Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Recipe for fascism (history of democracy thread)

Can one use the term fascism for any current political movement, philosophy, or strategy without being merely abusive?

Shall we just skip over that question for now (though comments are welcome)?

Naomi Wolf argued in yesterday's Guardian, in an article called Fascist America, in 10 easy steps, that many of the necessary actions needed to install a dictatorship in the United States have already been initiated, and most Americans are oblivious.

I liked that article for two reasons.

The first is that I share Wolf's concern with the ailing condition of American democracy. Skip down to the bottom of her piece and read what she says about the Military Commissions Act, all of which is factual, and then tell me what you think. "It can't happen here (or there)" isn't good enough: it already has.

Second, it is a clear argument on an important subject which does not depend on ad hominem attacks. These days "important" critics spend all too much time arguing through the contradiction of their favorite foes in the ranks of punditry. Wolf's argument is a straightforward argument based on citations that anyone who can read it on-line can easily follow up. Further, I like her comparative methodology. The current situation and its component features are not unique in history. We can make systematic comparisons to understand what's going on now. How rare such an approach is!

I usually think of at least one additional point after I've numbered them, so here's number 3: Wolf writes well. Take this passage here:
It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922 [when Mussolini marched on Rome]; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere - while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: "dogs go on with their doggy life ... How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster."
As you can imagine, if you read an earlier post I wrote today, my reaction to this insightful evocation of how events work is "more of this, please."

Image: An Umbrian harvest, 1976.

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