Why Must Aesthetics Govern A Society Worthy Of Political Freedom? Ask the CIA

By Matthew Ehret

In the mid-1990s, a series of exposés featured on the London Independent and elsewhere brought a dark secret to light.

Many were startled by the revelation that the entire evolution of 20th century modern art was directed in large measure by the CIA! This not only included the direct financing of abstract painters like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, whose works now regularly sell for over $100 million apiece, but also powerful literary magazines like Salon and Encounter, interpretive dance schools, and the remarkably ugly a-tonal music of Arnold Schoenberg.

Samples of a Pollock (left) and Rothko painting (right)

The instrument selected to re-shape western cultural tastes in the wake of World War II came to be known as the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF). Founded in 1950 with funding from the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, the CCF was designed to 1) promote the de-Nazification of Germany and 2) fight the cultural war against the communist world that had just recently been organized by Sir Winston Churchill. The logic of the Cultural Cold War asserted that since communism and fascism relied on “realist/rigid iconography” to advance itself, the “free world” on the other side of the Iron Curtain would rely on abstract, emotional “freedom”. Where communism was based on the sacrifice of the individual for the “good” of the whole, this Cold War democracy asserted that the needs of the whole were separate from the arbitrary freedom of the individual to “do whatever feels good”. The degree to which the new modernism offended order and logic was proportional to the degree to which it defended “democracy and liberal capitalism”.

It is noteworthy that the CCF was run largely under the direction of the same Lord Bertrand Russell who had just a few years earlier called for the pre-emptive nuking of the Soviet Union in order to achieve a one world government.  Russell’s active work subverting the arts should not be seen apart from his imperial political views, or his efforts to impose a system of shackles upon the minds of scientists who would forever be rendered creatively sterile due to a belief that fixed mathematics governed the universe as outlined in his Principia Mathematica [1]. Zeus cannot after all tolerate knowledge of fire (science), the freedom to use it (politics) or the instincts to use it well (culture). It is only by thinking in terms of those three interconnected aspects of the human condition, that one can understand the 20th century or history more generally. Describing his view of culture Russell wrote in the 1951 Impact of Science on Society:

“I think the subject which will be of most importance politically is mass psychology…. Its importance has been enormously increased by the growth of modern methods of propaganda. Of these the most influential is what is called ‘education.’ Religion plays a part, though a diminishing one; the press, the cinema, and the radio play an increasing part…. It may be hoped that in time anybody will be able to persuade anybody of anything if he can catch the patient young and is provided by the State with money and equipment.”

Theodor Adorno

Adorno, whose theories on music are still considered a gold standard in modern academia and who also ironically created the foundation for the “top 40 hits” as part of the creation of a culture for the masses detached from an “elite culture” for the oligarchy and its managers, described his ideal of the “new music” in the following terms:

“What radical music perceives is the un-transfigured suffering of man…. The seismographic registration of traumatic shock becomes, at the same time, the technical structural law of music. It forbids continuity and development. Musical language is polarized according to its extreme; towards gestures of shock resembling bodily convulsions on the one hand, and on the other towards a crystalline standstill of a human being whom anxiety causes to freeze in her tracks…. Modern music sees absolute oblivion as its goal. It is the surviving message of despair from the shipwrecked.”

Since Adorno exemplified the oligarchical belief in the inevitable decay (entropy) of all existence and the associated belief that the arts should MIRROR that reality, Adorno wrote in his Philosophy of Modern Music that ultimately “necrophilia is the last perversity of style”.

It is no wonder that the ultimate enemy of an oligarchy is found in the optimistic belief that moral reason exists within the essence of all human nature as a unique species made in the image of a Good and loving Creator. What types of art reflect that divine sense of humankind? What types of systems of political philosophy express it? Is a system of hereditary power equal to a system that posits that “all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights”? Is it true that Bach’s Jesu Meine Freud or Mozart’s Requiemshould be treated as somehow equal to the “sophisticated” atonal music of the 20th century? Should a painting by Rembrandt or Davinci be treated as equal to the ink splatterings of Pollock or the blurry squares of Rothko? What happens to the powers of judging right from wrong, and truth from lies in a society which embraces an art which is animated by love and beauty vs an art animated by pessimistic ugliness? Which type of society would be easier to manipulate?

A Return to the Universal in Art: Schiller as Antidote to the CCF

The German poet Friedrich Schiller, who was shaped by the global republican movement that spread in the wake of the American Revolution asked in his Aesthetical Letters (1794) “how is the artist to protect himself against the corruption of the age that besets him on all sides? By disdaining its opinion.” If the masses are debased to believe that poison is their drug, then how could a true artist cater to their desires, no matter how popular? To do this requires an extremely advanced moral disposition since both money and fame must be sacrificed in order to challenge a society to become better. Schiller said that for one to be committed to truth and its corollary Freedom in the highest pursuit of Beauty, an artist had to find a way to balance existing in space and time, but always strive to transcend their temporal society’s limitations in a constant search for the eternal. In his sixth letter Schiller wrote:

“No doubt the artist is the child of his time, but unhappy for him if he is its disciple or even its favorite! He will, indeed, receive his matter from the present time, but he will borrow the form from a nobler time and even beyond all time, from the essential, absolute, immutable unity. There, issuing from the pure ether of its heavenly nature, flows the source of all beauty, which was never tainted by the corruptions of generations or of ages, which roll along far beneath it in dark eddies.”

