.....There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be represented and accepted as the Voice of the People...we no longer need the Piazza Venezia in Rome or the Nuremberg Stadium.Umberto Eco's (author of The Name Of The Rose) essay described growing up under Mussolini's Fascist government, and he ponders the various forms of totalitarianism and Fascism.
- Umberto Eco on the future of Fascist propaganda (1995)
Unlike Hitler apologist Jonah Goldberg, Eco labels Nazism a flavor of Fascism. Eco predicts Goldberg's reductio ad absurdum arguements (Hitler had dogs, Hitler was a Nazi, people with dogs are Nazis)and to prevent this, Eco created a Fascism checklist to prevent overuse of the word "Fascism," and to make it identifiable
We are here to remember what happened and solemnly say the "They" must not do it again.It's time to compare Eco's 14 point descrioption of Fascism to the GOP fringe, and since he wrote it in 1995, it is unbiased regards the politics of 2010.
But who are They?
Tom Tancredo's opening remarks spurred to me to type this up. He certainly hit some classic Fascist themes to warm up the crowd: fear of the foreigners, dilution of white (Aaryan) culture, a society filled with traitors, treasonous politicians determined to undermine the country.
But does the Tea party have enough of an agenda to judge or are they just a noisy joke? As Eco noted (in a prescient slapdown off "Liberal Fascism") Fascism (and Nazism) is a spiritual system, while communism is materialist (dialectic materialism, anyone?). Materialistism in the philosophical sense means governed by natural laws, and the Communists believed that mankind was governed by economic laws that could be control human nature like electricity that could be switched on and off. Communism was aetheist, and tried to perfect man and nature through crackpot science like Lysenkoism. Nazism was religious, and all about blood, will, and national spirit. Is the Tea party about perfecting our system of government? No, it is about returning the country to the "spirit of the founding fathers." You laugh at their lack of specifics at your own risk.
So let's run through Eco's 14 point list and see how the Tea party fits in:
1. Fascism is the cult of tradition...dreaming of a revelation...concealed under the veil of forgotten languages....we can only keep interpreting its obscure messageI think that captures Glenn Beck's Ouija board approach to history pretty well. Beck makes American history into some sort of Cabala mystery cult, and he manages to twist a radical atheist like Thomas Payne into religious symbol.
2. Rejection of Modernism...ideology based on Blood and Earth (Blut and Boden)...the Age of reason is seen as the beginning of modern depravity.In WW2, democracy was seen as the rational Enlightenment's answer to the barbarism of Fascism. The teabaggers are part the neocon history rewrite project that turns the Founding Fathers into religious zealouts united by spiritual beliefs rather than a bunch of squabbling Diest free thinkers. Rather than seeing the American Revolutions as a modernist rebellion against monarchy and colonialist economics, the teabaggers believe the founding fathers marched in lockstep towards a medieval theocracy.
3. Cult of action for action's sake....distrust of the intellectual worldWe see Cheney's attacks on Obama for "dithering" in Afghanistan, and the rights emphasis on swift action even if it's wrong. They don't quite have the teabaggers on board with this yet.
4. Disagreement is TreasonWell it was when Bush was in power, I seem to remember people being quite explicit that disagreement was treason. Again, the teabaggers have not been pulled into this. But keep in mind that authoritarians are by nature also rebels, and this is one of the inherent contradictions in their character, that they take power through rebellion rather than the popular elections they despise. So this point is certainly true for Fascism and any totalitarian system, but only after they have seized power. Still, the Teabaggers do love to excommunicate members.
5. Fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against intruders.Wow, there's Tom Tancredo, who was literally the first speaker at the Tea party convention, who came out to warm up the crowd.
6. Appeal to a frustrated middle classIn the 1990's, Eco wondered if a new Fascism would emerge to exploit the prosperous middle class. But now the tea baggers are aiming their appeal directly at a frustrated middle class.
7. Obsession with a plotWhere to begin? Birthers, deathers, AGW deniers, militia NWO freedom fighter wannabees (Wolverines!), ACORN haters, Census phobics, yep, that's the teabaggers all right.
8. Followers must feel humiliated....Well I do my part to humiliate them all right
...must be convinces they can overwhelm the enemies...continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, (their) enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.To be sure this is Nazism, which said the Jews were weak, physically and mentally degenerate, and wrong about everything, but their wrong ideas would destroy civilization. Sort of how xtians describe evolution.
But for a more specific example, watch Glenn Beck talk about the 9-12 march. Yes, Beck claims "We Surround Them," and there is more than a million people, but the media supposedly refuse to report it.
A perfect match to Eco's point.
Poor Glenn Beck, battling what Hitler called the "liberal media."
9...life is permanent warfare...an Armageddon complex...there must be a final battleThe Tea party is rife with these secessionists, battle flags, and talk of civil war.
10. Contempt for the weak...every citizen belongs to the best people of the world, the memebers of the party are...the best citizensWe saw the contempt at the town halls where the teabaggers shouted down cancer survivors (and the occasional Jew). But also we saw Tancredo tell the teabaggers that they are the real citizens, and that other people have no idea what this country is about.
11. Cult of Heroic DeathWe have not seen the first teabagger suicide bomber yet, but we have certainly seen Glenn Beck fans going on shooting sprees before going down in a hail of bullets. This certainly includes the militia crowd.
12. Condemnation of nonstandard sexual habitsJudging by the 9-12 protest signs, these folk spend a lot of time thinking about sodomy. A lot of time.
13a. Selective populism....There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be represented and accepted as the Voice of the People...we no longer need the Piazza Venezia in Rome or the Nuremberg StadiumWow, there's you jaw dropping holy shit moment for you right there. That is the teaparty in a nutshell - 500 people in a small hall that did not sell out being covered like a national political convention, 60,000 marchers being covered like the Superbowl.
13b. Ur-Fascism must be against "rotten" parliamentary government.For Hitler, this was the "Pan-German problem." Today we see the GOP blocking Congress' every move and demonizing Pelosi and Reid. The teabaggers also see Congress as completely broken, requiring the removal of all members.
14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak....impoverished vocabulary and syntax to limit complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.Again, that's pretty scary because Eco just described Fox News perfectly.
I'm going to give the teabaggers a 95% score on Eco's Fascism scale. They get partial credit for #3 and #4, which are more characteristic of a mature totalitarian state.
They would probably score 100% if they had a charismatic leader to focus their message and turn them into actual corporate sponsored Brown Shirts. The GOP would desperately like to capture the Tea Party's energy and potential for violence to use it to defend corporate interests, and the media is perfecting its ability to create flash personality cults around nonentities like Sarah Palin and even what are essentially fictional characters like Joe The Plumber. The potential is there for some nut case to take the stage and lead the rabble on a rampage to stop the Illuminati or whoever. With Fox News on the job, the revolution will be televised.
And why not? The world is full or religious fanatics ready to do violence for their favorite Sky Diety that lives in the clouds and grants wishes, and the Tea party seems to have more than their share. They are ready for another quasi-religious political (Fascist)movement. Glenn Beck is their John the Baptist, and they wait eagerly for their crackpot Fascist Messiah.
I hope y'all took time to watch Sister Sarah talking about renewing America's "spirit" and railing against "elitists" (I did not use Eco's quotes on elitists).
There are more of us than they want us to believeNice!