Matt Taibbi's hit-piece on Herbert Marcuse.

On his substack a few days ago, Matt Taibbi asked his readership: "I want to do a book review. What should I review?" In response, it appears that the most vocal portion of his readership voiced their support for "greats" such as Ayn Rand and Jordan Peterson. Some people in the substack also suggested a hit piece on Ibram X. Kendi. Well, it appears that Taibbi decided for himself without really paying attention to any of this discussion (though apparently there was some discussion of Marcuse somewhere in there, h/t CSinAZ), and decided to write a hit piece on Herbert Marcuse.

I really don't know what the point was of Taibbi's exercise. Taibbi prefaces his discussion of Marcuse with the statement that Marcuse was "the quack who became America’s most influential thinker." I have no idea how Marcuse got to be "America's most influential thinker" in Taibbi's head -- in no era of actual history was Herbert Marcuse America's most influential thinker. And Marcuse couldn't be a quack if he wasn't claiming to be a healer. So I was lost as an audience for Taibbi right there. Fortunately for me, an individual named Jonathan Michael Feldman, of Stockholm University, has written a point-by-point critique of all this: "Matt Taibbi, Herbert Marcuse and the Journalistic Appropriation of Philosophy." Feldman's work saves me the labor of having to do it myself. It's worth reading in full if you really want to engage Taibbi. Right now I don't. One reads this stuff, Taibbi but really Feldman, suspecting that it's all about "look at me! I'm a journalist but I'm so good I can trash philosophers!"

But it's okay, because Taibbi summarizes Marcuse by saying:

Strip the rhetorical bells and whistles from books like One-Dimensional Man and Repressive Tolerance and what’s left? A white, affluent, upper-class intellectual frustrated by the lack of a popular mandate for his vision of political takeover.

So if Marcuse was "America's most influential thinker," how influential could he possibly have been if the end-result of his efforts was frustration by the lack of a popular mandate for what he wanted to see done? America's most influential thinker, uh-huh. You know, Marcuse's theory of "surplus repression" might have explained the Fifties for Taibbi had he given it a chance.

Feldman begins his critique of Taibbi by looking at arguments Taibbi makes about Marcuse's "influence" which aren't really backed up by citations of Marcuse. He then goes on to discuss Taibbi's objections to things Marcuse said. At some point readers of the Feldman piece must be telling themselves: "this is like legal reasoning. Should I really care what Matt Taibbi says about Herbert Marcuse?" So let's just skip to Feldman's conclusion:

Taibbi engages in selective or mendacious readings, makes some useful points that might be used to contextualize Marcuse, but it’s all lost in his journalistic hyperbole. I have nothing against journalists as my father was one. But this kind of journalism I can clearly do without. Taibbi is right about many, many things. I don’t mind his periodic trashing of left stupidities and exposure of financial mendacity and appreciate his intelligence on other topics. Yet, here he has gone too far because he seems animated by the idea that intellectuals are often just idiots.

****

So who was Herbert Marcuse?

Herbert_Marcuse_in_Newton,_Massachusetts_1955.jpeg

Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) was an upper-class Jew in pre-World-War-I German society who later became an academic type. He (to summarize much of what is in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) started out as a literature major but then started doing philosophy and ended up getting a job with Martin Heidegger, the ponderous dude who wrote "Being and Time." Later, Heidegger became a Nazi, Hitler took over Germany, and Marcuse got a job with the Institute for Social Research, the "Frankfurt School" in exile. He then moved to New York City and, in 1942, to Washington DC where he worked with agencies which later became the CIA. For those people, he wrote a book, "Soviet Marxism," which criticized Soviet society.

When World War II ended and a lot of the German exiles who had holed up in America to avoid Hitler went back to Germany, Marcuse stayed in the US, where he eventually developed a relationship with the New Left and (more specifically) with a much-much-younger Angela Davis. Yeah, that Angela Davis. He died in 1979.

Marcuse was interested in preserving goals of "liberation" against what he saw as the "one-dimensional" aspects of Fifties and Sixties America. He may have been a Marxist, but his Marxism was larded down with a big chunk of Freudian terminology, which he probably got from working for the Institute for Social Research. Marcuse's sort of stuff receives the label "Freudo-Marxism." Slavoj Zizek counts as one of those.

The point of philosophers like Marcuse is not so that journalists can trash them. Nor is it so they can be intermediaries for The Truth as passed on from high -- they aren't that either. Intellectuals are allowed to be wrong, sometimes disastrously wrong -- look, for instance, at the stuff written about Martin Heidegger, who was in fact a Nazi, a fair portion after his death. Rather, philosophers are there to enrich our vocabularies. When philosophers trash each other, as Theodor Adorno did to Martin Heidegger, it's done with such matters of vocabulary in mind. One reads the American philosopher Richard Rorty to discover this fact about philosophers, especially if one had too lofty a view of philosophy to figure this out for oneself.

Here are some Marcusean vocabulary phrases, then. I've tried to choose oldies but goodies. "Surplus repression," for instance, which I mentioned above, comes from Eros and Civilization, and could be used to explain why the Fifties in America were so uptight.

Or there's this idea of the "Great Refusal," the idea that we should "say no" to (as the entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia put it) "multiple forms of domination and oppression." This idea was used productively by Richard Kahn in his interesting and useful book Critical Pedagogy, Ecoliteracy, and Planetary Crisis.

Or, how about "one-dimensional society," from Marcuse's book One-Dimensional Man, used to explain why modern, technological society was so banal.

