America the fascist.
July 28, 2003 6:43 PM   Subscribe

An article in the newest Adbusters magazine asks the question - is America becoming fascist? (a condensed version of this article written by Anis Shivani Oct. 2002). In it, Shivani states that “American fascism is tapping into the perennial complaint against liberalism: that it doesn't provide an authentic sense of belonging to the majority of people. And that is a criticism difficult to dismiss out of hand. As the language of liberalism has become flat and predictable, some Americans have become more ready to accept an alternative, no matter how ridiculous, as long as it sounds vigorous and muscular.” More inside...
posted by Quartermass (50 comments total)
 
Other articles on this same topic can be found here; here; here; here; here ; here; here; here; as well previous MeFi discussion on strands of this issue can be found here, here and here. If you can ignore the rhetoric and semantics of such an argument (especially coming from Adbusters and Counter Punch), is there anything to this or is it just more of the same?
posted by Quartermass at 6:45 PM on July 28, 2003


Yes
posted by PigAlien at 6:52 PM on July 28, 2003


"As the language of liberalism has become flat and predictable..."

Does calling everyone who disagrees a fascist fit under this category?

And is that really the article as it appeared in the print Adbusters? It seems to be abruptly cut off at the end.
posted by transona5 at 6:56 PM on July 28, 2003


Does calling everyone who disagrees a fascist fit under this category?

I think you're missing what "liberal" means in this context. It means classical liberalism, which is all about individualism and liberty and such. If you don't agree with it, you pretty much are a fascist (or a monarchist or Soviet-bloc Communist or some such thing).
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:27 PM on July 28, 2003


And yes, America's becoming fascist, but the fight isn't over yet. Prophesy says that Woodie Guthrie may return to the Earth and rise up and smite the fascists.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:28 PM on July 28, 2003


I've been reading Rush, Newspeak, and Fascism: An Exegesis [pdf] by David Neiwert over at Orcinus, and it's been interesting reading.

To answer the question, is America becoming Fascist? No, I don't think so. Are the conditions ripe for the emergence of an American style of Fascism? Yes, I think so. What can we do about it? I really don't know. Does it disturb me? You bet. Am I sounding like Donald Rumsfeld at a press conference? Damn straight.
posted by Cerebus at 7:35 PM on July 28, 2003


So is AdBusters not even writing their own articles anymore? (Gosh it's been a long time since I've been here....looks nice)
posted by protocool at 7:59 PM on July 28, 2003


When I was researching this post (based on the Adbusters asticle), I too thought it was strange that they tookShivani's article word for word without crediting him. I think it was attempt at giving Shivani's article more weight (by putting the official "Adbusters" brand on it).
posted by Quartermass at 8:09 PM on July 28, 2003


An article in the newest Adbusters magazine asks the question - is America becoming fascist?

You know, even I'll admit that's like saying "an article in the latest Vatican newsletter asks the question - Is the Pope Catholic?" ;)
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:21 PM on July 28, 2003


If a bunch of Canadian graphic artists and perpetual grad students say it's so, then it must be true. The U.S. must be heading towards Fascism. Personally, I'm excited to see the trains finally run on time.

(Isn't it time to apply a "no Adbusters" rule in the vein of The Onion? It's twice as predictable as The Onion and never as intentionally funny. I'm a good leftist and a vegetarian atheist to boot (no shit!), but Adbusters seemed pretentious and labored years ago and has gotten worse with age.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:22 PM on July 28, 2003


I was also trying to find where and if they credited Shivani for the article and at the very bottom it says "From the September/October 2003 issue of Adbusters magazine."
It was a link and took me not to the Sept/Oct 2003 issue of the magazine but directly to the orders page.
posted by protocool at 8:27 PM on July 28, 2003


FASCISM:
1. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
2. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.


Dictator? Stringent...controls? Suppression of opposition through terror and censorship? Racism?

Can anyone show me any evidence of the above - as institutionalized, standard-practice, policy, or stated political goal by any major political party?

*crickets*

So what the fluff are you talking about by comparing America, 2003, to any kind of "fascist" regime? Charges like this are what make the "left" so easy to mock and discredit. Calling President Bush a "Hitler" is so nonsensical as to be, literally, laughable.
posted by davidmsc at 8:31 PM on July 28, 2003


OK, I see that Hizzoner has already pretty effectively dismissed this, but since I already typed up the below...

