Author, screenwriter, music critic and, now, American Greatness contributor, Michael Walsh, joined AG publisher Chris Buskirk and contributing editor, Seth Leibsohn on their radio show, The Seth and Chris Show, to discuss the debut of his weekly column at American Greatness. You can listen to their conversation or read the transcript below.
Seth Liebsohn: Welcome back Friday, November 3rd, 2017. I’m Seth Liebsohn, he is Chris Buskirk. It is always a good day for Chris and me when we know we have Michael Walsh as a guest. He is one of the nation’s great public intellectuals—a journalist, an author, a screenwriter, several novels. His most recent non-fiction bestseller is The Devils’ Pleasure Palace. The sequel to that is coming out next year. Michael, welcome back to the airwaves of Phoenix
Michael Walsh: Hey guys, how are you? How are things in Phoenix, Arizona?
Seth Liebsohn: We’re a big bowl of Christmas here, Michael. Everything is going great.
Michael Walsh: Excellent.
Seth Liebsohn: It’s a great time to come and visit, and it’s great to have you. You wrote a piece I am glad you wrote for American Greatness. This is your inaugural piece for American Greatness, and as I understand it, the commencement of a series, Deadly Frenemies: Cultural Marxism, Islam, and the War against the West. I am so glad you wrote this, Michael, because I haven’t seen this issue taken on in a long time. I think the last time I saw a version of it was something Paul Berman did some years ago, but you took it to a new level. Would you like to recite the thesis here, sir?
Michael Walsh: Well, the basic thesis is—you guys were kind enough to ask me to write for American Greatness, and it’s a wonderful website, and I’m very happy at being able to contribute to it—and it’s specifically talking about the cultural Marxist influence in our lives which is all around us, we just tend not to see it because it’s become the water and we’re the fish. So I think we’re gonna take a look at it every week and see how it manifests itself in our daily lives, how it gets us to stop talking about itself, and how we conform even unknowingly to some of its precepts. But in today’s piece, I took the international point of view. It’s always struck me that the left, who always loves to set up false dichotomies or false choices, say “well, how can Islam and political Islam and our philosophy be united because we love gay people and they love to throw them off buildings” as I noted in the piece.
Seth Liebsohn: Yes.
Michael Walsh: You know, “we think transgender bathrooms are hunky-dory and they dress women in bodybags, so it’s ridiculous to say we are allies.” But of course they are allies because the enemy of my enemy is my friend and we’re the enemy that they both are fighting against. And I’ve made a point before, but I think I haven’t seen it much in print, which is that the real thing they have in common is they both want us to submit.
Seth Liebsohn: Yeah.
Michael Walsh: They want us to kill us, but they want us to say before they chop our heads off, “you were right, I give up,” or anything. They don’t want us to go out like that brave Italian Quattrocchi, or whatever his name was, who said “I’ll show you how an Italian dies” as they sawed off his head. That’s the kind of terrorism that embarrasses them. And they want to see us grovel. They want to see us squirm. As Bernie Bernbaum says to Tom Regan in “Miller’s Crossing,” the great Coen Brothers movie, “I want to see you squirm.” And that’s what they want us to do, and I think it’s about time we tell them that’s not going to happen.
Seth Liebsohn: Squirm or die. You can go to “Miller’s Crossing.” I went to “Goldfinger” where he says “do you want me to talk?” and he says “no, I want you to die.”
Michael Walsh: Yes, I used that. I was on a Claremont panel on Thursday night here in Washington and I quoted two things. One is that line, which is actually even better than you remember it. Tom says “what do you expect me to do?” and Goldfinger’s leaving and says “I expect you to die.”
Seth Liebsohn: That makes sense.
Michael Walsh: Then he says “there’s nothing you can tell me I don’t already know.”
Seth Liebsohn: There you go.
Michael Walsh: That’s one, and then the other great line which is written by a friend of mine Dean Devlin, who wrote this particular movie “Independence Day.” When the monster has the tentacles around Brent Spiner’s neck, and the president says “what do you want us to do?” and the monster says “die.” And that’s what they want. If we don’t realize that, we’re gonna lose the fight. It’s that simple
Seth Liebsohn: There are some honest liberals about this or some deeply-thinking liberals, even ex-patriots who I normally wouldn’t agree with on a lot. One of them, I don’t know if you know of the work of Bruce Bauer.
