For some time tonight we had on the rec list three diaries about increasing violence in public discourse carried out by a small but rapidly growing minority whose modi operandi remind one clearly of fascism with a distinctive American twist, but with the familiar ingredients of violence, ultra-nationalism, misinformation, historical revisionism, racism, corporatism, silencing of dissent, and fear.
We had two more diaries about demagogues intent on creating just such a fascist movement, orators with access to the airwaves who, in the midst of a serious economic crisis causing growing suffering amongst the lower and middle classes, are disseminating a racially charged ideology built from the pedding of terror and calls for (make no mistake) political revolution—the undermining of the political status quo and democratic legitimacy as it exists in our system of government.
We had one diary about the returning (and growing) ascendancy of white racism in America.
We had one diary about the way in which these are tied to a religious movement that claims to derive legitimacy for political actions from God's own will surrounding a battle for good and evil in which the two are split along ethnic and racial lines, and which is already responsible for multiple wars, trillions of dollars in spending and state-corporatist and military-industrial profits, and the untimely and largely (at least in America) unheralded deaths of millions.
Finally we had one diary about the confirmation of the first Latina supreme court justice—implicitly notable precisely because of its relation to simmering tensions and racial hatreds in this country, and for the thrust and parry in this battle that it symbolizes.
Underneath it all is a zeitgeist colored by mobilization. The right is mobilizing. The birthers, the lifers, the anti-socialists (to use an interesting turn of phrase) and the (yes, I'll use the term, and no, not lightly) American Fascist Right are rising.
We've had this complacent impression that we "won" something in the most recent election, and perhaps we did, but not nearly so cleanly as we thought we had. Too many were and are prepared to declare a new political era, a political decline of the right. Perhaps that's so in some ways. The right has declined in numbers and it may have declined in interior political influence as well.
But the decline in numbers also represents a purification (again, words not chosen lightly) of the right, a distillation of the group to boil away those that aren't up for the battle, that aren't interested in the revolutionary politics that is now driving this third of the American public. And the decline in interior political influence is (a) not as pronounced as many imagine (witness the current state of the political jousting over any number of issues in Washington) and (b) matched by an increase in extrasystemic political influence and activity. They haven't lost their mojo; they're just using more and more of it on the streets and in the private sector.
What strikes me here is the sense that the locus of power, the place at which social and political power in this country are generated, is shifting, out of the halls of government and into the streets. They, the radical right, are preparing to take it to the streets and to take it into the market, into the world of commerce and business. It reeks of the rise of fascism, across a dozen different dimensions.
The left needs to decide what it's made of this year, this season, before the next cycle of elections, perhaps sooner. The left has to decide if it's really going to allow itself to continue to feel smugly superior about its passivity while all of this happens around it. Passive resistance is a useful tool for fighting states and status quos. These people, however, are an insurgency; they are fighting the political status quo, and they seem increasingly prepared to do it in extrasystemic ways.
The self-righteous rhetorical flair of the enlightened left won't hold up as a counterinsurgency measure. The time for phone calls is rapidly passing; the radical right is moving to make phone calls obsolete. The time for bodies in the streets will soon (I fear, though I hope it isn't the case) be at hand. How the left responds will determine whether a small but violent minority is able to take this society in directions that the majority not only doesn't support, but can't possibly afford.
Have look at the rec list diaries above that all graced the front page simultaneously tonight and reflect for a moment. The battle lines are changing. Will we adapt?
This is, it seems to me, where we are—or at least where we are going.
Further update: Thanks everyone for the discussion. I want to add that I don't intend here to overstate any risks or to suggest that the collapse of the American government is just around the corner. But we can't underestimate what the right may be willing to do as they try to bring it about. We can't take these challenges lightly. To write them off smugly as an unhinged minority is to risk allowing them to achieve disproportionate, surprising, and perhaps even devastating political power despite ourselves. It feels, to me at least, like a critical moment. More to the point, unless this kind of activity is answered—and I worry that answers from politicians and public figures are not enough—people (as many here point out) are going to get hurt.
First update: I'm pleased and humbled to hit the rec list for the first time. I hope I'm worrying too much, not too little. And of course because I wrote this about the rec list, I've edited it a bit now that the rec list has changed, but do please see the links at the top, since the rec list diaries to which I refer are all linked there.
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