Contemplating the neofascist revival.

datePosted on 13:16, August 13th, 2009 by Pablo

Courtesy of Rob Taylor back in Karekare, here is a link to an interesting article about the rise of a neo- or proto-fascist movement in the US. Although I have some quibbles with the structural as well as some of the political aspects of the argument (at least in comparison with the original (European) versions of fascism), the article is nevertheless worth a read. To me the trend is not just evident in the US, but in the rise of right-wing movements in Asia, Europe (and to a lesser extent Latin America) as well. For NZ readers interested in the quality of Kiwi democracy, the question is whether the trend is now evident at home, and if so, what are the means of forestalling it from developing further.

43 Responses to “Contemplating the neofascist revival.”

  1. Graeme on August 13th, 2009 at 16:37

    Every day that the conservatives in Congress, the right-wing talking heads, and their noisy minions are allowed to hold up our ability to govern the country is another day we’re slowly creeping across the final line

    Fascism is coming because we haven’t done enough to stop senior citizens turning up to public meetings protesting about health care reform?

    If we let the Republicans speak in opposition to us, and slow down the rate of legislative action, “our” diminished ability to govern will lead to the abandonment of democracy in America as we know it…

    This seems kinda out there, I have to say.

  2. Pascal's bookie on August 13th, 2009 at 16:47

    Graeme, I think the concern is about the ridiculous scaremongering propaganda (“Obama wants to kill your grandma/special needs child”), and the folks turning up to the townhalls with guns and signs about the ‘Tree of liberty’.

    But I think you know that. Perhaps you didn’t pay much attention to the militia movement when Clinton was in power, that’s ok. Those that did though see that the same type of craziness that took about 6 years to start bubbling up to the surface is already getting broadcast on Fox, and the GOP isn’t doing much to alleviate those peoples concerns.

  3. Pablo on August 13th, 2009 at 16:56

    Now Graeme, try not to be so precious. Rather than cherry pick one quote how about consider the totality of the argument. As I said in the post, I do not agree with plenty of what was written, but nevertheless believe that it is food for thought. As for the right-wing mob scenes in the first town halls, do you really think that is democracy in action? Do you really believe that it was just senior citizens freely attending to find out what the scope of the reforms are, as opposed to a frightened crowd afraid of being denied terminal care (as the GOP falsely claims)?

    The Democratic response in trying to pack subsequent crowds with unionists etc is not on either, but the hard fact is that the GOP and its media-corporate allies are a disloyal opposition who, having been defeated at the polls, will now try any underhanded maneuver in order to thwart reform of the system from which they profit. And, do you remember W. Bush and his minions holding town halls to discuss Iraq? The opening of national parks to oil and gas exploration? The reduction on federal funding to low-income workfare programmes? At least the Obama administration and Congress are putting themselves out there.

    The useful fools in this equation are the middle and lower middle class whites who have paid 1/5 of their lifelong incomes into insurance schemes, and who do not want to be made to look like idiots by the creation of an alternative, cheaper and equally efficient health care provision system that will allow those who have not spent as much to have guaranteed access to what the middle classes used to have had to privately pay for. That makes them easy prey to GOP disinformation campaigns and “astroturf” tactics. Which is what the linked article is using as a gateway into the larger discussion.

  4. Phil Sage on August 13th, 2009 at 19:52

    Utter utter drivel. From the opening “dark years of the Bush administration” to the conclusion quoted by Graeme. This and many other statements meet the article’s own definition of fascism

    allowed to hold up our ability to govern

    Allowed!!!!

    Freedom to protest is a sign of a healthy democracy. The author seems to imply that only healthy left wing pseudo liberal protest should be “allowed”.

    Yet the Bush doctrine is the first time the US has realised its international power to bring democracy to the world and its responsibility not to back dictators.

    The article is simply a mirror of the frothing about Obama being a communist and taking the US in that direction. I am surprised that you quote such trash Pablo.

  5. Pascal's bookie on August 13th, 2009 at 20:34

    Phil, have you missed the rhetoric about the need for revolution? ‘The tree of liberty’?

    There was an election last year, and Obama won it. His opponents are increasingly saying that he should not be allowed to govern. That he is illegitimate. About a quarter of registered republicans don’t believe Obama is an American ctizen. These sorts of claims are being supported by nonsense from the likes of Palin about alleged plans for euthanasia. Steele seconded her claims. Some GOP governors are openly blathering about secession. Limbaugh, Rush, and the fox news clown-show are stoking some fairly radical memes.

    Ammunition in many states is in short supply due to people stocking up.

