Having thus distinguished the parts, let us now consider the proper construction of the Fable or Plot, as that is at once the first and most important thing in Tragedy.Aristotle [i]
… the thing you have to understand is, reality doesn’t really care about your theory. Reality is the thing you run into when your beliefs are false.James Lindsay [ii]
In his series, The Marxist Roots of DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion], James Lindsay says his aim is to develop a “capacity for discernment” in his listeners. You must be able to look at a document, a news story, a television episode, your kid’s homework, “and discern where you’re seeing something that is genuinely dangerous, cloaked in nice-sounding language.” Nowhere are dangerous ideas more pervasive than television entertainment.
The ancient Greeks held that a poet (or a dramatist) was, ideally, an inspired prophet. The Greeks believed there was a profound connection between dramatic poetry, truth, and divinity. It has been said that the Greeks invented drama, which is something we watch today on TV. Aristotle suggested that the purpose of drama was to arouse in the audience feelings of pity and fear, which could then be purged through catharsis. This, he explained, would make people stronger. On the other hand, what if dramas could be constructed to make people weaker? What if drama were used as a vehicle to demean the true, the good, and the beautiful?
Under today’s regime of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion we encounter what Lindsay describes as a Clown World of “false realities” and “false values.” We see small female cops physically overcoming large and muscular bad guys. We see fathers portrayed as dolts and weaklings. We see criminal activity justified and abnormal behavior normalized. Here “entertainment” is used as a medium of perverse instruction. We find the four cardinal virtues inverted: with reckless behaviors in place of courage, equity in place of justice, licentiousness in place of temperance, and violent cunning in place of prudence.
The audience is led to identify with characters who commit crimes, including murder. The formula here is in accordance with Italian communist Antonio Gramsci’s cultural warfare, where the erosion of the bourgeois order takes place at every level. In terms of television, revolutionary Marxism sets out to recreate the interior world of the audience through twisted fables. Show them that religious people are hypocrites and all authority is fraudulent. Show them the fatal flaws that make the fall of capitalism inevitable. Show the injustices of the free market – where even well-meaning capitalists are oppressors. Here, in accordance with Marxism, all people are the victims of a system based on property rights.
Marxism is a demagogic theory, invented by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. It claims to be scientific and humanitarian when, in fact, it is unscientific and anti-human. Marx and Engels, in their Communist Manifesto, famously wrote, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles….” This thesis, however good it sounds, is untrue. Read a standard military history and check for yourself. From the Persian invasion of Greece in the fifth century BC, to the Russian invasion of Ukraine today, there have been many struggles that have nothing to do with class. Yet the Marxists promote their false theory of history, preaching class struggle to the left under socialist slogans while seeding the right with various conspiracy theories about evil rich people. To this end the Marxists have waged a Culture War on both sides of the political divide, using movies and television to indoctrinate the masses.
Look at the actors and actresses who presently engage in “virtue signaling.” Without knowing it, many entertainers are pushing a Marxist agenda. As James Lindsay explained in his series, the woke ideals of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are Marxist. And whether we acknowledge these ideals or not, they are everywhere. Since the American working class disappointed the revolutionary vanguard by failing to overthrow capitalism in the West, the Marxists cobbled together new revolutionary underclasses (i.e., in the form of angry feminists, non-whites, illegal immigrants, homosexuals, etc.). These groups are slated to form a new ruling majority in America, according to the current Program of the Communist Party USA (which is a Marxist-Leninist party). There will always be dishonest or ignorant people who deny that wokeism is a vehicle for advancing communism; but anyone can go to the website of the Communist Party USA and see for themselves.[iii] The communists have been so successful that their program is indistinguishable from the program of America’s ruling Democratic Party.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion serve as a façade behind which communism marches to victory. Thus, we are talking about the same totalitarian agenda found in the Soviet Union or today’s Chinese Communist Party; only it is packaged for the soft Western neurotic. Furthermore, as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion succeed in disenfranchising white males and Christians, Vladimir Putin stands ready to offer a right-wing Bolshevist variant for an angry underclass of disrespected white people that the communists have marginalized. What is needed, of course, is a large mass of alienated people. These can always be recruited for the destructive tasks at hand.
Drama as Gratuitous Violence
According to Aristotle, “All human happiness or misery takes the form of action…. Character gives us qualities, but it is in our actions – what we do – that we are happy or the reverse.”[iv] The message of a drama is found in the action, and the action is a construct where everything is intentionally arranged by the dramatist. The characters are vehicles for delivering that message. More than any other medium, tragedy (i.e., drama) is effective at conveying a “fable.”
The fables we enjoy, and the messages they convey, have power over us. Entertainment may, indeed, strengthen our emotions as Aristotle suggested. But entertainment can also weaken us. We hear, again and again, how lamentable it is that so much gratuitous violence has been injected into our shows and movies. The thing to beware, however, is not the violence per se.
