It may not be what you think.
Glenn Beck’s got me worried again about fascism in America.
His so-called restoring honor rally last weekend assumed that somehow America has been dishonored, and that is a classic trope of fascists.
Nor was I comforted by all talk from Beck about “America today begins to turn back to God.”
Nor was I comforted by the full-throated and repeated chants of “USA, USA.”
Nor by Sarah Palin having the gall to claim “we feel the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King,” this just 10 days after she told Dr. Laura to “reload,” after the talk show host said the N word 11 times in five minutes.
As if the rally wasn’t enough, Beck continued on his crusade during the week. Check this comment out: Beck said, “There are a lot of universities that are as dangerous with the indoctrination of the children as terrorists are in Iran or North Korea.”
The irony is that Ahmadinejad has actually denounced the universities in Iran with similar disdain. One year into his first term, he asked scornfully “why liberal and secular university lecturers are present in the universities." He and Beck see eye to eye on that one.
Beck made a fool of himself also when he said, later in the week, that a flock of geese that appeared in the sky “was God’s flyover,” taking the place of an Air Force flyover he was not able to arrange. All of Beck’s references to “divine providence” and doing the work of God reminded me of a quote from W. S. Merwin, our new poet laureate, who once wrote: “The president of lies quotes the voices of God.”
I’ve been taking seriously the warnings of Noam Chomsky http://www.progressive.org/rothschild0610.html, who says he senses “the dark clouds of fascism” gathering here at home. I also take seriously the writings of Chris Hedges, the former New York Times reporter and author of several great books, including “War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.” A couple years ago, Hedges wrote another book called “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America.”
And back in March, Hedges elaborated on the theme: “The language of violence always presages violence. When someone like Palin posts a map with cross hairs on the districts of Democrats, when she says “Don’t Retreat, Instead—RELOAD!” there are desperate people cleaning their weapons who listen. When Christian fascists stand in the pulpits of megachurches and denounce Barack Obama as the Antichrist, there are messianic believers who listen. . . .These movements are not yet full-blown fascist movements. They do not openly call for the extermination of ethnic or religious groups. They do not openly advocate violence. But, as I was told by Fritz Stern, a scholar of fascism who has written about the origins of Nazism, ‘In Germany there was a yearning for fascism before fascism was invented.’ It is the yearning that we now see, and it is dangerous. If we do not immediately reincorporate the unemployed and the poor back into the economy, giving them jobs and relief from crippling debt, then the nascent racism and violence that are leaping up around the edges of American society will become a full-blown conflagration. Left unchecked, the hatred for radical Islam will transform itself into a hatred for Muslims. The hatred for undocumented workers will become a hatred for Mexicans and Central Americans. The hatred for those not defined by this largely white movement as American patriots will become a hatred for African-Americans. The hatred for liberals will morph into a hatred for all democratic institutions, from universities to government agencies to the press.”
Hedges was prescient here, anticipating the anti-immigrant wave and the anti-Muslim wave—and even Beck’s swipe at the universities.
Hedges also talked about the urgent need to give people jobs lest more people succumb to the lure of fascism.
Another intellectual I greatly admire, Walden Bello, just echoed Hedges’s warning about the economic crisis feeding into fascism. In his article “Can You Say, Fascism? The Political Consequences of Stagnation,” Bellow writes: “The common failure of both market fundamentalists and technocratic Keynesians so far to address the fears of the unemployed, the about-to-be unemployed, and the vast numbers of economically insecure people will most likely produce social forces that would tackle their fears and problems head-on. A failure of the left to innovatively fill this space will inevitably spawn a reinvigorated right with fewer apprehensions about state intervention, one that could combine technocratic Keynesian initiatives with a populist but reactionary social and cultural program. There is a term for such a regime: fascist. . . . Fascism in the United States? It's not as far-fetched as you might think.”
Consider yourself forewarned.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his article “Enough!!! Republicans, Have You No Shame?.”
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter