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|arendt (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore||Mon Mar-20-06 07:50 PM
|Kinder, Gentler Apocalyptic Nationalism (posted November 22, 2002)|
Kinder, Gentler Apocalyptic Nationalism
by arendt (November 22, 2002)
"...the tribalism of the pan-movements (of the late 1800s) offered a new religious theory
and a new concept of holiness. It was not the Czar's religious function and position
in the Greek Church that led Russian Pan-Slavs to the affirmation of the Christian
nature of the Russian people, of their being...'the Christopher among the nations'
who carry God directly into the affairs of this world. It was because of claims to
being 'the true divine people of modern times'..."
"The tribalism of the pan-movements with its concept of the 'divine origin' of one
people owed part of its great appeal to its contempt for liberal individualism, the
ideal of mankind, and the dignity of man. No human dignity is left if the individual
owes his value only to the fact that he happens to be born a German or a Russian,
but there is, in its stead, ...a sense of mutual realiability...to assuage the rightful
apprehensions of modern men as to what might happen to them if, isolated individuals
in an atomized society, they were not protected by sheer numbers and enforced
"Tribalism...was equally well suited to the needs of the shifting masses of modern
cities...even the fanatical adoption by the Bolsheviks of the greatest antinational
doctrine, Marxism, was counteracted by the Pan-Slav propaganda reintroduced
in Soviet Russia because of the tremendous isolating value of these theories
- H. Arendt, "Origins of Totalitarianism"
The deliberate destruction of the broad, post-WW2, middle class over the
last twenty years has reduced large segments of America to a rootless,
superfluous existence of MacJobs. It has also extinguished critical
thinking in the what used to be the blue collar middle class by creating a palpable, visceral fear of personal financial ruin and descent into the
underclass. This fear has driven a race-tinged law-and-order politics
which saw more money spent on prisons than on schools over that period.
These conditions are ideal for the reappearance of tribalism and
tribal nationalism, which appeared in the polyglot empires of Eastern
Europe a century ago - vast dynastic assemblages ruled from far-away
power centers, like Vienna. This tribalism manifested itself in the "pan movements". Pan-Slavism and Pan-Germanism were the evolutionary
predecessors of the Bolshevik and Nazi platforms.
In fact, given the decisive defeats of those two premier totalitarian
states of the 20th century, one could argue that tribalism represents the
wave of the future for a kinder, gentler totalarianism in a celebrity-
saturated, networked, globalized world where individuals are
increasingly rootless and superfluous. A world into which America
is leading the way.
In spite of Norman Rockwell-style homage to the rooted-ness of
residents of small towns, America has always prided itself on its
rootless-ness; but we called it "mobility". The majority of Americans'
ancestors came to this country less than 150 years ago; and the
migrations from farm to city, and then from city to suburbs, kept
people in motion. American culture today is the most automobile-
centric culture on the planet. The average American family moves
every five years, oftentimes across country. Their ties to place,
to relatives, to history are tenuous. Suburbia is a repetitive franchise
ghetto. Since 1980, Americans have increasingly felt their powerless-
ness as jobs were sent overseas and downsizings and layoffs pushed
blue collar workers, small farmers, and small businessmen into the
WalMart/Home Depot/Staples latifundia implanted in their towns by
In the midst of a defunded and shrinking public sphere and the
exhausting treadmill of multiple jobs, the only place left for reflection
in many service workers' lives is their church. And, in the most
hard-scrabble corners of America those churches are preaching
a toxic, anti-democratic, un-Constitutional apocalyptic nationalism
that seems to be the worst amalgam of the 19th century pan movements
and the 20th century totalitarian movements, with the additional ingredient
of medieval inquisitional theocracy. These sentiments are powerfully
reinforced by a corporate media heavily biased in the same directions,
which is often the sole source of information for the working class.
Now, it is certainly arguable that this hideous combination is merely
the result of some kind of natural selection of authoritarian ideas.
But, as Sherlock Holmes would observe, what is important is the
dog that did not bark. For forty years, we maintained a Cold War
vigilance, worrying about Communist spies, Communist Front
Organizations, Red Scares in Hollywood, and being "soft on
Communism" or "pinko". Suddenly, at the end of the Cold War,
nobody in the media can recognize that an anti-Constitutional
subversive group with "stealth" Front Organizations is operating
a national campaign of Constitutional subversion (Federalist Society),
coordinated anti-government agitation (the Hate Radio Network), and
violent law breaking (anti-abortion killings, militia movements, armed
religious compounds). To the corporate media, this kind of law-breaking
activity on the Right is nothing more than an unremarkable coincidence.