Speaking as someone pretty far on the left, there are a number of interesting propositions in this article, separated by extremely large masses of hot air.

The notion that we need to seriously address the appeal of Fascist ideals, and how they can seduce allegiance in a world in which liberal ideas seem deflated, is an interestingly frightening one. I'd like to read a good examination of that possibility. But man, this isn't that.

Take this early paragraph --

To pose the question doesn’t mean that American fascism is a completed project; at any point, anything can happen to shift the course of history in a different direction. Yet after repeated and open corruption of the normal electoral process, several declarations of global war, adventurous and unprecedented military doctrines, selective suspension of the Bill of Rights and clear signals that a declaration of emergency is on the horizon, surely it is time to analyze the situation differently. Several of the apparent contradictions in the Bush administration’s governance make perfect sense if the fascist prism is applied, but not with the usual perspective. Fascism is home, it is here to stay, and it better be countered with all the resources at our disposal.

The move from itemizing symptoms (not all of them clear symptoms of Fascism as I understand it) to assetrting "Fascism is home, it is here to stay is unearned by argument. Just slid right in there.

Nazism never had the support of the majority of Germans; at best about a third fully supported it.

Um...Maybe so, maybe not. I'd like to see a footnote here, a reference to some notion of where this figure came from. Unless, of course, the writer made it up.

About a third of Americans today are certifiably fascist; another 20 percent or so can be swayed around to particular causes with smart propaganda.

Ah, that 20 percent sounds truly authoritative! Again, one wonders if the source of this statistic was, well, internal.

Reaganite anti-government rhetoric might have been a precursor to fascism, but free market and deregulationist ideology cannot be labeled fascist.

Maybe not-- in any case, the ideology they serve (one that moves us toward a kind of corporate oligarchy) looks like a pretty real threat to me.

I don't actually dismiss the premise of the piece -- but this certainly doesn't do anything worthwhile with the premise. Too bad.
posted by BT at 8:33 PM on July 28, 2003


'scuse -- forgot to close quotes after "Fascism is home, it is here to stay."

By the way: I hate comma splicing, too.
posted by BT at 8:35 PM on July 28, 2003


If you want to see a modern fascist state, look at China.
posted by homunculus at 8:50 PM on July 28, 2003


Interesting link, homunculus -- thanks.
posted by BT at 8:59 PM on July 28, 2003


I'd be interested to know if anyone here at MeFi has ever lived under an actual certifiable "fascist" regime, and if so, how that experience compares to the current American political climate?

I just wonder if the AdBusters article might come off as a lot of spoiled-brat sophistry to someone unlucky enough to have escaped a goverment that, say, systematically murders its own people ("...suppression of the opposition through terror ...") as an expression of Fascism.

Anyone?

Just curious.
posted by dhoyt at 9:14 PM on July 28, 2003


dhoyt, I survived a rural Montana highschool where most of the school board was Morman. Does that count?
posted by Wulfgar! at 9:34 PM on July 28, 2003


davidmsc: Good point, because we all know that dictionary.com is the final word on political systems.

Give me a break. I thought most people moved past the 'cite the dictionary' phase of debating sometime in their middle teens. Around about the time the ability to think critically is born.

I would refer you to Neiwert's essay linked above-- if for nothing else than his bibliography, as it presents a good list of starting points. Come back to the discussion when you're a little better informed and less likely to pull more immature tricks out of your rhetorical repetoire.
posted by Cerebus at 9:34 PM on July 28, 2003


A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

Well, let's see.
1) Centralized authority under a dictator? Does stealing an election and having your flunkies green-light your ever whim equate to dictatorship?

2) Stringent socioeconomic controls? You betcha! Of course, the controls are backwards -- laissez-faire economics legitamizes the already existing power structure, except of course when it suits them to change the rules and bail out their buddies' corporations.

3) Suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship? Check. Even those in the government are not immune, as certain CIA operatives are now aware.

4) A policy of belligerent nationalism? Yes, with the tacit support of flag-waving yahoo's who decry political opposition as unpatriotic, seditious thought-crime.

Though, none of this is sanctioned, per se. It's not codified anywhere -- but then, even Hitler was fairly elected.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:49 PM on July 28, 2003


> Is America becoming Facist?

