Michael Maiello's picture


    Recently, a new blogger here by the name of Iron Bolt Bruce has posted a couple of provocative pieces about the rise of fascism in America.  He's twice traced a timeline, of sorts, describing the evolution of various security legislation, ending at a proposal to strip suspected domestic terrorists of their rights of citizenship.

    I'll be the first to admit that there's a lot of scary stuff, both proposals and operative law, at work in the U.S. these days.  There always has been, of course, and there always will be.  Compared to most, especially compared to most progressives, I have a low bar for abuse of power.  For example, I don't believe that a police officer should be allowed to search you just because their dog (a dog!) barks that it thinks you're carrying drugs.  I don't think that two adults consensually trading money for sex should have to explain themselves to anybody else, much less to a prosecutor. It would be very easy for some one with my beliefs to see fascism at work everywhere.

    Then there's the classic definition of fascism -- as a merger of state and corporate power.  This is also part of the definition of corporatism, which would add other interest groups such as religions and even labor into the mix.  The idea, basically, is that the large institutions of society, from General Electric to the SEIU to the Catholic Church have a lot more sway over how the government works than individuals do and that these institutions can, in concert with the government, act to pass unpopular laws, start unpopular wars and let hedge fund managers pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than everyone else.

    There's no doubt that the U.S. system is broken and corrupted and that it very often serves interests other than those of the mass of its citizens.  You might see that as fascism or you might see it as rot in the system that we need to clean out and repair.

    I know that I've used to rhetoric of fascism before.  There's probably little doubt that I've used it since 2000, during the Bush years.  I may even have used it about Obama.  It is I think, a consequence of living far from fascism.  Sometimes, we need to be reminded.

    I believe, and have written here, that some police responses to the Occupy protests constitute civil rights violations that should be investigated by the Department of Justice.  But there was, gladly, no Kent State moment.  There was no Tiananmen moment.  There was nothing like I read on the subway this morning in Arturo Belano's excellent novel The Savage Detectives -- an account of Mexico's army invading a university campus to quell dissent in 1968.

    There is no doubt in my mind that my fellow citizens made a mistake after 9/11 by allowing the government to greatly expand its powers of detention, surveillance and punishment of citizens and non-citizens alike.  But my fellow citizens did, quite actively, make that choice.  Through blog posts and magazine articles and episodes of South Park, people who are more of my mind about this have tried to warn and persuade everyone else to accept the tiny risk of being blown up in exchange for greater freedom, autonomy and government accountability.  So far, we have not won the argument.

    But in a world of real fascism -- in a world of Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel -- there is no public discussion because even that is quashed.  It's not that you lose an argument with your fellow citizens (which is, unless I change, going to be my lot in life, let's face it) it's that the argument is forbidden.  Trey Parker and Matt Stone would have very different lives in China, North Korea or Syria.

    My take on the legislative proposal to strip terrorism suspects of their citizenship rights is that it's a final gasp from the lame duck Joe Lieberman.  My take on NDAA is that Obama made a mistake in signing it, but that he also made his intentions clear.  I think he made a mistake immunizing the telecoms from lawsuits stemming from their collusion with the government on warrantless wiretapping, which violated the 1986 Telecom Act.  I don't think he should have signed a PATRIOT Act extension with no revisions to law or policy.

    But the tanks are not in the streets.  The cage with rats in it is not around my head.  We have a government that has extended its powers, mostly in accordance with the will of most people.  Have the people been duped, perhaps?  Is their consent, as Chomsky has argued, manufactured by corporate interests working in tandem with the government?  It's nice to think that the people who disagree with you have been fooled.  That means we don't have to spend too much energy examining our own, pure, reasoned take on the world.

    Unless, of course, I've been fooled too.  Maybe it serves the interest of the fascists to have a blogger like me around, complaining about the NDAA while 49% of the population doesn't even make enough money to incur an income tax liability or when this many people are on food stamps (there's my column plug for the week).

    Or maybe none of us have been fooled and that there's no conspiracy and no top down fascism at all.  Maybe it just seems that way because it's difficult for us to reconcile our beliefs and desires, when there are so many of us, with so many shared and conflicting interests.  Maybe we're just muddling through, with about as much freedom as we're willing to allow ourselves, with exceptions for folks like me and Iron Bolt, on the margins.

    I'm happy to say that there's no fascism here in America.  We can do better.  But things haven't gone quite so badly.



    Oh destor, destor, destor, when will you come to accept that you and all those other "bloggers" are merely my puppets. When my preparations are complete, people will no longer speak of "fascism," that bankrupt philosophy of puffed-up little tyrants. They will say instead "Genghism" and cower in fear! MLOLMLOLMLOLMLOLMLOL!!!!!!

