Thursday, October 30, 2014

Duggar Do Dumb: Evolution, Abortion And The Holocaust

Before I continue with this post, I apologize to my readers for my unannounced hiatus. We started a new project at work a few weeks back and I've been trying to maintain a balance between that, friends and household, and my online work.

Anyone who watches a lot of reality TV in America or just haphazardly turns the channel to TLC for a few seconds has heard of or seen the show 19 Kids and Counting. I can summarize the show in two ways: (1) a mother and father of Christian background raise 19 children, and look forward to even more, in similar backgrounds, raising them with unconventional parenting methods that are intended to keep them pure and faithful; or, (2) two Young Earth Creationists (YECs), one of them a breeding hub, raise 19 children under strict Christian morals, albeit somewhat hypocritically, and force them to live and act exactly the way they want them to.

Smiles? Yes. Smarts? No.
It should be expected that I'm going to talk about their faith, but let's talk about the children's upbringing first. They're all assigned various duties in the household, usually adhering to stereotypical gender roles. The daughters sleep in the same room, as do the brothers. They're home schooled and are restricted in internet use, only being allowed to view a few select websites that have been approved by the parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, and only while being monitored by one of their siblings. They must dress modestly, be happy, and do as they are told. They're also not allowed to date: they have a system called "courting" where a man asks for the father's permission to "court" his daughter. They aren't allowed to make physical contact except for "side hugs" (one arm, both facing the same direction), and they're also not allowed to be alone (one of the siblings chaperones them). If all goes well, the man asks the father's permission (again, note patriarchy) to propose to his daughter. If he agrees, and then if she agrees, they can get married. After marriage, baby making almost immediately begins.

I could go on about most of this and how their methods are not only ineffective for what they're trying to accomplish, but also harmful to their children's psyche and upbringing (in fact, I may make a post about that in the future, as it pertains to psychology). I could also go on about the number of other families who do this, such as the Bates family from United Bates of America (blech!). But let's get into the good stuff.

So of course, as I mentioned, they're YECs. That means they believe Earth was created 6,000 years ago by the Christian God, and all life came from that time. They believe in the flood, in Jesus, etc. etc. They don't believe in evolution, the Big Bang, etc. etc. If I'm not mistaken, they've actually gone to the Creation Museum and met the lovely Ken Ham, who is the foremost scholar in Biblical Creationism. Stemming from their faith is also their stance on many political/social issues, including gay marriage and abortion.

It's no surprise, then, that a month ago, one of the Duggar daughters stirred up a hive on Instagram when she compared abortion to the Holocaust, and blamed evolutionary theory for the Holocaust.

Wait... Really?

Now, let me be entirely clear before I continue on with this: I don't hold any malice towards the Duggar children. They've been raised in a toxic household that has kept them from thinking for themselves or straying away from their upbringing and towards anywhere near valid reasoning, or at least some scientific insight. Their fate can only be summed up as inevitable ignorance as a result of their sheltered lifestyle; thus, I don't personally find the children at fault for any of what they say, but rather I blame the parents, and possibly their parents' parents. In my opinion, what they've done to these children is sickening, and the fact that the media glorifies this family as though it's something to behold is even worse.

Moving on, it was widely criticized when Jessa Duggar made a post on Instragram after visiting the Holocaust Museum. This is what she said:
"I walked through the Holocaust Museum again today… very sobering. Millions of innocents denied the most basic and fundamental of all rights — their right to life. One human destroying the life of another deemed ‘less than human.’ Racism, stemming from the evolutionary idea that man came from something less than human; that some people groups are ‘more evolved’ and others 'less evolved.'
So they’re murdered. Slaughtered. Kids with Down syndrome or other disabilities. The sickly. The elderly. The sanctity of human life varies not in sickness or health, poverty or wealth, elderly or pre-born, little or lots of melanin [making you darker or lighter skinned], or any other factor. … May we never sit idly by and allow such an atrocity to happen again. Not this generation. We must be a voice for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Because EVERY LIFE IS PRECIOUS. #ProLife"
Of course, I have to appreciate her opposition to racism and her support for the sick and the poor, on top of a few other things, but there are too many things inherently wrong with her statements that it casts shadow over the positive. That's the purpose of this post: to review the things she said and explain why they're nonsensical. Let's examine the first paragraph to begin.

