Posts Tagged ‘Fascism’

Mythic Past Indeed!

December 2, 2022

            The word “fascism” started to appear regularly, and pervasively, within the news media after the January 6, 2021 capital insurrection (definitely a news coverage event). Prior to that it was remarkably absent save for academics and lengthy news analysis columns. During the Trump administration, it was whispered and inferred, but rarely spoken outright. Analysis bears in mind that the news media are primarily corporate controlled entities. Jason Stanley’s 2018 primer on fascism, “How Fascism Works: the politics of us and them” was available well before the Jan. 6 event, and the book includes the first year of the Trump presidency. Since Hannah Arendt in the late 1940’s, it’s not like we haven’t been told. It’s more like we haven’t been able to listen — being too preoccupied, or distracted. By whom, and why? As Stanley points out, fascism is generally marked by a “strong man” authoritarian afloat on a sea of “us – them” ideology. In the introduction (pg. xiv, xv) he writes: “Fascist politics includes many distinct strategies: the mythic past, propaganda, anti-intellectualism, unreality, hierarchy, victimhood, law and order, sexual anxiety, appeals to the heartland, and a dismantling of public welfare and unity.” Stanley utilizes most of these as the chapters of his book, providing an exemplary road map of the history of fascism over the last 200+ years, both here in the US and abroad. In considering the book, Analysis found much of the description of the strategies to parallel an interpretation of corporate capitalism. Here’s a fast and dirty look: Mythic past – by definition corporations are entities which exist only in law, any self identity is purely a mythic fabrication. Strong man authoritarian – a quick look at the ranks of the 1%, specifically the .1% and .01% reveals the nature of corporate ownership/leadership (Rupert Murdoch, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk come to mind). Us and them – the integration of self identified branding into corporate myth, with the “them” being strongly dismissed, if even acknowledged. Enough said (e.g. Ford, Fiat Chrysler, GM, Honda, Toyota, etc. No parts are interchangeable though they are all makers of a product with the same function). Propaganda – think advertising, anything to get you to buy (recent summer airline overbooking comes to mind. “Fly the friendly skies,” also see mythic past and legal entities like Frito Lay, Coke or Pepsi). Anti-intellectualism – look no further than what big tobacco, Monsanto, big pharma, or the fossil fuel industry did/does through their lobbying campaigns. Unreality – welcome to the Magic Kingdom, Super Bowl, or whatever fabricated reality is better if you only shop here. Hierarchy – nothing more central to us/them than ranking what is “most” important (just recent railroad contract legislation which had the unions giving up their right to collective bargaining while the railroad corporations gave up nothing. We’re dealing!). Victimhood – the Trump administrations tax cuts to make corporations “more competitive,” level the field could only take place within the mythic propaganda of the corporations being the victims of injustice). Law and order – think what will happen after the merger of Kroger and Albertsons, food deserts and those without a house. Sexual anxiety – although legal entities are without sex, it can be projected on to the consumer, and we all know what sells. Appeals to the heartland – gun sales are up, hunting is down. Apple pie, football and Chevrolet (check out the mythic past!). Dismantling of public welfare and unity – the ongoing endeavor of privatizing public services and holding their operation up to the standards of private business, eliminating those not producing a profit or operating within their means (think Louis DeJoy and the USPS). Analysis finds the use of the word “fascism” to be  as  scary as what it is a moniker for. Its use reveals what it is we have been groomed to be, what it is we already are. Mythic past indeed!


What Will Newark Do If Trump Doesn’t Leave?

