The Frankfurt School for Wayward Girls and the Dialectics of Fascism

Putting “acceptable” limits on depravity in the name of compromise and “reality” is how fascism eventually triumphs. Or so said Professor Yvonne De Carlo of ‘Miss Yvonne’s Academy for Wayward Hussies’ also known as ‘The Frankfurt School’ – a place of higher learning for pregnant, delinquent scholars. “Your new president is merely proof that the depraved nature of power is given license by tolerating all but its excesses” said Professor De Carlo as she powdered her ample cleavage in full view of the astonished, pinafore-clad undergrads gathered for her lecture on the ‘Dialectic of Fascism and French Manicures Made Easy-Peasy the Miss Yvonne Way’.

“You want to know what brought Trump to power? Hint: It wasn’t a sudden, inexplicable, sewage-strewn wave of raw hatred poised to strike down public schools, libraries and national parks at the behest of a braying, stupid mob of “privileged” former factory workers. Nor can you blame it entirely on the insanity wrought by decades of institutional neglect or unchecked greed – although that was a big part of it. It was the institutionally *nice* people all too willing to accept certain ‘realities’ to ensure their place at the proverbial table remained a pristine space of individually apportioned, locally sourced food; a place where rhetorical restraint replaced actual political solutions to any given problem” Professor De Carlo then drew a jeweled saber from her tasseled sash and stabbed the air with it like she was fighting off several amorous Pharaohs all at once.

“You chose ‘safe’ over actual justice – meaning someone else’s kid will take a police bullet to the chest so that we can all read approved, heavily redacted novels in the peace and comfort of a colorful ball pit of higher learning like our own Frankfurt School, which I should mention was only made possible by a generous corporate donation from a multi-national purveyor of processed pork by-products with vaguely German origins. Pass this term and you’ll all be awarded a certificate declaring you free from venereal diseases, and the skills necessary to lower live poultry into a vat of ammonia in a subsidiary facility owned by our trustees. At your age, I was performing burlesque numbers on the mean streets of Canada at the behest of my stage mother. But I’ll tell you all about that later in the term when we cover ‘Hoochie-Coochie Cave Dancing of the Early Ottoman Empire – as Explained by a Scantily-Clad Miss Yvonne Waving a Jewel-Encrusted Saber at a Burly Egyptian. Consider that your ‘trigger warning’. Now let’s proceed:

It was enough that we embraced Caitlyn Jenner and applauded Meryl Streep giving the phone book version of the Gettysburg Address to her wealthy patrons – I could give a better soliloquy while swallowing a sword and balancing a cobra on my head, but I digress . . . It was enough to sprout a ‘dad boner’ over Pussy Riot to declare ourselves – “punk rock”, even as we devised ways to make earth’s human and animal life redundant during brainstorming meetings that took place in an indoor ergonomic playground that served wheat grass martinis on tap.

(Pussy) hats off to all of you here who marched against whatever it was the other day. Millions did so to show solidarity and resistance to what they rightly believe is a depraved, balls out, white supremacist agenda led by a massive turd covered in Cheetoh dust. It’s encouraging to see millions take to the streets en masse brandishing cat toys for any reason. Too bad they couldn’t summon the will to do so when I was overlooked by the studios to play Cleopatra in favor of another blowsy, liver-damaged brunette demanding a higher salary. Speaking of misplaced priorities . . . Twittler’s plans to escalate nuclear tensions with a missile ‘defense system’ against Iran and North Korea? The sort of radio silence on the part of ‘activists’ that I reserve for drunk gentleman callers confusing me with Delores Del Rio.
My dear friend Herbert Marcuse who took me under his bosom . . . Or was that the other way around? . . . argued that the technocratic efficiency of advanced, industrial societies had rendered it ‘one-dimensional’ . . . and as such, resistant to all critiques of it. I wonder what Herbie would make of Pussy hats on the Potomac and pretend Hillary at the piano belting out Leonard Cohen on SNL? No doubt he’d say “Didn’t I tell you?” and wiggle his shot glass for a refill like he always did when scored a particularly trenchant philosophical point.

Our “aversion to introspection” according to Adorno – another generous benefactor to the Frankfurt School – renders left-opposition to Trump little more than an elite-led, sour grape authoritarianism that is unable to contemplate its own role in a paradigmatic shift towards a more ‘unprincipled’ and unpredictable variety of global aggression. If you don’t believe him, just ask a white feminist how writing ‘rape culture’ on her boobs in sharpie will ‘shame the patriarchy’, and this will give you some idea about why I start every afternoon coughing up a ball of mentholated phlegm into my cornflakes”.