    I've been a Genghist since the time of the changing shirt collar.

    Following the lead of his namesake, isn't the correct designation Horde?  Are we all members of Genghis' new Golden Horde? 

    The problem is all those Genhgists. Horrid folk.

    Personally, I prefer to say, Gengh-ites rather than Genghists ... Gengh-ites sounds tougher and more manly ...

    Of course there are the splinter group of Gengh-heads (spending most of their time following him on his book tours)

    I don't think you people are taking me seriously. That's OK, I will destroy you all in the end.

    Nice work destor.  Thank you.

    What is "Things a Fascist Would Say?" Alex.

    Nicely done, indeed.  One of my beefs with the corporate+government mix definition is that usually people seem to be acting as if this some new thing, as if the wealthy elites haven't always been at the levers of government.

    But there is some truth in this [emphasis mine]:

    Or maybe none of us have been fooled and that there's no conspiracy and no top down fascism at all.  Maybe it just seems that way because it's difficult for us to reconcile our beliefs and desires, when there are so many of us, with so many shared and conflicting interests.  Maybe we're just muddling through, with about as much freedom as we're willing to allow ourselves,...

    This is in particular where my thoughts are at these days.  We are not all going to get on exactly the same page.  I don't think we would want that - there is something to diversity of thought.  In a way, the struggle to reconcile is part of being human.  To remove that is lose something of ourselves.

    But it is possible we can focus on those places where we can agree need to be address, we can embrace some national priorities and the general approach to solving those problems.  But it will take a lot of work, on the local level to the national level.  It isn't going to happen because we want it to.

    And it isn't going to happen because a few leaders inspire up to 'come together.'  If we wait around for the next FDR or MLK, then those who have created the unlevel playing field will keep it unlevel.

    Moreover, the Super PACs and money in campaigns have the influence they do because too many people are not engaged enough so that a few 30 second spots on tv will influence their decisions. 

    We can do better not as a result of some revolutionary actions, but if we actually engage in our democracy.  It would be nice if we all just voted.  But it has to be more than that.  There are many people out there in the trenches, however, working at the grassroots level to facilitate better communities - across the geographical and demographic scales. Not all is lost.  And at least for now, we are not disappearing in the middle of the night.  We don't yet have the "The Disappeared" of America.

    Dear Mr. destor23:

    A hefty remittance for your paid shillery is in the mail.


    The Committee to Protect the Kenyan Messiah O'Bushma III aka TCtPtKMOB

    Good take.

    Recent events in Wisconsin raise my hopes along with the referendum vote in Ohio.

    Crowd reactions during these reality TV debates do not do much to lower my disgust over the repub party though. I mean come on. When the word 'Juan' is used pejoratively and there is this type of crowd reaction, we as a people do not look that good.

    This current web black-out kind of raises my hopes because the 'system' appears to be working; I mean big powerful corporations and organizations are at war with other big and powerful corporations over this SOPA thing. Congress appears confused and unable to act which is sometimes a good omen when free speech rights along with access to information are on the line.

    Steven Colbert has not been charged with anything yet.

    Christian people with Hispanic names appear threatened and hundreds of thousands of them are being accosted in the SW and SE and exiled but I have not seen the round up of twelve million people--yet.

    I am glad I do not have a Muslim name either.

    Who knows?

    Maybe tweeting and texting and phones with cameras in the hands of common citizens might keep us all a little safer and freer. I mean if a cop becomes a little too over zealous in his treatment of some suspect it is a lot harder these days to claim that the suspect with some broken ribs just 'fell down' when videos taken by witnesses demonstrate other causes.

    Things could be worse.





    Generally, I can get behind the tone of this post.  It strikes a reasonable note.  Put me down in the column of folks who think things are worse than you seem to make them out to be, but that sorta seems neither here nor there.  One specific quibble I do have is from this line:

    The idea, basically, is that the large institutions of society, from General Electric to the SEIU to the Catholic Church have a lot more sway over how the government works than individuals do...

    The SEIU doesn't belong on that list.  It's a democratic institution working in the public interest.  This common false equivalence is classic right wing playbook stuff. 

    That is a huge part of the debate isn't it: what is the public interest.  Some would argue that unions work for their own special interest (require membership in order to get a vote or say - it is only democratic within it particular constituency) in such a way that hurts the general public interest. You happen to believe that by achieving the outcomes dictate by their special interest, there is an overall benefit for the public interest (i.e. union and non-union alike).  Many conservatives would argue that GE, by following the agenda dictated by their special interest, ultimately benefits the common good.  Catholics...the same thing.

