Fighting Fascism — The GOP and the 14 signs of fascism

Fighting Fascism

The GOP and the 14 signs of fascism

 

May 15th 2021

Back in 2003, Laurence W. Britt wrote an op-ed piece for Secular Humanism magazine called “Fascism, Anyone?” The magazine wryly notes that it is “the most reprinted—and most pirated—article in the magazine’s history.” It’s better known around the web as “The fourteen signs of fascism” and it serves well as a warning against any kind of extreme authoritarianism. Of course, fascism is almost by definition extreme authoritarianism, but ever since World War 2, fascists never, ever refer to themselves as fascists. In the US, they like to call themselves “conservatives” or “patriots.” They are neither.

I’ve used Britt’s essay several times in essays since it came out as it it has become a sine qua non for defining—and fighting—fascism.

I’m going to take the titles of each of the 14 signs and give a brief description of how this is a very nearly exact match for policies and practices of today’s Republican party. Readers are invited to take any of the 14 referents and argue how they DON’T represent what are laughingly referred to as “Republican values” these days. Those who like to use the tu quoque logical fallacy (whataboutism) will be happy to know that I’ll freely admit that some points do apply to Democrats as well as Republicans, although most do not. With Republicans, the score is 14 out of 14.

Here they are in the order Britt laid them out, with my own thoughts on how they apply now with the 2021 version of the GOP.

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.

No politician dares appear on a stage without a dozen or fifty American flags in the background. It long passed the point of being ridiculous, but nobody dares say so—in either party. People are obliged to refer to America as a family member or a lover, rather than just a place. The United States is a country. America is a shit pot of cows and trees and Starbucks. It’s not illegal to say so. Or unpatriotic.

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights.

Three words. “Kids in cages.” Republicans kept kids in cages for weeks and even months, and committed the unspeakably cruel crime of permanently separating them from their families, just because of the common fascist belief that cruelty equals strength.

3. Identification of enemies/scape-goats as a unifying cause.

This week it’s Asians. And transgenders. And Hispanics. And Blacks. And the Poor. And intellectuals. And about 70% of the entire country, really.

.4. The supremacy of the military/ avid militarism.

I read an article that some 120 retired line officers—generals and admirals, all retired—signed a “stop the steal” petition. Bad enough that so many of them would gleefully sign on to what amounts to an act of treason, but that there are so MANY line officers in the first place shows how bloated, inefficient, top-heavy and corrupt the military has become. The military budget is nearly as large as the rest of the world’s combined, and yet it is suicide to suggest cutting their budget. They are the most expensive under-performer in the world. Fascist fetishism of the military does not win wars. And degrades the very military it’s meant to glorify.

5. Rampant sexism.

Gawd. Where to begin? I’ll just note that Marjorie Taylor-Greene is just the latest in a shameful parade of mentally disturbed women the GOP put in the public eye to do their dirty work for them. Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Ann Coulter, Nazi Barbie…the list goes on and on. The permanent sneer that accompanies Republican attitudes toward women is their desire to ban abortion and birth control, but not provide mothers with paid time off, free child care, preschool and neonatal and pediatric care, available in all civilized nations.

6. A controlled mass media.

As with corporations and the government in a fascist country, the issue of whether the media control the party or the other way around is nearly impossible to discern. Which is the puppet and which is the master? In this case, Fox News and the GOP are two facets of the same paste jewelry.

7. Obsession with national security.

How many “crisis at the border” situations have we had since 1992? How many were real? Even after electing a president whose regard for national security was problematic at best, Republicans continue to supercharge the notion that any dissident voices, no matter how patriotic or benign, are threats to national security. Black Lives Matter is a threat. The Naziesque Proud Boys are not. Well, Brownshirts protected Germany from the Jews in the name of national security, so there really isn’t anything new under that dark sun.

8. Religion and ruling elite tied together.

Authoritarian religion and fascism always have gone hand in hand and now is no exception. People who wonder how professed Christians could possibly align with a moral and ethical wastrel like Donald Trump haven’t read history. These people don’t worship God; they worship Power. And fascism is all about the power, baby.

9. Power of corporations protected.

Have you ever wondered why the Republicans seem to be on the wrong side of nearly all major social and economic positions? A decent minimum wage? Sick leave for all? Child care? Universal health care not tied to employment? Decent drug prices? That represents corporate power, which wants a weak and dependent labor force.

10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.

See #9. This isn’t a battle between capitalism and socialism; this is a war between the bosses—corporations and the aristocracy—and the workers.

11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts.

The coronavirus pandemic highlighted the anti-science stance of the GOP. Intellectuals tend to ask awkward questions about such sacred cows as the role of gods and businesses in society, and scientists figure stuff out rather than making shit up, which angers the churches.

