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natrat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 07:44 PM
Original message
It's The FASCISM, Stupid!
by: Paul Rosenberg
Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 14:30

On August 7, Sara Robinson wrote a very thorough, very frightening diary at Orcinus, Fascist America: Are We There Yet?

She began:

"All through the dark years of the Bush Administration, progressives watched in horror as Constitutional protections vanished, nativist rhetoric ratcheted up, hate speech turned into intimidation and violence, and the president of the United States seized for himself powers only demanded by history's worst dictators. With each new outrage, the small handful of us who'd made ourselves experts on right-wing culture and politics would hear once again from worried readers: Is this it? Have we finally become a fascist state? Are we there yet?"

Previously, the answer had been "As bad as this looks: no -- we are not there yet.". Now, though...

"In tracking the mileage on this trip to perdition, many of us relied on the work of historian Robert Paxton, who is probably the world's pre-eminent scholar on the subject of how countries turn fascist. In a 1998 paper published in The Journal of Modern History , Paxton argued that the best way to recognize emerging fascist movements isn't by their rhetoric, their politics, or their aesthetics. Rather, he said, mature democracies turn fascist by a recognizable process, a set of five stages that may be the most important family resemblance that links all the whole motley collection of 20th Century fascisms together. According to our reading of Paxton's stages, we weren't there yet. There were certain signs -- one in particular -- we were keeping an eye out for, and we just weren't seeing it.

And now we are. In fact, if you know what you're looking for, it's suddenly everywhere."

Before going any further, we need to be clear about what we're talking about. Here's Paxton's essential definition of the term:

"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."

But the real essence of Paxton's contribution is his detailed seeing through the variety of diverse national variants, and understanding fascism as the culmination of a developmental process.

On the first point, Paxtpn's paper notes:

each national variant of fascism draws its legitimacy, as we shall see, not from some universal scripture, but from what it considers the most authentic elements of its own community identity.

On the second point, Robinson goes on to explain:

According to Paxton, fascism unfolds in five stages. The first two are pretty solidly behind us -- and the third should be of particular interest to progressives right now.

In the first stage, a rural movement emerges to effect some kind of nationalist renewal (what Roger Griffin calls "palingenesis" -- a phoenix-like rebirth from the ashes). They come together to restore a broken social order, always drawing on themes of unity, order, and purity. Reason is rejected in favor of passionate emotion. The way the organizing story is told varies from country to country; but it's always rooted in the promise of restoring lost national pride by resurrecting the culture's traditional myths and values, and purging society of the toxic influence of the outsiders and intellectuals who are blamed for their current misery....

In the second stage, fascist movements take root, turn into real political parties, and seize their seat at the table of power. Interestingly, in every case Paxton cites, the political base came from the rural, less-educated parts of the country; and almost all of them came to power very specifically by offering themselves as informal goon squads organized to intimidate farmworkers on behalf of the large landowners. The KKK disenfranchised black sharecroppers and set itself up as the enforcement wing of Jim Crow. The Italian Squadristi and the German Brownshirts made their bones breaking up farmers' strikes. And these days, GOP-sanctioned anti-immigrant groups make life hell for Hispanic agricultural workers in the US. As violence against random Hispanics (citizens and otherwise) increases, the right-wing goon squads are getting basic training that, if the pattern holds, they may eventually use to intimidate the rest of us.

Paxton wrote that succeeding at the second stage "depends on certain relatively precise conditions: the weakness of a liberal state, whose inadequacies condemn the nation to disorder, decline, or humiliation; and political deadlock because the Right, the heir to power but unable to continue to wield it alone, refuses to accept a growing Left as a legitimate governing partner." He further noted that Hitler and Mussolini both took power under these same circumstances: "deadlock of constitutional government (produced in part by the polarization that the fascists abetted); conservative leaders who felt threatened by the loss of their capacity to keep the population under control at a moment of massive popular mobilization; an advancing Left; and conservative leaders who refused to work with that Left and who felt unable to continue to govern against the Left without further reinforcement."