The power of fable is not found in the production of special effects that excite the brain. Terrifying violence, acrobatics, realistic gore, etc., largely inspire a morbid and passing curiosity. The gladiatorial aspects of drama should not be mistaken for art, as in Quentin Tarantino’s pictorial obscenities. The moral vacuum that exists inside a scriptwriter becomes apparent when, after several films, we find a nihilistic cliché in place of a fable. Entertainment of this kind presents a sequence of meaningless, perverse, and shocking incidents instead of a plot. The characters who appear in this sequence need not be developed because they are animals intended for slaughter. This is not drama; rather, it is dining. It is a perverse feast for the eyes that pollutes the soul. This kind of thing was showcased in Tarantino’s movie, Inglourious Basterds, where he begins his “story” with an atrocity committed during the Holocaust. This sets the stage for a sadistic massacring of a “Nazi” theater audience. This audience, at the same time, is watching and applauding a film in which their enemies are being slaughtered. In this we find an implied infinite regress, where audiences are slaughtered while watching slaughter. Contrary to Aristotle’s dictum, this does not arouse fear or pity in an audience. It only arouses nausea and disgust. Christopher Hitchens said that watching this film was like “sitting in the dark having a great pot of warm piss emptied very slowly over your head.”
One might ask what the point of such entertainment is. First and foremost, it is degrading. It dehumanizes as it unfolds. It indulges a guilty pleasure which the Nazis themselves indulged; namely, killing those you have ideologically dehumanized. Aristotle allows that good and evil should be exemplified in drama, yet how does it work when evil is seen on every side? The hideous acts Tarantino presents are not used to educate the viewer to the good; rather, he disorients by blasting the viewer’s senses with senseless violence, trivializing evil in the process. As an exemplar of latter-day decadence Tarantino is not an artist as he pretends; for he embraces untruth, ugliness, and evil. If one can say that Tarantino has achieved some level of excellence, it is excellence in portraying death and destruction.
Drama as Anti-Capitalist Fable
Taylor Sheridan, the creator behind America’s most popular TV show, Yellowstone, scoffs at those who consider his “western saga a right-leaning affair.”[v] Like much that is slyly toxic in our culture, Yellowstone is a counterfeit of Americana. In fact, it is a bill of indictment against America. And yet, the series is misunderstood by many as “the red-state Game of Thrones.” The show is about a cattle ranch in Montana – the biggest cattle ranch in America. It sounds very American, right? Yet the underlying fable is anti-American.
Yellowstone depicts red-state people – white male ranchers – as gangsters and murderers. The story can be summed up as The Supranos meets Raw Hide. It offers a negative take on cowboys, the free market and Christianity. The lead gangster in the series is the ranch owner, John Dutton (played by Kevin Costner). The scandal of Dutton’s criminality is best illustrated by the dead bodies his cowboys throw down a gulch, across the state line, in Wyoming. By embracing this equivocal hero, right-leaning folks are embracing their enemy’s characterization of themselves. They are accepting that violence and private property go together. This is doubly convenient for Marxists, as Marxism has always maintained that private property leads to war, oppression, and murder.
According to Marxism, the big proprietor and the small proprietor hold their property by force (i.e., through the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie). According to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, the small proprietor is more dangerous because he is more numerous. Thus, Stalin killed the Kulaks (wealthy farmers) because the Kulaks were gangsters who oppressed their poorer neighbors. It was said that each Kulak aspired to a larger and larger plot of land. The danger, of course, is that they would eventually get all the land, and the other farmers would be pauperized. Here we see the danger represented by big proprietors. John Dutton, as the owner of the largest ranch in America, brands his cowboys as if they were cattle. In effect, Dutton owns them. He decides whether they live or die. In brief, he is above the law. How did he become such a god? Four generations ago, one of his ancestors stole the land from Native Americans. To keep control of this stolen land, to uphold his “property rights,” Dutton sleeps with the governor of Montana, usurps public offices and corrupts local law enforcement officials on a routine basis. He even diverts a river to bankrupt a rival. In keeping with this, John Dutton feuds with his neighbors like a medieval baron. One of his sons, with the help of ranch hands, kidnaps a businessman in broad daylight. They take him into the woods and hang him from a tree. What was his crime? Trying to develop a housing project near the ranch.
According to Marxism, the wealthy proprietor brings a train of social ills with him. These ills include war, class oppression, sexism, and racism. Quite clearly, this is a menace that needs to be put down. Yellowstone makes this argument episode by episode, season by season. But many viewers ignore Dutton’s criminal behavior. He is a hero because he clearly symbolizes America. And that, of course, is the intention of the show’s creator (Taylor Sheridan). Using Dutton as a symbol of America, Taylor is presenting America’s alleged fatal flaws (according to the Marxist catechism). In Yellowstone the moral imperative of property rights has been turned into an immoral imperative. The subtext reads, “Property is theft, and theft leads to murder.”
