Reading in the dark
February 4, 2017 7:08 PM   Subscribe

In 1938, a New York Times reporter warned: “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labelled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism’.” An excellent reading list, that we should add to. And if all else fails, try not to be too non-catastrophist.
posted by a non e mouse (18 comments total) 76 users marked this as a favorite
Joke's on him, the new American fascists do wear swastikas!
posted by tobascodagama at 7:13 PM on February 4, 2017 [34 favorites]

The "Who goes Nazi?" game described in the article is a great one to play either at parties or alone reading news!
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 7:29 PM on February 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

Any thoughts on films for Young Ds appreciated..
posted by a non e mouse at 7:32 PM on February 4, 2017

Speaking of reading lists, I can always point out the books recommended by Timothy Snyder in this Facebook post: (As I’ve commented elsewhere, if you want an epub of The Power of the Powerless, memail me and I will hook you up.)

There’s also Jeff Colgan’s “Risk of Democratic Erosion Reading List”, on which he considers the best quick read to be the this little blog post on the failure of democracy in Nicaragua.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:39 PM on February 4, 2017 [15 favorites]

I'll throw in a plug for the great Mari Sandoz's Capital City. It's a savage book with a lot that speaks directly to the current situation.
posted by otio at 7:54 PM on February 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Vonnegut's Player Piano captures what happens when a civilization on the cusp of having labor automated away and social mobility limited by education and wealth faces dissatisfaction by an underclass yearning to return to an earlier way of life. Amazingly, it was his first novel, published in 1952.
posted by Apocryphon at 8:01 PM on February 4, 2017 [20 favorites]

I follow the news. But not all the time. Even though I try to avoid following Trump's latest tweets, and try to avoid listening to the television news my wife is watching in the bedroom, I am still too disturbed by present reality to be dispassionate enough to compare what is happening now in my country to the merits of older speculative fiction according its relative prescience.
posted by kozad at 8:03 PM on February 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Speculative? I think that horse has bolted. Getting a grounding in the lessons of those who previously experienced what appears to be happening in America (eg Arendt), is possibly a moral obligation. I agree that the Trump twitter account, (all of) Facebook, and the 24 hour news cycle that is veritably feasting on this is depressing, and overwhelming. But it's happening.
posted by a non e mouse at 8:14 PM on February 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Don't be too sure about the swastikas.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:32 PM on February 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Last March there was a discussion here about the film A Face in the Crowd. I just watched it. A number of people saw the parallel of its story with what has happened here. It came out 60 years ago. In another recent thread Neil Postman's book Amusing Ourselves to Death was mentioned. I place it here to add to this reading / watching list. Lewis's title It Can't Happen Here really is a warning that American innocence, and yes we do see ourselves as innocent and good, is a thin veil over our potential and actual inhumanity. Maybe we will just repeat someone else's history?
posted by njohnson23 at 8:55 PM on February 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

Mod note: A couple of comments deleted. Let's keep this more focused on the linked article / topic rather than just general US politics talk. Thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:42 PM on February 4, 2017

I find it strange to recommend movies for a young Democrat, because it really seems like a question of what you want to teach. For cynical takes on society, I understand could be considered an apt film for the moment. Also, perhaps, Network or Z, and Dr. Strangelove remains timeless. Burn After Reading is a bitter but truthful send-up of confusion over secrecy. An essay I saw recently suggested that The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is an excellent exploration of the tensions faced when a leader is corrupt and the law is against you. American Psycho remains a fine and bloody satire, if they are the right age for it.

Meanwhile, Watergate and the notion that the government was corrupt seems apt to the current moment, so maybe this is a good time for All The President’s Men, or a documentary like 13th on the nature of the 13th amendment, or The Thin Blue Line on abuses by police. If you really want to horrify them, go for The Act of Killing on how Indonesia had a mass killing and has essentially allowed itself to forget it. (It is a super disturbing film, which features -for instance- a man who was part of a death squad standing on a roof and talking with pride about what he did.)

All of the above said, I’d honestly suggest that films that suggest courage in the face of cynicism might be better friends. I might suggest They Live since it’s about a character sacrificing himself to destroy the evil aliens taking over society. On the other hand, John Carpenter had to tweet to make it clear that it wasn’t about Jews controlling the media. Raw action it seems, can be misconstrued. (I don’t know about Paul Ryan’s favorite movies, but apparently Rage Against The Machine is one of his favorite bands.)

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is perhaps cliche, but Capra is striving for a sincerity about how society should be. I don’t, unfortunately, have a great well of similar films upon which to draw. Inspiration is hard to find. Both The Martian and Apollo 13 come to mind, but I’m surprised that no others immediately jump out. How To Survive A Plague provides uplift on the power of protest, but it’s tempered with the knowledge that protest isn’t sufficient and can cause mistakes. So hardly pure optimism. But still good.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:16 AM on February 5, 2017 [8 favorites]

All great films. Maybe I'd add Salo (but probably wouldn't). The 'Young D" I was referring to, was the one referenced in the article (definitely NOT a Democrat; a small f fascist):

Cataloguing various sub-groups (born Nazis, persuaded Nazis, never-Nazis), Thompson notes that nazism was not a matter of nationality but of “a certain type of mind”. She describes Person A, Person B and so on, predicting each one’s potential for fascism, before arriving at “young D”, who is, Thompson declares, “the only born Nazi in the room.
posted by a non e mouse at 1:30 AM on February 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

"Who goes nazi?", previously on Metafilter.
posted by kandinski at 5:27 AM on February 5, 2017

Great list !
I would add Path of Glory, a movie that describe perfectly what systemic injustice looks like.

And Army of Shadows to prepare for the worse.
posted by SageLeVoid at 5:38 AM on February 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

those of you who think fascism is just now rearing it's ugly head here in America have been asleep for the last two decades.
posted by any major dude at 7:56 AM on February 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

those of you who think fascism is just now rearing it's ugly head here in America have been asleep for the last two decades.

There are elements of truth to this, but in the current context this position seems to essentially be another way of normalizing Trump.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:09 AM on February 5, 2017 [6 favorites]

Oh, also: A Man For All Seasons is a great piece, though considering it in the of auto-coups (e.g. Hitler in Germany) it demands deeper interrogation.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:21 PM on February 5, 2017

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