And more ominously: "The most important variables...are the conservative elites' willingness to work with the fascists (along with a reciprocal flexibility on the part of the fascist leaders) and the depth of the crisis that induces them to cooperate."

That description sounds eerily like the dire straits our Congressional Republicans find themselves in right now. Though the GOP has been humiliated, rejected, and reduced to rump status by a series of epic national catastrophes mostly of its own making, its leadership can't even imagine governing cooperatively with the newly mobilized and ascendant Democrats. Lacking legitimate routes back to power, their last hope is to invest the hardcore remainder of their base with an undeserved legitimacy, recruit them as shock troops, and overthrow American democracy by force. If they can't win elections or policy fights, they're more than willing to take it to the streets, and seize power by bullying Americans into silence and complicity.

In my previous diaries today, I've made mention of the fact that conservatives/Republicans have been quite willing to break the rules for some time now, so they have plenty of practice, as well as the inclination, to go gleefully skiing down that old slippery slope:

When that unholy alliance is made, the third stage -- the transition to full-fledged government fascism -- begins.

And that's where we are today. The fleeting signs of the past are over and done with:

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.

I would argue that we actually have been here before. It was called "McCarthyism." Much of the same dynamic was present. The difference was that the legacy of the New Deal was simply far too well entrenched, and the top echelon of the Republican Party was only passively along for the ride-they weren't actively pushing it, they were wink-wink, nod-nodding with McCarthy and a few others. But the widespread air of intimidation was actually far stronger then than it is today. This gets back to my point about why this period of American history is so different, in a way that liberals and Democrats have never really come to terms with.

The difference could be successfully paved over, due to the enduring strength of the New Deal coalition, at least through 1968. But after that came the long, deeply anomalous period of divided government, during which a mandateless rightwing movement shoved our country far to the right, even as the populace at large become substantially more liberal on matters like racial tolerance, women's roles in society, and gay rights, and generally remained predominantly liberal on issues overall.

What's most chilling now is the sharply increased level of disconnect between the intensity of what's happening in the streets in terms of the corporate elite/GOP leadership/mob thuggery alliance and more-clueless-than-thou Obama Administration. The utter and complete disconnect coming from the White House right now is chillingly reminiscent of the deer-in-the-headlights center-left types during the fading days of the Weimar Republic. This is perhaps the most cutting irony: the fascist teabaggers, birthers and deathers carrying signs equating Obama with Hitler, when in actuality the figures he actually resembles are the centrist appeasers whose vacillation and denial paved the way for Hitler to take over.

One more point needs to be made here. One thing the Right has today that it didn't have back in McCarthy's day is the organized anti-choice movement. And the importance of that cannot be underestimated. Back on August 3, Amanda Marcotte wrote a column "Birthers and Anti-Choicers: One and the Same?" in which she underscored the commonalities, which all trace back to the underlying nature of movement conservatism, on its evolutionary path toward outright fascism:

Is it fair to compare anti-choice nuttery to birther conspiracy theories? Well, of course. First of all, there's a great deal of overlap between birthers and anti-choicers. Certainly, politicians think both groups are one and the same people. James Inhofe, one of the most outspoken and aggressive anti-choicers in the Senate, obviously believes his base wants to hear about how birthers have a "point" <1>, even though it takes roughly two sentences and a quick perusal of the Constitution to point that this is impossible. But maybe he's reading the same data I am, that shows that 63% of Republicans are "pro-life" <2>and 58% are somewhere on the birther scale. <3> And just as anti-choice sentiment is strongest in the South and Midwest, birtherism is as well.

With that in mind, I made a list of aspects of movement conservatism that you're probably learning about the birther movement that you would have known already if you had followed the anti-choice movement closely.