Anti-evolution propaganda doesn't understand evolution.
There's nothing wrong with what she said about the Holocaust, it's what she said about evolution. The idea that evolutionary theory is what sparked racism is beyond ridiculous; it's just blatantly untrue to anyone familiar with history. The Holocaust was not the first genocide that was racial (it can be argued that it was never racial, but economic, but I won't get into that now) -- there exist dozens of them prior to World War II. One that Americans should be familiar with, but apparently has not contacted Jessa Duggar, was the colonization of the Americans and the genocide of the Native Americans (which continues to this day, by the way). "1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue;" not exactly Darwin's era.

That's just genocide, though: racism has existed far longer than evolutionary theory has. The most ironic example I could probably think of right now would be the Curse of Ham. Simply put, the Curse of Ham in the Bible has been interpreted since as early as the 9th century as justification for sub-Saharan African inferiority -- that they are the cursed descendants of Ham in the Bible; those with black skin. Of course, this isn't an accurate interpretation of that passage, but it serves the point. I suspect that Jessa's parents, who would never want their children exposed to the horrors that Christianity has exacerbated or influenced, didn't tell them about this.

So it's obvious that racism does not come from evolutionary theory, but then there comes the second implication of Jessa's statement: that evolutionary theory is racist at all. It's actually not. The interpretation that some humans are "less evolved" than others is not a part of original evolutionary theory, but was extrapolated from it to form the social theory of unilineal evolution. Some creatures are not "more" or "less" evolved than others because evolution doesn't work in stages, and does not have an ultimate stance on best, worst, least or most. Organisms evolve to fit their environment so they can survive and reproduce; thus, it is incorrect to say anything is "more evolved" than something else, simply because evolution is not a necessarily quantitative process. The idea that some races are "less evolved" than others, then, is a misrepresentation of evolutionary theory that was used to justify racism and genocide during that era. It also led to some pretty interesting economic theories, but that's beyond the scope of this post.

On a side note, I'd like to comment on her notion that racism was perpetuated by the idea that humans evolved from something "less than human." I don't even see how this favours one race over another; it just says that humans were not human before they became human. Nothing to do with black, white, or teal.

In the second paragraph, Jessa basically draws upon emotional appeal to make the comparison between the atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust to abortion, and then hashtags "prolife." This is beyond insulting; it's a shameful, derogatory attack against mothers who have had abortions or may consider getting abortions, and is disgraceful and demeaning to the victims of the Holocaust. Beyond it's emotional implications, the claim is just wrong.

No I'm not Wendy Davis. Nor do I support her.
First of all, etymologically, abortion can't be a genocide like the Holocaust. A genocide is the intended destruction of an entire group by the various means outlined in the 1948 United Nations Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Nobody intends to destroy all babies -- that would mean the end of humanity as we know it. Instead, people get abortions for various other reasons. It may be irresponsible to have a child at the time. It may be detrimental to the mother's health. It may have been the result of rape. There are various reasons to get an abortion, and none of them have to do with the exclusive desire to kill a baby for the sole fact that it's a baby.

But I get it: the comparison isn't to say that abortion is a real genocide, just that it's the heartless murder of millions of unborn children. The problem is that this is just an appeal to emotion, and is outside the realm of practical or realistic debate. Whether you see the murder of an unborn fetus as morally wrong or not isn't substantive. Beyond this, I could get into a ceaseless debate about abortion, but let me just keep it frank:

Get out of my vagina.

