Faux Conservatism at Fox News

For months now, Fox News luminary Pete Hegseth has been lecturing us about the “miseducation of America.” One of Hegseth’s favorite targets has been the Frankfurt School, a subject about which his colleagues bow to his glittering wisdom. Hegseth has spoken about his research more than once on Prager University, which may be the Con Inc. equivalent of a Regius Professorship at Cambridge.

According to Hegseth, who I doubt reads a word of German (the language in which the Frankfurt School produced most of its seminal work), the German refugees, whom he excoriates, corrupted American education from the time they reached these shores in 1933. But these German subversives were only adding insult to injury. The degeneration of learning and ethics to which they contributed was already afflicting us because of the Progressives, who had taken over and polluted our public education system 30 years earlier. (Hegseth can wax eloquent talking about Progressives just as well as the Frankfurt School.)

As I was listening to Hegseth, it dawned on me that in comparison to Fox News producers and many of their stars, members of the early Frankfurt School were paragons of bourgeois virtues. Unlike Hegseth, they did not have a number of children by different lovers, including one with a fellow Fox employee while being married to someone else, after having divorced another lady. The host of PragerU is working on his third marriage, which is a record that Frankfurt School academics Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, or my former teacher Herbert Marcuse may not have matched. Yes, I know that Marcuse and Adorno were notoriously promiscuous, but to their credit, and unlike Hegseth, they did not combine that with a tendency to lecture about family morality.

I’ve also noticed that Fox is celebrating gay pride month. As I watch the channel, rainbow flags stare out from my screen almost as often as the Ukrainian colors. They regularly interview “proud gay” guests to express solidarity with the woke cause.  Occasionally, I encounter Fox News’ favorite transgender, Caitlyn Jenner, whose job, I would surmise, is to denounce transgendered Democrats, who don’t have the good sense to watch Fox. Perhaps I should be happy that the right sorts of philanderers, homosexual marriage partners, and men posing as women appear on a “conservative” channel. We wouldn’t want to confuse our guys and gals (and the whatevers who lie between the genders) with those nasty Frankfurt School Germans who came here to debauch our kids in the 1930s and whose descendants (presumably all registered Democrats) have been corrupting American youth ever since.

An encyclopedic study of the Frankfurt School by Rolf Wiggershaus suggests that his subjects never endorsed gay marriage or celebrated transgendering. The “cultural Marxist” consensus seems to have been that homosexuality is a psychiatric disorder, a view that the Frankfurt School took from Freud and promoted in this country. Unfortunately, those lashing out against cultural radicals are well to the left of the first generation of the Frankfurt School.

Since I have criticized the Frankfurt School repeatedly in books, I am the furthest thing from their unqualified defender. But one doesn’t have to like how Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, and other members of the Frankfurt School affected American politics and culture to recognize that Fox News’ celebrities are engaging in blatant hypocrisy when they blast Frankfurt School refugees as moral radicals.   

A justification I sometimes hear for our present Republican media is that it’s good these Fox News opinionators don’t come off as too conservative because we’re living in a leftist culture. I would respond by pointing out that these impostors have done nothing to make that culture less leftist. By acting for decades as gatekeepers for “respectable” discourse and by keeping out of the public discussion those who do not accept their periodic accommodations of the left, our faux news conservatives have been partly responsible for the leftward lurch of our politics and culture. They’ve helped the establishment left to disarm otherwise cogent opposition on the right. They are (to use an appropriate Marxist term) “objectively” of the left themselves.

It would be false to claim that these celebrities have advanced to their high perches because no one else is willing to represent our side. Rather, they have seized their position with money and influence, and they have closed it off to others. Significantly, the grovelers don’t even earn the respect of the hard-line wokesters, who accuse them of not being fully behind the LGBT cause.

The proper conservative response to the media-driven gay pride spectacle afflicting us this month is “Me ne frego!”—“I don’t give a damn!

Image: Pete Hegseth, of Fox News (Gage Skidmore / via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0)

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