I was reading the article at Slate a few days ago, The N-Word Unmentionable lessons of the midterm aftermath.
The extent to which it is verboten to bring up Nazi Germany has now become a jape. “Can’t pols just have little Post-its on their microphones reminding them not to compare anything to the Nazis?” Maureen Dowd wrote in the Times recently, after yet another off-message senator was taken to the woodshed. The ban applies equally to the arena of intellectual debate, such that even the wild and woolly Internet has a Godwin’s Law to describe the cred-killing effect of dropping the N-bomb. So, even though it is a truism that we learn by analogy, even though the Bush administration unapologetically practices the reality-eschewing art of propaganda—with procured “journalists,” its own “news” pipeline at Fox, leader-centric (“war president”) stagecraft, the classic Big Lie MO of, say, draft avoiders smearing war heroes as unpatriotic—we are not permitted to draw any comparisons to the über-propagandists of the previous century. That prohibition is reiterated in the coy caution with which I introduce the topic here.
The taboo is itself a precept of the propaganda state. Usually its enforcers profess a politically correct motive: the exceptionalism of genocidal Jewish victimhood. Thus, poor Sen. Richard Durbin, the Democrat from Illinois, found himself apologizing to the Anti-Defamation League after Republicans jumped all over him for invoking Nazi Germany to describe the conditions at Guantanamo. And so by allowing the issue to be defined by the unique suffering of the Jews, we ignore the Holocaust’s more universal hallmark: the banal ordinariness of the citizens who perpetrated it. The relevance of Third Reich Germany to today’s America is not that Bush equals Hitler or that the United States government is a death machine. It’s that it provides a rather spectacular example of the insidious process by which decent people come to regard the unthinkable as not only thinkable but doable, justifiable. Of the way freethinkers and speakers become compliant and self-censoring. Of the mechanism by which moral or humanistic categories are converted into bureaucratic ones. And finally, of the willingness with which we hand control over to the state and convince ourselves that we are the masters of our destiny.
It is to their credit that the leaders of modern conservatism are not the full throttle jack booted thugs of the Third Reich. Not because some of them at least don’t have similar political fantasies.They have learned a few lessons from history, not enough of them but a few. They couldn’t get away with rounding up every group of people that they disagreed with and place them in camps. Why go to all that trouble anyway when by the use of fear, cultural wedge issues, legal wrangling, a one party government, and the help of the corporate media they had a kind of perfect political storm in which decent came to be equated with being unamerican. Decent was not silenced as much as muffled and marginalized. Diane McWhorter’s article lead me to this piece by Alan Wolfe, A Fascist Philosopher Helps Us Understand Contemporary Politics
Schmitt argued that liberals, properly speaking, can never be political. Liberals tend to be optimistic about human nature, whereas “all genuine political theories presuppose man to be evil.” Liberals believe in the possibility of neutral rules that can mediate between conflicting positions, but to Schmitt there is no such neutrality, since any rule — even an ostensibly fair one — merely represents the victory of one political faction over another. (If that formulation sounds like Stanley Fish when he persistently argues that there is no such thing as principle, that only testifies to the ways in which Schmitt’s ideas pervade the contemporary intellectual zeitgeist.) Liberals insist that there exists something called society independent of the state, but Schmitt believed that pluralism is an illusion because no real state would ever allow other forces, like the family or the church, to contest its power. Liberals, in a word, are uncomfortable around power, and, because they are, they criticize politics more than they engage in it.
No wonder that Schmitt admired thinkers such as Machiavelli and Hobbes, who treated politics without illusions. Leaders inspired by them, in no way in thrall to the individualism of liberal thought, are willing to recognize that sometimes politics involves the sacrifice of life. They are better at fighting wars than liberals because they dispense with such notions as the common good or the interests of all humanity. (“Humanity,” Schmitt wrote in a typically terse formulation that is brilliant if you admire it and chilling if you do not, “cannot wage war because it has no enemy.”) Conservatives are not bothered by injustice because they recognize that politics means maximizing your side’s advantages, not giving them away. If unity can be achieved only by repressing dissent, even at risk of violating the rule of law, that is how conservatives will achieve it.
In short, the most important lesson Schmitt teaches is that the differences between liberals and conservatives are not just over the policies they advocate but also over the meaning of politics itself. Schmitt’s German version of conservatism, which shared so much with Nazism, has no direct links with American thought. Yet residues of his ideas can nonetheless be detected in the ways in which conservatives today fight for their objectives.
Liberals think of politics as a means; conservatives as an end. Politics, for liberals, stops at the water’s edge; for conservatives, politics never stops. Liberals think of conservatives as potential future allies; conservatives treat liberals as unworthy of recognition. Liberals believe that policies ought to be judged against an independent ideal such as human welfare or the greatest good for the greatest number; conservatives evaluate policies by whether they advance their conservative causes. Liberals instinctively want to dampen passions; conservatives are bent on inflaming them. Liberals think there is a third way between liberalism and conservatism; conservatives believe that anyone who is not a conservative is a liberal. Liberals want to put boundaries on the political by claiming that individuals have certain rights that no government can take away; conservatives argue that in cases of emergency — conservatives always find cases of emergency — the reach and capacity of the state cannot be challenged.
As large a snip as this is there is more at the link and explains Carl Schmitt and his ideas in historical context. It has been suggested in a few articles over the last couple years that the neocons also many traits in common with Stalin-ism. That case can probably be made too. The far right right and the far left are ultimately very similar, they worship at the alter of authority and see the mass of humanity as unruly cattle that must be prodded regularly for their own good. The evangelical right connects to this concept on a very fundamental level when they repeat the mantra that we’re all born sinners. A sinner is someone that does evil and since we’re all born with a propensity to evil mankind’s fate must be guided by an iron fist. Its not that liberals cannot be cynical about human nature, but they think that citizens given time, education, and the opportunity to participate society can reach some kind positive dynamic equilibrium. There is just too much liberalism built into the Bill of Rights for the Schmittian Right to win more then battles. If they ever won the war of ideas in America, I don’t know what we would be, but we wouldn’t be America anymore. I’m not sure that is very productive to shouting Nazi everytime a conservative opens their mouth, but the word should be on the table. If they walk like a duck and quack like a duck then they’re at the very least a new rebranded form of fascist. ( Note: It might be a fine distinction, but when Wolfe says that conservatives are better at fighting wars he is mistaken. Conservatives are better at starting wars and no modern war has ever been won by a conservative. To their credit liberals are actually better at fighting wars, i.e. WW I and II)
Bush Nuts Are George W. Bush lovers certifiable?
The study used Modified General Assessment Functioning, or MGAF, a 100-point scale that measures the functioning of disabled patients. A second scale, developed by Rakfeldt, was also used. Knowledge of current issues, government and politics were assessed on a 12-item scale devised by the study authors.
“Bush supporters had significantly less knowledge about current issues, government and politics than those who supported Kerry,” the study says.
Lohse says the trend isn’t unique to Bush: A 1977 study by Frumkin & Ibrahim found psychiatric patients preferred Nixon over McGovern in the 1972 election.
Rakfeldt says the study was legitimate, though not intended to show what it did.
“Yes it was a legitimate study but these data were mined after the fact,” Rakfeldt says. “You can ask new questions of the data. I haven’t looked at” Lohse’s conclusions regarding Bush, Rakfeldt says.
“That doesn’t make it illegitimate, it just wasn’t part of the original project.”
For his part, Lohse is a self-described “Reagan revolution fanatic” but said that W. is just “beyond the pale.”
” In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.” H. L. Mencken
” Do not do an immoral thing for moral reasons.” Thomas Hardy