Category Archives: Hollywood

Neoconservatives Demonize The South To Deify The Idea Of America

Ancient History, Conservatism, Democrats, Founding Fathers, History, Hollywood, Neoconservatism, States' Rights

BY Boyd D. Cathey

Victor Davis Hanson is one of the most lauded and applauded historians of the “conservative establishment.” Honored by President George W. Bush, a regular writer for National Review, spoken of in hushed and admiring tones by pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, Hanson is rightly regarded as a fine classicist and military historian, especially of ancient warfare. But like other authors who tend to cluster in the Neoconservative orbit, Hanson strays far afield into modern history, American studies, and into current politics—fields where his fealty to a neocon narrative overwhelms his historical expertise.

And like other well-regarded writers of the neocon persuasion—the far less scholarly Jonah Goldberg (in his superficial and terribly wrongheaded volume, Liberal Fascism:  The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning) and Dinesh D’Souza (in his historical mish-mash, The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left)—Hanson, when he writes of contemporary politics or modern American history, writes with an agenda. Certainly, it is not as visible nor as blatantly ideological as that pushed by Goldberg or as filled with skewed historical legerdemain as that of D’Souza. Unlike them, his arguments are usually more firmly based and less fantastical.

Yet, like Goldberg and D’Souza and other putative neocon historians, Hanson is at pains to create a “usable past,” to construct a history and tradition that buttresses and supports current neocon ideology. Thus, he strains to defend the concept of an American nation conceived in and based on an idea, the idea of equality and “equal rights.” And because of that, like D’Souza and Goldberg, he must read back into American history an arbitrary template to demonstrate that premise.

It follows that, as for other neocons, the Declaration of Independence becomes a critical and underlying document for his historical approach. The words—“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”—become irreplaceably essential. Avoiding the contextual meaning of the phrase and the meaning clearly intended by the Founders, which was aimed specifically at the British parliament and the demand for an “equal”—just—consideration for the colonists from across the pond, the neocons turn a very practical bill of grievances into a call for 18th century Rationalist egalitarianism, which it was not. As the late Mel Bradford and more recently Barry Alan Shain have convincingly demonstrated, such attempts to read that current ideology back into the Founding, runs aground on factual analysis.

But facts have little to do with neocon ideology. What is demanded is a usable past to support present practice and to give legitimacy to the current narrative.  It follows: if the American nation was founded on the “idea” of equality, then any successive deviances and variations from that idea are wrong and immoral, and, therefore, in some way, “anti-American.”  Thus, those Southerners who “rebelled” against the legitimate—and righteous—government of the sainted President Lincoln become “traitors,” who not only engaged in “treason” against the legitimate government of the Union, but through their defense of slavery, were enemies of the very “idea” of America—equality.

How many times in recent days in the debates over Confederate monuments and symbols have we heard echoes of such a refrain from the pages of “conservative” publications like National Review of The Weekly Standard? Or, from certain pundits on Fox News?

And, more, those Southerners—more specifically, Southern Democrats—who opposed the “civil rights” legislation of the 1960s, who questioned various Supreme Court decisions on that topic (beginning with the atrociously-decided Brown decision), who enforced those evil “Jim Crow” laws, are not and never could have been real defenders of the “American [egalitarian] idea,” and therefore, never could be considered “conservatives.”

Confronted by unwashed, rednecky “Southern conservatives,” most neocons seek desperately to protect their left flank from criticism from those of the farther Left. They continually and in “alta voz” protest of their bona fides, of how strongly they supported Martin Luther King’s crusade for equality (King was actually a “conservative,” don’t you know?), of how they stood on that bridge in Selma with the noble demonstrators—well, at least in spirit!—against the “fascist” Billy club-armed police of “Bull Connor, and how they really do support “civil rights” for everyone, including “moderate” affirmative action, “moderate” feminism, yes to same sex marriage, and yes to transgenderism. Their fear of being called out and associated with anti-egalitarians far outweighs their fear of confirming the cultural Marxist template, which, in their own manner, they both sanctify and thus, assist to advance.

