Part 2: The Architecture of Fascism
Part 3: The Pseudo-Fascist Campaign
Part 4: The Apocalyptic One-Party State
Part 5: Warfare By Other Means
Part 6: Breaking Down the Barriers
Part 7 [Conclusion]: It Can Happen Here
Almost certainly, Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here, published in 1935, is his most peculiar novel. For one thing, it's the closest thing to speculative fiction he ever wrote. It describes the rise to power of an American fascist named Buzz Windrip, who arrives on the political scene to rescue America from a plague of labor unions, welfare cheats, godless atheists, and gun-grabbing Jews.
It's an intriguing enough premise -- one to which, obviously, Philip Roth owes at least a small debt in his new The Plot Against America, which follows a similar premise -- but, to be honest, Lewis fails to make it very compelling. Certainly it lacks the power of later visions of a totalitarian society like Brave New World or 1984.
In most respects, it's one of his weakest works; it lacks most of the human detail and probing realism of his greatest novels. It also was written after he had been awarded the Nobel, and actually marked the beginning of his decline as a writer.
Nonetheless, it's intriguing because Lewis was writing in a time when fascism was still a very familiar thing, and before it had mutated into the Holocaust Horror we think of when we think of fasicsm today. And the book is, of course, a denunciation of fascism and its potential in America. Lewis may have lost his writer's touch, but he still understood Main Street better than most, and some of his detail is very telling indeed, at least in a political sense. Regardless of what he had lost as a writer at this point, his insight was still intact.
The title comes from an exchange in Chapter 2:
- "... Wait till Buzz takes charge of us. A real Fascist dictatorship!”
"Nonsense! Nonsense!" snorted Tasbrough. "That couldn't happen here in America, not possibly! We’re a country of freemen."
"The answer to that," suggested Doremus Jessup, "if Mr. Falck will forgive me, is 'the hell it can't!' Why, there's no country in the world that can get more hysterical -- yes, or more obsequious! -- than America. Look how Huey Long became absolute monarch over Louisiana, and how the Right Honorable Mr. Senator Berzelius Windrip owns HIS State. Listen to Bishop Prang and Father Coughlin on the radio—divine oracles, to millions. Remember how casually most Americans have accepted Tammany grafting and Chicago gangs and the crookedness of so many of President Harding's appointees? Could Hitler's bunch, or Windrip's, be worse? Remember the Kuklux Klan? Remember our war hysteria, when we called sauerkraut 'Liberty cabbage' and somebody actually proposed calling German measles 'Liberty measles'? And wartime censorship of honest papers? Bad as Russia! Remember our kissing the -- well, the feet of Billy Sunday, the million-dollar evangelist, and of Aimée McPherson, who swam from the Pacific Ocean clear into the Arizona desert and got away with it? Remember Voliva and Mother Eddy? ... Remember our Red scares and our Catholic scares, when all well-informed people knew that the O.G.P.U. were hiding out in Oskaloosa, and the Republicans campaigning against Al Smith told the Carolina mountaineers that if Al won the Pope would illegitimatize their children? Remember Tom Heflin and Tom Dixon? Remember when the hick legislators in certain states, in obedience to William Jennings Bryan, who learned his biology from his pious old grandma, set up shop as scientific experts and made the whole world laugh itself sick by forbidding the teaching of evolution? ... Remember the Kentucky night-riders? Remember how trainloads of people have gone to enjoy lynchings? Not happen here? Prohibition -- shooting down people just because they MIGHT be transporting liquor -- no, that couldn’t happen in AMERICA! Why, where in all history has there ever been a people so ripe for a dictatorship as ours! We're ready to start on a Children's Crusade -- only of adults -- right now, and the Right Reverend Abbots Windrip and Prang are all ready to lead it!"
It isn't hard to hear not just precursors but parallels to today's political milieu. Especially noteworthy: the reference to "Liberty measles" ("Freedom fries," anyone?), as well as the "wartime censorship of the papers".
But Lewis was speaking of the kinds of character traits that a nation has to have to lead it into fascism, and how despite (and in fact, largely because of) our blithe self-denials, we remain vulnerable to this peculiar brand of totalitarianism, much more so than other kinds. The names have changed, but the traits are still with us. How many doubt that Rush Limbaugh is just a fresh incarnation of Father Coughlin? That the Republican warnings about what Al Smith might do to people's religious beliefs are being recycled as RNC flyers intimating that Democrats intend to ban the Bible this year?
