Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Projecting Fascism

I've been watching a lot of Faux News lately. It is one of the side-effects of spending time with certain relatives, a tripe-laden diet of bad news, bad radio and opinions based on bad information. And as I watched and listened, I was struck by an increasingly annoying habit of O'Reilly, Malkin, Goldberg, etal. Claim liberals lie, smear, bash, debase, insult and fill the airways with bigoted, racist invective, when it is they who are, in fact, the main purveyors of such fare.

A recent case in point was the naming of Sam Alito as SCOTUS nominee. Within days MSNBC's Chris Matthews (lead by talking points from his right-wing sources) was slamming Democrats for their disgusting comments about Italian-Americans. This appears to be the offending statement:

Judge Scalito Has Long History of States Rights,
Anti-Civil Rights, And Anti-Immigrant Rulings
Samuel Alito is a judge on U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Appointed to this position by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, Alito is often referred to as Judge Scalito because of his adherence to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's right-wing judicial philosophy. While serving as a U.S. Attorney, Alito failed to obtain a key
conviction, releasing nearly two dozen mobsters back into society. Based on his
Third Circuit opinions, Alito has established himself as a potential foe to
immigrants, reproductive rights, and civil liberties.

Hunter at the Daily Kos has spoken more about this, but in researching the issue I found this from O'Reilly on Nov. 1st:

O'REILLY: By the way, if Alito is confirmed, that will be a good thing for
conservatives. That's the bottom line. Because Alito will take a more
traditional view than a [Supreme Court justices Stephen G.] Breyer or a [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg.
OK? He'll look at things, and he'll say, "You know, the
Founding Fathers didn't want partial-birth abortion. The Founding Fathers didn't
want all mention of Christmas stricken from the public arena." That's what Alito
will do. He's a traditionalist. He's going to rule that way.

Is it my imagination or did O'Reilly just say that the only two Jewish Justices are out to kill babies and steal Christmas against the Founding Father's wishes because they are non-traditionalists, which is to say not Catholic, like the soon-to-be majority on the court?

It seems I am not the only one who has made this connection. David Neiwert of Orcinus has covered the subject in depth. It seems Jonah Goldberg has written a book calling liberalism the new fascism. And while Goldberg's work smacks of punditry verging on propaganda, Neiwert takes a scholarly approach to the matter and explains why the talking heads on the right seem so determined to confuse the issue. I warn you this is a very long PDF file and if you just want to read small bits of his work, go here.

Remember Orwell's 1984 and Newspeak. By combining opposite terms, you denature both words and overlay new, though misguided truths to both. When War is Peace and Ignorance is Strength, Liberalism is Fascism makes a certain kind of sense. By repeating this way of thinking over and over, the right is creating a New World Order, where, as Orwell's character pointed out, "Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime impossible, because there will be no words with which to express it?"

By combining the repetition of false information with the formation of new idiomatic reference, the working vocabulary and understanding of events skews to the meaning most often heard. I discovered this when trying to discuss "Conservatism". By my somewhat date notion of the word, it refers to one who prefers less governmental intrusion in daily life; fiscally, socially, a conservative was anti-bureaucracy, pro-personal freedom. Try explaining that in Newspeak, where conservative means doing things the religious right way or the highway.

Why does this matter so much? I leave you with a vignette from 1930's Germany. People wonder how Hitler came to power and managed to coerce millions of people to his way of thinking. He didn't really, he just rerouted their ideas until they were unwilling or unable to think for themselves.

From: Afterword of In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific
Northwest, reminiscing about a professor's midafternoon lecture:
When he was a young man, he told us, he served in the U.S. Army as part of
the occupation forces in Germany after World War II. He was put to work
gathering information for the military tribunal preparing to prosecute Nazi
war criminals at Nuremberg. His job was to spend time in the villages
adjacent to one concentration camp and talk to the residents about what they
knew. The villagers, he said, knew about the camp, and watched daily as
thousands of prisoners would arrive by rail car, herded like cattle into the
camps. And they knew that none ever left, even though the camp never could
have held the vast numbers of prisoners who were brought in. They also knew
that the smokestack of the camp's crematorium belched a near-steady stream
of smoke and ash. Yet the villagers chose to remain ignorant about what went on inside the camp. No one inquired, because no one wanted to know. "But every day," he said, "these people, in their neat Germanic way, would get out their feather
dusters and go outside. And, never thinking about what it meant, they would
sweep off the layer of ash that would settle on their windowsills overnight.
Then they would return to their neat, clean lives and pretend not to notice
what was happening next door. "When the camps were liberated and their
contents were revealed, they all expressed surprise and horror at what had gone
on inside," he said. "But they all had ash in their feather dusters."