Or here's a really cool one -- the "long march through the institutions," a proposed strategy of social change by infiltrating the Establishment to be found in Marcuse's Counterrevolution and Revolt.

So, in sum, Herbert Marcuse was a cool vocab man. Read his books for that reason!

The "repressive tolerance" essay, a punching bag of Taibbi's, needs to be dealt with in this diary. Its thesis is (I know I'm oversimplifying) "don't tolerate fascists and murderers when they exercise their free speech rights." I'm sure that Marcuse's reasoning has been used by university students to shout down far-right advocates when they came to liberal universities to blather their toxic nonsense in big public speeches.

There is an obvious rebuttal to Marcuse's argument. "If everyone were to shout down people they thought were oppressors, we'd never get anywhere as a society." We should, by this argument, respect everyone's free-speech rights, even the bad guys. I'm not worried by such an argument. The big public speech is not the only theater for the conveyance of opinion in our society, the fascists and murderers have a stake in our mass media, and the opinions of fascists and murderers are not really interesting ones.

Matt Taibbi, well -- I used to think there was something substantive behind his dashing air and his critiques of some of the major players of the system. But, yep, it's ego. One would think that a prolonged confrontation with the compound crisis of our times would have instilled more humility into its most interesting commentators. There's profound sh*t going on and we haven't really gotten ahold of it. The current situation offers no reason for anyone to be egotistical.

I hate to make Matt Taibbi another target of focused apathy. But I'm going to do so anyway.

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Wally's picture

. . . in it's entirety, which seems to me at least, to be an important facet of criticing his article, click here.

As to why Taibbi chose such a subject, I don't really care that much. He can write about whatever he so chooses as far as I'm concerned. And in his article, he explicitly posits that "Marcuse is so influential that subscribers thought it would be a good idea to review his books, rather than go one-by-one through the seemingly interminable list of homage texts dominating bestseller lists in recent years." It should be noted that one cannot see what subscribers to Taibbi's substack suggested unless one is a subscriber.

I go back to the heyday of when Marcuse was very popular in US leftist circles when he was also known and heralded as Angela Davis's mentor. Indeed, many have noted, as does Taibbi in the article, that Marcuse has often been cited as "the Father of the New Left." Was Marcuse America's most influential thinker? I don't think so, either. Imagine a pundit engaging in hyerbole!!!
Nonetheless, Marcuse certainly has had a tremendous influence on the current wave of a variety of "critical theorists," including preeminent and extremely powerful populizers of PC and Wokeness like Robin DiAngelo (White Fragility), Ibrahm Kendi (Anti-Racism) and other folks who the likes of New Discourses' James Findlay (who claims to an exponent of classical liberalism) contemptuously dismisses and derides as purported "cultural Marxists." (I just briefly note that I think Findlay's analysis leaves a lot to be desired as I noted here back in November).

In any event, thanks Cass for the link to the Feldman piece. I will try to get to it later today.

However, looking at Feldman's boxed quote from above:

Yet, here he has gone too far because he seems animated by the idea that intellectuals are often just idiots.

. . . Well, maybe both those ideas are true, but Taibbi focused on just one intellectual in his article, namely Marcuse.

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Cassiodorus's picture

@Wally I'll change the links to Taibbi's piece in my diary here to the one you provided.

NB: If all philosophers are idiots, that makes Taibbi an idiot, too, for offering a philosophical critique of a philosopher.

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Wally's picture

@Cassiodorus

But Taibbi never wrote that all philosophers are idiots in his piece about Marcuse.

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Wally's picture

@Wally

Of course DiAngelo doesn't understand Marcuse and misapplies his ideas to her conceptualization of "white fragility." She a corporate diversity trainer, not a Marxist (or anykind of) philosopher.
That doesn't mean that she and other race and gender essentialist contemporary "critical theorists" weren't influenced by their readings of him and other Frankfurt School denizens.

Taibbi takes a very important first step towards grounding criticism of the current wave of Woke and PC intellectuals not only in terms of their misappropriation and misapplication of Frankfurt School Marxist theory but by going back to find rubs in the post-war thought of Marcuse, Althusser and other structural Marxists who in many ways seem to abandon hope in the working class as agents of social change.

I wish many more pundits and intellectuals along the lines of Taibbi will be so willing to challenge the likes of DiAngelo and Kendi who seem more so intent on solidifying capitalist hegemony to the detriment of anything that acknowledges the importance of class struggle..

Soooo, I think Feldman misrepresents a lot of what Taibbi says. And Feldman does a lot of what he criticizes Taibbi for. I'll leave it at that.

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Cassiodorus's picture

@Wally So let's write hit pieces on Marx because, y'know, Stalin. The same principle is at work here: we are to hold dead people responsible for their more recent misappropriators even if, as appears to be the case with Marcuse, whether they actually misappropriated said dead people (or not) is rather open to question.

I went through Feldman again. Still haven't found anything with which I disagree.

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Wally's picture

@Cassiodorus

. . . for that matter and do a hit piece on him. But it's important to establish some real connections.

