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Jalees Rehman: From Frankfurt to Utøya (Part I): The Quest for Monoculturalism

August 8, 2011

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Part one of the author’s report on how Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik’s manifesto is a valuable guide to understanding contemporary far right ideology and its potential impact.


jalees167.jpgA déjà vu encounter with the Frankfurt School

When I first read Pat Buchanan’s best-selling book The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization a number of years ago, I was surprised that it devoted an entire section to the philosophy of critical theory and the Frankfurt School. The mention of Adorno, Marcuse, Lukacs, and Gramsci seemed somewhat unusual in a right wing populist book. Nevertheless, it appeared that Buchanan believed that Frankfurt School thinkers played a key role in the decline of traditional Western culture and stated: “In the death of the West, the Frankfurt School must be held as a prime suspect and principal accomplice.” Buchanan also credited the Frankfurt School thinkers with developing an insidious form of “cultural Marxism” to implement their Marxist ideology by infusing new cultural norms into American society. Without clearly defining “cultural Marxism” or distinguishing it from other cultural and philosophical movements of the 20th century, Buchanan further obfuscated the ill-defined terms by stating, “political correctness is cultural Marxism.” At that time, I dismissed these strange blanket statements since they lacked any in-depth discussion of the presented concepts.

I had forgotten Buchanan’s book until recently, when I had déjà vu while perusing the compendium of the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik who set off a bomb in Oslo and then murdered at least 68 people attending a youth camp of the Norwegian Labor Party the island of Utøya on July 22. Breivik compiled a document in English titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence” under the pseudonym of Andrew Berwick and distributed it electronically just prior to the attacks. “2083” is divided into three parts (Book 1, 2, and 3). Surprisingly, the introduction of Book 1 discusses the role of the Frankfurt School and its creation of “cultural Marxism” as the key problem that is supposedly destroying Western culture and European society. These introductory sections present individual profiles of thinkers such as Adorno and Marcuse and include an annotated bibliography of primary and secondary literature about the Frankfurt School and critical theory. As in Pat Buchanan’s book, “political correctness” is presented as a form of “cultural Marxism” and as a dangerous indoctrination that will destroy society unless counter-measures are implemented.

Some commentators have referred to the compendium as a manifesto, but the document is actually a compilation of various articles, book chapters, blog entries, and interview-style question and answers. Some components of “2083” are attributed to specific authors, such as the blog entries of the far right Norwegian blogger using the pseudonym “Fjordman,” who has recently come forward and identified himself as Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen. Other passages appear to have been copied without crediting the original authors.

While popular American conservatives like Pat Buchanan and William Lind blame the Frankfurt School of philosophy for destroying Western culture and its Christian values, they may not realize that this mode of thought… is embedded in intellectual traditions.

It appears that the introduction to “2083” was copied by Breivik nearly verbatim from a booklet published by the conservative American Free Congress Foundation, titled “Political Correctness: A Short History of an Ideology.” The book is edited by William S. Lind and contains chapters authored by American conservatives. Breivik makes only minor modifications to the original Free Congress Foundation text, changing “Open homosexuals should be shunned” to “Glorification of homosexuality should be shunned,” which may indicate that Breivik is not opposed to homosexuality in the same manner as members of American far right movements. Pat Buchanan also cites Lind as a source for his book The Death of the West, which may explain the striking resemblance between Pat Buchanan’s ideas and Breivik’s compendium. The odd notion that the Frankfurt School and its intellectual progeny are responsible for undermining Western culture and fathering “cultural Marxism,” “political correctness,” and “multiculturalism” may have originated among these well-known American conservatives.

The Quest for a Monoculture

If “2083” were merely a manifesto of a madman who went on a shooting rampage, it would not necessarily merit further analysis. However, since it primarily compiles ideas of known far right authors in the United States and Europe, it becomes a valuable guide to understanding contemporary far right ideology and its potential impact. The bulk of “2083” is devoted to portraying Islam as the ultimate enemy of Europe and Western culture. For this purpose, it aggregates texts written by the Who’s Who of anti-Muslim polemics in the United States and Europe. The title of Book 1 is “What you need to know, our falsified history and other forms of cultural Marxist/multiculturalist propaganda,” because the underlying assumption in many of the compiled works is that cultural Marxists/multiculturalists (these two terms are used interchangeably throughout “2083”) manipulate discussions of Muslim history in an attempt to portray Islam and Muslims in a positive fashion as stated by Breivik: “Given the ignorance with which it is treated, the history of the last 1400 year Islamic Jihad against non-Muslims and Europe comprises one of the most radical forms of historical negationism. The First [sic] chapter of this book is therefore dedicated in memory of this ongoing Jihad. We must strive to combat and reverse state sanctioned falsification process by preparing for the time when the true history of Islam will be reintroduced.”

