“A&E” refers to Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, authors of So Much More. I chose the abbreviation to save space and time.
Since we might as well start this post with a bit of comic relief, this video reflects my general feelings about conspiracy theories. (Apologies for a swear or two and for “retarded.”)
Aside from the point mentioned in the video – that most conspiracy theories are too vast to be pulled off in the real world – they have some other characteristic weak spots that tend to render them unlikely or just downright impossible. Two that come immediately to mind are 1) that conspiracy theories often rely solely on secret conferences, conversations, etc. that the conspiracy theorist cannot confirm actually happened and did not personally witness; and 2) that most conspiracy theories are extremely selective in the information they present, and ignore other information that disproves the theory. I’ll (mostly) be dealing with #2 today, because the view of history that A&E present in Chapter 6 of So Much More has all the hallmarks of this problem, and then some.
You may recall back in my Big Box series, that I reviewed a lecture by A&E’s father Geoff, entitled Hollywood’s Most Despised Villain. In it, he outlined a view of history that is basically a patriocentrist-flavored version of what’s known as the Frankfurt School conspiracy theory or “cultural Marxism.” In So Much More, A&E repeat the same idea, only with less historical detail than their father provided.
I will admit up front that I do not enough about the history of Marxism to specifically confirm or refute this theory in its entirety. I do, however, know enough to say that many, many elements of A&E’s historical discussion throw up huge red flags, which to me indicate that they either did not do basic research about their subject matter, or are “spinning” their narrative so forcefully that they missed some very important and obvious things. Let’s walk through their narrative one step at a time, beginning with “Who was Karl Marx?”
Marx was a German philosopher who lived about the same time as Abraham Lincoln. He was a Satanist whose objective in life, in his own words, was “to dethrone God and destroy capitalism.”
Okay, I’m already pissed. Can you guess why? Look at that first sentence. I would think that, if I wanted to present myself as having some kind of insider knowledge about Marxism (as Geoff Botkin repeatedly has – and A&E are open about the fact that they are getting their information primarily from him), that I could at the very least provide the birth and death dates of the philosophy’s founder. Instead, we get “lived about the same time as Abraham Lincoln.”
I will be perfectly honest here. If I were a high school teacher (and remember A&E were 15 and 17 when they started writing So Much More), and I received a research paper about Karl Marx that began with the line above, I would be having a serious talk with that student because this is not the language of diligent, studious research. Marx’s birth and death dates could have been looked up in any modern encyclopedia or dictionary, or heck, even Wikipedia. (According to itself, Wikipedia started in 2001 and So Much More was published 2005, so yes, as long as A&E had internet access – and I know they did because many of their footnotes are to websites – they could have accessed it.) In other words: A&E, if you want your readers to take you (and/or your dad) seriously, take your own subject seriously.
[Marx] absolutely hated fatherhood and daughterhood. He hated patriarchy. He hated the concept of submission and honor to God-ordained authority. He hated everything about the father-daughter relationship that was nourished and modeled in the family. He believed the family stood in the way of his ambitions to replace Christianity with international socialism. His life’s work was fueled by an extraordinary hatred of God’s order.
Wow, Marx sure hated a lot of things. Where can I go to find more information on this? Did Marx write anything? What exactly is “international socialism”?
Hope you didn’t ask any of those questions, because there’s no citations anywhere in this paragraph. In fact, this is basically everything we learn about Marxism in this chapter. Thus A&E have not only fallen again into their longstanding habit of completely failing to define key terms in their arguments, they’ve also given their readers very few clues for further reading (even though Marx has, in their own words, “influenced modern thinking possibly more than any other person”), and little to no ability to fact-check anything A&E have said unless they already know where to look.
Another enormous warning sign (even to this reader who is hardly an expert on the details of Marxism) which I think deserves special mention: A&E never mention The Communist Manifesto, even though it’s, well, kinda famous, and described here by actual Marxists as “the main document stating the principles of Marxism.” You’d think this would be an important source for A&E’s readers, so they can go take a look at the enemy’s game plan. Instead, a reader who knew literally nothing about the history of communism, could leave Chapter 6 with not even an inkling that this extremely important document even exists.
Next we move on to the conspiracy proper, which I already addressed in my previous post. Once again, I am not well-versed enough in Marxist historiy to specifically confirm or refute any of this (though much of it seems to be based on secret behind-the-scenes plotting, which, as I noted at the beginning of this post, is a classic feature and weakness of conspiracy theories). So instead of tackling the whole thing, I’m only going to focus on some historical details that, I think, demonstrate once again that A&E are falling down on the job. Let’s start with this.
Basically, [the Frankfurt School’s] objective was to turn God’s order on its head. Thus, if the Bible taught a family-based education model, they insisted on forced state schooling (with a curriculum of their own design).
To my ear, this sounds as if A&E are claiming that, before those mean nasty Marxists came along, “forced state schooling” did not exist. “Forced state schooling,” I assume, is a reference to compulsory public school attendance. Except, having grown up around homeschool leadership in my home state (CT), I know for a fact that this is not true. My mother has two degrees in political science and economics, and thus was the person in leadership locally who kept track of the legal issues that could potentially affect homeschoolers. As such, I learned a lot about the Connecticut Duties of Parents statute (10-184), reproduced in part below (emphasis mine):
All parents and those who have the care of children shall bring them up in some lawful and honest employment and instruct them or cause them to be instructed in reading, writing, spelling, English grammar, geography, arithmetic and United States history and in citizenship, including a study of the town, state and federal governments. Subject to the provisions of this section and section 10-15c, each parent or other person having a control of a child five years of age and over and under eighteen years of age shall cause such child to attend a public school regularly during the hours and terms the public school in the district in which such child resides is in session, unless such child is a high school graduate or the parent or person having control of such child is able to show that the child is elsewhere receiving equivalent instruction in the studies taught in the public schools.