    Hopefully it all comes to naught. But given what is being said by a significant number of people, then it’s worth paying attention. Just in case they actually mean what they are saying.

    Even if the majority of headline GOPers saying this stuff don’t believe it, there are plenty of people out there that do believe it, and do take it all seriously.

    In the nineties the militia movements that used this sort of rhetoric were pretty much under the radar. Now any putative McVeigh’s will have much better organisational tools at their disposal, and their propaganda is being broadcast over cable rather than via email lists and leaflets.

    I note you disagree with the conclusion of the linked piece. Fair enough, but tell us where they go wrong in their reasoning that gets them to that conclusion. And bear in mind how tentative that conclusion actually is. They are not saying that fascism is there now, they are saying that they are at the point where all the ingredients for a fascist movement are present.

  6. Pablo on August 13th, 2009 at 21:37

    Phil:

    As I said in the post, it is food for thought–and grist for the mill.

  7. SPC on August 13th, 2009 at 22:47

    The Republicans were much the same during the 1930’s (the ultimate end to it was the formation of HUAC in 1947 and the persecution of the left as unAmerican fellow travellers – thus the line about Obama’s citizenship is an opening gambit to the effect that socialised health care/government is unAmerican).

  8. Sagenz on August 13th, 2009 at 22:58

    Read chris trotters excellent recent analysis and criticism of idiot savant. He discusses public manipulation of ” popular” revolutionary movements.
    There is no doubt a substantial amount of fox froth. It makes Murdoch money. But it should be mocked rather than taken seriously and as an excuse for pre emptive action of the same ilk.

    My problem is that when serious commentators like pablo dignify drivel like that piece they contribute to the increasingly strident political divide evident in American and Clark politics.
    The fact john key and lockwood smith have repeatedlyrefused to use the same tribal spite politics of Clark is a great sign for new Zealand.

    Take away the party affiliations and look at actions.
    Bush started out trying to be bipartisan. How much the final divide was due to his own administration ideology and how much was due to the strident bullshit of people like the author of that article we will never know.
    Certainly the republicans appear to be rather publicly self destructing in a similar way to Brit conservatives when they lost power.
    Obama is more likely to leave a positive legacy if he does not dignify the froth from both sides by taking it seriously.
    There is no doubt populism brought America some harsh internal security measures post 911. They can gradually be loosened as the war in Iraq is won and al Qaeda defeated. Obama would make grave mistakes focusing those same laws on internal us dissent whatever the rhetoric

  9. Graeme on August 14th, 2009 at 10:09

    My use of that quote wasn’t as a cherry-pick. I went through the four pages of the article and wondered what the author was thinking. There were a bunch of occasionally reasonable-sounding statements linked together in a way I didn’t think followed, leading to what I considered an outlandish conclusion. The US heading toward fascism I can see an argument for; the “debate around healthcare being bad for democracy I can see an argument for; the US heading toward fascism because of that, just wasn’t working.

    The quote I used nicely explained the article to me.

  10. Neil on August 14th, 2009 at 11:05

    as Tom Wolfe said –

    “The dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe.”

    And the gerneral conflation by the article of conservatives with fascists is about as totalitarian as you get get rhetorically. It’s sounds like the left-wing equivalent of the right-wing “Obama’s a socialist” stuff.

  11. BLiP on August 14th, 2009 at 12:32

    There is no doubt populism brought America some harsh internal security measures post 911. They can gradually be loosened as the war in Iraq is won and al Qaeda defeated.

    Harsh security measures – like the suspension of habeas corpus? Also, FYI, there is no war in Iraq: it is an illegal invasion and on-going occupation, and, further, al Qaeda has been strengthend as a result.

    Any other myths you’d like disposed of?

  12. BLiP on August 14th, 2009 at 12:41

    Yet the Bush doctrine is the first time the US has realised its international power to bring democracy to the world and its responsibility not to back dictators.

    The US has been “bringing democracy” to the world since 1898 – whether the world wanted it or not. The US still backs dictators today.

    Any other myths you need disposing of?

  13. Tom Semmens on August 14th, 2009 at 14:27

    As Pablo noted, the structural and political characteristics of proto-fascism in the United States are different from the historical fascist models of Europe. But an outstanding characteristic of fascism is it’s ability to adapt. Like any good virus, it morphs to take over its host. Just because proto-fascism does not conform to traditional models does not mean it isn’t fascism.

