American Fascists

Salon has a must-read interview with NYT war correspondent Chris Hedges, who has seen fascism, savagery and oppression all over the world, and recently wrote the book American Fascists, which takes a good hard look at the religious right in this country.

“Fascist” is a loaded word, and one which some argue might deserve its own Godwin’s law. But it’s worth looking at some informed definitions of “fascism” and seriously considering how they apply to those who want the U.S. to be a “Christian nation”:

* “The Cult of Tradition”, combining cultural syncretism with a rejection of modernism (often disguised as a rejection of capitalism).
“Rejection of modernism” — does that sound anything like the people who refuse to accept basic scientific consensus (climate change, evolution) and progressive social change (women’s rights, LGBT rights)?

* “The Cult of Action for Action’s Sake”, which dicatates that action is of value in itself, and should be taken without intellectual reflection. This, says Eco, is connected with anti-intellectualism and irrationalism, and often manifests in attacks on modern culture and science.
Anti-intellectualism which often manifests in attacks on modern culture and science. Where have we heard this before? Modern religious conservatives are irrationally terrified of things like women’s sexual/reproductive rights and same-sex marriage, when in reality, there is absolutely no reason to fear either — unless you subscribe to a philosophy in which social control is a cornerstone.

* “Disagreement is Treason” – fascism devalues intellectual discourse and critical reasoning as barriers to action.
Heh.

* “Fear of Difference”, which fascism seeks to exploit and exacerbate, often in the form of racism or an appeal against foreigners and immigrants.
Who’s afraid of the big brown Mexican (or Muslim, pick your poison)? Hint: Not us red-diaper doper babies.

* “Appeal to a Frustrated Middle Class”, fearing economic pressure from the demands and aspirations of lower social groups.
Who stokes fears about immigrants taking all of “our” jobs? Who blames feminism for destroying manliness? Who argues, in 2007, that white men should really step up and put the uppity black folks in their place?

* “Obsession With a Plot” and the hyping-up of an enemy threat. This often involves an appeal to xenophobia or the identification of an internal security threat. He cites Pat Robertson’s book The New World Order as a prominent example of a plot obsession.
Well, he cited it himself, so I don’t have to. But I’ll add the “war on Christmas” and the apparent “Islamist” plot to level America when, in fact, we’ve been killing people, starting wars, installing dictators, and propping up illigitimate leaders in majority-Muslim countries for several decades now (not to mention doing similar damage all over the rest of the world, but so far they aren’t plotting against us).

* “Pacifism is Trafficking With the Enemy” because “Life is Permanent Warfare” – there must always be an enemy to fight.

Do I really need to offer examples here? Ok.

* “Contempt for the Weak” – although a fascist society is elitist, everybody in the society is educated to become a hero.
Can you say Manly Jesus?

* “Selective Populism” – the People have a common will, which is not delegated but interpreted by a leader. This may involve doubt being cast upon a democratic institution, because “it no longer represents the Voice of the People”.
They like to talk a big game about democracy in the Middle East. And then they break out with stuff like this:

“Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ — to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.”
-George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries

* “Newspeak” – fascism employs and promotes an impoverished vocabulary in order to limit critical reasoning.
Think basics of newspeak: a vocabularly which reflects a black-and-white worldview (good or evil; “you’re either with us or you’re against us”); neutral-sound euphimisms to cover up for atrocities (“collateral damage”); or simply completely mislabelling what they truly stand for (“pro-life,” “defending marriage”).

Other defining characteristics of fascism, according to various thinkers:
-Hostility toward feminism and women’s rights
-Hostility toward worker’s rights and socialism
-Militariam
-Imperialism
-Idealization of “manliness” and supposedly “masculine” attributes
-Racism
-Ultranationalism
-Apocalyptic and millenarian emphasis
-Totalitarianism
-“Fascism is a religious conception in which man is seen in his immanent relationship with a superior law and with an objective Will that transcends the particular individual and raises him to conscious membership of a spiritual society.” -The Doctrine of Fascism, signed by Benito Mussolini
-Anti-liberalism

Who does this sound like?

I realize this sounds alarmist, and I’m certainly not accusing all Christians or all Republicans or all conservatives of being fascists. But damn if the extreme Christian right doesn’t epitomize fascist ideology. As Hedges says, “I think there are enough generic qualities that the group within the religious right, known as Christian Reconstructionists or dominionists, warrants the word. Does this mean that this is Nazi Germany? No. Does this mean that this is Mussolini’s Italy? No. Does this mean that this is a deeply anti-democratic movement that would like to impose a totalitarian system? Yes.”

For all liberals like me mock the Jerry Falwells of the religious right and insist that they not be taken seriously, we may be in for a very unpleasant surprise:

When I first covered Hamas in 1988, it was a very marginal organization with very little power or reach. I watched Hamas grow. Although I came later to the Balkans, I had a good understanding of how Milosevic built his Serbian nationalist movement. These radical movements share a lot of ideological traits with the Christian right, including that cult of masculinity, that cult of power, rampant nationalism fused with religious chauvinism. I find a lot of parallels.

People have a very hard time believing the status quo of their existence, or the world around them, can ever change. There’s a kind of psychological inability to accept how fragile open societies are. When I was in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, at the start of the war, I would meet with incredibly well-educated, multilingual Kosovar Albanian friends in the cafes. I would tell them that in the countryside there were armed groups of the Kosovo Liberation Army, who I’d met, and they would insist that the Kosovo Liberation Army didn’t exist, that it was just a creation of the Serb police to justify repression.

You saw the same thing in the cafe society in Sarajevo on the eve of the war in Bosnia. Radovan Karadzic or even Milosevic were buffoonish figures to most Yugoslavs, and were therefore, especially among the educated elite, never taken seriously. There was a kind of blindness caused by their intellectual snobbery, their inability to understand what was happening. I think we have the same experience here. Those of us in New York, Boston, San Francisco or some of these urban pockets don’t understand how radically changed our country is, don’t understand the appeal of these buffoonish figures to tens of millions of Americans.