For the purposes of this post, however, I think we've covered enough ground. Some people may prompt me to blame the child for her beliefs since she could've ingeniously come up with them on her own, and was simply told "abortion is murder" by her parents. Some people might say that, but not many, and it's not surprising why: this isn't the first time a Duggar has compared abortion to genocide, and in fact it was the mother who started this trend.

There's a lot to take from this event. First and foremost is that the Duggars (the parents) are vile idiots who should be condemned, not celebrated, for what they're doing to their children. The second is that everything controversial Jessa said was just factually incorrect. The third is that I may now have two posts coming for you in the future: the psychological consequences of the Duggars' way of raising children, and the argument in favour of abortion (which probably won't be new to most of you, but I promise to keep things interesting).

For now, thank you all very much for reading.

Follow me on social media!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fluoridation, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Water

General Jack D. Ripper with Captain Lionel Mandrake.
Most of us have heard the famous line by General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove, "have you ever seen a Commie drink a glass of water?" The conversation thereafter satirically illustrated a fear that grew most prominent starting in the 1940s with the Second Red Scare -- public water fluoridation. Many conspiracy theories about water fluoridation arose during this time, but they all aimed to make the same case: that fluoride in drinking water is bad (sometimes just meaning unethical), and unhealthy, for various reasons that are being neglected by the government.

In a study published in JAMA by Oliver & Wood (2014) entitled "Medical Conspiracy Theories and Health Behaviors in the United States," it was found 49% of Americans believe in at least one of 6 medical conspiracy theories, including but not limited to concerns about "Agenda 21," the vaccine-autism link, and water fluoridation. For the latter, it was found that 12% of Americans believe that "public water fluoridation is really just a secret way for chemical companies to dump the dangerous byproducts of phosphate mines into the environment." This is just one of the many explanations for water fluoridation that conspiracy theorists provide, so the variation in the "theory" aspect of it is similar to that of "chemtrails;" but unlike the chemtrail conspiracy theories which are fairly recent (starting around the 1990s), water fluoridation has invoked fear from the public for quite some time, and remains a pervasive element of the disconnect between the scientific community relating to public health and the public itself. Nick has informed me already of two scenarios this semester where his classmates have promoted the concept. So with all the concern it raises, is the fear of public water fluoridation a legitimate concern?

Of course, it's unfair to group the concerns mentioned above with the Red Scare sentiments expressed in Dr. Strangelove, but the resentment against water fluoridation still fails to be substantive. The arguments of ethics not withstanding, water fluoridation is (if at all) not anywhere near as medically harmful as 12% of the American population believes it is. Here, we're going to examine some common arguments made by proponents of this conspiracy theory and refute them. Let's get started.

Fluoride is the only chemical added to water for the purpose of medical treatment.

It depends on how you define "medical treatment." One could argue that many processes conducted during water purification, such as disinfection to kill parasites and bacteria, can be considered medical treatment (specifically preventative treatment), but either way, this is actually a red herring. Whether or not it's the only chemical added to water is immaterial, because it doesn't lend any credibility to one side or the other; however, we can examine why it was added as "medical treatment," and start to make an informed decision.

Water fluoridation in the United States began in 1945 because a wave of dental hygienists began promoting the widespread distribution of fluoride to promote dental hygiene in the United States for individuals of all ages and income levels. It was meant to be a cost-effective, efficient way to distribute this treatment throughout the United States, and so it was. Approximately $40 billion have been saved in reduced oral health care expenditures in the United States over the past 40 years due to public water fluoridation.

To celebrate the coming of a new century, in 1999, the CDC released a statement about the top ten greatest public health achievements in America from 1900 - 1999. In this list, water fluoridation was listed. The report estimates that in 1999, fluoridated drinking water reached approximately 144 million people in the United States, effectively serving its purpose. The report also refers to the 1999 edition of a book by Burt and Eklund entitled Dentistry, Dental Practice, And the Community. In Chapter 25 of the book, the causes, effects and cost of water fluoridation in the United States are discussed. It estimates that there has been approximately a 40-70% decrease in child tooth decay and approximately a 40-60% decrease in adult tooth loss.

