The Bikecast Episode #3: Fascist Takeover?
This is the cleanest recording to date. I’m declaring The Bikecast officially listenable, at least chronically, and with respect to audio quality. I’d still appreciate feedback on how I can improve the form and content.
Download this episode of the bikecast
Chris Hedges summarizes a scenario that’s been on the periphery of my mind since the 2008 election cycle. The article bears reading.
To summarize briefly: the american economic system is disintegrating. The working (and out-of-work) class is understandably angry given the focus of the state’s response to the economic situation. Show people like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity validate any anti-establishment anger and, inadvertently or no, provide loci for violent tendencies to crystallize. Meanwhile, the establishment left trumpets the successes of the current administration which is simultaneously abandoning its populist pre-election rhetoric and rapidly consolidating and expanding the military and police powers of the state.
Projecting into the future, Hedges predicts/warns of an anger driven populist movement to the radical authoritarian right. The newly enthroned rulers will assume control of the awesome war making and opposition supression mechanisms devised and constructed by previous administrations. And then, bad things.
I agree with all of Hedges axioms. The economic situation is beyond unsustainable for any number of reasons. If two or three of the dozen or so looming crises comes to fruition, the collapse will be beyond the ability of the crumbling state-financial apparatus’ ability to delay any further. Whether the effects are rapid or unwind slowly over time, the standard of living of the dis-empowered will sink. Popular anger and frustration will increase and scapegoats will be sought to bear the blame.
The pattern is too entrenched in human politics and has had too many instantiations to dismiss. I’m not terribly optimistic about the ability of population of the united states to strike out in a new direction at this point. It is steeped in a violent, patriarchal rape culture that goes unquestioned and unchallenged on every level from the personal to the international. A scant handful of individuals that I’ve encountered support anything other than increasingly violent responses to the wide, varied, and ever-multiplying social problems caused by violence.
Noam Chomsky recently noted the similarities between modern right-wing rhetoric and historical instances of the rise-to-power of fascist regimes. Hedges case is more compelling than the summaries of Chomsky’s points that I’ve been able to find, but they strike many of the same notes.
I have a hard time distinguishing between fascist leaning vs. communist leaning regimes. Both are clearly totalitarian with the ruling class absolutely dominating every aspect of the lives of the people living in their claimed territory. I understand that the ideology and rhetoric is different, but I hypothesize that this is a function of the replaced state. In the case of an autocrat or hereditary aristocracy, the would be ruling class would make a case for a serf/peasant revolution using the rhetoric of justice and solidarity. In a corrupt or inefficient republic, the would be rulers choose the language of nationalism. The institutions and structures are incapable of serving the greatness of the nation and its people and therefore a strong person-of-action must be installed to drive out the weak, traitorous, corrupt bureaucrats.
In any case, both movements are “anti-state” insofar as they seek to displace the current ruling class and install their own. Currently, we are clearly in a position where the anti-state “threat” is of the nationalist, anti-republican form. As economic conditions continue to deteriorate, it’s quite likely that “the people” will clap and cheer as the ruling class sheds the last illusory shackles that prevent them from a naked proclamation of absolute power.
Which brings me to my primary point. I don’t think we’re as far removed from “fascism” or, at least, totalitarianism, as the authors believe. The economy, outside of banking, finance, energy, mineral extraction, and large-scale manufacturing remains partially outside the direct control of the ruling class. But the military, education, police, intelligence, and legal systems are indistinguishable from the fascist countries of the 20th century. The chief executive can assassinate or disappear anybody on the planet, and openly declare this fact. The ruling classes of the majority of the rest of the world rely on the US military stationed in and around their claimed geographical regions to maintain control of their population. In return, they are barely, if at all, more than puppets of the US ruling classes.
I agree with both writers’ analysis. A drastic shift to the authoritarian right is inevitable. It’s quite likely to be followed by a shift to the even more authoritarian left. This might be followed by a shift back to the right, and so on.
Accompanying these shifts will be, in real terms, an increasingly authoritarian state with greater and more frequently exercised security powers. It’s easy to dismiss this sort of thing and it’s easy to dismiss the growing popularity of goofballs like Rush Limbaugh. Hedges and Chomsky warn us that they’re not to be taken lightly.
During the bikecast, I referred to a post in which someone (turns out it was rob payne of Halcyon Days) noted that assassination is far more convenient that indefinite detention because the accused will never do anything inconvenient like protest his/her innocence.
I had to include this picture. There’s something amusing (to me) about a fascist one-year-old puppy.
Retractions: In the podcast, I was wrong about Hedges proposing a solution.