Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Online at: http://politicalaffairs.net/article/articleview/4885/1/242/

The Coming Fascist Surge
By Thomas Riggins

How often have we been told that when fascism comes to the USA it will be wrapped in the American flag and spouting patriotic slogans and speeches? I don't want to suggest that that day is near. If anything the center-left victory in the midterm elections shows that the American people are turning their backs on the the ultra-right and neoconservative extremists. These ultra-right forces are not, however, about to give up without a struggle and the left must not be lulled into thinking that fascist ideology has no chance to gain formidable support from elements in the ruling class.

The New York Post, for example, a paper subsidized by the ultra right, has on its front page for Saturday 2-17-07 a screaming headline for an opinion piece that has all the elements of classic fascist propaganda, familiar to anyone who has read Mein Kampf or the work of Dr. Goebbels. The headline reads "TREASON: Shameful D.C. vote aids our enemies"- by Ralph Peters. Inside the paper his full article appears under the title "Cowards give up on GIs-- & give in to evil." Ralph Peters is a retired militarist who worked in army intelligence (he is a retired Lt. Colonel) and whose pen is at the service of some of the most reactionary and undemocratic forces on the lunatic fringe of the right.

What are the basic characteristics of fascist propaganda that sets it apart from ordinary extreme conservatism. It has five basic characteristics. First, it is openly antidemocratic. It attacks institutions and traditions of parliamentary democracy. It belittles those who are the elected representatives of the people. Second, it supports a leadership principle, preferring loyalty to a specific individual rather than to constitutional government (however much lip service it may give to the latter). Third, it glorifies the military and war, thinking violence is the way to accomplish its goals. It fosters a cult of death (it is heroic to die for the fatherland). It thinks attacking other peoples and nations is just fine. Forth, it fosters racist attitudes and uses racist ideas to argue for its positions. Fifth, it has no regard for truth and uses lies and misrepresentation to bolster its positions.

Almost everyone of these five characteristics is on display in Peters article and The "Arbiter Zeitung" would have been proud to have such a writer on its staff. That a major (although a financially subsidized nonprofit) paper such as The New York Post is publishing articles that are openly fascist in tone is something that should be of concern to all democratically minded Americans progressives, liberals, and conservatives.

Lest you think I am being an alarmist and unfairly characterizing Peters' article, let me show how the five above characteristics of fascist propaganda are utilized by this NY Post columnist.

First, Peters describes the Congress of the U.S. as engaging in "treason." He writes, "Providing aid and comfort to the enemy in wartime is treason. Its not "just politics" its treason." This in reference to the anti-Bush surge vote. He also calls the Congress members "cowards" and says they give their "blessing" to the "slaughter" of innocents. Actually he means the House of Representatives, not the Congress, as the Senate did not pass a non-binding resolution against Bush's surge. He writes, the vote is "signaling our enemies that Congress wants them to win" and this "isn't 'supporting our troops'."

This is an all out attack on our representative democracy by the war hawks. The vote is a reflection of the will of the vast majority of the American people who want this senseless criminal war stopped and to attack the people's representatives for voting the people's will is to attack the American people themselves as being cowards and traitors. This is typical of the first condition of fascist propaganda as outlined above.

The second condition is implicitly met when you realize that if Congress is put out of the picture it only leaves Bush, as commander-in-chief, with any moral authority to prosecute the war. The Congress has "given in to evil." Bush's popularity is down to 24 percent in some polls (according to last Sunday's McLaughlin Group), so while the logic of Peter's article is that we should be supporting our leader, he doesn't mention Bush by name.

Third, Peters seems to glorify war and warriors. He writes thusly of attending a welcome home ball for some troops returning from the war. The ball was "complete with dress uniforms spangled with awards for bravery. Proud spouses sat beside their returned warriors." These are not just regular troops. They "bear the weight of the world on their shoulders" willingly without any complaints because, unlike the cowardly Congress, they know their "duty." I want to be clear that I am not trying to be disrespectful to these troops or to their experiences and their happy homecoming. I object to Peters using them to further his ultra right policies which, in truth, will expose these men and women to more unnecessary risk of death and destruction.

The first thing Peters saw when he entered the ballroom was the photographs of 34 troops who had been killed. "Soldiers honor their dead." Of course they do. And no one disrespects American soldiers or blames them for the folly of their officers and their commander-in-chief. But the simple truth is that those 34 troops who were killed, as all the other causalities in this illegal and criminal war, would still be alive if the Bush administration had not lied to the American people and to the troops about the reasons for this unjustified aggression against the Iraqi people. Lets bring all our troops home ASAP so they can all be reunited with their loved ones and live in peace.

What about the fourth condition: racism? In this particular article Peters does not express any racist attitudes. But in other articles he has. What is to be made of the following comments. Referring to the disastrous situation in Iraq, one of the reasons he gives is "The Arab genius for screwing things up." In another place he opines that it may be the case that "Arab societies can't support democracy as we know it."

Finally, an example of the fifth propaganda trait of fascism (disregard for the truth). Peters knows perfectly well that John Kerry's flat joke about being stupid and ending up in Iraq was made with reference to President Bush, not the troops, yet he writes in his article that our soldiers re-enlist even though they know they will be going back to war zones, "And no, Senator Kerry, its not because they're too stupid to get a 'real' job like yours or because they're 'mercenaries.'"

As the ultra right becomes more desperate at the prospects of regaining power in the coming years, we can expect to see a surge in emotional, irrational fascist type propaganda. We must expose it whenever we can.

--Thomas Riggins is the book review editor for Political Affairs magazine and can be reached at pabooks@politicalaffairs.net

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