Friday, February 01, 2008

If conservatives really, really hate being called fascists ... #3

-- by Dave

... maybe they shouldn't talk and act like them.

Maybe they shouldn't, at every turn, reveal their innate misogyny every time they talk about Hillary Clinton -- or for that matter, virtually any liberal woman politician.
[RUSH] LIMBAUGH: But a lot of Democrats are worried that, you know, she doesn't have what it takes. She doesn't connect on TV. We talked about this. She doesn't come across as friendly. She doesn't -- she, you know, she's like -- my favorite name for her is Nurse Ratched. I mean, we created this whole concept of a testicle lockbox in connection with Mrs. Clinton. I mean, she has that kind of appeal to people. She's -- you fill in the blanks here.
-- Source

[WILLIE] GEIST: Well, I think the metaphor in this next story, Tucker, is pretty clear. So I will just report the straight facts. The newest collector's item on the presidential campaign trail is a Hillary Clinton nutcracker. They're going like hot cakes in Rochester, Minnesota, where the idea for the nutcracker was hatched.

It's a Hillary doll with serrated stainless steel thighs that, well, crack nuts. If you can't make to it Minnesota to pick one up, you can go to and that could be yours for the low, low price of $19.95. They'll also throw in a bag of Hillary nuts for five bucks. Now, I don't know what they're getting at here, Tucker. What do you think they're saying about Hillary?

[TUCKER] CARLSON: I don't know, but that is so perfect. I have often said, when she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs.

GEIST: I know you do.

CARLSON: I'm getting one, by the way.
-- Source

Cliff May:

Gene, this is an amazing statistic: 94 percent of women say they'd be more likely to vote if a woman were on the ballot. I think of all the times I voted for people just because they're male. You know? The ballot comes up, and I'm like, "Wow. He's a dude. I think I'll vote for him. We've got similar genitalia. I'm -- he's getting my vote."

Questioner: How do we beat the bitch?

McCain: [laughs] All right, may I give the translation? ...

Audience member: I thought she was talking about my ex-wife.

McCain: [laughs harder, pauses] ... But that's an excellent question.
-- Source

Frank Luntz:

I always use the line for Nancy Pelosi, "You get one shot at a facelift. If it doesn't work the first time, let it go."

Ann Coulter:

I think [women] should be armed but should not [be allowed to] vote. No, they all have to give up their vote, not just, you know, the lady clapping and me. The problem with women voting — and your Communists will back me up on this — is that, you know, women have no capacity to understand how money is earned. They have a lot of ideas on how to spend it. And when they take these polls, it’s always more money on education, more money on child care, more money on day care.”

Ann Coulter:

“If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president. It’s kind of a pipe dream, it’s a personal fantasy of mine, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women.

“It also makes the point, it is kind of embarrassing, the Democratic Party ought to be hanging its head in shame, that it has so much difficulty getting men to vote for it. I mean, you do see it’s the party of women and ‘We’ll pay for health care and tuition and day care — and here, what else can we give you, soccer moms?’”

Ann Coulter, discussing George W. Bush's "gender gap" with women voters:

"I'm so pleased with my gender. We're not that bright."

Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism:

"The quintessential liberal fascist isn’t an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade-school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore."

Of course, misogyny existed long before fascism, and will probably exist long after its memory vanishes. But as with torture and eliminationism, it is a significant and definitive facet in the complex of traits that constitute the fascist reality.

It's important to remember, as we've explained previously, that fascism is not a single, readily identifiable principle, or even a discrete ideology as we typically understand such things, but more of a political pathology. It is best understood (as in psychology) as a constellation of traits. Psychological pathologies are rarely boiled down to a single trait or behavior; rather, they comprise a constellation of these, and only when a particular combination manifests itself can we identify them as a real pathology. The same applies to a political pathology like fascism: some traits can give us an outline of a given syndrome, but only when all the stars align can we confirm the diagnosis.

Taken individually, many of these traits seem innocuous enough, even readily familiar, part of the traditional American political hurly-burly. A few of them are present throughout the political spectrum -- but definitely not all of them. Only when a particular combination manifests itself can we identify them as a real pathology. It is only when they come together in a particular alignment does the constellation become clear. And when it comes together, it is fated to take on a life of its own.

