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The New Fascism

Posted by Rick · February 28th, 2005 · 10 Comments

The last couple of days, I’ve visited a number of blogs discussing the idea that America has gone fascist. I’ve left comments here and there; I’ve exchanged email with a couple of people.

As I was writing the response to one email, it occurred to me that it could be today’s blog entry.

I would agree that some people have been trying to make too much out of the examples they put forth.

That doesn’t, in my mind, translate into making it impossible to know when we’ve started down the path of fascism. Certainly the first step or two — maybe even several — will be missed. But the more astute observers will (accurately) pick out some point at which we’re clearly on the path and will (again accurately) note that the majority has failed to notice.

And I believe it’s possible that we’re on that path now. Around 1999 or 2000, I first told my wife that 2004 would be the last real election. If the stories out of Ohio (and possibly New Mexico) are true, I missed it by at least one election (two, if you believe what some say about Florida in 2000 and the involvement of the Supremes).

I won’t be terribly surprised if 2008 is more blatant. Maybe “national security” will preclude an election as it currently precludes so much else that usually accompanies democracy.

Or it’s possible that everything will work out for the Republicans. If, that is — and I personally think this is their primary goal — they succeed at bankrupting the de jure United States government and leave it incapable of responding to a de facto shadow-oligarchy of corporations. They will no longer need the Presidency; it will be an impotent office. When held by Republicans, it will continue to support the oligarchy; when held by Democrats, it will be powerless because any funds upon which it could draw power will be drained away by the budgetary damage being done even as I write this.

In either case, the corporations will be satisfied to leave it alone at that point. Having no more need of it, they’ll even benefit by allowing the average (read: “ignorant”) American to point to it as “proof” that democracy still reigns in the United States.

If, on the other hand, the Republicans have not yet inflicted enough damage, then the real fight begins. The corporations for whom the Republicans really are just stand-ins will yet need to control that office. And, hopefully, some of us will continue to oppose them.

In either case, though, some form of fascism probably wins the day.

One form — which I definitely think is already in place — is a kind of “info-fascism.” By controlling the flow of information, by dictating what does and does not become visible, the corporations will continue to control things. It’s not so obvious because, after all, the whole point is to be as Rove-like as possible: Pull the strings, or hold the microphone attached to the government’s backpack, but don’t let anyone know who’s really running the show. And we, the People, will never again have the strength to recapture the Media from the corporations.

The other form of fascism — the only form most of us recognize as fascism — is old-fashioned. That’s the goose-stepping, high-handed, Heil-Führer, less-sophisticated fascism — the only kind most people think exist. It’s also less controllable. Once that monster is out of the cage, even corporations have something to fear.

Only the New Fascism works for them; it’s the only one they will wholeheartedly support. This has been the Great Discovery of the neo-cons who currently hold virtually every significant office in the United States government. Marketing is more powerful, less damaging and preserves the consumptive constituency that enriches those wise enough to abandon the Old Fascism and embrace the New Fascism.

But, of course, I’m a fruitcake. I still believe the nation can be strong; profits can be made; corporations can thrive — all without the need for making a mockery of, or outrightly destroying, our Constitution.

It’s only unbridled greed, a return to the Dark Ages when proto-corporations held oligarchic sway over a populace deliberately kept ignorant so as to be more highly exploitable, that requires us to — in the words of Republican strategist Grover Norquist — “get [the United States government] down to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.”

Categories: The Decline of America


10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 newswriter // Feb 28, 2005 at 10:20 am

    The News Writer, too, believes this country — or any other — and its corporations and individuals can prosper without becoming the very antipathy of what the nation was (supposedly) founded on.

    And the News Writer thinks we’re not quite there. Yet. David Neiwart at Orcinus picked up a Koufax for his series, “The Rise of Pseudo Fascism,” and he’s put it all together for our perusal. As he says in the introduction to the compilation,

    It was almost as though the “conservative movement,” in its final drive to not merely obtain power but to cement it permanently, transformed itself into a simalacrum, or a hologram, of fascism: structurally almost identical, particularly in the kind of appeal it presented as a perverse form of populism, but lacking in the genuinely black core of violence and seething hatred that is, in the end, what makes fascism fascism.

    In addition to believing this country can prosper, as you do Rick, I am with Neiwart and Digby when they say that Our Great and Powerful Leaders really aren’t all that bright when it comes down to it — lucky maybe, but not that bright. Unfortunately, that doesn’t bode well for anybody. Neiwart again:

    It’s almost as if the right, as it rushes to satisfy some of its most privileged impulses, is doomed to drag us into the swamps of fascism. It’s up the the rest of us, as always, to keep them from dragging us there.