The second part of the compendium (Book 2) is called “Europe Burning” and focuses on contemporary European social and economic woes, many of which are presented as a direct consequence of the influx of Muslim immigrants. Unlike Book 1, which heavily relied on texts of American writers, Book 2 appears to consist of pieces written by Europe-based writers. The underlying thesis of these texts is that cultural Marxists or multiculturalists are dismantling traditional European culture by enabling mass immigration of Muslims into European countries. While most of Book 2 concerns itself with cultural threats posed by Muslims, it also proposes that cultural Marxists have fostered other cultural movements, like feminism, and in doing so have undermined European culture. One section of Book 2 states that cultural Marxists may often carry more common “stereotypical labels such as: ‘socialists,’ collectivists, feminists, humanists, egalitarians, gay and disability activists, animal rights activists, environmentalists, etc.”

The final part of the compendium (Book 3) appears to contain texts that are primarily written by Breivik and describes a hypothetical civil war waged between European conservatives and cultural Marxists/multiculturalists. Importantly, it is in Books 2 and 3 that we learn about Breivik’s vision for a Europe in which its traditional values are restored. Breivik’s utopia is grounded in Christian values and patriarchal family structures, which have been liberated from Muslim immigrants and Muslim influence. Breivik also expresses admiration for Japan and South Korea, which in his view have chosen the path of “monoculturalism”; Breivik repeatedly emphasizes the importance of promoting European ”monoculturalism.” His mythical view of traditional Europe as a monocultural entity will come as a surprise to anyone who has studied European history. It is also noteworthy that the Muslim jihadists who are so despised by the American and European far right are also trying to establish their own version of a monoculture based on religious values. Breivik is aware of the similarity between European/American right wing extremists and Muslim right wing extremists and even states this explicitly by saying, “We both share one common goal. They want control over their own countries in the Middle East and we want control of our own countries in Western Europe. A future cultural conservative European regime will deport all Muslims from Europe and isolate the Muslim world. As a result, the Islamists will gain the necessary momentum to retake power in several countries…”

By introducing the ultimate goal of “monoculturalism,” it becomes apparent that Breivik is not just opposed to specific aspects of “cultural Marxism” or “multiculturalism,” but that he is actually opposed to intellectual, ethnic, and religious diversity, since these may pose a threat to the desired monoculture. All cultural and philosophical movements that challenge the authority of a European monoculture centered on Christian values could thus fall under the nebulous terms “cultural Marxism” or “multiculturalism.” The notion of a purified, traditional monoculture is reminiscent of what occurred in the Third Reich, when the Nazis introduced the concept of Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) as a label for art that did not conform to their version of traditional German culture and values, including paintings by brilliant artists such as Klee, Marc, or Chagall.

While popular American conservatives like Pat Buchanan and William Lind blame the Frankfurt School of philosophy for destroying Western culture and its Christian values, they may not realize that this mode of thought does not just appear in a vacuum, but is embedded in intellectual traditions. Are Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan and the chorus singing “Alle Menschen werden Brüder” (“All humans become brothers”) in Beethoven’s 9th symphony also promoting a multiculturalist agenda? Is David Hume’s 18th century critical analysis of religion also a form of “cultural Marxism”? Lind, Buchanan, and Breivik conveniently gloss over the fact that many of the ideas they find offensive—questioning traditional authority and religion and recognizing the value of other cultures—has very much been part of Western culture and history, long before Adorno, Marcuse, or Lukacs.

Read Part II, The Witch-Hunt for “Cultural Marxists” here.

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Jalees Rehman, MD is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is also a German Muslim with an interest in the philosophy of science and religion. Furthermore, he is studying the role of postmodern and existentialist thought in interfaith dialogue. Some of his articles on science, culture and religion can be found on his Huffington Post blog or his public Facebook page, and he can be followed on Twitter @jalees_rehman.

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