You're making the same argument Feldman makes. But even if he couldn't find the connections via Google searches (JFC cut me a break!), there are traceable, definitive links between the Frankfurt School critical theorists and the new wave of race and gender essentialist theorists and activists who expound upon what they themselves consider an adaptive continuation of that more original critical theory. And there's no need to limit it to just the two foremost popularizers today. I'm sure you know the names of all the other folks who preceded those two (the critical race theorists, the genderqueer theorists, the third and forth wave feminist theorists etc) but most of them acknowledge the influence and quote various Frankfurt School dudes in their work. And there's a reason for that even if the new wave folks (apologies to new wave music devotees) are not all that good at making substantive, reasonable connections. And I'll argue that there were indeed many problems and contradictions in the work of Marcuse et al. Marcuse and Althusser are my particular bugaboos, but I'm more familiar with their work than the others. I think many albeit not all of Taibbi's criticisms of Marcuse are on point. Feldman takes Taibbi to task for pointing out Marcuse was very critical of the working class and because he (Feldman) finds and produces a few quotes of Marcuse finding hope in the working class. But I'm sure that Taibbi could find lots more where Marcuse shits on the working class. You can too. So can Feldman. I'm a lazy old fart.

And Taibbi specializes in hit pieces. That's his schtick. Riling people up has worked out enormously well for him. He takes quite a few hits in return. Neoliberals do everythign imaginable to cancel him. I wouldn't be surprised if they contract out scholars to go after him. They have more than enough money to do so. And that's what they do!!! It doesn't surprise or upset me any more than Taibbi doing hit pieces based on what he thinks will work out for him. Note he chose not to go after Kendi.

Finally, I find a lot of what's in the work of the Frankfurt School theorists to be very valuable too in undertanding the lunacy we're experiencing. But I'm not gonna buy their stuff lot, stock and barrel. And their approaches and analyses differ. They didn't all get along all the time. And there is a body of Marxist and other criticism of their work, as individuals and as a group. There's a lot to parse. A lot to get headaches from trying to understand and piece together.

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Cassiodorus's picture

@Wally

there are traceable, definitive links between the Frankfurt School critical theorists and the new wave of race and gender essentialist theorists and activists who expound upon what they themselves consider an adaptive continuation of that more original critical theory. And there's no need to limit it to just the two foremost popularizers today. I'm sure you know the names of all the other folks who preceded those two (the critical race theorists, the genderqueer theorists, the third and forth wave feminist theorists etc) but most of them acknowledge the influence and quote various Frankfurt School dudes in their work. And there's a reason for that even if the new wave folks (apologies to new wave music devotees) are not all that good at making substantive, reasonable connections. And I'll argue that there were indeed many problems and contradictions in the work of Marcuse et al. Marcuse and Althusser are my particular bugaboos, but I'm more familiar with their work than the others.

Show, don't tell. I want quotes. Otherwise Feldman is right.

But I'm sure that Taibbi could find lots more where Marcuse shits on the working class. You can too. So can Feldman. I'm a lazy old fart.

The privilege of being right does not automatically accrue to lazy old farts who assert without demonstrating.

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Wally's picture

@Cassiodorus

So if you're not familiar with them, hmmmn.

Especially if you can't find the stuff where Marcuse finds fault with the revolutionary potential of the wc.

I threw away my Marcuse books a long time ago. But my memory is still pretty good about him dumping on the wc. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has made this claim besides Taibbi.

I don't dance on command.

Oh wait, maybe I'll do a google search like Feldman. Nah. Don't like Wikipedia? Seems there's more than enough there doing a quick look that references books.

White old fart wc privilege, yep, that's me.

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The Liberal Moonbat's picture

@Wally

Note he chose not to go after Kendi.

Why not? Now there's a McCarthyist shitstain who needs to be canceled good and hard before he can brainwash any more friggin' NASA scientists into believing they're all secretly Klansmen inside (which, funny enough, is almost EXACTLY the same as what the Klan has always insisted - "all White people agree with us, they're just hiding it deep down!"); don't tell me our boy's Rolling Stones are starting to gather chicken-moss (I mean, compare that to what Chris Hedges says: "'I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists.")....

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Wally's picture

@The Liberal Moonbat

If Taibbi pokes Kendi in the eye, lots more people will come after him.

As it is now, he just has a handful of ivory tower Marcusians and a larger contingent of DiAngelo partisans confederated under corporate and Dim Party auspices.

A deluge of folks, left-center-right, has come after DiAngelo of late accusing her of appropriating Black ideas for her own enrichment.

Kinda funny how all that is working out right along olympic oppression lines.

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The Liberal Moonbat's picture

@Wally If he compromises truth and logical consistency for the sake of social poker (as I call it), that is the greatest threat to his position.

So what if MORE of the same mindless meenlocks go after him at this point? It's a bit like the "Inverse Ninja Law" (https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=The%20Law%20of%20Inverse...).

"Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth."
- Mahatma Gandhi

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CS in AZ's picture

I am a subscriber to Matt's Substack. This book was suggested, and Matt said he would review it first if it arrived first.

I suggest a crucial old book: Herbert Marcuse, Repressive Tolerance (1969 edition). The absolute BIBLE of the Woke on our campuses. Its ideas must be challenged, like Kendi’s.

It is available for free as a pdf on the Marcuse website.

17Reply

Matt TaibbiFeb 9
I just ordered it in print. If it beats Kendi here, I'll review that... I think it's a good idea, considering how influential he is and yet his name is not often mentioned.

9Reply

[redacted] Feb 10
Do Marcuse. Kendi's braindead, Marcuse almost definitely less so, and he has more historical importance.

Reply

Matt TaibbiFeb 9
Actually, I might prefer to do Marcuse. His ideas are everywhere and I never read that book so...

7Reply

[redacted] Feb 9
It's a good idea, Matt. You'll see that the entire Woke totalitarianism is set out right there. NO equal rights for wrong ideas. Tolerance of wrong (conservative, status quo) ideas on campus is actually oppressive of the students, because it blocks their moral awakening and the march of progressivism.