We know that people like Dennis Prager are idiots when they suggest the Bible is America’s most important document (to hell with the Constitution), but millions of Americans think his view is a-ok — to the point where the phrase “America is a Christian nation” is standard fodder in conservative publications. Michelle Golberg, who interviewed Hedges for the Salon piece, wrote a book of her own on this issue, some of which she discusses in this article. And it’s scary stuff:

In the Christian nationalist vision of America, non-believers would be free to worship as they choose, as long as they know their place. When Venkatachalapathi Samuldrala became the first Hindu priest to offer an invocation before Congress, the Family Research Council issued a furious statement that reveals much about the America they’d like to create:

“While it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our country’s heritage…Our founders expected that Christianity — and no other religion — would receive support from the government as long as that support did not violate peoples’ consciences and their right to worship. They would have found utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference.”

The iconography of Christian nationalism conflates the cross and the flag. As I write in “Kingdom Coming,” it “claims supernatural sanction for its campaign of national renewal and speaks rapturously about vanquishing the millions of Americans who would stand in its way.” At one rally at the statehouse in Austin, Texas, a banner pictured a fierce eagle perched upon a bloody cross. For a liberal, such imagery smacks of fascist agitprop. But plenty of deeply committed Christians also object to it as a form of blasphemy. It’s important, I think, to separate their faith from the authoritarian impulses of the Christian nationalist movement. Christianity is a religion. Christian nationalism is a political program, and there is nothing sacred about it.

But don’t take it from us godless liberals. Just ask the Christian fundamentalists themselves, and they’re happy to offer their views on:
How female CEOs destroy the economy
Why we should repeal the 19th Amendment (yes, that would be women’s suffrage)
The Holocaust Hoax
Exiling blacks
AIDS
Feminism rooted in Communism
How people who aren’t born-again Christians are failures as human beings; the ACLU, feminists and homosexuals are to blame for Sept. 11th; secular people are responsible for terrorism; Christians taking over public schools; AIDS as punishmnent for gay men; and unbelieving Jews.
Christians taking over the country; overthrowing the U.S. government; how only Christians and Jews are qualified to be leaders; political assassinations; feminist plots to kill children and destroy capitalism; and the requirement of female submission.
The state above all else
Scientific progress
Women’s rights
Atheism
Their plan to take it all back.

Have no doubt: These people see this as a war, and they don’t hesitate to use militaristic language when encouraging their followers to “obey” and “fight” for Christ (and against the New World Order). Fringe? Some of them, sure. But not folks like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Janice Crowse, and scores of other radically religious, anti-choice, anti-gay theocrats — they’re all quite chummy with our president and the Republican party. And they have a whole lot of power.

Just something to consider.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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57 Responses to American Fascists

  1. RKMK says:

    Excellent goddamn post, Jill. I just might be developing a big huge girlcrush on you.

  2. Dharmaserf says:

    The question is, how does one (not to use the same militaristic language that they do) fight this?

  3. Jane says:

    From the “Manliness is next to godliness” Los Angeles Times article:

    But [Brad Stine’s approach is] built around the same theory as the other experimental forums: Traditional church worship is emasculating.

    Hold hands with strangers? Sing love songs to Jesus? No wonder pews across America hold far more women than men, Stine says. Factor in the pressure to be a “Christian nice guy” — no cussing, no confrontation, in tune with the wife’s emotions — and it’s amazing men keep the faith at all.

    Here are some other things I bet men find emasculating about Christian church services:

    1. Most of the women there wear skirts and dresses
    2. Traditionally only men are allowed to address the congregation
    3. Men hold the vast majority of positions of authority
    4. Many sermons are held to teach women how to be good wives (see faithful servants)
    5. Most Christian churches condemn homosexuality
    6. Oh, and of course, the god himself is male.

    I suppose though, if you worship a male, that makes you a woman, right?

    Going to church is just like going to jail, right gentlemen? You have to watch out or someone will make you his bitch.

    However, apparently that person is not Jesus, because their goal is to portray him as even manlier than usual. (Apparently the whole carrying his own cross, bearing the sins of the world, defeating the devil thing was not a manly enough mythology.)

    Luther Seminary professor of ministry Roland Martinson said of Jesus:

    He’s portrayed now as gentle, loving, kind, rather than as a full-bodied person who kicked over tables in the temple, spent 40 days in the wilderness wrestling with his identity and with God, hung out with the guys in the street. The rough-hewn edges and courage … got lopped off.

    The edges got lopped off? Sounds like circumcision. Ouch.

    What the hell is going on?

  4. trillian says:

    I know that list should have made me very depressed, I know, I know. But somehow, instead, it filled me with gleeeeee…something about having all those examples all handy-like seemed to keep my anger from leaking out through my eyeballs as the comparisons sunk in. Great work!

  5. Jane says:

    Dharmaserf, there is a group called DefCon, whose goal is to defend the Constitution against the religious right. They have information that might interest you.

  6. Bolo says:

    I don’t think it needs mentioning, but what the heck: Go check out Orcinus for more information if you haven’t already. David has been following this stuff for decades now. Here’s a link to the final part of an excellent series he wrote about 2 years ago. Links to the previous 6 parts are right at the top of it–easy to access this way:

    http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2004/10/rise-of-pseudo-fascism.html

  7. trillian says:

    ack i started looking at the christianparty links and finally had to close the tabs out of sheer terror. i feel dirty now. angry and dirty, like i’ve been covered in scalding mud. i’m going to go hold my cat, no more internets for me.

  8. Henry says:

    It’s not exactly news that religious fundamentalists of any religion are authoritarian in nature. Obviously those of the Christian type aren’t excluded. And?

