"The F Card" once more
RL, as usual, is not simply calling, but stamping its little feet and screaming, so this is going to be a post that is far shorter than the subject deserves. But I thought I'd run it up the flagpole, and see if anybody salutes, throw it against the wall and see if it sticks, throw it on the roof....
By "F", I don't mean "Fear" (see MsExPat's excellent post on playing The Fear Card, and Letsgetitdone's, too).* I mean "Fascism"; not "fear," but "fear of." How do we assess the claims by some that the Tea Partiers are the harbingers of an authentically Fascist moment? And if we accept those claims, doesn't that mean that supporting the Ds, no matter what, is a moral obligation?
As I said, this subject deserves a post in long form, and not in short form. (My assessment, with Joe Cannon's strong counter-argument, is here. A long-form post would counter Cannon's counter, but, as I said, RL is now not merely stamping its feet but tapping my shoulder. This subject also deserves a ton of linky goodness, but that's not going to happen, for the same reason.)
On the first question, How do we assess the claims by some that the Tea Partiers are the harbingers of an authentically Fascist moment? I'd argue that the problem here is that there's very little good evidence to be had. Certainly, as media critics, one important consideration is the provenance of the claims.** I grant that doesn't affect their validity, but it does provide the context for investigation. And as to provenance, a child of six can see that the claims of Fascism pre-date the Tea Party movement, and originate with the charges made against Sarah Palin by career "progressives" in the 2008 election.*** As with the racism, the instrumentalism of the claims made so polluted the discourse that a realistic assessment of Palin became impossible; bullshit all the way down, as it were. A child of six can also see that a D faction is using this argument to make sure that some D voters "come home" in 2012. ****
A second important consideration is the evidence for the thesis. Talk shows, The Mighty Wurlitzer, and the polling that acts as a positive feedback mechanism for the The Mighty Wurlitzer are all adduced. But The Mighty Wurlitzer is hardly a spontaneous uprising of popular sentiment; it's funded by, and serves the interests of, the MOTU, and the well-paid KAs that do the shilling. This may provide evidence of a Fascist Mo
vement (as I wrote), but not necessarily of a Fascist Movement. Radio Rwanda is a fine example of what can be done using the tools the MOTU have adopted, but the United States is an empire of continental scale, and it's not clear to me that the same methods (both to achieve and more importantly to prevent) that worked there would work here. I prefer to regard the entire media system -- certainly its commanding heights -- as irretrievable polluted and tendentious on this point, and to look only at what I can see locally, on the ground. And I don't see it. One clear indication that the sound and fury sum to less than our worst fears is the size of Beck's rally. 87,000 is not a large number.
Finally, there are the lessons of history, with Germany under the Nazis, Spain under Franco, Italy under Mussolini as examples (although not, oddly, the South under the KKK. At least in the narrative to date). History teaches us that it is very hard to find the limits of the human ability to do evil, especially on the scale of nation states, but one can't help but contrast Germany, Spain, and Italy to Russia and China, where millions on millions where also slaughtered in the name of an abstraction. I draw the contrast not to argue that an outcome based on the 20th Century's experience with Communism is to be preferred to its experience with Fascism, but to raise a question of scale: If (as seems likely) a closed, Goebbels-like system of media control is necessary for Fascism to flourish, that is more likely to be achievable on a subcontinental scale (Germany, Spain, Italy, the Reconstruction South), than on the imperial, continental scale (Russia, China, and the United States). Not impossible, obviously, but less likely, slower, more contested, more opportunity to affect the outcome, and maybe different drivers, too. (It also seems likely that some terrible national humiliation is a requirement, as in a loss of a World War, takeover by another's empire, and so forth. We are very far from that, though naturally the 9/12 people are trying to gin up as much cheap emotion as they can.) Though one might look at the efforts of DHS, the Border Patrol, Intellectual Property regulation, and the destruction of net neutrality as an effort to meet this scaling requirement. Yes, I'm speculating freely. Do feel free to demolish!
On the second question, If we accept those claims, doesn't that mean that supporting the Ds, no matter what, is a moral obligation? I don't see why. A child of six can see that it's not the Tea Partiers that are the danger, but the MOTU who fund them, and their KAs, who do their bidding. The Big O, both legacy parties, and the current administration being KAs, of course. See here for an interesting take on how Bush's warrantless surveillance was retroactively legalized. Who did it? Why, our friends, the extremely non-Fascist Ds, and our friends, the extremely non-Fascist career "progressives." And The Big O himself, who voted for it. So there you are.
A few caveats or prophylactics:
1. I'm not making the argument that "worse is better." I think "better is better." It's only a question of where better is to be found, and I think the opportunity costs of engaging with the legacy parties are too great. There is always, literally always, something better to do, and that include taking the measures that one's neighbors don't degrade themselves by buying into hate. (If one thinks for a moment, one can see the gay movement over the last generation as a hugely successful example of "Slow Politics" in action. Stonewall to court decisions in favor of gay marriage or against DADT.... Is that massive success, or what? Justice and love can trump hate.)
2. I'm not minimizing the dangers. I'm assessing them. Something that seems notably absent in most of the work on this topic, which boils down to "Look! Over there! Glenn Beck!" instead of "Look! Up there! The Border Patrol!" To take but one example.
NOTE * The mother of all "fear" quotes is probably the Good Doctor's "I think I'm getting The Fear".
NOTE ** Neiwert's wonderful 2003 post, The Political and The Personal, is especially poignant, looked at in this light. In 2003, Neiwert's friend regrets no longer being able to split their ticket; in 2010, many of can't vote the ticket at all. And for the very same reasons that Neiwert outlined in 2003.
NOTE *** In typically savvy fashion, the career "progressives" retooled the vile sexism and misognyny they used against Hillary Clinton, and then stirred class and cultural markers into the brew. How different matters might be today if they had used Palin to draw contrasts with the Rs on policy! As in jobs, health care, housing, and so forth. Or the restoration of Constitutional government. That they did not is what one might call a "tell" -- today, we see that they did not because they could not -- and that should make anyone skeptical of any claim that career "progressives" make about any subject today. When the party line comes down from Moscow, look to Moscow to understand the party line.
NOTE **** No doubt, since the Ds have nothing credible they can say on policy, with nominal disemployment at 10% (20% real), they have adopted the tactic. Sure, you don't have a job, a house, or health care, but what if people who aren't like you are running the country? In this way, we can see that, as so often, the Ds and the Rs are simple reflections of each other in the fun house mirror that is Versailles. Hate is the easiest thing in the world to deliver, especially as opposed to a delivering governance that actually provides for the general welfare, which the legacy parties have decided, in good bipartisan fashion, that they need no longer do.