I do not have any pony in this fight, as I have not read the book(s) being discussed and honestly am not that interested in these intellectual discussions as a general rule, but it does seem to me that if you are going to do a hit piece on Matt Taibbi for his hit piece on someone else, at least take fair shots at his work and stay away from these off-base personal attacks on his character.

I like Matt's writing and hearing his take on things whether I agree or not with any given article. His readership on Substack is quite a smart and lively crew, so I feel his effort there is worth my support.

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CB's picture

@CS in AZ

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CS in AZ's picture

@CB

and I have not gone back and read the source material. There's a book that includes a collection of articles/essays from the eXile, but it appears to be out of print.

I do remember reading about the controversy over it some time ago. Matt said and did some naughty things, I think, which may or may not have been part fiction ... who knows. Matt said it was intended to be "intentionally offensive satire" in the style of Hunter S. Thompson. That sounds like him to me, but I am interested in hearing what you think about it.

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CB's picture

@CS in AZ
went far, far beyond what Hunter Thompson ever wrote.

Beast in the East
In Moscow's Exile, hard news jumps in bed with misogyny and mayhem.
July 13, 2000
...
Most notably, the Exile nurtures a peculiarly vicious and schizoid attitude toward women. While Russian women are rhapsodically celebrated as long-legged gazelles with loose morals—"the most physically attractive women on earth, and...usually available to the highest bidder," expat women are ridiculed at length as "fat-ankled" and defensively sexless. Self-hating geeky American men are encouraged to take advantage of the perception that all Americans are rich and have oodles of condomless sex (sometimes in the ass!) with drunk, nubile dyevushkas. Ex-girlfriends are held up to public ridicule—Ames at one point chronicles his threats to kill a pregnant ex if she won't have an abortion. The club listings are rated by three factors: how cheap the beer is, how thuggish the crowd is, and how likely an expat male is to score: "Babes with nose-bleeds and their pot-bellied, cell-phone-totin' sugar dyadyas. One of the highest concentrations of beautiful chicks—and heavily armed men—in the world. (If you have an 8-ball of whiff you'll get laid.)"

It's not ironic—Ames and Taibbi explicitly scorn the bourgeois safety net of irony—and it's not just a rhetorical stance. "You're always trying to force Masha and Sveta under the table to give you blow jobs," complains their first business manager, an American woman, in chapter six, "The White God Factor." "It's not funny. They don't think it's funny." "But...it is funny," replies Taibbi. They take particular glee in trashing several former female staff members in print, taking multiple potshots at the aforementioned business manager's "gorilla ass." They're equally nasty to her replacement, who quit in disgust after they went on a four-month "brain-sucking speed binge."

And Ames's treatment of Russian teenage girls is documented with frightening glee. In the book he recounts one evening with an expat investment banker pal and what he thought were three 16-year-old girls:

"When I went back into the TV room, Andy pulled me aside with a worried grin on his face. 'Dude do you realize...do you know how old that Natasha is?' he said.

"'Sixteen?'

"'No! No, she's fif-teen. Fif-teen.' Right then my pervometer needle hit the red. I had to have her, even if she was homely."

After they do it, she tells him she has a three-month-old baby.

"It was hard to imagine that Natasha had squatted out a baby," Ames writes. "Her cunt was as tight as a cat's ass....I'd slept with mothers before—they're a lot wider. Sex with them is like probing a straw in a mildew-lined German beer mug."
...

During this period in Russia, jobs and pensions had disappeared. Half of the populace was destitute. One of the few sources of income was for young Russian girls to prostitute themselves in order to support their families. Ames and Taibbi took full advantage of this. Russia was BOTH figuratively and literately raped.

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CS in AZ's picture

@CB

That excerpt seems to focus on Ames more than Taibbi, but maybe they don’t get a distinction. I’m guessing you’re saying that because he was involved in this as a young man, that’s it for him? Bad person with nothing worthwhile to say decades later? I dunno. Seems a bit harsh to me, but I can see why you dislike him.

I’m not sure he really went any farther than HST though. To wit:

Do you consider Hunter S. Thompson homophobic and misogynist?

At the moment I am reading "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" for the first time. I really enjoy the writing and the story, but fuck can this guy be sick. Taking drugs and drunk driving through the desert is one thing - but talking about force prostituting a girl and gang raping her is another. I've also read storys about how when his gay brother was dying of AIDS he would refuse to visit him. About how he bashed people for being gay, about beating his own wife.

Of course you can blame drugs for this shit, but they're also one of the reasons why he's famous in the first place. Also it is hard to understand which parts of his writings were his real opinions and which weren't. Kaufmannesque.

I’m not big on the idea of writing someone off completely over stuff like this. People are complex and young people especially are prone to bad judgment. A young writer trying to follow in those footsteps could easily cross a lot of lines.

Or maybe he was actually a monster back then. I don’t know. But I do know I’m not gonna stop reading him today because of this history.

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Wally's picture

@CB

Taibbi apologized for the "cruel and misogynistic language" but claims the work was meant to satirize the "reprehensible" behavior of American expatriates in Yelsin-era in Russia and that the description of events in the chapter was "fictional and not true." As I recall, he also refuted Baines as to which passages she attributed to him rather than to Ames who seemed to willingly take most of the rap. Also women portrayed in the book have gone on record to defend Taibbi, expicitly stating and going on record that none of the sexual harassment portrayed in the book ever happened. That said, I think Taibbi was still a real asshole in many ways back in those days.

