On Monday, November 29, 10:30 a.m. PST, I will be speaking online to Bündnis Gegen Antisemitismus – Köln (Alliance Against Antisemitism – Cologne, Germany) on the antisemitic conspiracy theory of “Cultural Marxism” and how the conspiracy theory is spreading as well as undermining antiracist education through the overlap of this conspiracy theory with conspiracy theories about “Critical Race Theory.” The talk will be in English.
The talk will air live on the Bündnis Gegen Antisemitismus – Köln YouTube channel: Bündnis gegen Antisemitismus Köln – YouTube. More information is available on the Facebook event here: (1) Joan Braune: “Cultural Marxism” | Facebook.
“Cultural Marxism” is an antisemitic conspiracy theory about Jewish Marxist scholars belonging to the Frankfurt School. According to the conspiracy theory, these scholars implemented a slow takeover of “culture,” seeking to undermine Christianity, family, and nation in favor of a new worldview and international system of control, involving embracing diversity, sexual liberation, and moral and aesthetic decline. The conspiracy theorists believe that “cultural Marxism” now controls all areas of public life, including the media, schools, entertainment, the economy, and national and global systems of governance. Not only does this theory vastly overestimate the influence of a small group of Jewish intellectuals; it repackages old antisemitic tropes and serves as an updated, post-Cold War version of the Nazi “Judeo-Bolshevism” conspiracy theory.
The cultural Marxism conspiracy theory is popular among fascists and white supremacists, and has inspired mass shootings, including the attacks by Norwegian white nationalist Anders Breivik in 2011. However, the conspiracy theory is also making its way into the conservative mainstream. It has been favorably referenced by some conservative politicians around the world, often in the context of attacks on education and academic freedom. In the United States, the cultural Marxism conspiracy theory is increasingly merging with conspiracy theories about “Critical Race Theory” which aim to shut down anti-racist education in schools and workplaces. Conspiracy theories about “Critical Race Theory” and “cultural Marxism” trade on similar fears. For example, both conspiracy theories claim that teachers are using Critical Race Theory or Cultural Marxism to suppress “free speech” or “make white children feel ashamed.” Since the “cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory is often merging with conspiracy theories targeting other minority groups, overcoming its influence may require uniting in solidarity against a variety of conspiracy theories targeting Jews as well as other minority groups.
Dr. Joan Braune is a Lecturer in Philosophy at Gonzaga University, and her current research explores Frankfurt School Critical Theory’s work on fascism and applies Critical Theory insights to countering the rise of fascism and far-right movements today, especially in the United States. She is author of the book Erich Fromm’s Revolutionary Hope: Prophetic Messianism as a Critical Theory of the Future (Sense Publishers 2014) and co-editor with Kieran Durkin of Erich Fromm’s Critical Theory: Hope, Humanism and the Future (Bloomsbury 2020). She has written numerous articles, including “Who’s Afraid of the Frankfurt School? ‘Cultural Marxism’ as an Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory.” She is a frequent speaker on countering hate groups, is active in the Gonzaga Institute for Hate Studies, and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Hate Studies. She has helped organize locally against white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups active in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.