The creators of the show did not intend to give red-state folks someone to cheer for. By using John Dutton and his ranch as a stand-in for America, many Americans decided to root for a character who was originally cast as a bad guy. The popularity of show was so great that the villainy of John Dutton was toned down in the second season (probably because the show was making so much money). When you get such a large audience, you do not want to offend them. Consequently, the show developed its anti-American themes more furtively. The show’s creator never intended John Dutton to be anyone’s hero. In an interview with The Atlantic, Taylor Sheridan flatly stated that Yellowstone is not a “red-state show.” He said, rather, “The show’s talking about the displacement of Native Americans and the way Native American women were treated and about corporate greed and the gentrification of the West and land-grabbing. That’s a red-state show?”[vi]
Clearly, that was not the intention.
Real Ranchers, Real History
What would our rancher and farmer forefathers have said about the TV series Yellowstone? In its prequels, 1883 and 1923, we see John Dutton’s ancestors portrayed as capable, ruthless, and violent people. Is this an accurate representation of ranchers in the Old West? Adrian Nyquist, my great grandfather, was a pioneer in South Dakota. His sons grew up as cowboys. Were they gangsters? Did they steal the land from Native Americans? What is the real story?
Adrian Nyquist was born in Sweden, 18 June 1867. It was a year of famine and death. There was still snow on the ground at the summer solstice, a few days after Adrian’s birth. The problem then was not “global warming,” but global cooling. Between 1750 to 1850, the population of Sweden had doubled, and there was not enough arable land to feed everyone. With winter conditions persisting until the beginning of summer, an intelligent farmer could see that starvation was on its way. Imagine, then, that you are a mother and father with a baby. What do you do?
As it happened, there was this country called America, which then had 50 million hectares of unused arable land from which starving families might be fed. Anyone enterprising enough to go there, and work, and develop that land, was welcomed. There were a relatively small number of natives in the vicinity of this untilled land, known as Plains Indians, who raised horses and lived a nomadic existence. Although these natives initially profited from contact with Europeans, building their whole way of life around the horses and tools that Europeans sold to them, they naturally viewed the Europeans as interlopers.[vii] Of course, contact with Europeans had raised these natives out of a stone age existence which was neither desirable nor sustainable in the face of civilization’s encroachment. Trade with Europeans transformed native cultures into something they had not previously been. This much was inevitable. From the standpoint of higher history, civilization was bound to expand into regions occupied by primitive tribes. Of course, it is supposedly racist to say that these tribes were primitive. Yet this was their condition, as the arrowheads of Plains Indians were made of stone when Europeans first encountered them in the seventeenth century.[viii] This was understood and accepted by the people of the nineteenth century, including my Swedish ancestors who survived the famine of 1867-69. However arrogant or demeaning, the thought was then to “civilize” the Indians.
Marxist historiography likes to emphasize, under the heading of “Multicultural History,” that Europeans committed genocide against Native Americans. This anti-white, anti-capitalist interpretation holds that Europeans stole the Indian’s land. While there is a partial truth in such claims, it is not the whole truth. In the early days of colonization, when Indian and white communities intermingled and lived peaceably together, as happened in New England during the seventeenth century, a multicultural experiment took place. But the experiment failed, precipitating a genocidal war. Contrary to the Marxist histories of today, it was not a genocidal war aimed at the Indians; rather, the target of genocide was the white settlers. This was Metacom’s War, or the First Indian War. According to one account, a third of the white inhabitants of New England were killed, or wounded, or made homeless. This war is described, even in the politically correct Wikipedia, as “the greatest calamity in seventeenth-century New England and is considered by many to be the deadliest war in Colonial American history.”[ix] Indian war parties attacked more than half the towns in New England, destroying twelve and damaging the rest. The economies of Plymouth colony and Rhode Island were in ruins. One in ten colonists, available for military service, were killed. Fear and hatred of Indians began with this war. The dream of living in peace with native peoples was thenceforth thought to be a dangerous delusion. However rich the Indian heritage might be, however admirable their stoicism and martial honor, the integration of whites and Indians on friendly terms was problematic.
Regarding the question of continental trespass, the Marxists hold that the Europeans are guilty of stealing Native lands and committing genocide. The fault, according to Marxism, lies with whites and their system of property relations. Naturally, the Indian Wars involved massacres against Indians. But there were also occasions when Indians massacred white settlers. The masses of Europe were not going to stay put and starve when millions of untilled acres beckoned in North America. At the same time, many Native Americans welcomed the new technology and way of life that Europeans brought. The old Native American way of life was overthrown. There is, behind all this, a curious hypocrisy on the Marxist side; for why should the Marxists, of all people, blame the side that brought progress? Why blame the European interlopers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? Even more curious, Marxists approve of interlopers coming from abroad today (i.e., illegal aliens), arguing that opposition to these interlopers is “racism.” Why, then, was it not racism in past centuries when Native Americans resented the arrival of whites from Europe?