    It seems to me open and shut that many neo-liberals are of a character make up that pre-disposes them to a favourable view of proto-fascism. Many of the key themes of neo-liberalism could be summed up by a minor re-write of Paxton –

    Neo-liberalism is “…a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline (explains the obsession with the DPB), humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of (ideological) unity, (reformist) energy and (economic) purity, in which a… …party of committed… …militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with institutional violence and without ethical… …restraints goals of internal societal cleansing and (economic reform).”

    The only difference – at the moment – is neo-liberals still accept the validity of the institutions of democratic society. If these institutions thawt them however, their track record is to seek to bypass or eliminate them.

    The United States is a society marked by a remarkable tradition of using extreme violence to enforce compliance to the prevailing order. The social violence of the United States seems to make people more pre-disposed to one of the key fascist ideas of the medium of violence being the message itself. It is in my view this overlap of neo-liberalist ideology and a cultural tradition of violence and fascist ideology that has allowed proto-fascism to achieve syncretic legitimisation in at least parts of US society.

    New Zealand is now one of the most unequal societies in the OECD. New Zealand politics are increasingly starting to reflect this, with an unlected and closed business oligarchy infused with overlapping proto-fascist/Neo-liberal ideals exercising excessive leverage on government. However, New Zealand’s political traditions means that this oligarchy is unlikely to result in a form of fascism. The more likely outcome in my view is an eventual Chavista-like backlash against the oligarchs and political elites. Winston Peter’s political career has hinted at this, even if he turned out to be a charlatan.

  14. Lew on August 14th, 2009 at 14:53

    Tom, I don’t often find myself agreeing with you, but I think you’re on the money here.

    L

  15. ak on August 14th, 2009 at 16:55

    Yes, top comment Tom, and onya Pab for raising this.

    As a neophyte interwebber I was genuinely stunned upon first tuning in to kiwiglob, Fox news and some of the other right-wing sewers. For a short while I honestly thought I had staggered onto a brilliant new genre of performance-art parody!

    God knows, I’m no shrinking violet, and “poison pen” filth has been around for yonks: but the sheer volume and intensity of undiluted right-wing hatred prior to the last election (and the current utterly mental propositions from the US right) was as unprecedented as it is alarming (including assassination calls and posting the PM’s head on pornography – Lew’s paper on talkback is also a corker expose).

    Most alarming is the “seepage” of this filth into the press and even genteel company. Sadder even than their donning of modern sandshoes and baseball caps was the sound of octogenarian “gentleman farmers” of my ken gleefully joining the hatefest: “arrogant bitch” and worse happily rolling off formerly respectable lips with impunity. For the extreme fringe, surely a short stroll to action from this level of acceptance.

    Nice Sunny Key rode this filthy wave to power in a classic smiley-cop/bad-cop manoeuvre – but the occasional slip (eg DPB mothers “breeding for a business”) betrayed his full cognizance and tacit support.

    You’re right to worry, Pablo. Millions of lives have been lost on rhetoric far less mild. I’ve asked it before, but where in hades are the defamation actions that might have nipped this dangerous blight in the bud?

  16. Ag on August 14th, 2009 at 19:20

    Freedom to protest is a sign of a healthy democracy. The author seems to imply that only healthy left wing pseudo liberal protest should be “allowed”.

    It isn’t the protest, but its character and the context within which it is taking place. For the record, I don’t think it is right to shout people down in a public meeting, whoever is doing it (and the left used to do this a lot back in the 60s and 70s when they were dominated by conspiracy theory toting lunatics).

    I doubt anyone would be making this case if the protesters had turned up at the town hall meetings simply to make their case while having a discussion with their representatives and opponents. But they are not doing that, the protests are intended as disruption rather than debate. We know this because their tactical manual is freely available on the internet (you may already have seen it).

    There are many cogent critics of Obama’s health care policy on both the left and the right, but the protesters are from the same ilk as the birthers, those who think he’s going to take their guns away, and people who rage about Obama’s choice of condiments (what is it with the right and condiments, they did the same to Kerry). All of this is being fanned by the right wing media in a show of appalling irresponsibility. I guess I’d have some sympathy if their protests had content other than deranged conspiracy theories.

    All of this is taking place within a context of an increasing number of hate attacks (there was another one today) in which middle aged white men take out their frustrations on the “liberals” by shooting at the public.

    How many angry left wingers were stocking up on ammunition during the Bush administration? How many recent violent acts of left wing domestic terrorism have there been? It’s no use bringing up crap like the Weathermen, because they weren’t aiming to take human life. Timothy McVeigh on the other hand wanted to kill Federal employees and did so.

    My odds on Obama surviving his first term are only about 80%.

