Ways of Seeing, wrongly

John Berger

Art critic John Berger is dead, at the age of 90. When I was a young leftist Berger was one of my heroes. Looking back now I can see that Berger was not only wrong about everything, he was dangerously wrong. Unfortunately Berger was immensely influential and his books are still used as university textbooks.

Berger was best-known for his 1972 BBC TV series (and its accompanying book) Ways of Seeing. A few years earlier Lord Kenneth Clark had presented a magisterial overview of western culture from the 12th century to the modern age in his muh-lauded Civilisation TV series. Ways of Seeing was intended as a counter to Clark’s program, undermining Clark’s  positive view of our culture. Where Clark celebrated western culture Berger was determined to deconstruct and destroy that same culture.
Modernist art is of course nothing more than a sustained attack on western civilisation. The problem for modernists is that anyone who isn’t blind or stupid (or sufficiently indoctrinated) can see that modernist art, when compared to the great works of the western tradition, is infantile rubbish. The only way to get modernist art accepted was to discredit the western artistic tradition. This was Berger’s project.
Berger was a marxist and his approach to art was marxist. Of course trying to apply marxist class analysis to the study of anything pre-19th century is futile. Classes, as understood in marxism, simply did not exist in a pre-industrial world. Berger wasn’t going to let that stop him.

It wasn’t enough to make people dislike the great works of western art. They had to be taught to see them as evil and patriarchal and oppressive. Berger saw all art as expressing a political ideology, because that was the only way he could understand art. Needless to say the western artistic tradition turns out to have been evil capitalist propaganda. Berger was also influenced by feminism so of course the great works of western art turned out to have been evil patriarchal propaganda. Berger had a considerable influence on feminist art criticism, one of the great blights of the modern age.

As is the case with so many art critics in the modern world I never got any sense that Berger actually liked art. He liked politics and he liked political art but he liked political art because it was political, not because it was art. Art as such was irrelevant. It was the political message that mattered.
Berger’s knowledge of art history was unimpressive but he knew how to cherry-pick works of art that he could use to advance his misguided theories.
The trouble is that we can’t just dismiss Berger as a wrong-headed misguided leftist loon (although that’s an accurate description of him) – Berger is solidly in the mainstream of modern art criticism. Our universities and art schools are infested with such people. The work of destruction, to which Berger was an enthusiastic contributor, goes on.

the 19th century roots of our cultural malaise

The great tragedy of western civilisation is that its very strengths are its fatal weaknesses. Openness, innovation, science, democracy and freedom are all no doubt wonderful things but they seem to lead inevitably to corruption, degeneracy, nihilism, despair, a loss of faith and finally cultural suicide.
Cultural marxism is often blamed for undermining the foundations of our civilisation but the process was already under way before cultural marxism began. By the time cultural marxism was in a position to exert any real influence the undermining was well advanced. 
One of the early manifestations of decline was the rise of modernism in art and literature. The exaltation of ugliness and squalor combined with an extreme hostility to traditional values made modernism a potent if subtle engine of destruction. Our cultural dynamism led to art and literature that corrupted and demoralised. Art and literature headed for the gutter, where they have remained ever since. Modernism produced music that was unlistenable, novels that were unreadable and art that was impossible to look at without being appalled. And modernism had already begun to exert its pernicious influence in the late 19th century, long predating cultural marxism.
Science has brought many benefits but it gave rise to a bleak inhuman and mechanistic worldview devoid of hope. It led us inexorably down the path to nihilism.
The growth of capitalism gave us prosperity but it destroyed communities. Rural areas became relatively depopulated while urban areas became hotbeds of crime and degeneracy.
Feminism in the 19th century promised to emancipate women but it enslaved them while destroying families.
Medicine made many advances in the 19th century but the medical profession developed delusions of grandeur, thinking that every social problem could be turned into a medical problem. As a result it gave birth to pseudosciences like psychiatry and psychology.
Democracy was supposed to usher in an era of unparalleled freedom. It has slowly but surely destroyed our freedoms and corrupted our governments. Democracy and corruption are like inseparable twins. 
The rise of mass media began in the 19th century with the explosive growth of newspapers. There were fond hopes that this would lead to healthy open debate. It led to propaganda and manipulation. Democracy and mass media were to a large extent responsible for the increasing madness of politics, as governments became steadily more short-sighted, cynical and reckless. This madness led to western civilisation’s first serious suicide attempt in 1914.
Cultural marxism succeeded so well because it took advantage of weaknesses and vulnerabilities that were already all too apparent. Cultural marxism could not have destroyed a healthy civilisation. The seeds of destruction were already present in the West. Cultural marxism did not plant those seeds although it certainly cultivated them assiduously.
If the remnants of our culture are to be saved we will need to address its inherent weaknesses and tendency to self-destruction. 