As it happens, most serious scholars of fascism agree with Lewis, ranging from Stanley Payne (who is more skeptical, however, than most) to Roger Griffin to Robert O. Paxton. In his The Anatomy of Fascism, Paxton writes [pp. 201-202]:
- The United States itself has never been exempt from fascism. Indeed, antidemocratic and xenophobic movements have flourished in America since the Native American party of 1845 and the Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s. In the crisis-ridden 1930s, as in other democracies, derivative fascist movements were conspicuous in the United States: the Protestant evangelist Gerald B. Winrod's openly pro-Hitler Defenders of the Christian Faith with their Black Legion; William Dudley Pelley's Silver Shirts (the initials "SS" were intentional); the veteran-based Khaki Shirts (whose leader, one Art J. Smith, vanished after a heckler was killed at one of his rallies); and a hot of others. Movements with an exotic foreign look won few followers, however. George Lincoln Rockwell, flamboyant head of the American Nazi Party from 1959 until his assassination by a disgruntled follower in 1967, seemed even more "un-American" after the great anti-Nazi war.
Much more dangerous are movements that employ authentically American themes in ways that resemble fascism functionally. The Klan revived in the 1920s, took on virulent anti-Semitism, and spread to cities and the Middle West. In the 1930s, Father Charles E. Coughlin gathered a radio audience estimated at forty million around and anticommunist, anti-Wall Street, pro-soft money, and -- after 1938 -- anti-Semitic message broadcast from his church on the outskirts of Detroit. For a moment in early 1936 it looked as if his Union Party and its presidential candidate, North Dakota congressman William Lemke, might overwhelm Roosevelt. The plutocrat-baiting governor Huey Long of Louisiana had authentic political momentum until his assassination in 1935, but, though frequently labeled fascist at the time, he was more accurately a share-the-wealth demagogue. The fundamentalist preacher Gerald L.K. Smith, who had worked with both Coughlin and Long, turned the message more directly after World War II to the "Judeo-Communist conspiracy" and had a real impact. Today a "politics of resentment" rooted in authentic American piety and nativism sometimes leads to violence against some of the very same "internal enemies" once targeted by the Nazis, such as homosexuals and defenders of abortion rights.
Of course the United States would have to suffer catastrophic setback and polarization for these fringe groups to find powerful allies and enter the mainstream. I half expected to see emerge after 1968 a movement of national reunification, regeneration, and purification directed against hirsute antiwar protesters, black radicals, and "degenerate" artists. I thought that some of the Bietnam veterans might form analogs to the Freikorps of 1919 Germany or the Italian Arditi, and attack the youths whose demonstrations on the steps of the Pentagon had "stabbed them in the back." Fortunately I was wrong (so far). Since September 11, 2001, however, civil liberties have been curtailed to popular acclaim in a patriotic war upon terrorists.
Paxton, correctly I think, identifies today's far-right militia/Patriot and white-supremacist organizations -- who remain largely relegated to the fringe in the national conception of things -- as the remnants of genuine proto-fascism in America. (Proto-fascism, of course, is genuinely fascist at its core -- in contrast to pseudo-fascism, which has the outward structural appearance of fascism but is different in its underlying nature.)
Paxton's assumption is that any American fascism will arise under the same mechanism as that of fascisms of the past: as a discrete movement that moves in to take advantage of political space created by the failures of the traditional political powers. That is, under this conception, it would have to emerge as a third party that displaces the Republican and Democratic parties.
What he doesn't seem to consider, in fact, is the possibility of an alternative mechanism: namely, the transformation of an existing party into a fascist entity from within -- not necessarily by design, but by a coalescence of political forces already latent in the landscape. This possibility, actually, is raised by the fact that, as Paxton describes in detail, fascism is not so much an ideological "ism" but a constellation of traits that takes on a pathological life of its own. And these traits, as he details, are very much present, historically speaking, in American political life.
In fact, this very mechanism was raised by the one of the significant American fascist "intellectuals" who arose in the 1930s. His name was Lawrence Dennis, and in 1936 -- a year after Lewis' novel -- he wrote an ideological blueprint titled The Coming American Fascism.