I was watching a popular Hollywood movie from the 1990s and was shocked by the crude language and behavior towards women.

And make what you will of this very recent and extraordinarily popular Russian video (look at the viewcount). But maybe don't watch if you are offended by Taibbi. I'm surprised the video is still up on YouTube:

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Wally's picture

@CB

And a lot of it was from Mark Ames, too.

And even Eduard Limonov. There's a trippy character to explore.

Taibbi has settled down familywise and he's pretty effectively repudiated the claims that were hurled at him. Otherwise, he would be cancelled right now. Still a bit of a wild man but much more grounded than in his younger days.

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wendy davis's picture

@CB

the Exiled (later online only), and included mark ames and yasha levine among others. the kremlin finally threw then

yes, by all reports some of them were sexist pigs, and iirc, i remember some apologies. ames and levine you can still find on Twitter,

who would win the most important amerikan thinker now? homer simpson?

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The Liberal Moonbat's picture

- There has been a wave of Orwellian NewTruth since 2014 SO BAD that it helped put Donald Trump in the White House.

- If I were forced to choose between Trumpists and Wokies, I would have to choose Trumpists, because at least they aren't braindead enough to say "the individual was an invention of the Enlightenment" - which I have ACTUALLY been told, almost verbatim; for "identity politics" that place supreme value on "lived experience", they have NO respect for any identities or experiences that conflict with their own forgone conclusions. My entire existence has no place in the Woke cosmology or language. I am being told that everything I am is literally impossible. MY life does NOT matter.

- A great deal of college liberal arts have been FUBAR'd; they care more about punitive bureaucracy than nurturing creativity.

- There has been a ruinous "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" all across my hangouts of the last 10 years, EVEN THE ONES THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH POLITICS.

- SOMEBODY ruined the fantasy/sci-fi/"gaming" scene over the past ~15 years in ways it should NEVER have been ruined, and all signs point here.

- I have seen friends of mine turn into humorless onion-skinned zombies, like right-wing strawmen from the 90s suddenly come to life; I have SEEN what this does to people. It IS a brainwashing cult.

- all this garbage has RESURRECTED right-wing politics for my generation, when just a few years before, I assure you it had been DEAD.

- I have a hard-earned degree in social studies, and have reached my own conclusions and original ideas, which this Marcusian cult makes IMPOSSIBLE to even begin to think about. This is all COMPLETELY at odds with everything I learned in college (and elsewhere, for that matter).

- At a time when we need left-wing academia and social studies more than ever, the Marcusians (or, y'know, whomever) have almost COMPLETELY discredited them, like George of the Jungle screaming in at the last second just to ruin everything that had not yet been ruined.

- I HATE politics and activism; I do it because I literally feel I don't have a choice (I was Greta Thunberg before there WAS a Greta Thunberg; I just never became famous, because skipping school was always unthinkable for me, End Of Days or not) - and now, there's no escaping this shit. I am NOT interested in "enriching vocabulary" if what I have seen in the past ~6 years is what you mean by it, because it's the dead-opposite of "enriching vocabulary", it's frigging Newspeak. I DON'T HAVE TIME to wallow in this garbage, nor do MOST people - but now it's essential, because you're not allowed to say no.

I am NOT interested in academic hair-splitting, pseudointellectual masturbation, and soap-opera backstabbing. Most people are not. I have grown allergic to the word "critique". I just want to live my life, think my own thoughts, not be miserable, achieve my dreams, and contribute a REASONABLE amount to solving the world's countless crises. I am SICK of this nightmarish black hole THAT DOESN'T FUCKING NEED TO EXIST IN THE FIRST PLACE.

I have always been a veritable cartoon stereotype of a "petty bourgeois Coastal-elite college liberal", and this shit has made ME more sympathetic to the GOP base than I EVER could've imagined myself capable of being. These (if I may "enrich the vocabulary") Neo-Kampucheans have made it possible for Rush Limbaugh to go to his grave feeling vindicated - less of a Big Fat Idiot, and more of a prophet (and all after Al Franken got railroaded off to Horny Jail by the very "feminazis" he assured us didn't exist). As the joke went in my middle school, "That takes SKILL!"

Taibbi is trying to be constructive; Taibbi is trying to help sort out what the hell is going on here and where this cancer is coming from so that we can get rid of it. What's your goal here?

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In the Land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is declared insane when he speaks of colors.

Cassiodorus's picture

@The Liberal Moonbat

What's your goal here?

Post-capitalism. I want to see the end of the capitalist system. We know that Marcuse wanted that -- I have yet to see Taibbi call for it. Marcuse, of course, was caught in the "golden age of capitalism," and so he put his efforts into explaining how the golden age of capitalism missed its potential as an age by being repressed even in the prosperous era that Marcuse experienced in his old age, and by explaining how repression was necessary toward the maintenance of the capitalist system. Marcuse didn't believe in more capitalism, which is more than I can say for DiAngelo or Kendi, who are rumored (without solid evidence) to have borrowed from him.

As for "wokeness" and "cancel culture" and "political correctness," indeed these "issues" are, at least for now, objects of my focused apathy. I really don't care. Both the politically correct and the Trump supporters are deeply engaged in pseudo-rebellions in which the idea is to fight over "culture matters" while at the same time the capitalist system, and the dictatorship of neoliberal social climbers at its political apex, remains fully intact and empowered in its struggle to transform the world in the image of capital. In this reality, the world is fast becoming an empty desert in which the people, ie those who have survived the changing climate, the plague, and the cutoffs of resources so far, donate their collective labor to the all-powerful corporations, to the few tens of thousands of families who in fact rule the world, to the folks mentioned in Peter Phillips' book GIANTS, and basically to the eight or nine at the top who mull over their opportunities for self-gratifying philanthropy, for nothing.

