Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Monday, September 03, 2012

Nazis In A Teapot

Today's tizzy among politicos -- well, over at Politico at any rate -- is a quotation from California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton this morning:
They lie and they don’t care if people think they lie… Joseph Goebbels –- it’s the big lie, you keep repeating it,” Burton said Monday before the Blake Hotel breakfast. He said Ryan told “a bold-faced lie and he doesn’t care that it was a lie. That was Goebbels, the big lie.
I saw it this morning in the San Francisco Chronicle and then on PoliticalWire and then lots of other places and knew it was tempest in a teapot time. David Atkins over at Digby's Hullabaloo tut-tuts the Dem line, "Burton wasn't calling Republicans Nazis or mass murderers. He was saying that they're using the same propaganda tactic Goebbels made famous." And of course this is right. Also, of course, Burton could have used more timely and in many ways more salient examples from Madison Avenue instead, and at least part of the reason he did not is because of the mileage you get from the Nazi association, which is exactly what critics are complaining about too.

Already many Villagers are rising portentiously above the fray like parade blimps, ritually intoning that both sides do it, Republicans smear Democrats as socialists and Democrats smear Republicans as fascists and won't somebody please think of the children and pass me the smelling salts?

Quite contrary to the thrust of the point these would-be umpires qua gossip columnists imagine they are making, there really is a good reason that at least some Republicans declare some Democrats socialists and some Democrats declare some Republicans fascists: There are deep structural affinities being discerned here. As a life-long fighting liberal Democrat, I am not exactly shy about my admiration for American socialist Michael Harrington. Why, right there at the top of the blog, click About Me and you will stumble soon enough on the sentence: "I am still a believer with Michael Harrington that 'the best liberalism leads toward socialism. I’m a radical, but... I want to be on the left wing of the possible.'" I don't disapprove of the idea of private property or covet enforced homogeneity, equity-in-diversity is my thing, but if you knew how much progressivity I would want in the tax system to fund how much public welfare you wouldn't be wrong to suspect it was a democratic socialist as much as a social democrat you were talking to, and as the great man said, and I'm not the only one.

Neither is it exactly a secret that academic investigations of fascist societies inevitably turn up disturbing continuities in their tendencies that differ in degree but not in kind with all mass-mediated consumer-industrial North Atlantic nation-states, endless variations of Frankfurt School analyses, worried documentation of totalitarian tendencies in corporate-militarism by this blog's patron saint Hannah Arendt, anxious dot connecting between observers of Movement Republicanism and Lawrence Britt's Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism, and so on.

Quite apart from all that, I for one get annoyed by the way American hypersensitivity to the very idea that some of their good fellow citizens might be Nazi-susceptible expresses the lethal willful blindness of people who fail to grasp the extent to which Nazism was inspired by America -- that Hitler's libensraum was inspired by the example of the "Manifest Destiny" of America's bloodsoaked continental expansion, that Nazis turned for their rationalization of their treatment of the Jews to America's historical genocidal treatment of Native Americans and contemporary treatment of black people in the Jim Crow South (and elsewhere), that the precedent for the Concentration Camp was not only taken from the well-known example of the British in the Boer War but from the Andersonville prisoner-of-war camp in the Confederate South, and that Hitler found plenty of comfort in the comparably systemic eugenic and racist abuses in the American medical and prison establishments of his day.

My point is not to deny our difference from the Nazis. FDR's America took a different path (Japanese internments notwithstanding) and not only defeated the Nazis but installed the United Nations and imagined the Four Freedoms. I do not think that our only alternatives are Socialism or Fascism -- or Socialism or Barbarism as the old saying goes. I think there are vital differences that make a difference in the many forms of living compromised social democracy over which we struggle day to day in the world as it is, and I think these differences really are worth fighting for on their own terms. But neither should we ignore the permanent susceptibility of our system toward the perils of more fascist forms or the promise of more equitable forms either. All of this is a Big Truth underlying all the lies, big and small, we tell each other and ourselves on this score.