fighting the culture wars in the culture

I don’t know much about Andrew Klavan but he seems to be one of those mainstream conservatives who is wrong about most things. On the other hand he does seem to be right about at least one thing. He says

“Fight the culture wars in the culture. The culture wars are problematical because too often conservatives come across as anti-freedom or bigoted. That makes victory tough. I feel passionately about some cultural issues and indifferent to others, but I believe all of them should be fought on a cultural and informational level rather than a political one. For instance, I believe that abortion is the taking of a human life and that government therefore has a right to forbid it. But just speaking bluntly and honestly, I don’t think I can win that fight in the political arena right now. Happily, the truth may do what politics cannot. The truth is on my side and the more the truth gets out about what abortion looks like, how it’s done, and who the people who support it are, the more the public will know that it is unacceptable. Then we can win politically.”

There is at least some truth to this. The strategy of cultural marxism has been to change the culture first. The final political victories of the cultural left on issues like homosexual marriage have simply been mopping-up operations after the real battles were won. And the real battles were fought out in art and literature, in television series, in movies, in popular music. The idea of homosexual marriage had already been normalised in popular culture before to became a political issue. By the time it did become a political issue social conservatives had already lost.
If you look back you’ll find that the same method has been adopted in every major battle of the culture wars. The decisive battles are fought in Hollywood movies, on network TV series, in pop music. 
When you can to a very large extent control what people read, what they will see on television, what kind of movies they will watch, then you have pretty much total control of that society. If you have the schools and universities as well then you do have total control. The political process then becomes entirely irrelevant. The cultural left has always understood this. Very few conservatives have had any comprehension of this. Conservatives unfortunately have shown zero interest in actually fighting the culture wars in the culture.
It has to be admitted that the overall strategy behind cultural marxism was absolutely brilliant and it has been extraordinarily successful. 
Sadly conservatives have been unwilling to copy the successful tactics of the cultural left. The cultural left believes in winning at all costs. Any method is legitimate if it brings victory closer. When leftists gain a foothold in any organisation they start stacking it with their own supporters. It would never occur to them to hire on merit. If you have the correct political views you get hired. If you don’t have the correct political views you don’t get hired. End of story. Once cultural leftists gain control of an organisation they drive out their political opponents.
If conservatives actually want to win they need to be equally ruthless and equally indifferent to fair play.
Fifty years ago most of our cultural institutions were controlled by conservatives. Conservatives gave up their control through a monumental act of folly – they assumed that the cultural leftists were reasonable fair-minded people with whom it was possible to compromise and peacefully co-exist.
Amazingly, and tragically, most conservatives still accept that absurd assumption.

Stephen Fry falls victim to Twitter Two Minute Hate

I can’t help being vastly amused that the latest victim of a Twitter Two Minute Hate is – Stephen Fry!
Here we have a man who makes his living entirely on his reputation as a wit. Unfortunately he didn’t get the memo that wit is no longer permitted.
You know things are getting bad when even someone like Stephen Fry thinks Twitter is “frothy with scum” and has “started to smell. Really quite bad.”

I’ve never had much time for Stephen Fry but I must admit to feeling a grudging respect for him now. At least he doesn’t seem to have issued the usual groveling apology. In fact he’s come out fighting with a stinging attack on the Twitterati on his website.

the Long March to the wrong destination

After the First World War the cultural marxists began their long march through the institutions of the West. At the time they had a clear goal in mind. The Long March is nearing its end but it hasn’t brought them to the place they expected to reach.