You may now return to your regularly-scheduled hair-tearing.

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The Liberal Moonbat's picture

@Cassiodorus ...but I REALLY, TRULY believe you are sabotaging such efforts when you pick on Taibbi and, frankly, WASTE YOUR TIME defending a "philosopher" whom nobody needs.

I consider the cult of "Wokeness" an existential threat due to its...well, being a brainwashing cult. I've seen what it can do, and it is AWFUL. It would be nice to disregard it, but look at this very site, for heaven's sake; why are we all here and not still on DailyKos? Because the IdPo cultists chased us all out, of course! Furthemore, by parasitically latching onto and hideously perverting serious issues like overcoming American exceptionalism, the evils of capitalism, and even (especially!) the threat of global warming, it's been sabotaging and discrediting these very issues for DECADES - you know one thing's a despicable cult, and it insists on linking itself to this other thing that you're not automatically onboard with, so you throw that out too when you otherwise wouldn't - look no further than the South Park guys. They are good, smart people with top-notch political instincts, yet they dismissed global warming as "ManBearPig" because of the toxic PC crap they'd been taught to associate it with (Al Gore's marriage to social-conservative harpy Tipper could also be viewed as kind of the embodiment of this problem). It's no joke, and more's the pity. I also consider the threat they pose to academia and science to be no joke (see my old essay: https://caucus99percent.com/content/incoherence-philosophers-horror-post...). I did NOT spend the '000s sweating bullets about the GOP taking us back to the Dark Ages just so crypto-fascists in garish "progressive" garb could do it for them. Don't even get me started on the clear and present danger to the very concept of freedom (which is NOT a luxury, but a NECESSITY). A TERRIFYING number of American apparently now think the 1st Amendment is "outdated".

If you can rise above it all, then not only more power to you, but you could be authentically helpful in helping the rest us know how to rise above it also - but you're not going to do that by denying that it's a problem at all (believe me, I wish I could go back to believing that were true), nor by doing a "hit piece" of your own on Taibbi.

If Marcuse is just another misunderstood dead mullah, then that puts him in the company of (among others) Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, and Ayn Rand (Freud was a mountebank through and through, and the ultimate water-carrier for totalitarianism, and ANY "philosophy" that uses HIM as a cornerstone is inherently toxic waste). I, for one, have no need of any of these people, yet one way or another they are used to bully me and destroy things I care about. It's still worth knowing how they contributed to the present toxicity, if only so we can fight back against the rampaging Visigoths who rape, pillage, and despoil in their name.

You'll never achieve such an ambitious and difficult agenda if you're so quick to diss and dismiss the concerns and efforts of others; you have to respect their point of view, and help them see how your own agenda synergizes with, or at least can coexist agreeably with, theirs rather than representing part of the enemy camp (which is how this can make you appear).

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Cassiodorus's picture

@The Liberal Moonbat

but I REALLY, TRULY believe you are sabotaging such efforts when you pick on Taibbi and, frankly, WASTE YOUR TIME defending a "philosopher" whom nobody needs.

-- that you get yourself a copy of Richard Kahn's book, read it cover to cover, and then come back and tell us again how nobody needs Herbert Marcuse.

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The Liberal Moonbat's picture

@Cassiodorus ...now he's required reading???

Fuck that, this is part of what I'm talking about it. Nobody OWES this guy attention. I have better things to do, more interesting people and topics to read.

Recommendations are all well and good, but time is precious, and if there's one thing my waning days on DailyKos taught me, it's that anybody who has so little regard for your time as to demand that you spend it reading so-and-so on pain of being declared "ignorant" or whatever doesn't deserve any of your time to begin with ("Between depriving a man of one hour from his life and depriving him of his life there exists only a difference of degree." - Frank Herbert).

The thing about philosophers is ANYONE can be one (most people just can't be bothered to think, or so I've been told, a notion that scares the piss out of me and leads so some supremely dark questions); if this guy really had any worthwhile ideas, a new mind can come up with them again, and without the dangerously anachronistic baggage - and c'mon, FREUD.

Are you, in fact, saying that Marcuse is NOT grounded in Freud? If so, fine, whatever - but if you're not denying that, that's reason enough to bury his entire body of work in a lead box beneath a field where nothing grows.

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@The Liberal Moonbat

was one hell of a comment, Moonbat.

What's your goal here?

Well, yeah. Something it doesn't hurt to ask ourselves from time to time.

I don't follow Taibbi on a regular basis, but he does at least come across as asking a lot of the right questions and attempting to be constructive.

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The Liberal Moonbat's picture

@Blue Republic https://slowtowrite.com/there-are-two-kinds-of-white-supremacists/

Note well the Richard Spencer citation; that says it all.

Oh! This, too, I find invaluable: https://aeon.co/essays/why-is-pop-culture-obsessed-with-battles-between-...

The fact that NOW, nationalism itself takes the role of "Evil", I call poetic justice of the highest order - the problem being that the Wokies are spinning off in the COMPLETE wrong direction.

It all points to MY hard-earned conclusion: Collective consciousness itself is the problem. Trouble is, I've spent the last many years feeling far too much like the ICU-bound Almighty in Dogma, or the stroke-victim guy from the first scene in The 9th Gate.