    Yeah Trope, some would argue unions work for their own special interests.  They're called right wing tools.  

    I don't believe in false equivalence or "on the one hand/on the other blogging."  I have found that Andy Stern's views do not always match up with my own, however.  I'm of course for labor organizing, but unions and guilds are not always "out for the public interest."  As somebody who has practiced theater and journalism in a town with some strong guilds and unions, for example, I can point pretty explicitly to how these organizations are often not welcoming to outsiders.  They have their reasons, of course, but the goals of a union do not always match up with justice for the rest of society.

    Another, bigger example -- the GM/Chrysler bailouts.  Sure, once we'd rescued AIG and then the rest of Wall Street, the United Autoworkers were absolutely within their rights to ask for the same consideration.  Which is of little consequence to people in all of the other damned industries that were affected by the financial crisis.  The UAW did what it had to do, and it acted in the interests of its members.  We should not confuse that with the interests of everybody else.

    Of course there are examples we could all lean on to highlight corruption or bad acting involving unions.  Anecdotal evidence is easy enough to come by.  But we've got to go straight to the place where the assumption is that unions work exclusively in the public interest.  They don't do this perfectly, but the idea of them is perfect.  Any gains made in the march toward democratic control of the Means of Production is a gain for all.  And while no collective bargaining deal is created equally, they are, by definition, in the public interest.  This post by Doctor Cleveland suggests as much.  Consider the UAW role in the complicated Auto Industry Bailout in this context.

    And by the way, you wanna put the brakes on Fascism, support Unions.  

    I guess I'll chime in here because when I'm not propping up the Bibi Netanyahu regime and getting my marching orders directly from the Jewish Lobby bunker--conveniently located directly under the Faragut West metro stop in the heart of our nation's capital--I represent labor unions and have been doing so for 25 years.  Spent the whole MLK weekend in negotiations in fact.   And I will submit without reservation and without any guilt whatsoever that during those negotiations there wasn't a nanosecond that the position of the folks on the union-side of the table was tempered by consideration of the public interest.  The central and unimpeded focus was on the membership, and what we could get and/or preserve for that membership.  

    Now we can debate about whether what is good for the membership is necessarily consistent with the public interest, and I often do take that position, and almost as often take that position and actually believe the position I am taking.  But the focus is on the bargaining unit in negotiations, warts and all.

    Now of course there's all that other stuff that unions do in the legislative arena and stuff.  That's a different kettle of fish I guess.  But I think it's important in a discussion like this to separate unions as collective bargaining representatives on the one hand, and unions as political animals on the other.

     ...there wasn't a nanosecond that the position of the folks on the union-side of the table was tempered by consideration of the public interest. 

    How so?  Are you suggesting labor negotiators are regularly bargaining against the public interest?  I'd love to hear some examples of that.  It seems patently obvious to me that labor unions by their very nature serve the public interest.  What's good for the goose..., to butcher an idiom. 

    not to beat a dead horse cheeky but I think where the disconnect is is highlighted here - you seem to be coming from the point of view that either you are bargaining for the public interest or against it.  Whereas the other point of view is that the public interest isn't in the equation at all. Or if it is, it is only a secondary thought or justification, and as such, may be jetisoned in the short term when push comes to shove.

    While it seems patently obvious to you by their very nature unions serve the public interest - this is in the end an opinion based on what you consider the public interest.  As I said, I agree with you regarding the value of unions and collective bargaining, but that doesn't make any less of an personal (ideological) understanding of what is the public interest.

    My point was that it is of course arguable that seeking higher wages and greater job security, etc. for one group of workers is inherently consistent with the public interest.  However, that argument is not the paramount consideration at the bargaining table.

    conveniently located directly under the Faragut West metro stop in the heart of our nation's capital

    yeslaugh good one!

    Location, location, location......the IMF & World Bank both in the hood! (As is the DAR-they ain't in on it, are they? Might be kind of disturbing to some of their members)

    And uh, on the topic at hand, may I suggest everyone, for the purpose of understanding what Bruce and others are saying, just replace the word "unions" with "public employees' unions," where those actually legally representing the public's interest are adversaries on the other side of the table from the union representatives. It's just not always possible that what a union wants is the same thing as the "public interest" as traditionally defined (sure ok, if you have some idiosyncratic definition of "public interest" created for yourself for your next blog entry, go for it, whatever floats your boat)

    I am reminded of examples given me in childhood by my Dad elaborating on what he did for a living...... say......well, the policemen's union there wants to keep hiring Irish only......well, it's the firemen's union wanting their pay to recognize they are better finer workers and people in general than policemen......well, the garbagemen are going on strike because they say they work harder than the policemen or firemen and deserve the same pay and benefits......