Misogyny, as I've explained at length previously, plays a critical psychological role in the fascist worldview:
Hitler and Mussolini both were ardent in their sexism: "The Nazi Revolution will be an entirely male event" was one of Hitler's most repeated phrases. Hitler's views on women, in fact, were a core component of the Nazis' mass psychological appeal, and were widespread throughout fascist movements. What was remarkable, perhaps, about the Nazis was the open glee with which they murdered women; they retained the ancient Catholic hatred of female putrefication, but freed from whatever constraints might have existed in the context of a church, they became relentlessly violent.

The German scholar Klaus Theweleit a few years ago examined the literature created in the post-World War I Weimar Germany by the paramilitary Nazis called the Freikorpsmen, and published his findings in a two-volume work titled Male Fantasies.

Theweleit found that, essentially, the fascist psychodrama entailed a wholesale unleashing of male desire, including incest, rape and murder. The fascist mindset entailed reveling in control over the bodies of others, embodied perhaps in their embrace of torture. And at the bloody beating heart of it all was a pathological fear of women.

The Nazis, who envisioned themselves as forging a revolutionary future, had no real place for women except in a secondary role -- as mothers and helpful supportmates. To this extent, their ideal Nazi woman was described thus:

Therefore a woman belongs at the side of a man not just as a person who brings children into this world, not just as an adornment to delight the eye, not just as a cook and a cleaner. Instead woman has the holy duty to be a life companion, which means being a comrade who pursues her vocation as woman with clarity of vision and spiritual warmth.

-- Paula Siber, "The New German Woman," 1933, from Fascism [1995, Oxford University Press], edited by Roger Griffin

Theweleit describes the resulting pathology thus:

Men themselves were now split into a (female) interior and a (male) exterior -- the body armor. And as we know, the interior and exterior were mortal enemies. ... What fascism promised men was the reintegration of their hostile components under tolerable conditions, dominance of the hostile "female" element within themselves. ...

As a matter of course, fascism excluded women from the public arena and the realms of male production. But fascism added a further oppression to the oppression of women: When a fascist male went into combat against erotic, "flowing," unsubjugated women, he was also fighting his own unconscious, his own desiring-production. This is clear from the fact that whereas in World War I, the Hohenzollern women had posed as nurses, Hitler concealed his "beloved" from the public. Not only was she useless for the rituals that maintained Hitler's rule, she would have gotten in the way.

Indeed, this is about how Hitler himself spoke regarding women:

Man's universe is vast compared to that of a woman. Man is taken up with his ideas, his preoccupations. It's only incidental if he devotes his thoughts to a woman. Woman's universe, on the other hand, is man. She sees nothing else, so to speak, and that is why she's capable of loving so deeply.

-- Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Secret Conversations, pp. 344-345.

In his 1989 book Our Contempt for Weakness: Nazi Norms and Values -- and Our Own, Norwegian scholar Harald Ofstad sums it up:

The Nazi view of sex roles is based on conventional notions taken to extremes. Sexuality has no intrinsic value; it is only a means of unleashing the power of men and the strength of the nation. Women are instruments.

A real man can never have any deep emotional contact with a woman. Her world is totally at odds with his. Real men can only have meaningful contact with other men, e.g., in such organizations as the SS. There they share the bonds of companionship and loyalty to their leader.

As Ehrenreich, in the foreword to Male Fantasies, explained, the Nazi compartmentalized the women of his world. To fall outside the "acceptable" role for women in Nazi society meant that one was an Enemy. And they reserved some of their most venomous hatred for such women:

In the Freikorpsman's life, there are three kinds of women: those who are absent, such as the wives and fiancees left behind, and generally unnamed and unnoted in the Freikorpsmen's most intimate diaries; the women who appear in the imagination and on the literal battlefront as "white nurses," chaste, upper-class German women; and finally, those who are his class enemies -- the "Red women" whom he faces in angry mobs and sometimes even in single combat.

