By David Eaton
“If one should desire to know whether a kingdom is well governed, if its morals are good or bad, the quality of its music will furnish the answer.”
I contemplated his observation as I watched the telecast of last month’s 88th Academy Awards. If we were to substitute the word “music” with “cinema” or “culture,” the Chinese sage might be more than a bit angst-ridden given the tone and tenor of the Oscars.
Predictably, the show’s host, Chris Rock, pummeled the Hollywood establishment for its lack of racial diversity among the nominees — a major issue in the run-up to the Oscars. But not far from the surface was Hollywood’s seemingly incessant need to sexualize the proceedings. Comedienne Sarah Silverman’s riff on sexual intercourse viz. James Bond, and Rock’s quips, about helping the show’s music director “get l__d at the Governor’s Ball” and the panties of a female pop star in the audience, were reminders of Hollywood’s duplicity in matters of sexual probity.
I wondered how Chris Rock’s Girl Scout daughters reacted to Silverman and their dad’s overt sexual suggestiveness. Surely they were watching (as I was with my 21-year old daughter), and I cringed at the vulgar and completely unnecessary sexual repartee. But here again was an example of the in-your-face sexuality Hollywood both glorifies and aggressively markets while attempting to be viewed as virtuous on other social matters.
To be fair, the serious issue of sexual abuse was front-and-center at the Oscars with “Spotlight” spotlighting the problems within the Catholic Church (and winning Best Picture). “The Hunting Ground,” dealing with the problem of campus rape, was not nominated for Best Documentary Film, but the film’s song, “Til It Happens To You,” was a nominee for Best Original Song.
Though “The Hunting Ground” has been criticized for playing fast and loose with statistics, its attempt to focus on sexual abuse is necessary, so kudos to the producers of both films for their efforts to bring the issue to the forefront. (One of the Oscars highlights was Lady Gaga’s rendition of “Til It Happens To You,” in which victims of sexual abuse appeared on stage at the end of the performance. It was a dramatic and poignant moment)
The modern iteration of “sexual liberation” (a term coined by neo-Marxist philosopher Wilhelm Reich) has caused or contributed to our society’s increasingly vulgar and permissive attitudes about sex in general, and sexual abuse in particular. Can a link between increased sexual permissiveness and sexual abuse be made? Is the “entitlement” culture that seems so pervasive a contributing factor? Can Hollywood be taken seriously for its condemnation of morally questionable sexual attitudes while selling sex at every turn?
In The Screwtape Letters, one of C.S. Lewis’ characters observes that in every age “a small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses and advertisers” will be used by the Devil to dictate “sexual taste” in the attempt to steer humankind away from partners “with whom spiritually helpful, happy and fertile marriages are most likely.” Lewis was clear that family values and sexual probity were the foundational pillars of a moral society, and by diminishing these virtues, society and culture become all the more coarse, superficial and deluded by unattainable sexual fantasies. Values become subsidiary to sexual conquest. Lewis’ protagonist Devil, Screwtape, views the “film star” and “the crooner” as allies and agents in the corruption of sexual love.
St. Augustine asserted that people (and nations) fail because they choose to love the wrong things. He intuited that our identities are determined by what we prioritize in our lives. Our choices have consequences and being accountable for our choices and behavior is a significant measure of our maturity as societal beings. Artists, especially, have the responsibility to use their creativity with a sense of moral responsibility. Though we should applaud films such as “Spotlight” and “The Hunting Ground,” we might also engage in a serious discussion regarding the whys and wherefores of the sexual attitudes that have deleterious effects on society at large, and how the “celebrity-industrial-complex” is culpable in perpetuating this moral toxicity.
In his new book, The Devil’s Pleasure Paradise: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West, Michael Walsh critiques the motives and tactics of the neo-Marxists of the Frankfurt School from the perspective of the scriptural narrative of the Fall of Man. Walsh, classical music critic of the San Francisco Examiner and TIME magazine, is Roman Catholic, and though some might disagree with his interpretation of the Fall (as do I on some points), he nevertheless offers coruscating insight to the inner workings of the neo-Marxists who influenced academia and Hollywood after World War II.
Like Friedrich Nietzsche before them, the Frankfurt philosophers — Erich Fromm, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich and György Lukács — viewed “sexual liberation” as the primary means to undermine traditional, Western culture born of Judeo-Christian ideals. Offering copious data and evidence, Walsh demonstrates how the emotions of resentment, revenge and jealousy lie at the heart of the Fall of Man and basically all Marxist memes.
Karl Marx’s original resentment meme, of course, was rich vs. poor, the bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat. When the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century spawned a large and contented middle class, the bourgeoisie/proletariat “struggle” was rendered impotent.
But the Frankfurt neo-Marxists found new ways to foster resentment, rage and revenge in order to fan the flames of the Hegelian conflict paradigm by identifying new classes of oppressed peoples. Race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation were now the victim categories to be championed in the name of progressive thought and political action, hence, the rise of identity studies in liberal arts colleges during the past four decades. White males of European descent (and their traditional, Judeo-Christian values) were now the “principal enemies” of what Walsh terms “the Unholy Left.” Walsh writes:
The goal of the Frankfurt School was, at root, to turn Americans into Central Europeans, to undermine the core self-perception of America — free individuals before God — and replace it with a Central European dependence on and worship of the God-State as embodiment of the General Will. Historical Justice, Diversity or whatever chimera represents Utopia at the moment.
