Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chris Hedges is Useless

Seriously.  I read American Fascists a couple years ago and appreciated it.  But over the last year or so everything I've read of his has made me want to pound my head against the wall.  Or, maybe, his.

Especially this brilliantly insightful think piece.

It's called "Is America 'Yearning for Fascism?'"  Basically, what he's arguing is that we're at the early stages of Germany's handing over of power to Hitler.  We have a massive class of increasingly hopeless unemployed who feel powerless and are ready to take to the streets en masse.  On this I cannot help but agree.

But who is to blame for this, according to Hedges?  The Democrats.  Because they're not liberal enough and, therefore, um...profit?

The argument basically boils down to this: Democrats aren't doing enough to help people.  They're backed by a limp-wristed and useless liberal intellectual elite that just doesn't understand the problems facing real Americans.  The bailout wasn't enough.  Health care reform as we (kind of) got it isn't enough.  We need to get Americans back to work and back on the path to prosperity.  Meanwhile, the left has been focusing on all the wrong things, like racism and idiotic rhetoric.

Now, the fantastic thing about this is that Hedges isn't wrong.  I agree with him that the Democrats have been focused on the wrong things and that sending taxpayer money to banks that fucked the system over while forcing people who couldn't afford buy in to the health system without actually doing anything to fix the larger ills of that system is not the way to do things.  And, when it gets right down to it, the Democrats are about as liberal these days as President Roosevelt.  Not Franklin, mind you.  Teddy.

In this the Tea Partiers and the actual Progressives have common cause.  Neither side is particularly happy with the Democrats.  But the left doesn't like that the Democrats are far too rightward leaning and too willing to cave to the demands of the right.

But that's why you can't treat the Democrats as if they have been operating in a vacuum.  A large number of those same people who could probably stand a little government assistance to step back from the abyss of imminent poverty are the same ones who hold up signs claiming Barack Obama is simultaneously worse than Stalin and Hitler.  The ones who showed up at the Town Hall Meetings to scream about IslamoSocialistFascists destroying their democracy fail to see that the first effective step the Nazis took was to stop the proper functioning of their elected government.

The folks running off to the wilderness to stock up on ammo and plan for the revolution aren't doing it because they're worried the Democrats and the pointy-headed liberal intellectual elites aren't doing enough to help them.  They're doing it because they believe that the tiny steps that have been taken to help are an imminent sign of the destruction of America as they know it.  But they're not going to start the revolution shouting, "Health care for all!"  They're going to take to the streets looking for "socialists" to put up against the wall.

So we're left with the all-important question: who profits from this?  Certainly not Democrats or the liberal elite.  It's the right wing power brokers.  It's the pundits, talking heads, and would-be Presidents who keep their names and voices in the media every day on our new, wearisome four-year Presidential campaign trail.

The terrifying thing about nascent American fascism, though, is this: there is no American Hitler.  Now, I suppose it's strange to call the lack of a Hitler a good thing, but consider the implications.

Hitler tapped in to an underlying vein of discontent in the Wiemar Republic.  He laid down the principles for the National Socialists and built his movement from a centralized plan.  Nazism had principles, such as they were, before it had power.

America's so-called "yearning for fascism" wasn't built by one, but by many.  It has no central figure, no central theme, no unifying concept.  Arguing against the proto-fascist movement in America is fighting a mist.  It's principles were laid down by the Glenn Becks and Sean Hannitys in a quest for ratings or the Sarah Palins in an attempt to secure future votes.  But in any politic built on fear the one thing that keeps the followers following must be constantly ratcheted up or the crowds will depart.  In doing so the only thing that can be created is a monster.  Without an American Hitler there is no one to control the monster.

We're already seeing the results of this de-centralization of fascism.  There were the Hutaree raids yesterday, but that's just one militia among hundreds with one single plan to kick off a war no one else knew they were fighting that was frightfully simple in its scope and relative ease of execution.

We lack an American Hitler.  But in his place we have a hundreds of potential Hutarees, we have thousands of potential Timothy McVeighs.  Not one of those groups can possibly take over America in its name.  But what they can all do together is worse: they can force it in to anarchy.

If that happens it won't be Barack Obama's fault.  But I'm pretty sure that will be left to tomorrow's historians to determine.


Fake Al Gore said...

I read that last night and was tempted to count the number of times he used the word "elite."

People with nothing more than a high school diploma or GED aren't going to fix this country. We are going to require a lot more of the educated elite to work together to come up with real solutions. The rising anti-intelligence sentiment worries me more than anything else right now.

Geds said...

When your opponents are holding rallies to try to keep the government out of Medicare, you're doing something wrong. When your opponents are screaming about how you've raised taxes on them in spite of the fact that you haven't, you're doing something wrong. When your opponents call you a socialist for making rules that require people to purchase things from privately owned companies, you're doing something wrong.

That's how it works, right? If your opponents are ignorant and being led around by the nose by people who profit from the ignorance of your opponents it's your fault.

And, of course, it's absolutely necessary to engage in poll based rhetorical fallacies. Like, a poll says that 3/5 of the country is in decline and it's all YOUR fault. It's not that there are a series of possibilities, it's that you aren't doing enough.

Seriously. I'm not a big fan of a lot of things Obama has done. I'm far more worried that our so-called intellectual Constitutional scholar has kept up a lot of the not-exactly-Constitutional crap that pissed the left off so much about Bush than I am about his less than energetic attempts to actually bring reform to health care. Even so, I'll be voting for Obama again in 2012, since there's basically no freaking way he won't get the Democratic nod again and there's no freaking way I'll do anything that could possibly allow a Republican/Tea Partier in to the White House.

Shit like that Chris Hedges article isn't helping. And it completely misses the point. Quite badly, in fact.