Author and screenwriter Michael Walsh joins American Greatness Publisher Chris Buskirk to discuss the forthcoming sequel to his 2015 bestseller, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace.
Chris Buskirk: Hi, I’m Chris Buskirk. He is Seth Leibsohn. Welcome back to “The Seth and Chris Show.” We are joined by Michael Walsh, a friend of the show. He is also the author of the 2015 book, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West. It is one of those books that is absolutely must reading if you want to understand the political debates going on today. Michael, I understand that there is a sequel that will be forthcoming.
Michael Walsh: It’s on its way. I just turned it in to my agent yesterday, as a matter of fact. It’s called The Fiery Angel and . . . if you like “Devil” you will love “Angel,” let’s put it that way. The publicity campaign writes itself, so there we go.
Buskirk: Devil-angel, yeah. It’s one on one shoulder, one on the other. I get it.
Walsh: Pretty much, yeah. Well, I said to my agent today, you know I completely forgot to mention in this survey of great cultural works of art from Aeschylus to the present the two ragtime pieces, “Oh, You Angel” and “Oh, You Devil,” which inspired the entire project in the first place. I’ll have to work that into a footnote or something.
Buskirk: The Fiery Angel, is that a reference to the opera?
Walsh: Yes, of course.
Buskirk: I kind of thought so with your . . .
Walsh: I am determined to get America to love opera the way I do and realize that it’s the perfectly healthy, he-man, all-American, heterosexual, sweaty, hairy occupation.
Buskirk: I know my Italian opera very, very, very well, but like Fiery Angel. I may have only listened to once, maybe twice, but I don’t know it well. Just because you recommend, I will listen to it again.
Walsh: Well it’s on my player right now so if you guys tempt me I will have to do it, skip the un-pause button and you will come blasting across the airwaves.
Buskirk: Michael, your first book, Devil’s Pleasure Palace, I think is the best guide to what we now call cultural Marxism. If somebody wants a primer on that, wants to understand, they pick your book. What’s the sequel about?
Walsh: The sequel is about how to fight it back. So we analyzed in the first book the phenomenon of cultural Marxism in a overall cultural context. The thesis of that book, as you guys know, was that cultural Marxism having failed in the economic realm decided to go after Western Civilization on the intellectual realm. It’s found a very happy home in American universities starting [in the 1960s] and moving on towards our own time, I certainly went to college at the time when Herbert Marcuse was considered one of the gods of philosophy.
Now we’re past that, but the effects of it are still lingering. So how do you fight back and that’s what The Fiery Angel is about. Which is it’s two things; it’s a list of works, a discussion of works including; plays, poetry, painting, music, art, architecture that speak to the Western ideal of the individual as hero. It’s also a plea for us now in the, shall we say, the Kennedy School of Government-era, in which everything is specialized, to recognize that the arts have as much to tell us about politics—more I would say—than the Kennedy School of Government and all of these bloodless institutions that are now creating the uneducated, barbarian technocrats that we live with.
When we reconnect ourselves to the world of, say, Aeschylus and The Oresteia we can learn more about politics from those three great Greek plays, than we can from reading a white paper out of you know Boston.
Buskirk: It’s so true, I was having breakfast with a friend last week who said, “Ah, the undiscovered country, the past.”
Walsh: Yeah, the Joseph Losey movie the past is a different place, you know, it’s true. But the past is important and here is why. What the Left is trying to do is take your past away from you first by not telling you about it and now by demonizing it. That’s what the whole pull down the statutes thing is about, under the guide of some, you know, the moral do-good-ism that they usually preach.
By taking the past away from you they take the future away from you, which is what they care about. They don’t care about the present. We do, because we live in it. But as human beings, artists tell us we don’t live in the present we live in a continuum that is part past, part present, and part future. I mean all three of us on this conversation and everyone listening envisions the future for him or herself. They don’t just envision sitting in their Barcalounger or whatever they are doing right at this minute. If you take the past away, you kill the future and that’s what the Marxists understand.
Buskirk: The question is—and the hardest questions to answer always—are why, is why; why do that? Do they understand their project in the same terms that we do, or is it just a will to power? Michael, I’ll be interested in your thoughts on that. We’re going to run to a quick break and then we’ll be right back with more of Michael Walsh.
