Tuesday, January 04, 2005


A number of webloggers have commented on mega-libertarian Lew Rockwell's essay The Reality of Red-State Fascism, and a related essay by conservative and occasional contributer Paul Craig Roberts. We've been extremely hesitant to use the term "fascist" to describe the current political atmosphere. Perhaps we're waiting for the Silver Shirts to march down the street before declaring that it's arrived.

In any event, we found the following points made by Rockwell and Roberts thought provoking:
  • ... the populist right in this country has been advocating nuclear holocaust and mass bloodshed for more than a year now.
  • It celebrates the shedding of blood, and exhibits a maniacal love of the state.
  • Along with this goes a kind of worship of the presidency ...
  • It doesn't sympathize with the downtrodden, labor, or the poor.
  • It is for all the core institutions of bourgeois life in America: family, faith, and flag.
  • [It] adores the head of state as a godlike figure who knows better than anyone else what the country and world's needs, and has a special connection to the Creator ...
  • In the ranks of the new conservatives ... I see and experience much hate.
  • ... self-professed conservatives ... literally worship George Bush. Even Christians have fallen into idolatry. There appears to be a large number of Americans who are prepared to kill anyone for George Bush.
  • The Iraqi War is serving as a great catharsis for multiple conservative frustrations: job loss, drugs, crime, homosexuals, pornography, female promiscuity, abortion, restrictions on prayer in public places, Darwinism and attacks on religion. Liberals are the cause. Liberals are against America.
  • This is the mindset of delusion, and delusion permits of no facts or analysis. Blind emotion rules.
  • [Back in the 1930's, the Brownshits] were ignorant, violent, delusional, and they worshipped a man of no known distinction.
A bit overheated, perhaps, but interesting coming from a libertarian/old-style-conservative viewpoint.

What caught our eye was the last item about the Brownshirts worshiping "a man of no known distinction". Think about the current occupant of the White House. Think also about the endless attacks against an undefined "elite". Is there something about Fascism that, as part of it's populist component, demands that the leader be nothing special? (For all the talk of Hitler being a genius, he wasn't. He was a bully with oratorical skills. If you read his Table Talk and other comments, he comes off as boring and unimpressive.)

To review: gung-ho support of the military; hate; worship of the leader; family, faith, and flag; no sympathy with the downtrodden; disdain for knowledge.

Looks like we are getting very close to declaring fascism an active, and significant, element of today's politics.

A final note about hate. It's one thing to be a quiet hater - there is a (slim) chance for dialogue. But look at the behavior of top-flight haters like O'Reilly and Hannity and Limbaugh. They shout and stomp (and occasionally walk out) as part of their act. It's bullying-hate we're witnessing. Totalitarianism on the set. Totalitariansim in the radio booth. Force, not facts, rule these domains.


"Is there something about Fascism that, as part of it's populist component, demands that the leader be nothing special?"

There's a essay by Frankfurt School philosopher Theodor Adorno "Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda" which basically postulates that the leader must be both the everyday man and the super-man, in an Oedipal kill-your-father-and-take-his-throne sort of way. This allows followers to identify and project themselves into the role of their admired leader. Become too much the superman, the elite, and followers will resent it and want to see you overthrown, but straddling the dichotomy of leader and everyman only increases support. Of course, my account is from a dozen-years-old memory. It's in an anthology entitled Critical Theory. I remember when I read it, the person I pictured was Ross Perot.

David Neiwert also has had some interesting insights in US fascist movements on his blog.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/04/2005 4:59 PM  

the leader be nothing specialA closed vessel allows an individual to imagine anything within it. A masked vigilante allows the populace to instill behind the maskanything that inspires them (witness the heaping of character onto the Bobba Fett of Star Wars fame... before he became a clown--er, clone).

Darryl Pearce / Ventura County, CA

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/04/2005 5:17 PM  

Re: haters, quiet and loud

The quiet haters are just carriers of the disease, the loud ones are the contagious ones.

By Blogger Thomas, at 1/04/2005 7:02 PM  

Well, if it isn't fascist, what is it? Further question. If not fascist and something else, then does this make it any less a very dangerous threat? Seems like the whole labeling thing is like wondering whether it is an army of rabid wolverines or merely an army of rabid badgers.

Maybe they're undead rabid badger zombies.

Either way it's going to really suck when they kick it into high gear and by then it's not going to matter what the correct categorization is.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/04/2005 8:28 PM  

Random responses: First, even less than being a man of no known distinction, Bush is a man of reverse distinction, both personally and politically. Second, I realize now more than ever how much the Reagan presidency was the stimulatory dry hump for this fascist wet-dream.

Miss Authoritiva

By Blogger Grace Nearing, at 1/04/2005 9:24 PM  

It's about time we start calling it what it is. I'm having an interesting conversation with a right-wing blogger this week that (not surprisingly) scoffed at my hinting that there is fascism creeping into the national debate.

Most people think that Hitler's views were solely based upon racism, but they weren't. Hitler also believed that 'pacifists' sold out the German nation during World War I and that the press was complicit. These are the things that should concern all of us.

By Blogger thehim, at 1/04/2005 10:28 PM  

The fascism is most apparent in the way that corporations have taken control of the government agencies originally designed to oversee them. Weapons makers run the Pentagon, the accounting lobbiest Harvey Pitt became head of the SEC, Gail Norton - who believes that ownership rights include "the right to pollute" - is Secretary of the Interior. Make no mistake - the nuts and bolts of fascism is here.

Rougy -

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/05/2005 9:57 AM  

We forget that the neofascists do have a racial group to hate: dark skinned Muslims.