  17. Keir on August 14th, 2009 at 23:56

    Bush started out trying to be bipartisan. How much the final divide was due to his own administration ideology and how much was due to the strident bullshit of people like the author of that article we will never know.

    My dear man, don’t lie. The Bush Admin lied the American people into a war of aggression; the Bush Admin started by putting out lies about the outgoing Clinton Admin. Bush was never bipartisan & if you think he was, I have a rainbow I’d like to sell you.

    “The dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe.”

    Tom Wolfe lived through the apartheid system of the South. He should (politely speaking) shut the **** up about the US not ever being fascist.

    Further, Graeme, what I think you are eliding is the degree to which the Right’s reaction to the proposals for healthcare reform is based fundamentally on complete and utter lies. Death panels? Don’t fcking exist. Stephen Hawking wouldn’t die if the NHS had to pay for his care. Etc. Etc. These are lies, promoting violent idiocy against the democratically elected President of the United States of America & often premised on birther nonsense that argues he isn’t the legitimate president. It might not be exactly proto-fascist, but it is certainly nasty reactionary bulls**t close enough as to make no odds.

  18. Hugh on August 15th, 2009 at 00:00

    It might not be exactly proto-fascist, but it is certainly nasty reactionary bulls**t close enough as to make no odds.

    You see, if you view all right wing bulls**t as fascism, you’re going to be left looking for a new word when actual fascists come along.

  19. Keir on August 15th, 2009 at 00:05

    You see, if you view all right wing bullshit as fascism, you’re going to be left looking for a new word when actual fascists come along.

    On the other hand, if you won’t let Nazism and Falangism both be Fascism*, then you have no word for the actual fascists. You have to strike a medium, and as far as I care, and as far as a bunch of American liberals I trust care, there’s a large part of the American right is essentially proto-fascist**.

    * which arguably they ain’t if you want, in the same way Scheme isn’t Lisp.

    ** also note the difference between proto-fascist and fascist.

  20. Graeme on August 15th, 2009 at 06:30

    You are all aware of the hatred that was heaped on Bush (and Cheney) by many of the left, right?

    That’s not to say that I think those protesters, or the current lot, are other than moronic idiots, I just don’t think they’re fascists.

  21. Hugh on August 15th, 2009 at 11:03

    Keir, I’m not arguing that Nazism or Falangism, or for that matter Conducatorism or Rexism or Integralism, aren’t Fascism. But I don’t think that the protestors in the USA are practicing any of the above terms.

    Not to say that America doesn’t have some important antecedents to Fascism at work in its political system, possibly moreso than any other Western country. But ironically these antecedents are very far from restricted to a minority of the right – they’re broadly accepted by almost all American political thinkers, not least most Democrats. Y’know, things like glorification of the military, excessive deference to the agricultural lifestyle, patriotism, etc etc.

  22. Pablo on August 15th, 2009 at 13:26

    As I pointed out in my earlier post on conceptual stretching and conceptual transfer, I have major issues with those who loosely throw the word “fascist” around at anything they do not like, politically speaking (just as I abhor those who throw the word “socialist” around as a slur). My own academic training and writing about authoritarianism leads me to believe that true fascism was a particular response to the structural and political circumstances of inter-war Europe. It has well-defined economic bases that while different between the variants (Austria, Germany, Italy and Spain), which led to differences in the class composition supportive of of each, but which nevertheless were united in the use of mobilizational one party state corporatism under nationalist-traditionalist ideologies.

    As I wrote to Rob, the person who provided me the link, I see many differences between the current right-wing astroturf movements and “real” fascism, not the least of which is that it does not have control of the State (among many other differences). What struck me was the superstructural similarities between the ideological appeal of these groups and other fascist movements, both the original as well as neo-fascist expressions in places like Latin America (recall that Peron was an open admirer of Mussolini, and both he and the Vargas regime in Brazil in the 1940s modeled their interest administration laws according to Mussolini’s state corporatist design). Being Latins, they preferred the Italian and Spanish versions over the Austro-Germanic ones.

    Combine the current ideological appeals with the enduring KKK/Aryan nation/survivalist/minutemen/john Birch Society/fundamentalist Christian sentiment lurking beneath the political surface, bring to a boil via rabble-rousing media demagogues working hand-in-glove with political hypocrites, opportunists and zealots funded by corporate lobbyists, and what you get is a fairly good approximation, US-style, to the real thing.

    Nothing on the US “Left” comes even close, and to equate the “Left’s” relatively docile opposition to the Bush 43 administration with what is going on at the moment is disingeneous, to say the least.