The neocon narrative stands history on its head. Not only does it fail as competent history, it simply ignores inconvenient facts, historical context, and the careful investigations and massive documentation of more responsible chroniclers and historians of the American nation, if those facts and documentation do not fit a preconceived narrative. All must be written, all must be shaped, to demonstrate the near-mystical advance and progress of the Idea of Equality and Human Rights in the unfolding of American history. Thus, the incredibly powerful and detailed contributions of, say, a Eugene Genovese (for example, his The Mind of the Master Class:  History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholders’ Worldview, and various other studies), go basically for naught.

Victor Davis Hanson, in a recent essay (September 26), adds his own contribution to this historical rewrite, examining what he calls Hollywood’s fascination with what he labels “Confederate Cool.” His argument goes, if I can summarize it, as follows:

–Throughout the 1920s until at least the 1960s (and even beyond), Hollywood and the entertainment industry were kind, even partial, to the South, and in particular, to the Confederacy;

–But Hollywood and the entertainment industry are on the Left;

–Therefore, there were obviously certain elements of the Confederacy and the Old South that were consistent with a Leftist worldview.

Here is the kernel of his argument (I quote):

Can Shane and Ethan Edwards [“The Searchers”] remain our heroes? How did the Carradines and the Keaches (who played Jesse and Frank James) survive in Hollywood after turning former Confederates into modern resisters of the Deep State?

The answer is a familiar with the Left: The sin is not the crime of romanticizing the Confederacy or turning a blind eye to slavery and secession per se. Instead what matters more is the ideology of the sinner who commits the thought crime. And how much will it cost the thought police to virtue-signal a remedy?

Folksy Confederates still have their charms for the Left. All was forgiven Senator Robert Byrd, a former Klansman. He transmogrified from a racist reprobate who uttered the N-word on national television into a down-home violinist and liberal icon. A smiling and avuncular Senator Sam Ervin, of Watergate fame, who quoted the Constitution with a syrupy drawl, helped bring down Nixon; that heroic service evidently washed away his earlier segregationist sin of helping to write the Southern Manifesto.

Progressives always have had a soft spot for drawling (former) racists whose charms in their twilight years were at last put to noble use to advance liberal causes — as if the powers of progressivism alone can use the kick-ass means of the Old Confederacy for exalted ends

Literally, it would take a fat book to unravel Hanson’s farrago of misplaced assertions.

First, in impressionistically reviewing American film history in the 1930s until the upheavals of the 1960s, he makes an assumption that Hollywood was dominated and controlled by the same ideologically cultural Marxism that owns it today. That assumption is not exact. Indeed, there were Communists and revolutionary Socialists working and prospering in the Hollywood Hills during that period—the “Hollywood Ten” and Communist writers and directors like Dalton Trumbo stand out as prime examples. And during World War II, such embarrassing and pro-Communist cinematic expressions as “Days of Glory” (1943) and “Mission to Moscow” (1944, and pushed hard by President Roosevelt), proliferated.

But the fiercely anti-Communist studio bosses, Jack Warner (of Warner Brothers Studio), Carl Laemmle (Universal Pictures), Howard Hughes (RKO), Herbert Yates (Republic Pictures) and Walt Disney were anything but sympathetic to the far Left. They were much more sympathetic to the power of the almighty box office dollar.

And the Hollywood Screen Actors Guild—especially under the leadership of Ronald Reagan—attempted to root out Communist influence. It was not uncommon to find dozens of prominent actors supporting conservative and Republican candidates for public office until the 1960s. For instance, during the 1944 election campaign between Roosevelt and Governor Tom Dewey of New York numerous celebrities attended a massive rally organized by prominent director/producer David O. Selznick in the Los Angeles Coliseum in support of the DeweyBricker ticket. The gathering drew 93,000 attendees, with Cecil B. DeMille as the master of ceremonies and short speeches by Hedda Hopper and Walt Disney. Among those in attendance were Ann SothernGinger RogersAdolphe Menjou, Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, and Gary Cooper, plus many others.

