In the 1930s as a result of a rival faction of socialists having seized control of post-Weimar Germany, the founders of the leftwing Frankfurt School fled to America. By the fall of 1941, several of the Frankfurt School big boys eventually wound up in southern California, as a New York Times writer noted in 2010, in a passage much beloved for its deadpan irony by the late Andrew Breitbart:
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.
Just as a reminder, this was at very pinnacle of the film industry’s studio system, a period in which Hollywood was routinely cranking out such titles as Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Fantasia, Pinocchio, Stagecoach, Citizen Kane, the Thin Man movies, and dozens and dozens of other classic audience-pleasing films.
“But it was only California.”
As Andrew Breitbart wrote in his 2011 book Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World:
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.
And the socialist Frankfurt School set about in earnest poisoning the idea of freedom and democracy in America, despite America having taken them in from National Socialist totalitarianism in Germany.
Nearly a decade later, as Mark Steyn noted last year, “a young middle-class Egyptian spending some time in the US had the misfortune to be invited to a dance one weekend,” and like the emigres of the Frankfurt Institute, was similarly “horrified at what he witnessed,” in which another Hollywood product again inadvertently played a leading role, causing our “young middle-class Egyptian” to feverishly write:
The room convulsed with the feverish music from the gramophone. Dancing naked legs filled the hall, arms draped around the waists, chests met chests, lips met lips . . .
Where was this den of debauchery? Studio 54 in the 1970s? Haight-Ashbury in the summer of love? No, the throbbing pulsating sewer of sin was Greeley, Colorado, in 1949. As it happens, Greeley, Colorado, in 1949 was a dry town. The dance was a church social. And the feverish music was “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” as introduced by Esther Williams in “Neptune’s Daughter.” Revolted by the experience, Sayyid Qutb decided that America (and modernity in general) was an abomination, returned to Egypt, became the leading intellectual muscle in the Muslim Brotherhood, and set off a chain that led from Qutb to Zawahiri to bin Laden to the Hindu Kush to the Balkans to 9/11 to the brief Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt to the Islamic State marching across Syria and Iraq. Indeed, Qutb’s view of the West is the merest extension of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” — America as the ultimate seducer, the Great Satan.
I’m a reasonable chap, and I’d be willing to meet the Muslim Brotherhood chaps halfway on a lot of the peripheral stuff like beheadings, stonings, clitoridectomies and whatnot. But you’ll have to pry “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from my cold dead hands and my dancing naked legs. A world without “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” would be very cold indeed.
I know it’s taken me a while to get there, but I wanted to set the stage for Robert Tracinski’s new article at the Federalist, in which Tracinski asks The question of the 21st century West, in both America and Europe: “Why Does the Left Kowtow to Islam?”
You might suspect that the question answers itself. They kowtow to Islam precisely because it is a real threat, a macroaggression that trumps all of the microaggressions. So you could say that it is simple cowardice. They protest against people they know are extremely unlikely to harm them, and they shut up about the fanatics who might actually follow through on their threats.
But I don’t think that’s the fundamental cause. After all, most lefties are not being called upon to take any personal risk, because somebody else has already stuck his neck out. Drawing or publishing a cartoon of Mohammed might get you put on an al-Qaeda hit list. Simply saying that you support the cartoonist’s defiance of that threat won’t get you on anybody’s list.
In fact, a running theme of the left’s arguments, repeated with a great deal of apparent sincerity, is the notion that it is irrational to fear Islam, that describing the religion as violent and dangerous is “Islamophobia.” They seem to have largely talked themselves into believing that they have nothing personally to fear from Islam. Jihadists may throw gays off of buildings in Syria, but it can’t happen here.
This is nonsense, of course, but it is revealing of the mindset. They actually talk themselves into believing that “censorship of LGBT artists” is an equal or even greater threat, far more urgent than anything having to do with Islam. For the left, the main source of evil in the world always comes from within America and from within the West, never outside of it.
Read the whole thing, which traces the weird twists of the leftwing history from its original “Progressive” era at the dawn of the 2oth century to today. And to bring this post full circle, note that as Glenn Reynolds wrote in response to photos of Iranian and Afghani women pre-Ayatollah and pre-Taliban strutting their stuff in mini-skirts, high-heels and uncovered Liza Minnelli-inspired hairdos, “In the 1950s Western culture was confident, and thus widely imitated. Our cultural leaders soon fixed that.”
Sayyid Qutb, Osama bin Laden, and the Ayatollah Khomeini couldn’t have “fundamentally transformed” the Middle East without them.
Update (5/20/15): “Confirmed: Bin Laden was into conspiracy theories, including 9/11 conspiracy theories,” Allahpundit writes today at Hot Air:
That’s the choicest morsel from this morning’s kinda interesting but not terribly newsworthy document dump by the feds of what they found in Casa Osama. The SEALs reportedly took more than one million documents from the compound in 2011, including evidence of Al Qaeda’s relationships with Iran and Pakistan, but all the White House is comfortable with Americans knowing is the fact that Bin Laden read Noam Chomsky. Which we already knew, as if we couldn’t have guessed. (Chomsky returned the compliment after Bin Laden was killed, calling the operation a violation of international law and absolving Bin Laden of any role in 9/11.)
And as the Washington Post noted on October 1st 2010, “Osama bin Laden embraces his inner Al Gore” as well:
The al-Qaeda chief’s recorded messages are ordinarily calls to arms against the West, warning of apocalyptic consequences for enemies of his puritanical strain of Islam. But the latest message, released Friday, is instead devoted to the consequences of climate change.
But of course. He certainly worked hard to reduce lower Manhattan’s carbon footprint.