  23. SPC on August 15th, 2009 at 13:56

    The advocacy of the use of violence (and defence of the use of violence) is one good measure of the emergence of any protofascist/neo authoritarianism.

    So when one proposes the end of parental use of focrce for the correction of children – the defence of the right of those in authority to use force will be made.

    One such case was made by simply cutting and pasting from the NZHerald covering this issue (Frogblog today)

    “The case against making smacking a criminal offence is that, far from ushering in a non-violent society, it actually undermines parents’ abilities to shape their children into loving and productive citizens. Otago University law professor Rex Ahdar says the idea that banning smacking can somehow advance a more equal and co-operative society is a “socialist utopian view” that is divorced from reality. “Hierarchical and unequal cultures are a sociological fact of life,” he says. “Non-violence is another utopian chimera.”

    Tim Sisarich, NZ director of the Focus on the Family agency, believes parental discipline is fundamental in moulding good citizens.

    “The word ‘discipline’ comes from the word ‘disciple’,” he says. “The job of a parent is to raise good kids, to disciple them to become great adults.” That “discipling” is first and foremost about setting a good example – “living a life that is reflecting good morals, good attitudes to society”.
    But a good parent cannot flinch from guiding a child back on to the right path when they stray. “So it’s disciplining,” Sisarich says. “Sometimes disciplining is not comfortable.”

    As Fergusson put it: “Young people reporting high exposure to physical punishment tended to come from socially disadvantaged family backgrounds that were characterised by multiple sources of adversity that spanned parental divorce or separation, high levels of parental conflict, parental illicit drug usage, alcohol problems, criminality, depressed living standards and high levels of exposure to [stress].”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/child-abuse/news/article.cfm?c_id=146&object id=10586441&pnum=0

    Let’s guess when authority is stressed it resorts to greater and greater levels violence to correct “dissidents” That is when a regime feels threatened or when the interests of a heirarchial establishment (when can exist within democracy when there is disparity of wealth and influence) the temptation to resort to the use of violence will also increase.

    Is not socialised health care a threat to those who have health care now – because they fear losing some of their own entitlement with the inclusion of others (similarly on illegal immigration?).

  24. SPC on August 15th, 2009 at 14:02

    From my reply to that and another post.

    Your view of human nature is obviously that mankind is somehow inherently bad and needs to be managed via force (parental discipline and exertion of establishment power within nations and amongst nations – for the correction of the people). This ideology is of the Christian faith and it is ultimately in service to the concept of the Creator of life “properly” exerting violence (flood of judgment etc, this story in the absence of any supporting evidence is a slander against God) to judge creation (following from which authoritarian human government does the same).

    Yeah sure anyone using authoritarian violence to raise up people to obey them are trying to “disciple” them. The issue is not smacking per se, it is actually the concept of using force to correct others and a preference for using force for protection only. Smacking itself is not being criminalised (via any prosecution).

    So those supporting the use of smacking for the discipling of the corrected person, see heirarchial and unequal cultures as a fact of life. An apology for authoritarian use of force as normalised reality. It is the connection between capitalist liberalism ideology and emergent right wing neo-authoritarianism.

  25. Red_Jez on August 15th, 2009 at 16:02

    That’s not to say that I think those protesters, or the current lot, are other than moronic idiots, I just don’t think they’re fascists.

    http://stopallmonsters.blogspot.com/2009/08/why-they-are-fascist.html

  26. Sagenz on August 15th, 2009 at 20:30

    Some interesting comments. Some not. Myth busting my arrse. Dealing with the interesting ones.
    Nature is violent. Humans are natural beings. Get over it.
    That said our self awareness gives us the capability to control our natural tendency to violence. My view on smacking is that I should be able to physically control my child in a way that could be considered common assault. To stop them doing something potentially dangerous. I do not want to be a criminal for that or even judged by a policeman and my instinct is to keep the state out of my life as much as possible so the law needs a nuance between striking and the current definition of assault.

    It is intellectually lazy to lump the libertarian with the authoritarian and call them all republicans to make an argument. The bail out has already cost more than Iraq Afghanistan second war depression etc combined. This will be paid for by taxpayers.
    Now obama appears to be trying to convert a large part of what is now 16%~ of US GDP to state provision. Inevitably that will be paid for by the same taxpayers.
    So it is reasonable for the rhetoric to be strong.

  27. Pablo on August 15th, 2009 at 20:34

    I should note for the record that the current phenomena being debated here is to my mind much more akin to national populism than national socialism or other fascist variants. National populism, of which there are several variants in Latin America (including Hugo Chavez’s contemporary left wing version), has a storied tradition in the US, epitomised by Huey Long. What makes the US variant unique is that unlike all others (as well as fascism) it repudiates centralised state control over the economy and its monopolisation of organised violence in society.

