Monday, November 19, 2007

When is the use of the "F" word appropriate?

A friend of mine recently commented that using the "F" words was inappropriate when referring to the regimes in Washington or Ankara. He wrote "I think you overdo the "fascist" label (next US Prez and Turkey will not/isn't anywhere near a fascist regime) too much too, but that would be good to have as a debate on your newly-directed blog I suppose". I think that this is a crucial issue which I want to address here. I will give you my take on it but please feel free to join what I hope will be a lively discussion, ok?

In a piece I wrote last May entitled "Rudi Guiliani - the face of American Fascism" I outlined the reasons for my belief that barring a highly unlikely miracle an openly Fascist president will be occupying the White House in 2008 (I really urge you to read this original piece which will, I hope, provide a contextual and analytical framework for our current discussion).

What did I mean by "Fascist"?

What I do not envision is hordes of Brownshirts goose-stepping down Pennsylvania avenue carrying swastikas and smashing Jewish storefronts. But none of that is really what Fascism is all about. Neither am I using the word "Fascist" rhetorically, as an insult. Let me repeat here the definitions which I used in my original piece:

Here is the wikipedia definition:

Fascism is an authoritarian political ideology (generally tied to a mass movement) that considers individual and other societal interests inferior to the needs of the state, and seeks to forge a type of national unity, usually based on ethnic, cultural, or racial attributes. Various scholars attribute different characteristics to fascism, but the following elements are usually seen as its integral parts: nationalism, authoritarianism, militarism, corporatism, collectivism, totalitarianism, anti-communism, and opposition to economic and political liberalism

Without entering into the endless debates about the nature of the various historical versions of Fascism, I think that any non-controversial wikipedia definition reflects the current usage of the word, and that this definition should be therefore accepted (some definition of Fascism by Benito Mussolini can be found here). To this definition I would like add another one which says that "Fascism is a system in which costs are socialized and benefits are privatized".

I submit that there have been numerous Fascist regimes in the 20th century including, besides Mussolini's Italy, the Petain Vichy regime, Croatia under General Ante Pavelic, Stroessner's Paraguay, Chun Doo-hwan's Korea, Pinochet's Chile, Chiang Kai-shek's Taiwan, Franco's Spain and many others (including, I would argue, Turkey under various Kemalist rulers, Israel and Apartheid-era South Africa). These various regimes are very different from each other in many ways, and their degree of Fascism is very unequal. In this sense

Fascism is more of a political syndrome than a unitary political theory or system.

It could also be argued that Fascism is a psychological predisposition held by some substantial segment of the population. This case has been interestingly made by Robert Altemeyer in his book "The Authoritarians" (which you can download for free here). Though Altemeyer's methodological criteria really limit his conclusions to the USA and, maybe, Canada, his thesis that authoritarianism is a psychological trait is, I think, very interesting, in particular when he states that there is an inverse correlation between the level of education and the propensity to be a follower of an authoritarian ruler.

Whether look at from a socio-political, economical or psychological point of view, I believe that the USA is turning into a typical Fascist society right before our eyes. Since I already outlines the reasons why I believed that almost all 2008 Presidential Candidates (with the exception of Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel) as typical Fascists in my previous article I shall not repeat them here. I would only add that in my personal observations I see that the US population is gradually being brainwashed into accepting Fascism as a cultural norm: the mass media is filled with endless reports and shows glorifying the police, the military, the state's use of force while simultaneously vilifying or ridiculing dissenters. The USA is still awash in (-: Chinese made :-) flags and even used cars are covered in US flags. Militarism, nationalism and the glorification of those using force in the name of the state is constant.

If Altemeyer is correct and education is inversely correlated to Fascist tendencies then Fascism in the USA has nothing to fear as the vast majority of Americans are ignorant of the world outside the USA and of world history to a truly amazing degree. Sure - the Ivy League educated elites are better off, and there are plenty of self-educated "dissidents" in the USA, but the general population's level of culture and education can best be symbolized by a Big Mac or maybe Miss Teen USA 2007 whose hilarious words made her famous all over the Internet. What most people failed to notice or, rather, preferred not to say, is that her answer is fairly typical of what one might hear from most US teenagers. In my 12 years of live in the USA I have heard many such absolutely baffling comments, even on US college campuses. Looking at this hilarious and truly sad video I could easily imagine what Miss Teen USA 2007's boyfriend would look like: probably some Marine "jarhead" in Iraq shooting the "hadjis" to "bring democracy and prevent another 911".

The USA today is a ripe fruit for a form of Fascism at least as overt and typical as any other Fascist regime of the 20th century. Worse, the regime in Washington has already adopted all the typical policies which aspiring Fascist rulers typically and systematically implement to overthrow a democracy.

Naomi Wolf has recently published an absolutely brilliant analysis of the policies adopted by all Fascist rulers in her article "Fascist America in 10 easy steps" written for the Guardian. This article is just a short summary and I really urge you to listen to Naomi Wolf's lecture on this issue which I have uploaded to a server and which you can download (in mp3 format) from here (if the Mediafire server is having problems, please try a little later).

Let's look at the global picture now.

All the candidates with a chance of winning the 2008 elections are, I submit, typical Fascists, the US corporate media is constantly promoting Fascist values to a population which has been dumbed down and made ignorant, the US government is already systematically implementing all the steps to overthrow a democracy and turn it into a Fascist state. So I ask the question now - is is really inappropriate or premature to speak about Fascism in the USA?

Should a regime which kidnaps people worldwide, which systematically tortures, which has the highest incarceration rate (per capita) in the world, which is totally at the service of the corporate world, which engages in imperial wars, which basically rejects the very concept of international law, which fully backs the only overtly racist regime on the planet (Israel), which supports terrorist groups in many countries (Iran, Cuba, Venezuela), which has plenty of political prisoners (Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Miami Five, Peltier, etc.) which implemented such laws as the Patriot Act and the Military Commission Act and which even abolished habeas rights, should a regime like that be called Fascist?

What do you think?