This middle bit is, pretty obviously, mandating that parents send their children to school. A little more research reveals that Connecticut instituted compulsory attendance in 1872, and that schools in Connecticut had received public funding since 1798. (See here for more info.) Thus, what we have here is a law ordering parents to send their children to schools that receive state funding. That would seem to qualify under A&E’s broad wording of “forced state schooling,” and 1872 was a long, long time before the Frankfurt School was founded…in 1923. Can A&E explain this? Do they even know about this?
A&E move on, and Marxism seems to be the only game in town until:
This part of the revolution was deliberately non-violent. It was called cultural Marxism, because it saturated the culture by going straight to the minds of every man and woman. The goal of Marx’s feminism
Wait – when did feminism come into this? I mean, yes, on the one hand, I suppose it was only a matter of time before A&E brought it up. But on the other hand, it hadn’t been mentioned in this chapter at all prior to this – except for a somewhat vague claim that Marx has loyal female followers (which you would only know was a backhanded reference to feminism if you already knew what was coming later) – and now that it has shown up, it’s simply been inserted without any explanation at all. So are A&E at least going to define it for us?
No. The closest we get to a clear definition is this, five pages later:
If the word “feminist” meant “a defender of women” or “someone who believes women and men are of equal worth,” then every Christian woman should be a feminist.
So clearly someone who is “a defender of women” and “believes women and men are of equal worth” is not a feminist. You might expect that a clear definition of who is a feminist would follow this statement. But again, as in previous chapters, no. The best we can do is piece together statements from the intervening five pages, which leaves us with a general picture of A&E’s “feminist” as a Marxist who hates men, God and Biblical womanhood. In fact A&E almost seem to treat feminism and Marxism as the same thing, since their description of Marx hinged entirely on the fact that he also hated “God’s order” (i.e. God Himself and gender hierarchy).
A&E continue on the topic of feminism for a little while, until finally they begin to explain how and why Christian society has (allegedly) never oppressed or devalued women. In the midst of this section is this (emphasis A&E’s):
In pagan cultures, women have been considered property, decorative objects, sexual objects, slaves, and/or the personification of evil.
This sentence immediately follows a paragraph explaining how only Christian societies have properly understood women’s worth. Thus, the specially emphasized “have” serves to create the impression that in Christian cultures, women have never been considered any of the things on this list. Including, I assume, slaves.
I know A&E have heard of the Civil War. All their patriocentrists friends certainly have. Doug Wilson especially makes no secret of his love for the antebellum South, and in fact calls it “the last nation of the first Christendom.” But how does this fit with A&E’s assertion that, apparently, no Christian society has ever had female slaves? Were all these stories made up? How could a book entitled Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl even exist? – since clearly there were no slave girls, since the antebellum South was a Christian society and thus couldn’t possibly have had female slaves, because unlike pagan societies, it understood the value of women.
(The problem doesn’t stop there, either, because the accounts in the link above contain stories, not just of the sexual abuse and coercion of women, but also of men. I would think patriocentrists would be horrified by such acts and roundly condemn the society that institutionalized and justified them. And yet, they continue to glamorize the antebellum South. What happened to their concerns about male welfare?)
This just…blows my mind. Is this really what A&E are claiming here? Please, please tell me it isn’t. It can’t be. This makes so little sense and is so profoundly detached from life as we know it and reality, that I think my brain is having trouble comprehending it. And yet, at the same time, I cannot see any other meaning in what they wrote. At least not one that actually follows the rules of logic and grammar. So seriously, really. Is this really what A&E intended to claim?
Actually, since A&E are on the verge of rendering me incoherent, it’s probably a good time for me to end this post. But before we go, I just want to mention one more thing that makes me suspicious that A&E’s ideas about the Frankfurt School are a little…odd. Or at least, embraced by a lot of other people who –
On second thought, why don’t you just look at the pictures. Because this is what comes up when you put the phrase “cultural Marxism” into Google Images. (WARNING: contains pretty extreme anti-Semitism and racism.) And I didn’t just take the blogger’s word for it – I put the phrase into Google Images myself. And yes, he really did leave out the worst ones.
So – sorry, A&E. I may not be able to prove without a doubt that your boat won’t float, but I’m still not getting in it.
NOTE: Final link not intended to address #GamerGate content. Any comments about/relating to #GamerGate will not be approved.
A new period of education in Connecticut began in 1795. In that year Connecticut parcelled and sold off to private purchasers areas of its Western Reserve in the Ohio Territory. The money from this sale was originally to be used as funds for the ministry. However, this idea met with so much opposition that the General Assembly decided to set aside this money for perpetual educational use, and it became the base for the state’s first School Fund. In 1798, the legislature transferred control of the public schools from the ecclesiastical societies of the town to the newly formed school societies. From now on, the schools would be maintained by a civil authority. A board of managers was established to control the public fund, and under James Hillhouse the board showed an annual dividend of nearly $50,000 after 1800. (source)