12. Obsession with crime and punishment.

The GOP have actually gone a bit quiet on this in recent years since Trump forced them to abandon the pretense that they were anything other than an organized crime cartel. They don’t mind calling for the death penalty for political dissidents such as BLM or the largely imaginary ‘antifa’ (and what political movement would hate a group for being antifascist, you ask?) but they have to remain resolutely silent about the criminality of Trump and much of his administration, or well-known figures in his circles such as Matt Gaetz or Jeffery Epstein. Many turn to conspiracy theories and projection, which allows them to remain resolutely ‘tough on crime’ whilst still stealing with both hands.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.

Two words: Trump family.

14. Fraudulent elections.

If the GOP has any central principle at all, it is that of stealing elections whilst loudly shouting that it’s the other guys who are stealing elections. From draconian Jim Crow-type laws to to gerrymandering efforts to overthrowing election results through manipulation of the electoral college through outright insurrection and threats of violent overthrow of the government, the GOP, who hate 70% of all the people in America, have realized they cannot win free and fair elections so they are doing everything in their power to prevent free and fair elections from interfering with their self-assumed right to rule.

Fascism attracts vicious autocrats who bend normal human reason and values in their lust for power. Even without the monsters of the second world war, fascism, with its authoritarian nature, have the same evil reputation that theocracies and other dictatorships have, and for the same reason. Power isn’t from the people: it’s power OVER the people, and it is without exception ugly and vicious and corrupt on all levels.

The GOP are authoritarian and anti-American. They ARE fascists. Do all you can to fight them.

Mattgates and Jim Crow — And how Faux News is massaging them

Mattgates and Jim Crow

And how Faux News is massaging them

April 3rd, 2021

Three items this week show the problems with the fascist right in America: Matt Gaetz, the Georgia State Government, and how Fox News has reacted to those two.

Gaetz and the Georgia lege have these things in common: both are despicable, dishonest, have scant regard for the rights of their victims, and are part of a larger pattern.

Gaetz, of course, is at the heart of a mushrooming sex-and-corruption scandal, one that has allegations of sexual child abuse, whoremongering, mass identity fraud and a host of other items. Gaetz himself is a well-known scumbag who liked to show images of his sexual conquests in the halls of Congress and had a long history of being a wastrel playboy who was bailed out of various types of legal trouble by his rich and powerful Daddy, escaping two DUIs and racking up 15 speeding tickets in 12 years.

Georgia was the first to pass voter restriction laws that effectively restored Jim Crow to Georgia. It was introduced in the State House at 9 am, passed in minutes without debate, sent to the state Senate at 1pm, passed in minutes, again without debate, and signed by the contemptible and corrupt Governor Brian Kemp by 4pm. A black legislator was arrested for daring to protest the signing.

Then there is the Fox News reaction to each of those stories.

For 48 hours Fox simply didn’t mention Gaetz at all. They did have a story about a drummer in some southern rock band who was involved in some sort of sex scandal, but that was as close as they came to discussing any possible scandal involving a Republican Congressmen. Few drummers have the temperament to be Republican congressmen. They lack the necessary wildness, dementia and psychosis the job requires.

It was only this morning, three days after the story broke, that far down on their website they had a squib reading, “Matt Gaetz says he won’t resign as pressure mounts” The story made it clear they were writing old Matty off, with a featured quote from former GOP congressman David Jolly, “”These scandals hit a certain point where there’s no escape. We’ve clearly hit that point for Matt in Florida politics.”

The message is clear: Matt fucked up massively and got caught, so let’s wash our paws of him and hope he goes away quickly. I’m guessing there’s a lot of Fox viewers who still aren’t even aware of the scandal, despite it being headline news everywhere else for three days. It reminded me of nothing so much as the fates of politicians in the old USSR who fell out of favor with Stalin: they simply were disappeared, airbrushed out of state photos, their families ordered not to discuss them on pain of 20 years in the Gulag on a charge of Anti-Soviet Agitation.

In any case, Fox can say that they’ve written him off and thus have no more reason to discuss him. Not even if his scandalous behavior reaches out to other Republicans, including at least one possible ex-President. And quite possibly Fox’s own Tucker Carlson, who was scandalized when Gaetz tried to drag him into the middle of the whole thing.

To swipe an analogy from Robert Heinlein, the whole thing is as futile as a cat trying to cover up a mistake on a linoleum floor. The only reason they mentioned it at all was it was now impossible to hide, and now they’re just trying to wave it away.

Their response to the reinstatement of Jim Crow laws in Georgia is slightly more nuanced. Georgia, it seems, has nothing but the best interests of their voters at heart. Why, they even had a provision permitting counties to extend voting hours to 7 am to 7:30 pm, although the counties that (heh, heh) wanted to keep their hours to 9 to 5 to accommodate working people were free to do so. And they forbade giving water to people in line to vote because that could be possibly construed as bribery, and in this age of Trump, Republicans are horrified at the concept of bribery. And above all, we mustn’t have voter fraud. There was vast voter fraud in the presidential election, you know. Over 60 court cases had rulings about that. That’s right, 60. What does that tell you?

