The F word

Written By: - Date published: 2:47 pm, August 29th, 2009 - 33 comments
Categories: us politics - Tags:

It probably isn’t possible to have rational discussion about the F word. It has been trivialised by overuse as a meaningless term of abuse. But in its real meaning it is an important word, and some people are taking it very seriously just now. So let’s at least try and confront the big F.

Fascism. Some Americans are seriously discussing the issue of fascism in America. This is an excellent piece. It summarises a prominent historian’s definition of fascism, and the five stages of the development of fascism in a country. It concludes that America is now well in to the third stage, the transition stage or “tipping point” beyond which there is no turning back:

Now, the guessing game is over. We know beyond doubt that the Teabag movement was created out of whole cloth by astroturf groups like Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks and Tim Phillips’ Americans for Prosperity, with massive media help from FOX News. We see the Birther fracas — the kind of urban myth-making that should have never made it out of the pages of the National Enquirer — being openly ratified by Congressional Republicans. We’ve seen Armey’s own professionally-produced field manual that carefully instructs conservative goon squads in the fine art of disrupting the democratic governing process — and the film of public officials being terrorized and threatened to the point where some of them required armed escorts to leave the building. We’ve seen Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner applauding and promoting a video of the disruptions and looking forward to “a long, hot August for Democrats in Congress.”

This is the sign we were waiting for — the one that tells us that yes, kids: we are there now. America’s conservative elites have openly thrown in with the country’s legions of discontented far right thugs. They have explicitly deputized them and empowered them to act as their enforcement arm on America’s streets, sanctioning the physical harassment and intimidation of workers, liberals, and public officials who won’t do their political or economic bidding. This is the catalyzing moment at which honest-to-Hitler fascism begins. It’s also our very last chance to stop it.

We’ve arrived. We are now parked on the exact spot where our best experts tell us full-blown fascism is born. Every day that the conservatives in Congress, the right-wing talking heads, and their noisy minions are allowed to hold up our ability to govern the country is another day we’re slowly creeping across the final line beyond which, history tells us, no country has ever been able to return.

Much of the behaviour that has driven this issue to the fore is related to the conservative movement’s apparently insane opposition to Obama’s health reform. “Obama is Hitler”, “death panels” and so on — The Standard has covered it here and also in a recent clip. It’s getting crazy in America, e.g. here, here, here. This is a fascinating “confession” from one of the architects of the madness. This piece, “My 1933 Nightmare…” makes a case similar to the first one (quoted above).

It’s not my place to say that America is on the road to fascism, but I do think that it’s worth pointing out that Americans are seriously discussing it. Thank goodness it could never happen here. If you like to believe in happy endings then the author of the first piece has a second on how to turn back from the brink. We live in interesting times.
— r0b

33 comments on “The F word ”

  1. Redbaiter 1

    Yeah sure. Only on the Standard could protesters asking that the American Constitution, (the one document in the world that holds individual liberty paramount) be complied with and respected, be portrayed as big government fascists.

    Complete nutters.

    • Jeremy 1.1

      I don’t think the article mentions any of the protesters you just described in your comment. Where does the right to have an entirely privatized health system fall under the constitution?

    • Quoth the Raven 1.2

      Most of these people are big government (they’re mostly conservatives), I’m not going to say fascist. What’s not big government about the military complex, the world’s largest prison system &c? The US government already spends as much on healthcare as other nations with a public system. What the US has is a very statist healthcare system St. Obama isn’t changing that.

      The closest the US came to fascism was during the New Deal era.

      As to the constitution it’s good but let’s not fool ourselves:

      The Constitution was written to provide minimal central governance for an agrarian and pre-capitalist mercantile society of 3 million, spread over 13 sub-polities clinging to the eastern seaboard of a continent.

      As the population grew toward 300 million, scattered in 50 sub-polities over that continent and then some, “central’ continually gained on and then surpassed “minimal,’ in no small part due to the power of interpretation of the Constitution becoming vested in a Supreme Court located at, and appointed by those in charge of, the “center.’

      Whether or not the game was intentionally fixed is debatable; that its outcome was fore-ordained should be obvious. The Constitution is indeed a “living document,’ kept in a cage, fed a high-fat diet and occasionally trotted out for ostentatious public display. As a guarantee of your rights, it has become less than meaningless — its sole function these days is to legitimize your subjection.

      Put not your trust in princes? Sure thing. Neither put your trust in constitutions, nor in the political appointees hired (by those in power) to “interpret’ those constitutions.

    • r0b 1.3

      You should read the first article referred to in the post Redbaiter. It would help you to understand your role in the world: “Fascism is a system of political authority and social order intended to reinforce the unity, energy, and purity of communities in which liberal democracy stands accused of producing division and decline.”