    That is, the US version of populism uses the ideas of individual right to economic freedom, social choice and the right to bear arms to push a counter-hegemonic discourse against the primacy of federalism, integration and state-managed collective redistribution of national resources. In that sense it has a libertarian thread that, however perverse its interpretation (since it more closely aligns with original anarchist thought than the natural law and Lockean bases of libertarianism), is found nowhere else in the populist-fascist continuum. The dude with the gun and the placard outside Obama’s New Hampshire town hall meeting pretty much sums things up on that score.

  28. Sagenz on August 15th, 2009 at 20:42

    Pablo makes an interesting comparison between “left” and ” right” tendency to violence. Anti globalization protests and vs timothy mcveigh and the abortion doctor killers. The difference between mass protest and small numbers of nutters. You could add red brigade to mix reflecting but your subject is America.
    There is a similar problem for the vast number of moderate Muslims in whose name jihad is being waged. Simply because some people share a general ideology does not mean the moderates endorse the extremists.

  29. Sagenz on August 15th, 2009 at 20:49

    Yes pablo the idea and practice of the elected sheriff in the us is certainly not shared by those authoritarian governments who prefer to centralize the state monopoly control of violence

  30. Pascal's bookie on August 15th, 2009 at 21:05

    That is, the US version of populism uses the ideas of individual right to economic freedom, social choice and the right to bear arms to push a counter-hegemonic discourse against the primacy of federalism, integration and state-managed collective redistribution of national resources. In that sense it has a libertarian thread that, however perverse its interpretation (since it more closely aligns with original anarchist thought than the natural law and Lockean bases of libertarianism), is found nowhere else in the popuist-fascist continuum. The dude with the gun and the placard outside Obama’s New Hampshire town hall meeting pretty much sums things up on that score.

    Where in Europe the history of ‘father/mother land’ rhetoric and monarchy lend themselves to the overt authoritarian party/dictator scenario, I wonder if the same impulse just gets interpreted differently in the US.

    In europe, fascist states had party based military groups for internal dissent crushing. In the US the KKK played a similar role in a non party/unofficial way.

    Where in Europe the party would be expilict about what it is doing in making itself the centre of the state, in the US the reverence for the constitution plays that role. By which I mean to say that only one interpretation of the constitution becomes ‘allowable’, and the militia/’minutemen’ groups and suchlike take it on themselves to defend that interpretation from the ‘corrupting’ ‘foreign’ ‘traitorous’ ‘liberal’ other, outside of any official party structure.

  31. Sagenz on August 15th, 2009 at 21:39

    So pascal you think the survivalists etc are part of Americas checks Balances. Given that violence was required to attain independence it is easy to see how groups consider themselves loyal to the constitution rather than to politicians abusing their power. It is a continuum and a culture. It is also very very far from fascism which nicely rebuts he original supposition of this post and the linked article

  32. SPC on August 15th, 2009 at 21:52

    sagenz

    The connection is in the use of authoritarian power and or the threat of mob violence to defend the inevitable disparity of wealth arising out of capitalist ideology. In Europe the SA mob violence was originally seen as useful to the old order regime.

    In the USA people who have health cover fear losing what they have so that the inclusion of those without health cover can be afforded. Apparently their defence of their “property right” to health care should continue to come from the exclusion of health care to others.

    Apparently the costly insurance bailout of banks and the invasion of Iraq (because US oil companies were being excluded from access to the fields) being vital to their economic security were OK, but the cost of helping others is cause for a mob uprising in defence of their property right.

    PS There is no restraint on the use of force in protection of a child, only in the correction (punishment) of a child (and even here smacking is not itself grounds for a prosecution).

  33. SPC on August 15th, 2009 at 21:59

    Sagenz

    It could be that the constitution was of an attempt to constrain government – establish limits on the power of government.

    One form, a Senate with 2 reps per state, regardless of population, was to prevent any popular urban immigrant poor majority ever challenging the well established.

  34. Sagenz on August 15th, 2009 at 22:35

    I need to make my points clearer. S59 was repealed. Nothing more. Common assault can be as little as grabbing somones arm. You are correct that avoiding danger is a legitimate defence in court. I want to avoid the state even being given that opportunity to pass judgement on me. I playfight with my kids and nephews that to an outsider might be viewed as assault. There is some nuance there in my desire not to be judged in court but I am not entirely sure how it would be worded just that there is a difference between adult relations in that charges must be pressed. The child is not given that opportunity.