Ever since the WWII War Production Board.
posted by woil at 10:41 PM on July 28, 2003


A good article, let down by an appalling lack of references and jumps in arguments. I've just read a good article in the guardian which suggests America is a religion, which seems more appropriate somehow.
posted by BigCalm at 2:37 AM on July 29, 2003


Those who have scoffed at these articles out of hand by using such uninteresting arguments as "Reagan was no Nazi" or "Adbusters are a bunch of Canadians", I would much rather hear your opinions on the Bush administration's radical move away from traditional conservatism (while maintaining it's distance from traditional liberalism).

For instance, the creation of the biggest and most intrusive governmental agency of all time, Homeland Security, the now open desire for global Empire, the suspension of parts of the Bill of Rights via the PATRIOT Act and the endless War against Terror with its doctrine of Premptive War are all being heavily criticized by true conservatives such as Pat Buchanon (love him or hate him he is the embodiment of traditional Conservativism). In my opinion many other politicians in the Republican Party less-committed to the conservative ideology are going along with this ideological shift because it represents a truly unique historical opportunity to grab more power domestically and internationally than ever thought possible.

Let me be clear about something, whether you think that this ideological shift is justified or not is beside the point. Because whether you like it or not, it is foolish to deny its existence; the evidence of it is all around you. This administation is clearly moving toward a much more authoritarian model of government, where individual rights are curtailed in the name of "Homeland Security", where international law is preempted in the name of the "War against Terror", where domestic political opposition is decried as "Unpatriotic", where mindless nationalism has swept the nation after the trauma of 9-11. Call it what you like, neo-fascism or neo-conservatism or whatever, the term isn't important. What is important is what is happening, right now, right before our eyes.

Let's talk about that instead of fall into pointless semantic arguments.
posted by sic at 5:25 AM on July 29, 2003


Iraq was facist. South Korea is facist. The USA is not facist. Never has been. See davidmsc post above. It would be a much more interesting discussion to look at how civil liberties have been reduced since 9-11 and how we can creativly balance security and freedom. That is the question our govt faces every day and they have come up with some interesting solutions.
posted by stbalbach at 5:34 AM on July 29, 2003


Of course we're a fascist society. What other development could possibly explain the popularity of Toby Keith?
posted by Phaedrus at 5:39 AM on July 29, 2003


I would much rather hear your opinions on the Bush administration's radical move away from traditional conservatism

No, see, the current administration practices very traditional conservatism. Conservatives have always felt that civil rights were frivolous and only of use to criminals. Things were much worse ideologically in the 50's and even those allegedly liberal 60's that we've heard so much about.

Technologically, it's a different story. However, because these political climates tend to be cyclical and we DO seem to learn just a little bit from the past, I'm hoping this current move towards restriction will fade. My problem with Adbusters is that smug, self-conscious, preaching-to-the-choir attitude that they smear all over everything that they touch. I don't see how their branding is different from the kind that they want me to reject.

Yes, Adbusters, corporate messages are hollow and soul-sucking. I agree. Now STFU.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:04 AM on July 29, 2003


As the language of liberalism has become flat and predictable, some Americans have become more ready to accept an alternative, no matter how ridiculous, as long as it sounds vigorous and muscular.”

He has a point. In the 1960's the Left did seem more vigorous, and muscular...and fun, and liberating and more American really, whereas the right in those days seemed constipated and humorless and/or full of hot air. In terms of appearances, the tables seem to have turned.

In a perfect world, we'd all choose our political positions based on the straight facts but sadly, that's not the way it is. I say, if we on the left need to dress up our ideas in kick-ass patriotic rhetoric and ballsy personas to persuade folks to our side, than so be it. Politics is supposed to be about getting things done, not just being right.
posted by jonmc at 6:23 AM on July 29, 2003


"Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."

-Benito Mussolini

Also, a lengthy (sorry) quote from John Ralston Saul's The Unconscious Civilization, which I recommend, along with any other of his non-fiction work :

"Remember: the origin of corporatism in the second half of the nineteenth century lay in two things : the rejection of citizen-based democracy and the desire to react in a stable way to the Industrial Revolution. These original motives would evolve into the desire for a stable managerial, hierarchical society.

