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Sunday, April 19, 2009

So what shall we call it?

My local paper, the Virginian Pilot is in high dudgeon about the labels being thrown around regarding Barack Obama. They begin with a red herring: the fact that George Bush was called a fascist during his time in office. But that's a little disingenuous, as Jonah Goldberg explains, it doesn't take Guantanamo or a new entitlement to get you labelled a Fascist:

I suspect - but can't prove - that the Pilot's editors are a little upset over the success of the "Tea Parties" and are ready to explain to the people who participated:


For a fuller explanation of their argument check out the video
Shut Up, They Explained: Andrew Klavan on the Left's Favorite Argument

So let's take a look at the Pilot's reasoning:

It's not fascism, folks. It wasn't fascism when George W. Bush opened a prison for suspected terrorists at Guantanomo [sic] Bay. It wasn't fascism when Barack Obama forced out the head of General Motors Corp.

For some reason I can't remember the Pilot's editorial staff getting exercised about Bush being called a fascist for opening and operating Guantanamo. And what does fascism have to do with that facility anyhow? The characteristics of fascism are the subordination of the individual to the group, economic and social regimentation, the whole thing headed by a supreme leader. Does that describe the Bush administration? Not in my view. But when the country's leader can force out the chairman of General Motors and its entire board of directors, threatens the leaders of the country's major banks with physical harm and tell them what their wages are, and pledges to take over the country's health care and school system, that begins to look less and less like a free market economy and more and more like a fascist state.

The Pilot invokes Godwin's Law only in times when its pet politicians are on the receiving end:

One of the many wonderful things about Internet life is the attention it brings to the forms our debates take. Eighteen years ago, a lawyer named Mike Godwin came up with a law that now bears his name: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or [Adolf] Hitler approaches one."

It's a law equally and sadly useful for modern political conversations, which seem to inevitably devolve into charges that one party or the other is just like the Nazis, or the Soviets, or like George Orwell's imaginings. The problem is that such charges are made with little care for accuracy or historical precedent.

This may be true but is also irrelevant. People invoke Godwin's Law to tell others to "shut up."

The idea that any country, even the US, is immune from degenerating into a collectivist, socialist, fascist or even communist society is not only nonsense, but nonsense on stilts. History is filled with the rise and fall of countries and empires. For some reason, certain people - especially those on the Left - feel that they can fiddle with the social contract endlessly without eventually destroying the basic essence of what makes America unique. In a country where nearly half the people pay no income tax, the fear that the un-taxed can vote themselves the earnings of the taxpayers is real, especially when some members of this government see a 90% tax rate as their goal.

It is worthwhile to point out that Herr Hitler became Germany's leader legally. That he was a charismatic leader. That he was a skilled speaker able to arouse the emotions of the crowds he addressed. That he had a compliant press. That he came into office at a time of severe economic problems for the German people.

That does not make Obama another Hitler. But what it does make clear is that during times of stress, many people are willing to turn their freedom over to a charismatic leader who promises to protect and aid them if they will only give him the power to fix things.

As I said in a previous post, the Pilot editorial is designed to leap to the defense of Obama, who has taken control of General Motors, demanded the sale of Chrysler to the French and is temporarily stymied by Ford in his clean sweep of the US auto industry. The nation’s banks are already subservient to Team Obama. Part of the Obama plan is to nationalize health care (in the guise of providing medical insurance to everybody), to control energy production (via drilling bans, cap-and-trade, and CO2 regulation) and to take over the nation’s schools, perhaps using his associate in Chicago school reform, Bill Ayers, as the model for America's schools in the future.

To the casual observer it would seem that well over half of the nation’s economy would be run out of Washington, never mind whose name is found on the door of the doctors’ office, the school, the utility company or the auto manufacturer.

So what would be the name of this type of command and control economy where the government calls the tune?

