Substituting a good deal of intellectual inbreeding for organic contact with U. S. life, they developed a curious cultural provincialism. The Depression came to them as a refreshing change. Fundamentally benevolent and humane, they loved their fellow countrymen in distress far more than they could ever love them in prosperity. Fundamentally skeptical, maladjusted, defeatist, the intellectual felt themselves thoroughly at home in the chaos and misery of the '30s. Fundamentally benevolent and humane, they loved their fellow countrymen in distress far more than they could ever love them in prosperity. And they particularly enjoyed life when applause began to greet their berating of the robber barons, president makers, economic royalists, malefactors of great wealth.
"Revolt of the Intellectuals", January 1941
From the outset the eminence of this new creature, the intellectual, who was to play such a tremendous role in the history of the twentieth century, was inseparable from his necessary indignation. It was his indignation that elevated him to a plateau of moral superiority. Once up there, he was in a position to look down on the rest of humanity. And it did not cost him any effort, intellectual or otherwise. As Marshall McLuhan would put it years later: 'Moral indignation is a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity.
The ’70s were in many ways dreadful years for America, but they’re remembered much more fondly in the film industry. There’s no surer way to establish your artistic (and political) bona fides than to name-drop a ’70s movie—whether it’s George Clooney bringing up All the President’s Men (1976) while promoting Michael Clayton, or Stephen Gaghan remarking that of course he was “thinking about The Parallax View and also Three Days of the Condor” while making Syriana. The suggestion is always the same—that the age of leisure suits and sideburns was also the high tide of politically engaged filmmaking, before the studios embarked on the relentless pursuit of the blockbuster and the Reagan reaction pushed American culture steadily to the right.
"The Return of the Paranoid Style," Atlantic, April 2008
For the American critics of mass culture, it was the good times of the 1920s, not the depression of the 1930s, that proved terrifying. 'It wasn't the depression that got me,' explained literary critic Malcolm Cowley, 'it was the boom... the conventionality, articiality... the organized stupidity.' of America.
The Revolt against the Masses