Richard Wagner’s Jewish Problem—and Everybody Else’s

March 4 2021

Alex Ross’s recent book Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music is not so much a study of the great composer himself, but of the various ways he has influenced, and been understood by, his interpreters, admirers, and critics—a group that includes Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Mann, and Adolf Hitler. In his review, Nathan Shields writes:

At the turn of the century, [Wagner] was idolized by both the decadent Italian novelist (and future proto-fascist politician) Gabriele D’Annunzio and the Zionist leader Theodor Herzl. Three decades later, his music introduced the Nuremberg Rallies.

It is this last Wagner that we know best, or think we do. He has gone down in popular history as a raging anti-Semite (true) and Hitler’s favorite composer (not entirely true); his music is thought to have provided the soundtrack for the death camps (in fact, it was mostly light waltzes and operetta). Wagner’s role in the iconography of German imperialism was real enough. When Paul von Hindenburg, [the German generalissimo who lost World War I and later made Hitler chancellor of Germany], claimed Germany was stabbed in the back by the treaty of Versailles, he was invoking Siegfried’s assassination by the villainous half-breed Hagen [in Wagner’s Ring cycle]. And when Hitler died, Siegfried’s funeral march was played to commemorate him.

But Wagner was less popular in Nazi Germany than this might suggest, and his appeal was more complex. For one thing, Hitler’s Wagnermania was not shared by rank-and-file Nazis, who scalped the opera tickets he gave them. Besides, Siegfried’s funeral march had first been played to mark Lenin’s death. In 1933, at the dawn of the Third Reich, Thomas Mann could still find in Wagner the spirit of a very different Germany than Hitler’s. Wagner’s real meaning, Mann insisted, was “entirely revolutionary.” He would “assuredly be branded a Kultur-Bolshevist today.”

Since the Second World War, there has been endless discussion about whether Wagner’s highly public art, alongside his equally public statements of bigotry, influenced or prefigured the rise of 20th-century fascism. There are several traditional positions, best understood as points along a continuum. [One] could be called the Wagner-to-Hitler-pipeline theory, which casts Wagner as an ideological prophet of Nazism. . . . For [others], Wagner’s music floats majestically free of his ideology. “Richard Wagner, I hate you,” as Leonard Bernstein famously put it. “But I hate you on my knees.”

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Read more at Baffler

More about: Anti-Semitism, Music, Nazism, Richard Wagner, Theodor Herzl

Iran’s Dangerous Dream of a Triple Alliance with Russia and China

Aug. 16 2022

Unlike Hamas, which merely receives support from the Islamic Republic, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)—with which Israel engaged in a short round of fighting last week—is more or less under its direct control. In fact, the recent hostilities began with a series of terrorist attacks launched by PIJ from Samaria, which might in turn have been a response to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s call “to open a new front in the West Bank against the Zionist enemy.” Amir Taheri writes:

In Gaza, the Islamic Republic has invested heavily in promoting Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. . . . Islamic Jihad is in a minority in Gaza, hence the attempt by Tehran to help it create a base in the West Bank.

Reliable sources in Baghdad say that [Iran’s expeditionary and terrorist paramilitary] the Quds Force has been “transiting” significant quantities of arms and cash via Iraq to Jordan, to be smuggled to the West Bank. The Jordanian authorities say they are aware of these “hostile activities.” King Abdullah himself has publicly called on Iran to cease “destabilizing activities.”

But such schemes, Taheri explains, are part of a larger strategic vision of creating a grand anti-Western alliance even while engaging in nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and Europe:

Last month, Khamenei praised Vladimr Putin for his invasion of Ukraine. And this month, China’s ambassador to Iran, Chang Hua, praised the Islamic Republic for supporting China in “asserting its sovereignty” over Taiwan.

It is clear that some dangerous pipe-dreamers in Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran have fallen for the phantasmagoric vision of “three great powers” banding together and with help from “the rest,” that is to say, the so-called Third World . . . to destroy an international system created by the “corrupt and decadent.”

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: China, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Russia, West Bank