The Pilot’s editors don’t say, they just don’t want it labeled with terms they don’t like, like Fascism, Socialism or Communism. To them these terms mean millions of dead bodies under Hitler and Stalin. That is what Liberals think of when they call their opponents fascists.

For the historically impaired, that may very well be what comes to mind. But for people whose minds were not molded by schools that no longer teach history, these terms can and do apply.

The reality is that Fascism was not a German phenomenon, but Italian. Jonah Goldberg wrote an excellent book about it called Liberal Fascism which pointed out that during the 1930s the “progressives” in the US were perfectly fine with the Fascist programs in Europe. In fact, they wished to emulate the command and control aspects of state control of vital industries, believing that they could do a better job than the private sector.

If the Virginian Pilot wishes to shy away from terms that have become tainted by being associated with the Holocaust, the Gulag and World War 2 I can appreciate their squeamishness. But then I would suggest they try to create a new term for a country in which the central government makes the vital decision about our medical care, our cars, our fuel, our electricity, our schools, and the ever increasing amount of our work year we are working not for ourselves but for the government. The last number is about 103 days a year for the average citizen. For the statistically impaired, that’s about one-third of our lives that are not our own. And if you don’t think that number is about to grow, you may also believe in the tooth fairy, be an editorial writer for the Virginian Pilot, be and advocate of a 90% tax rate, or all three..

A growing number of people have a vision of the state where individuals and institutions alike must march in step and take orders from the government. There is nothing like a war or a financial crisis for people who believe in group solidarity to support a government takeover of national functions that in a free system would be left to individuals.

So in a genuine attempt to help the editors of the Virginian Pilot, I'll make a suggestion for a term that can be applied to the American economy as it is evolving: Obamaism.

UPDATE: The Volokh Conspiracy relives the glory days. The days when Bush was Hitler, or was it Cheney? Funny, I distinctly remember that the Virginian Pilot did not write one editorial saying that their side of the aisle had abandoned reason.

The hard left decided long ago that George W. Bush is Hitler. In maddened corners of the Internet and at swastika-choked antiwar marches, Bush is shown with a Nazi uniform or a Hitler mustache. But does everyone on the far left believe this? Not at all. Some think that Dick Cheney is the real Hitler (he commands America’s “storm-trooper legions,” said former right-wing crackpot and current left-wing crackpot Lyndon LaRouche). Others think Don Rumsfeld is Hitler (both men favored mountain­top retreats, the Action Coalition of Taos points out). These comparisons are still being argued. Air Force veteran Douglas Herman, writing an op-ed piece in Florida, says Rumsfeld is more like Goering, since both men were fighter pilots, while LaRouche decided that Cheney isn’t just Hitler — he’s Lady Macbeth as well.

Many on the left believe that either Ari Fleischer or Karl Rove is Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Or maybe Richard Perle is related to Goebbels. The September issue of Vanity Fair suggested that Perle could be Goebbels’s twin (side by side photos, headlined “Separated at birth?”).

Another vexing question about Rove: Is he Goebbels or Josef Mengele? Goebbels is the top choice among antiwar commentators, but a writer to the MetaFilter site said: “Karl Rove made up stories about John McCain, just as Josef Mengele conducted medical experiments on children in Auschwitz.”

And was it the wildwest Internet making these accusations? Why no. It was luminaries like
James Abourezk

Tom Ammiano, SF Board of Supervisors

Edward Asner

William Ayers, professor and author

Russell Banks, writer

Ed Begley, Jr.

Harry Belafonte

Dave Berenson, US Green Party, Cleveland

William Blum

Gabriel Byrne

Campus Anti-War Network (CAN)

Tim Carpenter, dir., Progressive Democrats of America

Chicago ADAPT


Margaret Cho

Ward Churchill

David Cobb, 2004 Green Party Presidential Candidate

US Rep John Conyers Jr.,

Barry Crimmins, writer/correspondent, Air America Radio

Code Pink: Women for Peace

Culture Clash

DC Anti-War Network

Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party

Tom Duane, NY State Senator

Michael Eric Dyson, author, Is Bill Cosby Right?