Listen to Emile Durkheim again. The corporations are to become the 'elementary division of the state, the fundamental political unit.' They will 'efface the disfinction between public and private, dissect the democratic citizenry into discrete functional groupings which are no longer capable of joint political action." Through the corporations, 'scientific rationality [will] achieve its rightful standing as the creator of collective reality""

It all sounds like obscure nonsense. But think about our society : How are real decisions made today? Through negotiations between the specialized and interest groups. These are the fundamental political units. Citizens who rise, citizens who win responsibility, who succeed, enter into these units. What about the distinction between public and private? The concept of arm's length is evaporating. Government services are slipping into private hands. And the govemment is adopting private industry standards and methods. As for the individual, the one-third to onehalf of the population who are part of the managerial elite are indeed castrated as citizens because their professions, their employment contracts and the general atmosphere of corporate loyalty make it impossible for them to participate in the public place.

Now listen to the first three aims of the corporatist movement in Germany, Italy and France during the 1920s. These were developed by the people who went on to become part of the Fascist experience:

(1) shift power directly to economic and social interest groups;

(2) push entrepreneurial initiative in areas normally reserved for public bodies;

(3) obliterate the boundaries between public and private interest that is, challenge the idea of the public interest."

This sounds like the official program of most contemporary Western governments. Finally, there is Philippe Schmitter, who in 1974 published a paper called "Still the Century of Corporatism?"' This sparked the creation of a whole industry of academics working on what they called 'neo-corporatism." Together, they began the process of legitimizing a corporatism that had been intellectually unacceptable since 1945. The words 'interest representation" are central to Schmitter's theory. He writes with an assumption of 'the erosion/collapse of liberal democracy." Schmitter and the others seemed to assume that this new corporatism would involve a deal between the govemment and the private sector. They saw it as perhaps resembling what the English tried to do in the 1970s, when the unions, business and govemment sat down to thrash things out. Or, with deep misunderstanding or misrepresentation, these apologists mentioned Sweden, where this was done much more successfully What they didn't see was the growing isolation of the steadily fracturing specialist and interest groups and the opening of borders that would make corporatism an intemational affair in which the governments and the employees were increasingly weak players. The peculiar thing is that this little army of academics around the world is constantly debating the merits of state' corporatism, which they see as a dictatorship, versus society' corporatism, which they praise as merely removing some of the citizens' democratic powers. They never seem to discuss whether it is a good thing for the citizens and democracy to be losing any power. Or whether democracy has enough power.

What is remarkable about corporatism is its inherent strength. What we are witnessing today is its third or fourth run at power in a little over a century. Each time, it is beaten back as it was during World War Two then, a few years later, it reappears, redesigned and stronger.

Even the model of the strong corporatist chief reappears in a new guise. Look at the Italian neo-fascist leader Gianfranco Fini, who is now a key govemment player. He makes a point of resembling a wefl-dressed merchant banker. Look at the Austrian neo-fascist leader Jorg Haider, who now wins a quarter of the votes in national elections. He resembles a movie star and has designed his aura in movie star manner. This, of course, is only a detail in the latest rise of corporatism. After all, the system is the same throughout the West, where, in most places, perfectly normal party politicians are holding power.

However, the great unspoken issue is why no Westem population has been asked to choose corporatism, let alone has demanded it. It simply creeps up on us, a bit more every day."
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:35 AM on July 29, 2003


Mayor: I really don't care about your problem with Adbusters, to be honest.

However, I do see your point about Conservatives not being enthusiastic about some civil liberties. Yet that could have been more a reaction to the radical changes taking place in that era and perhaps needs to placed into the context of the 60s. I still believe that true conservatives cherish the Bill of Rights, but interpret it differently than traditional liberals. The other observations that I made however, big intrusive and expensive government agencies, permanent foreign intervention and empire building are indisputably anti-conservative.

As far as political climates being cyclical, I think you are right, to a certain extent. However I see a danger that we are entering a sort of political endgame wherein we are actually in danger of losing farm completely and slipping into some kind of authoritarian national or international government where say, corporations, replace traditional governments. And if that nightmare scenario were to happen, we may never get back to democracy.