    Ever feel like we live in one giant Hitchcock film?

  • 2 Rick Horowitz // Feb 28, 2005 at 11:21 am

    Some might consider this semantics, but I don’t.

    I disagree with Neiwart’s comment that “what makes fascism fascism” is a “genuinely black core of violence and seething hatred.” (I would, however, suggest that there’s plenty of that in the rank and file which is embracing the New Fascism of the Republican leadership. But on that point, it sounds like Neiwart might agree; he notes that “[i]t’s as if the right…is doomed to drag us into the swamps of fascism.” And I submit that this is because once the genie of Suppressive and Coercive Force is out of the bottle, it’s not easily controlled.)

    I submit that what makes fascism fascism does not require either violence or seething hatred. Of note, neither of these words appear in the definition as given by Webster’s Third International Dictionary, Unabridged, which states:

    Etymology: Italian fascismo, from fascio bundle, political group + -ismo -ism
    1 often capitalized : the principles of the Fascisti; also : the movement or governmental regime embodying their principles
    2 a : any program for setting up a centralized autocratic national regime
    with severely nationalistic policies, exercising regimentation of
    industry, commerce, and finance, rigid censorship, and forcible
    suppression of opposition b : any tendency toward or
    actual exercise of severe autocratic or dictatorial control (as over
    others within an organization) <the nascent fascism of a detective who is not content merely to do his duty — George Nobbe> <early instances of army fascism and brutality — J.W.Aldridge> <a kind of personal fascism, a dictatorship of the ego over the more generous elements of the soul — Edmond Taylor>

    And part of the reason I defined what I was talking about as the “New” Fascism was an express recognition of the absence of any “black core of violence and seething hatred.”

    Fascism is about anti-democratic control. My contention is that corporations — not out of any evil intent, but just because they’re doing what corporations are supposed to do (focus on making profits for shareholders) — are currently about the twin-pronged business of (probably even unintentionally) destroying democracy, by silencing the opposition, ensuring only what they want heard is heard and weakening the government so that it will not be capable of functioning as a contrary force.

    The government is supposed to represent the people. The people — even the stupidest ones — would probably not willingly assent to a return to the Dark Ages if they knew that’s what was happening. So the government must be neutralized a) to keep it from opening up the information markets and b) to keep it from otherwise getting in the way of corporate interests.

    The New Fascism isn’t, in that sense, a governmentally-based fascism, although the government has currently been co-opted to some degree for advancing the New Fascism. (But, as I suggested in my original post, if the New Fascism is successful, the government will eventually become irrelevant.) The New Fascism is corporate-driven and extra-governmental.

    There’s much more I could say about the role of the corporations in this, but perhaps to keep from making this comment much longer than my original article, I should reserve that for tomorrow’s blog entry!

  • 3 newswriter // Feb 28, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    I think what you call “new fascism” is what Neiwart calls “pseudo fascism.” Either way, you’re on target to say that this government must be “neutralized.” It’s a huge task, though, isn’t it? Somehow, those of us who see what’s going on have to shine the light for others … why is it, I wonder, that some of us know we’re heading back to where we don’t belong while others blithely go through their lives as if everything is perfectly fine?

    Honestly, I don’t see much difference in what you’re saying and what Neiwart says. Bob Paxton, in “Anatomy of Fascism” even wonders aloud if the particularly nasty goings on in Germany were not really fascism at all, leaving that word to apply where it began, with Mussolini.

    Either way, or any way really, we’re facing more ugliness to come. And likely, by the time the masses realize it, it will be too late and there will be more damage than any of us want to endure. But we will. We have to.

    I’m wearing a purple bracelet on my wrist right now that says “Never Surrender.” It’s brought to us by the folks at Working Assets, who use their corporateness for good, as best they can. The campaign, at NeverSurrender.org, is “to show that your voice still counts and that you want an America committed to your values,” values like fighting “to build a better democracy that can provide life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all,” “to offset the damage caused by our country’s policies and to support efforts to strengthen democracy” and “to offset the harm and loss of life caused by our country’s dangerous and inhumane policies, and to build a better democracy in the United States.”

    It’s the least I can do when we’re closer to fascism than I ever wanted to be in my lifetime.

  • 4 LS Butts // Feb 28, 2005 at 7:54 pm

    Your New Fascism is interesting. You should expand the idea in another article. I think the “ownership society” has a role to play in this unfolding drama. It is in the interest of our corporate masters to give as many people as possible a stake in the machine. Onward corporate soldiers!

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