Dennis predicted that, eventually, the combination of a dictatorial and bureaucratic government and big business would continue exploiting the working middle class until, in frustration, it would turn to fascism. What's especially noteworthy were the kind of conditions he foresaw for this to happen:
- Nothing could be more logical or in the best political tradition than for a type of fascism to be ushered into this country by leaders who are now vigorously denouncing fascism and repudiating all that it is understood to stand for...
And, needless to add, these principles would mean the replacement of the existing organizational pattern of public administration by that of a highly centralized government which would exercise the powers of a truly national State, and which would be manned by a personnel responsible to a political party holding a mandate from the people. This party would be the fascist party of the United States-undoubtedly called, however, by another name...
Yet how infinitely better for the in-elite of the moment to have fascism come through one of the major parties of the moment than to have it fight its way to power as the program of the most embittered leaders of the out-elite. ...
This description has an ominous ring in an era in which the dominant party in power in America is frenziedly declaring war on "Islamofascism" while itself taking on many of the traits of fascism itself. It's unlikely that Dennis' thinking guided any of the intellectuals in today's mainstream conservative movement, though it is worth noting that his work is enjoying a renaissance in the paleo-conservative movement, particularly in such places as The Occidental Review, the far-right publication sponsored by William Regnery.
Rather than being guided consciously (and there certainly is no evidence whatsoever for an ideologically fascist conspiracy), this transformation is occurring almost spontaneously, as the forces that fascism comprises gradually come together under their own gravity.
The primary impetus has been the change under which conservatism became a discrete movement intent on seizing the reins of power. In the process, the means -- that is, the obtaining of power -- became the end. And once the movement became centered around obtaining power, by any means necessary, then ideology became fungible according to the needs of its drive to acquire power, just as it was with fascism. This virtually guaranteed it would become a travesty of its original purpose. The nature of today's "conservative movement" is no more apparent than in how distinctly un-conservative its actual conduct has been: busting budgets, falling asleep at the wheel of national security, engaging wars recklessly and without adequate planning.
Two things occurred to the conservative movement in this drive for power:
-- It increasingly viewed liberals not merely as competitors but as unacceptable partners in the liberal-conservative power-sharing agreement that has been in place since at least the New Deal and the rise of modern consumer society. Ultimately, this view metastacizes into seeing liberals as objects to be eliminated.
-- It became increasingly willing to countenance ideological and practical bridges with certain factions of the extremist right. This ranged from anti-abortion and religious-right extremists to the neo-Confederates who dominate Republican politics in the South to factions of the Patriot/militia movement.
The combination of these two forces exerted a powerful rightward pull on the movement, to the point where extremist ideas and agendas have increasingly been adopted by the mainstream right, flowing into an eliminationist hatred of liberalism. In the process, their own rhetoric has come to sound like that on the far right. A lot of the dabbling in far-right memes has been gratuitous, intended to "push the envelope" for talk-radio audiences in constant need of fresh outrageousness.
Fully enabled, free of any of the traditional checks on its power, by the earth-shaking effects of Sept. 11, the movement morphed into a genuinely radical force. And in its outward shape, it has come to resemble fascism, particularly in the way it has adopted nearly all of the "mobilizing passions" of fascism to some degree, whether greater or lesser.
But at its core, it is not fascism. At least not yet. Remember Paxton's rather clear description of fascism in the context of the history of ideologies: it is, in essence, "dictatorship against the Left amidst popular enthusiasm." Well, there can be little doubt of its overt anti-leftism; increasingly the mainstream right's entire raison d'etre is, in Mussolini's phrase, "to break the bones of the Democrats of Il Mundo". But it is not yet a dictatorship, though the conservative movement's efforts to create a one-party state approach that. Neither does it enjoy true popular enthusiasm. Sure, they have a sizeable and boisterous following, and their increasing conversion of mass media to a propaganda arm of the right is a serious problem that does not bode well for stopping them from actually gaining a majority following.
Put it this way: The fact that nearly half the country is willing to endorse the manifest incompetence of a man like George W. Bush, by returning him to the Oval Office for another four years, is not a good sign in this regard. The remarkable levels of delusion and misinformation among Bush supporters is another confirmation that this is not a healthy political milieu.
At every step, rather than disconfirming the trend, the Bush White House confirms it. First we have the Bush campaign's bizarre authoritarian behavior surrounding his public appearances. Non-Bush supporters (and even those deemed insufficiently supportive) are prevented from entering, and even ostensibly neutral messages like "Protect Our Civil Liberties" are cause for being ejected and threatened with arrest.