So not only were the intentions clear, but the results were evidential, and the effort was a success. The addition of fluoride to drinking water (in the United States anyway) was a medical treatment, but it was a justified one.

Dental health products, such as toothpaste and mouth wash, which contain fluoride, tell you not to swallow them.

This is due to the very high concentration of fluoride in them, which they acknowledge can make you sick. The fluoride in toothpaste and mouth wash, also, is meant for prolonged exposure to the teeth, for optimal usage.

The dose cannot be controlled.

This argument relies on two premises: (1) that without control, there is a risk for people to harm themselves from fluoridated water; and, (2) that a lack of individual dosage control is an argument against water fluoridation. For premise one, the toxic level of fluoride is around 5-10 grams for a typical 150 pound or 70 kilogram adult, using estimates provided in Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products, a book produced by Gosselin, Smith and Hodge in 1984. The recommended number of glasses of water to drink is 8, so if there is 1 part fluoride for every million parts water, in 8 glasses of water, there is about 0.002 grams of fluoride -- this is about 1 tenth of a grain of sand. So, the toxic amount of fluoride (5-10 grams for a 70 kilogram adult) is 2500-5000 times greater than what is found in 8 glasses of water (0.002 grams of fluoride). That means that, with the strictest estimates, if all fluoride content received in water were to be retained in the body (it's not), it would take almost 7 years to reach the toxic level.

It should be noted, then, that 1 ppm was the optimal fluoridation amount at the beginning of the project, but is now around 0.7 ppm, and thus the amount of fluoride an individual receives is about 30% less than what we estimated above. The point being, however, is that the current levels of fluoride in drinking water are not enough to be of concern to people who drink a lot of it.

But going beyond premise one and onto premise two, the argument is again irrelevant. There are many chemicals introduced to public drinking water that, if ingested in excessive quantities, could pose health risks. This doesn't mean, however, that these chemicals should automatically be taken out, because this is the case for many different things we ingest, like tuna, apples or coffee. The issue is not in whether or not they could threaten their health by drinking too much, it's a question of if they will. This requires individual responsibility to an extent; however, given what we know from the content above, we can say that there isn't too much reason to start tallying your water intake and calculating the amount of fluoride you consumed therein.

The fluoride goes to everyone regardless of age, health or vulnerability.

This part of the article talks about the progression in pharmacotherapy from stereotyped medication to individualized therapy. What the quote cited failed to note is that individualized therapy is applied when there is reason to believe that patients can be divided into medically relevant subgroups that respond differently to specific treatment, and thus they need to examine an individual's characteristics (gender, age, ancestry, etc.) to make a determination of what treatment to use. What he also failed to mention is that, aside from individualized treatment, there is also evidence-based medicine (EBM), which essentially means the treatment of individuals based on the current best evidence available. Considering that water fluoridation only began after it was found in Grand Falls, Michigan that fluoride levels of 1.0 ppm in the water were optimal for preventing tooth decay, water fluoridation would be considered a public health initiative based in EBM.

Fluoride is used as a chemical in rat poison.

This is like arguing that because chlorine is used to chemically decontaminate pool water (but is toxic), and chlorine is also used in common table salt (a.k.a. sodium chloride), then chlorination of table salt should end. Chemicals used in one way do not have the same effects as chemicals used in another way.

No health agency in fluoridated countries is monitoring fluoride exposure or side effects.

Water fluoridation, in the United States, is monitored at the state level, and not by federal agencies. This should be considered a good thing, because different states have different cities and different states have different levels of naturally occurring fluoride in the water -- if this amount is too much, some is actually removed from the water supply. Aside from this, the claim that no health agency in any fluoridated countries monitors this is just unfounded. For example, here's England's 2014 report on fluoridation.