And now that major corporations based in Georgia and Major League Baseball have reacted in horror, and in MLB’s case pulled the All-Star game and draft scheduled for Atlanta this year, Fox’s reaction is that this is the rise of Corporate “Cancel Culture” designed to thwart democracy. That’s right: protesting onerous voting restrictions is “thwarting democracy.”

Only fascists could tell a lie that big and that bare-faced.

One Republican defended the Georgia law, stating he was “proud to oppose the will of the American people.” I’m sure it sounded better in his head.

Unlike the Gaetz situation, there’s no pretending this won’t expand to engulf the party. Republicans have introduced a staggering 338 bills in 46 states designed to hinder people’s ability to vote. They can’t wave it away because it is the heart and soul of how they want to stage a bloodless coup and stage a fascist takeover of the land.

To that end, they’ve taken up attacking…corporations. Any student of political history knows that the main feature of fascism is that corporations and governments become one, and rule the people to their own benefit. Instead of E Pluribus Unum, the motto is “Make it Pay.” You might guess who does the paying.

So they’re attacking corporations because of “cancel culture” – you know, masks, vaccine passports, Mister Potatohead, Dr. Seuss, all that. Corporate decisions all of them. Only they don’t mention that they’re corporate decisions, but create the impression that liberals and democrats are abusing government to deprive people of their rights to outdated commercial products and the right to ignore a pandemic.

Now they’re doing the same with the Jim Crow movement, pretending the poor beleaguered white race is being downtrodden by people who want to vote for someone else because it benefits them. Can’t have that, you know.

With any luck at all, by summer we’ll see SR1 (a national voting rights act already passed by the House) become the law of the land, and Matt Gaetz will get his just reward.

Prejudicial — Cowardice breeds contempt

Prejudicial

Cowardice breeds contempt

March 25th 2021

When people hear the term “prejudice” they usually think of the cowardly and despicable practice of bigotry; the deliberate denigration of a group of people, usually for social and economic unearned advantages. It is the recourse of a fretful and unconfident population, this need to systematically cheat and harass people who are guilty of no crime but easy to target. It isn’t courageous—quite the opposite. Systematic bigotry is the province of cowards.

There is a second type of prejudice, and with this as well as the first, the American South is all too familiar. It is the type of prejudice that people have against bigots, those cruel small authoritarians who cheat and steal from the weak.

It’s often as unfair and capricious as the first type of prejudice, and the fact that there is a basis for some of it doesn’t excuse it.

But for years it was applied to white people in the American South. The world noticed the systematic and cruel exploitation and subjugation of what were then called “coloured people” and recoiled in disgust. Segregation, Jim Crow, Bull Conner, fire hoses, the Freedom Marches, all of that. All this in a country devoted to the notions of freedom and equality.

And for years the South was subject to scorn, contempt, and ridicule. If you were white and from the South, you were presumed to be a backward and hate-filled moron, a toothless hick whose own sense of self worth lay upon blowing up children and denying people the use of bathrooms and drinking fountains.

The number of Southerners who deserved that sort of contempt were far outnumbered by the millions who didn’t support Jim Crow and segregation. Many of them did so silently, subject to intense social and economic pressure from their neighbors, their town councils, their churches. Yes, Christianity played a fundamental role in the more disgraceful practices of the Old South.

It took the South over half a century to partially claw its way back from the self-inflicted black eye its behavior in the 50s and 60s caused, to the point where it wasn’t automatically assumed that a southern white male was a moonshine-guzzling unkempt yahoo who burned crosses on the weekend. Part of it was a lot of good-faith hard work by people in the South to turn the page on a disgraceful past, and part of it, in the wake of Boston and Watts, the realization that racism and vicious bigotry wasn’t limited to the South.

But now, in the wake of the corrupt and unAmerican Brian Kemp and the GOP of Georgia, that image of the South being a bastion of racism and vicious cruelty is being resurrected by new voting laws that Joe Biden called “despicable” and which are draconian, deeply unfair, and against all American values. It’s so vicious and overreaching that a large majority of Georgians across the entire spectrum oppose it.

It will dawn on the country over the next few months that it isn’t just the Southern disease resurrecting itself. It’s a national problem with voting and Democracy under attack in a large majority of the States, not just in the Bible Belt but in the West, the prairies, and the Midwest. It isn’t a Southern thing, this vile paroxysm of bigotry and cowardice: it’s a Republican thing.

The Republican Party has two main sides these days: the mainstream fascists who put corporate power and Ayn Rand ahead of people, and the Nazis and Nutzis of the Trump movement. Neither side has the faintest interest in holding office with the consent of the governed; they simply want to rule, and are willing to crush anyone who stands between them and that goal.

But it is first manifesting in Georgia, a state that has, for a decade, been the bloody Kansas of the cold civil war being fought between Americans and Republicans.