A majority of entertainment personalities did support FDR, just as a majority of the American voting public, in those years. But, significantly, it was not considered a “social crime” or “cultural sin” for a famous actor back then to openly support a conservative or a Republican.

Hanson views an earlier sympathy of Hollywood for the South as the expression of some Leftist fascination—and a certain identification–with the South’s agrarian, anti-establishment, and populist traditions, and its opposition to an oppressive Federal government.  Thus, he asserts the songster Joan Baez could make popular “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and more recently, post-Vietnam, director Walter Hill could, in “The Long Riders” (1980), turn “the murderous Jesse James gang… into a sort of mix of Lynyrd Skynyrd with Bonnie and Clyde — noble outlaws fighting the grasping northern banks and the railroad companies.” And, torturously, he draws out a Leftist meaning.

But he misunderstands the history. Hollywood’s fascination with the Old South and its more or less successful effort sixty or seventy years ago to portray the Confederacy with some degree of sympathy reflected the general tenor of the times then, of the desire for a united nation, of binding up old wounds—and especially when the nation was apparently threatened by external forces: Nazism and Communism. [A sympathy for the underdog, always an abiding theme in film, could also have accounted for why Hollywood once smiled on the Old South.—ILANA.] But that desire for unity and that respect for the Confederacy and Confederate heroes would evaporate in the 1970s.

And the nature of the Hollywood Left would also significantly change. The cautious leftward movement of the 1950s—which mostly did not affect Hollywood Westerns (most studios had their own separate “ranches,” separate from any main studio “contagion”)—was transformed by a fierce and all-encompassing cultural Marxism in the ‘60s and ‘70s, just as academia and society as a whole were radically transformed. The modern anti-Southern, anti-Confederate bias and hatred emitted by Hollywood and by our entertainment industry today must be seen in that light, and not as simply the seamless continuation of an older ambiguous relationship with the South.

Constructing this narrative permits Hanson and other neocons to write off the older, traditional South and the Confederacy, while defending their precious narrative of the egalitarian idea of America: “See,” they tell us, “the far Left actually identified with that anti-democratic, anti-American Southern vision which undermined our progress towards greater unity and progress and”—of course—“equal rights.” The Neocon narrative and version of history is, thus, kept unsullied and ideologically pure, while the attempts by the farther Left to lump them in with associated “neo-Confederates, racists, and the extreme right” are repelled.

The problem is that their view actually undermines a clear understanding of our history and perverts the American Founding and the intentions of those who cobbled together this nation. It is a myth built on a poorly-constructed and poorly-interpreted bill of historical goods.

Dr. Boyd D. Cathey

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~ DR. BOYD D. CATHEY is an Unz Review columnist, as well as a Barely a Blog contributor, whose work is easily located on this site under the “BAB’s A List” search category. Dr. Cathey earned an MA in history at the University of Virginia (as a Thomas Jefferson Fellow), and as a Richard M Weaver Fellow earned his doctorate in history and political philosophy at the University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain. After additional studies in theology and philosophy in Switzerland, he taught in Argentina and Connecticut before returning to North Carolina. He was State Registrar of the North Carolina State Archives before retiring in 2011. He writes for The Unz Review, The Abbeville Institute, Confederate Veteran magazine, The Remnant, and other publications in the United States and Europe on a variety of topics, including politics, social and religious questions, film, and music.

Some Trump-Nation Triumphs

Donald Trump, Drug War, Foreign Policy, Hollywood, Labor, Media, Pseudoscience, Psychiatry, States' Rights

Reducing another bastion of the establishment to rubble.