    I understand and appreciate Bruce's point, I just don't think we're addressing quite the same question. 

    It's disturbing that labor unions lobbying government broadly on issues of worker pay, healthcare, time off and safe and clean conditions is considered equivalent to the narrow, private interests of, say, big pharma or the oil lobby.  And it's lame that public interest organizations like the Sierra Club are lumped in there, too.  I expect it from the Newt Gingriches.  His ilk have been hard at muddying those waters from the beginning.  But it's disheartening to hear it argued by folks from the left.

    Sure, there are times, often in fact, when conflicts arise among different trades.  Working from the same book doesn't mean everyone's always on the same page.  And tensions between labor and environment are real, serious obstacles.  In fact, that tension could very well be the paramount wedge issue of these times.  The Gingriches sure as hell will continue to fan that flame.  But I don't think it's any coincidence that during rallies last winter in support of the events in Wisconsin, or during the WTO protests in Seattle, or at Occupy sites all over the world this past summer and fall labor and environment stood shoulder to shoulder.  What do folks imagine that solidarity represents if not to broadly serve the interests of everyone? 

    I don't think General Electric and labor unions are up to the same thing at all when they lobby government in the context Destor offers:

     that these institutions can, in concert with the government, act to pass unpopular laws, start unpopular wars and let hedge fund managers pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than everyone else.

    And I think I'm right to insist on a difference that isn't idiosyncratic.

    No one's saying they're equivalent, just that they all have special interests to consider. In some cases the special interests represent less than 0.01% of the population, and in others the represent significantly more. That doesn't degrade the latter to be recognized as a special interest, any more than it degrades humans to be recognized as mammals even though they share that distinction with rodents (or vice-versa, your pick).

    I think most people agree with your central thesis that labor union lobbyists are useful in a manner that, for example, big oil lobbyists generally are not, or that big pharma lobbyists rarely are. (I think it's possible that the latter are useful on occasion, however.)

    I guess my issue, Kyle, is that you seem to define groups and organizations that do things you like as being in the public interest.  But the Chamber of Commerce also claims to be acting "in the public interest."  So a lot of it comes down to tastes and priorities.  Since you and I will tend to like the same group, it'd be easy for us to just set this little disagreement aside.  But, you know, when a bunch of Christian social conservatives want the Ten Commandments put up in a public court house, they really believe they're doing the public a great service by pushing the justice system towards a more Christian interpretation that will ultimately save souls.  The Chamber of Commerce thinks it is creating the best jobs the economy will allow.

    I don't see equivalences because, yes, I realize that fighting global warming makes a lot more sense for the world than trying to save souls.  But groups are all the same in that they exist to advocate for their members.  The relationship between, say the UAW and the Sierra Club has always been complicated, to say the least, even if they both broadly support Democrats during elections.  Remember that GM, which was rescued by the government, was and is still suing California over its environmental regulations.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with this, by the way.  If I'm in a union and am paying dues, I want and deserve a practical advocate.

    In Portland, there was a city regulation that taxed businesses that chose to relocate in another neighborhood.  The intent I believe was good...it was a way to keep some neighborhoods from deteriorating as others were gentrified, etc.  Yet because of the way the tax was writen, a pizza guy who owned just the one shop wanted to move across the street was going to have to pay the tax.  You can't tell me that the unions had this at the top of their legislative agenda, let alone taking a side on the issue.

    The union members might be sympathetic to his plight and even go on the record for him, but when they were dealing with city hall (or state legislators, etc) these kinds of things are not where they will put their energies.  The will put their energies and money and time on those legislative matters that directly effect their membership. They are not concerned legislatively with things that effect mom and pop operations that have maybe one or two employees.  Hence they have special interests that they focus their legislative agenda and which guide their lobbyist/

    Special interests has become a dirty word.  It isn't.  It merely implies someone is attempting to sway the legislators et al. to go a certain way.  The ACLU is a special interest group, so is the Sierra Club.  This is why the lobbyist issue is so difficult to address, because if you say that some individual wants to advocate for money managers, and money managers themselves would like to advocate for at least themselves, cannot talk to congress, then you have to say some individual who is concerned about civil liberties or the environment cannot talk to congress.  It is a free speech issue. (If you want to stop corporations from talking to Congress - ie they're not people - you can't stop an actual Fortune 500 CEO from talking to Congress as a citizen of the US.)