Which means the South has lost much of the good will it worked so hard for. It adopted Republicans when they opposed civil rights legislation, they stayed with Republicans when they tried to make themselves the avatars of patriotism and godliness, and they are doggedly clinging to them even after they’ve gone fascist—and worse.

They don’t want Americans to vote. They are changing voting laws wherever they can, and with no regard for deliberations or democratic process. Georgia passed their voting law today, savage as it is, in the space of six hours between introduction in the lege to a ludicrous shout of approval in the Senate to a behind-closed door signing by the reptilian Brian Kemp (whose own election was one of the most corrupt in American history) even as a Democratic legislator was dragged away and arrested by Georgia state thugs for demanding to witness the signing.

Republicans don’t want Americans to vote. They don’t want Americans to have any say in how they are ruled. They pass laws against peaceful assembly, make it a crime to insult a cop, anything they can in the cause of turning the world’s second-oldest Democracy into a authoritarian shit hole.

If they succeed, they will fail. John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

If Republicans want to suppress Americans, it will blow up in their faces. And the toothless bigots of the old South won’t be able to save them. Nobody can.

Fascism in America — A feature, not a bug

Fascism in America

A feature, not a bug

February 21st, 2021

The other day, Robin Chopineaux posted a video link on Facebook to an Oscar-nominated short from 1939 titled A Night at the Garden. For those of us over the age of about 50, chances are we’ve seen that seven minute video, or at the very least heard of the German-American Bund, the America First!ers Party, and the Ku Klux Klan.

The video is something of a masterpiece of understatement. It shows what to all appearances is a standard American patriotic rally. The opening shot shows police fire hosing a crowd outside of Madison Square Garden. The marquee proclaims this night to be a “Pro-American Rally.” A parade marches in with flags, there’s a huge backdrop of a full-length George Washington striking a ridiculously heroic pose. The crowd of 22,000 recites the pledge of Allegiance, and sings the national anthem, and then the speaker, wearing the sort of uniform that the world would quickly learn to know and hate, takes the podium. The crowd, as one, gives him a stiff-armed salute, palm down, fingers extended. Yes, THAT salute. Granted, most of the country was still using that very same gesture when saluting the flag, but The American salute, called “the Bellamy Salute” was essentially identical to the Seig Heil salute in Germany, although the similarity was coincidental. Congress finally abolished it in 1942.

But the pledge at this rally is recited with a distinctly German accent. And the opening speaker, one Fritz Kuhn, begins by evoking guffaws and snorts of disdain from the audience by explaining how he has been demonized by the press. The “Jewish-controlled press.” What a fascist of today would call “the liberal media.” He explains that he, and his audience, are the true Americans who simply want the country returned to those who founded it. He goes on to evoke a “white, Gentile-ruled United States.” Yes, he said “ruled.” Like the fascists of today, the Bund had little or no use for Democracy. He wished to “free” unions from Jewish Moscow-directed domination. At that point an individual jumps onto the stage, apparently with the aim of attacking Kuhn, and a couple of hundred of the 1,700 cops at the rally gleefully subdue him. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the assailant was “a 26-year-old plumber’s helper from Brooklyn named Isadore Greenbaum charges the stage and yells, ‘Down with Hitler.’

He is beaten up by Bund guards and his clothing is ripped off in the attack before New York police officers arrest him for disorderly conduct. (In court that night, the judge said,“Don’t you realize that innocent people might have been killed?” Greenbaum responded, ‘Don’t you realize that plenty of Jewish people might be killed with their persecution up there?’)”

Substitute “liberal” for “Jewish”, “Democrat” for “Moscow” and MAGA for “bring America back” and it’s indistinguishable from a Republican rally of today.

Halford E. Luccock famously said, “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘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.’”

The coda to the German-American Bund may be predictive of near-future events here. Germany attacked Poland some seven months later, triggering World War II, and a wave of anti-Germanism swept the country. Support for the Bund collapsed. Kuhn was found guilty of embezzling the Bund to the tune of $14,000, jailed, and eventually stripped of his citizenship and shipped back to Germany after the war to be tried under denazification rules in post-war West Germany.

America does have a history of murderous right wing populists.

In 1829 Andrew Jackson was elected president, and the inauguration quickly descended into mayhem. Per wikipedia: “Jackson left on the west front of the Capitol,for the crowd had broken the ship’s cable and surged forward. He proceeded to mount a white horse and rode up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. While this happened people were climbing in through the windows to get into the White House.

“The White House was opened to all for a post-inaugural reception and was filled by the public even before Jackson arrived on horseback. Soon afterward, Jackson left by a window or a side entrance, and proceeded to Gadsby’s, later called the National Hotel. The crowd continued to descend into a drunken mob, only dispersed when bowls of liquor and punch were placed on the front lawn of the White House. ‘I never saw such a mixture,’ said Joseph Story, then a justice of the Supreme Court: ‘The reign of King Mob seemed triumphant.’ The White House was left a mess, including several thousand dollars worth of broken china.”

