"With a stroke we have now obliterated 1789 from the history books"
- Joseph Goebbels, 1933
"The Philistine not only ignores all conditions of life which are not his own but also demands that the rest of mankind should fashion its mode of existence after his own"
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Fascism is the word haunting the minds of everyone who hasn't bought into the “us and them” bullshit of the last 7 years. And despite what the media would like people to think, its not just the hysterical far-left who are using it, although they do have an annoying tendency to use the word for practically everything they dislike, bearing out Orwell's prophecy in Politics and the English Language.
That aside, libertarians and progressives alike have commented that there is a growing tendency within the current administration towards “Red-state fascism”, which in the words of the Mises Institute President Lew Rockwell “celebrates the shedding of blood, and exhibits a maniacal love of the state. The new ideology of the red-state bourgeoisie seems to actually believe that the US is God marching on earth.”
Naturally, the concerned scholars of the present have taken to looking to the past in order to elucidate the problem. A proliferation of books have appeared recently, drawing the connections, sometimes crudely, between Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy with present day policies of the USA. Which, in my opinion is not only the totally wrong way of going about it, but also treating the symptoms, instead of the causes of the disease. Because the political manifestations of Fascism are only the tip of the iceberg. Moreover, it ignores the very real sophistication of political manipulation techniques that have come into being since the original Fascist powers were defeated.
You see, Fascism is a very in your face way of going about controlling a country. You need bodies on the street, making trouble for the opposition, being violent. You need the punishment for dissidents to be public and bloody, in order to scare the shit out of any possible enemies. You need control that cannot be questioned, least of all by the representatives of a democratic process.
In short, you need a number of things that, if they happened today, would be very noticeable and would provoke a backlash. Yes yes, I know, Blackwater are the unofficial military arm of the GOP...get back to me once they actually start beating up protesters and Democratic party members. A private military force may be unconstitutional and certainly undemocratic, but its not the same as Blackshirts burning your house down in the middle of the night.
And that's the problem with the Fascist political analysis of America today. Yes, there are some similarities in policy, and these things are not good at all. In all likelihood, the trend is leading towards Fascism, its true. But Fascism is not, historically, a gradual process. It festers, lurks underground, then bursts onto the mainstream, violently taking control. This is different, a variant of the Fascist virus, that is acting differently in order to prevent activation of the state's autoimmune system of defence.
The failure of all previous approaches is that they concentrate on the political aspects of top down rule, instead of the populist bottom up approach, mixed with the embedding of Fascism within the culture of the USA. The focus is too narrow, too defined, and that's why the theory wont match up to reality. In International Relations, we're used to dealing with multiple levels of political analysis, so perhaps it is just obvious to us, but that is what is happening here. The USA is only developing a Fascist political system in reaction to Fascist cultural view of the world.
What is a Fascist culture? Its an air of Philistine hatred towards what many of us consider culture, arts, philosophy mixed in with an air of anti-intellectualism. Its a spirit of “us-and-them”, with both being ill-defined. The Fascist culture is always under assault you see, because real culture is usually found in the avant-garde, whose Bohemianism and irreverence are everything the fascist cannot stand about modernity. It exhibits a maniacal love for the state, because only through the state can so much blood be shed – the Eternal War giving meaning to the fascists otherwise nihilistic and pointless existence. It hates the refined and the intellectual, because both require a lack of mental rigidity to have any use.
This culture has many roots, far too many for me to be able to figure out. There are elements of it within conservative populism. Of course, some of it is drawn from the Evangelical Dominionist Movement – whose hatred for everything since the writing of the Bible, especially new facts, is well documented. Part of it arises from a shallow consumerist apathy, where the only meaning becomes sensation and the only sensation that makes one feel truly alive is the act of killing and hate. There are countless others too.
And this of course, has its promoters. Naturally, the NeoConservatives, with their roots in the illiberal right, advocate it entirely. There are advantages for large companies, fanatical religious groups and demagogues of all stripes.
And best of all, there is no legislative or legal remedy to it. You cannot ban the Zeitgeist. Fascism becomes part of the very air you breathe, the fabric of a view of the world and everyday life. Why bother having a messy constitutional coup when you can virtually assure fascist policies for the next 20 years, while keeping the form and ceremony of the republic? Actually pulling off a Hitler or Mussolini could create a backlash. To be sure, you are sometimes bound more to those stupid “laws” more than you would be if you had taken the formers route, but the upside is that dissent is minimalized and you can always have another go if you don't quite get your way.
Its the perfect way to inflict the Fascist virus on a country, by operating on the cultural level, infecting the national discourse, warping and mutating public opinion to the level where the wholesale call for the slaughter of innocents can be considered an extreme, but possible, policy. Where torture is acceptable, along with indefinite detention by a Fuhrer pretending to be President.
That's the trick, you see. A bottom-up Fascist revolution, waged at the cultural level. That's where it has to be fought, too, if you want any hope of reversing the trend. The political level is just symptomatic of the condition of the country. Conspiracies can and do sometimes overthrow the established order to institute something more terrible, but even more often, they are lifted to power on the support of the public and the conditions of the time.