Meanwhile, law-abiding activity on the Left causes "moral panics" among
fundamentalist religious leaders which are amplified by the media
without being examined, much less fact-checked.
Rather than coincidence or natural selection, it would seem more
logical that, for such a movement to go from nothiing in 1975 to total
control of the government in 2002 by the most manipulative and
fraudulent techniques ever seen in this country, sophisticated
organization, coordination, and planning were required. This is not
the kind of organization you get from fringe Mac-churches in the far
reaches of Montana. It came from big conservative money, like the ten
year siege of Bill Clinton by Richard Mellon Scaife. It came from
big corporate control, like the media octopus that concentrated
ownership of 95% of all media in less than ten companies. It came
from hundreds of conservative think tanks funded by reactionary
billionaires like the Coors Brothers. It came from courts stuffed full of
openly pro-aristocracy, anti-labor judges, like Antonin Scalia, by
Republican administrations. In short, it came from the same kind of
crowd that paid for Hitler's rise to power.
Just as with 9-11, what we have here is a failure to "connect the
dots". Without connection, there is no recognition of what we are
facing. Without recognition, the wrong actions are taken. It is
vital to see the historical antecedents of Fundamentalist Apocolyptic
Nationalism in America Today (FANAT) to understand how
to defeat it.
If one compares the nature of FANATicism to the failed ideologies
of the past two centuries, it appears to be a highly engineered,
transgenic mutant. The word transgenic is used in the sense of
an artificial laboratory-generated creation, as opposed to some
naturally occurring hybrid. FANATicism has been designed to
combine the best anti-democracy "lethality factors" of previous "isms"
while simultaneously eliminating their congenital ideological weaknesses.
Michael Lind has commented on the Frankenstein-ness of today's
conservative movement: a necon head grafted onto a fundamentalist body.
The lethality factors operating against democracy are obvious, but
a review is needed to show the historical continuity of FANATicism
to earlier isms.
1) Economic hardship makes people more susceptible to emotional propaganda
Naziism took root in the economic and political chaos of post-WW1
Germany. Germany labored under crushing reparations payments,
endured hyperinflation, and finally was hit hard by the Great Depression.
In the face of economic disaster, all Germans wanted was the return
of a strong hand, to replace the disgraced Kaiser and the ineffectual
Bolshevism took over Imperial Russia in the middle of WW1, at a time
when the soldiers had no food and poor clothing. Lenin's slogan "Bread,
Peace, Land" promised the basic peasant needs and succeeded in
generating a high desertion rate.
In America, every Republican Administration or Congressional Majority since
1980 has attacked wage and job security in America. They have done this
by every means at their disposal, whether it was dismembering labor
unions during the Air Traffic Controllers Strike or looking the
other way as corporations harassed labor unions, slashed pensions
and medical care, and violated safety and environmental standards that
resulted in worker injuries. They have applauded and aided the flight of jobs
overseas, in the name of "efficiency" and "productivity", even as our manufacturing base shrank in ways that imperiled our national security.
At every step of the way, the Republicans took a heartless stance
towards workers, family farmers, and small businessmen under
assault by megacorporations. Of course, they did make a show
of trying to demolish corporate regulation as an aid to small
business. But only corporations benefitted, not little guys.
2) Begin recruiting among the fringe, where poor education makes
simple, undemocratic solutions acceptable
Agitation and anti-government propaganda find their most receptive
audience among the poorest, least educated, most alienated, most
The classic example here is the Chinese Communist movement,
whose famous Long March retreat to the interior of the country
was the beginning of their success. In the interior, they found
exploited peasants who were impressed by the purity and energy
of the Communists and accepted their dogma initially in order to
get a bowl of rice. When they later got an education, it was a
A more recent and highly relevant example is the Moslem
Fundamentalist movement. This movement existed in the
most backward and remote parts of the world, like Afghanistan.