    Furthermore, is it really your contention that groups on the extreme left aren’t guilty of many of the same offenses? Specifically, the alteration of language for propanganda purposes (the main examples that come to mind are the redefinitions of the phrase “liberal” and “freedom” from their original meanings). Also, “fear of difference”, especially in regards to class warfare and derision of rural whites.

    Just as an interesting note, you mentioned, “fascism devalues intellectual discourse and critical reasoning as barriers to action” two lines after comparing scepticism about mankind’s impact on climate change to not believing in evolution. I would argue that consensus on one and the “consensus” on the other are certainly not the same. But that would obviously make me a lunatic who doesn’t give a damn about the environment.

    I’d also like to mention that it seems odd to list hostility towards socialism as a defining characteristic of fascism considering the fascist nations were socialist.

  9. Kyra says:

    “Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ — to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
    But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
    It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
    It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
    It is dominion we are after.
    World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.”

    All I can say is:

    Sick, wrong, evil, scary, and y’know what? Re this:

    people who aren’t born-again Christians are failures as human beings

    They can take their definition of “human beings” and shove it up their asses, pointy end first. They’re fucked-in-the-head, batshit insane, and since their idea of heaven and my idea of hell is pretty much the same, they can threaten me with it all they want—I don’t give a fat flying fuck. I’m gonna live MY life (see that? MY life—mine) proudly and freely as my feminist pagan bisexual uppity and quite lustful self—and they can watch me and have apoplexies out the wazoo. Gods willing, painful ones.

    I feel sooooo much better now. Rant fun.

  10. Josh says:

    Furthermore, is it really your contention that groups on the extreme left aren’t guilty of many of the same offenses?

    Putting aside the point that whataboutery is stupid, I don’t see where anything of that sort was claimed.

    I’d also like to mention that it seems odd to list hostility towards socialism as a defining characteristic of fascism considering the fascist nations were socialist.

    Huh. I wonder what all this was about, then.

  11. Henry says:

    Huh. I wonder what all this was about, then.

    Well, I’d imagine that it was infighting between factions lacking sufficient purity of vision. Kind of common amongst revolutionary movements. Who is more deserving of hatred than a traitor to the movement?

  12. Jane says:

    Furthermore, is it really your contention that groups on the extreme left aren’t guilty of many of the same offenses? Specifically, the alteration of language for propanganda purposes (the main examples that come to mind are the redefinitions of the phrase “liberal” and “freedom” from their original meanings).

    I didn’t see any claims int he post about the extreme left.

    Moreover, are you positing that the left’s redefinition of terms is “the same kind of offense” as the elimination rhetoric used by the religious right?

  13. Henry says:

    Moreover, are you positing that the left’s redefinition of terms is “the same kind of offense” as the elimination rhetoric used by the religious right?

    No, but I will submit that you can find plenty of sentiment wishing harm or death in a joking (or non-joking) manner from both directions. It’s not simply a product of one side or philosophy. It’s basic (low) human nature. Which was mainly the point I was trying to make. Acting as though “the other guys” are especially prone to engage in authoritarian tactics as a byproduct of their philosophy rather than the fact that human beings are clannish and ignorant makes it much easier to ignore argument and dehumanize those who don’t share your views.

  14. little light says:

    Once, in high school, I was hanging out with the head of the student Bible study group–a Fellowship of Christian Athletes group, which, if you’re not aware of them, aren’t an athletic organization, mind you–and, while he was out of the room, got into his literature.
    First there were instructions on how to set up school Bible study groups, and their function, and so on. And then there were the chapters about using those structures you’ve just built to establish underground cell groups for the coming guerilla war against the forces of the Antichrist.

    Teenagers. Being trained, some of them at least, as paramilitary cells. In a large public school in a medium-small town that could be anywhere, America, through a mainstream-looking organization that just wanted equal time to be heard.

    I made me do a lot of thinking.

  15. werty says:

    Henry- The relationship between socialism and fascism is complicated. And is further complicated by the fact that the precise definition of fascism is disputed and hard to pin down. I’ve had many essay related headaches over this, so trust me.

    Fascism is often anti-socialist, for example the Nazi persecution of socialists as cited above. (Actually whether Nazi Germany was fascist is debatable in itself, but that’s a whole ‘nother argument.) Arguably, fascist ideology contradicts socialism, for example fascist believe in social darwinism contradicts socialist ideas of equality.
    But there are similarities, for example both consider the community more important that the individual. And both ideologies have been supported by totalitarian regimes. And there are far more examples that I could get into. So, yeah, it’s messy.

    Anyway, I heard Stonewall, the gay rights organisation, described as fascist by a Christian rights protestor on BBC news today. I had to shout at the TV.

  16. DAS says:

    cultural syncretism with a rejection of modernism (often disguised as a rejection of capitalism).

    Actually this is the hook by which (and they do project much, don’t they) the right hangs us as fascists: they interpret our questioning of certain trends as a rejection of the modern, our critique of certain forms of capitalism as a rejection of capitalism and multiculturalism as syncretism.

    In fact, while the fascist often claims to be “modern” (and adopts some of the most extreme albeit interesting and fun trappings thereof — I do like T.S. Eliot’s poetry, but … well, you know …) and even capitalist (they do not necessarily disguise their rejection of modernity as a rejection of capitalism), they of course are neither modern nor capitalist.

    As any astute critic of culture will point out, the modern right is indeed culturally syncretic, anti-modern (for the reasons pointed out in this post) and indeed anti-capitalist (for all their rhetoric about being pro-capitalist/pro-free market, even the libertarian right is anti-capitalist: they are as pro-capitalist as someone who wants to abolish referreeing in sports would be pro-sportsmanship): but a key aspect of “The Cult of Tradition” is mistaking what is in reality syncretic for some “authentic past great culture” (“the past that only existed in the minds of us Republicans” – Ned Flanders) — when that past culture couldn’t have been capitalist, then fascism hides its anti-modernism behind anti-capitalism … but when that culture presumably was (as in this country), then fascism pretends to be capitalist even when it really as quite the opposite.

