The Culture Industry & Pop Subversion
Conservatives tend to ignore pop music and see it as frivolous junk cluttering up the airwaves. But a closer look at the culture industry reveals it as an insidious piece of the totalitarian puzzle, even more potent than bullets or bombs could be in forcing Americans into collectivism.
Allan Bloom wrote an entire chapter called “Music” in his seminal work The Closing of the American Mind. In the chapter, he rightly states, “Today, a very large proportion of young people between the ages of ten and twenty live for music. It is their passion; they cannot take seriously anything alien to music.”
That was in 1988. Before Brittney Spears, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and other pop icons of the Internet Age were being streamed into the heads of tweens accompanied by the visual flourishes of jiggling, gyrating, lip-syncing songstresses half-assembled out of silicone and entirely plastic.
And this isn’t some Bible-thumping, snake-handling socon grumbling on his back porch about ‘how times have changed’ and ‘youths were just so much more clean-cut and respectful back in the day.’ This is coming from a libertine libertarian of the live-and-let-live variety. I can’t run for public office because of the extra-curricular activities I engaged in during my college years. At least, not as a Republican. Just saying.
So before explaining why and how the music industry is an implemental part of the hard left’s creepy scheme to demoralize America, let’s set the stage by looking at the lyrics of seven of the biggest hits of the last year:
Last Friday night
We went streaking in the park
Skinny dipping in the dark
Then had a menage a trois
Last Friday night
Yeah I think we broke the law
Always say we’re gonna stop-op
This Friday night
Do it all again
This Friday night
Do it all again
This was banned by the Red Chinese. Can’t say that I blame ‘em in this case. It has nearly 200 million views on YouTube though.
You wanted control
So we waited
I put on a show
Now I make it
You say I’m a kid
My ego is big
I don’t give a sh*t
And it goes like this
Comes in at a little over 110 million YouTube views.
And he ill, he real, he might got a deal
He pop bottles and he got the right kind of build
He cold, he dope, he might sell coke
He always in the air, but he never fly coach
He a mutha(bleep)in trip, trip, sailor of the ship, ship
When he make it drip, drip, kiss him in the lip, lip
That’s the kind of dude I was lookin’ for
And yes you’ll get slapped if you’re lookin’ ho
This “classic” has 267,000,000 YouTube views.
One more shot for us, another round
Please fill up my cup, don’t mess around
We just wanna see you shake it now
Now you wanna be, you’re naked now
This song has over 465 million views.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You’d better run, better run, outrun my gun
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet
The only song on the list I like, even though it is about a kid that snaps and goes on a murder spree.
Excuse me but I might drink a little more than I should tonight
And I might take you home with me if I could tonight
And baby I’ma make you feel so good tonight
‘Cause we might not get tomorrow
Almost 250 million YouTube hits.
It’s been a really really messed up week
Seven days of torture, seven days of bitter
And my girlfriend went and cheated on me
She’s a California dime but it’s time for me to quit her
La la la, whatever, la la la, it doesn’t matter, la la la, oh well, la la la
Yeah, all of this doesn’t really matter. It’s meaningless, demoralizing, overly sexualized, frivolous, mind-erasing, anti-humanistic drivel. There is nothing individualistically creative or mentally challenging about any of it.
The question is if the sad state of American culture is due to economic forces inherent in capitalism, such as tailoring to the lowest common denominator, or is it part of a leftist drive to debase the culture and to remove moral opposition to socialism?
The easiest way to find out this answer is to look at what influential leftists, who are universally taught in the upper ranks of colleges and universities, have to say about capitalist culture and what they propose to do about it.
One of the most prominent New Left critics of capitalist culture was Theodore Adorno. The Frankfurt School mandarin first coined the phrase “the culture industry,” which he used in the title of some of his manuscripts. In his Culture Industry Reconsidered, he wrote the following:
The culture industry intentionally integrates its consumers from above. To the detriment of both it forces together the spheres of high and low art, separated for thousands of years. The seriousness of high art is destroyed in speculation about its efficacy; the seriousness of the lower perishes with the civilizational constraints imposed on the rebellious resistance inherent within it as long as social control was not yet total. Thus, although the culture industry undeniably speculates on the conscious and unconscious state of the millions towards which it is directed, the masses are not primary, but secondary, they are an object of calculation; an appendage of the machinery. The customer is not king, as the culture industry would have us believe, not its subject but its object.
