The Devil's Pleasure Palace - Encounter Books

The Devil’s Pleasure Palace

The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West

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Publication Details

Hardcover / 232 pages
ISBN: 9781594037689
PUBLISHED: 08/11/2015

The Devil’s Pleasure Palace
The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West

In the aftermath of World War II, America stood alone as the world’s premier military power. Yet its martial confidence contrasted vividly with its sense of cultural inferiority. Still looking to a defeated and dispirited Europe for intellectual and artistic guidance, the burgeoning transnational elite in New York and Washington embraced not only the war’s refugees, but many of their ideas as well, and nothing has proven more pernicious than those of the Frankfurt School and its reactionary philosophy of “critical theory.

In The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, Michael Walsh describes how Critical Theory released a horde of demons into the American psyche. When everything could be questioned, nothing could be real, and the muscular, confident empiricism that had just won the war gave way, in less than a generation, to a central-European nihilism celebrated on college campuses across the United States. Seizing the high ground of academe and the arts, the New Nihilists set about dissolving the bedrock of the country, from patriotism to marriage to the family to military service. They have sown, as Cardinal Bergoglio—now Pope Francis—once wrote of the Devil, “destruction, division, hatred, and calumny,” and all disguised as the search for truth.

The Devil’s Pleasure Palace exposes the overlooked movement that is Critical Theory and explains how it took root in America and, once established and gestated, how it has affected nearly every aspect of American life and society.

About the Author

Michael Walsh is a journalist, author, and screenwriter, whose work includes six novels, seven works of nonfiction, and a hit Disney movie. The former classical music critic of Time magazine, he is now a regular contributor of political and cultural commentary to PJ Media and National Review, and an occasional op-ed columnist for the New York Post.

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On the Unholy Left, there is no idea too stupid to try, no institution unworthy of attack, no theory not worth implementing without care for its results, no matter what the practical cost.

Intentions are everything, results are nothing. Results are an illusion; theory is what counts, because theory can be debated endlessly within the safe harbors of academe. The key is to examine what those intentions really are. The answer lies in the Left’s own sense of narrative or, rather, anti-Narrative.

The works of the Frankfurt School make up a contrarian manifesto, expressed as a political program. Individual words no longer have specific meanings but stand as categorical imperatives. Women, blacks, gays, the environment, “choice,” and big government are all Good Things; their opposites are not. To use the word is to evoke the emotion associated with it, not the noun. (“Rape” has recently undergone a similar linguistic transformation, mutating from forcible sexual intercourse into acts of verbal aggression or “microagression,” or whatever the “victim” dislikes.) Thus language is used to silence discussion and criticism; it is “anti,” with “anti” now treated as an absolute good. To be “anti” almost anything is to be on the Right Side of History, surfing the Arc as it bends toward Justice. It requires no thought, only emotions. It requires no reflection upon the conundrum of Chesterton’s Fence, only reflexes. It should be an embarrassment to anyone who cannot defend it intellectually, and yet it is not—because it is dogma.

Dogma creates its own reality. You do not have to think about it; it provides all the answers. It is easy to mock evangelical Protestants or Orthodox Jews who cite the book of Leviticus as the source of wisdom and instruction about food, health, or sexual morality; simply making an assertion from authority by citing scripture is no argument at all. So it is with the leftist catechism as it has evolved in the wake of Critical Theory and political correctness, which has the added advantages of being of recent vintage and widely disseminated by an enthusiastic media. It deserves to be questioned and mocked with every bit as much jollity as the atheists attack Southern Baptist preachers.