    Of course, if there comes a day when the unions allow for anyone to vote on their leadership and what their legislative agenda should be, then I might not consider them a special interest.

    For the record: I personally believe their legislative agenda benefits the common good. 

    Special interests has become a dirty word.  It isn't.  It merely implies someone is attempting to sway the legislators et al. to go a certain way.

    When I read this what popped into my mind was how Barack Obama complains about this in Audacity of Hope, and especially disliked all the questionnaires from the special interest causes. I took it like, he felt strongly that it was not a good idea for a legislator to be tied down to ideological statements or "what ifs" regarding a special interest cause, even if it was a cause that the legislator generally supported.

    (Just throwing that into the mix rather than keeping it to myself. I am not into arguing on behalf of the Prez's opinions.wink)

    For the record: I personally believe their legislative agenda benefits the common good.  

    If that's the case, then advocate accordingly.  The Devil is doing just fine on his own.  But for the record, I think you're plain wrong about Special/Public interest framing.  They aren't different words to describe the same activity.  They're different forms of lobbying.

    We'll have to agree to disagree on this point.  But for clarity sake, I am not saying they two words to describe thing, but two very different things.

    The Public Interest is: "The well-being of the general public; the commonweal."

    A Special Interest: an individual or group who are concerned with some particular part of the socio-economic landscape (including the environment) and who try to influence legislators or bureaucrats to act in their favor.

    In any particular situation, one can debate whether a Special Interest's efforts and desired legislative outcomes will positively or negatively (or some mix of the two) impact the Public Interest.

    This is not to say there are some Special Interests who do not have the Public Interest in mind, and some who won't even pay lip service to it (although most do for PR reasons). 

    Destor's UAW example is a good example.  One can say that auto workers union had the Public Interest in mind when they asked for their bailout, or that it was in the Public Interest even if they didn't view it as such, but that doesn't mean they advocated not for Public Interest but specifically for the auto industry - hence a Special Interest.    They key point here is that they did not advocate for bailing out home owners who were in default, which would benefited the Public Interest just as much as the auto bailout. 

    Hence my ass.  So from your lump of an explanation of who or what qualifies, name for us a specific public interest group as opposed to a special interest one.

    By definition there can not be any particular group that qualifies as a public interest group, in that since it is a group, there is some defining characteristic which includes some of the public and excludes others.

    There are those that will claim that they are working in the public interest - in fact most do - in that by achieving their legislative outcomes (and we are talking about control and influence on government here), there will be on balance a benefit to the public interest. 

    Your comment above is an example of this:

    Any gains made in the march toward democratic control of the Means of Production is a gain for all.  And while no collective bargaining deal is created equally, they are, by definition, in the public interest.

    There will be others in this country, who are citizens and have as much equal say in this great democracy, that would disagree with you.  Some quite fervently and many of them will be ones who you believe to be beneficiaries of this march.  You can say that this folks are dupes or tools or deluded or corrupted. This may or may not be true.  But it is irrelevant to this discussion. The point here is what defines an action or intention as being in the public interest is a matter of perspective or viewpoint.

    Any collective bargaining deal is not be definition in the public interest.  The right to engage in collective bargaining can be so defined (although some might argue that, too).  But the particular outcomes of those collective bargaining deals may or may not be in the public interest, depending on who you talk to.

     This is why it isn't splitting hairs to say that unions are not public interest groups, nor should all their actions be considered in the public interest by default.  Collective bargaining results that favor the workers or is beneficial to them are (from the liberal point of view) on the whole in the public interest, and as a result why the right to engage in it is so critical to health of the country and its democracy.

    One can point to groups such clean water advocates who would argue there is no one who could argue that the public interest is not served by ensuring clean and drinkable water.  And of course no one could argue that it isn't.  But in the process of ensuring this outcome, the special interest advocates for clean water may propose regulations or require certain actions happen or not happen that one could argue is not in the public interest

    See the debate over the pipeline in Nebraska - which some unions are not happy about the Obama administration nixing because an alternative route hasn't been finalized yet.  Would you side with the unions that want the pipeline to go through Nebraska's aquifer? Is that in the public interest?  That might be anecdotal but it goes to the core of the issue - Unions, like all special interests, have their agenda which seeks to benefit directly their constituency, which is going to at time run up against another group acting in the public interest.

    So the koan today is: How can two public interest groups be in conflict if both are indeed operating in the interest of the public?

    And this is where it comes back to what I originally put as the question at the center of the debate: what is the public interest?

