Wednesday, November 29, 2006

America's very own road to fascism

David Seaton's News Links
Below are some excerpts from a wonderful article about nascent, American fascism in Slate. Many people use the word fascism without any practical experience of it. I lived in Spain at the end of the Franco regime, which was universally (except to this day by Spanish fascists) considered "fascist". Sinclair Lewis said that if fascism ever came to the USA it would come wrapped in the flag and wielding the cross. Certainly that would be a fair description of Franco's "Nacional Catolicismo," whose legacy is today's Spain, with its vibrant, regional-separatist movements and its empty churches. Franco had been in power for nearly 40 years and his regime was very decadent when I encountered it, and the country had changed under its feet; but one thing that stuck with me as characteristic of the universal fascist mentality was the paranoia/phobia about the free circulation of information. To give you a wonderful example: Madrid taxis were not allowed to carry radio-dispatch, CB radios until nearly ten years after Franco's death... They had been in use in the USA since the 1930s. My impression is that, human nature being what it is and the authoritarian, malignant-narcissist type being universal; that without free movement of information and the will to use it,
in the natural course of events, beatings, torture, corruption and every other abuse occur as night follows day. Freedom has to won perpetually on a day to day basis. DS
Abstract: There's been something weird about the denouement of the midterm elections, starting with the pronounced absence of Democratic triumphalism. The prevailing mood has been stunned relief rather than glee, and nobody seems eager to delve too deeply into what exactly it was about George W. Bush that the voters so roundly rejected. Put another way, what were the sins included under the shorthand summary for the president's failures, "Iraq"? For some reason, I keep thinking about an observation Eleanor Roosevelt made in an unpublished interview conducted in May of 1940, as the German Wehrmacht swept across France. She expressed dismay that a "great many Americans" would look with favor on a Hitler victory in Europe and be greatly attracted to fascism. Why? "Simply because we are a people who tend to admire things that work," she said. So, were the voters last month protesting Bush's policies—or were they complaining that he had not made those policies work? If Operation Iraqi Freedom had not been such an unqualified catastrophe, how long would the public have assented to the programs that accompanied the "war on terror": the legalization of torture, the suspension of habeas corpus, the unauthorized surveillance of law-abiding Americans, the unilateral exercise of executive power, and the Bush team's avowed prerogative to "create our own reality"?(...) We have become such "good Americans" that we no longer have the moral imagination to picture what it might be like to be in a bureaucratic category that voids our human rights, be it "enemy combatant" or "illegal immigrant." Thus, in the week before the election, hardly a ripple answered the latest decree from the Bush administration: Detainees held in CIA prisons were forbidden from telling their lawyers what methods of interrogation were used on them, presumably so they wouldn't give away any of the top-secret torture methods that we don't use. Cautiously, I look back on that as the crystallizing moment of Bushworld: tautological as a Gilbert and Sullivan libretto, absurd as a Marx Brothers movie, and scary as a Kafka novel.(...) If the midterm election was a referendum on nothing more than Bush's competence, then the message the Republicans have gotten is: Next time, make it work. READ IT ALL

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