A modern musicologist comments on Adorno’s observations:
The central culprit for this “regression” was ultimately the culture industry, which sought to commodify the artwork in service of the mass market as “so-called cultural goods”. As a result, the work of art pales as an object of genuine contemplation and circulates in the consumer market, becoming an object sought out for its “exchange value” rather than its ‘deep’ principles. A curious vicious cycle of double-anticipation: the leaders of large entertainment companies anticipate the “tastes” of the “mass market” by reproducing what the “market” has deemed “popular”. Yet, Adorno points out that what is “popular” is “the most familiar” and “is therefore played again and again and made still more familiar”.
This technique of mechanical reproduction is not unique to music, it is also famously and memorably seen in art, with the purposeful critique of industrial civilization inherent in Andy’s Warhols art. The main concept is that the mechanical reproduction of art, in other words, its mass production, “demystifies” the individualistic aspect of artistic expression itself. Repeated imagery or simplified and compressed imagery tailors to the mass tastes; by extension, it influences and “corrupts” them in a not necessarily pejorative sense. The result is the diminishing of the humanistic influences that inform American individualism.
But none of this can be necessarily blamed on the left, which would be akin to shooting the messenger for delivering bad news. The problem arises when one finds evidence that the left actually roots for civilizational dissolution, and has infiltrated and established numerous powerful institutions with the express purpose of destroying the legacy of The Enlightenment, which informs the founding of the United States. Culturally doing away with The Enlightenment would effectively leave men morally and philosophically helpless against totalitarianism.
One such powerful institution was The Princeton Radio Project, which Adorno took part in. While working with the project, Adorno developed the following critique:
“On the Hit Parade, Adorno found: When a popular song was “plugged” over and over again on American radio, a familiar pattern was recalled. The familiar pattern replaced thinking. With just a few musical notes of a jingle, like the sound of dogfood hitting the bowl, advertisers could produce the desired effect: “Oh, there’s my favorite show, I better stop what I’m doing, and come listen to my show.” Thinking was reduced to recall! Adorno thought the ad jingles and constant “plugging” of a few songs on the Hit Parade “infantilized the listener … with musical stereotypes…”
And what, ironically, was his association with this phenomenon? Adorno thought: “…totalitarian radio was assigned to the task…of providing good entertainment and diversion” and concluded that American radio served the same function as totalitarian radio – to distract listeners from political reality, as he interpreted it.
The Princeton Radio Project eventually became part of The Bureau of Applied Social Research, which Theodore Adorno worked with until leaving the group in the early 1940s. What was “The Bureau” and what did it do?
The Bureau of Applied Social Research (BASR), known as ‘the Bureau’ to those who worked there, played an influential role in early media studies and the development of communication as a discipline. Founded in 1937 as the Office of Radio Research (ORR), the Bureau (renamed in 1944) was a research institute affiliated with Columbia University but dependent for funding on external sources. It was one of several such research institutions formed by Paul F. Lazarsfeld, a Jewish-born Viennese émigré scholar, trained as a mathematician and social psychologist, who became a major figure in the history of the study of communication.
It is very important to note that these projects “studying” mass media influence were funded by very powerful organizations, such as The Rockefeller Foundation, The Ford Foundation, and the Carnegie Institute. Highly recommended is a briefing on the particular role of Adorno and Lazarsfeld, and their work with The Princeton Radio Project.
The significance of such projects becomes more clear and more disturbing once one probes what these “non-profit” foundations are all about. Norman Dodd of the Reece Commission investigated the workings of such foundations and gave a harrowing and convincing interview that puts forth the proposition that they are institutional transmissions for integrating the United States into a world collectivist society.