The problem is too many people refuse to acknowledge the possibility of such a thing. Thus allowing movement toward exactly that to continue unchecked. But who knows, maybe we'll get lucky and the authoritarian types will simply revert back to democratic principles with four more years of control of the House, Senate and the Presidency.

It could happen.
posted by sic at 6:40 AM on July 29, 2003


Excellent post, sic.

The move from conservatism is really going to hurt the neo-con Bush admin in 2004. Larger government? Deficiet spending? Oh yeah, almost fogot, the pack of lies too. Its called morality, the right is really big on it.

We've heard and dicsussed a lot about liberal apathy, but I wonder how much more conservative apathy there is. I mean who does the Bush administration actually represent.

Road to totalitarianism or the road away from a liberal democracy:

HomeSec (Hi Tom!)
TIA
PATRIOT ACT
Government/Industry collusion (Enron et al)
Largest prison system in the world
Victimless crimes with mandatory sentencing
Warmongering/Region conquest
Lies upon lies
Anti-States rights (think death with dignity, pot)
The arbitrary elimination of due process for certain crimes
The fading line between church and state
Support of terrorist states (Saudi Arabia)
Support of anti-humantarian regimes (Israel)
Abuse of executive priveldge (think Cheney and energy)
Unilaterialism
Anti-International justice (ICC immunity)
UN Bullying
Attempts at legislating nationalism (flag amendment)
Focus on international conquest instead of domestic issues
Blurring the line between terrorism, religion, and race.
Inter-Agency fighting regarding national security


and that's just off the top of my head.
posted by skallas at 6:47 AM on July 29, 2003


There's also the matter of his White House covering up for a government/family that supported and helped will the 9/11 attacks. That could sink ol' dude's ship.

Prince Saud al-Faisal (himself a personal friend of the Bush family since at least the time of the first Gulf War) is flying to Washington to meet with George W Bush, presumably to discuss the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks. Bush still has not spoken publicly about the reasons for keeping sections of the 9/11 report which are alleged to contain reference to Saudi involvement secret, despite mounting pressure from the public and Congress. What kind of conclusions are to be drawn from that?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:00 AM on July 29, 2003


Adbusters mugging for their audience again... not much to see here. Yet another 'editorial' that starts with an outrageous assumption and poaches a few current events for seasoning.

For the record, the country which Adbusters calls home did once entirely suspend the civil liberties of its population, detained large numbers for what was then an 'indefinite' period of time, made past membership in certain organizations illegal retroactively, and effectively let the military take control of a decent-sized chunk of its local territory. This happened when Canada invoked the War Powers Act in fall of 1970.

I'm not aware of the War Powers Act being invoked in this "fascist" country that is the USA, not in the past 50 years... funny how that works out.
posted by clevershark at 7:05 AM on July 29, 2003


Conservatives have always felt that civil rights were frivolous and only of use to criminals

Except the civil rights of the elites, which are always protected; but this doesn't exactly contradict your statement, if you know what I mean.

Also, well put, stavroschickenguy.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:08 AM on July 29, 2003


I'd be interested to know if anyone here at MeFi has ever lived under an actual certifiable "fascist" regime

Well, they'd have to have lived in Franco's Spain or (pushing it a little) Salazar's Portugal, the most recent candidates for the honor. Me, I lived for a year in pre-reform Kuomintang Taiwan, which wasn't certifiably fascist but was highly authoritarian, and I can tell you right now there's no comparison. Unless you've lived in a place where people are literally afraid to talk about politics you have no idea what it's like. I'm glad to see worries about the US heading down that path, I think such concerns are healthy, but anyone who thinks we're there already, or anywhere near it, needs a reality check. You're squinting at your house cat and calling it a tiger.
posted by languagehat at 7:12 AM on July 29, 2003


I'd be interested to know if anyone here at MeFi has ever lived under an actual certifiable "fascist" regime

My grandparents lived in Mussolini's Italy. They didn't have much good to say about it.
posted by jonmc at 7:17 AM on July 29, 2003


In a way, I believe it was a mistake to post this article via Adbusters (and not just the original CounterPunch article). I don't think anyone really believes that America is currently "fascist" in the truest sense - there is enough evidence to point to the opposite. However, what is interesting is the path that the American government is heading on; the fine line that they are walking. It doesn't really matter who did what when, or if America is a "true" fascist state (or if Adbusters is "relevant" - which I believe it is as they have picked things up in the last year or so, and at the same time have been reaching more and more people with "the same old message"). The American government has made a lot of hard decisions in the last few years (who would say that a Democrat gov't would do any better). The decisions that they have made (over and over again) point one to conclude that the conditions for a fascist regime are ripe in the heartland.
posted by Quartermass at 8:10 AM on July 29, 2003


Iraq was facist. South Korea is facist. The USA is not facist.