September 6, 2020

            David Brooks is a writer. He has written several books as well as a weekly op-ed column for the New York Times, part of the Times “both side-ism” approach to covering the news. On a political spectrum he would be somewhere around conservative/centrist/moderate. He also appears as a foil to the liberal Mark Shields on the PBS Friday Newshour commentary (as well as on election coverage, etc.). So it came as a bit of a surprise to read the title of his 9-3-20 Times’ op-ed: What Will You Do If Trump Doesn’t Leave? Sure, Bernie Sanders can broach the same topic eliciting “That’s Bernie” yawns. But Brooks? In his essay, Brooks assumes his paper’s both side-ism coverage of the various street demonstrations around the country and that they are increasingly actively involving both sides (the truth being that the Proud Boys and Prayer Patriots have been actively agitating in Portland for years, not just the past 100 days). White supremacy aside, and the affinity of these groups to side with and be embraced by law enforcement (after all, like the police, they are carrying firearms), none of this will go away with the election of a new president. Brooks’ point is will you choose a side? His response was to point to the outrage and mass street gatherings in Belarus (as well as Ukraine, Chile, etc.). Would you be willing to go to the streets for the sake of democracy, the Constitution and country (and not just one side)? What is striking about Brooks, and Sanders, and so many others recent concern about what will occur if our Dear Leader questions the legitimacy of the outcome (which he has been continuously laying the groundwork for just such a response), relies on his paramilitary (which he has continuously been instigating and affirming), and decides to change the Constitutional interpretation of what is the legitimate transfer of power (which he has been collaborating with his attorney general to reset what was previously assumed as lawful) is that most Americans are totally oblivious of this evolution, this development in American history. It has only been recently, in the last half year, that the media will immediately call out misinformation, disinformation as a lie, untrue, not backed up by facts and actuality. The word “fascist” still elides the lexicon. Speaking of fascism, what will Newark do if Trump doesn’t leave?

The Updated New Normal

June 25, 2019

The news of the past week included an allegation of rape. E. Jean Carroll claims the current president raped her in the mid 90’s. The headline of an online The Hill interview says it all — EXCLUSIVE: Trump vehemently denies E. Jean Carroll allegation, says ‘she’s not my type’ (Jordan Fabian and Saagar Enjeti, 6-24-19). In a Washington Post op ed (Republicans believed Juanita Broaddrick. The new rape allegation against Trump is more credible. 6-22-19) George Conway (yes, THAT George Conway) crafts an essay examining why the rape claims of Juanita Broaddrick against Bill Clinton differed or were similar to that of E. Jean Carroll. He also looks at how the current president used the victim’s testimony to distract from the “Access Hollywood” tape revelations and the present use. Did Analysis mention the words “victim” and “used’? Missing in all this is the underlying, near universal (in terms of civilized world) definition of rape as an act of violence, with a perpetrator and victim. A few days earlier (6-20-19)’s Jeremy Pelzer headlined Gov. Mike DeWine: End statute of limitations for rape in wake of Ohio State sex abuse report. “DeWine acknowledged that state lawmakers have been reluctant in recent years to extend the statute of limitations for sex crimes. But he said the statute of limitations should be different for sex crimes because victims often don’t — or can’t — come forward until long afterward. “I would just ask members of the General Assembly, what would you tell your constituents today – or what would you tell your constituents tomorrow – if we come upon another tragedy like this where we have a monster who has been doing things like this and he’s alive, but…we can’t prosecute?” DeWine asked.” Analysis finds that with the POTUS it is not so much the statute of limitations as it is that his justice department will not indict a sitting president. In his defense, the president says “She’s not my type.” He’s said that before when questioned about the other women who’ve made claims of his sexual violence. Analysis finds all this troubling. Rape is troubling enough. But equally, if not more troubling, is the use of such violence as cannon fodder in the political struggle for governance of our democracy, akin to rape as a weapon of war. The most troubling is the sense of normalcy that now accompanies such a response to acts of violence. One critical thinker said we are at the point where diners in a restaurant enjoying an evening out will be completely nonplused by an ICE raid storming in and rounding up the kitchen staff that had just prepared their meal. “Not to bother. Just the authorities doing their job and carting off that type.” Analysis can’t help but wonder what type the president has been violent with?