After the war they had abandoned their old idea of a revolution led by the proletariat. The working class had let them down by stubbornly refusing to bring about the revolution throughout the industrialised West. The new plan was to undermine western civilisation by taking control of the media, the schools, the universities, the bureaucracy and using this control to spread demoralisation, confusion and despair. The ultimate goal however remained unchanged. They still intended to bring about the glorious socialist revolution. You know, the dictatorship of the proletariat. Social ownership of the means of production. An egalitarian society. No class barriers. All that stuff.
Superficially cultural marxism has triumphed beyond the wildest dreams of its early proponents. Cultural marxists now have absolute control of the media, the schools, the universities and the bureaucracy. All dissent is crushed. It’s the socialist totalitarian dream come true.
There’s only one problem. What ever happened to the socialist part of cultural marxism? Whatever happened to the Marxist part of cultural marxism? Where is the dictatorship of the proletariat? And social ownership of the means of production? Most crucially, where did the hopes of an egalitarian society with no class barriers go to?
Today we have a society in which the gulf between the rich and poor is wider than ever. The class barriers between Joe Six-Pack and the billionaire class are unimaginably vast. And rigid. The means of production are in the hands of capitalists who are richer, fatter, more powerful and more ruthless than any cigar-chomping capitalist of the 1920s. The glorious socialist revolution is nowhere in sight.
The cultural marxists have won, but the working class has lost. The poor have lost. In fact everybody has lost, apart from the super-rich and the cultural marxist apparatchiks in academia and the media. The working class has largely sunk into the despair and hopelessness of the underclass. In the US blacks, who had been rapidly improving their circumstances up to the beginning of the 60s, have seen their communities and families destroyed. In spite of feminism women today are angry, bitter, disillusioned and deeply unhappy. 
Cultural marxists have won the Culture Wars, but their victory has been a hollow one for the people for whom they were supposedly fighting those wars. Indeed for most of the oppressed on whose behalf the Culture Wars were waged the victory has been worse than  any defeat could ever have been.
What went wrong?
Part of the answer to that question is that the neocons came along. The neocons cared about power and money and nothing else. They eagerly embraced cultural marxism. They were happy to assist the cultural marxists in destroying the fabric of our civilisation. They simply didn’t care. All they cared about was their economic ideology of greed, and power. They are also very keen on war. War is good for business. War is also very good for forcing other nations to toe the line and embrace the neocon program. 
It is actually the neocons who won the Culture Wars. They achieved everything they set out to achieve. The cultural marxists think they have the power but in reality power is firmly and safely in the hands of megacorporations. The cultural marxists are merely useful idiots. At one time they were useful idiots for Stalin. Today they are useful idiots for Goldman Sachs. Bankers don’t care if the institution of marriage is trashed. They don’t care if society is awash with drugs. They don’t care if religion is ridiculed and despised. They don’t care if various victim groups are at each other’s throats. They don’t care if freedom of speech is effectively abolished (in fact they rather like that idea). They don’t care how much society is dumbed down. They don’t care if patriotism is despised or if society is overrun by unassimilable immigrants. For them a demoralised population is a feature, not a bug. They wanted their power and wealth to be protected and now they own our governments so they don’t have to worry.
The Culture Wars were a victory for the neocons but a catastrophic defeat for the Left. In this case when I use the term the Left I’m referring to the real Left. You remember them? They were the ones who wanted a fairer, more caring, more egalitarian society. They have now been consigned to the dustbin of history. Those who represent the modern Left represent the interests of capitalists and bankers. They are tolerated because they, unwittingly, advance the neocon agenda. History is full of little ironies but in this case it’s an irony on the grand scale. 