It seems that vicious right-wing populists and treasured national structures don’t get on well, no matter how patriotic the mob thinks it’s being. Several thousand dollars back then was a lot—Gold was only $13 an ounce.

In 1933, the United States saw a kind of a half-assed coup against Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then in office less than four months. Smedley Butler, then America’s most decorated Marine, was supposed to lead this fascist coup, supported and underwritten by many business leaders of the time, including the Bush family, J.D. Morgan, the Scaifes, and other movers and shakers who were terrified of FDR’s proposed New Deal. However, Butler was witness to the attack upon and massacre of the Bonus Marchers by Douglas MacArthur at the behest of then-president Herbert Hoover, and grew alienated from fascistic authoritarianism. He revealed the plot (which the ever-servile New York Times dismissed as “a gigantic hoax” but Congressional committee findings later reveal that, inept as it might have been, the attempt to overthrow the United States government was a real thing.)

A lot of the offspring of those would-be insurrectionists are prominent in today’s GOP. And most of them hate liberals, Democrats and socialists with the same passion as a Jackson supporter, a member of the Bund, a business leader in the Depression, or a member of MAGA today.

Fascism isn’t an invasive force in America, and neither is it anything new. It’s a feature of America, an an opportunistic disease that become dangerous when the host organism is weak. The fascist regimes of the 30s and 40s so disgraced the concept that fascists refuse to self-identify as such. Call them “conservatives.” Call them “libertarians.” Call them “patriots.” Or Proud Boys. Or Qanon. Anything but what they actually are.

Don’t think that just because they wave American flags and chant American patriotic oaths and songs that they aren’t deadly enemies to everything America stands for.

“They walk among us.”

https://www.niot.org/blog/oscar-nominated-short-night-garden

Down the Rabbit Hole — Alas in Blunderland

July 20th 2020

Not much doubt we’ve stumbled into a meth-driven Hunter S. Thompson fugue state these days. I’ve sometimes wondered what old Hunter would have made of Trumpenstate 2020. He would have been either rolling on the floor, convulsed with laughter and scribbling furiously, or he would have blown his brains out. Can’t really imagine him scratching a cheek and languidly asking, “Wow. How ‘BOUT that?”

But then, it’s not a languid era. You can cry, you can laugh, or you can get your rifle. None of them are particularly good signs of mental health, but our psyches aren’t really equipped to deal with the madness that pervades our lives today.

You have clowns in camo snatching up peaceful protesters and hauling them away in unmarked vans. The Supreme Court has just ruled that those rounded up by the gestapo can be held indefinitely, a system that the Soviet Russians used to refer to as “the Gulag Archipelago.” We have a demented president and a mafioso-corrupt attorney-general praising the gestapo’s actions in Portland, Seattle and now Chicago, and promising to attack other peaceful protesters, presumably in hopes of sparking full-spread rebellion, a Reichstag fire of protest than can justify a Nazi coup against America.

And once they’ve rounded up protesters and thrown them into camps, what next? Well, the administration has been consulting with vicious dirtbag and justifier of torture, John Yoo, on how best to torture their prisoners, and while they’re at it, flout executive law through executive order. Trump wants to issue decrees on healthcare, immigration and “various other plans” over the coming month. He finally had to back way from his preposterously cruel plan to deport all foreign students from the nation’s colleges. A pity. That worked so well for Hitler, ending the war years earlier than if he had maintained a brain trust.

Trump is pushing to open the schools. He’s pretending it’s for the children, but really, he wants to make it possible for parents to return to jobs that may or may not exist. To that end he’s stonewalling on extending unemployment benefits, further cruel coercion meant to prop up an economy that more and more is a vicious joke meant only to serve the very rich. He’ll consider an extension of a month or so if Congress agrees to utterly gut Social Security and Medicare. How fucking kind of him.

Betty DeVos wants to return the kiddies to class, even if it means ten thousand or more of them will die. DeVos, who has never sat in a public classroom and has no educational training of any sort, wants churches and corporations to take over training the brats, and get them past the awkward stage where they’re too little to be of any use in the work camps.

Speaking of demented presidents, we have one that just boasted of “acing” a cognition test. The only time people are administered such tests is when medical personnel are concerned that a person is so far gone mentally that he is a hazard to himself and others. It’s scary enough that they would feel a need to administer such a test to a man in charge of the American military and nuclear weapons, but it’s even scarier that he boasts of “acing” it, even though the final five questions were “very hard.” The sections he found challenging included memory (given five simple words, asked to repeat them back, then and five minutes later) attention (Trump was always notoriously bad at this, and it’s hard to imagine him being able to count down from 100 in increments of 7, ie, 93, 86, 79, 72…), language (accurately repeat simple declarative sentences), abstraction (what pairs of words such as apple and banana have in common) and orientation (present date, month and year, and the name of the place they are in as well as the city). Test providers then praise the subject, no matter how they did on the test as positive reinforcement for future sessions using such tests. The test is 30 points, 26 is considered borderline cognitive decline, and 20 a sign of significant cognitive decline, so Donald could have scored 15, and been praised for how he did on the test. That Trump was even given the test is disturbing; that he boasted about how well he did is horrifying.

