Another F Word

Written by Carl Peterson   
Sunday, 11 August 2019 13:21


"Ow! Fuckin fascist!"

The Dude, in The Big Lebowski, responding to the Malibu Police Chief hitting him in the forehead with a thrown coffee cup.


In 2017 Sean Hannity of Fox News offered on-air his opinion that "media fascism," was out to get President Trump and his supporters.


"Are we headed for fascism?  Yes, I don't think there's a question.  If you actually take the time to study, and to look at the steps, and to see how government transforms under authoritarian regimes, and look at the political decisions and patterns of this president, the answer is yes."

Ocasio-Cortez, on July 1, 2019, responding to a question from a reporter.


"It is time to be direct and honest about the unacceptability of fascism in its American form wherever it shows its ugly face of hatred."

Newt Gingrich, concluding his comments in a July 24, 2019, Fox News opinion piece titled The spirit of fascistic book burning has entered the American system, on a recent decision by the University of Notre Dame to cover up murals depicting Christopher Columbus, and a vote by the San Francisco Board of Education to paint over (essentially destroy) a mural depicting events in George Washington's life, depictions deemed by the Board to negatively portray African Americans and Native Americans, and to make children feel unsafe in school.  Nowhere in the piece did Gingrich explain how the decisions to cover the Notre Dame murals and destroy the San Francisco mural were acts of hatred; he did however describe a Nazi book-burning scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade that he found to be "compelling and convincing."  Convincing of what?:  "These people [Nazis] [are attempting to cleanse] their society of past and future sins."  This is an unusual way to describe the reasons for the Nazi book-burning, when it is generally accepted that the Nazis were suppressing expressions of thought they deemed to be antithetical to the "German Spirit," and counter to the Nazi agenda.  But for Gingrich's purposes, calling it cleansing of past and future sins aligns Nazi book-burning more closely with the publicly given reasons for the suppressions of artistic expression contemplated by Notre Dame and the San Francisco Board of Education.

Media commentaries raising the question of whether what we are looking at in America is neo-fascism, proto-fascism, nascent fascism, flat-out fascism, or maybe, no fascism at all, are now appearing with notable frequency.[1] But, why are so many Americans reaching for this word?  Why not tyranny, dictatorship, autocracy, or authoritarianism?  Why did the Dude not just throw plain profanity back at the Police Chief of Malibu, or accuse him of police brutality?  Why did Gingrich not point out that Notre Dame is covering the Columbus murals with a non-permanent woven covering, will display the murals uncovered occasionally, and elsewhere on campus permanently display high-resolution photographs of the murals with explanatory material presenting a view of Columbus more complex than the heroic one?  Why did Gingrich not point out that the San Francisco school board's decision has drawn strong opposition from a broad cross-section of the San Francisco community, has not been implemented yet and may be the subject of lawsuits--and/or a referendum next March.  [This question we can answer, at least in part, immediately.  It is because he is Newt Gingrich.  Also, when Newt Gingrich begins a sentence, "It's time to be direct and honest," know that if he really believed that, he would already have left the country.]  Let us see if Gingrich follows through on his advisory that we must call out directly and honestly fascism in America wherever it "shows its ugly face of hatred."  I am betting that he will only be able to find that ugly face among Democrats and progressives, for surely it is peculiar that in the America we now live in the first place Gingrich finds fascists is on the San Francisco school board.

[1] Mostly in the non-mainstream media is my impression; the mainstream media except for Fox appears to believe that the word fascism is too incendiary for usage in status-quo maintenance; Fox on the other hand, a full-time propaganda outlet for the dissemination of a revisionist view of American political reality that may prove to be congenial to a fascist takeover of the American state, seems to have on at least a few occasions (For example, Newt Gingrich's opinion piece) embraced the word preemptively, maybe anticipating a time when the fascist movement must begin to make itself more overt, exposing itself to more frequent public accusations of fascism, and by establishing co-ownership of the term now, reserving the ability to cloud the issue in a future propaganda food fight using charges and countercharges of fascism.

The fuller story of the San Francisco school board's decision easily supports the interpretation that this is not so much a story of, in Gingrich's words, "the new fascists on the San Francisco school board," but of a controversy working its way through a local democratic process.  Many progressives don't agree that Americans ought to use repression, suppression or destruction as the first responses to something we find disagreeable.  And many don't agree that we should try to shield our children from all unpleasant realities, since always in the world, especially in the current one, you will anyway never be able to suppress all unpleasant realities; instead we ought to try to teach children about them.  You hope that a school board's first impulse would be to look for the learning opportunity, but in San Francisco the school board has chosen to apply a method historically and currently used by repressive governments to maintain anti-democratic control:  Suppression of free expression. This gave Gingrich an opening for his July 24, 2019 propaganda piece (labeled "Opinion,") written for Fox News.

But, as the question was before raised, why are so many Americans, from different locations, even opposite locations on the political spectrum, reaching simultaneously for the word fascism to describe what they are seeing?  First, the word has a special political potency now, since of all the labels for the various perceived forms of government dangerous to its own citizens, this one now evokes the most vivid and frightening images.  Fascism refers to a modern form of repressive, brutal tyranny--and in Germany's case, eventually totalitarian tyranny--that rose to power in modern bureaucratic and (at least nominally) democratic countries--too similar to our own for comfort.  Communism, the bearer of the great scare word of the Cold War, has been defeated, we have been told, so how do you revive fear of a thing that lays defeated?  The right in America has recently tried communist as a pejorative epithet a few times, but without much feeling, or, apparently, belief in its efficacy as a political propaganda weapon.  Professional Republicans (PRs) have been trying the label socialist off and on for awhile, but it does not seem to get the propaganda- traction PRs and incipient fascists had hoped for; for most Americans, the word socialism just does not evoke frightening images the way the label fascism still does.

So, the word fascism is proving to be a propaganda tool of choice for PRs, and is likely to become more popular with them as their own activities draw more comparisons to fascism.  It is, after all, a tactic of fascists to accuse the hated opposition of their own crimes.  For Democrats and progressives, who have begun to notice the similarities between historically fascist behavior and certain activities of the president and PRs, the word fascism is useful too.  Because the word retains most (not all) of the political potency it has had since the middle of the 20th century, it is a powerful tool to point out and name dangerous trends, not just on school boards, but at the highest reaches of the American government, and the American plutocracy. your social media marketing partner
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