the forever (culture) war

The culture war has ended in complete victory. The handful of surviving evil white cis-gendered heteronormative patriarchal males are cowering in cellars and are unlikely ever again to threaten the glorious cause of social justice. You might think that this means there will be peace at last, even if it’s the peace of conquest. You couldn’t be more wrong. The culture war will never end. The culture war must never end. In fact it’s about to be intensified.
This time the enemy will not be evil white cis-gendered heteronormative patriarchal males since as I’ve already explained they’re becoming almost impossible to find. The enemies will be far more dangerous. The cultural marxists are now turning their attentions to the Enemy Within.
Anyone familiar with the history of revolutions should not be surprised. The great purges in  the Soviet Union were not directed against czarist agents or capitalists because there weren’t any left. The purges were directed against deviationists – communists who were not sufficiently ideologically pure or who expressed any doubts as to the correctness of the party line. In Communist China the targets were both left and right deviationists and wicked capitalist roaders. The French Revolution ended in a bloodbath of revolutionaries who were unwise enough to belong to the wrong revolutionary faction. 
So given the shortage of evil white cis-gendered heteronormative patriarchal males who will be the victims of The Terror this time?
In the US it’s already clear that black Christians will be a principal target. The very existence of black Christians is a threat to The Narrative. If Christianity is evil and racist how can it be that there are blacks who want to be Christians? Those blacks are traitors – they’re no better than evil white cis-gendered heteronormative patriarchal males. They must be rooted out. They must be purged.
Heterosexual women will also be a prime target. They’re at the very bottom of the victim totem pole, which is something they’re only just starting to realise. The problem for any group being at the bottom of the victim totem pole is that when there are no other wicked oppressors available that group will be pressed into service as the new oppressor class. White middle-class heterosexual university-educated women see themselves as victims but in the eyes of groups with higher victim status they are simply outrageous examples of white privilege. 
If white feminists think that non-white women are their natural allies they need to think again. Non-white women are not interested in sexism – it’s racism that obsesses them. They will ally with non-white men against white feminists. When white middle-class heterosexual university-educated women are purged they will find themselves with no allies at all, and with pitifully few victim points to play. 
Of course the group that will be in the biggest trouble comprises those heterosexual men who convinced themselves that by proclaiming their anti-racist anti-homophobe anti-sexist pro-feminist credentials they would be safe. These self-emasculated male feminists thought they could gain honorary victim points by identifying with victim groups. They will soon discover how wrong they were. Even the tiniest deviation from political correctness will land them in deep trouble. And they will discover what the victims of the French Revolutionary Terror and the Stalinist show trials discovered – that political correctness is not just a minefield but that the mines never stay in the same place for very long. A position that seemed quite safe last week is now wicked and wrong and counter-revolutionary and grounds for being purged.
I have some sympathy for the black Christians who are often very good people. I have zero sympathy for the feminists and less than zero sympathy for the white heterosexual men who have served the cause of political correctness and are now about to find themselves in the firing line. They deserve everything they are about to get.

mocking the cultural left

If you’re in need of a laugh then I urge you to check out Godfrey Elfwick’s Twitter feed. Godfrey Elfwick is a self-proclaimed demisexual genderqueer Muslim atheist and claims to be a black man trapped in a white body. He’s responsible for the explosion of the #WrongSkin meme on Twitter.
What makes this funny is that thousands of enraged Twitter Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) haven’t managed to figure out that he’s trolling them. He’s practising satire on them and they can’t spot it.
My feeling is that this is one of the few effective means by which we can successfully push back against the liberal madness of our age. The Left has been very successful over a period of many years in portraying conservatives as rigid, humourless, bigoted and stupid. Mockery is a formidably effective weapon. And now Godfrey Elfwick has exposed leftists as the ones who really are rigid, humourless, bigoted and stupid.
The timing is perfect as well, given that black civil rights activist Rachel Dolezal has just been outed for not being black at all – she’s totally white! It also coincides nicely with the whole Bruce Jenner/Caitlyn Jenner lunacy. 

What makes Godfrey Elfwick particularly dangerous to the SJWs is that he is genuinely smart and genuinely funny. And he doesn’t lose his cool. He just keeps raising the satire to ever more absurd levels. The SJWs who have figured out that he’s trolling them are foaming at the mouth. The ones who haven’t realised it are foaming at the mouth. It’s a win-win situation!