Then, Chris Suellentrop at Slate recently uncovered the "Bush Pledge," a pledge of allegiance to Bush himself that thousands of Republicans have apparently taken:
- "I want you to stand, raise your right hands," and recite "the Bush Pledge," said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in this Treasure Coast town about an hour north of West Palm Beach dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: "I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."
Billmon (as always) put it best:
- The truly sinister thing -- and the reason why that Slate story made the hair stand up on the back of my neck -- is that even as these people move, like sleepwalkers, towards a distinctly American version of the cult of the leader, most of them honestly appear to have no idea what they're doing, or creating. I'm not even sure the Rovians themselves entirely understand the atavistic instincts they've awakened in Bush's most loyal followers. But the current is running now, fast and strong. And we're all heading for the rapids.
Likewise, the continuing trend toward disproportionately ugly and violent behavior related to the election, especially on the part of Bush supporters, and in some cases directly related to the Republican campaigns, is even further cause for concern. Because it is the point at which violence becomes an organizational response that the conservative movement will cease to be pseudo-fascist.
Regardless of the mechanism, Paxton is clear that not only can fascism take root in America, but that it will also take a peculiarly American shape:
- The language and symbols of an authentic American fascism would, of course, have little to do with the original European models. They would have to be as familiar and reassurign to loyal Americans as the language and symbols of the original fascisms were familiar and reassuring to many Italians and Germans. No swastikas in American fascism, but Stars and Stripes (or Stars and Bars) and Christian crosses. No fascist salute, but mass recitations of the pledge of allegiance. These symbols contain no whiff of fascism in themselves, of course, but an American fascism would transform them into obligatory litmus tests for detecting the internal enemy.
Around such reassuring language and symbols in the event of some redoubtable setback to national prestige, Americans might support an enterprise of forcible national regeneration, unification, and purification. Its targets would be the First Amendment, separation of Church and State (creches on the lawns, prayers in the schools), efforts to place controls on gun ownership, desecrations of the flag, unassimilated minorities, artistic license, dissident and unusual behavior of all sorts that could be labeled antinational or decadent.
It's worth observing, of course, that nearly all of these themes have played significant roles in the campaign waged by the conservative movement in 2004 -- particularly in the monumental attacks on gays and lesbians under the pretense of stopping gay marriage, coinciding with a de facto antagonism to church-state separation, represented by the Republican National Committee's hiring of David Barton, a noted anti-separation extremist, as a campaign consultant and speaker at RNC events.
What's still lacking, however, from the basic recipe for genuine fascism is the emergence of a genuine crisis of democracy. Unfortunately, because of the extreme volatility of the political environment, the potential for such a crisis erupting exists regardless of whatever among the likely scenarios plays out in Tuesday's election:
- Bush wins legitimately and cleanly. Under this scenario, the conservative movement gains a death grip on the reins of power. Democrats will be gerrymandered and maneuvered into meaninglessness, paving the way for an essentially one-party state. And unencumbered by the need to win re-election, as well as empowered by an actual mandate, Bush's radical social and political agenda will begin to take effect. Democratic institutions across the board will suffer.
Kerry wins cleanly. In this event, there will continue to be heated opposition to any reforms he might attempt, waged often through the propaganda organs of the mainstream press. There will be continuous claims that Kerry won illegitimately. Moreover, the True Believers of the conservative movement -- many of whom have become radicalized to an unusual level over the course of the campaign -- will act out their resistance to a Kerry regime violently. Expect a sharp spike in domestic terrorism, and further divisiveness from the conservative movement, much of it centered around Kerry's supposed "treasonousness." Expect the rhetoric to become truly violent when the debate focuses on the United Nations.
Bush maintains power illegitimately. This is the most potentially troubling of the scenarios. Considering their manifest willingness to do anything to win -- even litigate their way into the White House in the face of a popular-vote loss -- the Bush campaign is nearly limitless in what it will attempt to maintain its hold on power this year. This may range from massive lawsuits contesting election results because of alleged "voter fraud" in heavily minority precincts, to resorting to Republican state legislatures overriding the outcome of their elections (if pro-Kerry) and selecting in their place a Republican slate of electors -- a decidedly possible outcome, since the Supreme Court made clear in the 2000 Florida debacle that legislatures had the right to do this. Recall, if you will, Antonin Scalia's chilling remark: "There is no right of suffrage under Article II," meaning, there is no constitutional right to vote for president.