Theweleit later describes this latter class in more detail:

The description of the proletarian woman as monster, as a beast that unfortunately cannot be dealt with merely by "planting a fist" in its "ugly puss," hardly derives from the actual behavior of women in situations such as those described above ... Rather, it can be traced to an attempt to construct a fantastic being who swears, shrieks, spits, scratches, farts, bites, pounces, tears to shreds; who is slovenly, wind-whipped, hissing-red, indecent; who whores around, slaps its naked thighs, and can't get enough of laughing at these men. ... [p. 67]

Women who don't conform to any of the "good woman" images are automatically seen as prostitutes, as the vehicles of "urges." They are evil and out to castrate, and they are treated accordingly. The men are soldiers. Fighting is their life, and they aren't about to wait until that monstrous thing happens to them. They take the offensive before these women can put their horrible plans into practice. [p. 171]

Hitler made an explicit link between "liberal" feminist and suffrage movements -- which even then were working to undermine the traditional disempowerment of women -- and Jews shortly after obtaining the chancellorhood in 1933. The next year he denounced the so-called New Woman as the "invention of Jewish intellectuals." He also urged German women to reject as unnatural the "overlapping of the spheres of activity of the sexes" as embodied in "Jewish intellectualism."

Hitler was fond of complaining about "feminized" Christianity and consistently prescribed a vision of Christ as "a fighter" and of the faith as "manly" and "hard." The Nazis' Christian wing, the Deutsche Christen, likewise railed against how "feminized" the church had become, and argued for a "virile" vision of the faith.

After Hitler's defeat, this pathology again slithered to the fringes. Mostly you could find complaints about "feminized" Christianity from folks like Identity pastor Pete Peters and Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler. The former, in fact, was fond of describing the source of the "feminization" thus:

The Jewish leaders believe they already control America. Recently, one of them stated publicly: "We have castrated Gentile society, through fear and intimidation. It's manhood exists only in combination with a feminine outward appearance. Being so neutered, the populace has become docile and easy to rule. As all geldings are by nature, their thoughts are not concerned with the future, or their posterity, BUT ONLY WITH THE PRESENT and the next meal." What a perfect "word picture of modern American society. It is the attitude of Christians, who don't want to be involved, and allow Jews, to control the school and often the church. We MUST break these fatal bonds, if we are to remain free.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, however, a lot of this talk -- as well as the vision of the "warrior Jesus" -- has returned with some intensity to the mainstream, though there had already been some seepage from the far right in the previous decade. Much of it, in fact, is closely associated with the increasing prevalence of pseudo-fascist thought as part of our political discourse. As we've well established by now, any American fascism is going to be wrapped in a flag and thumping on a Bible, extolling the virtues of "tradition" that includes sex and gender roles. And that's what we're getting.

It cannot be a mere coincidence, in fact, that while this is occurring, we're seeing more psychotic murders by controlling males whose chief mission seems to be to bring women under control and to avenge the damage done to their own twisted souls.

Stan Goff at Truthdig has been paying attention to the fascist undertow, and he notes:

The rise of fascistic masculinity prefigures systemic fascism, often in the form of vigilantism. Gun culture is steeped in vigilantism, which is steeped in military lore. Guns in this milieu transcend their practical uses and take on a powerful symbolic significance.

In the last decade, the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has always had close ties with the military, has been taken over from what are considered within the organization as "moderates," that is, those whose message emphasizes peaceful, law-abiding gun use, like hunting (which is not peaceful for the game animals, but that's another issue).

During my service with 3rd Special Forces Group in Haiti in 1994, members of the SFU initiated back-channel communications in support of the right-wing death squad network, FRAPH.

Two of the favored preoccupations of [Steve] Barry, the SFU, Soldier of Fortune, and the NRA were Ruby Ridge, where Vicki Harris, the wife of an ex-Special Forces white supremacist (Randy Weaver), was killed by an FBI sniper with her baby in her arms, and the outrage at Waco against the Branch Davidians.

... My critique of gun culture is a critique of those sectors for which guns have been combined with imaginary enemies and taken on a deeply symbolic value as tokens of a violent, reactionary masculinity that fantasizes about armed conflict as a means to actualize its paranoid male sexual identity.

The problem is that this reaction is far from ab-normal.

