Get PJ Media on your Apple

Ed Driscoll

Interview: Fred Siegel on The Revolt Against the Masses

February 2nd, 2014 - 10:39 pm

fred_siegel_cover_1-19-14-1

In the wake of World War I, there was a “tremendous intellectual upheaval,” Fred Siegel tells me, talking about his new book, The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class. American intellectuals, led by H.L. Mencken, Sinclair Lewis and heavily influenced by H.G. Wells, came to see “the American middle class as their enemy.” It’s “the beginning of the Europeanization of American politics.  And what these writers want, they want to be more like Europe.  They want a more stratified, more hierarchical society.  They dislike American small-d-democracy.  And they talk about this at great length.  This is not a conjecture.”

But it’s been largely forgotten, since in both academia and the media, the left has largely written the story of American history of the 20th century. Fortunately, Fred has done yeoman archeological work, bringing the early history of the American left to light once again, in a book that anyone who was enlightened by Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism will also find absolutely intriguing.

During our interview, we’ll discuss:

● The largely forgotten racism of H.G. Wells and Woodrow Wilson.

● Sinclair Lewis’s absurd yet highly influential It Can’t Happen Here, and its paranoid vision of American fascism rising up from the benign members of the all-American Rotary Clubs and Elks and Moose Lodges.

● When did “Progressivism” become “Liberalism,” and why?

● What really happened during the Scopes Trial?

● Why H.L. Mencken rooted for the Germans to win World War I.

● What were the three legal trials that shaped the American left of the 1920s?

● How did the Kennedy assassination unhinge American liberals?

● What shaped the radical environmentalism of Al Gore and other American leftists?

● How much of the tradition and the excesses of the early progressives was inherited by Barack Obama?

And much more. Click here to listen:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(24 minutes and 34 seconds long; 22.5 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this interview to your hard drive. Or right click here to download the 4.21 MB lo-fi edition.)

If the above Flash audio player is not be compatible with your browser, click on the video player below, or click here to be taken directly to YouTube, for an audio-only YouTube clip. Between one of those versions, you should find a format that plays on your system.

Transcript of our interview begins on the following page; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
An extremely important interview. Thank you. It dovetails nicely with Codevilla's writing on the Ruling Class vs the Country Class. He and Mr. Siegel may want to have lunch - if they haven't already...
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Sinclair Lewis's absurd yet highly influential It Can’t Happen Here, and its paranoid vision of American fascism rising up from the benign members of the all-American Rotary Clubs and Elks and Moose Lodges...Why H.L. Mencken rooted for the Germans to win World War I."

Across the board, historically and in real time, self-designated élites have had contempt for "the masses".

From the 20th century's well known mass murderers into the ranks of the literati and on to people like Obama's science czar John Holdren and the chief architect of Obamacare, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel or Billy Ayers, all of these unstable human minds claim to have knowledge of who is fit to live and who needs to be eradicated.

“I appeal to the chemists to discover a humane gas that will kill instantly and painlessly. Deadly by all means. But humane, not cruel.”

~George Bernard Shaw, February 1934
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (19)
All Comments   (19)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
"the breakdown of liberalism.”

If we live in the breakdown of liberalism, I hope conservatism can breakdown so that it, too, can own all branches of government, the media, the arts, and the schools.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Progressives of a 100 years ago were to the right of today's "conservatives" on all the issues where the right is actually right.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The largely forgotten racism of H.G. Wells and Woodrow Wilson."

