Is The US On The Brink of Fascism ?, asks Sara Robinson, of Campaign For America's Future, in a new analytic treatment of our current drift into what Robinson sees as a pre-fascist America on the brink of the abyss.
Is it alarmism ? Consider that across the nation, corporate-funded agitators have converged en-masse to shut down townhall meetings on health care. Or that such agitation has escalated to the point that some rightwing protestors have brought weapons to the townhall meeting, incited riots, and assaulted and threatened Democratic Party legislators. Are they brownshirts yet ?
Maybe not, suggests Robinson, but they're in training for the role - honing tactics that they soon may try to use on us. And, corporate media is egging on and even funding this militant, rancid antidemocratic populism, stoking it with debunked conspiracy theories and ridiculously inflammatory, hyperbolic, irresponsible, even eliminationalist, rhetoric.
If we're on the brink, if Sara Robinson is correct, what can we do ? Should we passively accept doom, go gently into that dark night ?
Of course not. First, we should read Robinson's piece. Forewarned is forearmed.
And above all we need to take things seriously - we need to move beyond mockery, because the would-be brownshirt legions afflicting and trying to shut down the current health care debate don't care much whether we mock them or not. They've got a job to do: shutting down the democratic process. We've seen it before. Remember the faux "riot" that shut down the ballot recount in Miami after the 2000 election ?
As Robinson writes,
It's so easy right now to look at the melee on the right and discount it as pure political theater of the most absurdly ridiculous kind. It's a freaking puppet show. These people can't be serious. Sure, they're angry -- but they're also a minority, out of power and reduced to throwing tantrums. Grown-ups need to worry about them about as much as you'd worry about a furious five-year-old threatening to hold her breath until she turned blue.
Unfortunately, all the noise and bluster actually obscures the danger. These people are as serious as a lynch mob, and have already taken the first steps toward becoming one. And they're going to walk taller and louder and prouder now that their bumbling efforts at civil disobedience are being committed with the full sanction and support of the country's most powerful people, who are cynically using them in a last-ditch effort to save their own places of profit and prestige.
We've arrived. We are now parked on the exact spot where our best experts tell us full-blown fascism is born. Every day that the conservatives in Congress, the right-wing talking heads, and their noisy minions are allowed to hold up our ability to govern the country is another day we're slowly creeping across the final line beyond which, history tells us, no country has ever been able to return.
How do we pull back? That's my next post.
We're not just on the road to fascism, Sara Robinson warns; we've arrived at the destination, have taken the final turn into the parking lot, and are looking for a space. Robinson's analysis relies heavily on the work of scholar Robert Paxton, who has done leading work on the mechanics of emerging fascism:
In tracking the mileage on this trip to perdition, many of us relied on the work of historian Robert Paxton, who is probably the world's pre-eminent scholar on the subject of how countries turn fascist. In a 1998 paper published in The Journal of Modern History, Paxton argued that the best way to recognize emerging fascist movements isn't by their rhetoric, their politics, or their aesthetics. Rather, he said, mature democracies turn fascist by a recognizable process, a set of five stages that may be the most important family resemblance that links all the whole motley collection of 20th Century fascisms together.
As Robinson details, the process is well advanced:
Now, the guessing game is over. We know beyond doubt that the Teabag movement was created out of whole cloth by astroturf groups like Dick Armey's FreedomWorks and Tim Phillips' Americans for Prosperity, with massive media help from FOX News. We see the Birther fracas -- the kind of urban myth-making that should have never made it out of the pages of the National Enquirer -- beingopenly ratified by Congressional Republicans. We've seen Armey's own professionally-produced field manual that carefully instructs conservative goon squads in the fine art of disrupting the democratic governing process -- and the film of public officials being terrorized and threatened to the point where some of them required armed escorts to leave the building. We've seen Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner applauding and promoting a video of the disruptions and looking forward to "a long, hot August for Democrats in Congress."
This is the sign we were waiting for -- the one that tells us that yes, kids: we are there now. America's conservative elites have openly thrown in with the country's legions of discontented far right thugs. They have explicitly deputized them and empowered them to act as their enforcement arm on America's streets, sanctioning the physical harassment and intimidation of workers, liberals, and public officials who won't do their political or economic bidding.