He wants to cut billions of dollars for COVID-19 testing and tracking even as the number of cases in the US alone approaches 4 million, because having a raging pandemic is hurting his reelection chances. Back in 1945, the Nazis shot German citizens who made the mistake of wondering aloud how well the war is going. This is the same mindset.

He still refuses to mandate masks, encouraging a destructive, dangerous and foolhardy anti-mask cult who have been attacking people for wearing masks, or for requiring them before allowing people into their homes or places of business. The anti-maskers are becoming more and more belligerent, and they’re playing with fire: public rage against them is mounting. I expect to hear about some anti-masker getting shot, either by a security guard or an armed customer. Only a matter of time.

Speaking of shooting, has anyone noticed how fast the clowns in the NRA all vanished when government thugs started rounding up civilians and carting them off to camps. This is exactly the situation the NRA said it existed to avoid. Well, I always thought they were nothing but thugs, bullies and cowards. Guess I was right. Fuck the NRA, and fuck anyone who’s a member.

Meanwhile the Roberts Court, tossing a few bones to progressives, has quietly destroyed laws designed to protect people against predatory loan sharks, removed more of the limitations on Wall Street instrument manipulations like the ones that caused the 2007 crash, and removed transparency from hedge fund trading. Just another service provided for the greater fascistic control of American.

Remember: this election is our last best chance to avoid a Fourth Reich. If we don’t take the country back in November, our future is very violent and dark.

Fascism Rising – Trump and Kavanaugh aren’t bugs; they’re features

September 23rd, 2018

One of the many sub-plots in Cary Joji Fukunaga’s brilliant Maniac involves the character Jed Milgrim (played by Billy Magnussen) a “colorful douche” who is a scion of a vicious, powerful, wealthy family, and who stands accused of a heinous sexual assault involving urination. It’s nearly impossible not to think of the Trump family while watching this, not only because of the nature of the crime, or the resemblance Magnussen bears to one of the Trump scions, but because of the calm assurance of the family that in order to protect their power, prestige and wealth, it is perfectly reasonable to commit perjury, blackmail and bribe people (including family members), and stand well above the law in pursuit of their own interests. They are used to dismissing people who they have wronged and who want to fight back as greedy little scuttlers, and resent a legal system that doesn’t just let them destroy such rabble.

The haughty, self-assured mien Magnussen wears is one we have seen far too often, not just in this White House (including many of its nominees from the world of wealth and privilege) but in the faces of the broadcasters on the right-wing media, and the people who trot out endless columns of right wing think tanks to assure us that “identity politics” and “takers” are only showing resentment of their betters, and Americans should not believe people who profess to stand for the people when America’s ultra-wealthy stand ready to defend the people from the people.

Congruent with this, I’m presently reading a book by Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains – The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. I’ll have a full review of the book upon completion of reading it,

America has always had a class of aggrieved plutocrats who believe their property rights trump the civil rights of all other Americans. This dates back to John C. Calhoun and his vigorous defense of America’s biggest economic phenomenon prior to the civil war: slavery. MacLean notes that slavery made North Carolina the richest and most powerful state in the union prior to 1860, and created more one percenters in Mississippi than in New York.

The power of this elite was held in check by the Civil War and various economic crashes, culminating in the Crash of ‘29 and the Depression, resulting in the New Deal.

MacLean explains how a libertarian economist of the 1950s, James McGill Buchanan, created a reality in which vast sums of money could be spent organizing the plutocrat class and using propaganda and control of the media to convince Americans that they were incapable of self-governance and should let the natural leaders of society (the “businessmen”) run things.

It was fascism, pure and simple, although that is a word they never, ever acknowledge and attack all who use it. Governance through corporation.

The biggest problem with fascism is the same that one sees with other unaccountable forms of governments, such as theocracies and monarchies: corruption sets in quickly, and the rot spreads until it finally kills its host.

But as long as there is power and money to be accumulated, corruption isn’t seen as a bug—it’s seen as a feature.

The fascists have taken over the GOP, with the nightmarish and Kafkaesque results that we see in the paper every day, of people grimly determined to fight unions, civil libertarian groups, workers in general, women, and any group that can organize, collectivize and perhaps challenge their power.

MacLean writes, “Is what we are dealing with merely a social movement of the right whose radical ideas must eventually face public scrutiny and rise or fall on their merits? Or is this the story of something quite different, something never before seen in American history? Could it be—and I use these words quite hesitantly and carefully—a fifth-column assault on American democratic governance?…Pushed by relatively small numbers of radical-right billionaires and millionaires who have become profoundly hostile to America’s modern system of government, an apparatus decades in the making, funded by those same billionaires and millionaires, has been working to undermine the normal governance of our democracy. Indeed, one such manifesto calls for a “hostile takeover” of Washington, D.C.”

