“Herbert Marcuse’s Revenge” is charted by Theodore Dalrymple, who looks at the old Frankfurt School socialist crank who coined the Orwellian phrase “repressive tolerance.” We’ll get to the good Dr. Dalrymple’s column in just a moment, but to set the stage, it’s worth flashing back to how the rest of the Frankfurt School first washed ashore in America in the 1930s, via a passage from 2010 in the New York Times much beloved by the late Andrew Breitbart for its unintentional irony:
The Frankfurt School of philosophers emigrated from Nazi Germany and became dyspeptic critics of American culture. Several landed in Southern California where they were disturbed by the consumer culture and the gospel of relentless cheeriness. Depressive by nature, they focused on the disappointments and venality that surrounded them and how unnecessary it all was. It could be paradise, Theodor Adorno complained, but it was only California.
Yes, “only California,” where the movie industry had transplanted itself 20 years prior from the east coast of America — initially to escape Thomas Edison’s guild socialism, along with antisemitism in general — and where Hollywood and the rest of the state was poised to ride the postwar boom as America’s arbiter of fun, style, and freedom:
Naturally, for the Frankfort School, this would not do.
Take it away, Andrew Breitbart:
We always feel that our incredible traditions of freedom and liberty will convert those who show up on our shores, that they will appreciate the way of life we have created—isn’t that why they wanted to come here in the first place? We can’t imagine anyone coming here, experiencing the true wonder that is living in this country, and wanting to destroy that. But that’s exactly what the Frankfurt School wanted to do.
These were not happy people looking for a new lease on life. When they moved to California, they simply couldn’t deal with the change of scenery—there was cognitive dissonance. Horkheimer and Adorno and depressive allies like Bertolt Brecht moved into a house in Santa Monica on Twenty-sixth Street, coincidentally, the epicenter of my childhood. They had moved to heaven on earth from Nazi Germany and apparently could not handle the fun, the sun, and the roaring good times. Ingratitude is not strong enough a word to describe these hideous malcontents.
If only they had had IKEA furniture, this would have made for a fantastic season of The Real World.
Brecht and his ilk were the Kurt Cobains of their day: massively depressed, nihilistic people who wore full suits in eighty-degree weather while living in a house by the beach.
“Adorno was wrong. It was paradise. To the rest of the world, America’s vision was a vision of paradise. And these Marxists were here to try to destroy the best lifestyle man had ever created. If I could go back in a time machine, I would go back to kick these malcontents in their shins,” Andrew wrote in his 2011 book Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World.