    The constitution and as pablo pointed out the limited federal powers is certainly an attempt to limit elected dictatorship.
    SPc you make some fair points. Not going to get into Iraq but 25m people have control over their destiny now and oil is purchased at market rates. America buys oil from Venezuela. Go figure

    More interesting is the lack of protest about bank bailouts. The difference I guess is that everyone was scared of the instability. Thete is enormous moral hazard now as bankers go back to system as usual excess compensation. I think the level of rhetoric is partly republican meltdown and partly an intuitive backlash at the implied huge growth in the taxbase. That does not mean healthcare reform is wrong but rather that understanding the political context will be important if Obama is to succeed in this area.
    The other difference is that individuals make a choice to take insurance. Certainly those who do not have that choice would benefit strongly from reform. I think part of he rhetoric

  35. Pascal's bookie on August 15th, 2009 at 22:49

    So pascal you think the survivalists etc are part of Americas checks Balances.

    Nope.

    From what I understand of the constitution there’s the courts, the legislature and the executive. If the people don’t like what the govt is doing then the constitution gives them the ability to vote out the legislative or the executive branches. If they don’t like how the courts are interpreting the constitution, the constitution gives the elected branches and the people the ability to amend the constitution itself.

    Given that violence was required to attain independence it is easy to see how groups consider themselves loyal to the constitution rather than to politicians abusing their power.

    The constitution came after the revolution. The DOI certainly says that if a people feel that that their govt is abusing them, then they have a natural right of rebellion. That is not the same thing as legal right though. A rebellion would be about overthrowing a constitution. Some might argue that because the elected govt is somehow breaking the constitution as they understand it, then they need to revolt in order to restore it. That would not make their actions legal though. All they are saying is that don’t like the cumulative, legal, constitutional, events as they have played out. The constitution however gives them legal ways of changing that. They are called elections, and Obama won one.
    These people are saying that the events as they have played out under the constitution are unacceptable to them, and they should not have to abide by elections and let the elected govt govern.

    Can you show me where in the constitution they get that right?

    It is a continuum and a culture. It is also very very far from fascism which nicely rebuts he original supposition of this post and the linked article

    You keep saying so, but you are yet to actually make the argument.

  36. Sagenz on August 15th, 2009 at 23:49

    Pascal. I was being slightly tongue in cheek. Read pablos brilliant analysis of democracy on scoop linked earlier. The rhetoric is simply part of the populist expression.

    What I really took issue in that article was the authors labeling behaviour as fascist and then talking about “allowing” populist opposition.
    We are in complete agreement that much of the rhetoric is overblown but I attribute it to republican meltdown after loss of power and populist backlash about the forthcoming rise in taxes to pay for all this.
    All part of legitimate democratic expression. If you are only prepared to support the right to expression of those who agree with you that of itself is fascist behaviour because it implies the use of state force to prevent me from expressing my opinion

  37. Pascal's bookie on August 16th, 2009 at 16:58

    Sage, I think you are misreading the comment if that’s your concern.

    The author doesn’t say that her opponents are to be prevented from expressing their view. She says that they should not be allowed to prevent the legitimate government from governing.

    I take this to mean that she is saying that Obama supporters should be focussed on not letting these clowns succeed. ie, they need to be aware of both what the stakes are and what the opposing strategy is, and use their own democratic rights to defeat them. Not allow them to have their own way and bully their way out of the fact that they lost the election. As many a GOP figure has said over the last couple of decades, ‘elections have consequences’ and these people need to accept that.

    I don’t think she is suggesting that the state should be arresting them, or even, as Bush did, having people at town halls recite loyalty oaths on entrance with folks being turned away if they have Anti-Bush bumper stickers on their car.

    As for the rhetoric being overblown, that kind of implies that these people are not serious, and that it’s just a typical part of the hyperbolic hurly burly of politics. I think that when rhetoric starts to venture over into assassination/revolution territory then you have to treat it a bit more seriously. Not criminally, (as long is it just remains speech), but seriously.

    If you just ignore it, or humour it by not calling it what it is, then it becomes normalised. That reinforces the crazies out there that actually believe it, those for whom it is not hyperbole. Once those crazies start to feel that they really are a part of a movement, one that gets treated seriously by the media and senior figures in the political architecture (including national opposition party critters like the Chairman of the RNC and the most recent VP candidate) then those crazy folks get emboldened towards action. Words and rhetoric also have consequences.

    The correct response to speech, is more speech.