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Azazello's picture

I don't know about this Marcuse guy,
I've never read him.
To my mind, the "philosophers" who've done the most damage
are the French post-modernists. But that's just me.
Here's an interview with Taibbi, I probably won't watch it.

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It didn't have to be this way.

Wally's picture

@Azazello

I just finished watching it. Enjoyed the discussion.

And yea, I certainly agree with you that the French post-modernists have created lots of problems not the least of which is their impact on the current wave of third and forth wave feminists, critical race theorists and the wider gamut of critical theorists.

It's also difficult, at least for me, to untangle folks like Foucault from the Frankfurt School Marxists. Seems to me there's a certain continuum of thought. And one that unsurprisingly leads to the current forms of critical theory.

If I had at hand immediate access to books by folks like Crenshaw, Butler, Rubin, Sedgewick, Kendi and DiAngelo to name just a few, I'm pretty confident that if I looked in their respective books' bibliographies and footnotes, I would find more than a few references to Frankfurt School theorists and French post-modernists. And from there, it would be easy to find their discussion of these thinkers. That's a better way of searching for such connections than googling say Marcuse and DiAngelo like Feldman apparently did. Things being what they are right now with the continuation of the plague, I'm reluctant to even go to a library.

Too much brain exercise for me today and this evening. I still don't see anyway out of the mess we're in but something keeps egging me on that this discussion is important.

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The Liberal Moonbat's picture

It IS interesting that so much of Taibbi's readership would be interested in Ayn Rand, of all people (Jordan Peterson is much less surprising; he's simply a refreshing transpartisan voice of reason); it kind of confirms what I've been suspecting for a while, which is that all this WILL result in a renewed interest in Ayn Rand (after all, real liberals of every generation will eat whatever fruit's forbidden that decade, BECAUSE it's forbidden!).

I've never read her, nor do I feel the need to, but everyone I know who's actually read her has - guess what??? - a NUANCED view of her that you just don't see among the Neo-Maoist-VS-Paul Ryan howling match. Even my own mother, in many ways the least "Randian" person I have ever known, admitted to reading The Fountainhead and loving it (and that's the general impression I get from all of them - Fountainhead good, Atlas Shrugged nowhere near as good, her groupies don't get it).

The problem is that we're STILL stuck in the biggest total fucking lie of the Cold War: "Capitalism is individualism". No, it fucking isn't. Capitalism is collectivism, and ALWAYS was. We're not going to get anywhere as long as we're stuck in this totally baseless ping-pong match between Mao Tse Tung and Ludvig von Mises.

That said, it's not impossible that a reconsideration of Ayn Rand could do the left some good.

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In the Land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is declared insane when he speaks of colors.

TheOtherMaven's picture

@The Liberal Moonbat

The root problem with her is that what is valid is not necessarily new, and vice versa.

Second problem, absolutely NO sense of humor or proportion.

Third problem, totally confusing her own artistic and literary tastes with The Way Things Ought to Be.

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There is no justice. There can be no peace.

Taibi used to be readable. Not anymore, on the evidence of this article.

Maybe intellectual history isn't his forte? If I were going to guess about what he is up to, I would say that Taibi has decided to spit in someone's eye, I am not sure/don't care whose, by not just criticizing but taking down a revered refugee from Nazism. Sort of like the late and unlamented Hitchens griping about Mother Theresa.

Focused apathy would seem to be a necessary survival skill at the present time. With everything happening in our country right now, we are supposed to care about Marcuse? If he loathed the USA, no one and nothing was forcing him to remain here.

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Nastarana

Shahryar's picture

I mean, Jimmy's stance is indefensible but does that negate everything else he's said? Taibbi can be wrong on occasion and he's still mostly right. Greenwald, too. Even though his most recent column excuses the Trumpies from Jan. 6th. "That protesters were found before and after the riot with weapons does not mean they intended to use them as part of the protest."

Yet I still like Greenwald. All of the people we usually like are usually right and we usually agree with them. But sometimes not, and we can still like them afterwards.

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Cassiodorus's picture

@Shahryar I do, however, think that all of this "hating Herbert Marcuse" stuff that I saw in Taibbi and indeed in the comments section of this diary are a symptom of some desperate pain and anguish which is being twisted around to hate some rather useful ideas. But I explained the useful ideas part of this in detail in the diary.

The "hating Marcuse stuff" also evidences a real, solid misunderstanding of the uses of philosophy. Back in 1997 or so, Hubert Dreyfus explored some interesting and completely innocuous applications of concepts originating in the phenomenology of Martin Heidegger. When he was alive, of course, Heidegger was a real live Nazi, so be sure to close your eyes and ears and minds lest they be conceptually contaminated. I mean, seriously. If the Nazis used the word "the" in sentences, would you stop using the word "the" lest you become conceptually contaminated?

If you all want to explore some real hatred for the Frankfurt School, read Jordan B. Peterson, who I wrote about in this diary. You have to be really desperate for a scapegoat to want to believe this stuff.

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Wally's picture

@Cassiodorus
. . . on certain points and applications and not be symptomatic of "some desperate pain and anguish which is being twisted around to hate some rather useful ideas."

Yea, Taibbi gives Marcuse a poke in the eye and doesn't give what's insightful from Marcuse much if any consideration. But he sure as hell has stimulated debate about a guy who was pretty much mouldering in the grave outside small segments of academia, which is quite amazing in these times.