As you watch this week as the Republicans cling like grim death to the Kavanaugh nomination, hoping to push this vile corporatist down our throats to consolidate their power they way they have with Thomas, and Gorsuch, and you wonder how they can possibly continue to support Trump, reflect on the fact that they are no longer just an American political party: they are a fifth column, enemies to the Constitution and determined to finish a slow coup they have been conducting against America for 40 years.

They know Trump is a bad president. Even without the corruption, the sheer scale of his incompetence and inability to lead would, in a normal party, be enough to impeach him. They see the weirdness and chaos as inconveniences; the fact that Trump is utterly corrupt is what makes him so valuable to them. They know he’s a thief, a crook, a swindler, and possibly a traitor. But so are they, even if they dress it up in self-serving rhetoric, and as for being traitors, they are much closer in spirit to the most corrupt plutocrat of all, Vladimir Putin, then they are to anything readers might recognize as American values. Treason is betrayal against those you owe fealty. By their lights, betraying America is not treason.

Perhaps the saddest element of this is the people they have roped in to support them. The racists. The Evangelicals. The Xenophobes. The growling, disaffected population that feel they deserve a place at the table and the fascists are more than happy to promise them that place.

They’ve always been useful idiots for demagogues. Nothing new there. What is new is what will follow.

Should the fascists win, they will discard these people like used condoms. Not only are their beliefs and impulses bad for business, but they can reorganize and pose a threat to their masters. And they cannot be trusted: they’ve already betrayed America. It would only be a matter of time before they revolt against Trump’s New Order.

And the worst of all is that they would become our allies in a common cause.

If you can vote in November, vote like your life depends on it. It does.

We can avoid having to fight a Fascist Fifth Column again.

Cultthink

Cultthink

When knowledge is an opinion, ignorance is king

 

© Bryan Zepp Jamieson

October 22nd, 2012

 

No matter how this election turns out, the fact remains that the United States is a desperately sick society. You have nearly half the population apparently reduced to the status of religious cult members, and it’s only getting worse.

There’s even a tacit admission among the enablers of this cult that such a situation exists, in that they claim that everyone who doesn’t think like them is also a cult. It’s a false equivalency, of course. It’s possible for liberals, labor unionists and other groups to disagree with the Democrats and with each other without being dismissed and even excluded as heretics. In the great American cult, grown adults are expected to reject evolution and climatology, and pretend that the idea behind America was that authorities would tell the people what to do and how much they could make doing it, and not the other way around.

The greatest vulnerability in the American national character is the distaste for education. Day in and day out, it’s inculcated in movies, TV shows and the newspaper comics and nearly all other forms of entertainment that school is boring, tedious, an unwelcome intrusion in an otherwise idyllic existence.

It isn’t the entertainment industry that is to blame, and it isn’t the schools themselves, even though between zero-tolerance authoritarianism and the inflexible, grinding stupidity of “teaching to the test,” schools are rapidly going downhill.

Kids in America are taught to hate school, and this becomes, in far too many, contempt for education as they grow older.

There’s a British television show called “Skins” that I like to watch. The acting is good, and the writing is sometimes stellar. It’s probably no more representative of typical teen life than any other show about teens, but it has considerable depth and a sense of honesty about it missing from a lot of TV series. Now, with a few exceptions, these aren’t model kids. They drink, they do drugs, they have sex, they get into brawls, they fight with their parents. Where the show is strikingly different from American counterparts—and it’s a theme I see with other British and Canadian series—is that the kids don’t hate school, don’t consider it uncool to be intelligent. They want desperately to do well on their “A” Levels, school tests that sort of combine American SATs with Hogwarts’ Sorting Cap. The kids help one another academically, even the ones who aren’t so bright and face a life on the assembly line. If they are found ignorant, they are actually embarrassed.

Ignorance is considered a personal flaw.

It used to be the same way in America. Call someone ignorant, and they would be angry. And the more ignorant they actually were, the more angry they would get. If someone didn’t know the Earth revolved around the sun (and 30% of Americans don’t know that) if you asked him how he failed to learn it in school, he would glower and call you a know-it-all or worse.

It was perplexing, this mixture of embarrassment and pride. In the next breath, he might grin and say, “Science was never my strong suit; I was more into chugging parties and babes.” Well, that might explain why he doesn’t know the Earth goes around the sun. But it’s not really something anyone would want to brag about.

You can very nearly tell if someone is British or American by how they react to the song “We Don’t Need No Education” by Pink Floyd. A Brit will tell you the song condemned the system for its uniformity and forced conformity; an America is likely to tell you that the kids are rebelling against school, period.