“Stanley ends the short flick with the acknowledgement that “When Fascism starts to feel normal, we’re all in trouble.”” (This blog, The New Normal, 10-16-18 (video: If You’re Not Scared About Fascism in the U.S., You Should Be. By Jason Stanley, 10-15-18, NY Times,))

Clear And Simple Message (No Interpreter Required)

October 19, 2018

10-18-18 The news this day was the POTUS open air rally in Bozeman, Montana. Reuters headlines: Trump praises U.S. congressman from Montana who body-slammed reporter (Jeff Mason, 10-18-18). “President Donald Trump on Thursday heaped praise on a U.S. congressman from Montana who body-slammed a reporter during a campaign for a special election in 2017. Trump, who has called the media the enemy of the American people and regularly derides journalists as “fake news,” made his latest remarks during a campaign rally in Montana. Representative Greg Gianforte, who made brief remarks at the rally with Trump, was ordered to perform community service as part of his sentence for attacking Ben Jacobs, a correspondent for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, on May 24, 2017, the day before a special election to fill Montana’s sole congressional seat. “Any guy that can do a body-slam … is my guy,” Trump told supporters at the rally, adding that he was concerned at first that the incident would jeopardize Gianforte’s campaign. “I said: ‘Oh, this is terrible, he’s going to lose the election.’ Then I said: ‘Well, wait a minute, I know Montana pretty well, I think it might help him,’ and it did,” Trump said. Gianforte, who won the election, pleaded guilty to assaulting a reporter.” Same day The Hill headlined: The Guardian slams Trump over comments about assault on reporter (John Bowden, 10-18-18). “British newspaper The Guardian issued a statement criticizing President Trump on Thursday for making light of a congressman’s assault of a Guardian reporter, Ben Jacobs, during a campaign rally in Montana Thursday night. The newspaper’s condemnation came minutes after Trump joked that he thought Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte’s (R) assault of Jacobs during Montana’s special House election last year probably helped Gianforte win the race. “Never wrestle him. Never. Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of…he’s my guy,” Trump told an audience at his campaign rally in the state Thursday, adding: “I said, ‘Well wait a minute, I know Montana pretty well, I think it might help him,’ and it did…He’s a great guy and a tough cookie.” “The President of the United States tonight applauded the assault of an American journalist working for The Guardian,” the newspaper’s editor John Mulholland wrote in a statement obtained by The Washington Post. Mulholland went on to argue that such statements would only inflame future violence against journalists in the wake of the rumored death of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist for The Washington Post who was last seen entering a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey weeks ago.” Same day the Washington Post printed Jamal Khashoggi’s final column submitted the day before his “disappearance” (authoritarian speak for “killed off”). The Post held off publishing it in hopes its reporter would be around to edit it as done previously so many times before (a lot goes in to getting the news right). The Guardian ended its statement with “”We hope decent people will denounce these remarks and that the president will see fit to apologize for them,” the editor added.” Analysis finds the message to be pretty clear and simple.


The New Normal

October 16, 2018

10-15-18 NY Times ran an op ed video entitled If You’re Not Scared About Fascism in the U.S., You Should Be. It starred and was by Jason Stanley, with the video by Adam Westbrook and Japhet Weeks. It is only about  5 minutes. Stanley makes it clear throughout that he is a professor of philosophy at Yale and has studied Fascism a lot. OK, the last ten years (he’s not that old). He gives insights about what makes for fascism and why it’s concerning. Analysis shows that what makes for Fascism IS what is concerning! Professor Stanley gives the following “indicators” of Fascism: Usually, if not always, a male leader. There is an emphasis, and reliance, on a mythic past (MAGA), There is a need, and reliance, on creating division within the state (people, culture, etc.). And finally, there is an unrelenting attack on the truth (Giuliani’s “Truth isn’t truth.”). Stanley ends the short flick with the acknowledgement that “When Fascism starts to feel normal, we’re all in trouble.” Analysis can’t lay claim to Jason Stanley’s bona fide’s though it has written about Fascism several times and referenced Stanley’s colleague, Timothy Snyder, in passing. Analysis believes that the kernel of Fascism can be summed up with even more brevity than that of the learned philosophy professor. We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives, usually in our youth, even early youth. “Do what we want or you will get hurt.” Stings, doesn’t it? Today’s Washington Examiner headline reads “Trump threatens to pull aid from Honduras if caravan isn’t stopped.” The caravan is in Guatemala, not Honduras (though it was in Honduras before entering Guatemala). No need to go into the details. The NY Daily news ran “Trump’s long history of mocking the appearances of women” after he called his former mistress “Horseface.” And then there’s the archival video of offering to pay a million bucks to Senator Warren’s charity if she took a DNA test, only to find the latest video showing him claiming he never said that. Denials of this sort are not exceptional, more the rule like the Daily News suggests. And rules are the norm, the new normal. “When Fascism starts to feel normal, we’re all in trouble.”