    Which explains why in a country like Germany you had wingers calling themselves “socialist” (even though, pace the allegations of our right, the Nazis were not socialists but rather were in thrall to a military industrial complex they activated) while wingers here would never call themselves such …

  17. Henry says:

    Which explains why in a country like Germany you had wingers calling themselves “socialist” (even though, pace the allegations of our right, the Nazis were not socialists but rather were in thrall to a military industrial complex they activated) while wingers here would never call themselves such …

    I don’t understand how you can say that the Nazi regime wasn’t socialist just because they were militaristic. They believed in government direction of all industry, believed the greater good trumped individual liberty, and that capitalism was a weak and decadent philosophy. The Soviets and the Chinese were certainly militaristic, does that mean they were right wing? Hitler was a vegetarian art student who was deeply concerned about animal rights and hated religion. I’m certainly not saying there’s anything wrong with any of those things, but does that sound like a Republican or right-winger to you? I understand how the fact that someone so awful shared political ideas with you would be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

  18. Christopher says:

    Well, in terms of contemporary American politics, the right wing kind of is more prone to fascist rhetoric. Especially the religious right, which blows the left completely out of the water in terms of exclusionary language.

    For example; note the number of people who say that Christianity is superior to all other religions.

    I will laugh in your face if you tell me that there exists a comparable non-Christian movement with the same power (Confining ourselves, I stress, to the contemporary US).

    While politicians will explicitly say Christianity is better then all other religions, I defy you to find me one single politician above the county level who will say that Christianity is stupid.

    Incidentally, saying that America is a Christian nation implicitly endorses the attempted genocide and highly successful marginalisation of Native American people.

    Saying that Americans can destroy America by following American traditions is so incredibly disgusting and perverse it just makes me want to spit.

  19. Ole Blue says:

    Great post! I do see people in this country who have the attitudes that reflect a fascist ideology every day.

  20. so says:

    Henry, picture a sort of Venn diagram – one big circle with two little circles, say. The big circle is totalitarianism, and within that lay both fascism and communism (the totalitarian form of socialism, technically more accurate for this discussion; communism : fascism :: socialism : capitalism). Of course, there are other kinds of totalitarianism too, but they’re beside the point here and would make my imaginary diagram messy. Common to the whole totalitarian circle are: propaganda, censorship, etc. Fascism does this in pursuit of consolidating economic power centrally, communism in the pursuit of community ownership of the economy (however illusory).

    The 7th grade social studies version of this is that fascism and communism are opposite ends of the same spectrum. Extremists of any sort will be draconian, but socialists are the left end and fascists are the right end…maybe that’s why both sides generally use one term or the other to slander the opposing side. When have you heard conservatives called “commies” or liberals called “fascists”?

    But I’ll give you that living in either one would probably feel about the same amount of shitty.

  21. human says:

    Okay, I looked up “syncretic” and got “the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion.” But I’m still not sure what you mean, DAS, when you say that the modern right is culturally syncretic. Help?

  22. Dharmaserf says:

    syncretism need not be the “reconciliation or union” of opposites. In Religious Studies, the term syncretism has undergone a certain amount of scrutiny. The idea of syncretism is probably more akin to “blending” of two different traditions either by 1) one or more of the traditions taking up concerns of the other or 2) a new tradition that blends the concerns of many (think NRMs-New Religious Movements). But, what we have seen is that the categorization of something a syncretic assumes a stability and consistency to any tradition such that one can identify core elements of it as defining characteristics of it. This leads to the problem of the biased commentator. With regard to Chinese traditions (jiao; esp. san jiao- Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism) often syncretism is a word used to describe what is going on. But this assumes that these are distinct discrete traditions. While there is that element within these traditions, esp. Tang Dynasty critiques of Buddhism, what can explain this syncretism more is hypothetical category of a Chinese Religiosity in general that allows for each of those traditions to talk about common themes. Each of them talks about the Dao, Heaven and Earth, Harmony, wu wei etc. These are NOT just Daoist concepts that are borrowed by other traditions, they are shared by all Chinese religious traditions from the get go. The idea of syncretism falls short here, as underlying it is the assumption that religious traditions are exclusive and descrete. More problematic is the actual historical development of religious traditions–most start with and continue throughout their history to “borrow” from other religious and cultural tropes around them. As such, the notion of syncretism loses analytical value because all traditions do it.

    So, in light of the discussion above, I would argue, that yes, the right is culturally syncretic, but so is are most cultural movements. We just notice it more with right wing ideologies, because the way they choose to interpret which parts of tradition and modernity they want to take up as laudatory is so apparently arbitrary. It is like those photos you can find of swamis and monks with cell phones. In the semiology of modern/tradition we just notice more because the symbols that we associate with each end of the binary get juxtaposed together.

    As for Henry’s example of Hitler’s personal politics, I have to say it is a problematic example. The hagiography of Hitler, even only 60 years after his death, is so confused, conflicted, contradictory and mythological that any exclamation of Hitler’s personal beliefs (other than those in Mein Kampf, and that may have changed by say ’39) say way more about the author than they do about Hitler. Why choose that particular version of Hitler instead of another? The simple answer is because it fits one’s politics better. Hitler is a myth, and not in the sense that he is like Santa–unreal–but rather that aside from all the data we have about him, he is used in a multitude of ways by various people who make a symbolic object of his memory for their own purposes of building meaning–whether that is an all-encompassing meaning or just an example in an article. And, so why is there a veggie, Xtian, animal rights, etc., Hitler around? Obviously, this kind of Hitler finds discursive use in various contemporary discussions–especially when the right wants to vilify the left. How drole.