In recent years this American character flew has taken an ominous and perhaps deadly turn. Not only is ignorance socially acceptable (provided you don’t CALL it ignorance), but now it’s just a matter of opinion. If you call someone ignorant for not knowing the Earth revolves around the sun, you are likely to just get a condescending smile and be dismissed as one of those Copernican crackpots.

Forty percent of Americans “don’t believe in” evolution. They regard it, at best, as “just a theory” and at worst as a kind of competing heretical religion. A majority now accept that the climate is changing, but it took a long series of horrific weather events over the past year to convince some of them. Until then, the scientific evidence was “just a theory.” You know. An opinion.

Evolution isn’t an opinion. It’s a theory, just as gravity is. But it’s pretty hard to get around the fact that gravity exists, so people accept it as “real,” although any scientist will tell you we know a hell of a lot more about evolution than we do about gravity. The evidence for evolution is so pervasive and wide-ranging that it simply cannot be dismissed as “just a theory.”

Nonetheless, it’s not evident on a daily basis, so it gets dismissed by the pridefully ignorant and regarded as an opinion by this cult, along with climate change, Republican economics, or the notion that the US is in imminent danger of falling to Sharia Law. (That last one is actually somewhat true; the laws religious fundamentalists want to impose come from the Old Testament rather than the Koran, but they are the same laws, written by the same people thousands of years ago.)

When reality is reduced to the level of opinion, there is no longer any such thing as ignorance. Any opinion constitutes knowledge. There is no baseline for reality, and it makes it possible for people to reject any argument, no matter how compelling.

It’s a social mindset that one associates with societies that are in extremis; on the verge of utter collapse, without hope, scared to death and looking for any way out. That the things that frighten Americans so much are largely imaginary (Iran is not a significant threat, Islam isn’t out to destroy the US, Obama isn’t a Moslem communist, and Darwin wasn’t a sociopath bent on killing Jesus) doesn’t make the fear any less real, or any less deadly.

Societies at that stage usually implode, often with utterly horrific results. Germany in the 1930s. France in the 1780s. China in the 1940s. And now, America.

I doubt the election will change that in any significant way. For sane people the choice in this election, as in most of recent vintage, is a choice between being hanged quickly or being hanged slowly. Obama might try to slow the process, but by doing so, exacerbate it. Nothing frightens and angers a cultist more than questioning the Truths the cult has vouchsafed him, and the only recourse sane people have is to question those Truths.

It’s a dangerous situation for the country to be in.

Ignorance, when it becomes king, rapidly becomes a terrifying tyranny, and blood flows freely.

The Business of America

The Business of America

…is not business. It’s being a society.

© Bryan Zepp Jamieson

October 20th, 2012

A favorite stance by Republicans and libertarians, especially this time of year when voter registrations are being trashed by Republican party operatives and the son of the Republican candidate owns the company that counts the votes in most of Ohio is that America should be run like a business. Just like they’re trying to do with the voting.

Why, by lying, cheating, and using economic force to get their way, they’re already trying to run America like a business, and this should be a clear and explicit warning to anyone who doesn’t want to end up as corporate chattel.

The notion, one that Mitt Romney explicitly stated during the second debate, is that if America is run like a business, by a businessman, it will be far more efficient. Efficiency’s a good thing, right?

The notion is one that rests very comfortably on bumper stickers and in Republican brains, but doesn’t bear any actual examination.

Running a country like a business is an absolutely horrible idea. It’s been tried before, you see. Holland tried it in the 15th century and eventually crashed, never to be a major power again. Italy tried it in the 1930s and 40s, with dismal results. The trains did NOT run on time. Indeed, they barely ran at all. Then Italy went to war for national glory, and all the trains got blown up. Spain has never quite recovered from the Franco years. China, while mouthing communist platitudes, is as business-oriented a country as you can find, and it is a huge-scale social and economic disaster waiting to happen. When that bubble bursts, hundreds of millions will die, and the rest of the world will be forced to see the conditions under which the Chinese lived as peons in a business state.

Continue reading “The Business of America”

The Fifth Characteristic

The GOP goes for a clean sweep of Britt’s “Fourteen characteristics”

March 18th 2012

Back in 2003, Lawrence Britt wrote “The Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism” (sometimes also titled “Identifiers: An Examination of Fascism”) That essay is posted below, and can be found here: http://fwd4.me/0wei.

The list seemed to fit the toxic right like a glove.

Mindless avid flag waving? Check.

Contempt for rights? Well, there’s tort reform, and hatred of “trial lawyers”. For starters. Endless sneers about “entitled minorities.”

Scapegoating? Can you say “Sharia law menace”? The Islamic threat? Liberals?

Worship the military? Check. I’ve even seen right wingers whining about how weak America will appear if they punish Robert Bale if he’s convicted of killing those sixteen Afghan civilians. Some right wingers think it’s an imposition that he even be tried.

Continue reading “The Fifth Characteristic”