Michael Walsh: Yes.
Seth Liebsohn: I like how he put it once, the struggle that you see this weird nexus of the academic left, or the academy in America I might say, and in too much of Europe, and their defense of Islamism, at least their knee-jerk defense of it, buying into bits of their narrative. He once wrote “knowing little about America and its history, American students and professors are easily persuaded by multi-culturalism. That is, that their country is not a light unto the nations, but a blight on the planet, and that other cultures, if not downright admirable, can be excused for their failings because those failings are, for some reason or other, ultimately America’s fault.”
Michael Walsh: Yeah, so it’s all our fault. Because you know, we should tell the audience, Bruce Bauer is gay and he lives in Demark I believe, or Norway.
Seth Liebsohn: Yes, that’s right.
Michael Walsh: So he is deeply attuned to the rampant homophobia, to put it mildly, of the Arab world and in the Muslim world, and he understands that his neck is going to be on the chopping block before almost anybody else’s.
Seth Liebsohn: You bet.
Michael Walsh: So he has realized that self-preservation is better than adopting the gay agenda of the Left because that won’t survive contact with Islam. We all know it won’t, and they are pretending otherwise that they think so.
Seth Liebsohn: That’s a very good point, Michael, and there’s an interesting intellectual nexus between the fascist movement and much of radical Islam or Islamism as well.
Michael Walsh: Yeah.
Seth Liebsohn: When one goes back actually to the foundations in the 20s and the 30s, there is a national socialist aspect to a lot of political Islam.
Michael Walsh: Oh definitely because we know that there’s a copy of Mein Kampf in Arabic and that Hitler was very tightly involved with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, or whatever the Arab’s title was there, so sure there was an alliance of similar interests and similar hostility. This is why, if I may get on my high horse for a just moment here…
Seth Liebsohn: Please, please.
Michael Walsh: This drives me crazy when people say, “well, National Socialism has nothing to do with the left.” Well this is just obviously a great lie, and every time I tweet this, the Socialist Party of Great Britain comes back to tell me that Hitler didn’t really mean that it was the National Socialist German Worker’s Party. No, that was just a ruse—to get Reagan Republicans to vote for them, I guess is their implication.
Seth Liebsohn: Yeah.
Michael Walsh: It’s crazy. These people ally with each other. Hitler was an ally with Stalin. They started World War II together, the both invaded Poland at the same time from opposite ends. They had already agreed how to split up Eastern Europe. And it was just a matter of thieves falling out. The Soviets’ heroic fight against the Germans was purely a civil war, not an antagonistic war the way ours was against Germany and Japan. It wasn’t. It’s a completely different animal.
Seth Liebsohn: Go ahead.
Michael Walsh: They hurry to say the Soviets were our allies. No, they were Germany’s allies. They fell out with Germany. That’s what happened.
Seth Liebsohn: Right, I’m glad you used the thieves thing because it’s this honor among thieves which is your first explanation for the nexus, the linkage between political Islam and cultural Marxism is their common hatred.
Michael Walsh: Yes. And they’ll never give that up, and I think the left knows that in the end—because it’s a suicide cult, let’s face it—that they’ll lose to Islam. But they don’t care as long as they beat us. As long as we go first, they’re okay with that.
Seth Liebsohn: Yeah, they’re not thinking it through though, right? They’re not going to that second step because you do have to wonder what many in the professoriate today who embrace cultural Marxism would think if they tried to establish their universities, say, in any of these countries, in any of the Caliphate, or for that matter in the Gaza Strip.
Michael Walsh: Right.
Seth Liebsohn: They just would just not be allowed to exist, and boy-oh-boy, goodbye gay-lesbian awareness days.
Michael Walsh: Yeah, well this will happen in the United States as these universities that have already been penetrated by Islam, so I’m thinking of Cal-State Irvine for example, which is one of the worst offenders, probably Davis to any of those lunatic sub-Berkeley—I mean, you think Berkeley is crazy. You ought to see the B-team, right?
Seth Liebsohn: Right.