Wrong. Iraq and South Korea were/are authoritarian states (a.k.a. totalitarian), but this is not the same as fascist. No matter how much you want it to be.

See davidmsc post above.

Answered already. davidmsc displayed a profound ignorance about fascism; you would do well to avoid citing him as an authority or you will look as foolish.
posted by Cerebus at 9:02 AM on July 29, 2003


languagehat - fair enough: the US does not currently resemble, even remotely, traditional authoritarian or fascist regimes. OK. But isn't that a straw man argument?

To observe that the US political system is very different from traditional fascism or authoritarianism without noticing that the technology of governance and also of propaganda is always evolving is to miss the emergence of a new type of misrule in the US - one which relies on a diversity of methods to achieve faux-consensus (or engineered consensus) through massive expenditures by corporate sector for low profile PR campaigns, through the use of numerous think tanks (which generate studies and provide 'expert' talking heads for the media), through a convenient concentration of media ownership which guarantees convergent news coverage and prevents the broadcast of dissenting views.........and so on.

Fascism? Authoritarianism? No - We need to invent new terminology for what is happening in the US. But I, for one, would not liken the political system in the US to a 'house cat' regime - unless by 'house cat' you mean the 'Hollywood style, nuclear-radiation mutated 300 foot tall house cat (with a vicious temper and a sadistic streak too)' variety of house cat. If so, well then OK.
posted by troutfishing at 9:58 AM on July 29, 2003


"the great unspoken issue is why no Western population has been asked to choose corporatism, let alone has demanded it. It simply creeps up on us, a bit more every day." - stavrosthewonderchicken's term here, from his incisive comment above, is good though:

Corporatism
posted by troutfishing at 10:02 AM on July 29, 2003


skallas....that's an awesome list!

can somebody post something more about corporatism? i'd have to agree, as much as i like to say america=fascist, that we're not a country where somebody is afraid to talk politics (per languagehat's taiwanese example).

but we're certainly headed that way...but hell, i think it's less fascism than a techno-feudalism...and isn't that what corporatism is?
posted by taumeson at 10:35 AM on July 29, 2003




But isn't that a straw man argument?

Well, no it's not, since the post asks "is America becoming fascist?"—not: "is America developing in worrysome directions?" But "corporatism" sounds good to me too. (The term sounds good—or rather, appropriate—oh, hell, you know what I mean.) I assure you, I'm as unhappy with current tendencies as you are, but both my love of exactitude and my fear of the "boy who cried wolf" syndrome lead me to decry inappropriate use of "fascism."

Hollywood style, nuclear-radiation mutated 300 foot tall house cat (with a vicious temper and a sadistic streak too)

That's pretty much the one I was thinking of. My aunt had a cat just like that. Well, maybe not quite so tall... except in its own eyes.
posted by languagehat at 12:02 PM on July 29, 2003


Cerebus, your unfair ad hominems above nearly made me skip the essay you recommended (I've been out of the political-blog fray for a while, so I hadn't caught it discussed by folks like PNH). davidmsc was quite justifiably asking for a definition of terms by which we could agree what we mean when we say things like becoming fascist. You're right that the Niewert essay is an excellent starting point for that discussion, although I found it disappointingly uneven, and the very idea of structuring a serious essay around the blatherings of someone like Rush Limbaugh is a blunder (which he reinforces time and again with twists of the knife, belying his ostensible true purpose). The entire document could do with extensive revision.

davidmsc did not, as you say, "display a profound ignorance about fascism"; he probably rejects the broader definition of fascism which you implicilty advocate. I don't see where he offers his own thoughts on fascism that are, as you said, profoundly ignorant: he simply chose an authoritative source whose authority you dispute. (You're engaging in the same kinds of errors in argument that Niewert makes, actually.) If you believe the dictionary definition is inadequate (something I'd go along with), you could do the thread a courtesy and explain why. Niewert, at least, begins his essay with the very problem of deriving a common definition as a key historical stumbling-block for discussions of fascism, and immediately identifies its lack of a single manifesto or guru as an important reason why. In other words, intelligent and reasonable people can disagree on what fascism really is. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but spending 87 pages on the question at least treats it with the seriousness it deserves.