      • Quoth the Raven 1.3.1

        That’s so broad anything could be accused of fascism. It isn’t helpful to use the word in such a manner. Let us ask George Orwell “George what is fascism?”

        It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.

        Yet underneath all this mess there does lie a kind of buried meaning. To begin with, it is clear that there are very great differences, some of them easy to point out and not easy to explain away, between the régimes called Fascist and those called democratic. Secondly, if ‘Fascist’ means ‘in sympathy with Hitler’, some of the accusations I have listed above are obviously very much more justified than others. Thirdly, even the people who recklessly fling the word ‘Fascist’ in every direction attach at any rate an emotional significance to it. By ‘Fascism’ they mean, roughly speaking, something cruel, unscrupulous, arrogant, obscurantist, anti-liberal and anti-working-class. Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathizers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.

        But Fascism is also a political and economic system. Why, then, cannot we have a clear and generally accepted definition of it? Alas! we shall not get one — not yet, anyway. To say why would take too long, but basically it is because it is impossible to define Fascism satisfactorily without making admissions which neither the Fascists themselves, nor the Conservatives, nor Socialists of any colour, are willing to make. All one can do for the moment is to use the word with a certain amount of circumspection and not, as is usually done, degrade it to the level of a swearword.

        • BLiP 1.3.1.1

          Jeeze, he was good, eh? I picked up “Animal Farm” for the first time in yonks last weekend; what a satisfying read and what a devasting satire. The truths that he applies are still as true today. I’ve been meaning to read some more of his stuff. Great link, thanks.

  2. Chris 3

    NZ Aotearoa is turning into a facist state. Mactional are facist.

  3. SHG 4

    Didn’t Naomi Woolf publish an article along these lines a few years ago? CBF googling.

  4. Just because a bunch of wackos believe everything that Beck says and wants to protest health care, doesnt mean fascism has come to America, you shouldn’t judge America by waht you see on Faux news.

  5. Redbaiter 6

    You dull snot nosed little communist pricks, indoctrinated by university leftists and so narrow you never source anything outside the propaganda of your like brain damaged Progressive comrades at the NZ Herald, Radio New Zealand, CNN TV One and TV3, the Huffington Post and the Daily Kos. You live in a complete fantasy world.

    While you witter on here about Fascism, your comrades in the US are steadily killing off every freedom and every choice and reducing that country to a stinking socialist hole, a 21st century cross between Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany and ruled by thugs and crooks and czars and commissars-

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/08/obama_and_the_thugs.html

    Read some reality for once in your miserable closeted lives.

    • Pascal's bookie 6.1

      What did you think about the ‘Unitary executive’ theory of the Bush admin Red?

      There you had an executive that claimed that in a time of war it was not bound by congress. The president claimed, and acted upon, a right to spy on and detain US citizens without due process, merely on his own say so. He claimed the right to declare anyone, US citizen or otherwise, an enemy combatant and place them outside the protection of the courts or the geneva conventions. He further claimed the right to torture them. All of this is direct contradiction with several US laws, and a number of supreme court rulings.

      He openly challenged the other branches to bring him to heel, and to their shame, they refused to act.

    • BLiP 6.2

      americanthinker – now there’s an oxymoron if ever I saw on. Red, you’re just a moron.

      • Pascal's bookie 6.2.1

        americanthinker is like a poor man’s worldnetdaily, or a stupid man’s newsmax.

        Required reading for both satirists and guys like redbaiter, sitting in their basement waiting for the revolution. (or the rapture, whichever comes first).

    • Draco T Bastard 6.3

      I do read reality Redbaiter – you, and your ilk on the radical right, are the ones that are completely divorced from it.

  6. RedLogix 7

    “if we can only identify fascism in its mature form—the goose-stepping brownshirts, the full-fledged use of violence and intimidation tactics, the mass rallies—then it will be far too late to stop it.”

    Quibbling the definition is ultimately futile. We all know that fascism has been a real feature of our past, nor is there is any special reason why it could not happen again. The problem, as the famous Mark Twain quote goes, ‘is that history does not so much repeat, as rhyme’.

    The next generation of fascists will likely not wear brown-shirts, or goosestep. But they will hold to the same world-views, and be driven by the same energies. If we are to recognise them, then we will have to understand them, their methods, their motives, better than they understand themselves.

    Robinson’s article is fascinating, in the dread sense. If nothing else we will know when we are passed the point of no return, when we begin to hesitate to speak out, for fear of our jobs, windows, or families. It would seem the USA is, at least for some, teetering on that point right now.

    • Quoth the Raven 7.1

      Come off it the US is not teetering on some point. This is beyond the pale. That article doesn’t satisfactorily explain why it is worse now than it was when Clinton was in power and you had the militia movement doing all kinds of crazy shit. Sure there are loads of crazy Americans, but there always have been. This is just alarmist.
      I think it would be instructive to read through some of the more insightful comments on the thread of that article.
      I despair sometimes….