Michael Walsh: And those of us who are part-time or full-time in California certainly know this. They’ll take it over from the inside. Before you know, the Jewish student groups will be gone, the gay groups will be marginalized, and it just will start and we know where this movie ends because we’ve seen it one million, five hundred thousand times. And it always ends the same way.
Seth Liebsohn: It’s chilling when you do see it. For people who aren’t familiar with it, Michael, they’ll listen to us talk or they’ll listen to you talk, they’ll read your writings. But when you show them some YouTubes of this stuff or videos of this stuff, their jaws really do drop. They really do have to look at it. The one I like to show people is that one you probably are aware of from maybe five years ago: David Horowitz at UCSD…
Michael Walsh: Yes.
Seth Liebsohn: … with the student who was representing basically Hezbollah.
Michael Walsh: And she was a female student as I recall.
Seth Liebsohn: That’s exactly right, who speaks perfect un-accented English, and he asks her if she agrees with the leader of Hezbollah who said he wants all the Jews to move to Israel because it would be easier to kill them. This is a student at USCD and she plainly, clearly, and seriously says yes.
Michael Walsh: Of course. She’s honest; you’ve got to give them that.
Seth Liebsohn: She’s honest. You’ve got a little time for us?
Michael Walsh: I’m standing by here. The President is out of town, so I’ve got the whole evening ahead of me.
Seth Liebsohn: If you were in town you’d be busier. Okay, Michael. I’m Seth, he’s Chris. We’ll be right back. If you have a question for Michael, he’d love to take it as well. 602-508-0960. We’ll be right back.
Chris Buskirk: I am Chris Buskirk and this is the Seth and Chris show. We’re joined by Michael Walsh. He is the author of a number of books, screenplays. … The one that is forthcoming is The Fiery Angel: Art, Culture, Sex, Politics, and the Struggle for the Soul of the West. Michael, I’m interested in this question of art, culture, sex, politics. … Is this primarily a political or a cultural question in your mind as we confront the left?
Michael Walsh: Chris, I think one of the things I’m doing in Washington which I can actually announce right on your show is the formation of what we’re calling a cultural-political consultancy so that we don’t necessarily address policies; we address principles. As you know from The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, I went through a sort of a romp through Western history to show that what we have that the other cultures don’t have is this heroic narrative that we are all the heroes of our own movie. We are not cogs in the machine. We are not clerks in the Post Office. We are not human batteries in the Matrix. We are heroes of our own story. And that’s what separates us. What the left is trying to do is trying to turn us into, in the words of Von Mises, every man but one, a clerk in a post office. So I believe, and I had this spirited discussion about this today with a couple of guys at lunch, that Breitbart is right that politics lies downstream from culture. But that was never properly understood in the overall context of culture. That doesn’t mean transient cultural fads, it means all the way back to the Oresteia and Greek tragedy and the Roman heroic poetry and through the Middle Ages to the operas of Wagner. I know it sounds like homework, but it’s not. It’s fun because all of those principles go into our favorite art form: the motion picture. And there’s a book called Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters, which is a wonderful book and every screenwriter reads it. And so, in writing Fiery Angel, I went back in part to the Poetics to show how the principles that Aristotle developed, beginning, middle, and end, comes from the Poetics. Also the difference between tragedy and comedy, pathos, pity, all the emotions we try to evoke in our storytelling. This is the foundation of our Western politics. In fact, the Oresteia ends with in the Amenities, the third of the three plays, with a trial in which Orestes is on trial for the murder of his mother Clytemnestra, and half the jury, there’s twelve people in the jury, that’s where the twelve people in the jury comes from, vote to convict and the other half vote to acquit because after all, Clytemnestra killed Orestes’s father, Agamemnon. And it’s Palace Athena who breaks the tie in favor of Orestes saying even though he committed a crime, he avenged a greater crime. So this is where all of Western culture comes from this source, and we have forgotten how to weaponize it and use it unabashedly, unapologetically, and that’s what I aim to do here in Washington.
Chris Buskirk: Michael, I’m interested in this because right now, in Western culture, we have every man in the hero of his own story, but the villain is Western culture. That’s the story, that’s the narrative that’s being developed in the schools and very often in the media and Hollywood and elsewhere. How do you change that? How do you flip the script on them?