A Desire To Preserve Public Civility

June 30, 2018

Most recent in the Richmond Times Dispatch, Lauren Berg of The Daily Progress writes (6-29-18, Charlottesville judge awards Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler $5 for activist cursing at him): “A Charlottesville judge decided Friday that a local activist violated Virginia’s anti-dueling statute when she screamed curses at Jason Kessler. Kessler cited the statute in his $500 lawsuit against Donna Gasapo, whom he said used insulting language that tended toward violence and a breach of the peace. Kessler said he sued for a small amount of money based on the principle of the matter and a desire to preserve public civility. With dozens of supporters seated behind her in Charlottesville General District Court on Friday, Gasapo never denied yelling curse words at Kessler on March 16 outside of DeAndre Harris’ assault trial in the same courthouse. But her attorney said she was protected by the First Amendment to express rhetorical hyperbole and make exaggerated statements. Representing himself, Kessler argued that Gasapo’s words — “F— you … f— you, a—— … crybaby Kessler” — were fighting words and could have incited violence. In the video that Kessler played as evidence, Gasapo also can be heard calling Kessler a “murderer.” Kessler said Gasapo was falsely assigning him blame for the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed in a car attack on the day of the Unite the Right rally, which Kessler organized.” Following coverage of “both sides” (and the judge) Berg concludes with this from Gasapo’s attorney: ““I think we should all be very concerned about what this ruling means in terms of opening up other frivolous harassment suits against members of our community who are expressing their opinions and their very real feelings of frustration, which we believe are protected by the First Amendment,” she said.” The words of Gasapo’s attorney, Pam Starsia, skim the surface and steer well away from the depths. Analysis finds this symptomatic of our current, curious times. How so? Remember Cleveland’s John Demjanjuk? No, he didn’t play for the Browns. Who could forget the Ukrainian immigrant refugee who was stripped of US citizenship and eventually tried as an accessory to the murder of 28,000+ Jews during the Second World War? And who could forget John F Kennedy? What? What does Kennedy have to do with Kessler, or Demjanjuk? Historically, one of the pressing questions during his “time” running for president was whether or not his religion, Roman Catholic, would affect his ability to govern as a future president. This dogged his candidacy, as well as many others during and after his “time.” As late as 2012 the question arose regarding Mitt Romney being part of the LDS Church. Ideology, or in this case religion, matters. Numbers driven media covered recent events regarding the rather personal confrontation of various current administration officials on a number of issues – Sarah Sanders, Kirstjen Nielsen, etc. (described as “harassment”). “Let the folks eat, for gawd’s sake. They’re only following orders and doing their job.” cry the administration’s defenders. Ideology matters, not personality. Demjanjuk, and others of his generation, were dragged from nursing homes to stand trial for being personally responsible for the atrocities that occurred in WWII. Personality matters, not ideology. It’s the people who were driving the locomotives, manning the guard towers, and keeping the books who  were personally responsible for the evil perpetrated. So which is it – ideology or the persons who embody it and make it materially real? Taking his cue perfectly from the fascist playbook, Kessler has gaslighted his vigilant (and virulent) opponents by publicly and legally casting himself as innocent, bearing no responsibility for events of his own doing. “A desire to preserve public civility”?