At this point, we should be able to acknowledge that water fluoridation is not a particularly harmful practice. I'm not denying here that there are some arguments to be made against water fluoridation as a governmental practice, but we can see that as a medical effort, it's not bad. For further information, I recommend reading the World Health Organization (WHO) report on water fluoridation across the world.

Thank you all very much for reading.

Follow me on social media!



Oliver, J., & Wood, T. (2014). Medical Conspiracy Theories and Health Behaviors in the United States. JAMA Internal Medicine, 174 (5) DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.190

Friday, October 3, 2014

Cultural Marxism, Cultural Conservatism and the Frankfurt School: Making Sense of Nonsense

This post is going to be a lot different from my other ones. It's going to be analytical, experimental, and probably very boring. If you're not interested in politics, philosophy or history, then I highly recommend you go back to whatever you were doing before you came across this post. Fair warning.


I'm no stranger to the depths of the internet. It's a place where many perspectives can meet together and either have thoughtful discussion, or (more frequently) duke it out verbally over things they know they'll never come to agreement on. The internet is frequently described as the "free market place of ideas," and with good reason - on the internet, you're not very much restricted on what you can say or do. It's a place where even the smallest of voices can be heard, and be much louder than they ever would have been in "the real world." This can be good, because it can offer dissent and debate over things that would never have seen the light of day otherwise; it can serve as a floor that is conducive to open discussion over any topic, and in many ways, provide equal weight to all of them.

Yet this can also be very bad. Particularly, it makes sense out of nonsense, or at least gives nonsense the appearance of sense. Uninformed parties can also shout from the rooftops of the internet and convince the ignorant masses that what they say is true, or at the very least backed up by substantial evidence or reason. I use "ignorant" mildly here. There's nothing particularly wrong about being ignorant on any given subject, because different pieces of knowledge are useful for different things. Being ignorant has nothing to do with personal value, but merely with what a person has been exposed to and what they're familiar with, and it's very context specific.

I'll give the subject of this post as an example, which we'll further examine. The term "cultural Marxism" has recently gained a lot of popularity in usage among cultural conservatives. While I'll be discussing the "true" meaning of the term throughout this post, a very basic summary is that it is an easy-to-use description of leftism and its influence on culture, adherent to the principles of Marxism. Proponents of the term often claim that these things, starting as early as World War I, have slowly crept their way into Western culture in order to uproot its traditions and values, and is thus a real threat to our way of life.

Now, at an initial glance, this seems like it makes sense, but I'll spoil the surprise for you: it's nothing more than propaganda, utilizing a seldom understood "foreign" concept as a target through which cultural conservatives can mobilize their supporters against a narrative scapegoat. The use of this term, at least within academia, will ultimately never find favor due to its sheer ridiculousness (although proponents will argue that it's being avoided because of "political correctness"); however, this means that its most common occurrences are found within the works of published authors or the internet, and will gain much favor amongst the adhering public. Very few people are truly aware of what Marxism actually is, and so when they see the term, they don't immediately recognize its flaws. This is why it only shows itself at night: because only the ignorant masses, or the uninformed but generally educated public, will buy it.

It's actually kind of funny. Last year, I read a work by one published proponent of the term, Patrick Buchanan, specifically his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America for a project on how to recognize propaganda in rhetoric. This year, it seems Lex (the coauthor of this blog) has been getting hammered by fans of Kevin MacDonald, another author who has frequently used this term to describe a hypothetical Jewish group evolutionary strategy. Quickly we can see that its favor amongst cultural conservatives has led to its application to immigration, Jews (and most likely anti-Semitism), and in general the political left. Now I get to examine its implications and explain why it's of no value.

In this post, we'll first take a look at the meaning of the term "cultural Marxism," its history and usage, and its rising popularity in America. I'll then explain its association with the Frankfurt School and the related conspiracy theory. Next, in order to be able to make any sense of what I'll be talking about, I'll review a few fundamental tenets of Marxist theory. I'll then use the available information and critical analysis to pick apart the term and explain why it doesn't make sense. Likewise, I'll explain why it has nothing to do with the Frankfurt School. Finally, after dispelling all misinformation and propaganda surrounding the issue, I'll try to explain why this term has found common usage, and argue why it's preferable to keep it around instead of eradicating it from the public thesaurus with an atomic bomb.

