, given that such “standards” are always set by oppressors of some sort, usually the children of capitalism and bourgeoisie consumerism who wish to enshrine their “privilege.” Take a sentence, chop it up into lines, and presto — a poem. By what standards is Chopin any more a genius than a Snoop Dogg? I thought of Walsh’s book yesterday when watching the various newscast reactions to the migration crisis in Europe and the deer-in-the-headlines faces of the European Eloi: Who are we to say that our culture is better than theirs? What is a border anyway? What even is a migrant? Whose values construct someone into the “Other”? Why do hosts enjoy privilege and guests do not?
Frankfurt intellectuals have done a lot of damage: from multiculturalism to postmodern art, they have destroyed the individual experience and made us cardboard cut-outs by their constant Marxist-inspired dumbing down, ending in a dreary predictable sameness. The past has become melodrama adjudicated by 30-year-old PhDs rather than muscular tragedy. When Obama decides to rename a mountain or brags that Trayvon looks like the son he never had or urges Latinos to “punish our enemies” and quips “typical white person,” he is more or less offering a paint-by-numbers version of the postmodernists who despise both the rich capitalist West whose bounty created their own leisure and subsidizes their nihilism, and the rest of us who lack their awareness and thus are unthinking cogs in a huge monotonous wheel. For the postmodernist, Middle America lacks the romance of the poor of the inner city that is never visited and the high culture of the Upper West Side or Georgetown that is prized.
Read more: VictorHanson.com