Not A Winner, Try Again

June 6, 2018

“The number of hate groups rose to 954 in 2017, from 917 in 2016. Within the white supremacist movement, neo-Nazi groups saw the greatest growth – soaring by 22 percent.” (Southern Poverty Law Center) In the May 27, 2018 blog post, Thoughts And Prayers, Analysis described fascism as “thinking associated with myth, fiction, duplicity, violence and the incessant manufacture of enemies.” The new Oxford American dictionary (on this operating system) gives “an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization. • (in general use) extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice.” as a definition for Fascism. But that only rather further describes the activity (than defines it) so the dictionary supplements its “definition” with history: “The term Fascism was first used of the totalitarian right-wing nationalist regime of Mussolini in Italy (1922–43), and the regimes of the Nazis in Germany and Franco in Spain were also fascist. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach.” The same dictionary defines demagogue quite succinctly, “a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.”  In that same May 27 blog post Analysis referenced Timothy Snyder’s account of history entitled The Road To Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America (2018). Early on (pg. 16) Snyder writes: “The fascism of the 1920s and 1930s, [Ivan] Ilyin’s era, had three core features: it celebrated will and violence over reason and law; it proposed a leader with a mystical connection to his people; and it characterized globalization as a conspiracy rather than as a set of problems. Revived today in conditions of inequality as a politics of eternity [think Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day], fascism serves oligarchs as a catalyst for transitions away from public discussion and towards political fiction; away from meaningful voting and towards fake democracy; away from the rule of law and towards personalist regimes.” Much closer to today he writes (pg. 269-270) “To proclaim “America First” was to deny any need to fight fascism either at home or abroad. When American Nazis and white supremacists marched in Charlottesville in August 2017, Trump said that some of them were “very fine people.” He defended the Confederate and Nazi cause of preserving monuments to the Confederacy. Such monuments in the American South were raised in the 1920s and 1930s, at a time when fascism in the United States was a real possibility; they memorialized the racial purification of Southern cities that was contemporary with the rise of fascism in Europe. Will Rogers, the great American entertainer and social commentator of his time, saw Adolf Hitler in 1933 as a familiar figure: “Papers all state that Hitler is trying to copy Mussolini. Looks to me it’s the KKK he’s copying.” The great American social thinker and historian W.E.B. Du Bois could see how the temptation of fascism worked together with American myths of the past. He rightly feared that American whites would prefer a story about enmity with blacks to a reforming state that would improve prospects for all Americans. Whites distracted by racism could become, as he wrote in 1935, “the instrument by which democracy in the nation was done to death, race provincialism deified, and the world delivered to plutocracy,” what we call oligarchy.” In his Epilogue summation Snyder further defines the workings of fascism while valuing the counter virtues necessary for democracy: equality, individuality, succession [think inauguration], integration, novelty [think new ideas, disruptive process], and truth. (pg. 278-279) “That no country stands alone is the truth of integration. Fascism is the falsehood that the enemy chosen by a leader must be the enemy for all. Politics then begins from emotion and falsehood. Peace becomes unthinkable, since enmity abroad is necessary for control at home. A fascist says “the people” and means “some people,” those he favors at the moment. If citizens and residents are recognized by law, then other countries might also be recognized by law. Just as the state requires a principle of succession to exist over time, it needs some form of integration with others to exist in space.” According to the SPLC neo-Nazi groups grew by 22% from 2016 to 2017. Analysis is a firm believer in the colloquialism that “nothing comes from nothing.” History, as practiced by folks like Snyder, is grounded in facts and events that cannot be disappeared (as with a Kent State parking lot). Culturally, facts are not as readily available to account for what contributes to the attraction that fascism holds for current Americans. Given the descriptions and definitions of fascism just surveyed, Analysis would like to proffer a condition, atmosphere, or milieu that cultivates a fascist outlook completely unawares. Video games have a long history within formative youth culture and beyond – all those players who are forever young (the eternity thing). The shoot ‘em up variety differ from their sports or skill contemporaries by always requiring a creation myth or fiction as an alibi. Virtual violence is de rigueur to participate. The core duplicity is that the player never actually dies. There is no game over. It can always be repeated ad nauseam (a bizarre interpretation of a politics of eternity where nothing ever really progresses but always returns as a threat). Central to all of these games, whether early variations or the latest incarnation, is the incessant manufacture of enemies. Everything is defined in terms of enemies and threats. Needless to say, the player’s enemy is always determined by the unseen leader, the game’s creator.