By the end of this post, I plan on having accomplished the following:

1: Thoroughly examining and refuting the term "cultural Marxism."
2: Pissing off every ideologue that supports the use of this term.
3: Giving people a better understanding of Marxist theory and methodology.

However, I do not plan on accomplishing the following:

1: Convincing anyone who finds favor with this term that it's of no value.
2: Educating those who just want to argue with me.
3: Stopping the use of this term.

I am not here to debate those who are already convinced of their righteousness. I'm here to provide information for those individuals who are seeking it, and want to know more about Marxist theory/methodology without it being confounded by conspiracy theories and political dogma. This is a pedagogic discussion, not a platform for people to promote their ideologies.

Likewise, I don't expect that this will be the end of "cultural Marxism," nor do I want it to be. Although it's admittedly stupid, the use of the term serves as a very powerful and important political tool, and even if it were to be eradicated from the political lexicon, a new term paired with a new conspiracy theory (or the same one for that matter) would quickly replace it. It seems apparent to me that if any term were to find favor with radical conservatives, it's fortunate it was this.

History and Background

When I first looked at the term "cultural Marxism," I nearly spat out my water. First of all, what the heck does it mean? Secondly and lastly, where did it come from?

Perhaps the first popular use of the term "cultural Marxism" in its modern conception is found in an article entitled What is Political Correctness? by cultural conservative pundit William S. Lind. In an Accuracy in Academia (a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting against perceived liberal bias in education) conference, Lind explained:
"Political Correctness is cultural Marxism. It is Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms. It is an effort that goes back not to the 1960s and the hippies and the peace movement, but back to World War I. If we compare the basic tenets of Political Correctness with classical Marxism the parallels are very obvious."
These are from around the turn of the century. Now, the term has found increasing favor with conservative movements such as the Tea Party movement in 2009. In his manifesto, Anders Behring Breivik placed a copy of Lind's 2004 pamphlet on the subject, further popularizing the term. Less dangerously, the term has been picked up in its extreme by white nationalist movements. If we look at Metapedia, which is basically an encyclopedia for racists, the definition of cultural Marxism begins as follows:
"Cultural Marxism or Cultural Bolshevism (degenerate culture) seeks to destroy everything good about a society, what holds it together, what helps it to advance, what promotes intelligence and beauty. It seeks to degenerate society and take it to a lower form where people are less intelligent and more animal. It's based on the Marxist lie that everything good about society is all a form of oppression."
In this definition, we can see the practice as being instrumental in some type of conspiracy, and even in promoting "degenerate culture-" a term which finds its roots in the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany, and refers to a lower quality of culture, specifically modern art. Of course, we now know that culture can't be seen as being part of a hierarchy or set of stages, but is instead plural and adaptive.

It's not fair, admittedly, to associate all found usage of the term "cultural Marxism" with these more radical (and admittedly uninformative) interpretations and applications. Given what we know, and what we can see on Wikipedia, cultural Marxism is essentially the application of Marxist theory to culture, and "conceives of culture as central to the legitimation of oppression, in addition to the economic factors that Karl Marx emphasized."

This was once, perhaps, a legitimate intellectual practice, but in its modern usage it not only doesn't make sense, but it probably doesn't exist. However, when something doesn't make sense, it's usually attributed to a contentious source, or a conspiracy theory. This incites not only a sense of legitimacy, but fear as well, and serves to mobilize people who are afraid of its lasting effects.

