Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Jack-Booted Thuggery

I apparently hate myself. Really. I'm already (ahem) working on this Mythology Project thing. It's going to take a while, I think. However, I've noticed that there's a lot of egregious misuse of a certain massively misunderstood word: Fascism. People have been throwing it in any direction that they think it will stick, mostly toward the Neocons. However, at the beginning of the year I read Christopher Hedges American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America and put it down feeling a bit nonplussed. Today I ran across some excerpts of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. I've described the Hedges book as "Chicken Little-esque" in it's panicked assertion that every tiny bit of greed, politicking, and stupidity from the Christian right is proof of some vast, multifaceted conspiracy to take over the country in the name of Jeebus. As of yet I'm not entirely sure what to call Goldberg's book. Between the smiley face with a Hitler mustache on the cover and the assertions of things like, "Hitler was a vegetarian and lots of Liberals are vegetarians, therefore the Liberals are actually the fascists in our midst," I'd like to actually call Goldberg's book political satire. Sadly, from what I can tell of his other stuff, he doesn't seem to have a sense of humor (which is a common problem on the conservative side of the spectrum. If there's a sense of humor to be found, it's usually hard to tell). Anyway, somewhere between the two books mentioned above, anything else I find and historical works like my ancient copy of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, I want to take a look at the meaning of the word fascism. Whatever the denotation or connotation, I don't think it means what we think it means. Unlike my attempt to look at the word myth, I think that looking at the meaning of "fascist" is something that will actually have a fairly great importance. The word as it is currently being used is, at best, a diluted hinderance to actual understanding. At worst, it's dangerous. And, at the very least, nothing good comes from a dialogue that consists of, "You're a fascist!" "No! You're a fascist!" I have, thus far, seen only limited definitions of the word, mostly intended to suit one party that wants to demonize an opponent. I mostly see those definitions leveled at the Bush Administration. The funny thing is, that sort of usage can usually be replaced with the more prosaic "Police State." Christopher Hedges' working definition works better as "Theocratic State." Taking him seriously, Jonah Goldberg's seems to find fascism in what I think of as the "Nanny State." I suspect that, in the end, I will find aspects of fascism that cover the Police, Theocratic, and Nanny States. I also suspect that I will find aspects of all three that fall outside of any attempted classical definition of fascism. Were I a betting man I would also place a hefty sum of money on creating no definition that will be at all satisfying to any of the parties currently tossing the term around. I might also go insane at some point during this endeavor. Oh, and as a side note: For anyone interested in the study of history as a science, I'm kind of hoping that this will function as a useful primer. I'm not currently working up to a research paper, dissertation, doctoral thesis, or book on the topic, but I will be following certain aspects of the research process as I learned them. This post would be closely akin to a research proposal with a light sketch of my topic, my intended plan of attack and what I hope to get out of said research. I will probably be choosing my research materials next. However, as I said, this isn't going to be making its way in to some larger work, and somehow I doubt that a 20-page research paper would work in blog format. What I will probably end up posting will be short(ish) article abstract/book review-style entries that all center on this topic and focus on one particular work for the topic at hand. In short, I won't be handing in a rough draft and I won't be submitting this to peer review at any point in the near future...

1 comment:

stinger said...

Whatever their length, I look forward to reading your entries on this topic!