  23. Bitter Scribe says:

    Henry: The “socialist” component of National Socialism was a big joke. Hitler made sure the Fargens, the Krupps, and other big industrialists got taken care of. Genuine trade unions were abolished in favor of company unions. Workers were told to subordinate their interests and welfare to the common good—but “the common good” was defined as “the benefit of big business.”

    The Nazis’ attacks on “capitalism” were made almost entirely in the context of their hostility to Jews—i.e., “Jewish capitalists” were out to subdue “Aryans.” (They also said Bolshevism was another Jewish plot. Not noticing internal contradictions is common to most dictatorships, of whatever stripe.)

  24. Christopher says:

    Have there been any extensive projects asking right wingers themselves about how exactly they reconcile their ideologies?

    I mean, on the one hand, you have a fundamentalist Christian movement which emphasises personal introspection based on readings of plain-english bibles. On the other you have a lassez-faire capitalist movement.

    If one were to simply read the texts each movement holds as most important, you might assume a certain amount of animosity between the two groups, even violence.

    Yet here in modern America, the two groups are seen not only as complimentary, but in many cases as being inextricably linked; to the point where some question even the possibility of one existing without the other.

    I really don’t get it.

  25. DAS says:

    I don’t understand how you can say that the Nazi regime wasn’t socialist just because they were militaristic – Henry

    I wasn’t making the claim that Nazis being militaristic => Nazis couldn’t be socialists. That would, as you note, be a false implication. I was saying the Nazis were enthrall to the military-industrial complex, which is well documented, and such making sure the big industrial groups were taken care of (does anybody read Eisenhower’s famous address anymore? have people not seen Schindler’s List?), as Bitter Scribe points out, is rather antithetical to socialism, is it not?

    Hitler was a [1] vegetarian [2] art student [3] who was deeply concerned about animal rights and [4] hated religion. I’m certainly not saying there’s anything wrong with any of those things, but does that sound like a Republican or right-winger to you?

    As for points [1] and [3], ever hear of “crunchy conservatives”?

    As for point [2], one of my classmates in school who was our schools premier future graphic artist was a wingnut.

    As for point [4] … this is debatable: Hitler certainly could wrap himself in the cloak of religion when he wanted to. And some would argue that our so-called religious right really hates religion as they do not actually follow the Bible they so thump and they view religious morality as a tool for controlling people (and are sometimes explicit about moral legislation as a means of keeping people in line), which doesn’t sound to me like they actually like religion …

  26. DAS says:

    So, in light of the discussion above, I would argue, that yes, the right is culturally syncretic, but so is are most cultural movements. We just notice it more with right wing ideologies, because the way they choose to interpret which parts of tradition and modernity they want to take up as laudatory is so apparently arbitrary. It is like those photos you can find of swamis and monks with cell phones. In the semiology of modern/tradition we just notice more because the symbols that we associate with each end of the binary get juxtaposed together. – Dharmaserf

    Indeed, that is my point about the right being culturally syncretic: but it isn’t only their arbitrariness about it which is what sticks out — it’s their attribution of their syncretic belief system to a (fictional) non-syncretic tradition.

    As to those monks with cell phones, I agree with your point, but in many cases even as the juxtaposition sticks out, these are not people who are arbitrarily syncretic but often have thought long and hard about which technology to adopt and which to reject.

  27. Lesley says:

    The Nazis were not socialists, regardless of what their name suggested. Actually, Henry, by your definition fascism would be socialism, and Mussolini would be highly surprised by that, considering he developed fascism to act in opposition to socialism, as well as democracy and liberalism. The problem is that you are looking at a part of the puzzle and ignoring a couple of large factors.

    True socialism requires that there be a collective ownership of the means of production. What we consider socialist in the US is really not socialist. The collective may be the state, as it was in the Soviet Union, but that is not necessary. It can also be a series of private collectives (think kibbutzim). Fascism does not call for a collective ownership of the means of production, and the Nazis certainly never enacted that. Corporations were privately owned and operated, even if they did operate under government rules.

    Furthermore, socialism is highly concerned with egalitarianism. Fascism is opposed to egalitarianism. The Nazis were absolutely opposed to egalitarianism. Does the concept of the Aryan uber-mensch mean anything? Even if it doesn’t, it’s patently obvious that the Nazis not only opposed egalitarianism in philosophy but in action as well.

    So, no, the Nazis were not socialist. You’d also be hard-pressed to convince most people that the racial purity the Nazis sought was anything that is typically associated with left-wing philosophies. Hitler may have been a vegetarian, but I kind of think his thoughts on racial purity far, far, far outweigh that.

  28. Henry says:

    Have there been any extensive projects asking right wingers themselves about how exactly they reconcile their ideologies?

    I mean, on the one hand, you have a fundamentalist Christian movement which emphasises personal introspection based on readings of plain-english bibles. On the other you have a lassez-faire capitalist movement.

    If one were to simply read the texts each movement holds as most important, you might assume a certain amount of animosity between the two groups, even violence.

    Yet here in modern America, the two groups are seen not only as complimentary, but in many cases as being inextricably linked; to the point where some question even the possibility of one existing without the other.

    I really don’t get it.

    We don’t really reconcile them, and we don’t get along that well. I’ve never been nasty to anyone that I can think of here, or any other lefty blog when I chance to comment, but I’ve been in the equivalent of shouting matches at Ace’s and Goldstein’s. It’s one of those uneasy coalition type deals where neither can win without the other,or at least thinks so. The unifying factors are usually ficsal and foreign policy issues.

  29. Tara says:

    Jane, thanks for posting that excerpt from the LA Times pieces. ‘God,’ why is journalism so bad? Why do obviously illogical, offensive, poorly-written, poorly-researched, puff pieces get invaluable space, when much more newsworthy and critically important work (say, on this blog) are never given attention? Re said piece, there’s no documentation that this (the feminization of the Church and that being the reason ‘guys’ are turned off from going). It’s an unsubstantiated “trend” story that fits into an overarching frame news media use (i.e., the “gender war” and the “war on boys”).