Hi, I’m Chris Buskirk. He is Seth Leibsohn. This is “The Seth and Chris Show.” We are joined by Michael Walsh. Michael when we were heading to the break, talking about the thesis of your forthcoming book, a sequel to The Devil’s Pleasure Palace. It’s called The Fiery Angel. Talk about the project of the Left to rob us all individually and collectively of our past, because it also has the effect of robbing us [of] our future. Is this—I know why questions are difficult to answer—is this nothing less than just a will to power, a way to take political power from your adversaries?
Walsh: Yeah, it’s two things really. It starts with a famous question that was asked by a Hungarian Communist named Georg Lukács, or Lucas as we would call him, who wondered in the aftermath of World War I, “Who will save us from Western culture?” What he meant by that initially was that this grand edifice of 19th-century European culture with all of its alliances and it’s interbred monarchial systems in various countries, which was designed to keep the peace and keep progress blowing, blew up at a horrendous cost. It’s the worst thing that ever happened to Western Civilization.
He was reacting to that and the Marxists saw that they had seized power in the Soviet Union, which was the backward Third World country, not in Germany where they thought they would and they tried. They staged a couple of quickie revolutions; one in Hungary and one in this German state of Bavaria that temporarily declared themselves socialist republic soviets really. That didn’t last very long. So the cultural Marxism went into culture, rather than economic Marxism. What they’ve tried to do is to destroy the West’s belief in itself in order to impose what their version of this kind of bastard Hegelian thesis, antithesis, synthesis philosophy.
This all comes out of German philosophy, and I know it sounds incredibly boring, but in point of fact what it is, is the dagger aimed at the heart of what we call Western Civilization. That’s why they are so hellbent on taking us down. Yes, they do want power, because inside every hippie from the ‘60s was Stalin screaming to get out. So now they can turn themselves into Stalin and if they half-try, they will.
We have to be aware that this is a real problem that is aimed at ending Western supremacy, which now, by the way, in the last 25 seconds has morphed into “white privilege” and “white supremacy.” You see how fast they are moving the ball now, and when the Left gets agitated, it’s like bees whose hive has been disturbed. You know that they think they are on the verge of something, so watch this continue to increase until we slow it down and try to stop it.
Buskirk: What do you think is the solution? How do we push back on this effectively and how do we marshal our forces over, not just over the next week or month or year, but how are we able to do this on a sustained basis to take back the initiative both culturally and politically?
Walsh: Well we have to, it’s a long … I’m not going to live to see it and neither are you guys and you are 90 years younger than me. I think it’s a long-term thing, it’s an educational thing and the universities have been captured effectively by the cultural Marxists for a very long time. They no longer teach any of this stuff that I came to just as a young man out of my own curiosity and background and training, and then continued all my life to work hard to master these classics of our civilization. Now to find out that they are all racist tool of oppression is so ’60s that I’m really literally having an acid flashback to 1967 and ’68.
It’s going to take a long time and we have to take the universities back, we just have to. I mean, they are already opposing the DACA rollback today as if—and you guys correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe DACA was in response to a loss in Congress for the DAPA program, which was deferred whatever for alien parents. It was imposed by executive order, it’s completely illegal, and it’s now been overturned by executive order. And yet the Left is up in arms about this as if they just removed one of the cornerstones of the Bill of Rights. Not that the Left would care about that anymore, but at one time they would have pretended to. Where are we when the universities are now in supporting illegal activity as a higher cause than the American Constitution? You tell me where we are?
Buskirk: Yeah, Michael, I remember, I can remember vividly. It was about 12 or 13 years ago when I just, I had that light-bulb moment where I realized the Left just doesn’t believe in constitutional government anymore.
Buskirk: If they did and it was, I knew that they had their questions and were willing to be dishonest about it and try and work around it. It was at that point that I realized actually they just don’t believe in the system at all.
Walsh: No, they never did. They used it to protect themselves, of course. This is why, like dogs rolling over and showing their bellies, they are always pleading for tolerance when they need it, but they are darn sure not going to give it to you or me. They’ve never really believed in it, they used the First Amendment as a shield and now that they don’t need it anymore, they don’t care about the First Amendment anymore. They never liked the Second, who knows what the Third is, who can remember, etc.
They are very selective about it because their goal is, very Nietzsche, frankly—to bring up another old dead white German—Nietzsche’s drive to power, the will to power, which is the Nietzsche phrase and they love that. The love the idea of force and they love the idea of making you do what they want you to do and even more important preventing you from doing what you want to do. That’s what they live for; that’s it simple.
