Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Studies in Prejudice: Prophets of Deceit (4 of 6)Leo Löwenthal and Norbert Guterman, Prophets of Deceit: A Study of the Techniques of the American Agitator (1949)
Excerpt from a 1936 speech by Gerald L. K. Smith (1898-1976), anti-Semite and founder of groups like the Christian Nationalist Party
Löwenthal and Guterman use these categories they use to describe the various aspects of rightwing demagoguery:
Conservatives and the commentariat have made "malaise" a term of mockery for the Carter Administration, the idea being that Carter believed that there was a generalized feeling of discontent, malaise, that was making people lose confidence in government. Eric Alterman recently invoked the term in Obama’s Awful '70s Show Echoes Jimmy Carter The Daily Beast 04/25/2011. A speech Carter made on July 15, 1979 became known as the "malaise" speech, though he didn't use the term in the speech; he referred to a "crisis of confidence." The "malaise" term for the speech apparently came from the memorandum by Carter’s pollster Pat Caddell that led to the ill-fated speech.
Löwenthal and Guterman make the concept of malaise central to the understanding of how the agitator markets his ideas to the audience that is receptive to it:
The analyst of agitation now faces the problem: are these merely fleeting, insubstantial, purely accidental and personal emotions blown up by the agitator into genuine complaints or are they themselves a constant rooted in the social structure? The answer seems unavoidable: these feelings cannot be dismissed as either accidental or imposed, they are basic to modern society. Distrust, dependence, exclusion, anxiety, and disillusionment blend together to form a fundamental condition of modern life: malaise. [my emphasis] (p. 14)They do not define malaise here as a passing condition or an individual feeling, but rather "a fundamental condition of modern life." Although it does appear to the individual as a purely personal feeling: "On the plane of immediate awareness, the malaise seems to originate in the individual's own depths and is experienced by him as an apparently isolated and purely psychic or spiritual crisis."
Continued in Part 5
Tags: anti-semitism, leo lowenthal, norbert guterman, prophets of deceit, radical right
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No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."
-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?
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