What, after all, did “sexual liberation” accomplish? What positive good did it achieve? Other than providing men with greater, easier access to women, how did it improve anyone’s life? It promised us liberation from “sexual repression” (what teenaged boys used to call, sniggeringly, DSB), freedom from an old and tired sexual morality. It promised to tear down the Chesterton’s Fence that stood between our libidos and our responsibilities. It is easy to see why it was popular, since it partly leveled the sexual playing field for beta males, whose chances of sexual “conquest” vastly improved once “conquest” was taken out of the equation and a woman’s natural resistance to indiscriminate sex (or less discriminating sex) was broken down. In the guise of cooperative pleasure, it erected a new egalitarianism between the sexes, told women that their sex drives and their sexual responsibilities were exactly the same as a man’s. (It’s a mystery why no feminist of the time complained that, in effect, the new doctrine still portrayed women as lesser creatures who needed to raise—or lower—their sexual sights to the level of a man’s.) The newfound “liberation” led to a rapid increase in abortion, HIV and AIDS, and illegitimate children. Finally, wearing the masque of “progress,” it returned Westerners to primitive levels of sexuality, kicking out the moral underpinnings of the culture (even if the morals were often observed more in the breach than in practice). Who knew that the slogan “Every man a stud, every woman a slut” could be a winner? It is not for humanity to defeat Sin, but to be wary and canny in our interaction with it. And, in any case, the Ewig-Weibliche will never stoop to whoredom.

Whoever thought turning women into men was a good idea needs his head examined. And turning men into women (the necessary corollary, as it turned out, although that bit was less advertised) was even worse. Hence the very real consequences of “no consequences.” Above all, the sheer charlatanism of it astounds, nearly a century on. What the hell were we thinking? How was it possible for the intelligentsia of the United States, having just participated in the great American victory in the Second World War, to embrace such an obviously cockamamie philosophy? The Greco-Roman medical theory of bodily humors, the selling of indulgences in the Middle Ages, and phrenology had more scientific bases than Wilhelm Reich’s twaddle.

And what has been the effect? The “war between the sexes” has rarely been more hostile. The incidence of sexually transmitted diseases has soared; viruses once contracted only in a bordello can be found at the corner bar. What began as unconstrained sexual license—orgies, multiple sex partners, etc.—has turned into “yes means yes” affirmative consent for even a one-night stand. On campuses, young men and women now eye one another with suspicion: That attractive person you see might be not only a potential sex partner but also a future plaintiff in a lawsuit. The more sex, it seems, the more heartbreak; the less “repression,” the less romance. Public billboards in Los Angeles promote the use of condoms and AIDS hotlines. The promised Venusberg has turned venereal.

Interestingly, it was right around the same time that the sexual-liberation movement got fully under way—the 1970s—that the thanatopic side of it arose in popular culture, in the movies. For this was also the heyday of horror and slasher films, movies about enraged, often immortal serial killers (Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, A Nightmare on Elm Street) who preyed upon nubile, often naked teens in various acts of sexual intercourse. Nearly every one of our perky protagonists wound up on the wrong side of the slasher’s weapon of choice, save one: a young woman known in the trade as the Final Girl.

It’s as if Newton’s Third Law of Motion applied, setting off an equal and opposite reaction to Reich’s prescriptions and nostrums: The more sex we have, the less satisfying it is, and the more culturally destructive. In Japan, more and more young men are forgoing marriage and even dating in favor of staying home, watching porn, and playing video games; as a result, the country is now in a population death-spiral, with adult diapers outselling baby nappies. Elsewhere, nudity abounds as an example of female “empowerment,” and yet rabid feminists see rapists not only behind every bush but standing at the podium. A kind of insanity has gripped the West, a sexual hysteria far worse than anything Reich conveniently diagnosed in his attempt to get laid as often as possible.

Get laid young men most certainly have, but what has been the upshot? The sexual proclivities of a pasha in his harem or a gangsta with his “ho’s,” however, have exactly the same deleterious effect on Western culture as they have had on the Mohammedans or the black underclass. What Reich and the other Frankfurters forgot was that “repression” (to use their word) is a good thing when it is called by its proper name: “tradition.”

But for them to accept tradition—the very thing they battle—would be the end of them. Then they would finally have to face the worst kind of death—the Thanatos of their philosophy, which is the only possession, besides rage, that they ever really had. Their Pleasure Palace, like Schubert’s, would crumble into dust, and they, along with it, would be blown away.

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