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March 3, 2005

The flu

Posted by Phil on March 3, 2005 9:28 AM

I just wanted to highlight the conclusion of the Orcinus post I linked to earlier (in the LinkLog, over there to your right).

I happen to have fallen, for the past year and a half, into an informal study of various aspects of the Holocaust, which has joined hands with my concerns about current American politics, stuff I see on cable news, stuff I read on blogs, and stuff I'm surprised to hear old friends say. All of which gives me stuff to worry and talk about with friends and family who are also inclined to worry and talk about such things, and sometimes gives me spooky thoughts as I try to go to sleep after the night's reading from my self-imposed syllabus, or whatever East Coast Liberal Magazine came in the mail that day--the contents of which are also surprisingly in tune with this theme.

Alarmism is extremely uncool, and middle-class liberals must want to be cool or else they'd just become Republicans and enjoy the tax cuts and the heady thrill of raw power, so I try to avoid leaping to hysterical conclusions. After all, my pro-Bush neighbors are generally friendly folks for whom reality's rays simply refract differently, and liberals' constant dissembling about historical context and complexities just sounds like...constant dissembling. Don't we know there's a war on?

"Yes, there was this war here, which we liked, and which was part of the broader war, which we agree must be fought; but now this war here, we didn't like--or don't like, because it's not over--and you shouldn't either, because the administration took certain procedural liberties that might look inconsequential but in principle are terribly, terribly disconcerting in a democracy--and even though, no, we don't want to sound defeatist, much less fail to support the troops; and, yes, on the face of it, there have been some developments lately that might seem to validate the whole enterprise in spite of its terrible, terrible cost, assuming that nation's warring factions arrive at a peaceful, long-term power-sharing arrangement; and, indeed, there have even been some seemingly unrelated events elsewhere in the region and the world at large that might--and I stress might--actually be resulting, however indirectly and tangentially, from this rather reckless odyssey of history-making upon which your inexplicably popular president has embarked--that still doesn't excuse the fact that he has done it all under a cloak of lies, secrecy, and media manipulation that, ironically, threaten to undermine the very liberty and democracy of America even as he declares it his mission to spread them across the whole of the oppressed world!"

See? People who don't want to hear that kind of talk aren't necessarily fascists. (That's what this post is about: Fascism.) They just kinda like the fella with the big stick who doesn't take any shit. That's what I tell myself, anyway, when I hear Kurt Cobain's voice eerily, amusedly crooning, "Just because you're paranoid, don't mean they're not after you...."

But I think there are rogue waves of this tendency loose in the land--the victimization myths; the cross-pollenating between religion and national identity; the casual, blanket accusations of treason; the calls for repression of dissent and dissenters--and I think it's getting encouragement from very powerful people in the very powerful party that rules our very powerful country.

It's certainly not comforting to find that people who I assume are smarter than me think so, too, but it at least assures me that I'm not just a nut on a Holocaust kick. To wit:

What all of them miss, importantly, is the role of movement leaders--particularly Bush, Cheney, Karl Rove, and the neocons--in encouraging these proto-fascist traits. There is no evidence that they're doing so because they themselves are actually proto-fascists; rather, I think it remains clear that these people are pro-corporate crony capitalists, and the evidence strongly suggests that they're indulging this style of politics for the sake of shoring up their numbers and securing their political base. [...]

In other words, "movement conservatives" [i.e., the rank and file--pk] are being molded into a mindset that increasingly resembles classic fascism, but it's being done by leaders who mostly find this mindset convenient and readily manipulable. Unfortunately, the history of fascism is such that the arrogant corporatist belief that they contain these forces is not well grounded.

What's important to understand is the real dynamic: A growing populist "movement" is being encouraged increasingly to adopt attitudes that, taken together, become increasingly fascist. Greater numbers of individuals are being conditioned to think alike, and more importantly, to accept an increasingly vicious response to dissent. This does not mean that genuine fascism has arrived as a real political force in America; but it does mean the groundwork is being created for just such a nightmare, by irresponsible politicians tapping into terrible forces beyond their ability to control.

If even "paleo-conservatives" can see this, there's hope of stopping it. But I think we need to begin with a clear understanding of who, what, and why the fascists are.

The latent fascists who are the biggest problem right now are not Republican leaders. It is their oxyconned, Foxcized, Freeped-out, fanatic army of followers, comprising ordinary people, who pose the long-term problem. Drawing them back from the abyss is the real challenge that confronts us.

Which is to say, the chickens have it. A few humans have contracted it. So far the virus isn't spreading from human to human, but it could happen. It's happened before, and millions have died. Concerned experts advise that it be taken seriously.