Friday, April 3, 2009

Fear and Loathing at 30,000 feet

Recently I was stuck in airport purgatory, thanks to USAir's inability to keep track of its planes, its crews or its schedules (and I didn't even check any bags). So with unending amounts of time to kill, I spent much of it perusing the book sellers in two different airports.

Featured are several of the latest titles from the cast of Fox News and Friends: Hannity, Coulter and several others. They all have "books" out just at the moment (I'm reminded of a sneer that Gore Vidal, or was it Truman Capote, made toward another author's book: "That isn't writing; it's typing.") I didn't actually touch any other them for fear of getting some dreadful (anti)social disease. But the titles are revealing.

They all use the Manichean language of freedom and tyranny; liberty and war.

I'm not particularly interested in what these books say - all one needs to do is read is the title and you get the punchline - nor do I think most Americans care either. Ann Coulter, after all, has given dumb blondes a bad name. These are books which will be advertised as "best-sellers" and then sent straight to pulp.

Nor I am surprised about that language: Republicans for a generation now have been wrapping their looting of American society as super-patriotism or as god's work, or both.

What confuses is me is why we don't call this rhetorical posturing what it really is: American fascism.

Pretend for a moment that a far-right political party emerged in France or England. It claimed that the interest of the state and the interest of the party were identical; it insisted that any opposition to that party was a form of treason; it drew thinly-veiled racial distinctions between the "real" French and those others; it fulminated that those others were responsible for the decline of everything good and right. What would you call such a party?

Of course, you'd call it a fascist party, and we have seen exactly such politics in England with the National Front and in France with the Le Pen movement.

But the examples I've cited above all come from the last 15 years of the Republican party - from Sarah Palin's "Real Americans" speech to Newt Gingrich's 1995 declaration that Democrats were ipso facto traitors. And as we've seen since January, the notion of a loyal opposition has been perverted by Republicans to mean only opposition to Obama and loyalty only to the party.

So let's start calling these people what they are: American fascists. They appeal to a substantial percentage of the population for sure - I remind students that the closest we've come to electoral unity in a presidential election was 61% - which means 39% voted for the other guy (Alf Landon in 1936; Barry Goldwater in 1964). But we should at least be forthright about what we're now dealing with.


Kitten said...

(It's Capote. About Kerouac.)

Matt L said...

call the GOP racist bastards, call them cretins, ignoramuses, militaristic wankers, whatever, but lets please drop the f-word...

seriously, there are two political philosophies that never really got off the ground in the US: Marxist socialism and fascism. They were non-starters in this country for a host of reasons best explained by Werner Sombart and other people who are smarter than me.

No nazi or fascist affiliated party has ever seated someone to public office in the US. There were real Marxist and fascist/ Nazi parties in Europe.

Calling the GOP fascist is just letting them prolong their stupid culture war a little bit longer. Its tired. It was the wrong term to describe LBJ's despicable war in Vietnam, and its the wrong word for the GOP now.

But I agree with your larger point: the GOP's policies and behavior is appalling, incendiary and irresponsible. We just have to make sure voters in 2010 remember this.

likwidshoe said...

Says the guy who supports a political party that mandates HOW MUCH WATER IS IN YOUR TOILET!

And what kind of light bulbs you're allowed to use!

Too funny.

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