Sunday, February 06, 2005

Hungry For Dictatorship

American Conservative has an interesting article on the rise of a fascist mentality in the United States. The whole thing is worth reading, but here's the passage that jumps out at yours truly:

I don’t think there are yet real fascists in the administration, but there is certainly now a constituency for them — hungry to bomb foreigners and smash those Americans who might object. And when there are constituencies, leaders may not be far behind. They could be propelled into power by a populace ever more frustrated that the imperialist war it has supported — generally for the most banal of patriotic reasons — cannot possibly end in victory. And so scapegoats are sought, and if we can’t bomb Arabs into submission, or the French, domestic critics of Bush will serve.
Personally, I do think there are real fascists in the administration, but that's beside the point. What's important here is what the article calls the "hunger for dicatorship." We often prefer to think of a dictatorship as something imposed from above on an unwilling populace, but many dictatorships are joint ventures. The "hunger" for dictatorship is a hunger for mythopoeic meaning and purpose among people who feel diminished, vulnerable, or spiritually empty. These people are in a very suggestible state, as I discussed in an earlier post:
[T]his type of ultra-nationalism, devoted to some mystical idea of national rebirth, engenders precisely the sort of free-floating hysteria that can easily be channeled towards racism, as well as violence against "unpatriotic" or "decadent" scapegoats. That's what worries me about mainstreamed matter what its official positions are, its emotional underpinnings make its adherents very malleable and very suggestible. In a sense, they're "sleepers," waiting for a sign from on high to attack the "enemy."
Ultimately, they're sleepers in a more literal sense than I intended above. Fascist logic is dream logic; in a fascist country, it's perfectly natural that two and two make five. If some basic truth - no matter how unexceptionable - is an obstacle to the mythopoeic dream of rebirth, then it must be cast aside. Violently.

That being the case, I found this part of the AmCon article perfectly inexplicable:
[I]t is necessary to distinguish between a sudden proliferation of fascist tendencies and an imminent danger.
On what conceivable grounds? Everything the author describes suggests an imminent danger, and God knows there are dreadful things happening that he chose not to describe.

The threat here goes beyond bombing foreigners and crushing domestic dissent; fascism is inherently self-destructive, as one would expect from a movement driven by insecurity, self-hatred, and fear. As I argued in a post on Der Kulturkampf,
[Fascism's] long-term view may be utterly nihilistic; many fascist thinkers have welcomed the idea of mass extinction as "glorious." Thus, fascism often devolves into a death cult that offers no salvation or resurrection, particularly since the promised rebirth of culture never actually comes.
My complaints aside, this article is a step in the right direction for traditional conservatives, who haven't exactly been on the ball these last four years (I'm being charitable, of course). Here's how it ends:
The invasion of Iraq has put the possibility of the end to American democracy on the table and has empowered groups on the Right that would acquiesce to and in some cases welcome the suppression of core American freedoms.


Wayne Hughes said...

Quick now, which is more scary, H5N1 or Fascist America?

I can't make up my mind - maybe we should hope that avian flu gets here in a hurry.

Thanks, Phila, for posting the article by Scott McConnell - it's worth reading and has a lot of things to think about. He didn't expand on what he meant by the notion of "brownshirting" (I certainly have my own ideas) and I wasn't able to find Roberts' article in American Conservative, but I did find it here.

One of the things McConnell wrote that was interesting was that the foaming at the mouth letters they receive do not come from the evangelicals. After some thought, I guess I could see this. Looking back I can imagine pretty well what sort might be writing letters that foam at the mouth, and they're not evangelicals.

I've been watching this with an increasing anxiety far more pronounced than anything I felt during the Reagan Administration.

robin andrea said...

having read, just now--thanks for links--, both articles, i might venture that the minimal good news is that conservatives are alarmed. the bad news is the content of the pieces. while i have my suppositions about the "foaming at the mouth" crowd i would have liked some description by the authors. not that i haven't heard or read the vitriol mentioned, just that i don't have much of a picture of who this is. if not the evangelicals or the xtian zionists, who is foaming at the mouth?

whoever. it is scary. all of a part with the dismissal of reason.

wayne---at least i have a chance with the flu. please bring it on before fascism gets me. germs respect not politics. fascists die of the flu along with everyone.

dread pirate roberts