The CIA discovered this movement, and shaped it into a
weapon against the Soviets. Moslem fundamentalists were recruited
from fringe groups all over the Islamic world. Fundamentalist
schools, madrassas, funded from Saudi Arabia, fed minimally
educated, but maximally indoctrinated fighters into fundamentalist
armies in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
In America, the FANATic war on secular public education has been
relentless. Until recently, public education has been viewed as one of
the main pillars of American democracy. But, now, it has been labeled
as Godless by the FANATics. The main points of assault are getting
religion into the classroom and gettting critical thinking and evolution
out. The assault has been aided by concerted campaigns to defund
public education, to divert funds to charter schools, religious schools,
and magnet schools, and to teach Creationism. Many of America's
schools are falling apart, but our prisons are state-of-the-art. And we
have the largest per capita prison population in the world.
FANATics recruit among the rural poor, among the die-hard Dixiecrat
resistance to Northern pluralism, and among racists everywhere. The
main FANATic dogma of dispensationalism, which is not much appreciated
by urban and mainstream religious people, bears about as much relation to
true Christianity as a pork sandwich bears to Kosher food. It is a dogma
created at the same time as the European pan movements. Like the pan movements it is an openly anti-democratic, anti-urban elite, anti-Enlightenment
theocratic dogma with a Chosen people. There is very little postive content to
this dogma of resentment, unless you count positively working for the
Resentment and Manichean good/evil splits play well to
poorly educated people. They play especially well to narrowly
mis-educated fundamentalists. This is clear in the Israeli Zionist
settlers' movement, where religious legalism and outright law-
breaking and mayhem, including assasination of the Prime
Minister, have flouted democratic government for the last ten years.
3) Hypnotic media (radio/movies/TV/videogames) bypasses logic
The Nazis invented modern media propaganda. Hitler was a
hypnotic speaker whose reach was magnified greatly by radio.
Leni Riefenstahl created movie techniques still considered so effective at
emotional manipulation that they should never be used. Albert Speer
created the Nuremberg mass rallies and the "cathedral of light". The
Nazis understood bypassing logic and appealing directly to the
subconscious longing for a strong leader, for violent action to make the
Today the American public is awash in violent images. Movies are
non-stop martial arts, military weapons, and special effects violence.
The "slasher flick" continues to twist impressionable teenagers' sexual
identities. Videogames are so dehumanizingly violent that retired Army
officers have compared them to basic training techniques for inducing the
willingness to kill. Television delivers tens of thousands of violent
actions, mostly murders, to children before the age of 21. The
comic Manicheanism of the WWF teaches kids be connoseurs of inventive
violence. The NFL teaches kids to worship barely restrained violent
men, lately accused of rape, murder, and other felonies.
The bottom line has been to move America away from intelligent,
rational debate to threats, intimidation, and a choose-up-sides
mentality. What little is left of women's liberation has been redefined
to mean that a liberated women should be as boorish and violent as
a man. This is a recipe for turning democracy into a bar-room brawl,
with the winner being the most macho guy in the room.
Much as the FANATics campaign against sex in the movies, they
seem to have much less of a problem with violence. FANATic
TV shows, like Pat Robertson's show are full of rhetorical violence
and military imagery, calling on viewers to fight. Hardly a Christian
4) Guerilla warfare and subversion are cost-effective and hard for democracies to defeat
Since its founding, the CIA has been conducting experiments in how to overthrow legitimate democracies. It has learned that guerilla warfare,
propaganda, and political violence work. It has learned how to carry
out these activities in a deniable manner; and it has learned to fund
them through extra-governmental means, like drug sales and bank scams.
Asymmetrical or unconventional warfare is cheap, disruptive, and
socially corrosive. It has been fabulously successful in the twentieth
century. The Yugoslavs used it to defeat the Nazis. The Chinese
Communists used it to conquer China. The Russians and Chinese
successfully exported it for thirty years. Finally, the CIA used it
against the Communists in Afghanistan and Nicaragua.
Beyond continuity with earlier "isms", what is most striking about the
FANATic ideology is its clear understanding of earlier totalitarian
weaknesses and its modifications to eliminate them.
5) Enforced atheism fails
People, especially poor, marginal people, need religion. The Communist
enforcement of atheism was not only an abject failure, as evidenced by
constant underground and aboveground agitation, by groups like Solidarity.
Its superficiality was clearly demonstrated by the mass return to Russian
churches after the downfall of Soviet communism.
