Interview: Michael Walsh Goes Inside The Devil's Pleasure Palace
MR. DRISCOLL: This is Ed Driscoll and I’m talking with Michael Walsh, my fellow PJ Media.com columnist and the author of the new book, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West. It’s published by Encounter Books and available from amazon.com and your local bookstore.
And Michael, good to talk with you again, and thanks for stopping by.
MR. WALSH: Hey, thanks for having me on, Ed.
MR. DRISCOLL: And you’re coming to us from Ireland?
MR. WALSH: Live from Ireland, yes, in beautiful County Clare on the west coast of scenic Ireland.
MR. DRISCOLL: Michael, I listened to your recent interview with Cam Edwards of NRA News, and he made the observation that I was thinking but didn’t want to say: it’s obvious you put a lot of research and your own life experiences into “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace”. But at 280 pages, it’s a surprisingly quick read, particularly given what could be a very ponderous subject. I’m glad you took that as a compliment from Cam Edwards.
MR. WALSH: I did, yeah. You know, when you’re younger you tend to overwrite and beat a subject to death. And as you get older, you realize if you have the technique to say it succinctly, that’s the best way to do it.
So I wanted to write a short, readable book that took you down these various paths and led you to, I hope, the conclusion that I’ve come to about the left and its origins, and what it’s doing to us.
MR. DRISCOLL: Michael, we should probably start with your new book’s title, which has three elements to it.
First up, what is “the Devil’s Pleasure Palace”?
MR. WALSH: Well, the title is from an opera by Schubert, which he wrote when he was a teenager. And for Schubert, of course, that meant he was a middle-aged man. In German, it’s “Des Teufels Lustschloss,” the devil’s pleasure palace, and it’s an opera that really began the whole train of operas during the nineteenth century about exotic, mysterious, satanic, demonic things. And we don’t have to go into the whole plot of the opera right now, but suffice it to say it’s about a knight who discovers the haunted castle and whose virtue and whose love for his wife is tested. And when he triumphs, the pleasure palace collapses in a heap of dust, and it turns out it was all just a test by his wife’s father, who didn’t like him very much, to make sure that he was worthy of his daughter.
But the notion of the spooky, mysterious castle with its fleshly temptations seemed to me the perfect metaphor for what the left has done to us over the last fifty, sixty years to create temptations that we’ve fallen for but we now realize is -- we realize that are chimera, in a sense. They disappear into air when we look at them, but they hurt us nonetheless.
So I wanted to write a book about God and Satan; that’s the short version.
MR. DRISCOLL: Michael, the middle part of your book’s title is “The Cult of Critical Theory,” and ground zero for the cult of critical theory was the Frankfurt School. Who were they and what were their goals in Germany before a much more powerful rival socialist faction forced them to emigrate to the U.S.?
MR. WALSH: Bingo -- they’re the rival socialist faction. You’re getting at the thing that actually makes the left, like Satan, curl up in horror and start flinging its scorpion tail around at the sight of holy water and the crucifix, which is these men were Marxist communists who came out on the short end of the stick versus Hitler and his National Socialists, and so they fled Germany in the 1930s.
They were a group of scholars of the Goethe University in Frankfurt, and they wound up at Columbia University during and after the war where they began to inject this poison of relativism, critical theory, political correctness, progressivism, which of course, had American ‑- a whole American wing coming from the Wilson administration but it met this sort of crazy, progressive Marxist notion.
And they took over the universities. And I went to college in the 1960s, so I got a pretty good dose of it at that time. And we’ve all had a bellyful of it now. We see what it’s done by attacking every single institution in the country, in Western civilization.
And that was their goal. They wanted to bring down Western civilization and replace it with nothing. They’re nihilists; they’re Communists; they’re Marxists. They were antithetical to everything the American experiment stands for.