Having survived the famine of 1867-69, my ancestors sought a more secure existence by immigrating to the United States in 1883, settling in Eastern Nebraska. Adrian Nyquist married Anna Martinson in 1891. After farming at various locations in Nebraska, Adrian and Anna acquired land in Gregory Country, South Dakota, in the Randall Valley. In 1897 Adrian bought the homestead rights and other land, which amounted to 740 acres. They lived in a sod house.[x] The family history reads, “They were Bible believing and God-fearing people. They donated a piece of land for a church building. In 1904 it was completed and still stands.”[xi]
The family history states that Adrian Nyquist was “interested in the affairs of state” and “served for over 25 years in various offices of trust, as county commissioner, state representative and state senator.” Adrian and Anna had twelve children (two dying in infancy). When they came to the Randall Valley, in early fall of 1897, they had 30 cattle, three dozen chickens, some farm implements, and provisions. They did not brand their employees with an “N,” or engage in corrupt business practices. As a state senator, nobody accused Adrian of abusing his office.
European settlers like Adrian and Anna are derided as genocidal killers by today’s social justice warriors; that is, by spoiled children who have never known hunger or want and have never done hard physical labor. We European-Americans are told that we are creatures of “white privilege.” But there was no privilege in the world of our forefathers. There was endless toil and self-sacrifice as they built America, carving it out of the wilderness. The story of Adrian and Anna Nyquist is not one that fits with Taylor Sheridan’s sordid, “progressive,” and violent fable of an America built on racism and repression, violence and gangsterism. Like most of those who came West looking for land, they were peaceful, religious, hard-working folk.
Therefore, I do not identify with the TV rancher John Dutton or his cowboy mafia. He is a Marxist caricature of an American politician-rancher. Brad Newsome of The Sydney Morning Herald has said that Yellowstone represents “Trumpism in entertainment form.” To the extent that is true, Trump himself may be a Marxist caricature (made to order). Is it possible that John Dutton and Donald Trump serve as useful Marxist foils? Are they inauthentic as American types?
Yellowstone is said to be America’s most popular TV drama. Why? “People perceive all my stuff as red-state,” admitted Taylor Sheridan, the creator of Yellowstone. “If you truly look at this show or Wind River or Sicario, these are … wildly progressive…. The people who are calling it a red-state show have probably never watched it.”[xii]
Of course, Mr. Sheridan is being disingenuous. He knows perfectly well that his Marxist subtext is too subtle for his audience. Like those who loved Archie Bunker in the TV comedy All in the Family, conservative fans of rancher John Dutton cannot see the critique that is before them. Dutton’s fictional daughter-in-law is a Native American who teaches college and berates her white students for their white privilege and racism. “I don’t know why I waste my time with you,” she says in one episode as her students look down at the ground. How can she show them that Columbus was evil, that the white man brought his corrupt ways to the Indian, that a socialist revolution is needed in this country? Here is the lament of the show’s creator, for all to see.
As a final aside, the capitalism portrayed in Yellowstone is identical with so-called Russian gangster capitalism. The reason for this is simple. Both Russian capitalism and the capitalism portrayed in Yellowstone are Marxist inventions. This is how Marxists think capitalism works. Logically, this is how they do capitalism when given the chance; and it is how they portray capitalism when given a TV platform.
Notes and Links
[i] Aristotle, trans. Ingram Bywater (Poetics), Rhetoric and Poetics of Aristotle (New York: Modern Library), p. 233.
[iv] Ibid, p. 231.
[vii] The historian, Francis Parkman, tells the story of one of the earliest French expeditions to reach the Sioux Indians in the seventeenth century. He describes them thus: “The Sioux warriors, active as deer, chased the Buffalo on foot with their stone-headed arrows, on the plains behind the heights that bordered the river; while the old men stood sentinels at the top, watching for the approaching enemies.” This was before they had horses and modern tools, which they initially associated with magic. The Sioux were eager for the white men who visited to return, because they dreamed of owning the kind of things white men had: steel weapons, horses, compasses, etc. See, Francis Parkman, France and England in North America, Volume I (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1983), p. 903.
[x] As there were no trees in that region, the only thing to make a house out of was turf and grass. Prairie grass was much stronger and thicker than a moder lawn, and could be relied on to keep rainwater out.
[xi] This family history was written by Alfred and Theodore Nyquist. I found it in my father’s papers while writing his obituary.
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