Who's nuts?

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted March 27, 2000

In December 1997, Free Congress Foundation celebrated its 20th anniversary with a gala dinner. The guest speaker was Charlton Heston. He gave one of the finest speeches I have been privileged to hear, on the subject of the culture war (not guns). For those who just arrived from some other planet, a culture war has been raging in this country ever since the 1960's. Mr. Heston offered a thoughtful and at times passionate defense of our traditional, Western, Judeo-Christian culture, which is variously denounced as oppressive, insensitive, patriarchal, and just plain mean, mostly by the forces of Political Correctness, a.k.a. the Cultural Marxists.

Frankly, I was somewhat surprised to see Richard Cohen abase himself so thoroughly before the PC pantheon as he did in his attack on Mr. Heston's speech in the March 23 Washington Post. Not only did he hit all the usual buttons - racism, homophobia (the word itself is a lie: moral disapproval is different from an irrational fear) - he even hit Political Correctness' equivalent of the nuclear button. Mr. Heston, he announced, is "nuts".

A brief history lesson is in order here. The ideology commonly known as political correctness has its origins in the work of the Frankfurt School, formally the Institute for Social Research, which was established at Frankfurt University in Germany in 1923 and relocated to New York City in 1934. From 1930 onward, its chief members, Horkheimer, Adorno, Fromm and Marcuse, labored to translate Marxism from economic into cultural terms, largely by crossing Marx with Freud. This resulted, first, in Critical Theory, the basis for all the oh-so-PC "studies" departments in modern American universities, and then in the Institute's "studies in prejudice."

These studies, especially as embodied in Adorno's immensely influential book The Authoritarian Personality, argued that anyone who defended or adhered to traditional Western culture and morals had a psychological problem. They - we - were, as Mr. Cohen summarizes it, all "nuts."

Why does it surprise me to find Richard Cohen adhering so slavishly to the line laid down by the Frankfurt School? I am sure he does not know that Political Correctness was their creation, nor that it is a variant of Marxism, quite different from the Marxism of the old Soviet Union, but Marxism nonetheless. But surely he must recognize that Political Correctness is an ideology. The classic hallmark of ideology is all over it, in that it demands that people live a lie. In fact, it demands we all accede to many lies: that men and women are interchangeable, that there are no differences among races or ethnic groups within races (when those groups are taken as wholes, as PC demands), that homosexuality is normal. This is, in fact, the unholy trinity that Political Correctness requires we all bow down and worship: "racism, sexism, and homophobia."

If the sad history of the 20th century teaches nothing else, it teaches the danger of ideology - all ideology. Ideology littered that century with somewhere around 100 million corpses. Is Richard Cohen content to watch America too become an ideological state, a state with an official ideology, enforced by the power of the state? Make no mistake - that is where all ideology leads, because in the end there is no way to compel people to bow to lies except by the threat of the concentration camp and the gulag.

In his speech to that dinner put on by my Foundation, Charlton Heston dared defy the ideology of cultural Marxism. The act was a courageous one: the term Political Correctness applies to any open defiance of its mandates is "hate" (like all ideologies, PC too has its Newspeak). I'm sure Mr. Cohen speaks well of others who publicly defied ideologies, in places like Italy and Germany and the Soviet Union. But when Charlton Heston did so here, in America, well ... he was "nuts".

If, in Hell, Adorno read Richard Cohen's column - available there perhaps on WashingtonPost.com? - he no doubt nodded approvingly. So did the other noted ideologues of our century who keep him company there. Anyone who defies any ideology is, by ideological definition, nuts. Is Mr. Cohen entirely comfortable, I wonder, with the company he is keeping?

Paul Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.

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