Schiller’s thoughts were not written in an ivory tower, but were driven by his leading efforts as a playwright, poet and founder of a field of research known as the Science of Universal History. Although his life was short, he not only left an incredible opus that inspired some of the most noble works of music such as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and Verdi’s operas, he also directly shaped a network of other artists, scientists and statesmen through the Weimar Renaissance such as both Humboldt brothers and Wolfgang Goethe to name a few.

The need to cure society of its tendency to fall under the sway of either extreme of abstract intellectual matters devoid of emotional growth on the one side and emotional chaos detached uninformed from reason on the other was the basis of Schiller’s own self-development and his guiding light in the creation of a culture capable of attaining true political freedom [2].

It is this spirit that the perverted “end of history” zombies of the CCF wanted to destroy through their manipulation of global affairs leading into World War I, their humiliation of Germany under the Versailles Treaty and their financing of Adolph Hitler through Wall Street and the City of London’s Bank of International Settlements. The fact that these same forces who created the world wars and fascist monsters of the 20th century were also given the authority to offer the “cure” in the form of the CCF de-nazification of Germany and new “democratic” culture of abstract art, modernist music and existential philosophy is akin to allowing the murderer give the eulogy at his victims’ funeral.

Now that China’s Belt and Road Initiative is leading a new paradigm of win-win cooperation we are witnessing an inspired re-awakening of popularity in classical artistic standards in music, art, and even architecture. The choice is once again being placed in front of all citizens: Do we wish to continue to swim in the pigsty of cultural decadence and pessimism unleashed by the CCF, or do we want to embrace a future more becoming of a species made in the Creator’s image?


[1] Luckily for the world, Einstein’s close friend Kurt Gödel inspired by his studies of Gottfried Leibniz, put an end to this endeavor in 1931 by demonstrating that Russell’s belief in a closed mathematical system was impossible as all systems are intrinsically open and thus susceptible to constant perfectibility. Unluckily for Gödel, Russell never forgave him and made sure that the remaining years of his life were hellish with Gödel finally meeting a tragic end in 1977 convinced that Bertrand Russell and international secret societies were trying to destroy Leibniz and were also trying to poison him.

[2] The author delivered a larger presentation on the subject accessible here:

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. I have been dealing with these issue for many years on my blog, Thingumbobesquire.blogspot.com (named after a tale of Edgar Poe) This entry is my latest: http://thingumbobesquire.blogspot.com/2021/01/big-bang-theorists-versus-mr-poe.html
    One thing that is remarkable is that the great poet John Keats was able to take material that was quite riddled with the occult maneuverings of British geopolitics like Robert Burton’s ponderous pro Rosicrucian tome the Anatomy of Melancholy and yet still transform it into aesthetical beauty in his poem The Eve of St. Agnes..

  2. sandy says:

    I read this after the Off-Guardian article on Capra. I have been reading similar anti-modernist aesthetic ideas for a bit now. I looked at your video lecture. I am a well trained contemporary artist with a good background in art history. While I like that your theory promotes socially oriented art, the idea that Picasso’s Guernica is a lesser socially aware work because of it’s style, is problematic. Modern art did not start after WW2. I understand the CIA/System meddling in the success of post-WW2 abstraction. But the transformation of art movements throughout history has been an indigenous process largely funneled through the eye of the needle of the rich and powerful. It is just plain wrong to point to the work of Rothko and Pollock as examples of purely sensualist art without spiritual or social significance. Rothko saw his work as a spiritual quest for transcendence. Meditation and transcendence does have a spiritual purpose in human consciousness and Pollock’s work transcends the picture plane.

    The progress toward “abstraction” was ushered in by the existence of the photograph stealing the depiction capacity of painting. Artists began questioning what painting was all about, depicting reality or being reality. They questioned the act of representation, realizing physical art is an object, is reality, and not a depiction of reality. Malevich “painted” a black square canvas in 1915 questioning the act of painting. Nothing was out of the topical scope of being an art object whose nature is communication in any direction. The idea that art must be of a specific type and style, a narrative, with brilliant realist depiction of human facial expression or sentimental, uplifting landscape is ridiculously narrow-minded.

    I also question the role of capitalist elites using their spies and propagandists to manipulate every element of society into thinking as they wish us to. But the pittance of this effort in the Arts, even James Baldwin was roped in, does not add up to hegemonic control, How do you control a penniless artist who is willing to trade food for paint? Afterwards when he is successful? Hardly. To me it adds up to having their oversight fingers on the pulse of developments so if necessary they can pull strings to manipulate rogue artists and art audiences. To point to the art world when their TwoParty and military, police state run the world is myopic in my opinion.

    I love Capra’s work as vital, ethical, wondrous narrative and It’s a Wonderful Life as possibly the most pertinent moral art for American society in 2021. But there is an ocean of wonderful modern works of incredible diverse media, forms, methods and conveyances, that would not exist if we artists were still painting narrative pictures trying to get art viewers off their ass and push for social revolution to egalitarian society. I love all art that is good and socially pertinent, whatever the form or content. The problem we have in the 21st C in my opinion is anything goes postmodernism. PM is the CIA’s confusionism projected on to the capitalist art world and society as a whole. Art is all about consciousness, what is real and what is possible. Duchamp, Magritte, Dada. Surrealism, Beuys, Richter, Laurie Anderson and thousands more have produced compelling moral and spiritual works outside the arena y’all descibe here. I admit these good works are a tiny minority of the high end 21st C art become market. But there is an ocean of good works by little known and little seen contemporary artists at all levels that are just not allowed in the Casino’s doors. If the US population had better more rounded education we would all have a more public supporting and working toward a moral and spiritual egalitarian world.

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