Both Peterson and Findlay very similarly twist Marcuse to their own nefarous purposes. They lump all Marxists together in a gigantic neo-Marxist or cultural Marxist conpiracy theory. There's some reasons to believe that they are tied in with Peter Thiel. If so, that may prove to be a lot scarier than Marcuse's impact on contemporary race and gender reductionists.

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@Wally "tied in with Peter Thiel" means probably being funded by? Or does it merely mean being influenced, ie told what to write, by Thiel?

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Nastarana

Wally's picture

@Nastarana

Eric Weinstein is widely known as the right hand man of Thiel. He is the brother of Eric of the Evergreen State College mess. Bret and his wife Heather Heying do their own podcast featuring folks and discussions of people like Peterson and Findlay. And there's all sort of tie-ins with the Intellectual Dark Web. Ugh. It's a messy world out there.

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@Wally I was happily unaware until now. It is indeed a messy world.

It does occur to me that the Central European diaspora, whether Jewish or (nominally) Catholic or Orthodox has been here long enough by now to be able to understand that North America is not and can never become the westernmost part of Europe. Just as Europe itself is no longer the place it was when their families left. Furthermore, Marxism in a hundred years has never taken hold in the USA outside of academia and clearly never will. It is time for those who wish to help ameliorate the very real injustices and other vices (greed, selfishness, willful shallowness) of our society to find some more helpful theoretical foundation. Maybe start by reading some actual American writers? Thorstein Veblen, Christopher Lasch, Kevin Phillips--you don't have to agree with the guy's politics, I certainly don't, but he did understand his own country. W.E B. DuBois, our best essayist. I can think of two Europeans in Exile whose writings about the USA I actually respect, and even there I don't agree with every point, John Lucaks and the crazy Englishman Henry Fairly.

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Nastarana

Wally's picture

@Nastarana

. . . seem to be becoming increasingly popular on the left and even certain segments of the right just in recent months. The corporatist capitalists and the wannabes they inspire just go la-la-la-ing their merry way, ignoring everything except their devotion to Enrichissez-vous.

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@Wally Jesus, your personal savior, died to make you rich. It is a belief which has been with us ever since President Coolidge said that the business of America is business.

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Nastarana

Cassiodorus's picture

@Wally

One can disagree with Marcuse
. . . on certain points and applications

That isn't what Taibbi is doing.

Yea, Taibbi gives Marcuse a poke in the eye and doesn't give what's insightful from Marcuse much if any consideration. But he sure as hell has stimulated debate about a guy who was pretty much mouldering in the grave outside small segments of academia, which is quite amazing in these times.

It's funny how Richard Kahn wasn't credited with doing such a thing ten years ago. But I guess that's because Kahn was (and I suppose still is, although he and I don't talk much anymore) in favor of Marcuse, as someone who helped him (Kahn) discuss proactive strategies for social change (do we do those much anymore?).

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Wally's picture

@Cassiodorus

Sigh. Books are so expensive.

I was intrigued by Kahn's inclusion of Illich and Freire in his book. Their outlook and project(s) seem to me to crash up against Marcuse's pessimistic outlook, no? Why am I bothered by Marcuse again? I pretty much wallow in his extreme pessimism.

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Cassiodorus's picture

@Wally Merely because one borrows ideas from a philosopher does not mean that one is obliged to believe everything that philosopher believed. In Kahn's case, this means borrowing Marcuse's idea of the Great Refusal.

By the same token, Hubert Dreyfus wanted to discuss Heideggerian "Being-In-The-World" without being a Nazi.

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Wally's picture

@Cassiodorus

I see a book of essays on this very topic was just published.

Again, so expensive. The link above also features a pdf of the first essay in the book.

It'll take a lot of convincing to get me to see how Marcuse's structuralistic outlook need not lead to despair. It seems all the revolutionary movements he addressed have been crushed. When I first read One Dimensional Man back in the early seventies as a young dude just beggining to whet my appetite for political discourse and activism, that reading made me feel about on a par as when I around the same time read Sartre's Nausea: Nauseated by seeing no way out of the mess (also a la Sartre's No Exit). I still get the same impression when folks start discussing Marcuse. Maybe my response is partially Pavlovian.

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Cassiodorus's picture

@Wally Library Genesis?

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Wally's picture

@Cassiodorus

I'll give it a try. Thanks much!

I will probably be soon disappearing again and embracing senility for several or however many months. I might stop by C99 every now and then to take a look around. If you ever get around to writing something on the new Curtis documenary, though, please drop me a line via your account private messenging so I don't miss out on it. I've been listening/watching podcasts on it pretty much the whole day. Best ones are noted in the comments under the Massive Attack essay I posted it the other day.

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Wally's picture

@Cassiodorus

And I see Feldman wrote a brilliant piece on "Contemporary Problems and Jewish Thinkers: What Hannah Arendt, Simone Weil and Martin Buber Can Tell Us About Integration, Nationalism, and Democracy."

And Feldman's attack piece against Taibbi reminded me of Arendt's aggresive tact in his writing. Not saying they are the same person but who knows? Hey, I really do miss the dude on C99.

From a bio to the article noted above: Jonathan Michael Feldman is an Associate Professor at the Department of Economic History and International Relations at Stockholm University. He has written about innovation, peace economics, social inclusion and ecological transformation. He has written articles for various Swedish publications including Broderskap, Computer Sweden, Ny Teknik, Ordfront and Svenska Dagbladet. In the US, Feldman has been published by The American Prospect, Counterpunch and Social Text.

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