Major terrorist attacks occur during the election. As Richard Hasen pointed out in Slate, this is "the true nightmare scenario": An attack on a major city in a battleground state could prevent thousands, even millions of voters from making it to the polls, triggering a political and legal fight over how to handle the matter afterward. It's worth noting, of course, that not only are Oklahoma City-style domestic terrorists the potential perpetrators of such acts, they are, under the current charged milieu, those most likely. But if such an attack does occur, the presumptive suspects of course will be al Qaeda.
Of course, terrorist attacks needn't occur only on Election Day to have a potentially profound impact on American society. Indeed, if they are severe or frequent enough, it is clear that they would clearly represent a continuing source of crisis for democracy. Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's vote, the power of terrorism to spark such a crisis remains profound.
In other words, it's clear that the "crisis of democracy" necessary to create a genuinely fascist dynamic is a real potential that lies around many corners on our current path. The key, then, is to finding the path that does not take us there.
If fascism is indeed latent in our political landscape and rising to the surfact, then the critical question becomes this: How do we prevent it from doing so?
First, it's important to understand the conditions under which fascism's attempts to take root and gain power have failed. I described some of these in Part IV of "Rush, Newspeak, and Fascism," referencing Paxton's work on the failure of French fascism. Put briefly, fascism only obtained power by forming alliances with mainstream conservatives -- and there was no "political space" for that in France. The same, I explained, was true of the previous failure of American fascism:
- Fascism as a political force suffered from the same sort of bad timing in the United States when it arose in the 1920s -- conservatives were in power and had no need of an alliance with fascism, and there was no great social crisis. When it re-arose in the 1930s, the ascendance of power-sharing liberalism that was as popular in rural areas as in urban, again left fascism little breathing room.
And in the 1990s, when proto-fascism re-emerged as popular movement in the form of the Patriots, conservatives once again enjoyed a considerable power base, having control of the Congress, and little incentive to share power. Moreover, the economy was booming -- except in rural America.
What the current pseudo-fascist phenomenon represents is a different kind of mechanism, one in which the political space is created not apart from the major parties, but from within one of them -- the one that had been traditionally hospitable to the traits that constitute fascism. This tendency dates back to the days of the America First Committee.
This tendency has finally metastacized into a genuinely dangerous situation, one in which the GOP has become host to a Stalinist movement that exhibits so many of the traits of fascism that the resemblance is now unmistakable.
This means a complete reconfiguration of the calculations of any "political space" that might be created by a serious crisis of American democracy. Instead of creating an opportunity for a fascist movement to gain legitimacy through an alliance with conservatives, what such a crisis instead creates is a situation in which the latent fascist elements come to the surface and, in turn, come to dominate the nature of a party already in power.
This makes any potential for a crisis of democracy potentially more dangerous in terms of the opening it creares for fascism, because it can manifest itself much more rapidly, and without any requisite shift in the political space. This is especially the case for an entity like the conservative movement, which already in so many ways dominates the American political landscape now.
By far, of the potential scenarios for a crisis of democratic institutions outlined above, the most likely to produce a real outbreak of fascism is the third one, in which Bush again takes charge of the Oval Office through litigation or some other abrogation of the norms of democratic rule. If it happens a second time -- and particularly if Bush does so by once again disenfranchising voters -- then there will be a strong, perhaps violent reaction from the left, who will have (quite rationally) come to the conclusion that Bush and his regime not only have no respect for democratic institutions, but that they intend to undermine if not destroy them outright.
The danger lies with that reaction, which in this scenario would almost certainly produce mass protests: marches, demonstrations, anti-Bush rallies. These would almost certainly be accompanied by a nominal level of violence: arrests, police confrontations, some provocation-related violence, property damage. This violence would then become justification for violent counters -- the organizational groundwork for which has already been laid in the form of such anti-liberal provocateurs as the Freepers and Protest Warriors.
The reaction to a second Bush term under illegitimate conditions, then, would likely spark a counter-reaction that would manifest condoned, organizational violence, the lack of which is one of the distinguishing characteristics of pseudo-fascism. This is the scenario in which the danger of fascism lies closest to the surface.
