Brown Shirt-ism

            It is a difficult, and delicate, subject to write about; one that can be adumbrated but not specifically elaborated, one that could occupy a book in terms of research, reference and analysis. But there is no time for that. It is difficult, and delicate, to speak of because of the charged words involved. Language is all we have, yet many words become “icons”, designating meanings popularly attributed; some even to the point where they cannot be used but only referenced by their first letters. Historically, brown shirts referred to a certain kind of political strategy/activity in which a problem is created only to misdirect attention to the “other” (the opposition) as the source of the problem, and then claiming the problem’s (real) undisclosed perpetrator as the solution. This was very prevalent in many democratic countries throughout Europe in the 1930’s. The Hollywood version we are more familiar with revolves around some gangster type causing damage to a business or family, then claiming that the community, the civil authorities or municipal government is ineffective in “protecting” the business, and that the victims should put their trust (and payoffs) with the gangster for “protection”. How do you deal with it? If only Gary Cooper were still alive!


            The Sunday, October 13, 2013 Newark Advocate brought this to mind with a series of articles on the recent (and final) push by the North Fork School district to get a levy renewal passed on the November ballot. One of the articles claimed to assess the opposition and its legitimacy in the reasonable discourse. The reported story was disappointing in that it highlighted only what the opposition has already claimed (that the voters are without resources, vote no). The source of the campaign against the levy was spottily presented (specifically unmentioned), and primarily as being from outside the district.  “Fill” for the article was provided by all the compensatory statements by levy proponents (specifically mentioned, that is, named) trying to show the nameless opposition that various attempts already have been made to meet their demands. This, in addition to the other articles related to the necessity of the levy, was the “reasonable” reply – what has been done, what things cost, state requirements, etc. Analysis found nothing in the short Advocate article to learn what the opposition’s reasonable demand or alternative scenario could be, other than refusal to oblige the state mandated public school requirement to educate. We don’t wish to pay for public school education (and don’t wish to promote/support its funding on the state level) was about all that Analysis could glean as the opposition’s reasons (with “we don’t wish to be taxed” as the primary, fundamental logic further on upstream). No funding creates a problem for everyone.


            Heather Gerken, in an interview on Bill Moyers & Co, touched on the recent Supreme Court case, McCutcheon vs. FEC. The same folks who brought us Citizens United now want unlimited individual campaign contributions; unregulated as well with no disclosure requirements. She pointed out that the full disclosure and transparency route, which seems to be a reasonable foil to the corrupting influence of big money on political governance, is now the very tactic used to argue for why it should not be allowed. It is based on precedent Supreme Court implementation of disclosure and transparency restrictions in order to protect the first amendment rights of politically active participants from retribution and intimidation. Sunday’s events surrounding the WWII monument reinforce the strategy of brown shirts prior to that cataclysm. The government shutdown (which precipitated the monument’s closing) was brought about by the very folks who actively promote smaller or no government. Shutting down the government is precisely what they campaigned on in order to be elected. Bringing an end, or stop, to government, and its functions, be they in terms of education, business regulation, public health, social programs, etc. has always been their unambiguous and proclaimed intentions. With their short term success in hand (of shutting down the government) the leaders of this group now appear at the WWII monument blaming the “other” (their opposition) and promoting themselves as the solution (to a problem which they created). Those seeking the demise of the North Fork Schools are not far removed. “Let them fail” is their unifying intent. With that, they point to distractions like anecdotal evidence regarding private schools as solutions to public education. The private schools’ privilege of exclusivity now, somehow, becomes the route to universal, state-wide educational inclusivity. The Supreme Court Justices are buying this argument. Are you?


            One of the things Analysis regretfully did not bother to note this week was a short article that appeared online, saying that the real legislators at fault in Washington are the moderate Republicans for their refusal to stand up thereby giving tacit approval and support to the minority’s tactics. This is the same indictment history handed down with regard the destructive “success” of the brown shirts.



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