Reaching back even further, Napoleon inherited the atheism of the
French Revolution. But after a few years, he cut a deal with the Pope
to re-establish Catholicism in France in return for Papal endorsement
of his position as Emporer.
On the other hand, Japanese commitment to war never faultered. The
nationalistic, fatalistic, Shinto/Buddhist religion served their military
extremely well. The Nazis were also smart on this point. While they used
Norse mythology to stir "berserker" mentalities, they never really objected
to harmless Christian religious services. Of course, clerical war resisters
wound up just as dead as all other dissenters. Naziism itself often took
the form of an "imitatio Christi", with Nazi overlays bruited about at
the quadrennial Oberammergau Passion Play.
Hence, the organization of American totalitarianism around a
highly doctored version of Christianiy is a major step forward in
authoritarian practice. The "end-times/rapture" apocolyptic
component adds the fatalism needed to contemplate all-out
war in a nuclear age. The rapture scenario is a direct lift from
the Moslem holy martyr/jihad tradition of rewarding suicidal loyalty.
In pre-coup America, religion was uniquely protected by the Constitution,
and therefore made an ideal secret base for attacking democracy.
Whereas the government would investigate neo-Nazi groups, even
groups like the religious-Nazi Christian Identity movement, it dared not
and could not investigate large religious groups like SBC that have been
hijacked by Long March Fundies.
These hijacked religions were used to foment hatred and violence.
Hence, we see the violent anti-abortion movement and its relentless
legal arm in Congress; sort of like an IRA for fetuses. We see the
racist policies of Bob Jones University. And the secretive Council
for National Policy.
These hijacked religions have been coordinated with intelligence
agents. Watergate crook Charles Colson runs an influential "ministry".
The Korean CIA asset and fundamentalist cult leader Reverend Moon
is a sugar-daddy for Jerry Fallwell and other Christian ministers. The
same Moon paid six figure fees to George Bush Sr. in under-reported
speeches in South America.
6) Bread and circuses work
Stalin never tried to raise the standard of living of his people, he
only raised the military-industrial power of his country. The horrible
standard of living was one more factor in the collapse of communism.
Hitler started with an depression-idled economy and jump-started
it with a program of re-militarization. This created prosperity and
Hitler received credit for that prosperity. Goebels developed a slogan
to remind people of this: "You have your Fuhrer to thank for this."
At first, Hitler's wars were quick and cheap, and they resulted in
conquest, asset stripping, and slave labor. Again, the German
Even as the American economy was being hollowed out, the
FANATic leadership realized that you catch more flies with honey
than with vinegar. They saw that a few simple things could
provide the illusion that life was acceptable, if not good, even
while the FANATics were looting the country blind. Those
things were: cheap (if not very nutritious) food and cheap
entertainment. Hence, they have subsidized the production of
cheap beef for fast food burgers; and we have built-out a
massive cable TV system that is totally corporate controlled.
Hence, we have 200 channels with nothing on but corporate-
censored rubbish. But, so many channels provides the illusion
of choice, especially when it is claimed that programs are
put on the air due to "market forces".
The beauty of it all is that TV is the ultimate brainwashing tool.
So, not only are the workers entertained, they are also indoctrinated
and given the Party Line in their own living room.
The Triumph of FANATicism and the De-politicization of America
Once they had experienced how easy subverting open democracies
was, it was only a matter of time before a bunch of CIA-alumni realized
that they could run the same playbook inside the U.S. They just
needed to collect sufficient money to bribe and buy the oldest democracy
in the world. They knew from experience that the local corporate elites
would support their program with enthusiasm.
The CIA playbook is simple: use what you control to subvert what you
don't control. Demand your democratic rights; but denounce everyone
else for demanding theirs.
First, the FANATic cabal legally gained control of the news media, by
direct purchase and by changing the laws on media concentration and
political speech. Second, they used this media control to disrupt legitimately elected officials not in their cabal by any means, fair or foul. They apologized
for every right-wing extremist and villified the government for any action it
took. Eventually, the public became so confused that it allowed massive
vote fraud, a staged riot by Congressional staffers, and a totally bogus
opinion by a packed Supreme Court to enable a coup d'etat. This coup
was immediately followed by a Reichstag Fire-like incident that was never
investigated, but gave broad internal security powers to the illegitimate administration.
With the manipulated and probably rigged election of 2002, the
FANATics have captured all branches of American government.