    Thanks, also, for bringing up the obvious inference here: That femininity and masculinity are polar opposites and that to be feminine is to be nonmasculine. (And, that’s bad.)

    Trillian, I agree: Rather than be pulled down by all of this, I’m uplifted to see how these arguments are deconstructed. Such work, I think, gives hope when confronting all kinds of awfulness.

    new poster, tara

  30. Lesley says:

    Oh, and I forgot the nationalism that is a hallmark of fascism and of the Third Reich. Not socialist at all.

  31. so says:

    Have there been any extensive projects asking right wingers themselves about how exactly they reconcile their ideologies?

    That’s a really interesting question, but I’d be more interested in how fundamentalist Christians reconcile intolerance, militarism (that comment with the Christian Athletes is chilling), aspirations of power, etc. with the fact that they do all of that in the name of someone who stands for the opposite of each?

    Hitler was a vegetarian art student who was deeply concerned about animal rights and hated religion. I’m certainly not saying there’s anything wrong with any of those things, but does that sound like a Republican or right-winger to you?

    I think Dharmaserf and DAS pretty much have this covered, but I wanted to add that the non-political trappings that we currently associate with either party (say, NASCAR and veganism) have no lasting relationship to theories of government. Hell, the words “Republican” and “Democrat” don’t even have any permanent significance – go back about 150 years, and Republican means crazy slave-freeing (read: status quo-disrupting) third party, and a little further back the Democrats are called Democrat-Republicans. Go back 220 years and the French hadn’t made their seating arrangement yet, so there were no left and right wings.

    And as long as I’m on semantics, my

    communism : fascism :: socialism : capitalism.

    analogy might’ve made more sense as

    communism : socialism :: fascism : capitalism

  32. Casteen says:

    Henry,

    This is a small thing, but requires correction:
    Hitler was a vegetarian

    Hitler was *not* a vegetarian. It is true that he was often described in biographies of the time as vegetarian (while also saying that his favorite foods included a kind of sausage), as well as saying he didn’t drink and was celibate (that must have been a surprise to his mistress). These things were all part of the propaganda to promote the idea that he was a virtuous man, untainted by common desires and habits.

  33. DAS says:

    It is true that he was often described in biographies of the time as vegetarian (while also saying that his favorite foods included a kind of sausage) – Casteen

    How do we know sausages actually have meat in them? Who knows what sausages contain …

    I tried that argument on a veg. flatmate once, and her response was — I’ll eat any sausage as soon as you eat one claiming to contain pork.

  34. DAS says:

    I’m suprised no-one’s brought up the famous Sinclair Lewis quote yet …

  35. Magis says:

    Absolute must required reading:

    True Believer by Eric Hoffer

  36. Bitter Scribe says:

    DAS: You mean the one about how when fascism comes to America, it will be carrying a cross, or something like that?

    I think Sinclair Lewis has been unfairly neglected. Very few, if any, major fiction writers understood politics as well as he did, IMO.

  37. Bolo says:

    I’d also like to mention that it seems odd to list hostility towards socialism as a defining characteristic of fascism considering the fascist nations were socialist.

    No.

    Henry, picture a sort of Venn diagram – one big circle with two little circles, say. The big circle is totalitarianism, and within that lay both fascism and communism (the totalitarian form of socialism, technically more accurate for this discussion; communism : fascism :: socialism : capitalism).

    No again.

    Socialism, Capitalism, and Communism are all one “branch.” They focus on enlarging the pie, so to speak, and disagree on how it should be done and who should reap what proportion of the benefits. Each works in different places/times/scales.

    Fascism is a decidely “feudal” economic arrangement and as such greatly eats into culture and politics as well. It disregards the modern nation-state’s trinitarian nature (government, military, people) and glorifies the State above all else. It denies economic class (even Capitalists acknowledge the existence of class, as much as they may deride it) and is concerned with simply dividing the pie–not enlarging it.

    Fascism is an enemy to capitalism, socialism, and communism and represents a very different, pre-modern system that is bootstrapped onto the modern state.

  38. Casteen says:

    DAS

    How do we know sausages actually have meat in them? Who knows what sausages contain …

    Unless they specify otherwise, sausages contain meat. Which meats, from what animals, may vary. As they are encased in intestine (unless one is getting the veggie sausage fake meat stuff) what fills them seems rather moot. He also ate ham, and a bunch of other foods that required the slaughter of animals, and even went after some groups that were vegetarian.

    (and yeah, I get that was most likely a joke, I just clarify on the off chance it wasn’t.)

  39. C. Diane says:

    It’ll be carrying a cross and wrapped in a flag, I believe he said.

  40. Andrea says:

    This guy is an excellent writer. Read “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.”

  41. DAS says:

    Yes … y’all did get the quote to which I referred.

    And yes, Casteen … it was a joke

  42. DAS says:

    Bolo,

    Does Marxist Communism really focus on enlarging the pie or does it assume that the pie is made as large as it ever can get in the previous (Capitalist) stage of economic development and seek to thus redistribute that wealth? One could thus argue that Marxism and socialism are quite different as socialism is concerned with both the size of the pie and its distribution whereas Marxism in its crudest forms figures that the best way to enlarge the size of the pie is via capitalism and once the pie is as large as possible (and c.f. Pareto — btw. see The Rhetoric of Reaction for the influence on Lenin by Pareto, et al — distributed maximally inequitably), the revolution will kick in an redistribute the wealth optimally.

