Perhaps the greatest trick Evil ever pulled was not convincing Man that Evil does not exist, but convincing Man that none of his forebears had learned anything worth knowing about it.
In The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, author Michael Walsh exposes “Critical Theory,” the foundational philosophical movement of the modern left. The ideology came to prominence among post-WWII Central European academe, primarily explored within the faculty of the Goethe University in Frankfurt, as an attempt to explain away the horrific inhumanity that the 20th Century’s embrace of statism — whether in the form of Fascism, Nazism, Communism, or resurgent Islamism — had so far brought to the modern world. Failing to recognize their attempts to redefine morality as being the cause of all the suffering, the Frankfurt School scholars instead theorized that statism had bloodied half the Earth simply because Man had not yet discarded enough of his history to be ready for it.
The culture needed to go, not just the rule of law.
Critical Theory taught that the act of criticism itself — burning each pillar of Western society, be it bulletproofed reason, simple economic law, and even (and especially) the notions of family, marriage, and the risk calculations of casual sex — made for a moral code of life. Burying the wisdom of the past — and nevermind bothering to replace it with new decisions, just simply destroy — was the future.
At once overly intellectualized and emotionally juvenile, Critical Theory — like Pandora’s Box — released a horde of demons into the American psyche. When everything could be questioned, nothing could be real, and the muscular, confident empiricism that had just won the war gave way, in less than a generation, to a fashionable central-European nihilism that was celebrated on college campuses across the United States.
Seizing the high ground of academe and the arts, the new Nihilists set about dissolving the bedrock of the country, from patriotism to marriage to the family to military service; they have sown … “destruction, division, hatred, and calumny” — and all disguised as a search for truth that will lead to human happiness here on earth.
Had the West held firm by championing its foundational artistic and literary accomplishments, perhaps we would have resisted the Frankfurt School’s challenge, which led directly to the administration of Barack Obama. For of course, the answers are there in our canon already.
We are profoundly lucky to be alive and able to review the great cultural works of recorded history that predicted the inevitable terror which Marxism would bring. We additionally have the historical accounts. But in defeating the Frankfurt School’s challenge to the culture, our foundational artistic commentary, from John Milton back to Genesis, holds the key. Nihilism is dead, not G-d, but again we failed to identify its embrace.
Walsh’s book aims to defeat Critical Theory with an indefatigable defense of Western culture, a rather thrilling approach to those of us who — unlike Walsh, a classical music and opera expert and critic — never received a proper education in these works precisely due to our coming of age following the Frankfurt School’s invasion of American academia.
What an idea from Walsh — us dullards, whom Progressivism places with the cavemen, can confront the left with proof that actual cavemen had the left all figured out already.
Out of necessity, the bearers of totalitarian ideology must convince potential followers that everything they thought they knew about morality is wrong. Evil needs to become Good — or at least subjective — for one to trade in the Golden Rule for the all-powerful state, and that’s how one would relay the story of all human history while standing on one foot, from the Garden of Eden to the Democratic Party. The rest is just commentary.
Walsh implores us to reexamine our greatest cultural works, to confront the Left with them, and perhaps they will understand that good and evil are not up for “criticism,” but have necessarily held the same definition for humanity since the first men and women to be in possession of sufficiently advanced nervous systems. We aren’t four-footed, clawed predators, for whom good is Genghis Khan and evil is submission, as submission causes the end of those creatures. We aren’t ants, for whom good is self-destruction in service of the queen and evil is liberty, for ants die if they could embrace, say, John Locke. Instead, we successfully presumed that human good has something to do with the protection of each’s life, liberty, and property, and that evil must always be the violation of those. And we managed to figure this out the first time a human undertook the act of self-defense, or felt empathy and revulsion upon seeing another victimized.
Eventually, we wrote and made music about it. The species, the nature of Man, defines Good and Evil for us in the very structure of our bodies: omnivores, bearing the ability to reason, built to comprehend its own laws of Good and Evil like no other creature. As such, presuming that the lives and works our forebears — of every single forebear — has value in this pursuit of knowledge is rational.
Luckily for the progressives, the obsession with “smashing” the past has successfully prevented the leftist flock from not only learning that their ideas are dead on arrival, but that, as their ideas come 200,000 years after the first person to understand good and evil, they are as far from “progressive” or “post-modern” as any word can be from its intended meaning. So, up until now, Critical Theorists have not been able to suffer the fate they ironically established as their own new definition of hell: to be exposed as foolish, and worse — as dated.