Truth is considered a mere obstacle between them and their goals. For ordinary Americans struggling to understand the birthers, the most frustrating thing about them must be their utter contempt for evidence, reality, or any form of inconvenient truth. No matter how many times birthers are shown pictures of Obama's birth certificate, no matter how many times they're reminded that Obama is a citizen both through his birth geography and his mother's citizenship, no matter how many people call them cranks---they do not care. Reality is unimportant, compared to what they believe....

Everything's a conspiracy. Unable to face up to the fact that doctors provide abortions for the mundane reason that female patients ask for them, anti-choicers have concocted an elaborate conspiracy theory about how abortion is an "industry" based around tricking women into getting abortions for profit. Like all conspiracy theorists, they take evidence against the theory as if it were evidence that the network of conspirators is vast. So, if you Jane Blogger point out that Planned Parenthood is a non-profit that helps patients avoid abortion through contraception, the anti-choicer will assume you're part of the conspiracy and argue that contraception is part of the abortion conspiracy <9>.

The birther conspiracy theory works the same way---pointing out evidence and logical arguments only expands the size and scope of the conspiracy in the minds of birthers. In fact the "Obama faked his birth certificate and was born outside of the U.S." theory apparently erupted in part from an earlier conspiracy theory over Obama's middle name <10>. With birthers, as with anti-choicers, more evidence of reality just gets them further into the thick of imagining even more complex and strange conspiracies. And just as the anti-choicers have moved on to concocting theories about how Planned Parenthood is part of a child sex ring that they're covering up, I suspect the birther thing may grow in ways that are frightening in their complexity and lack of touch with reality.

And Obama said he could put an end to the culture wars! Have them all over for tea!
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Betty Karlson Donating Member (902 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 07:59 PM
Response to Original message
1. Thorough and informative.
And scary, when you realise that NOW is the time to be vigilant against right-wing threats more than ever.

Allow me to add one piece of information. According to Ferguson, fascism is more likely to occur in times of economic volatility. By that, he means that fascism can take root during a recession as well as during a time of booming economy. Needless to say, the USA have had plenty of both during the last dacade.

K&R, Sir, with my sincerest congratulations on the handsome presentation of this entry.
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givemebackmycountry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 08:31 PM
Response to Original message
2. That's a great post, I mean a GREAT post...
I say that a lot here on DU, so that says something about DU.

I have always believed (and I know it's strange) that the biggest difference between our two parties is this.

The biggest difference between the "Liberal, want to take your guns away, fetus killing', gay agenda supporting, anti-God, anti-church, pro illegal immigrant, Hitler loving, elitist, child raping, pot smoking, troop hating, flag burning, Clinton loving, pro-Islamic-fascist DemocRAT party" - AND - the "GOOD, Christian Conservative flag waving, freedom loving, God fearing', pro troop, pro Bush, tea-bagging, birther and death panel believing, anti-choice, bible thumping, TRUE AMERICA Republican" parties is simply this...

If they were told to do so, by Rush or Beck or Hannity or Savage or O'Reilly or just last year, Bush...
They would gladly kill us.

Shoot us down.
Drag us out of our cars at intersections and shoot us dead, if we had an Obama sticker or a rainbow sticker on the back our vehicles.

Kill us in our offices, and driveways, and places of worship.
Oh, wait...
That's right.
Funny how that shit worked out for poor Dr. Tiller.

Who's next?

They would do this, in that I believe.
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Imperfect World Donating Member (56 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 08:51 PM
Response to Original message
3. Fascism is the mixing of government and corporations.
The teabag protesters age against the government bailouts of AIG, General Motors, and other corporations. Therefore, the teabag protesters are not fascists.

I voted for Mike Gravel, because Obama is just as much of a fascist as Bush. Obama has appointed over 30 unelected czars who have way too much power, never got elected by anyone, and aren't accountable to anyone. Obama has continued the war on drugs, the Iraq War, unwarranted wiretapping, and enforcement of the Patriot Act. How is he any less fascist than Bush?