Buskirk: Yeah, I mean, because it’s good for you, Michael and we are going to make you do it because you’ve got to take your medicine and we know better than you. I mean, this is the Leftist mantra and they are willing to do absolutely anything to enforce it. I mean they are …
Walsh: You will be made to care, that’s the point. You will made to care. It’s not enough for them, for us, to go, “OK, we are not going to fight you anymore, we are just going to go.” No, you will be forced to submit and this is why they are in cahoots with Islam because they both demand submission.
I made this point on a National Review cruise years ago and I think people looked at me like I was crazy. Submission is what they demand, and as long as they have that goal in common they will have an enemy in us, in common. Now, they are going to fight it out eventually if they defeat us—which I hope they don’t—but who knows? And the Left will lose because they are less ruthless than the Islamists are. For now, they are two peas in a pod.
Buskirk: Yeah, I mean, there are two fanatical violent fundamentalist sucks vying for power on the planet right now two big ones anyway; Islamic supremacists and the political Left.
Walsh: Correct. Just as it was in Germany during the Weimar Republic of the National Socialists and the Communists. They both hated the existing order. Neither of them was remotely conservative in any meaningful way. But the fact is, they fought each other for supremacy. I mean, as I point out in the new book, the National Socialists won the first round and the Communists won the second round at Stalingrad.
Buskirk: Michael, we’ve got one more short segment so I just wanted to set that up so you can think about it in the break. . . and the question is this: As we look forward and we try and push back, is this a cultural problem that has, that manifests in politics? If so, do we have to win culture broadly defined first before we can win the political battle? I’m Chris Buskirk, that’s Seth Leibsohn, and we’re joined by Michael Walsh. And we’ll be right back.
Hi, I’m Chris Buskirk. He is Seth Leibsohn. We are joined by Michael Walsh. Michael, short segment so I want to get right to it. The question that I left you with is this; as you survey the landscape, the political landscape but also the cultural one, as we on the Right, the people who want to defend free government, self government, western civilization broadly defined, do we have to win the culture first before we can expect to have a lasting political settlement that’s meaningful?
Walsh: Yes, we do, and it’s going to be a long time. It took 60 years for us to get to this spot . . . so now we have to think in terms of the long haul. Now, the question is, we don’t have that much time, because they had all the time in the world—literally. They only had to be right once and we had to be right every time, and we weren’t. So we failed in the late ’60s to stop this poison before it got fully absorbed into the body politic.
We just need enough people to stand up and say like in Network, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” and to go back to educating their children and to turn off the television. This is a very Luddite sort of response in a way. But it’s also important. However we use technology to increase our own sense of cultural belonging with everyone from the Greeks to the Romans, to Aquinas and the Middle Ages, to the Enlightenment, to the American Constitution, to the United States. We need to reconnect to those values because they are our values.
We know it deep down inside and the Left knows it, which is they cannot destroy our love for the heroic narrative and our sense that as individuals we each are in charge of our own destiny. They want to make us cogs in the machine. But I think in the end they’ll fail, but we just need enough good men and women to stand up and tell them to stop.
Buskirk: In the narrower sense when we look at what’s going on just right now, day-to-day, do you think that, do you think we have a chance to at least arrest the progress of the Leftist takeover in this country. As of where we are now politically at least can we buy ourselves sometime in order to do the things that you think are needed to do longer term?
Walsh: Yeah, because it starts with things like this DACA decision, which is at some point you have to roll them back. At some point they have to lose one or two or more. And at some point . . . I noticed all my lefty buddies in the mainstream media at the top of the food chain were super agitated today that Trump himself didn’t make the announcement and that Sessions didn’t take any questions. And I said, “So what? The president has better things to do than appear in front of the White House press corps and no one gives you a constitutional right to ask anything. If they want to take questions, they’ll take it. If they want to tell you which end is up, they’ll tell you. They just told you.”
Buskirk: Right. He made his decision, he undid something that Obama did that was blatantly unconstitutional, and he moved on. I think that’s a really—actually a very, very good observation that that was probably the best thing he could have done, which is do it, move on, don’t take questions. Don’t even show up. Just get back to work.
Walsh: Right—and make them crazy. That’s the thing. They’ll now spit like scorpions for the next 24 hours about how angry they are that no one talked to them and Trump’s a coward and he is a bully and he’s a punk. They’ve all shared that meme, believe me. It went right through them like grease through a goose. You gotta just keep telling them “No,” and like children they’ll stamp and scream and eventually they’ll get the message.
Buskirk: Michael, we’ve got to leave it there. Thanks so much. Michael Walsh, have you back again real soon, have a good one.
Walsh: OK, thanks.