Herbert Marcuse and the suppression of conservative speech
By Bill Connor
The progressive agenda to suppress conservative speech is ramping up to alarming levels. During the 2020 presidential campaign we saw a new level of conservative censorship with suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. The publication of the New York Post story about the laptop information was actively suppressed before the election by Big Tech and mainstream media. The head of CNN, Mark Zucker, was caught on a conference call telling reporters not to run the story. Virtually all mainstream media sources called it “Russian disinformation” and conspiracy. We later learned the FBI had Hunter under investigation for information on the laptop, but this was after the election. The Biden administration has now come out publicly with an even more egregious suppression: requesting social media sources not to allow what they consider “disinformation” to be publicized — even calls to censor private text messaging. The ethos and “justification” for suppressing conservative speech in America can be traced to the writings of Herbert Marcuse starting in the early 1960s. Marcuse’s writings have brought this assault on our freedom, including freedom of religion and speech, and must be exposed and repudiated.
Herbert Marcuse was as a German communist and part of the notorious “Frankfurt School” of German Marxists in the 1920s and 30s. The aim of the Frankfurt School was to dismantle capitalism in Germany and bring Germany into the Soviet fold of international communism. At first, their ideology focused on the traditional economic classes between proletariat and bourgeoisie. Later, after influence by the writings of Italian communist and cultural Marxist Antonio Gramsci, the Frankfurt School moved toward cultural Marxism as a way to implode Western society to bring a Communist Revolution. With the rise of the Nazis in Germany, Marcuse and the Frankfurt School communists left Germany to reestablish themselves primarily at Columbia University. Marcuse taught at multiple universities in America, though his most famous writings were while he taught at Harvard University.
Marcuse believed Western capitalist democracies of his period were irredeemably repressive and must be dismantled. Like Karl Marx, Marcuse was an atheistic materialist, who believed humans were evolving and formed almost solely by society. Marcuse was brutal in his condemnation of Western democratic capitalist society, including this description: “systematic moronization of children and adults alike by publicity and propaganda, the release of destructiveness in aggressive driving, the recruitment for and training of special forces, the impotent and benevolent tolerance toward outright deception in merchandising, waste and planned obsolescence.” In the mid-1960s, Marcuse believed America was driven by war, exploitation and oppression. He was completely opposed to Christianity, and specifically Christian morality, as part of the cultural hegemony.
During this period, Marcuse wrote his magnum opus book, Repressive Tolerance, in which he made this argument about the “right” kind of tolerance to combat the “corruption” of the West: “Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left.” Fred Bauer wrote for National Review of Marcuse: “Marcuse argued that, because of the radical repressiveness of Western society, a tolerance for all viewpoints actually contributed to social oppression. … The fact that society is so radically unequal means that we should be intolerant and repressive in the name of tolerance and liberty. He rejected what he termed ‘indiscriminate tolerance’ — a tolerance that accepts all viewpoints — in favor of ‘liberating tolerance’ or ‘discriminating tolerance.’”
Marcuse was a prolific cultural Marxist Revolutionary writer, covering a number of areas of society. His Eros and Civilization made the argument in 1955 for ending all sexual morality to flip the Western cultural hegemony. However, the pervasiveness of his arguments for discriminatory tolerance cannot be overstated in modern effects. Throughout many fields, particularly academia, the argument for suppression of conservative speech as a societal good took root. In the media, the Marcusian idea of “public journalism” has taken root. Basically, public journalism argues that traditional journalism assists in oppression, and that neutrality, objectivity and detachment should be replaced by journalists picking sides and actively seeking to bring betterment. With the overwhelming liberal bias of the media, this is a clear call for discriminatory tolerance in favor of the left.
We can see the harvest of Marcuse’s ideas in so many of the proposals from the left that are the antithesis of the First Amendment. Calls to criminally prosecute those who question 2020 election irregularities have grown to threats against state legislators in Pennsylvania, for example, along with the drowning out and violence against conservatives attempting to speak on college campuses. The 2020 College Free Speech Rankings found more than 60 percent of liberal students believed it was acceptable to shut down a speaker. The mainstream media networks have attempted to have Fox News taken off the air, and mainstream media celebrities have demanded social media drop conservative voices. All of this could not happen without the philosophical grounding of Herbert Marcuse’s warped propaganda.
It’s time to expose and repudiate the poison of Herbert Marcuse’s writings, and I end with a quote by Thomas Jefferson about the subject: “There is no safe deposit for [our Liberty] but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.”
Bill Connor is a 1990 Citadel graduate, 30-year Army infantry colonel (ret.) and combat veteran. He is a writer and attorney and lives in the Charleston area.