Framing Fascism
Jay Taber printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 03:03:38 PM EST
In her recent article, Sara Robinson argues the United States is well on its way to becoming a totalitarian, fascist state. As evidence of this inevitability, she cites current town hall disruptions and threats received by public officials.

Not to quibble with her observation that we have been on a dangerous trajectory for some time, but the anti-democratic movement in America is bi-partisan, and is already well-entrenched. Both Obama and Bush are part of it.

While GOP thuggery is a deplorable means of exercising political influence, self-immersion in political panic or fascist hysteria is not what's called for. To her credit, Ms. Robinson soberly examines some of the attributes of rising fascism in response to social decline that deserve consideration, but fitting recurrent misbehavior -- mobilized for political purposes -- into a fascist framework is perhaps not the most effective analysis.

Addressing the underlying causes of disatisfaction, such as widespread institutional and market fraud, while less amenable to a partisan agenda, is nevertheless more strategically sound in defending democracy. Not to impune Ms. Robinson's motives, but there is a partisan aspect to her critique.

The anti-democratic movement, as Sara notes, is a serious threat to our freedom and well-being; framing that threat with inappropriate models, however, can lead to confusion about how to address that threat. The habit of linear thinking is not always conducive to public health.

I've read her article, and your response.  I think she has great weight of credence to what she says.

After all, some of these actions have taken place near here... and her description fits this area to a "t".

I know that there is a knee-jerk reaction against the words "fascist" and against comparisons to Hitler and his Germany among liberals and the left, and this I don't like.  I don't buy "Godwin's Law"- if a comparison to Hitler and Hitler's Germany (or fascism) is valid, then it is appropriate.

In this case, she makes a valid argument that this comparison is viable.

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Aug 09, 2009 at 03:20:59 PM EST

Al Schumann has injected some sense about differing realities l into the town hall uproar that I find helpful in dissociating from the partisan nonsense. The main point being that town halls and other aspects of faux democracy provide cover for the charade of representation, when the reality is that the American people have no voice. Promoting scary stories for profit and prestige only increases a sense of helplessness among consumers of this product. Sara is by no means the worst, but she exemplifies the elitist nature of scare-mongering merged with party politics. Succumbing to political theatre is due to political illiteracy; pretending low level delinquents are more than that is silly.

by Jay Taber on Sun Aug 09, 2009 at 03:55:32 PM EST
I wouldn't characterize her as elitist. As for the American people having no voice, well - that's a long discussion. What perfect democracy has ever existed ? I'm not minimizing corporate & military industrial & theocratic Christian influence over our current Democratic process. But, I'd submit, there are degrees to this - I don't believe we are living in a perfect totalitarianism posing as democracy and I suspect you don't believe that either.

Are people disrupting townhalls (whatever the merits of those) "low level delinquents" ? In the 1990's people who subscribed to the sort of conspiracy theories that the "birthers" and their ilk do today were forming militias and carrying out domestic terrorist attacks such as the Oklahoma City bombing. I know you know that, so why minimize what's going on currently ? The militias are rapidly reemerging, and the NWO / Illuminati / secret government detention center conspiracy theories are thicker and more prolific than a decade ago. The genre hasn't been effectively debunked, it has accreted and moved into mainstream discourse.

Meanwhile, I do agree with you that it's not necessarily useful to scare people. I did research for MRFF, along with Chris Rodda, for most of a year, and believe me - I could scare the pants off most if I thought it would be useful. Sara Robinson's piece, in accord with what I know, presents a mild portrait of the threat.

But, let's have a reality check - during the 1990's, were mainstream media voices discussing violence against leading Democratic Party politicians ?

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Aug 09, 2009 at 07:14:59 PM EST

You and Chris are doing some fine work, and typify what I would cite as exemplary applied research. I do, as a matter of fact, know Sara. She attended a conference where Neiwert and I were presenters. Given her background, and Dave's work as a journalist, their understanding is a cut above most. When we've disagreed, it's been about tenor, not so much content. Still, most of what I've observed has been delinquency by misled people, much more than murderous intent. Because of that, I think it's important to be accurate in analysis so that we deal with things appropriately. Some of the human rights professionals and wannabes knowingly overstate threats as well as their achievements, and while this doesn't prevent us from working together against serious violence, it does sometimes impede effective community organizing. My concern is that this has always been a taboo subject in the human rights industry, and needs to be aired before the next time all hell breaks loose. I'm not very hopeful about that happening.

by Jay Taber on Sun Aug 09, 2009 at 07:58:39 PM EST

First, I know the organizers of one of those town hall events.  They are NOT, and I repeat NOT "aspects of faux democracy".  The people behind them care about voting and democracy.  DEEPLY.