    As for fascism and feudalism: that’s an interesting point, especially as concerns this discussion. A lot of so-called “capitalist” economics from the right, deliberately harkens back to “classical” economics. While such economic theory was the economic theory of the birth of modern capitalism, a review of how capitalism/industrialization have actually played out indicates the degree to which the toy models of many classical thinkers (Ricardo’s arguments about trade come to mind) actually rather ignore economic change (e.g. growth) and, as they are applied by so-called “neo-classical” economics 101 types, simply place a capitalist veneer on what is really something quite different — a sort of “neo-feudalism”. It is perhaps veering a little bit into Godwin’s law territory to call it fascism, but given your interesting point, I might get tempted to do so ;)

  43. Andrea says:

    And thank you for writing this. We have reasons to be alarmed.

  44. Is deism central to the insoluble extremes of rightwing theism and leftwing atheism, or is it a third ism by which the majority can safely espouse democratically constitutional clarity where separation of church and state protects the rights of citizens from the exploitation of gullibility?

    If we learn more about deism and its influence on the age of reason and the founding fathers, we can surmise that most of them would be standing against the Religious Right of today. I believe that they would be friends of DefCon, PFAW, the ACLU, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The founding fathers were quite aware of the oppression caused by the marriage of church and state in Europe.

    Americans United for Separation of Church and State have an excellent piece about the myths cast forth by the Religious Right to undermine separation.

    http://www.holysmoke.org/sdhok/seper2.htm

  45. Jane says:

    Henry, you said:

    No, but I will submit that you can find plenty of sentiment wishing harm or death in a joking (or non-joking) manner from both directions.

    I see a lot of evidence provided in this thread that documents the religious right using elimination rhetoric. Can you provide links to documentation of similar rhetoric from the extreme left? How do you define the extreme left?

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  47. Jane says:

    Whoa! It looks like the fundies got into the wikipedia entry on abortion. The first paragraph now reads:

    An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by its death. This can occur spontaneously as a miscarriage, or be artificially induced by chemical, surgical or other means. Commonly, “abortion” refers to an induced procedure at any point during pregnancy; medically, it is defined as miscarriage or induced termination before twenty weeks’ gestation, which is considered nonviable. It is the murder of an unborn child. Abortion should be illegal in all 50 states. Just imagine being a baby that getting sucked out of your mother. How would you feel?

    Doesn’t Wikipedia monitor this shit at all? Please, please, I’m begging you, somebody do a post about this.

  48. Bolo says:

    DAS:

    I don’t claim to be an expert or even highly knowledgeable, but I thought communism was still concerned with growth and prosperity–our children should live better than us and we should be striving to do things better than we are now. It’s primary disagreement with capitalism is that, rather than have a handful of capitalists at the top reap the rewards of an investment, everyone should be rewarded equally.

    I suppose what pretty much encapsulates what I’m trying to say is here:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20041211030312/www.bopnews.com/archives/002308.html#2308

    Sorry it’s webarchive, but the main site (bopnews.com) no longer exists. The most relevant excerpt (though please read the whole thing)!:

    Where does capitalism come in?

    Capitalism came in at the very beginning but I delayed discussing it until now because I didn’t want the references sprinkled throughout. Essentially the two major concepts of capitalism are entry costs and economies of scale.

    For instance the original two man pair we had envisioned, the net maker and the fisherman, could pull in even more fish if they had a small boat to work out of to go to the fish instead of just fishing by the shore. But building a boat takes time to collect the materials, produce it, test it, and learn how to use it. How are these two guys going to eat in the meantime? Well if they had stockpiled their surplus fish away in a storable form, if that stockpile was large enough they could eat that while they finished the boat. The amount of time and resources needed to be set aside for the construction of the boat is called the entry cost.

    The additional production from having made the investment of labor and resource is called the economy of scale. The surplus needed to meet the entry cost is called the capital. That’s what capital is: the amount of surplus you need in order to pay the entry cost to break into a new economy of scale.

    This form of capitalism is called communism. Surprised right? Isn’t communism opposed to capitalism? No. Communism is simply a primitive form of capitalism. Communism is commonly practiced in small villages where everyone gets together and combines their surplus labor and resources in order to better production and then splits the increased returns.

    It is still practiced by the Amish. That’s what an Amish barn-raising is. It’s a bunch of people getting together and using up surpluses of labor and resources to create an economy of scale. Because they are small interknit communities it makes rational economic sense. If you help raise your neighbor’s barn then he can produce more. As he produces more he will come out and help you more if you need help. Therefore it’s a form of community capitalization of social insurance.

    However communism depends upon the commoditization of labor. Either one person’s labor is equivalent to another person’s labor, or at least their total production value is. However when we introduce the concept of the economy of scale it turns out that not all labor is equal, because while we all have about the same amount of time, it turns out that some person’s labor increases the economy of scale more than others.

    What we conceive of as capitalism – the inequality of income – arises directly from the unequal contribution of labor toward economies of scale.

  49. Bolo says:

    DAS:

    I don’t claim to be an expert or even highly knowledgeable, but I thought communism was still concerned with growth and prosperity–our children should live better than us and we should be striving to do things better than we are now. It’s primary disagreement with capitalism is that, rather than have a handful of capitalists at the top reap the rewards of an investment, everyone should be rewarded equally.

    I suppose what pretty much encapsulates what I’m trying to say is here:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20041211030312/www.bopnews.com/archives/002308.html#2308

    Sorry it’s webarchive, but the main site (bopnews.com) no longer exists. The most relevant excerpt (though please read the whole thing)!:

    Where does capitalism come in?

    Capitalism came in at the very beginning but I delayed discussing it until now because I didn’t want the references sprinkled throughout. Essentially the two major concepts of capitalism are entry costs and economies of scale.

