Interview: Michael Walsh Goes Inside The Devil's Pleasure Palace


The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office. Every man but one a subordinate clerk in a bureau. What an alluring utopia! What a noble cause to fight for!

—Ludwig von Mises, as quoted in the preface to The Devil's Pleasure Palace.

This is a book about how we got here. It is also a book about good and evil; about creation and destruction; about capitalism and socialism; about God, Satan, and the satanic in men; about myths and legends and the truths within them; about culture versus politics; about the difference between story and plot. It is about Milton versus Marx, the United States versus Germany, about redemptive truth versus Mephistophelean bands of illusion and the Devil’s jokes. It concerns itself with the interrelation of culture, religion, sex, and politics— in other words, something herein to offend nearly everybody.

And, I hope, to inspire. For the taboos of our culture are also its totems, and the political arguments that rage around them are symptomatic of both disease and good health, of infection and immunity. They are not simply battlefields in the larger contemporary culture war— they are the culture war, a war that has been raging since the Garden of Eden but that manifests itself today in the unceasing attack of cultural Marxism (which molts and masquerades under many names, including liberalism, progressivism, social justice, environmentalism, anti-racism, etc.) upon what used to be called the Christian West.

Although this battle is simply the latest front in an ancient war, this critical struggle —“ the Fight” or “the Struggle” (or der Kampf), as leftists call it — is the defining issue of our time. It will determine not only what kind of country the United States of America will become but also whether the Western world will continue the moral, cultural, and technological dominance it shares with the larger Anglophone world, or finally succumb to a relentless assault on its values and accept the loss of its cultural vigor. In other words, will it — will we — repel the invaders, organize sorties, ride out and crush them— or wearily open the gates to the citadel and await the inevitable slaughter?

—Michael Walsh, in his preface to The Devil's Pleasure Palace.

Michael Walsh’s The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West is really two books in one. It’s primarily a history of the infamous Frankfurt School, the Marxist think-tank whose leading acolytes fled Germany in the 1930s after a rival faction of socialists won control over that nation and began its descent into the abyss. The men of the Frankfurt School were perhaps the most extreme example of the Leftist who flees his failed and festering Blue State only to subvert his new neighbors with the same poison that destroyed his old home turf. Frankfurt School émigrés to America immediately resumed, as Michael writes, their “‘progressive’ (in reality, ultra-regressive) guerrilla assault on Western and American culture — Critical Theory, which essentially holds that there is no received tenet of civilization that should not either be questioned (the slogan ‘question authority’ originated with the Frankfurt School) or attacked.”

The Frankfurt School’s theories would also influence Saul Alinsky (1909-1972), whose acolytes, including Hillary Clinton (who corresponded with Alinsky and wrote her undergraduate thesis at Wellesley praising him) and Barack Obama (praised by Alinsky’s son as having “learned his lesson well" from Alinsky's successors, those "great community organizers"), helped to further spread the poisoned word, all the way to the Obama White House.

The Devil's Pleasure Palace also draws upon Michael’s background as music critic for Time magazine (which would take him behind the Iron Curtain in the waning years of the Cold War), making his new book simultaneously a history of how leftism made classical music virtually unlistenable in the 20th century, through such dead-end techniques as 12-tone serialism and teeth-rattling dissonance.

Combined, Michael has written a book that’s a worthy successor to not just Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism and Fred Siegel’s The Revolt Against the Masses, two recent histories of “How the Left Was Won.”  The Devil’s Pleasure Palace also does for the modern classical music world what Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word and From Bauhaus to Our House did to brilliantly illustrate how the socialist excesses of modernism intellectually hamstrung painting and architecture.

During our 20 minute interview, Michael will discuss:

  • The Schubert Opera that inspired the title of Michael’s new book.
  • Why the Frankfurt School hated not only Los Angeles during WWII, but also its chief export, Hollywood.
  • How leftism made 20th century classical music virtually unlistenable.
  • Why the Frankfurt School sought to undermine American pop culture.
  • The intersection of radical leftism and radical Islam.
  • How the Frankfurt School continues to influence modern politicians.
  • How the rest of us can fight back.
  • And much more.

Click here to listen:

(20 minutes, 50 seconds long; 19.1 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 8.35 MB lo-fi edition.)

During the early days of PJTV, Bill Whittle produced an excellent segment on the Frankfurt School and how its theories continue to influence American political; click here to watch:

A transcript of my interview with Michael begins on the following page. For our many previous podcasts, start here and just keep scrolling.