Please click on the button and read through some of the posts for today’s blog swarm. (I dare you to them read all! there were 264 bloggers signed up last I checked!!!)
Edit 10:33 AM 3/19/08: If you read nothing else (heck if you don’t even read my post) please click here and read this post by DDay at Hullabaloo about how Cheney is hard at work making sure this war last long past Bush’s presidency. There’s a legacy for ya!
There are more than 1 million reasons to oppose this war. And just because I’m proud to be called a bleeding heart liberal I’m participating in this blog swarm. Yes. Why not? More than 1 million dead seems to be a good enough reason to oppose it.
But there are other really good reasons. For instance, a ruling party that says “support the troops” by underfunding veterans hospitals and cheating widows and orphans out of their pensions so that the rich can get richer. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Even if I had agreed with the reasons to go into Iraq in the first place (which I did not) the aftermath in this country alone was enough to prove to me that our leadership had taken a deep draught of the fascist kool-aid.
I guess, the best and most coherent thing I could do today is reprint my post from last year. Let me add first that even though it might seem likely that we will have a party change in the White House next year, it is still vitally important that we as citizens continue to be vigilant and loud and obnoxious and make our voices heard.
A change in the political party is no guarantee that the power balance, the Constitutional abuses or the civil liberties that have been trampled over the last five years will be automatically restored or reversed. It is our patriotic duty as citizens of this country to dissent, and to demand that they are…no matter what party affiliation of the next President.
That is not to say we don’t have hope. Where there is life there is hope. And I won’t be part of the fear-mongering that played such a big role in getting us into this mess in the first place. What is disturbing to me is the way that the President and his political advisers have twisted and corrupted his professed religion’s foundational message of hope into the abomination of scarcity, fear, isolation and hatred. As a result, I have not been convinced that Dr. Britt’s thesis is all that far from the mark.
I’ve been running across references to this article lately and felt that today I had to comment. Warning: This is long. Get a cuppa and put on your thinking cap. Dr. Britt’s points are included as are my comments on them. Hey. It’s my blog, afterall. J from the coffee shop (only a little smugly ) says there is t-shirt with the list. Gotta find me one.
This article originally appeared in 2003 edition of Free Inquiry. A link to the article is at the end of this post. Britt analyzed 7 historical fascist regimes (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia) to find commonalities. Here’s what he came up with and my somewhat pessimistic assessment of where we are as far as developing “W’s United States” to be included on this list.
1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.
I don’t know if I need to catalog all the ways that life in the United States meets this criteria. From the jingoistic use of the flag that extends to credit cards, to the accusations that anyone that doesn’t agree with the administration is a traitor (read: Dixie Chicks, at least) seem pretty obvious to me.
The one thing that I would like to comment on is that I think the xenophobia aspect of this one is foundational to the furor over “illegal” immigrants.
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.
- Immigrants, especially if they have brown skin;
- anyone with a “foreign” name or look,
- the poor,
- (especially poor women with children. Read: welfare reform.)
And that’s just what I can think of off the top of my ½ caffeinated head.
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice—relentless propaganda and disinformation—were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite “spontaneous” acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and “terrorists.” Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.
He’s got the list. The only thing we don’t hear screeched out is anti-Semitism because it’s usually masked by the Zionist rhetoric. It’s not that it’s not there, though.
4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.
Watched the anti-anti-war protests lately? Since the beginning of this regime, any attempt to insert reasoned dialog into the equation has been branded as anti-military and we all know we must “support the troops” the way the administration says they should be supported. Apparently that means not giving them body armour, equipement nor health care, but whatever.
5. Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.
- Abortion and Gay Marriage being the #1 and #2 “moral” issues trotted out every election since 1973. Or before. Just saying.
- Welfare reform (A majority of people on welfare are women with children. To say that rabidly pursuing “welfare reform” is not a sexist issue is to hide your head in the sand.)
- All the crap Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelossi are getting that they wouldn’t be getting if they were men
- The patronizing way Condoleeza Rice and Harriet Miers are addressed both by W and the media
6. A controlled mass media. Under some of the regimes, the mass media were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes’ excesses.
This one has been argued every which way from Tuesday. Is the media conservative? Is the media liberal? I don’t think it’s any one thing. What I do know is that it is market driven and what passes for “news” most of the time is tripe. I do know that NPR, which is the closest thing to an independent mass media has had their funding threatened continually since Reagan and the whole scandal over who is running the Corporation for Public Broadcasting wasn’t even a news story on the “networks.”
I think ‘teh innernets’ help a teeny tiny bit. Although, I’ve read enough science fiction (1984, Ender’s Game …and sequels) and know enough about technology to know that if the military/administration wanted to crack down on us anti-administration bloggers they would do it. It’s done in places like Egypt, after all. In the name of national security, of course.
7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting “national security,” and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.
Oh please. Do I need to say anything here?
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite’s behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the “godless.” A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.
This is the one that pisses me off the most. Not only that there are church leaders that have participated actively but there are millions of others who are just burying their heads in the sand about it. It reminds me so much of 1920-30’s Germany that I want to scream. When will today’s Niemoller wake up and realize that their quietism has cost us AGAIN. Where are the Bonhoeffers ? In other words, where is the Confessing Church of America?
9. Power of corporations protected. Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure military production (in developed states), but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of “have-not” citizens.
And on and on and on and on and on….
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.
This is a story that isn’t even on the blip of network media. Companies routinely restrict what communications employees can bring into the workplace explicitly to prevent the formation of unions.
The union movement has not been without it’s faults in the last 100 years, but to outlaw it swings the pendulum to the other extreme.
11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.
It sort of starts with a president who is proud and boastful of being a C student. And continues on with the controversies surrounding things like:
- National Endowment for the Arts
- Dixie Chicks
- Vagina Monologues
- Censorship of Harry Potter
- Lawsuits against “liberal biased” professors
And on and on and on and on…
Popular entertainment that supports and fosters the administration’s atmosphere of fear, etc.
- Law & Order
For just the Network examples. Not counting Hollywood.
12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse. “Normal” and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or “traitors” was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.
- Over-crowded prisons
- “war” on drugs
- “war” on terror
- Immigration raids and holding
- Eroding of search and seizure laws
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.
Again, the list is too long. Do I really need to spell it out?
14. Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.
Does any of this ring alarm bells? Of course not. After all, this is America, officially a democracy with the rule of law, a constitution, a free press, honest elections, and a well-informed public constantly being put on guard against evils. Historical comparisons like these are just exercises in verbal gymnastics. Maybe, maybe not.
To me this is a clear case of “If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, swim like a duck and tastes like a duck, it must be a duck.”
I’m not that happy being a citizen of fascist regime. How about you?
What are we going to do about it? It will be dangerous to seriously stand up against this. Are we ready to risk our life for the sake of the world?
Here is where you can read Dr. Britt’s original article.
The reason I’m including this is because it’s all too easy on teh innernets to abandon our critical thinking skills. At the end of his article are references to supporting material for his assertion. If you find yourself having a defensive reaction to what I’ve written or to Dr. Britt’s thesis, I invite you to research some his sources yourself and see if you can form a logical argument against it.