I took part in a public roundtable discussion that is connected with trying to change the structure of our medical system- something that I'm proud of.  Are you going to characterize that as an "aspect of faux democracy"???  Well, at least we're trying- not just sitting back and sniping.

Maybe you disagree with all of this and think that liberals and democrats are part of the problem.  I don't agree with you in the least.  

You owe the people I know an apology.  If you include the roundtable in your characterization, YOU OWE ME AN APOLOGY.

I also know the sort of language that is used around here about liberals and so on.  It is easily characterized as the language of murderous intent.

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Aug 09, 2009 at 08:52:23 PM EST

Indispensable Enemies, the one book to read on the American political system.

by Jay Taber on Mon Aug 10, 2009 at 01:59:31 PM EST

1930s and 1940s: Winrod, Fr. Coughlin, Gerald Smith, and so on, for the political/religious end, Ford and so on for the corporate end. Bullshit on "It Can't Happen Here". Sure it can, it just takes certain conditions, some of which have been fulfilled, some of which are not present at this time.

Who gets arrested at protests? Not the folks showing "open hunting season on liberals" signs, or carrying nooses. Police force is brought out against mainstream newspaper reporters who dare to photograph police. Police provocateurs out of uniform attempt to create situations allowing their uniformed colleagues to sail in and bust heads.

Who gets investigated? Not the people talking about killing the president or the radio/TV pundits "joking" about poisoning Democratic politicians.

Someone is funding those Astroturf organizations that have set up instant protests at the health care townhalls.

I simply do not believe in the good faith of a large portion of the American public. I do believe that 20% of the US population would be perfectly happy if the clock were turned back to Jim Crow days, and would gladly see gays and Jews expelled from the country. I also do not believe in the good faith of a large portion of US corporations - it is perfectly imaginable that a few corporations might slip a bit of money to Astroturf organizations that would assist malcontents in a bit of union-bashing or noose-waving. You don't need a lot of violent folks to take a country to fascism, just a little violence, a little money, some real skill at propaganda, and a populace unwilling to look too closely.

by NancyP on Mon Aug 10, 2009 at 08:58:53 PM EST

in the "American Public".

It's disheartening to hear anti-liberal rhetoric or see stuff like that at yard sales, on church signs and church property, etc.  The language is getting more and more militant and violent- as well as the repetition of right-wing propaganda such as put out by the "birthers".  It's even starting to cause a ruckus on non-political/non-religious blogs that don't have a thing to do with either.

I've even heard it in the checkout lines at Wal Mart.

I'm rather concerned that the local people will put my face with my name.  There ARE a couple of hate groups living less than a couple of miles from my house, and with the hostility since President Obama winning the election and considering that I'm rather politically active, I fear for my safety at times.

As far as businesses, out of the couple of hundred or so that were my customers, only around 10% or so would hire minorities and of those, only 5 to 10 at most would hire them for anything more than cleanup or grunt labor.  I was put under a lot of pressure to attend a business seminar (by several of the owners) which was "how to get rid of unions and keep them away".  I still have the book I was given for that seminar- and it's blatantly a program to eliminate unions.

I might add that when it became public knowledge that I was American Indian, I lost around 60% of my customers in one month.

I can tell it's getting worse, even though I'm no longer in that environment.

The general population I've encountered also has been programmed that "looking too closely" is that dreaded thing SOCIALISM.  Never mind that some of them recognize that they're getting the shaft.

They seem willing to tolerate almost any elite abuse, rather than even be close to a "socialist".  Many of them express that attitude towards "Librul Democrats!" too.

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Aug 11, 2009 at 12:42:52 AM EST

Black Agenda Report currently has a number of articles on the Town Hall sham e-shutting-down-these-so-called-health-care-town-meetings-too and other aspects of health care betrayal by Obama, Congress, and the Democratic Party.

by Jay Taber on Wed Aug 12, 2009 at 01:47:51 PM EST
Page not found.

by Nightgaunt on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 04:22:26 PM EST

and not given the chance to present their "argument" in a debate and be taken seriously. If debate format is there already, we need Colbert types as their opponents, delivering zingers in every sentence, and mocking them for ignoring the real problems of real people.

We aren't going to change the Birthers' minds about anything, but we could sway the middle-of-the-road types who follow fads. Laughter punctures many a fad.

Most people, when not being incited in a mob, find all the "death panel" and "socialist born in Kenya" shrillness to be off-putting, and would more than likely agree that the Birthers are Chicken Littles.

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