The Frankfurt School

The Frankfurt School is a school of neo-Marxist interdisciplinary social theory. It's actually not a physical school, but refers to any thinkers associated with the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research. The term was rarely used by the thinkers themselves. The Frankfurt School arose from dissident Marxists who thought that some of Marx's followers were narrowly interpreting his teachings. In addition, they thought these Marxists were spending too much time discussing the "base" of human society, and not enough time discussing how the "superstructure" functions to support it. We'll discuss what these two things mean in our overview of Marxist theory.

The foundations and teachings of the Frankfurt School, however, are seldom examined by those who use the term in question. A conspiracy theory has arisen around the Frankfurt School, suggesting that they "deliberately subverted traditional Western values through interventions into culture, leading to what is called political correctness." The critical theory of the Frankfurt School, then, is an intentional destruction (or deconstruction) of Western culture, values and traditions to those who buy into this conspiracy theory. Such groups include the Free Congress Foundation and, as mentioned, white nationalist organizations and movements.

While it has found popularity amongst those who, politically, can utilize its societal ramifications, this isn't the common scholarly understanding of the Frankfurt School. This understanding argues that while some individual thinkers from the Frankfurt School did engage in social critique in America, they had no unified theory, nor collective political agenda. This actually makes a lot of sense, given the tenets of Marxist theory and the scholarly foundations of the Frankfurt School.

The alternative interpretation served and continues to serve as an explanation for the idea of "political correctness," originally suggested by the Schiller Institute (a branch of the LaRouche Movement) in 1992, and further promoted in 1994. They charged that the Frankfurt School promoted modernism as a form of cultural pessimism, which contributed the counterculture of the 1960s. The counterculture was a counter mobilization effort primarily amongst proponents of the black civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and the anti-Vietnam student movement in America. Opposition to the counterculture, seeing it as trying to subvert and destroy the traditional values and foundations of America, is what eventually led to the election of the conservative president Richard Nixon. Already, we can see why the term "cultural Marxism" could be of political significance.

But before we look at any of that, we have to be able to make sense of all of these associations - by that I mean we have to look at fundamental tenets of Marxist theory to see why none of these associations make any sense at all.

Marxist Theory

In this section, we'll be discussing two important facets of Marxist theory in order to explain the relationship between culture and society that it envisions, and later apply it to the subject at hand. The first is the dichotomy of human society according to Marxist theory, base and superstructure. The second is the analytical framework and theoretical foundation of Marxism, called dialectical materialism (or, as we will refer to it, dimat).

According to Marxist theory, human society is divided into two parts: the base and the superstructure. The base of society consists of the means and relations of production. The means of production include the tools, factories, land, raw materials, etc. which are all instrumental in the substance of the society. The relations of production are the capital, commodities, private property, etc. which are the social relations and interactions within a mode of production.

The superstructure, or the phenomenon, on the other hand, consists of everything not directly to do with the production. This includes (but is not limited to) the law, media, education, religion, philosophy, and namely the culture. At the center of all of this is ideology, which provides the justification for it all - that is, after the superstructure interacts with the phenomenon. Marxist theory sees culture as being part of the phenomenon, and states that it comes into existence from the base, or the substance of society. It is then, after interacting with the base, justified by the ideology of the society in the superstructure, which also rises from the base. It is a spiral dialectic where the base is most often the domineering force in society.

Outside of this dialectic is the overarching analytical framework of Marxist theory - dialectical materialism. As the term implies, it is a combination of dialectics and materialism. Dialectics is the method of reasoning which aims to understand things concretely in all their movement, change and interconnection, with their opposite and contradictory sides in unity. It approaches things with static definition, and is informal in its mode of thought of ordinary understanding. It goes beyond the formal appearance of something and examines its essence.

Materialism emphasizes the material world as the foundation and determinant of thinking, especially concerning questions of the origin of knowledge. Simply put, it is the belief that at the end of the day, the material conditions' existence shape consciousness, not vice versa.

Dimat, then, is the combination of the two. It's a way of understanding reality by applying the informal mode of thought of ordinary understanding that is dialectics, along with the determinist approach of materialism, to make sense of everything, whether it be the material world, or thoughts and emotions. It is an overarching analytical framework, not a specific analytical framework.