The next is Hollywood.

Keep a watchful eye on CPUKErs. Ann Coulter is:

Steve Bannon:

We love you, but stop potting around. In a libertarian world … but we’ll settle for States’ Rights:

Related to the above. Did he just say States’ Rights? Joy!

The Freaks of the Therapeutic State:

Tied up in knots by Fake News:

Megalo-McCain:

Bosom buddy Lindsey Graham:

Miners are the epitome of tragic heroes:

‘Go On Now Go,’ Barack Obama, ‘Walk Out The Door …’

Art, Barack Obama, Democracy, Donald Trump, Hollywood

“‘Go On Now Go,’ Barack Obama, ‘Walk Out The Door …’” is the current column, now on Townhall.com or The Daily Caller (in case the Russians mess with one of the sites). An excerpt:

The Hollywood Idiocracy has let out a primal scream to protest Donald Trump, the people’s president. Members of the collective convened to convulse like Linda Blare in “The Exorcist,” to the sounds of Gloria Gaynor in “I Will Survive.”

This particular protest was made up of mediocre females: Emma Stone, Natalie Portman, Amy Adams, Hailee Steinfeld, Chris Pine, Michael Shannon, Matthew McConaughey, Andrew Garfield, and Joel Edgerton (the last five are women with the Y chromosome).

Miss Blare, of course, was great in “The Exorcist.” The same goes for the demon Pazuzu who possessed Blair’s character (Regan MacNeil) in the film. At his gurgling snarling worst, Pazuzu was easier on the ear than the actors who primal-screamed their way through Gaynor’s fabulous, 1979 disco number.

How full of yourself must you be to sound and look as vapid as these celebrities did on the vid? A less self-aggrandizing group would have used the Auto-Tune technology, a must for the T & A that parade as artists these days! Or perhaps they did, and Team “I Will Survive” is even worse than it sounds.

Speaking of self-adoration, I’ve lost count of how many goodbyes Barack Hussein Obama has bid. The countdown to President-elect Trump’s inauguration has morphed into a search-and-rescue for the Obama legacy, except that when something is dead; it becomes a recovery operation.

The other day, Obama “popped by” to say goodbye to Press Secretary Josh Earnest. I can’t quite recall what 44 said, but the interlude was all about Obama.

Indeed, nothing Obama has ever said is memorable, or has intellectual acuity to it. This goes for his farewell address. President-elect Trump might be inarticulate and plain-spoken; but each of his words means something tangible and actionable. The incumbent’s words, conversely, are like a Rorschach test: fuzzy, hazy verbal vapor, designed to absorb the listener’s projected emotions and reflect them back soothingly.

The cliché is the operative word in an Obama sentence. Visit any random site or video clip featuring Obama excerpts and you’ll hear mind-numbing banalities. Here’s one at random (2009): “What brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart.”

As measured by the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, a “Smart Politics,” 2012 study concluded that “for the third straight Address, the President’s State of the Union message was written at an eighth-grade level.”

During his interminable farewell address

… Read the rest. “‘Go On Now Go,’ Barack Obama, ‘Walk Out The Door …’” is now on Townhall.com or The Daily Caller.

Ayn Rand, David Cross, And Hypocrisy

BAB's A List, Communism, Hollywood, Left-Liberalism, libertarianism, Objectivism, Socialism

AYN RAND, DAVID CROSS, AND HYPOCRISY
By Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Ph.D.

Ilana Mercer recently made me aware of some off-the-wall [YouTube, sorry, couldn’t resist MJ] comments by stand-up comedian David Cross on Ayn Rand. I’ll just have to chalk up his, uh, misunderstanding to the fact that he’s a comedian, and not somebody who has actually studied Rand’s corpus. On his new Netflix special, he makes the following statement:

Let’s be honest, that’s what makes America weak, is empathy. When we care about those less fortunate than ourselves, that[‘s] what brings us down. . . . Ask Ayn Rand—I believe you can still find her haunting the public housing she died in while on Social Security and Medicare.

