The mainstream media seem to desire the shutdown of diversity of opinion nowadays, pulling the "Fake News" card on those who don't quite see the world from the CNN angle. And it is worrying when over 90 percent of the U.S. media are owned by only six corporations. It is very easy to manufacture consent and produce an illusion of choice. Many wonder where this apparent authoritarian push suddenly came from, this demand for everyone to agree with the politically correct perspective, but the idea is very old.
Right after World War II, the same phenomenon worried the post-war philosophers, the so-called Frankfurt School intellectuals. They knew that it was the democratic, bureaucratic and institutionalized society that caused Nazism to function so well in Germany. It was precisely the excellent organization within the institutions, the state-controlled bureaucracy and the propaganda push in the media that made the National Socialist government so successful in controlling the population.
After the war, the Frankfurt School ideologists were looking for ways to moderate the Marxist pre-war ideology to make it more applicable to the post-war world. What many do not reflect on is that the leading intellectuals in Europe did not change their ideology after World War II. The pre-war ideology continued, only slightly modified. Philosophers such as Theodore W. Adorno, Herbert Marcuse and Max Horkheimer launched the concept of "critical theory," implying that science should not just describe but also change oppressive conditions in social structures. The idea was that if the critical theory were applied, the bourgeoisie misuse of power would be avoided. They defined who represented the "oppressive force in society" and who represented "freedom."
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Adorno and Marcuse became the intellectual founding fathers of the student rebellions of 1968, the New Left in America and its extreme liberal attitudes. This became the early days of free sex, abortion and the revolt against traditional religion. Adornos "point de depart" asserted that the process of modernity had failed to free people from the bondage of the past and instead further enslaved them. This kind of thinking began permeating the American university structures.
Critical theory sought to expose "the offender," so to speak, and fight for those who were victimized by the bourgeoisie. They were correct in stating that the traditional elite structures needed reforming. Power seems to corrupt, whether the political elites are religious, atheists or something in between. The Frankfurt ideologists set out to reform that which was not working, but the movement tragically ended up fundamentally changing the whole historical Western value systems. The tool became to silence diversity of opinion and quench the voices that still supported the traditionalist worldviews.
Kirsten Powers points out in "The Silencing. How the Left is Killing Free Speech" that the increasingly illiberal left's silencing campaign is a form of "repressive tolerance," arguing that Herbert Marcuse openly spoke of the need to curb freedom of speech in pursuit of left-wing ideological goals. Marcuse wanted to change "oppressive conditions," defined as the ideas of the bourgeoisie, the Christians, the conservatives. These groups became the enemy. To fight them became the goal.
Marcuse's words reveal the hidden authoritarian pursuit in this kind of thinking, stating that repressing other worldviews is both necessary and defensible. The lack of respect for different opinions and the democratic process becomes apparent. Suppression of "regressive" policies – defined as those based on traditionalist opinions – was the prerequisite for the strengthening of "progressive" ideas.
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The prevalent force by which these philosophers tended to demand uniformity and consensus is quite shocking. Whilst speaking about the need for "free speech," the underlying push was to crush the very same principle. Marcuse's words on the need for suppression illustrates the blatant lack of respect for free thinking rooted within the New Left, a tendency that later was to bloom into what we today experience as a remarkably illiberal media elite.
As we see, the very foundation of the New Left was stained by authoritarian views and a repressive agenda. Diversity was to be suppressed through limiting tolerance toward the "unwanted" groups in society. The New Left's campaign for conformity was coupled with strategies of demonizing and defaming its opponents, hoping that this would silence all opposition. Kirsten Powers argues that to this day delegitimization through demonizing and intimidation remains the left's most successful tactic against political and ideological opponents. So, it seems that "Fake News" is a term that will continue to be stamped on those who embrace diversity. We shall soon find out where this will lead us.
See Hanne's video on free speech: