Neal Gabler on Creating the Perception of Value

Neal Gabler is the author of An Empire of the Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, an essential text on Jewish domination of Hollywood. Now he sees Hollywood ‘s image factory spreading out over the entire culture (“Hollywood’s Perception of Value Versus Real ValueAmerica emulates movieland’s way of measuring the worth of things, which teaches us to place the perception of value over value itself“; LATimes, Oct. 21, 2012).

We have become obsessed with measurable worth. Movie grosses, TV ratings, salaries, lists of the most powerful are all ways that a society sets a valuation on things — the perception of value as opposed to value itself. Another way to think of it is that valuation is to value what popularity is to being the best. …

 Hollywood, by inundating us with all these rankings and by reinforcing this tendency in the culture, has done such a good job of promoting valuation at the expense of value that we now live in a valuation society where valuation subordinates nearly everything else.

One might even say that America has been remade in Hollywood’s image, not so much because it emulates movie glamour or behavior or language but because it emulates Hollywood’s way of measuring the worth of things and teaches us to place the perception of value over value itself. Hollywood success is the new American paradigm.

Gabler has an interesting list of other areas where this phenomenon can be seen: Higher education , the art world (definitely a no brainer; he mentions the execrable Damien Hirst), and the financial industry (inflated valuations based on image [Facebook; one might also mention the tech bubble of the late 90s). Of course advertising lives on image creation. 

It can be argued that creating credible images that can pass for the truth is certainly nothing new and that everyone does it. But I do think there is a greater gap between image and reality than ever in American life, and it is perhaps no accident given their role in the media and the other areas mentioned by Gabler, that Jewish interests (like multiculturalism and Israel) in particular are suffused with positive imagery. The media and other elites paint a rosy picture about what the future of multicultural, minor-White America,  completely ignoring the research on the costs of multiculturalism, especially the long and bloody record of ethnic conflict throughout history into contemporary times. But it’s a wonderful image—morally inspiring, and we all know the pull of moral idealism on the hearts and minds of Westerners.

Then there’s the image of Israel as the embattled, morally superior little guy, dedicated to democracy and personal freedom—a shining example of Western values constantly having to fight for its survival against all odds. Or the image of Iraq as bristling with weapons of mass destruction that could be unleashed at any time against the U.S.–a project of the Office of Special Plans in the Dept. of Defense, headed by Abraham Shulsky reporting to Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith (see here, p. 40ff).

On the other hand, there is the image of pre-1965 America as a land steeped in evil and ignorance prior to being rescued by the triumph of cultural Marxism. There are many, many more.

I can’t help relating this to The Culture of Critique:

A fundamental aspect of Jewish intellectual history has been the realization that there is really no demonstrable difference between truth and consensus. Within traditional Jewish religious discourse, “truth” was the prerogative of a privileged interpretive elite that in traditional societies consisted of the scholarly class within the Jewish community. Within this community, “truth” and “reality” were nothing more (and were undoubtedly perceived as nothing more) than consensus within a sufficiently large portion of the interpretive community. …

Jewish religious ideology was an infinitely plastic set of propositions that could rationalize and interpret any event in a manner compatible with serving the interests of the community. Authority within the Jewish intellectual community was always understood to be based entirely on what recognized (i.e., consensual) scholars had said. It never occurred to the members of this discourse community to seek confirmation of their views from outside the community of intellectual discourse itself, either from other (non-Jewish) discourse communities or by trying to understand the nature of reality itself. Reality was whatever the group decided it should be, and any dissent from this socially constructed reality would have to be performed within a narrow intellectual space that would not endanger the overall goals of the group.

Acceptance of the Jewish canon, like membership in the intellectual movements reviewed here, was essentially an act of authoritarian submission. The basic genius of the Jewish intellectual activity reviewed in these chapters is the realization that hermeneutic communities based solely on intellectual consensus within a committed group are possible even within the post-Enlightenment world of intellectual discourse [including science; e.g., standard media presentations of race science related to the reasons for the educational failures of Blacks, criminality of Blacks, etc.] and may even be successfully disseminated within the wider non-Jewish community to facilitate specific Jewish political interests. [Chapter 6 of The Culture of Critique]

The rosy image of multiculturalism and especially the image of Israel are getting harder and harder to paper prop up. At some point, reality intrudes, as in the Soviet Union in the decades before its collapse. No one believed the propaganda. At which point the grand experiment of multiculturalism will doubtless all end badly. But until then, we are living in a Hollywood world where image is everything.

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