Monday, March 7, 2011

The Tea Party and the F-word

Sinclair Lewis wrote that when fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.

Writing in the Kentucky State Journal, Sara Robinson describes the stages of fascist movements:
In the first stage, a mature industrial state facing some kind of crisis breeds a new, rural movement that's based on nationalist renewal. This movement invariably rejects reason and glorifies raw emotion, promises to restore lost national pride, co-opts the nation's traditional myths for its own purposes, and insists that the country must be purged of the toxic influence of outsiders and intellectuals who are blamed for their current misery.

(Sound familiar yet?)

In the second stage, the movement takes root, turns into a real political party, and seizes a seat at the table....

(Paging the Party of No....)

In the face of this deadlock, the corporate elites forge an alliance with rural nationalists, creating an unholy marriage that, if it continues, will soon breed a fascist state. And, of course, this is precisely what's happening now between the Koch Brothers, the oil companies, Americans for Prosperity, and the Tea Party.

The majority of history's would-be fascist movements have died right at this stage -- almost always because of the basic authoritarian ineptitude of their leadership, which ensured that they'd never gain anything more than a small and temporary handful of seats at the political table. The successful fascisms, on the other hand, were the ones that held together and to gained enough political leverage that capturing their governments became inevitable....

...there are three quick questions that let you know you've crossed that fail-safe line beyond which an emerging fascist regime has too much power to be stopped:
  1. Are [neo- or protofascisms] becoming rooted as parties that represent major interests and feelings and wield major influence on the political scene?
  2. Is the economic or constitutional system in a state of blockage apparently insoluble by existing authorities?
  3. Is a rapid political mobilization threatening to escape the control of traditional elites, to the point where they would be tempted to look for tough helpers in order to stay in charge?
If the answer to all three is "yes," you're probably on for the rest of the ride, which can run for at least a decade or two before it burns through.
Sound hysterical? Of course it does. We're far too sensible for that. Yet... recall the lunacies of would-be Senators Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell. The ravings of Rep. Michelle Bachmann. Death panels and birthers and demagoguery. Global warming denial and "liberal treason" and the nonsense of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. The apparent inability of the Republican leadership to control their tea partiers, and a party with no interest in governing, but only in power. A media that plays to its own preconceptions, for example hiding liberal victories and highlighting liberal defeats. A government that tortures its own citizens.

There is a nasty tendency towards the mob in this country, and a deep seated distrust of the educated. It's long past time for us to seize the narrative in a way that can connect with the mob, and not just our own elite echo chamber. But I have no idea how to get there, since the values espoused by the mob are so very, very different than mine. We might as well be talking different languages.

And in the violence and hyperbole, an undeniable whiff of the 1930s.


JCF said...

Evidence offered for your consideration: Modern Day 'Spartans' (or Brownshirts?)

JCF said...

OK, having now read the piece, I have to ask re this:

What's different now is that all the crazy ideas of the radical right [lists a bunch of Teh Krazy] -- have been catalyzed by the magic of the Internet

What Ms Robinson couldn't have known when this was published last October, is that the Internet would be catalyzing ideas---and uprisings based upon those ideas---ACROSS the ideological spectrum, and across the world (See re Middle East/North Africa)

When she speaks of past Fascist takeovers, she is of course speaking of the PRE-Internet/pre-Twitter age. Can this genie ever be put back in the bottle? [I ask in light of the news that the US government asked, and got, the cooperation of YouTube to take down Al-Alaki's (American-born Al Qaida imam, based in Yemen) videos . . . but they're still there. Once something goes viral, you just CAN'T get rid of it. A Tea Party run Fascist US would have the same problem!]

it's margaret said...


Thanks for this, IT.

MarkBrunson said...

Except, of course, that simply tweeting and blogging may disseminate information, but the people have to take action - besides simply sitting in front of a computer - to actually protect themselves.

The age of viral information has brought a complacency that allows evil free reign.

IT said...

Actually, JCF, despite twitter and blogs and the internet, I'm not convinced we have any tools to withstand it. What have you heard about Wisconsin lately? Not much--the 100,000 people protesting barely got noticed by most people.

I'm not convinced Americans want freedom. They seem so willing to give it away into a system of corporate oligarchy.