Darth Imperius said...

Maybe you need to make a deeper, more serious study of fascism than the cartoon version most people get today. If you do, I think you will find that the ideology is actually quite profound, and is much more deeply rooted in human nature and nature than the veneer upon civilization called liberal democracy.

Fascism is the political expression of certain eternal truths which liberal societies must eternally deny if in order to survive. Fascism is the government according to the Lucifer Principle which drives life relentlessly toward higher levels of order, organization and power. Fascism is man’s hierarchical, tribal, power-seeking psyche expressed en masse. Fascism is an expression of man’s desire to live according to a divine order rather than a mundane and mutable collection of human laws. Fascism naturally arises wherever man has not been neutered by slave religions and ideologies. Fascism is the most psychically potent form of government yet invented, though for that very reason it often gets carried away and self-destructs in apocalyptic wars.

I will boldly predict that the 21st century is going to witness the rise of a global brand of techno-fascism – some kind of new, improved, multi-ethnic Axis on steroids. I will further predict that the chances of liberal democracy surviving this century are not high, since the Dark Tao seems to be trying to move the world toward a new order of social organization than what liberal democracy can allow.

I will grant you that liberal democracy has had a pretty good run, but it was never the end of history and now may itself become history. None of the world’s rising powers are liberal democracies. China is a National Socialist civilization-state with 1.4 billion souls, while the resurging Islamic empire (led by the theo-fascist Muslim Brotherhood and Iran) is even larger. So the entire Western narrative of a world progressing inexorably toward liberal democracy is looking increasingly like late 20th century nostalgia and wishful thinking to me.

Finally, please consider this: whether or not fascism triumphs in this century, it will, by its vigorous challenge to the moribund liberal order, have revitalized the democracies just as the last Axis did last century, and in that way will have played its part in the larger Luciferian drama we call life.

So speaks Darth Imperius…

Dale Carrico said...

There is absolutely nothing the least bit "deeper" or more "serious" in this line of bull, and you invite the deserved contempt and disgust of every decent person of sense you who reads your words. This is very much in line with your past "contributions" flogging a "clash of civilizations" and accusing me of being a race traitor. I wish I knew what I did to attract your attention, it is certainly unwelcome and disheartening. I post this just to remind my readers that people like you really do exist. Further comments deleted unread. It's not too late for you to grow up and help out. Good luck to you.

jimf said...

> I wish I knew what I did to attract your attention. . .

Dale, I suspect you can be somewhat reassured by the likelihood that
this guy discovered you **via** >Hism.

The power fantasies, the hierarchicality, the Nietzscheanism
(I know you'll object to that characterization ;-> ) in the >Hist
Zeitgeist are undoubtedly attractive to some neo-Fascists.

Notice he says "[T]he 21st century is going to witness the rise of a
global brand of **techno**-fascism. . ." (emphasis mine) -- no doubt
involving the use of Robot Overlords to tame the masses. ;->

You know, speaking of _The Lucifer Principle_ (by Howard Bloom, author
of _The Global Brain_) -- the only time I've ever met any of the
>Hist great lights in the flesh was in early 2003, at a shindig
hosted by a >Hist club at New York University. (Though I **almost** went
to Extro 5 -- the last one! -- in San Francisco in 2001, but I
cancelled at the last minute.) Anyway, there was a dinner in Chinatown
on Friday night, and then lectures at NYU on Saturday, and then a quiet
afternoon at Christopher Whipple's apartment in Brooklyn where
Chris, Emil Gilliam, and Eliezer Yudkowsky hung out on Sunday
afternoon. So for a fee ($50?) I got to hang out with the
man himself (not really -- Emil was busy pumping Eliezer in the
living room, so I chatted with Christopher in his bedroom).
Anyway, the Sunday get-together ended when Eliezer (and Christopher?)
had to leave to have dinner with -- Howard Bloom (in Brooklyn).
(Invitation only -- my $50 did **not** cover Bloom. ;-> ).