There is a kind of interlocking directorate between white nationalists, gun culture, right-wing politicians, mercenary culture (like Soldier of Fortune), vigilante and militia movements, and elements within both Special Forces and—now—the privatized mercenary forces. It is hyper-masculine, racialist, militaristic and networked.

If one simply pays attention to cultural production in the United States, especially film and video games, it is fairly easy to see that the very memes that are the cells within the body of white nationalist militarism are ubiquitous within our general cultural norms. The film genre that most closely corresponds to a fascist mind-set is the male revenge fantasy, wherein after some offense is given that signifies the breakdown of order (usually resulting in the death or mortal imperilment of idealized wives or children) in which Enlightenment social conventions prove inadequate, and the release of irrational male violence is required to set the world straight again. Any reader can list these fantasies without a cue. It is one of the most common film genres in American society.

Arthur Silber (via Avedon at Eschaton) explores this point even further:

One of the most fascinating parts of Goff's discussion is his focus on the sexual and gender part of this equation: how surpassingly and bloodily violent "masculinity" is glorified and romanticized, in stark and negative contrast to a "weak," "vacillating," and ultimately useless "femininity." To see the popularized version of the "general cultural norms" that Goff mentions, you need only watch the hugely popular television series 24. Courtesy of a friend, I recently watched all of season four. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a more repellent embodiment of vicious, revenge-driven, murderous male fantasies, replete with innumerable bloody deaths and even the noxious idea that torture "works." That last idea is indisputably false, but even Hillary Clinton now repeats the lies that inflict monstrous pain, and that ultimately kill. So much for "opposition" to the rising tide of barbarism. And series like 24 are the manure out of which grows our fascist future.

Much of the outrage directed at 24 (such that can be found) focuses on the regular use of torture, and on the savage notion that torture is "effective" (and that "they deserve it," too, of course). But keeping Goff's broader analysis in mind, it is crucial to appreciate the more complex system that 24 and similar propaganda glorifies, including most especially the system of myths upon which such "entertainment" relies. Tens of millions of Americans are being conditioned every day to view an incomprehensibly violent, utterly arbitrary militarized domestic state as representing "virtue," and indeed a necessary virtue: supposedly necessary to protect us from the enemy, who is now to be found everywhere. Perhaps it's your next-door neighbor. That day, too, may not be all that far away.

Making such observations, incidentally, is quite a different thing than what Jonah Goldberg claims liberals do with great regularity, which is to simply conflate conservatism with fascism because they're both "on the right." Indeed, the purpose of pointing all this out is to emphasize that there always has been a bright line of demarcation between conservatives and fascists -- though the latter, in recent years, have been intent on erasing that line, and the former have been seemingly content to go along. And it's in everyone's interest (except the fascists') to call it out.

Indeed, when I criticized paleo-conservatives and pseudo-libertarians like Justin Raiomondo for claiming that "today's conservatives are fascists," I emphasized this:
What all of them miss, importantly, is the role of movement leaders -- particularly Bush, Cheney, Karl Rove, and the neocons -- in encouraging these proto-fascist traits. There is no evidence that they're doing so because they themselves are actually proto-fascists; rather, I think it remains clear that these people are pro-corporate crony capitalists, and the evidence strongly suggests that they're indulging this style of politics for the sake of shoring up their numbers and securing their political base. The strongest evidence for this is the ongoing minuet the Bush administration dances with the neo-Confederate faction that now rules the South.

In other words, "movement conservatives" are being molded into a mindset that increasingly resembles classic fascism, but it's being done by leaders who mostly find this mindset convenient and readily manipulable. Unfortunately, the history of fascism is such that the arrogant corporatist belief that they contain these forces is not well grounded.

What's important to understand is the real dynamic: A growing populist "movement" is being encouraged increasingly to adopt attitudes that, taken together, become increasingly fascist. Greater numbers of individuals are being conditioned to think alike, and more importantly, to accept an increasingly vicious response to dissent. This does not mean that genuine fascism has arrived as a real political force in America; but it does mean the groundwork is being created for just such a nightmare, by irresponsible politicians tapping into terrible forces beyond their ability to control.

Aided and abetted, of course, by their Newspeak-spewing propagandists.

[A note explaining this series.]

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