The Frankfurt School, which Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer led, was eventually transferred to Columbia University, at the Institute for Social Research. But other neomarxist theoreticians made their mark. Of these, Gyorgy Lukacs and Antonio Gramsci bear special mention.
Gyorgy Lukacs was The Minister of Culture under the communist regime of Bela Kun in Hungary. Lukacs was the author of History & Class Consciousness, which broke new territory on assaulting capitalist “culture.” One key aspect to his program to destroy capitalism was to target Christianity and family values, which he thought culturally reinforced capitalism.
As tenuous a proposition as this is, he debased Hungarian culture by seeking to actively sexualize the youth in the schools, which elicited a revolt in 1919. The Christian peasants helped to overthrow the Kun government, one of the few times a people has quickly overturned communist rule.
One saw the influence of Lukacs in President Obama’s resigned “Safe Schools Czar” Kevin Jennings, whose sexually illicit record made him an unusual choice to head a government agency dealing with schools – until one understands the purpose of introducing sexually explicit materials in the classroom: to debase the humanist aspects of the culture, and to make children easier to mold into socialists.
Religion is a very powerful barrier to socialism, and thus it must be destroyed, the left reasons. In addition, the irresponsible behavior provoked by youth sexualization makes young people more amenable to both the dehumanizing experience of abortion, and prone to becoming dependent on the social welfare state.
Antonio Gramsci provided the rationale for the left to seize the culture and to wield hegemonic control over it to bring about socialism. Gramsci’s insights on communication, how to conduct cultural warfare through capturing education and the media are so important they warrant special merit for the unfamiliar reader.
In short, the sum of the left’s progress in the schools, colleges, courts, news and entertainment media should be seen particularly from the viewpoint of a Gramscian war on American culture.
An interesting empirical fact reinforcing the powerful effect of “political correctness” in the culture is that nearly all professions dealing with information dissemination or cultural production have had Democrat voting rates of around 90%. Thus, we see the left’s propaganda techniques have had very powerful effect.
*It was recently brought to my attention by a Twitter user of a golden thread between Hollywood and government known as the Motion Picture Association of America or MPAA. Indeed, an examination of the heads of the MPAA lead right to the Chairman Christopher Dodd, best known for his financial corruption and role in the anti-capitalist legislation Dodd-Frank. During the raging debate on the anti-piracy bill SOPA, Chris Dodd even had the audacity to praise the Chinese model of government censorship. That was before threatening politicians who didn’t stay bought.
The Hollywood elite thus have direct ties to the Democrat Party, an incestuous relationship between culture and politics that is in some ways reminiscent of fascist regimes. Although the sum total view of the messaging is not blatantly socialist, it could be characterized as crypto-marxist.
The non-spontaneous but rather pre-planned nature of the left’s assault on the culture is more fully informed by the indispensable testimony of KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov. Bezmenov explains that the campaign of ideological subversion waged by America’s enemies should be thought of in terms of demoralization, destabilization, crisis, and (totalitarian) normalization.
It is not that the KGB and other ideological subverters originated and drove the cultural and intellectual deterioration of America, but they pulled un-American ideas along, nurtured corrosive values, and helped undermine institutions that kept the country strong and great. And according to recent reports, despite the formal demise of the USSR, the FSB is still in business and still carrying out active measures against The West.
The overarching point is that we should look out for elements of pop culture that may seem trivial, but have a compound effect. Much like critical theory, which breaks up the left’s uniform movement towards socialism into various interest groups, neomarxist modes of thought and expression take on many guises and manifestations. Sometimes the medium itself is the message.
What one finds in American popular culture is a gaping void hungering for a moral defense of the nation’s key values: individualism, liberty, and representative government. Real musicians like Gary Eaton, Wilson Getchell, and the band Cake are helping to lead the way on the music scene. And even seemingly marginal acts of cultural opposition as found in the Hollywood film The Dark Knight Rises are crucial to turning the tide against leftism.
American conservatives – you are the counter-culture. Act like it.