And what was central to this goal? It is precisely the abnegation of family and religion. Why? Because family provides safety, empathy and comfort, and religion provides hope and redemption. Where there is hope and empathy, resentments are held at bay and revolutionary urges are mitigated. When there is a possibility for redemption, nihilism can be easily thwarted.
This is why in virtually every fascist/communist regime there is a stentorian assault on religion and family. The Frankfurt philosophers viewed traditional morality as “repressive” and sexual liberation as “progressive,” and this has become the all-too-familiar siren song of the “Unholy Left” and its acolytes in the media and entertainment industry. The evisceration of traditional structures regarding sexual probity and family values is very much the cri de coeur of neo-Marxist progressives.
Regarding the Fall of Man, Walsh ascertains that the original sin was sexual. This is, of course, in accord with Divine Principle, which posits that Lucifer seduced Eve and what was to have been a pure, godly lineage was selfishly appropriated for evil intentions. Consequently, all creativity has been under the dominion of Satan, most importantly, sexual love and the creative arts. Using creativity (music, art, dance, literature) to perpetuate a false ideal of love and sexuality is part-and-parcel of the satanic methodology to control and dominate humankind. The allure of Eve’s beauty and the desire to possess her was what led to Lucifer’s (and Adam’s) sin.
In an especially insightful chapter, “The Eternal Feminine,” Walsh says “the assault on the citadels of Western culture” by the Frankfurt vanguard had many fronts, but “the foremost among them was sex.” He refers to sexual love as “the most powerful engine in human existence, the one that brings us closest to the Godhead.”
Divine Principle posits that we, as God’s children, are co-creators with the Almighty and as such, creativity is divine in its purpose and realization — sacred, in fact. When we remove the spiritual/divine dimension of sex from its original purpose, we turn sex into a mere object (“reification” in neo-Marxist parlance), and it then can be used (or misused) for revolutionary intentions. In the realm of critical theory, according to Walsh, “intentions are everything, results are nothing. Results are an illusion; theory is what counts, because theory can be debated endlessly in the safe harbors of academe.”
The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West, by Michael Walsh (click book or link for YouTube lecture by Walsh).
As Walsh avers, the “transgressive assault” on Western culture had to start somewhere, and it started with the assault on the family. The “elemental power of sex,” when directed toward its original, mature and godly purpose, “points the way to transcendence” as a way for humans to make a deep connection to God and to find one’s true value as a child of God. Lucifer’s goal was to subvert the innate human desire to connect to God as God’s children.
Walsh cites historian Arnold Toynbee, who observed that “when the morals of the underclass become mainstream, societies begin to crumble,” and when “self-expression begins to substitute for disciplined creativity, civilization has a problem.” Critical theory of the Frankfurt School has an “obsessive compulsion with its genitals” and this is “not a sign of a mature culture, but a childish one.” Because sexual love leads to child-bearing, the seduction of Eve was Lucifer’s way to destroy God’s original design and dominate humans. Reich, Marcuse and their acolytes sought to pervert the original purpose of sex as a way to control humankind and reject Godism.
Which gets us back to Confucius and Hollywood. The neo-Marxist Frankfurters understood the power of television and the entertainment industry to “secularize” the culture. They fully comprehended Marshall McLuhan’s dictum that “the medium is the message.” There has been a calculated assault on certain virtues historically linked to the idea there are universal truths, that when understood and implemented, minimize self-centeredness and the moral and ethical proclivities arising from it. Hollywood, knowingly or not, has been culpable in the assault. Useful idiots? Perhaps.
Because postmodernism views truth as being fungible and open to interpretations of all sorts, morality and ethics are no longer rooted in universal virtues but are completely based on subjective explications. This is a core tenet of critical theory. Individualism and the celebration of “the self” is the predominant ethic. “If it feels good, do it.” This was Nietzsche’s creed, especially with regard to sexual licentiousness. The advocates of critical theory have doubled down on this in their attempt to subvert traditional, Judeo-Christian cultural mores.
Of course, all this is made to look perfectly normal — an enlightened evolution of progressive thought — and if you’re not down with all this progressivism you’re just being an intolerant, unenlightened rube, or worse. Walsh states:
When you can manipulate the language and convince an otherwise sane world that your mad version of events is the truth, you have a formidable, satanic weapon.
When our music, movies and literature assist in the promulgation of this particular mindset, then, as Confucius might contend, we’ve lost our way and our societies fall prey to a false consciousness, one completely at odds with God’s original ideal of creation and sexuality.♦
David Eaton has been Music Director of the New York City Symphony since 1985. In addition to his conducting career, he has been an active composer, arranger and producer with 55 original compositions and over 700 arrangements and transcriptions to his credit. His most recent orchestral composition, “70 and Counting!”, was performed at the United Nations as part of the UN’s 70th Anniversary concert in June 2015.
Painting at top: “Satan Before the Lord,” by Corrado Giaquinto, circa 1750.