I'm glad to see troutfishing pull back from some of his more extreme rhetoric to note that we may need new terms for describing these "worrisome directions". (At least, it would be nice to have terms that don't self-godwinize the arguments.) I don't think corporatism is that term, precisely, because I don't think that it's exactly what the anti-corporate Adbusters or Metafilter crowds dislike. A century ago the term did represent a more top-down, authoritarian economic juggernaut, rather than simple Reaganite deregulation or Enron-era nudge-and-wink corruption. Those are open for criticism in and of themselves, but they don't represent the wide-ranging political reshaping that is implied by the word (it was, after all, an extreme response to the extreme success, in short decades, of the labor movement and related populist lower-class political parties). Nor do I think that all the elements decried in threads like this one fit into a corporatist world-view. The neo-con hawkishness of the PNAC, for example, is merely conveniently consonant with the purported aims of this purported movement (I would choose to say, using the antiquated European term, "tendency"), rather than leading it, or being led by it.

Returning to Niewert, I would be so much happier if someone could honestly list 10 characteristics of fascism (derived independently, stolen from Eco, I don't care), and say Three of these I definitely see in the US today. Two more are maybes. Another two depend on how you see things. And y'know, the last three just don't show up at all. Instead, so many of these follow through on all 10 points, thinking it makes their argument stronger to include weak examples, when in fact it accomplishes the opposite.
posted by dhartung at 1:14 PM on July 29, 2003


The US first needs to sink below those other "western democracies" where subjects and citizens have fewer rights. The US has change for the worst, but please let have the debate on the proper level.
posted by Bag Man at 1:16 PM on July 29, 2003


1) Centralized authority under a dictator? Does stealing an election and having your flunkies green-light your ever whim equate to dictatorship?

No one "stole" an election. The Supremes made a poor, politically motived choice, but nonetheless had the power and authority to do so...btw, elections were held proper last Nov. just in case you missed it. Pleas see Hunter v. Martins Lease.

2) Stringent socioeconomic controls? You betcha! Of course, the controls are backwards -- laissez-faire economics legitamizes the already existing power structure, except of course when it suits them to change the rules and bail out their buddies' corporations.

You contradicted your self...btw, Is it not us lefties that want more economic control? Does that make us "fascist"? According to this point the SEC is fascist, please.

3) Suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship? Check. Even those in the government are not immune, as certain CIA operatives are now aware.

The only evidence of this point is when Bush tells people the US not say bad things about him, this is not fascism nor official censorship. Recall kiddies, Bush has freedom of speech too, but he's not on your side so he should not have rights, right? The

There has been unconstitutional official censorship that Civil_Disobedient cites, so Civil_Disobedient concerd this point is lost.

Civil_Disobedient misses the point of fee speech. If you truly support free speech you must at tolerate those who advicate that which you would spend a life time advocating against. Civil_Disobedient seem unable to do this.

4) A policy of belligerent nationalism? Yes, with the tacit support of flag-waving yahoo's who decry political opposition as unpatriotic, seditious thought-crime.

Nationalism yes, fascism no. Supporting people’s freedom to express their views (no matter how much Civil_Disobedient hates it) is the very essence of what the American democracy is. Also kiddies “tacit support” is not fascism, for fascism is supported by government laws.

Civil_Disobedient and I seem to be on the same page politically. The only difference is I don't have a problem with others advocating for the other side. It seems that Civil_Disobedient wants fascism, just is own brand of forced political views. Civil_Disobedient this as bad a Bush! (or seeks to be)
posted by Bag Man at 1:37 PM on July 29, 2003


Fascism: "A philosophy of government that stresses the primacy and glory of the state ... obedience to its leader, subordination of the individual will to the state's authority ... suppression of dissent. Martial virtues are celebrated, while liberal democratic values are denigrated ... led by charismatic leaders who represented to their publics the strength that could rescue their nation from political and economic conditions." - Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Encyclopedia.