    For instance the original two man pair we had envisioned, the net maker and the fisherman, could pull in even more fish if they had a small boat to work out of to go to the fish instead of just fishing by the shore. But building a boat takes time to collect the materials, produce it, test it, and learn how to use it. How are these two guys going to eat in the meantime? Well if they had stockpiled their surplus fish away in a storable form, if that stockpile was large enough they could eat that while they finished the boat. The amount of time and resources needed to be set aside for the construction of the boat is called the entry cost.

    The additional production from having made the investment of labor and resource is called the economy of scale. The surplus needed to meet the entry cost is called the capital. That’s what capital is: the amount of surplus you need in order to pay the entry cost to break into a new economy of scale.

    This form of capitalism is called communism. Surprised right? Isn’t communism opposed to capitalism? No. Communism is simply a primitive form of capitalism. Communism is commonly practiced in small villages where everyone gets together and combines their surplus labor and resources in order to better production and then splits the increased returns.

    It is still practiced by the Amish. That’s what an Amish barn-raising is. It’s a bunch of people getting together and using up surpluses of labor and resources to create an economy of scale. Because they are small interknit communities it makes rational economic sense. If you help raise your neighbor’s barn then he can produce more. As he produces more he will come out and help you more if you need help. Therefore it’s a form of community capitalization of social insurance.

    However communism depends upon the commoditization of labor. Either one person’s labor is equivalent to another person’s labor, or at least their total production value is. However when we introduce the concept of the economy of scale it turns out that not all labor is equal, because while we all have about the same amount of time, it turns out that some person’s labor increases the economy of scale more than others.

    What we conceive of as capitalism – the inequality of income – arises directly from the unequal contribution of labor toward economies of scale.

  50. Bolo says:

    Eeek! Massive double post… sorry :(

  51. petitpoussin says:

    Jane, I read that (comment #47) and went and checked the Wikipedia article. Looks like someone fixed it, but not enough.

    An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by its death. This can occur spontaneously as a miscarriage, or be artificially induced by chemical, surgical or other means. Commonly, “abortion” refers to an induced procedure at any point during pregnancy; medically, it is defined as miscarriage or induced termination before twenty weeks’ gestation, which is considered nonviable.

    ‘Resulting in or caused by its death.’ Riiiiiiiiiight.

  52. Bolo says:

    resulting in or caused by its death.

    Well, honestly, an embryo or fetus does “die” in the medical sense when an abortion is performed. I mean, your skin cells die all the time, as do many other cells throughout your body. Performing an abortion results in death for the cells concerned.

    As usual, the real catch here is how “embryo” and “fetus” are defined. If someone defines them as fully living human beings then we have a problem. But if the definition is “a clump of cells that could potentially be a human being,” then the now-corrected definition on Wikipedia seems very reasonable to me.

  53. DAS says:

    medically, it is defined as miscarriage or induced termination before twenty weeks’ gestation, which is considered nonviable.

    Oy vey. Did they really mean this? “Medically, it [abortion] is defined as miscarriage [or other] before twenty weeks’ gestation, which is considered nonviable. It is the murder of an unborn child” …

    Aside from the fact that they’ve just be fiat decided there is no such thing as “late term abortion” (so hence the laws about it are off the books?), they are saying miscarriage is murder! WTF? I think that tells us all we need to know about them, eh?

    And killing a non-viable clump of cells is murder? If one gets an apendectomy, is one a murderer?

    Oy vey.

  54. DAS says:

    Bolo,

    Your point is reasonably well taken. I guess certain forms of communism are indeed focused on economic growth. But I am not so sure that Marxism is (or even, e.g., Amish communism). Of course, part of it depends on how you define economic growth, which is dicier, I would imagine, than those who talk glibly about n’th quarter growth rates would like to admit.

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  56. Lex says:

    Jill, I covered religion for my employer for three years back in the mid-1990s. During that time I first came across the notion of Christian nationalism, and it alarmed me enough that I’ve been keeping track of suggestions of it ever since. I would be, and have been, ridiculed for suggesting that you are right and Michelle Goldberg is right (I reviewed her book there), but you are right. This is a threat … not just to our system of government, as Goldberg argues, but to the teachings of Christ as well. And it must be challenged forcefully at every opportunity because there is no example in history of such a system’s not leading to murder and other crimes.

  57. R.Sam Smith says:

    A separate Godwin’s Law would be just one more attempt to provide cover and disallow language which calls a spade a spade.

    Wilhelm Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism is as powerful an analysis of fascism as you will ever read. I recommend it. He transcends label and “names” and, instead deals directly with the very deliberate and calculated behavior of fascists in their very organized efforts to control all action and thought of the masses. It was written in Germany in the 1930’s and was banned and burned upon publication as Reich fled for his life. Any attempt to understand fascism must include a reading of this book.

    While many elements of society are attacked by fascism (intelectualism, feminism, pacificism, etc), all expressions of fascism are rooted in greed and control. Ignorance, belligerence, oppression, repression, xenophobia, religion, culture war, bread and circus media, censorship, war and militarism, patriotism, legal/illegal substance controls, hate mongering, class warfare, crime/punishment ciulture, prisons, and the countless other evil expressions are simply tactics used to maintain control by a very select few.

    If the tactics are making an indivdual’s life miserable, he/she/they will focus on those tactics and, many times, limit or focus their view of fascism narrowly as relates to individual instances of fascistic behavior. However, Fascism is a vast and broad collection of activities controlled by the very few who control the production, finance, media, etc. — Corporate Overlords.

    When Benito Mussolini defined fascism in a nutshell and let us in on a very big little secret, he was revealing way more than the casual nature of his remark seemed to portend:

    “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.”

    Welcome to DisneyLand.

    Again, find and read Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism. While it focuses on German Fascism in the 1930’s his explanations of how mass psyche is manipulated is very easily and quite frighteningly transposed onto our world today. It will change the way you look at every aspect of modern life from Education to the Sunday Funnies, Sex to Religion, Crime and Punishment, Politics, The Poor, and especially Rush, his Minions and all media.

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