I support H.R. 676 for universal health care, which is only 30 pages long, and very easy to read and understand. I oppose Obama's plan of passing a 1,200 page bill that no one has read and no one understands, but which I suspect has all sorts of special favors and privileges for the big insurance and big pharmaceutical companies.

I really like what this tea bag protester has to say in her three minute phone call to C-SPAN:

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subcomhd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 09:15 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Adios eom
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Imperfect World Donating Member (56 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 12:18 AM
Response to Reply #4
7. Are you implying that I will get banned for what I said?
What posting rule did I allegedly break?
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Usrename Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 07:53 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. There is a problem with your analysis. A big problem.
The followers in the teabagger movement are nothing but useful idiots. They are simply sincere believers.

The leaders of the teabagger movement, the ones who astroturfed the whole movement out of thin air, are fascists.

I think this should be more than obvious, especially if you want to look back over the OP with this in mind, it might make more sense.

The people that you say are against the bailouts are the ones who created them, and they are also the leaders of the teabaggers.
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subcomhd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 10:26 AM
Response to Reply #7
10. I'm not implying anything.
I'm straight-up saying it.
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subcomhd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 10:28 AM
Response to Reply #7
11. Oh, I see you are already gone.
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Usrename Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 01:51 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. That doesn't seem right, unless there is more to it than that.
The poster seemed courteous and thoughtful to me.
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subcomhd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 02:03 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. Which part do you think was the most thoughtful?
When he defends the tea baggers or when he calls President Obama a fascist?
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Usrename Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 10:45 PM
Response to Reply #13
14. Both were thoughtful.
I think you may have a problem with the archaic definition of fascism that is being used. But the now TS'ed member made it very clear what they meant. I think that definition has been attributed to Mussolini (the father of Fascism) because of this famous statement:

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini

I know that's not the Webster's definition of fascism, but so what? Why TS someone over semantics? They did make clear what they meant by the using the terminology that way.

When fascism is defined that way, then there are legitimate things that can be discussed. Look, Obama's secret health care meetings shouldn't be viewed much differently than Cheney's secret energy task force meetings, should they? After all, during the campaign he did say he was going to put an end to that behavior and invite the press in, didn't he? The fact that Obama knows a certain behavior is wrong, while Cheney didn't seem to think so, sounds like a distinction without a difference.

Perhaps you have a different view of how Obama is blending the Corporatist interests with government legislation. If you do, make your argument. Why not discuss it?

As to the teabaggers, I already commented on that upthread.

Why not discuss that too?

What is it that has so offended you about this stuff?

Obama's behavior has Greg Palast puking:

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subcomhd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-25-09 06:43 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. Obama = Cheney?
And the teabaggers are great? Well, all right then. ROFLMFAO
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Usrename Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-25-09 10:27 PM
Response to Reply #15
16. Explain the difference. I'm to stoopid to see it.
Edited on Tue Aug-25-09 10:35 PM by Usrename
Do you mean: Obama=good, Cheney=bad, no matter that the behavior is identical?

If so, why is that funny to you?

on edit> It would have been nice, real nice, if Obama had closed Gitmo for his first act as president. Only he chose not to do that. He decided to make us live with the horror and shame of that place for at least another year. And you seem to be saying: "I love it when Obama runs Gitmo, it's a shame we had to let Cheney run it for all those years." That is what you are laughing about, isn't it?
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subcomhd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-26-09 12:03 AM
Response to Reply #16
17. uh huh, their policies are exactly the same
Seriously, you obviously have the internets and can read. So if you can't tell a difference, I'm not going to be able to help you. But I'm going to try just a bit. You mentioned GITMO so maybe you are aware of Dick Cheney's role in approving torture techniques for use there. You know, the Dick Cheney who is no different than Obama.