Sara Robinson suggested she'd offer some solutions to the problem, in her next installment. Here are some of my preliminary thoughts:
- We all have a responsibility to reach out to friends and loved ones, especially if they don't have health care - to help them understand the gravity of what's going on this summer; antidemocratic goons are disrupting, with threats of violence in some cases, the debate over solutions to America's health care dilemma.
- The thugs and provocateurs disrupting townhall meetings are disturbing the peace. Local police departments must be encouraged to do their jobs, shamed into it if need be.
- The Glenn Beck / Fox boycott may be the most important weapon immediately at our disposal. Details of that boycott effort, with action items, are laid out quite well currently on this Daily Kos recommended list post. Readers can promote that boycott to friends and family, especially those with inadequate and absurdly expensive health care, and those with no health care at all.
Talking points ? - Simple: Fox News, and Glenn Beck, are working to prevent health care solutions that could improve your health care and even your health. Is the current status quo OK ? If not, why wouldn't the government do better than the health care companies ? The government runs Medicare, and it isn't perfect but administrative overhead is only about 2%, dramatically lower than for private companies. And the federal government runs the military. Is that 'socialism' ? - it isn't perfect but private military contractors are worse. Look at Blackwater ( cue Jeremy Scahill ).
Those are immediate approaches we each can take to push back incipient American fascism, which has loomed over American Democracy before. In the 1930's Sinclair Lewis saw the threat and wrote "It Can't Happen Here". The threat was averted - narrowly, perhaps more so than, many realize. But, it was averted. The price of democracy is eternal vigilance.
The larger problem we face is one of corporate America run amok. There are no easy solutions. US Supreme Court rulings have backed the concept that corporations, which are deathless legal constructs, have rights similar to those of mortal, flesh and blood humans. That's absurd. Corporations exist by virtue of public charters, and those can be terminated should corporations fail to serve the public good or when, as is now the case, work against the public good.
It will be hard to push back accumulated, misguided legal precedent concerning corporations (hard, not impossible) but there's another, parapolitical, approach which could accomplish the desired end; beyond the Fox / Glenn Beck boycott there's dire need to promote, as widely as possible, the following :
- Corporations should NOT have the legal right to broadcast demonstrable falsehoods and debunked conspiracy theories over the public airwaves.
- Corporations should NOT have the legal right to finance agitators who wilfully and and violently disrupt public democratic debates and discussions, such as over health care.
- Corporations that seek to disrupt and thwart the democratic process must be stripped of their corporate charters.
- We, The People, will work tirelessly until the aforementioned principles become the law of the land.
[UPDATE: I'm not advocating the creation of some government "ministry of truth". But the "Ministry of Truth" in George Orwell's 1984 was in reality the Ministry of Propaganda, which is exactly what Fox News, and to some extent CNN, are functioning as currently. And, they're airing media voices that are making thinly veiled calls for acts of violence against leading Democratic Party politicians. If we can't meaningfully oppose that, we're in a very bad position. The talking points above can function the way right wing talking points do - as establishing the outer bounds of discourse so that then "reasonable" voices can comes in and declare, "well, that's going a bit too far, but certainly something needs to be done." My overall point is that we need some real populist outrage against what Fox, CNN, etc. are putting out in their broadcasts.]
Has the Fox / Beck Show begun to have an effect ? Well then, imagine the power of a populist hue and cry that corporations which abuse their corporate charters should cease to exist.
In the end, we don't want to kill off abusive corporations. That's a last resort. We just want them to behave.
"C Street" and The Military (on interwining of "C Street House" Politicians, right wing evangelicals, and the US military.)
Can 100,000 Anti-Obama New World Order Conspiracy Videos Be Wrong ? (over 90,000 anti-Obama, "New World Order" conspiracy theory videos on YouTube... and growing.
Daily Kos: The RW's thinly coded call for assassination. Call it what it is, TERRORISM
The Tide is Turning: NBC Evening News Exposes Teabagger
Update: Thank You Rachel Maddow & Frank Schaeffer!