Professor De Carlo then took a swig from her flask which had ‘Holy Water’ written on it: “A gift from Yul Brynner” she announced, “But I ain’t tellin’ ya what for. But let me tell you what brought us to this precise moment of imminent planetary collapse: It was “nice” people with library cards and rescue pets accepting the kind of compromises on the part of their leaders that result in bulldozing homes in the occupied Palestine territories, imprisoning whistle blowers, putting indigenous land everywhere under threat, and even sodomizing a half dead Pan-African leader while he lay dying in a drainpipe. They didn’t seem to mind that the Nobel Laureate they cheered into office on the ‘change’ ticket, expanded the US’s nuclear arsenal and bombed more countries than Bush I and II combined”. A ferret pissing on your pillow sends a stronger message to Washington than a parade of pussies on the Potomac! Marcuse at least aligned himself with Angela Davis while many of you silly trollops take your marching orders from a celebrity Instagram account.

Some of the students looked at each other and their nails uneasily, as if wondering when she would get on with the part about manicures. Professor De Carlo ignored them, and cleared her throat of its mentholated phlegm before going on:

“It’s the ‘realists’ who sign off on nearly $40 billion in military ‘aid’ to Israel so that it can build more settlements in defiance of International law, and the similarly unexamined reasoning that blames Russian hackers for the DNC’s corrupt maneuvering to install its preferred Wall Street-friendly candidate in defiance of roughly half the voting population. The same folks who cry foul the loudest when an asshole takes his rightful place on the golden, Imperial throne after they have spent years polishing it for him, and expanding its powers to flush away civil liberties and environmental protections. Now all of a sudden that reclining, ermine-trimmed commode in the Oval Office is a “hot seat”.

Speaking of ‘hot seats’, back in the day when I was bumping and grinding on the Paramount lot for chump change, Charlton would grab me by the pussy and . . . well, never mind that now. Let’s just say that my jungle cat left a permanent scar on his psyche and not a single scratch on my lower mandibles. Not sure where any of this is going, but you get the picture”. Professor “Yvonne” as she kept insisting we call her at this point, drained the last of her ‘Holy Water’ and twirled a little lasso over her head that she had nicked from the set of ‘Shotgun’. But this part of the lecture fell flat when none of the students seemed to know who Sterling Hayden was, nor cared to know why he wasn’t fit to be tied up in her bed. Miss Yvonne gamely continued:

“It’s the ‘nice’ – meaning the technocratically-minded gatekeepers of the ‘left’, who perform the linguistic feats necessary to justify, say, the involuntary sacrifice of dozens of Yemeni civilians to maintain cordial relations with a despotic petrostate that helps prop up a neighboring Apartheid regime equally ill-disposed towards its benefactor. ‘This is why we can’t have nice things like brutalist revolving restaurants atop lower Manhattan office towers’, they will remind you. ‘Ingrates like you always second-guessing the stuff we do to prevent maniacs from getting into the White House’. Like all that ‘aisle reaching’. Lemme remind you . . . When someone *reaches across the aisle*, it’s usually to grasp at the last straws of power allotted to them by whichever democratically elected fascist regime happens to control Congress. Or it’s a hands-y director trying to cop a feel on a red-eye flight from LA. Yes, Otto Preminger, I’m talking to YOU!

It’s the “nice” that refused to hold Obama’s feet to the fire, giving him carte blanche to capitulate wholly to the more clamorous and opportunistic voices of his inner circle without ever troubling his conscience. The guy was so cool he could grant clemency to Chelsea Manning AND bomb a failed state into further oblivion all in the same week. The nice among us, whom we used to call ‘Good Germans’, prefer that you don’t bring ‘false equivalency’ into civilized discussions about state-sponsored murder, and focus on the positive . . . like . . . um . . . ‘At least under Trump, my sad, makeup-free selfies will have all the political urgency of Guernica’.

‘Nice’ folks would never venture into the treacherous waters of condemning or even criticizing your country’s first black president for reasons entirely to do with the sort of career-minded, self-preservation that says “Bummer about Leonard Peltier – whoever that is – but Michelle Obama sure rawked that Zac Posen dress on the cover of Vogue!

To make a long-winded lecture only as long as it takes to dry one’s nails after the second coat of Revlon’s ‘Dead Roses on a Dusky Tomb’: Trump didn’t win in spite of your ‘reasoned’ acceptance of the outgoing president’s expanded powers, but because you were willing to rationalize its unsavory aspects long enough to ensure its unchecked and unbridled form reached its inevitable conclusion.

Professor De Carlo then flounced out of the lecture hall with the scent of Shalimar, and two or three shirtless Cabana boys trailing behind her discarded veils. “I’m off to powder my you know what. Class – and I mean the particular one that conflates legal weed smoking with political resistance – dismissed”!

This piece first appeared at The Chiseler.

Jennifer Matsui is a writer living in Tokyo and a columnist for the print edition of CounterPunch magazine.