Thoughts And Prayers…

May 27, 2018

Memorial Day, when we remember. Memory is often conflated with history, the two being not the same. But memory always feels historical while history none too often relies on memory to jar open the doors of the past. Memorialized this week were the victims of the again repeated school student shootings, in Santa Fe Texas. Writing for the Washington Post Tim Craig and Brittney Martin covered some of this with Praying the pain away: Christianity’s presence at Santa Fe High grows after shooting (5-26-18). Same day the NY Times ran an article on When Anti-Trump Evangelicals confront their brethren. Other news outlets have been tracking the recurring ritual of memory, history and “coping” that repetitively follows these killings, almost as if scripted. In 2016 nationally recognized Evangelical minister Rob Schenck (who had previously come to the defense of Roy Moore’s 10 Commandments monument) and Lucy Bath (mother of senseless and racist gun violence victim Jordan Davis) embarked on a soul searching encounter of the relationship of gun ownership and Evangelical faith in a documentary titled The Armor of Light. Americans seem almost obsessed in wrestling with “the gun issue” while eliding questions of memory, feeling and history. “Memory is often conflated with history, the two being not the same.” Part of American History that is never memorialized and hardly ever remembered would be anarchy and fascism. The former is quickly mouthed with the travesty of Sacco and Vanzetti. The latter, if mentioned at all, with the likes of Charles Lindberg, Henry Ford, the KKK and a host of other Americans from the first half of the 20thcentury. Anarchy has loose and vague affiliations with some philosophical/theoretical roots (Wiki gives Proudhon, Analysis suggests Thoreau). But what are the philosophical/theoretical roots of fascism? The knee jerk response is “Oh, Nietzsche and Wagner’s operas” in regard to the Nazi contemporaries of Lindberg and Ford. Little energetic inquiry is made as to the origins of thinking associated with myth, fiction, duplicity, violence and the incessant manufacture of enemies. The violence of Santa Fe materialized a specific manifestation covered by the Craig and Martin report: “Communal displays of faith have defined this district’s response to the shooting that left eight students and two teachers dead inside Santa Fe High on May 18. While some other schools affected by shootings have turned to politics — whether calling for armed teachers or demanding gun-control measures — Santa Fe’s concerns have been less about guns than God.” “Danielle Mason, 35, also has memories from her years as a student at Santa Fe High. There was prayer at lunch, prayer at graduation. Around Easter, churches set up tables inside the school and gave out Bibles near the building entrance, she said. Though she was raised Southern Baptist, Mason and her parents were uncomfortable with the ubiquitous presence of Christianity in the school. When Mason chose not to take one of the Bibles that a group was handing out at the school, students started treating her like an outcast and called her a Satanist, she said. “The town, from what I know from when I lived there, would rather have Bible study and prayer, then arts and music,” Mason told The Post in a Twitter direct message. Mason left Santa Fe in 2003 but still has relatives there. She said she’s been told the town’s views on religion haven’t changed: “A prayer and god will stop gun violence,” she said.” “On Sunday night, Arcadia First Baptist Church hosted the town’s annual baccalaureate service for Santa Fe High’s graduating seniors. About 100 graduates attended, as did the schools superintendent, who was recognized from the dais. Jack Roady, Galveston County’s district attorney, spoke to the students from the pulpit. His office is prosecuting Pagourtzis. “You are entering into a war zone, and it’s a spiritual war zone,” Roady, a Republican, told students. “And you are entering into an area where you will have to deal with — and you are already dealing with — the full effects of sin in our world. “For those of you who know him, truly know him — Christ — this time is for you,” Roady continued. “Because, believers, we shouldn’t be surprised about what we’re seeing.”” In a recent book (The Road to Unfreedom: Russia Europe America, 2018) Yale historian Timothy Snyder considers the politics and motivation of Vladimir Putin and Russia, and its spread westward. He spends considerable attention on Putin’s revered (and frequently iterated) Russian philosopher of fascism, Ivan Ilyin (Putin even going so far as likening himself to Ilyin’s aspired strong man). From page 25: “The men who redeemed God’s flawed world had to ignore what God said about love. Jesus instructed his disciples that, after loving God, the most important law was to love one’s neighbor… For Ilyin there were no neighbors. Individuality is corrupt and transient, and the only meaningful connection is the lost divine totality. So long as the world is fractured, loving God means a constant struggle “against the enemies of divine order on earth.” To do anything but to join this was to enact evil: “He who opposes the chivalrous struggle against the devil is himself the devil.” Faith meant war: “May your prayer be a sword and your sword be a prayer!”” Analysis finds a contemporary American update would read “May your prayer be a gun and your gun be a prayer!” Thoughts and prayers…