    If the GOP wants to spiral itself down an plughole towards a rump party of people that don’t accept the legitimacy of the government, and are prepared to use intimidation and threats of violence and assassination to get their way, then they can expect to get called some nasty things. If they choose to validate and make use of the nativist proto fascist movements in the US, then that’s what they can expect to get called on.

    I don’t think there is any equivalence between proto fascists throwing tantrums while holding guns on the one hand, and people calling them fascists and saying we should pay attention to these guys and not just let them have their way on the other.

  38. Phil Sage on August 16th, 2009 at 22:49

    Good try Pascal but I disagree in part. The author implies that failure to stop the rhetoric means crossing the line to fascism. Which is not engaging with the core of the concerns but labelling them and calling for a reaction.

    I said above Obama’s response must not dignify the response by taking it seriously. By that I meant react in the way the author would suggest. But I agree with what you seem to be suggesting in that reacting seriously to the underlying concerns expressed by outlandish rhetoric is what Obama needs to do. That is respecting democratic right to protest.

    Were I to advise him it would be to take an economic approach. Along the lines of comparing the amount of an average mans take home pay with the amount he has to spend on healthcare and the cost of some easily comparable procedures. It would be a nice but implausible touch to analyse Joe the Plumbers likely health costs. Then mock the Republicans for protesting over the right to pay 50%-100% more for the same service. I do not see anywhere that entitlements are being withdrawn or private healthcare being penalised but rather that coverage can be made broader by making the whole thing more efficient without adding to the overall cost. 84% of Americans have healthcare and it costs them too much. By focusing on making it cheaper for them he MAY be able to extend coverage. That should be his argument until it is won. Unfortunately the Democrats seem only able to focus on the final target which is universal coverage. Health costs are not free and the legitimate fear is that the Democrats will simply take the lazy approach of raising taxes or spreading the cost of extending coverage to those already paying privately rather than seriously reforming the system.
    I must add that it is a common misconception that no healthcare is available to those without insurance. There are public facilities available. they are however limited in scope and geographic distribution. It is not all or nothing. So extending scope of free public facilities is a smaller issue than reforming cost for 84% of Americans.
    And for what it is worth, the disparagement of the NHS is completely warranted imho. It gets some things right but its approach is to ration and delay care to reduce cost. That kills people as evidenced by the substantially lower cancer survival rates comparing US and UK. When a close family member experienced a serious illness after extended contact with NHS we chose to go back an Eastern European former socialist system with much inferior funding and facilities rather than submit further to NHS. New Zealand has a similar but less systemic problem to NHS.

    The humour here on Sunday morning is that Obama has also said he does not want to emulate the NHS, neatly skewering those who defended it against derogatory US-UK comparisons.

  39. SPC on August 16th, 2009 at 23:14

    If over 80% are paying premiums, is not the answer compulsory health insurance with the government paying on behalf of the old/unemployed?

    The savings from a “single (government) provider” would surely afford the inclusion of those currently uninsured (thus the public hospitals would join the other hospitals in a single insurer system).

    If Obama can buy/bail out banks he can buy out existing business operations here.

    Sure there would be rationing – but their premiums afford a health funding many times the cost per head of anywhere else in the world, so at a much higher level of service than anywhere else.

  40. Pascal's bookie on August 17th, 2009 at 05:01

    “The author implies that failure to stop the rhetoric means crossing the line to fascism.”

    Nonsense.

  41. Pascal's bookie on August 17th, 2009 at 05:04

    The humour here on Sunday morning is that Obama has also said he does not want to emulate the NHS, neatly skewering those who defended it against derogatory US-UK comparisons.

    Again this is silly stuff sage. NHS was never the model, so the comparison was both factually ridiculous (Hawking would’ve been killed under the NHA!!), and utterly irrelevent. Pointing out either of those two flaws doesn’t ‘skewer’ the other criticism.

  42. Phil Sage on August 17th, 2009 at 09:12

    Pascal on your first, read Graemes quote at the top of comments again. If the comments are allowed to continue America will cross the line to fascism. That is the nonsense.

    To your second it is a UK reference, nothing to do with US really. Dan Hannan criticised NHS on national US tv. Labour in UK jumped all over the conservatives, Cameron put hand on heart and said he loves it then Obama says its not what he wants anyway, skewering them all.

  43. Pascal's bookie on August 17th, 2009 at 10:02

    Sage,

    there is vast difference between not allowing someone to ‘hold up our ability to govern’, (which is what the author says), and not allowing them to ‘speak’, (which is what you infer she means).

    As to the uk stuff, who cares? I still don’t see how it ‘skewers’ anyone, or anything else. It’s a sideshow.

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