By Blogger Carol Ann, at 1/05/2005 1:25 PM  

It's not just Muslims. They hate Jews, too. Especially that troublesome one they hung on the cross. Oh they claim to love him, but their deeds say the opposite.

Kevin Hayden
The American Street

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/05/2005 2:39 PM  

Was there a connection between pollution of politics by multinationals and the rise of fascism. Can someone explain?

I can see that the current climate of fear is being used to pass laws in all western countries that allow for dismantling of trade unions, increased state power to try drug/mafia criminals and for export of labour to third world countries. Can someone draw timeline to show how and when this will lead to the rise of a new hitler.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/05/2005 8:06 PM  

No matter how close the comparison, people in the West will bristle at comparisons to "fascism".

I prefer to use another "cult of personality" analogy. Jesus' General has picked up on it, calling it the Great Christian Cultural Revolution, which is about as Christian as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was about the Chinese proletariat.

It's scary to see the parallels reading Yan Jiaqi's wonderful history of the Cultural Revolution entitled Turbulent Decade and the way the media was used to discredit and bring down political opponents through propaganda, lies, and Red Guards passionately pressing their views down opponents' throats. (eg Wizbang having to pull posts about a professor from Utah State for trying this very tactic.)

Tom - Daai Tou Laam

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/05/2005 9:42 PM  

If the question is whether the U.S. will repeat exactly the history of interwar Germany then of course the answer is no, but that would be a silly, ridiculously strict way to define fascism. If we take a loose definition such as the degeneration of a liberal democratic capitalist society into statist authoritarianism, abolition of any semblance of the rule of law, creation of concentration camps and torture centers, imperialism and militarism, mass hysteria and paranoia, self-destructive dreams of domination and creation of a "master race," to give some basic elements, then we are certainly experiencing "fascism" of some form.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/06/2005 9:05 AM  

to the anonymous poster above asking about a link between multinational corporations and the rise of fascism:

quoting loosely from memory, mussolini said that fascism was rightly called corporatism, using the state for the ends of corporations.

there is a long history of the same thing in the united states, evident when looking at the history of organized labor. rockefeller and morgan repeatedly paid for the salaries of officers (not the rank and file) in the u.s. national guard when they needed a force to come and break up striking workers occupying a mine or factory, after their own private strikebreakers failed. the u.s. government repeatedly obliged, sending u.s. troops to kill u.s. citizens. was this in defense of corporate wealth, or for an ideology of freedom including the right to private property? to me, that's like asking if you want to call it business as usual or if you want to call it fascism.

going back further in congress debated america's intervention in the cuban and filipino wars for independence, a list was drawn up by the secretary or state (or defense, i don't recall), of american military adventures abroad since the american revolution. there was almost no year in which american troops had not intervened in other countries. without exception, they were in defense of american economic interests abroad, from argentina to china. this was the use of the state's military for the benefit of multinational corporate interests.

i would say that since the depression, the corporate welfare spending of the u.s. government has increased this reciprocal relationship. when you consider the sway that corporate lobbyists have over public funds and lawmaking, and the extent to which private media and industry support the state's agenda, you might say that fascism is just spin, a label for whatever ideology at the time is supporting business as usual.

thanks for the opportunity to respond to your question.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/06/2005 10:15 AM  

David Newert's excellent blog can be found here and his 7-part essay on "The Rise of Pseudo Fascism" is linked to on the top left.

I am getting more frightened every week.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/06/2005 6:16 PM  

Not to put too fine a point on it, but academicians like to use a much more stringent test to determine if a political culture shows fascist tendencies or characteristics.

I can't remember off-hand what the 'acid test' might be, and I don't care much at the moment.

The real concern I have is over the dogmatic authoritarianism displayed by so many people who claim to love freedom and would deny it to their fellow countrymen simply because they are 'different'.

The echoes of the corruption of Weimar and the ascension of the Third Reich are around us: paranoia about 'foreigners' (in our case, the terrorist theme seems to do quite nicely);

the persecution of social deviants (gays and lesbians);

intolerance for different religion or ethnicity (anybody who ain't Christian qualifies for the full wrath of the rightwing, it seems, and they don't care much for 'unfinished Christians', i.e., Jews, or for ethnic minorities, either;

insistence on an exaggerated love for the motherland (the use of the term 'homeland' was particularly alarming to me; this is not how Americans usually speak of their country and has obvious unpleasant associations with the Third Reich AND the Soviet Union).

Other characteristics have been mentioned already: the quick and easy familiarity with language and images of violence (Ann Coulter excels at this and could be the Poster Girl for American Fascism) and the almost schoolboy ideation about death and killing (read the posts at most wingnut websites for frequent examples) and unrealistically swaggering references belligerent language that are unsupported by the speaker's personal experience.

It tickles me to read some flatulent spotty-faced youth talk of capping towelheads as if they've been to war and know what it's all about. It's clear that the most violent thing they've done is masturbate vigorously or play video games.

The use of belligerent language is a clear sign they've run out of ideas and have little facility with language. I think this means that eventually, they may learn to act on the impulses which they cannot verbalize in a socially acceptable manner. Of if their peer groups don't reward discourse, or even show outright contempt for discussion and analysis, these folks will learn not to talk so much and be quick to fight.

I say these things from personal experience and observation over the years. I have not been to war and don't want to go. I do not believe there is much to recommend warfare except that it's useful if nothing else is available to keep you and yours alive.

Even then, survival is far from guaranteed.

The last century saw too much death and warfare. The two global wars cast a long shadow which falls on many lesser but deadly conflicts of regional scope. What's going on in Iraq at the moment is far from the kind of warfare which Bush fancies he commands. But it is war nonetheless.

We would do well to limit our reliance on it as a policy tool, a cultural value, or a way to prove our manhood as individuals or a nation.

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