Certainly, one only needs review the current state of affairs to recognize that the "conservative movement" -- especially as embodied by the Bush administration -- has wandered far astray from its original values. Just how "conservative" is it, after all, to run up record budget deficits? To make the nation bleed jobs? To invade another nation under false pretenses? To run roughshod over states' rights? To impose a radical unilateralist approach to foreign policy? To undermine privacy rights and the constitutional balance of power? To quanitifably worsen the environment, while ignoring the realities of global warming? To grotesquely mishandle the defense of our national borders?
Mind you, it is not merely liberals who have observed this transformation. It includes a number of longtime conservatives who remain true to their principles as well.
The "conservative movement," in the course of this mutation, has become something entirely new, a fresh political entity quite unlike we've ever seen before in our history, but one that at the same time seems somehow familiar, as though we have seen something like it. ...
Call it Pseudo Fascism. Or, if you like, Fascism Lite. Happy-Face Fascism. Postmodern Fascism.
To justify the "fascism" part of the tag, Neiwert cites their dogmatism, the culture of fealty to the movement, their nationalism, their warlike policies, their attempts to demonize and silence the opposition, their contempt for legal norms, and their powerlust -- acting as if they had a decisive legislative mandate for their program despite the actual electoral returns, which give them at best a slim majority in a deeply divided country. On all of these, he's more eloquent than I am. But why "Pseudo"? Quoting Neiwert, he says of the movement:
- -- Its agenda, under the guise of representing mainstream
conservatism, is not openly revolutionary.
-- It is not yet a dictatorship.
-- It does not yet rely on physical violence and campaigns of gross intimidation to obtain power and suppress opposition.
-- American democracy has not yet reached the genuine stage of crisis required for full-blown fascism to take root.
- -- Its agenda, under the guise of representing mainstream conservatism, is not openly revolutionary.
At which point, I start wondering whether Neiwert is being shrill enough. These statements are less about what the conservative movement actually is than about how it chooses to present itself. To take the points in order:
- The movement may not be openly revolutionary -- but
that's because the element that actually advocates revolutionary
change in society, the radical Christian right,
is carefully kept off stage in public forums.
Likewise, Ashcroft and co. give lip service to the notion of preserving
Americans' constitutional rights, but the Republican Congress is
now trying to legalize
secondhand torture (by "extraordinary rendition" to countries that
routinely practice it) for terrorist suspects. This from an
administration whose Joint Terrorism Task Force has been conducting
surveillance of Quaker
anti-war activists. (Jeanne D'arc tartly observes that "even as we put on a show of punishing people for torture, the Republicans are writing it in to law"). They say they're not
revolutionaries, but they also say that Democrats want to ban
- Likewise on the second point; Dubya's not a
dictator, but he might still like to be; heck, he's been caught more
than once saying
so out loud.
- Violence isn't routine among this crowd, but intimidation
certainly is, in large ways and small. The freeperati brag about it.
And they've had some big scores
-- like recently taking advantage of CBS news's misstep with the
Burkett memos, and using that to intimidate them into squelching a
better researched and more damaging report on Dubya till after
the election, at the earliest. And then
there's theft and vandalism,
as noted by Neiwert himself, which can have no other purpose.
And it's not just amateur wingnuts
either -- Dubya tries to keep anyone who is
not a declared supporter away from his public appearances, and has the
secret service arrest
people who make it through the cordon and do so much as show a
sign or wear a T-shirt indicating support for the Democrats.
- Lastly, Neiwert observes that American democracy has not reached a stage of full-blown crisis. Which is true -- but it's a statement about American society, not the conservative movement. And the movement tries to create the impression of a crisis every chance they get. That's what "9/11 changed everything" means.
In the second piece of the series, Neiwert quotes a reader:
- Classical fascism is dead, and has been for a long time, despite the fevered wishes of skinheads and American Nazi Party members. But *fascism* as an ideology remains: it's the Devil of the 20th Century, and its best trick was fooling people into thinking it doesn't exist anymore, or that it was defeated in 1945, or that they'd know it when they see it (propaganda is another boogeyman that people are confident that they recognize on sight, even though the best propaganda never gets seen for what it is).
As an example of the point of propaganda, I give you what happened when Atrios started listening hard to CNN:
- I've noticed watching Wolf Blitzer over the past few days
that the reality as presented by the Bush administration is the
reality that he, and much of the rest of the TV news media, convey to
the public. It isn't simply a disagreement over certain issues, it's
the digestion and regurgitation of an entire alternative reality world
which has been served up by the Bush administration and eagerly spit
back out by those in the media. It isn't simply about successful
framing of the issues, they've managed to provide an entire canvas, a
brilliant oil painting of bullshit.
It's impossible for Democrats and other people who are actually living in this world and not the one which the Bush administration has erected around the CNN studios to break through this. It's one thing to challenge errors, or provide a different spin, or reframe an issue. It's another thing to have to tear down the very fabric of this alternate reality.
The Bushies love to mock people for "living in a September 10 world" (apparently not bothered by the fact that on September 10th it was they who were tragically living in that world), but they and much of the rest of our news media are living in a May 2nd 2003 world, where the mission has been accomplished, the "schools" are being rebuilt, electricity is being restored, and progress is being made.
In that world, there is no fascism in America. You don't see what people really are when you look at the masks they are wearing.