Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fascism doesn't have a happy face

Today, an aging white supremacist with promiment neo-Nazi ties, who denied the Holocaust and the existence of Obama's birth certificate, and believed that 9.11 was a "false flag" operation orchestrated by Jews (an assumption about his belief system I'm making with good reason which turns out to be correct*), went into the Holocaust museum in D.C. and began shooting.

Ok, look: this man is a fascist. This - and his writings, and the people who lionized him at Stormfront - is what fascism looks like. It doesn't have a "happy face," as Glenn Beck and Jonah Goldberg like to say. It isn't about providing universal healthcare, spending money on the infrastructure of society, or raising the the top tax rates back to where they were while Clinton was president. It's not about the "progressive movement" and doesn't have a connection to Woodrow Wilson or Teddy Roosevelt.

This shooting is what the face of fascism looks like. Pure hate given violent expression; redemptive, xenophobic violence meant to rebirth the nation by eliminating its corrupting internal and external enemies (often demonized as disease, vermin, or pestilence), justified by a sense of victimhood at the hands of these Others; that is the essential core of fascism.

Today Glenn Beck, on his Fox tv show said that this crime confirmed what he has been warning about all along on his show: that "liberal fascism" - a natural consequence of the "cancer" of progressivism - is on the way.

Indeed, Beck warned his audience

There is gonna be a witchhunt, I believe, in this country, and quite possibly all around the world. For two groups. First group: Jews. It happens every time.

Second group: I think, Conservatives.
Right. First the liberals came for the Jews, then they came for the conservatives. How much more damage to history, facts, and our understanding of reality can Beck possibly do?

Fascists - real fascists - historically were fiercely anti-liberal and came to power by making common cause with conservative elites. As Robert Paxton put it in The Anatomy of Fascism: "Fascist regimes functioned like an epoxy: an amalgam of two very different agents, fascist dynamism and conservative order, bonded by shared enmity toward liberalism and the Left, and a shared willingness to stop at nothing to destroy their common enemies."

What's more:

The language and symbols of an authentic American fascism would, of course, have little to do with the original European models. They would have to be as familiar and reassuring to loyal Americans as the language and symbols of the original fascisms were familiar and reassuring to many Italians and Germans, as Orwell suggested. Hitler and Mussolini, after all, had not tried to seem exotic to their fellow citizens. No swastikas in an American fascism, but Stars and Stripes (or Stars and Bars) and Christian crosses. No fascist salute, but mass recitations of the pledge of allegiance. These symbols contain no whiff of fascism in themselves, of course, but an American fascism would transform them into obligatory litmus tests for detecting the internal enemy.

Around such reassuring language and symbols and in the event of some redoubtable setback to national prestige, Americans might support an enterprise of forcible national regeneration, unification, and purification. Its targets would be the First Amendment, separation of Church and State (creches on the lawns, prayers in schools), efforts to place controls on gun ownership, desecrations of the flag, unassimilated minorities, artistic license, dissident and unusual behavior of all sorts that could be labeled antinational or decadent.
Indeed, "today a 'politics of resentment' rooted in authentic American piety and nativism sometimes leads to violence against some of the very same 'internal enemies' once targeted by the Nazis, such as homosexuals and defenders of abortion rights."

To translate that for Beck: the man who allegedly killed abortion provider Dr. Tiller was a fascist. So to the man who shot up a Unitarian church because he hated liberals and gays. And the man who shot police officers because he thought they and Obama were coming to take his guns.

Those were genuine fascists and, as Dave Neiwert observes, they share much of the same conspiratorial worldview as Beck.

[Von Brunn is] also a "birther." But the truly telltale aspect of his record: In 1981, he was arrested for attempting a "citizen's arrest" of Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve Building in D.C. and was sentenced to a prison term for it. Von Brunn claimed "sovereign citizenship" at the time, which almost certainly means he was an adherent of the white-supremacist/far-right movement called Posse Comitatus, and was acting on those beliefs.

More to the point, this is precisely the same belief system that today fuels the cottage industry in conspiracy theories -- promulgated by the likes of Ron Paul and Alex Jones -- that the Fed is part of a massive conspiracy of "international [read: Jewish] bankers" to enslave Americans and destroy the country. It's been around quite awhile, but lately it's been gaining the patina of being regurgitated for mainstream consumption on right-wing media. And in particular, on Glenn Beck's programs.
Not satisfied to revise reality on his own, Beck had on a couple of guests to help him out. One, from an Ayn Rand institute of some sort, explained to Beck that Von Brunn is obviously "a product of the Left" because he's a racist and racists are collectivists, QED. Defining racism as a "left-wing" phenomenon is sophistry, as groups or individuals on both the political left and right can be racist while still having an ideology characteristic of being "right" or "left." Otherwise, we'd have to say that the apartheid regime of South Africa - championed by prominent movement conservatives (and Rush Limbaugh to this day) as a bulwark against communsim -was left-wing!

Of course, I think the the obsessive need to categorize everything as right/left is stupid in the first place. Fascists were explicitly and vehemently anti-democratic, making them enemies of both conservatism and liberalism.

And I point out that Beck has promoted some of the same conspiracy theories (stripped of their overt racism, to be sure) that animate the world view of actual fascists not because it means that he shares their ideology or hate. He does not. But what it does mean is that he is promoting some of the same ideas, the same understanding of reality, that they use to lay the ideological groundwork for the violent political expression of their hate.

As Jeffrey Feldman puts it (also see here for a similar point from Chip Berlet)

To what extent has right-wing violent rhetoric that has obsessed about the 'take over' of the country by nefarious forces for over a year--to what extent did the 2008 Republican presidential campaign amplify and normalize that language and that logic? And if it did normalize it, what responsibility does the media have to monitor that culture so that it cannot inspire white-supremacists to commit violent acts in the public sphere?

I discuss these issues at great length in my book Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons Our Democracy

What I argue in that book, and will also argue here, is that we make a fundamental mistake if we limit our questions to legal responsibility--if we limit ourselves to just asking questions about literal incitement. The media also has a responsibility to ask questions about the proper way to maintain a functioning civic debate. And a functioning civic debate is one that constantly pushes people away from the idea that violence is an acceptable form of politics.
Update: I couldn't help but remember Rush Limbaugh saying that there was no need for another 9/11 type attack from al Qaeda because the election of Obama is the second terrorist act, then debating with a caller whether it is George Soros (Jewish) or Saul Alinsky (Jewish) who is the puppet master of President Obama - whom Limbaugh has characterized as a repressive alien monster cockroach - in relation to Von Brunn's beliefs about Obama being a Manchurian plant (controlled by Jews, I'm guessing) and that 9/11 was a "false flag" event orchestrated by Jews.

Update II: No need to guess about Von Brunn thinking Obama is controlled by Jews.

In brief, the neo-Nazis with whom von Brunn associates himself in his writings believe the Jews control the "mud people." The "mud people" are all the non-white Aryans who, in the view of the racists, ought to be kicked out of the country.
*h/t Daily Kos

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