    You have your ideas about what constitute it, I have mine, Destor has his, Ironbolt has his, and there is going to be agreements and disagreements, and there will special interests groups that in each of our opinion are always acting in the public interest, others who never do (in spite of their claim that they are), and others who sometimes do and sometimes don't.  It is all a matter of debate.  Which makes it all sooo fun.

    1) I think you give Obama et al too much leeway in the "he also made his intentions clear" bit - they're gaming the system and rewarding their buddies, and the intentions are clear in different ways to different constituencies.

    2) While IBB threw out his definition of fascism, it falls down due to lack of a goon squad - a domestic SS that pushed it in Germany, and Mussolini's thugs in Italy. (Mussolini naturally didn't include this in his definition, but it was part of his "secret sauce"). While there's been lots of hyperbole about the danger of Tea Baggers, et al, they've been puppies overall. IBB's timeline is noxious, but until there is a serious domestic thuggery, the danger is considerably less.

    3) That said, I remember the night of 9/10/2001 having dinner with an old friend, and remarking why I thought the American public had some kind of sanity preservation valve that kept us from the worst reactions. And then 9/11 happened, and I got to eat those words multiple times. I guess we're lucky that the most unfortunate victims are abroad, but we're not out of the woods yet. While not quite related - even though everyone seems to know cutting the budget in recession is foolish, we're trying to cut the budget in a recession and cut into SS & Medicare at the same time. Sanity does not have the upper hand in this environment.

    4) It's actually peculiar more people aren't rioting about the economic problems. OWS is a pretty mild form of protest overall. But that people don't really understand NDAA or are more concerned about terror, the deficit and TeBow is not that surprising - our media is paid very well to keep us distracted and they're doing a bangup job.


    Bob Somerby at Daily Howler today describes what a gift we were given with Romney's Bain antics - and how we've thrown this away.

    Almost like we threw away the advantage Paul Ryan gave us when he overstepped on Medicare.

    In the case of Bain, liberals can't explain a thorough gutting of a company in terms normal people can get outraged by.

    Bain bought the company, took out cash, loaned itself money, underfunded the pensions and let the government bail out the pensions after the company went bankrupt.

    Instead, "liberals" talk about mean conservatives cutting jobs. Which brings a bored shrug of "that's business".

    So maybe IBB is off the rails, but I haven't seen many people picking up on these issues and echoing them in an effective way.

    Well, the failure of liberals to articulate both a vision and a sense of what's going wrong is a whole other very long post.  Your points are well taken, though.

    to articulate both a vision and a sense of what's going wrong is a whole other very long post.

    or four or five very long posts.  A key question in my opinion (for which there is no right answer) is whether one develops a vision which is closely aligned with the liberal view or one which is more likely to be embraced by a wider audience (part of the whole incremental philosophy people love so well) who don't see themselves as liberal (in spite of holding many liberal views) or presently are not very aligned with the liberal agenda. 

    In a sense (significantly so - also in my opinion), this does come around full circle to the discussion on Fascism as a descriptor for the current political environment - for what is articulation but the use of words, or more specifically the choice of words.


    Another key question is what is the responsibility of the communicator and what is the responsibility of the consumer of information?

    A few relevant quotes:

    If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself. -Albert Einstein
    We shall never understand each other until we reduce the language to seven words. -Kahlil Gibson
    [From Star Trek Voyager: Concerning Flight]
    Captain Kathryn Janeway: Let me ask you something. If you were something other than a human being, if you were a different kind of animal... If you were a small bird, a sparrow - what would your world be like?
    Leonardo da Vinci: I should make my home in a tree, in the branch of an elm. I should hunt insects for food, straw for my nest, and in the springtime, I should sing for a companion. 
    Captain Kathryn Janeway: And you would know nothing of the politics of Florence - the cutting of marble or mathematics. 
    Leonardo da Vinci: Of course not. 
    Captain Kathryn Janeway: But why not? 
    Leonardo da Vinci: My mind would be too small. 
    Captain Kathryn Janeway: As a sparrow, your mind would be too small, even with the best of teachers? 
    Leonardo da Vinci: If Aristotle himself were to perch on my branch and lecture till he... fell off from exhaustion - still the limits of my mind would prevent me from understanding. 
    Captain Kathryn Janeway: And as a man, can you accept that there may be certain realities beyond the limits of your comprehension?
    Leonardo da Vinci: If I could not accept that... then I would be a fool.

    These are definitely words to ponder if not heed.  I had a professor who was fond of saying, "if your guru keeps talking over your head, it might be time to find a new guru."

