Accusations of cultural Marxism have become a signal of ideological rejection, but on exactly what basis are these accusations made or the rejections they imply meaningful?
In order to understand the fallacious thinking that goes into dismissing ideas as cultural Marxism, I think it would benefit to work from an example, so I will use the one I see the most often.
“Political correctness is cultural Marxism.”
Let us begin by defining political correctness, or at least define what it seems to me what is intended to be conveyed in such a statement. Political correctness is a socially enforced expectation that we self-censor, or have censored for us, ideas and speech that target, alienate, dehumanize or dismiss the issues of those historically and presently oppressed by social, economic and political institutions – or at least appear to be, to some segment of people.
This would include jokes about race, gender, sexuality or victimization and violence. The implication by opponents of political correctness being that these topics fall under the rubric of free speech and should not be censored by the self or others. Yet even viewed as a violation of free speech, would that violation be as damaging to individuals as the violations of prejudice, bigotry and hate are to their victims? Obviously some people think so.
I would like to state plainly here that I wholeheartedly reject institutionalized censorship, but maintaining the self-discipline to not be an eager emotional aggressor is probably a virtue worth maintaining, even if only because it seems to me that you sort of get back what you put out into the apparent world.
Now lets break down ‘cultural Marxism’.
So far as what kind of speech a society finds damaging to its more progressive of values, Marx didn’t have much to say. The labor theory of value and predictions about how industrial societies will likely evolve have little to do with suggesting that your pet rape joke is past its ethical prime. So political correctness itself can hardly be called Marxist.
As far cultural Marxism goes, that term has its origins in Marxism itself. Both as a method of critiquing other aspects of industrial society, and as an insult for deviating from hard-lined economic and revolutionary Marxism.
As is often the case, terms that were once considered radically left often get co-opted by conservatives. Over time ‘cultural Marxism’ became a buzzword used by conservatives to denounce anything that challenged their Protestant-derived values and beliefs. Both ‘Marxism’ and ‘cultural Marxism’ became symbols of conservative alarmism and fear-mongering.
Oddly enough, many of the things now rejected as politically incorrect were initially intended as an affront to the sensibilities of the relatively puritanical Protestant worldview. Yet now the opponents of political correctness use terms like cultural Marxism to defend the kind of speech which tends to support the conservative rejection of issues of the oppressed.
As I have written before, not only are the kind of jokes defended by opponents of political correctness not a challenge to conservatives, they actually tend to support them by upholding their values or masking their faults and/or hypocrisies. At the same time these critics wish to give the appearance that they themselves are victims of oppressive ideological limits on speech.
The repetition of the cultural Marxism trope itself only helps to reinvigorate conservative ideology in the same way that McCarthyism did. Seeking out cultural Marxism has become a new witch hunt, with even the members of oppressed lower classes joining in, presumably in order to gain some kind of misguided status as victims or heroic defenders.
Let me clear this up for you. The black trans lesbian commies are not oppressing you. Their speech may sometimes appear to be reactionary hyperbole to you, and they may present a way of life which feels alien and even threatening to you, but you have no reason to worry about them oppressing you any time soon. That would be the rich people. Look it up.