      • RedLogix 7.1.1

        Have you read the articles? Yes America has long been full of batshit crazy nutjobs (USA = Unlimited Supply of Assholes according to an American contact of mine)…but the critical point that Robinson makes is that a defeated GOP rump, utterly refusing to tolerate or work with the Obama govt, is now explicitly and openly linking up with the crazies.

        This Robinson argues is the critical point of no return from which no nation returns… when a political elite determines to openly exploit for it’s own purposes, otherwise marginalised prejudices and paranoia’s. Any society always has it’s psychos and sociopaths that are normally held in check by the condemnation and sheer unacceptability of their ideas in the mainstream.

        But when that leash is removed, when the leadership at the top of society endorses them, turns what was once extremist nuttiness into something acceptable… then that society will unzip, from the bottom up.

        • Quoth the Raven 7.1.1.1

          This Robinson argues is the critical point of no return from which no nation returns when a political elite determines to openly exploit for it’s own purposes, otherwise marginalised prejudices and paranoia’s.
          And that is different now from any time in past how?

          Come off it Red. I’m losing a lot respect for you in this exchange. I read the article and there is nothing in there that convinces me that America is on some tipping point and that things are somehow worse now than in the past. He’s just being alarmist. I have some questions, are not the Democrats part of the countries most powerful people, did not Obama get as much money from Wall St as the Republicans, are Obama’s policies with repsect to executive power much different from Bush’s, did not these so-called progressives support Bush’s war on terror, what about the so-called blue dogs who are holding up Obama’s healthcare reforms, does Obama not still enjoy support from at least 50% of Americans, are not many of the half that don’t support him socialists, libertarians, civil libertarians, greens, pacifists, anti-war activists, and others who aren’t fascists, has there not always been a number of near-fascist groups in America? and I could go on and on. He himself mentions a lot of historical things the KKK, Jim Crow how are things worse now?And you failed to say why it is worse now than when Clinton was in power. Do you seriously believe as he does that the GOP are willing to violently overthrow democracy? Come on Red you’re better than that. The best comment on that article is this:

          This article is only one step removed from the vile paranoia of the right wing birthers and those who portray Obama as The Joker.

          remove me from AlterNet’s mailing list.

          I no longer want to be any part of it

  7. Herman Poole 8

    I really see this blog as a left wing counterpoint to Whale Oil these days. Very much the trashier end of politics. It is no wonder Red Alert is jumping up the blog rankings so quickly.

  8. RedLogix 9

    Now you come to mention blubberboy, his thuggish behaviour probably qualifies him as NZ’s first home-grown little proto-brownshirt. Everything about him screams it.

    And the further up the rankings Red Alert goes the better. That’s why the authors here reference it so frequently.

  9. nic 10

    I think that calling the Bush administration “fascist” is only very slight less facile than the conservatie loons on the American right using the term to describe Obama. In both cases, any perceived wrongs fall so far short of the atrocities committed by genuinely fascist regimes in the 1930s and 1940s, as to merely serve as a slight on those who suffered at the hands of those regimes.

    • RedLogix 10.1

      You do more or less have a point, but it’s not the whole story. It’s easy to carelessly toss about a label like fascist, especially one that so many people have so many loose and varied definitions of, and it’s not too hard to find plenty of examples of those who have. But I urge you to read both the Sara Robinson articles r0b has linked to. In them you would find a far more nuanced and graduated argument being put forward.

      Nations do not suddenly become ‘fascist’ overnight. It is a process, and a process in which some of our best thinkers have identified a series of steps towards the kind of full-blown final stage totalitarian regime you have in mind. The GW Bush regime clearly fell short of this same stage, but equally it clearly fulfilled many of the criteria that have been identified as steps along the way.

    • r0b 10.2

      It’s not about the Bush administration. It’s not saying that America is a fully fledged atrocity committing fascist state – of course it isn’t.

      The point made in the Robinson article (the first and main article discussed) is that fascism is not an all or none condition (black or white), it is a pathway (shades of grey). Robinson explores how far down that pathway America has gone.

      If you think it is simply impossible that America could ever become a fascist state then by all means switch off.

      But if you acknowledge the possibility, then does it not become reasonable to try and understand fascism, the process by which countries become fascist, and the current state of America in this context?