Michael Walsh: That’s exactly what we have to go after because that is the Marxist collective positing a collective—that is i.e., Western culture as an inimical force—and trying to cast themselves as the heroic people standing up against this white, cis, I don’t even know the terminology anymore, it changes every ten minutes. But I’m basically saying to evoke William F. Buckley, stop. Stop it because Western culture is not the enemy. We are not racist for asserting its primacy. It’s open to anyone, be it the country of India, for example, certainly falls under the Anglosphere and has contributed a great deal to Western culture. Japan certainly since the war is another one. So the West is now more a state of mind than it is an actual physical location. It used to be called Christendom, now obviously it’s not anymore, and it’s expanded its definition. So we just have to say no, stop, enough, and reteach our lessons, and I’m going to dedicate the rest of my life to this particular project because it pains me to see what they’re trying to do to us. But they are the Marxists who hate Western civilization. That gets back to my piece today in American Greatness. Islam hates Western Civilization. Cultural Marxists hate Western Civilization. That’s all you need to know about them.
Chris Buskirk: Michael, how do we retell those stories? What’s the most effective way of doing that? I mean, I know there’s a lot of ways to do it, but it strikes me that only part of it, and maybe not even the largest part, is through lessons, is a sort of didactic way of doing it in the classroom or through reason. How do we tell that narrative? Is it time to try and recapture art and media and those sorts of things?
Michael Walsh: Oh, definitely. Look, we’re fifty or sixty years in the hole. I was in college from 1967-71, and that was the heyday of Marcuse who is certainly one of the founders and leading proponents of the Frankfurt School of critical theory and political correctness, and that’s where the poison enters the bloodstream. It’s gone right through us, and now we have to rely that our traditions are stronger than this imported, alien philosophy which is what it is. And we have to call it out and we have to point at it and we have to show our young people that it’s wrong and retaking the schools and retaking the media. The media is dying anyway, so I think we have a lot going on for us there. I think if we appeal to the natural rebelliousness of young people, of students, they don’t want to be batteries in the Matrix, they want to be Keanu Reeves, so we just haven’t sold that. We really need to get our messaging in order and that’s another one of the goals of this new endeavor, which we’re calling the Imprimatur Group, the old wonderful word imprimatur, which means of course it’s approved, it’s morally correct, and that’s what we feel we are.
Chris Buskirk: Michael, the media is obviously changing a lot. I mean just … for one data point look at the professional sports, the NFL’s ratings are down. But ratings are down across the board on television even though there’s some great television being produced. I think there’s just so much media being produced that you don’t have the monopolies you had even ten years ago or the oligopolies had. So for people on the right who are creative and want to tell stories, what advice would you give to somebody who has that creative impulse?
Michael Walsh: I get it all the time. Young conservative screenwriters come to me in Hollywood or young authors, and they say “I want to write a conservative book” and I say “don’t.” Don’t write a conservative book; truly don’t write a conservative book. Write a good book. Write a good movie. Write a story that people want to read, hear, or see. And if you have conservative values, they will come out in that story. You don’t have to paint them purple and have arrows pointing toward them. You just go ahead and do it. Now there are some guys who identities I obviously cannot disclose who do that in their movies. They’re very popular writer/directors. That’s where they put those messages in, but one that’s been commonly discussed is the Batman movies of Chris Nolan. Many people see them as real conservative manifestos, but they’re darn good Batman movies, too, and that’s the primacy there. They’re darn good Batman movies first.
Chris Buskirk: Michael, I appreciate your time. You know, if the President comes back early, I assume he’ll be at your place, but we’ll leave your place undisclosed for the moment.
Michael Walsh: Well, I can walk across the street and say hello if I want to, so that’s the beauty of this sort of place.
Chris Buskirk: Make sure you check the news first because as a new columnist for American Greatness we don’t want you in Secret Service jail.
Michael Walsh: No, I wasn’t thinking of jumping over the White House fence, that’s for sure. I’m too old for that.
Chris Buskirk: Michael Walsh, thanks so much.
Michael Walsh: Okay guys, see you later.
Chris Buskirk: Have a good weekend.