What color is the sky in this world where Obama and Cheney are moral equivalents?
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Usrename Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-26-09 01:10 AM
Response to Reply #17
18. I don't know. Do you really want to go there?
Edited on Wed Aug-26-09 01:22 AM by Usrename
Morality? Obama knows the difference between right and wrong and Cheney doesn't, or if he does, he doesn't care a whit about it? So what does that have to do with their behavior? Obama has a nice smile and Cheney has a sneer?

Look, to be honest, I haven't lost hope yet. I cannot personally make any judgment with any confidence about whether the ship of state is beginning to do a 180 or not. And I know the ship can turn on a dime. By this point in the Bush presidency we had already made the turn and were steaming full bore in the wrong direction. I was astounded at how quickly we went backwards. But to be fair, Bush had a brazillion times more help from his party than what Obama has received, and also Bush was handed a well-oiled machine while Obama was handed a piece of junk, and it takes longer to fix things than it does to break them, I understand all that.

Look, I never had any wild expectations about what can reasonably be accomplished. Some sunlight, some basic fairness on human rights, or even a tiny amount of economic or criminal justice would be nice to see by now. I'm looking real hard for any signs of any of that.

I understand that they are appointing a special prosecutor to look into some of the torture murders. They are using the exact same rhetoric that Bush/Cheney used, a few bad apples, or at least that's what it looks like at this point. I will love it when I am proved completely wrong, when I realize that my concerns are all unfounded, only it hasn't happened yet, that's all I'm sayin.'

In any event, the fact that we are actually having this discussion sort of proves my point. This is the kind of thing that the members here should be freely talking about, not getting TS'ed over.
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subcomhd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-26-09 01:20 AM
Response to Reply #18
19. They are using the exact same rhetoric that Bush/Cheney used, a few bad apples, or at least that's w
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Usrename Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-26-09 01:34 AM
Response to Reply #19
20. It's a metaphor. The bad apples part. Their process is the same.
They are going to go after the folks at the bottom of the chain of command, just like Bush/Cheney did. At least that is what Gen. Holder is saying the mandate will be limited to. At this point they aren't going to broach the question of whether or not "legally sanctioned" torture is a crime, they are just planning to go after the folks who went beyond the "legally sanctioned" torture. That's what all the press releases are saying. That is, and has been, the White House position.

It's probably a good thing. I wouldn't want this particular Supreme Court to decide whether or not a president can order torture. I honestly don't know which way the mop would flop if this court had it's say. The court has only gotten WORSE since they determined it was unconstitutional to count the legally cast votes in Florida. I don't really want them looking at any important decisions. I don't trust them. At all.

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subcomhd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-26-09 01:51 AM
Response to Reply #20
21. It doesn't say it will be limited to those who went beyond
what was sanctioned. It says those who relied on that in good faith won't be prosecuted. There is nothing in that press release that rules out prosecuting those who actually sanctioned it, an ommission that people like Bybee and Gonzales and Yoo and Cheney should find alarming.
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Usrename Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-26-09 02:24 AM
Response to Reply #21
22. If it can be interpreted that way, then they should be alarmed.
These are capital crimes, if pursued.

Obstruction of justice, witnesses and informants were killed as part of a criminal conspiracy.
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Enthusiast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 10:04 PM
Response to Original message
5. We should all read this.
And more importantly, we should understand it. We have witnessed a significant change in the country.

To me a huge test is if the will of the people will overcome the allegiance between the tea baggers and corporate interests to enact meaningful health care reform.
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snake in the grass Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 10:33 PM
Response to Original message
6. An excellent post!
While it's fun to mock these people and difficult not to laugh at them, their danger to our republic should never be underestimated.
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Usrename Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 07:58 AM
Response to Original message
9. It's perfect.
I don't see anything at all wrong with the analysis. There could be a little more emphasis on the importance of PSYOPS and other propaganda techniques that are adopted during the transition, but that stuff is really hard to sell to folks who don't quite get the basics.
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