Oh, please.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unfortunately, it has been forgotten; see, for example, http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5719/.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Excellent interview and important. This mess America finds itself in has its roots to people and events that go back 100 years. Its important to know and understand the historical underpinnings of radicalism and how it influenced our leaders to the point of undermining the relationship between the elected and the electorate. There was a time when Representatives actually represented their constituency. That was before the influences of the HL Menkins, Sinclair Lewis and Marcuse. Apparently the warnings of writers like Orwell had less or no effect. Perhaps they didn't understand his writings, certainly "Animal Farm" is a fantastic portrait of our modern day Liberal Hierarchy.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
An extremely important interview. Thank you. It dovetails nicely with Codevilla's writing on the Ruling Class vs the Country Class. He and Mr. Siegel may want to have lunch - if they haven't already...
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
The "big picture" is larger than pieces of disconnected stories as follows...
One has to read memoirs of participants in Europe's, Latin American and Carribean Cultural/Social Revolutions: Russia's Bolshevik Revolution, Mao's Cultural Revolution, Fidel Castro's Revolution, Francisco Franco's Revolution, Argentina's "Peronismo," and the grandaddy of them all Adolf Hilters revolution, rising to Chancellor in 1933, January 10.
They're carbon copies of each other, to wit: unite all disaffected, left and far-left disparate groups (like USA's diverse "Progressive" New Left Activists groups), into a unified body with one agenda...destroy existing government(s), replacing with a NEW BRAND OF GOVERNANCE (socialism by any other name). Something on the order of Obamanomics, an example of finesse, pretzel twisting of "The Marxian Worm,"par excellence.
So, just like these revolutionary forerunners:USA Labor is now thrown under the bus, USA LGBT'ers will soon follow,US NEA will also suffer the ungrateful hand of totalianarisms "fickle finger of fate," add to this fawning, festering of folly the latest "groupies" thrown under Obamanomics bus...LIBERAL ARTS community!!! All of these disparate groups of America's "Progressive" New Left Activists will, for sure, be tossed on the trash heap of America's History (already underway). THAT'S WHAT THE FEMA CAMPS ARE FOR! We The People are being played for patsies, just like Socialism's historical legacy. Freedom Loving Americans have to take a careful look at where this administration has been and is trying to GO, in just a few THREE SHORT YEARS!!! OBAMA is in a hurry to complete his planned destruction (transformation, any one?) of America. Please Wake-up! We're being played like a violin! The tune is a funeral march. Pray. Amen. God Bless America. Join a Tea Party, urgently.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
I also advocate joining the Tea Party Patriots, they seem to be honest in their effort, and perhaps our only life line at the moment.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have one problem with this. Mencken's relationship to progressivism was a lot more complex than presented here. Yes, he shared many of the Prog's beliiefs and attitudes. but he rejected just as many. He never bought into their fondness for socialism, for instance. He rejected their plans for the improvement of mankind; and planning in general. In both cases, he was openly contemptuous. And he was anti-democratic and anti-egalitarian, explicitly and consciously, in ways that Progressives could never be (except to some extent, Shaw.)

To identify him with the Progressive movement, simply, is a misrepresentation. Like his polar opposite, Chesterton, he defies the usual categories.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Fun historical footnote - my father-in-law worked with Scopes in the 50's and 60's, and had some entertaining stories about him. It isn't widely known that Scopes quit teaching for good shortly after that trial, and went on to a career as an oil and gas geologist, in which he made more (probably an order of magnitude more) than he would ever have earned as a teacher.

When he got older, he had been asked about that trial so many times that he was sick to death of the topic, and he would explode if anyone brought it up in his presence. He was a man with a powerful temper, according to my father in law.

So, of course, any time there was a brand new employee, some young geologist wanting to make an impression, the other employees would take him to the side and say "hey, you want to know how to make a good impression? Go and talk to Senior Geologist Scopes over there, he was in that famous trial back in the twenties and he LOVES to talk about it!"

The innocent victim would go into Scopes' office, all eager to impress him, and all the rest of the staff would sneak out into the hall, waiting for the sound of yelling and binders being thrown at the hapless young man who would quickly be fleeing from Wrath Unbound.

Good times, good times.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, devolve power back to the States and promote pluralism. Sounds good. But how do you reckon with the progressive's ferocious and undying need to control all around him? How does this not end in violence?
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can happen without violence using our Constitution as the tool. However, the country is so ignorant about the Constitution and its moorings and it will take a generation or two gathering around this document and implementing the changes that need to occur to bring us back to those moorings.

Violence will not settle the issue, but its also not out of the question. The French revolution comes to mind.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Jan 31, 2014 Steve Silverman - Flex Your JURY NULLIFICATION Rights

From the Tom Woods Show, Steve Silverman of Flex Your Rights discusses, the foundation, strategies and developments regarding jury nullification.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okPK9s2lwpU
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
1 2 Next View All