The silence of the media in the face of: 1) the inexplicable failure
and subsequent cancellation of the VNS exit polls; 2) the unbelievable
convenience of yet another prominent Democratic Senator dying
in a plane crash while campaigning; 3) the strange correlation of
Republican "upsets" in tight races with the use of electronic voting
machines; 4) the ownership of those voting machines by Republican
fundamentalists and the proprietary, untraceable nature of their
computer codes has demonstrated that the media will not fulfill
the role of guarding electoral integrity any longer.
The silence of the American people in the face of the media silence
demonstrates the American public no longer faces reality, but lives in
a media-delivered "unreality".
Tribalism in Post-modern America: Pan-Kramden-ism
"There's no difference between modern culture and (ancient)
Sumerian. We have a huge workforce that is illiterate or
alitierate and relies on TV - which is sort of an oral tradition.
And we have a small, extremely literate power elite...who
understand that information is power."
- Neal Stephenson, "Snow Crash"
"...as reality has become increasingly complex, over the course of
(the 20th) century in particular, the ability of the average citizen to make
sense of that complexity has diminished accordingly. Worse yet,
our interest in making sense of reality has declined in direct
proportion to our inability to make sense of it...in a world gone mad
as the result of overwhelming complexity, the need for coherence
does not diminish. Its need becomes even greater. If we cannot
find it in ideas...when we seek it in alternate forms, e.g., in a
cult of personality, in pseudo pop heroes...If (we) have succeeded
in anything, it is in the deliberate manufacturing and distribution
of celebrities on a wide scale. We have developed a fascination
for celebrities that borders on the sociopathic."
- I. Mitroff & W. Bennis, "The Unreality Industry"
"The growth of television has been a crucial factor in the rise of
legalistic Christianity. In a sense, legalistic Christianity started out
as a branch of folk culture and has...become a branch of pop culture...
"The Old Time Gospel Hour" made (Jerry) Falwell a national figure
and enabled him to launch the Moral Majority..."The 700 Club"...
did the same for Pat Robertson. Certainly the nature of television is
far better suited to the purposes of legalistic Christianity than to those
of nonlegalistic Christianity...
"many legalistic ministers have designed their worship services...to make
them more like TV talk or vareity shows...Such services are less about being
actively involved than about watching, less about being an integral part of something
than about being an audience member, less about being transformed than
about being diverted."
- B. Bawer, "Stealing Jesus"
"Every time a church tried to act through the propaganda devices accepted by
an epoch, the truth and authenticity of Christianity were debased...In such moments
(when acting through propaganda), Christianity ceases to be an overwhelming
power and spiritual adventure and becomes institutionalized in all its expressions
and compromised in all its actions. It serves everybody as an ideology with the
greatest of ease, and tends to be a hoax...Thus reduced to nothing more than an
ideology, Christianity will be treated as such by the propagandist...this ideology will
no longer be Christianity. It will be just another doctrine."
- Jacques Ellul, "Propaganda"
Democracy is gone in America because the people no longer
understand how democracy works. They no longer understand
the need for civility and restraint in discourse, the need for logic
and historical context in reasoning, the absolute requirement for
guaranteed access to objective, fact-checking media by all candidates.
The fact that Bush's multiple, brazen lies about WMDs
did not provoke any serious political challenge speaks volumes
about the lack of democracy. The man lied to start a war, killed
thousands of Iraqis, allowed their cultural heritage and their
hospitals to be pillaged, failed to capture any significant leader
of Iraq, caused the whole world to line up against us. And, after all
this, brain-washed zombies think he is the greatest democratic
ruler of all time and tell others to "shut up".
A large segment of the U.S. population has lost touch with reality
and have become willing participants in the orgy of apocalyptic
nationalism. In a phrase, they have "gone tribal". But, its not like
they have reverted to being German-Americans vs Italian-Americans.
After all, we are talking about a new tribe of powerless peons who
lick their masters' boots and scheme their pathetic little get-rich-quick
schemes, oblivious of the carnage inflicted in their name.
The new tribe of Americans should be called the Tribe of Kramden,
after the famous, all-American loudmouth and idiot of the golden
age of TV. We keep being told that the 1950s was America's best
moment. Well then, Ralph Kramden must have been the exemplar
that we most want to represent our tribe.
Long Live Pan-Kramden-ism!!
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