Steve Earle

Edwin Ellis, president, Veterans for Peace, LA*

Daniel Ellsberg, author of The Pentagon Papers

Christian Ettinger, exec. producer, The Weather Underground

Jodie Evans, Code Pink

Jane Fonda

Global Justice & Peace Ministries, Riverside Church, NYC

Senator Mike Gravel

Andy Griggs, Exec. Board, United Teachers of LA*

Paul Haggis, film director/producer, Crash

Impeach Bush Coalition

Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA Relief USA)

Islamic Association of America

Abdeen Jabara, past pres., American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee*

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson

Bianca Jagger, actress & activist

Mumia Abu-Jamal, political prisoner, journalist

Rickie Lee Jones, musician

Casey Kasem

Robin D.G. Kelley, Columbia University

M. Ali Khan, American Muslim Council

Margot Kidder

C. Clark Kissinger

Ron Kovic, author, Vietnam Veteran

Jonathan Kozol

Ray Laforest, organizer, DC 1707, AFSCME; member Pacifica National Board

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor, Tikkun magazine

Bruce Lincoln, prof., History of Religions, Univ. of Chicago

Gregory Maguire, author, Wicked

Lucinda Marshall, founder, Feminist Peace Network*

Bill Martin, philosopher

US Rep. Cynthia McKinney

Bill Mitchell, co-founder, Gold Star Families for Peace*

Viggo Mortensen

National Lawyers Guild

Armando Navarro, chair, Ethnic Studies, UC Riverside

Northwestern College Feminists

Not in Our Name

Bertell Ollman, prof., Dept. of Politics, NYU

R. Tomás Olmos, Pres., Mexican-Amer. Bar Found., LA County

Jose Padilla, exec. dir., CA Rural Legal Assistance*

Grace Paley, writer

Patrick Henry Democratic Club

Sean Penn

Rosalind Petchesky, prof., Hunter College & Grad Center, CUNY

Jeremy Pikser, screenwriter, Bulworth

Harold Pinter, playwright, 2005 Nobel Prize winner

Frances Fox Piven

Progressive Democrats of America

Michael Ratner, Center for Constitutional Rights*

Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector

US Rep. Bobby Rush

San Francisco Bayview Newspaper

Susan Sarandon

John Sayles, filmmaker

Richard Serra

Cindy Sheehan

Martin Sheen

Gloria Steinem

Lynne Stewart, lawyer

Studs Terkel

Gore Vidal

Kurt Vonnegut

Alice Walker

US Rep. Maxine Waters

Wavy Gravy

Leonard Weinglass, lawyer

Cornel West, Princeton University

Standish E. Willis, Nat. Conference of Black Lawyers

Ann Wright, former US diplomat, resigned in protest of Iraq war

Peter Yarrow

Leland Y. Yee, Speaker pro Tem, CA State Assembly

Juanita Young, leader, October 22nd Coalition*

David Zeiger, filmmaker, Sir, No Sir!

Howard Zinn, historian, A Peoples' History of the United States


Anonymous said...

Is Canada fascist? Obama basically wants the US to be more like Canada and western Europe. Are they all fascist nations?

Anonymous said...

just call it socialism. that's a much closer fit.

from wikipedia:

Fascists advocate the creation of a single-party state. Fascists believe that nations and races are in perpetual conflict whereby only the strong can survive by being healthy, vital, and by asserting themselves in combat against the weak.[6] Fascist governments forbid and suppress criticism and opposition to the government and the fascist movement. Fascism opposes class conflict and blames capitalist liberal democracies for creating class conflict and in turn blames communists for exploiting class conflict.

Moneyrunner said...

Well, in Canada you have to be careful what you say or you can be hauled before a court and fined. Check out Mark Steyn's trial in Canada for a book he wrote. Is that freedom? What shall we call it?

And check out the limits of speech or actions in Europe. What shall we call it?