The prospects under a Bush-victory scenario are not much brighter: Bush with a mandate will be Bush Unleashed, and the volatility of this election will likely release a lot of pent-up frustrations at liberals, but it's difficult to say how high the levels of violence are likely to be. On the other hand, the conservative movement's totalitarian impulses, particularly in gerrymandering the political system a la Texas, to ensure the GOP's continued political dominance, raise the chilling prospect of, at the very best, a Stalinist/PRI-style one-party state, where every person in the government is first a member of the party. This shift will be more incremental in nature, but there is also bound to be a breaking point at which a cumulative reaction arises against it.
The prospect for a Kerry win is the most promising, but also the most troubling. Certainly the likelihood of large contingent of radicalized, Patriot-style extremists bent on opposing his presidency is a daunting thought, but unfortunately, the extraordinary penetration of the "Kerry is a traitor" meme to a broad segment of the voting population is a certain recipe for producing these kinds of radicals should Kerry in fact win.
On the other hand, there are many indications that the extreme pressures under which the conservative movement has cobbled together its innately limited ruling coalition may in turn cause that coalition to crack apart. As the Washington Monthly recently observed, the gap between the religious right and the neoconservatives who rule the White House roost is growing. Even a Bush victory may not ensure the alliance will hold together, and a Bush loss is highly likely to shatter it.
Indeed, one of the dynamics likely to emerge from a Kerry win will be a split between the "theocons" of the religious right, who appear inclined to form an alliance with the "paleocons" who are agitating for immigration reform, while the neoconservative faction is likely to gravitate in the direction of traditional, non-movement Republicans.
Regardless of which of these outcomes emerges Tuesday and afterward, it is clear that the forces which the conservative movement has put in motion are going to have harmful consequences in the long term, particularly when it comes to attacks on democratic institutions like voting and privacy rights. Even more egregious is the larger harm to the health of the body politic; the divisiveness sown by conservative ideologues is not going away any time soon, regardless of how thoroughly they may be repudiated. If they are not, then it will worsen.
On the meta level, preventing fascism means averting a crisis of democracy, and dismantling the fascist architecture of the conservative movement by repudiating its tenets. If Bush wins, especially illegitimately, that will entail resisting the urge to give in to violence and anger. It will be understandable, of course, but progressives have to understand that it will only fuel a fascist nightmare by giving movement ideologues the pretext to unleash the dogs.
If Kerry wins, we have to be prepared for the backlash that will not need any time to build. Indeed, it is already in place, and it will make the attacks on Bill Clinton look like a walk in the park. It has to be confronted directly; Democrats can no longer afford to presume that their political opponents are willing to play fair by normative rules. A unified, firm and clear response -- especially to the inevitable claims of Kerry's illegitimacy -- has to become the standard of operation instead of an afterthought.
If there is going to be any healing, it will have to begin after the attack style of politics -- in which the smearing an opponent substitutes for the lack of any substance or accomplishment -- has been relegated to the ashheap of history. And that will probably never disappear until the nation's mass media are effectively reformed and the trivialization of the national discourse ceases.
But there is also the personal level at which we have to deal with this as well. As I've discussed previously, the influence of this movement has pervaded our personal lives and relationships as well. Families, longtime friends, and communities are being torn apart by the divisive politics of resentment and accusation that have become the core of the conservative movement's appeal.
One of the realities about coming to terms with fascism is that it is not an immediately demonizing force -- that is, instead, one of its long-term effects. Conservative-movement adherents are still human beings, and seeing them in terms of participating in a kind of fascism should not render them into mere discardable objects. It's much clearer if we understand that many of them are simply responding naturally to the psychological manipulation inherent in the movement's appeal.
Recognizing what we are up against -- namely, a kind of fascism -- is critical to dealing effectively with it, because even if wielding the term in discourse can be unhelpful (it remains a loaded term easily misinterpreted), this model gives us a key to understanding the thought -- or rather, emotive -- processes that are the core of the pseudo-fascist appeal. Getting our opponents to see that, for example, dissent is not treason but patriotism, requires getting them to let go of their preconceptions. It means, in the end, getting them to see us as human beings too. And when we do that, the fascist facade will crumble.
This is, of course, easier said than done. It often is simply impossible. But maintaining this approach, standing firm, and refusing to descend into eye-for-an-eye contemptuousness is, in the end, our only way out of the dark, cavernous maze into which our national politics have descended.
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