David Rozelle: Drifting toward fascism
http://www.madison.com/captimes/opinion/column/guest/50702.php

Gary Denton
Easter Lemming Liberal News Digest
http://elemming2.blogspot.com
posted by Easter_Lemming at 2:36 PM on July 29, 2003


dhartung - thanks for the backhanded compliment but what would you call the interlocking/revolving door status many current members of the GW Bush Administration as they parlay (as with Dick Cheney on US energy policy, for example) with their friends in corporate America to craft US government policy (while they simultaneously plan and hedge their bets on a private sector job with those same friends in 2004) other than corporatism?

I suppose this all boils down to a determination of the essential elements of Fascism, authoritarianism, and corporatism. Such determinations are, however, legalistic - for political strategies evolve as organically as does language. Whether or not you choose to call the system emerging in the US 'corporatism', that system is still characterized, I'd argue, by the corporate domination of the political process.

languagehat - fair enough, and true to your moniker. You are welcome to stay in my house, and my wife and I will cook you a fine dinner. I have only one request: please leave that big cat at home (OK, I know it's not your cat, it's just that my wife is allergic to felines).
[ dhartung - I extend that invitation to you also. But as with L, no cats please. ]

Bag Man - Re: the 2000 election - Greg Palast, at Gregpalast.com, has chronicled this election in detail if you care to read about it. But the State of Florida has actually admitted to disenfranchising about 90,000 Florida voters during that election (and then there are the cases of disenfranchisement which Florida did not admit....)
posted by troutfishing at 11:44 PM on July 29, 2003


No dinner for me?

*whines*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:00 AM on July 30, 2003


Bag Man - Re: the 2000 election - Greg Palast, at Gregpalast.com, has chronicled this election in detail if you care to read about it. But the State of Florida has actually admitted to disenfranchising about 90,000 Florida voters during that election (and then there are the cases of disenfranchisement which Florida did not admit....)

I have read and studied Bush v. Gore, that case presents two issues: 1) Does counting votes differently violate the due process, equal protection right the vote? The Court correctly answered that question "yes" 2) What remedy should be applied? The Court felt (along party lines) that certain (I believe Federal) election law should be applied. The Court then entered the results be entered rather than issue a recount. This part of the opinion I have a problem with. While The Court did nothing illegal it certainly made the partisan choice. I want to know part of this is considered fascist? Is not upholding the right to equal voting the very essence of a democracy? Is partisan politics fascist? I hope not, because to some extent is need to battle the problem of faction and the advent of tyranny. If The Court had say, over reached its powers might be fascist, but the court did not.

Regarding the disenfranchisement issue, disenfranchising a voter under certain circumstances is perfectly ok and legal. So long as the state stays within the bounds of the state's proper "police power" to regulate an election and ensure fair results. To a certain extent Florida did properly exercised its "police power," for example excluding the votes of ex-cons and others who did not quality to vote. This conduct is consistent with election law and has been done long before 2000. Again, within the proper power of a democracy. If people felt wronged they have statutory right (and some times a constitutional right) to a civil rights lawsuit (likely under sec. 1983). While such a suit won't overturn the 2000 election, it might award damages or force changes in the next election. Such a suit is a whole mark of a democratic country. Again, no fascism here, in fact I applaud the U.S, for surviving the 2000 election in a law abiding matter when some countries might have not.

You know, just because we don't get our way does not mean the government is fascist.
posted by Bag Man at 7:21 AM on July 30, 2003


troutfishing: Why thank you, sir! I visit the Great State of Massachusetts fairly often (it being my wife's home state), so I may take you up on that some day. (I won't bring any cats we may acquire if you keep fish off the menu, how's that for a deal?)

I was given Greg Palast's book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: An Investigative Reporter Exposes the Truth about Globalization, Corporate Cons, and High Finance Fraudsters for my birthday and have started reading it, and I have to say: 1) Palast is a brilliant, gutsy reporter who doggedly tracks important stories no one else is willing to go after, and 2) he has one of the most annoying prose styles ever, full of high-school sarcasm and self-important posturing -- which is a pity because it severely diminishes the effectiveness of 1). I had to force myself to keep reading his long, appalling account of the Florida frauds because I kept wanting to throw the book against the wall.
posted by languagehat at 8:00 AM on July 30, 2003


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