Now, it’s not my intention to simply defend Ayn Rand; she did a good job of that when she was alive, and her writings have stood the test of time, whatever one thinks about her position on this or that particular issue. But Cross is just all crossed up. About so many things.

First, let’s clear up one grand myth: Ayn Rand never lived in public housing. I recently queried Rand biographer, Anne Heller, who wrote the 2009 book, Ayn Rand and the World She Made. Heller could provide us with every address Rand ever lived at, and not a single one of them corresponds to a public housing project. But even if Rand lived in the Marlboro Housing Projects in Brooklyn, who cares? More on this, in a moment.

Now, it is true that Rand did collect Social Security and Medicare. Ayn Rand Institute-affiliated writer, Onkar Ghate, addresses the so-called hypocrisy of this fact about Ayn Rand’s life in his essay, “The Myth About Ayn Rand and Social Security.” Ghate reminds us that Rand opposed,

Every “redistribution” scheme of the welfare state. Precisely because Rand views welfare programs like Social Security as legalized plunder, she thinks the only condition under which it is moral to collect Social Security is if one “regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism” (emphasis hers). The seeming contradiction that only the opponent of Social Security has the moral right to collect it dissolves, she argues, once you recognize the crucial difference between the voluntary and the coerced. Social Security is not voluntary. Your participation is forced through payroll taxes, with no choice to opt out even if you think the program harmful to your interests. If you consider such forced “participation” unjust, as Rand does, the harm inflicted on you would only be compounded if your announcement of the program’s injustice precludes you from collecting Social Security.

Rand felt the same way about any number of government programs, including government scholarships, and such. In reality, Rand got a free education at the University of Petrograd in the Soviet Union, a newly-minted communist state; next to that, collecting Social Security is “a mere bag of shells,” as Ralph Kramden would put it. But, you see, that’s the whole issue, isn’t it? Rand was born in the Soviet Union, and even that state wasn’t “pure communism,” as Marx envisioned it; for Marx, communism could only arise out of an advanced stage of capitalism, which, in his quasi-utopian imagination, would solve the problem of scarcity. The point is that there is not a single country on earth or in any historical period that has ever fit the description of a pure “-ism”; to this extent, Rand was completely correct to characterize her moral vision of “capitalism” as an “unknown ideal.”

But there is a second point that is lost on critics who accuse Rand of hypocrisy; there is not a single person on earth who isn’t born into a specific historical context, a particular place and time. At any period in history, we live in a world that provides us with a continuum of sorts, enabling us to navigate among the “mixed” elements of the world’s “mixed” economies, that is, those economies that have various mixtures of markets and state regimentation. But as that world becomes more interconnected, the destructiveness of the most powerful politico-economic institutions and processes extend in ripple effects across the globe. And as F. A. Hayek never tired of saying, the more political power comes to dominate the world economies, the more political power becomes the only power worth having… one of the reasons “why the worst get on top.” What Hayek meant, of course, is that in such a system, those who are most adept at using political power (the power of coercion) for their own benefit tend to rise to the top, leaving the vast majority of us struggling to make a buck. The “road to serfdom” is a long one, but serfdom is among us; it comes in the form of confiscatory taxation and expropriation to sustain an interventionist welfare state at home and a warfare state abroad.

I have always believed that context is king. And given the context in which we live, everyone of us has to do things we don’t like to do. Even anarchists, those who by definition believe that the state itself lacks moral legitimacy, can’t avoid walking down taxpayer-funded, government-subsidized sidewalks or travel on taxpayer-funded government-subsidized roads and interstate highways, or taxpayer-funded government-subsidized railroads, or controlled airways.