These are fundamental to Marxist theory, and are key in understanding why "cultural Marxism" makes no sense. Learning these dialectics is important because it allows us to know when something can be "applied" or, when it does, if it makes sense. If we look at the fundamentals of Marxism, we see that "cultural Marxism" is a poorly framed interpretation of Marxist theory and is flawed in its conception.

Cultural Marxism

To reiterate, cultural Marxism can be considered the application of Marxist theory to culture. Immediately, knowing what we do, we can make sense of this nonsense and explain why the concept is flawed. It may not be obvious right now, but in a moment it'll make nonsensical sense.

Let's start with the Frankfurt School. As was stated, the Frankfurt School thought that the Marxists of the time were paying too much attention to the base, and not enough to how the ideology functions to support it. They, like the other Marxists, saw the ideology as rising from the base of society, and then justifying it in the superstructure, but sought to emphasize this. Dimat is materialism - the belief that material is the determinant of consciousness - and dialectics - an informal method of understanding things concretely - as an analytical framework for making sense of reality. Why, then, would the Frankfurt School apply the dialectics of Marxism to culture? They sought to emphasize how ideology functions to support the base, not the other way around. "Cultural Marxism" would be a contradiction to this purpose, because it places the same emphasis on culture as traditional Marxists (or the narrow-minded followers of Marx, from which the Frankfurt School dissented).

Moving on, however, the whole idea of "applying" Marxist theory/dimat to a specific facet of superstructure or base, such as culture, is fundamentally flawed. Dimat is an overarching analytical framework that serves as the base for Marxism. It's not a specific framework. Culture always has a place in the framework, as it's a part of superstructure in the relationship we've established above. You can't apply Marxist theory specifically to culture (as is proposed by cultural Marxism) because culture is already an element of Marxist dialectics, and is already examined via the theoretical framework.

Furthermore, even if we were to examine culture specifically using dimat, this is contradictory in nature. Marxist theory is deterministic, where Marx emphasized that ideas have no significant consequences. To examine culture deterministically would be a fundamental contradiction to Marxist theory - it would be a dialectic idealism, not a materialism.

The term "cultural Marxism," then, is either redundant, or self-contradictory in nature. Certainly the Frankfurt School would have nothing to do with such an application of dialectic materialism, but even if they were, they would quickly run into problems. Beyond the Frankfurt School, framing of the term "cultural Marxism" is inherently flawed because it fails to grasp a basic understanding of Marxist dialectics, and this is why it serves no position in scholarly debate, but in propagandizing.

Why is This Important?

Phew, that was a bit of a headache. Now we have to expand upon what was just said and ask the question: why did this flawed term gain so much popularity, and why is it important?

Simply put, I believe it's because it's a foreign concept. Not many people are familiar with Marxism, and the idea of it is seen as the antithesis of Western values, especially democracy. Using Marxism is an easy scapegoat because it incites anger and fear out of people; and then, when you tack "culture" onto "Marxism," it makes it seem like a very specific attack on the culture and traditions of Western society. It's an illustrated conspiracy theory intended to make people afraid of anything that seems to resemble critical theory. In reality, dialectic materialism is merely an analytical framework - it doesn't seek to "do" anything, merely analyze it.

But as flawed as the term is, I think it's important to keep it around. For one, it's very stupid, and thus it won't become too dangerous in its popular usage. More importantly, though, it serves as a method by which radical conservatives can mobilize and consolidate their interests, playing an important part in the political process. As we mentioned, such a rapid mobilization is what resulted in the election of Nixon and the ensuing election of several Republican presidents in the United States. This was a pretty important period for American history where a lot was done, and a lot of modern government operations are founded in that era. While it qualifies as propaganda, "cultural Marxist" fear may actually play enough significance in society that it warrants the very analysis it opposes.

Thank you everyone for reading, and I'll see you all next time!