    There is one thought to this:

    We shall never understand each other until we reduce the language to seven words. -Kahlil Gibson

    A key point Orwell was making in 1984 was that if one is able to control the language, and thus reduce it, then one is more able to control people.  And that is not good good.

    The difficulty is that while there was 22% bankruptcy rate which was high for industry standards, there is a little thing about the 88%.  It is this 88% that blunts the power of the 22%.  So for every bad story there is a good story that shows how capitalism is suppose to work.

    One has to remember that most Americans are not anti-Capitalism.  They are anti-corrupt Capitalists who distort the system for naughty ends.  Just as they aren't against democracy and our system of government, but are quite upset with the jokers who are doing all that tomfoolery inside the beltway. 

    In other words, give me the counter to this that will have the people rising up against Romney:

    Tom Stemberg, the co-founder and former CEO of Staples, appeared on TV Monday as a Mitt Romney surrogate as part of a stepped up effort to push back on the barrage of attacks the Republican front-runner has faced for his experience at Bain Capital.

    “Mitt didn’t just invest in Staples when it was an idea — he hung around as a member of the board of directors for close to 15 years and I’ve been on some very good boards with some great directors. I would still rate him as the single best corporate director I’ve ever worked with,” Stemberg said on Fox News. “He was the inspirational leader and while Staples may have existed without him, i doubt it would have been nearly as big or successful without him.”

    It's actually peculiar more people aren't rioting about the economic problems. OWS is a pretty mild form of protest overall.

    And just what do you think rioting would accomplish?  Maybe a lot of people aren't rioting because they believe (know?) that it won't change the power dynamics, has the potential causing a lot more harm than good, and put one's self at risk of bodily harm and arrest for no particular good reason (i.e. things really aren't going to change).

    Do you think rioting is going to create jobs?  Clean up the environment?  Alter the way multi-national corporations play one country off another?

    Oh idunno, if I recall French Revolution 101, it was pretty effective at changing head of state. As well in Egypt / Arab Spring, while in Serbia it pushed out Milosevic.

    But I guess we might miss our favorite TV show if we got up off our asses and did something noticeable.

    Or, we might be smart enough to know intuitively that America 2012 is nothing like Egypt in 2011, the Balkans in 1991 or France in 1789. 

    Alright, so we're a bit more primitive, but parts could apply, non?

    Nicely written Destor and a welcome tone of moderation.

    I'm going to take a little issue here with what was omitted and I realize that you can't cover the waterfront in one blog

    You have x'd out the more blatant forms of facism which in the public's mind would already have been considered extreme and thank God we don't have that here.

    But the classical definition of fascism, the seamlessness between corporations and government, needs to be addressed. For if there is no blatant facism in America, what do we call the inseparableness of government and corporations in the reality of today where corporations, through campaign donations and lobbying, have such pervasive influence over our Government?

    I do not yield the term and the possibility of facism without a replacement. Call if creeping facism. Call it anything you want. I am not ready to cede anything as concrete as the history of facism in this world until we have a handle on what it is we are experiencing now.

    Speaking personally I have been very upset at my own acquiescence on some issues, not the least of which has been the excessive force used against OWS and the hands off approach of the Obama Administration, if not collusion in the crack down. 

    If I didn't think electing a Republican would be ten times worse than electing Obama I would be screaming by bloody head off. After the election I may take this tired old body and go out into the streets and raise a ruckus. I am simply too complacent in the face of what I will call creeping facism---unless you or someone else has a much better word for the corporate and moneyed control of our government which is unprecedented in my lifetime.

    Thanks for bringing all of this up. It is difficult to have a discussion when one is flooded with pure cant.

    Upthread, Another Trope points out (with a pretty evocative cartoon) that fat cats have always had an outsized influence on our government.  Heck, fat cats formed the government in the first place.

    That's not to make light of what's going on.  I think we have the basic foundations of Republican democracy well in place but what's going on within the walls has gotten out of hand and, in the end, could threaten the whole darned structural integrity.  It's as if a bunch of rowdy, self-centered kids are throwing a massive party, with an unlimited budget, in a very nice house, and they've bought off their parents by inviting them to party too.  I don't know if it's fascism or if we just need to call the cops to get them to turn the music down.

    Or maybe, as you say, there's a continuity of fascism that never ends with jackboots and brown shirts but that is intolerable to a free people all the same.

    The definition of fascism as: "a merger of state and corporate power" does a yeoman's job of describing various political systems but it does a poor job of representing the orgy of violence and what the collective participation in that kind of violence is about. Making a distinction in the matter is not an attempt to dismiss the importance of integrated power as a cause of events, just to say that the narrative is not self explanatory. There are many instances where authoritarian structures did not trigger what happened in the twentieth century and turned a label for a particular ideology into an omnivorous descriptor.