Then there’s the issue of money. You know, whether of the paper, coin, or plastic variety. There are many on both the libertarian “right” and the new “left” who have argued that the historical genesis of the Federal Reserve System was a way of consolidating the power of banks, allowing banks (and their capital-intensive clients) to benefit from the inflationary expansion of the money supply. This has also had the added effect of paying for the growth of the bureaucratic welfare state to control the poor and the warfare state to expand state and class expropriation of resources across the globe. And it has led to an endless cycle of boom and bust. And yet, there isn’t a person in the United States of whatever political persuasion who cannot avoid using money printed or coined by the Fed. Even among those on the left, so-called “limousine liberals” (a pejorative phrase used to describe people of the “left-liberal” persuasion who are hypocrites by definition) or those who advocate “democratic socialism” of the Sanders type, or those who advocate outright communism, own private property and buy their goods and services with money from other private property owners. It seems that there is not a single person on earth of any political persuasion who isn’t a hypocrite, according to the “logic” of David Cross.

Ever the dialectician, I believe that given the context, the only way of attempting even partial restitution from a government that regulates everything from the boardroom to the bedroom is to milk the inner contradictions of the system.

But some individuals can’t get restitution, because they were victims of another form of government coercion: the military draft. Ayn Rand believed that the draft was involuntary servitude, the ultimate violation of individual rights, based on the premise that the government owned your life and could do with it anything it pleased, including molding its draftees into killing machines, and sending them off to fight in undeclared illegitimate wars like those in Korea and Vietnam (both of which Rand opposed). What possible restitution is available to those who were murdered in those wars, or even to those who survived them, but who were irreparably damaged, physically and/or psychologically, by their horrific experiences on the killing fields?

The draft is no longer with us, and David Cross should be thanking that good ol’ hypocrite Ayn Rand for the influence she had on the ending of that institution. Such people as Hank Holzer, Joan Kennedy Taylor, and Martin Anderson were among those who mounted the kind of intellectual and legal challenge to conscription that ultimately persuaded then President Richard M. Nixon to end the military draft.

And yet, Rand’s taxes were certainly used to pay for the machinery of conscription and for the machinery of war; does this make her a hypocrite too, or should she have just refused to pay taxes and gone to prison? Yeah, that would have been productive. Perhaps she could have authored more works of fiction or nonfiction anthologies, chock-full of essays on epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, politics, economics, and culture from Rikers Island. Yeah, then Cross would have been correct: Rand surely would have been living in the worst public housing imaginable.

Thanks for giving me a chuckle, Mr. Cross.

Postscript I: I was just made aware of a very detailed essay on the subject of “Ayn Rand, Social Security and the Truth,” at the Facebook page of The Moorfield Storey Institute.

Postscript #2: Thanks to Ilana Mercer, who alerted me to Cross’s “comedy,” and for reprinting this post on her own “Barely a Blog.” We’re obviously compadres; a “Notablog” and a “Barely a Blog” are close enough to be cousins. [Soulmates, for sure.—ILANA)

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Dr. Chris Matthew Sciabarra was born in Brooklyn, New York, 1960. He is the author of the Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy that began with Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, continued with Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and culminates with Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism. He is the founding coeditor of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. He is also the author of two monographs: Ayn Rand: Her Life and Thought and Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation. Sciabarra earned all three college degrees from New York University. He graduated in June 1981, Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude, with a B.A. in History (with honors), Politics, and Economics. His major undergraduate fields were American History, Economics (Austrian Economics/Political Economy), and Politics (Political Theory).
He earned his M.A. in Politics (with a concentration in political theory) in 1983. In June 1988, he earned his Ph.D. with distinction in political philosophy, theory, and methodology. He passed his qualifying examinations and oral defense in both his major and minor areas (American Politics; Comparative Politics) with distinction in Spring 1984. His dissertation, defended with distinction in Spring 1988, directed by Bertell Ollman, was entitled, “Toward a Radical Critique of Utopianism: Dialectics and Dualism in the works of Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard, and Karl Marx.”