In service of attacking a woman for daring to suggest that the civil rights movement was a product of liberalism, Lileks goes on another of his "modern culture has ruined everything" tirades:
I suspect that the ideas Kersten addressed came from the sort of liberalism that swept out the old anti-communist pro-America greatest-gen types in favor of internationalist radicalism that sought to remake nearly every social, intellectual, artistic and political institution in the culture. In order to get the new utopia into place, nearly everything traditional had to be detonated.
Now, who's he talking about here? He's talking about his favorite target, the meddling-kids liberals who designed public housing, initiated the welfare system, and pushed increases in anti-poverty social spending. In other words, he's talking about the cabinet of Lyndon Johnson. That's the people pushing "internationalist radicalism" and insisting that "everything traditional had to be detonated" in order to "get the new utopia in place". LBJ.
The symphonic tradition gave way to atonalism
This started happening around the turn of the century, and some of the harshest criticism of the atonalist tendency was directed at Stravinsky's Rites of Spring. Lileks knows this; he's bitched about Stravinsky himself in the Bleat. The Rites of Spring debuted in 1913. So why doesn't he blame William Howard Taft for the decline of Western civilization?
Beyond that, of course, is the inherent absurdity of complaining about how the symphonic tradition has given way to atonalism. Even leaving aside the fact that there's still a whole lot of people writing in the "symphonic tradition", whatever that is, it's ridiculous to pretend that atonalism has some kind of malevolent stranglehold over our culture. I would guess that a good 75% of American adults have heard plenty of traditional symphonic music in their lives, but would be hard-pressed to even know what atonalism is, let alone identify a piece of atonal music or name a composer who specializes in atonalism. This is a frequent trick of the right, to beef about how our culture is dominated by things (atonalism, postmodernism, relativism) that are in fact only known about, taught to, and appreciated by a handful of academics, but its constant reiteration doesn't make it any more convincing.
the classical architectural vocabulary was jettisoned for acres of bleak concrete bunkers
Here Lileks means public housing. The formulation seems to imply that before LBJ and his reign of social welfare tyranny, the poor all lived in classically designed architectural masterpieces the equal of any fine country house in England, rather than in miserable slums and tarpaper shacks on the edge of town. One suspects that Lileks isn't so much pissed that the poor are crammed into bleak public housing blocks, but that they're crammed into unattractive high-profile buildings that are hard to ignore.
But he's also ignoring something else: the vast majority of bleak concrete bunkers and featureless glass monstrosities in our urban areas -- far outnumbering those used for public housing and other government programs -- were built not by the feds, but by corporations. Big business is far, far, far more responsible for the pitiful state of public architecture in American cities than are these mythological Demo-Commies. I agree with Lileks that our urban areas are increasingly becoming architectural nightmares, filled with unattractive eyesores. But in the vast majority of cases, from samey big-box stores to unspeakably dull skyscrapers to endless identical condominiums and tract houses, the culprit is not government meddling, but corporate ambition. Why doesn't Lileks point his scolding finger at big business? Could it be because he's more interested in scoring ideological points than actually solving problems?
dead white males were swept from the ciriculuum
Here again is the "tyranny of academia" complaint. And it's true! Why, today, who learns about any dead white males in college?
and the family – well, it could stay, as long as it wasn’t granted any particular importance over other social models.
And as a result, of course, we live in a society in which children are not important at all and there are no institutions designed to support them, no laws meant to protect them, no social benefits to having them, no advertising directed at them, and no cultural manifestation of their prominence in our society. It's a tragedy, really.
If the idea that the 20th century didn’t see nearly every traditional expression of Western culture get attacked by hairy little termites, then you might think there’s a natural and direct line from Raphael to Jackson Pollack, from Brunelleschi to brutalism, from Beethoven to John Cage.
Huh? Is there a clause missing in this sentence? I don't quite understand it, so I'm not sure whether he's defending or attacking the very sensible idea that there IS a natural and direct line from Beethoven to John Cage.
Note, again, this whole screed was inspired by one line in a letter to the editor, claiming that liberals were largely responsible for the civil rights movement. It seems these days that even the smallest stimuli will cause Jimmy to wax wroth about how much he hates everything that happened after 1950.