    Consider Jean Baudrillard's view of Fascism as a species of nostalgia:

    Fascism itself, the mystery of its appearance and of its collective energy, with which no interpretation has been able to come to grips (neither the Marxist one of political manipulation by dominant classes, nor the Reichian one of the sexual repression of the masses, nor the Deleuzian one of despotic paranoia), can already be interpreted as the "irrational" excess of mythic and political referentials, the mad intensification of collective value (blood, race, people, etc.), the reinjection of death, of a "political aesthetic of death" at a time when the process of the disenchantment of value and of collective values, of the rational secularization and unidimensionalization of all life, of the operationalization of all social and individual life. Fascism is a resistance to this, even if it is a profound, irrational, demented resistance, it would not have tapped into this massive energy if it hadn't been a resistance to something much worse. Fascism's cruelty, its terror is on the level of this other terror that is the confusion of the real and the rational, which deepened in the West, and is a response to that.

    In view of the enormity of the crimes he is referring to, Baudrillard's statement is very provocative. I struggle against the totality of his account. Even so, he is remembering  in a way that the logic of cabals and conspiracy cannot.

    trying to wrap my mind around this, but it does remind me of one my more favorite passages from Herbert Blau:

    The issue of credibility is written into history, the illusion of continuity.  What we normally call history, the assessable life we live in common and of which our records appear to speak, is always threatened with oversimplification or extinction.  We overdocument it or erase it.  In an era of information systems, we don't know where we are, as if all knowledge (as it is) is the agency of illusion, part of the conspiracy, since we don't appear to know what we know either.  Thus, the life we actually live is threatened at the extremes, as if there were still at the periphery a barbarian invader.  The via media under tension becomes a virtually excluded middle, and all we appear to have left is the pathology of the margin, a via negativa, which is the path by which reason yields to the unreasoning for the sake of making sense of a dead end.

    It also reminds of Blau's take on Genet and The Balcony. But it is late and so for another time...

    Baudrillard also speaks of an erasure of history through its representation. His view is perhaps more radical than Blau in the matter of an "agency of illusion"; If the Real has been murdered, Illusion just lost its job of concealing it. I think both writers would agree that the matter of the "excluded  middle" is what has to be investigated. I will try to express this idea more in the context of Destor's post so that it doesn't seem I changed the subject or got lost in my thoughts while thumbing magazines in Lacan's waiting room.

    When referring to something as Fascist, how do we distinguish the state, person, or concept thusly named from garden variety Despotism? All the answers lead to looking at Fascist regimes as a new development in our history.

    One kind of answer takes the form of Hannah Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism. Her analysis goes beyond the ideologies of different regimes to look for a structure present in all systems that create an environment where no element of society is allowed to stand apart from the apparatus of power. Arendt's work established a ground for comparison that is one of the reasons why "fascism" has come to be used so broadly beyond its original meaning. For example, a biography like Alan Bullock's Hitler and Stalin would be meaningless without that kind of analysis.

    But the Arendt point of view throws into shadow an entirely different kind of answer that actually better reflects how the word "fascism" was used as a general term for many decades. The word described the antithesis of socialist and Marxist efforts to overturn the class system of the Bourgeoisie. Used in this way, perhaps no better example can be found than that given by Georg Lukács in his The Destruction of Reason where he argues that Nietzsche was a Fascist who provided the founding principles of the capitalist dominion before it had truly come into its own. It would not be a fair representation of this essay to quote just one line of it, but in the interest of brevity, I will do just that to highlight how the use of the term fascism has become hopelessly entangled in a no-man's-land between disconnected cognitive spaces.

    Halfway through the essay, Lukács quotes Nietzsche:

    "I challenge the idea that egotism is harmful and reprehensible: I want to give egotism a clear conscience."

    For Lukács, this statement is emblematic of a class consciousness that places the life of some individuals above other individuals. What Lukács is calling fascist is also the essential ingredient in the often hallucinated American Dream.

    The point in drawing out these differences is not for the sake of saying something definitive about Nietzsche and his philosophy or deciding what is really fascist. The point is to ask how do we talk about being individuals in a language that isn't the "operationalization of all social and individual life" that Baudrillard is militating against.

    The "excluded middle" is the experience that is imagined and protected by our personal rights. Those rights are critical to our becoming better humans. But they do nothing by themselves.


    Was looking for something else and came across this. Thought it was apropos (not to mention, a reminder that as bad as the current GOP field is, it could be worse)


    Latest Comments