  10. Galeandra 11

    I’ve found a fascist, I think- he writes like this:

    “You dull snot nosed little communist pricks, indoctrinated by university leftists and so narrow you never source anything outside the propaganda of your like brain damaged Progressive comrades at the NZ Herald, Radio New Zealand, CNN TV One and TV3, the Huffington Post and the Daily Kos. You live in a complete fantasy world. …”

    Surely the point is to do with the stifling of dissent, and the imposition of a unitarian viewpoint which denies individuals their shades of grey?
    What has been demonstrated in theStates is the alliance of money, fundementalist religion/morality/sloganeering and the political right.
    In NZ, demagoguery and and the bullying antics of Redbaiter et al do corrupt political debate and prevent consensus.NZ’s last election was decided on a more visceral voter reponse than any other I remember since Muldoon’s cossacks, and there is a latent fascism at work that would prefer FPP and the old singularities to prevail once again in NZ. The slogan engendered prejudices still inflame debate -witness the pathology of Nannyism etc

    • RedLogix 11.1

      I’ve found a fascist, I think- he writes like this:

      Yes but Redbaiter is so floridly extreme that he’s even been banned from the Libertarianz site. We don’t mind him too much, he’s a bit like a slightly demented old uncle who turns up at odd times, hasn’t had a bath in weeks, scratches his crotch at inappropriate moments, pees in the potplants… and then gets grumpy if dinner isn’t what he was hoping for. But he’s been around forever… and he’s part of the family.

      On his own, he’s not a problem. The danger is though that some folk might like to egg him on to stir shit up… for their own purposes.

    • BLiP 11.2

      You’re quite right, of course, but Red Baiter is actually suffering cognitive dissonance as a result of his conservatism. While he certainly exhibits the more base traits of a fascist, he is, in fact, quite insane. Happens to them all, eventually. Tories, I mean. Your real fascist knows what’s what which makes them even scarier than our potty wee pal.

  11. Redbaiter 12

    You guys need to wisen up. Your American comrades are the focus of all of the discontent in the US, and in a few years, maybe you’ll be the focus of the same discontent in New Zealand.

    Ordinary people with families and mortgages and who just want to get on with making a life and caring for their kids have had it up to here with Utopian socialists who want to steal their money and their property and turn every western country into the same inwardly collapsing hole they made of the Soviet Union.

    They’re sick of the deceit and propaganda of cowards and liars like Pelosi and Reid and Frank. There’s a new wave on its way. At last the people have said enough to the bitter destruction of socialism and its loony power obsessed adherents. They’ve grown weary of the gutless obeisance of the Republicans to left wing social mores, and have decided to take things into their own hands.

    Never again will the Democrats enter elections facing a party that is virtually their mirror image and filled with tongue tied cowards too intimidated by political correctness to form a real opposition. Next election will see the Progressives in the Republicans replaced by Conservatives, and for once, the people will have a real choice, and not the weak alternative offered by jelly backed compromisers like McCain and Bush.

    You’ve had a good three or four decades, but as the old adage goes, you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, so look and learn. Your time is soon going to be as over here as it is for your comrades in the US.

  12. Redbaiter 13

    Check out this link. Think about the fact that ordinary working people make up such a large part of the protests. You Progressives are even being abandoned by your traditional union allies, who are at last realising that if they keep listening to your bullshit, there will be no jobs at all in the near future. I repeat. These are not fascists. They are working people.

    http://www.theunion.com/article/20090829/NEWS/908289980/1053

    ————————-

    ‘Powerful, moving’ Tea Party protest at Capitol

    More than 5,000 people attended Friday’s rally in Sacramento.

    “I went down there because I am a construction worker,’ Branson said. “I’ve worked in the mining industry, in the logging industry, but I’ve hardly worked at all this year, and my unemployment is not too far from running out, and winter’s coming.

    —————–

    It just amazes me that after seeing Obama nationalize so many industries, and appoint so many unelected Czars and Commissars, and so brazenly act outside of the US Constitution, that you have the damn idiocy and gall to accuse anyone else of fascism.

    I know you Progressives are traditionally unable to think for yourselves, but surely there’s a limit to that dull conformity.

    • Stacktwo 13.1

      Michael Laws says John Key is a “petty fascist”, in his Sunday Star Times column today.

  13. RedLogix 14

    Or dig a little deeper and find that the whole ‘teaparty’ thing is a classic astroturfing manouver. Or might like a quick read of the field manual they use to run them.

    Last but not least: it turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.

    It just amazes me that after seeing Obama nationalize so many industries,

    What like the auto industry that be would otherwise bankrupt and lights out? That would of course have been one legitimate option, but would have scarcely done much for the ordinary working people your suddenly all so concerned for.

  14. Ianmac 15

    The interview this morning with Chris Laidlaw 11:05 and Lamar Waldron talking about the Kennedy family and the detail about the machinations of mafia/Kennedy assasinations/Cuba/Cheney was too many ideas for me to take in but as steps along the way to fascism as Redlogix says, you would wonder.

  15. BLiP 16

    Here’s a senior US republican, Ron Paul, of Texas, talking about corporatism = “soft facsism“.

    Bit of a worry now that there’s confirmation US cash from the right is pouring in to cause effect in New Zealand politics.

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