Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Never Underestimate the Power of Stupid People in Large Groups..."

I'm not one to give in to conspiracy theories; however I had a very odd dream last year (2 years ago??) that, given current circumstances, makes more sense than I realized. I won't go into many details, but a certain ex-governor-of-moose-land had lead a neo-conservative movement and had taken over the country, and we were in the midst of a vicious war. Non-Christians, ethnic minorities, feminists, and other "undesirables" were being rounded up, imprisoned, and killed by the millions on a daily basis. If you stepped out of line, you were gone. I was a part of an underground movement to save as many as I could and find a way to stop her.

I woke up, somewhat amused. It was a very detailed representation of what I now realize is something that many might likely fear, should said ex-governor actually gain any extensive, legitimate power in the future. As she's mentioned many times, that's exactly what she wants- her perfect, Christian, white-bread conservative America-- and who knows what she'll do to get it. I've been thinking a lot about the recent changes in our political sphere -- the groups reemerging and changing... What it means to be a progressive, and what these new "tea party" people mean for America. These new groups have completely distorted the true purpose of the Tea Party and have turned it into a anti-government free-for-all that under the guise of "true patriotism." True Tea Partyists that I've talked to are absolutely appalled that the GOP and Neo-Cons have hijacked and destroyed their movement.

For the past year or so, something was tugging at the back of my mind... It all seemed too familiar, like I should be too painfully aware that something wasn't quite right. Just a few days ago it hit me-- that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had expressed concern on one of my sites that a certain someone appears to be trying to start a civil war, because her speech and actions absolutely implied it. I had read an article saying that the "teabaggers should be taken seriously." I think now I can't really disagree with that statement (other than the fact that the majority of their "leaders" have proven themselves to be completely hypocritical idiots), but the reason why is startling.

On the one hand, yes, it's absolutely important to speak up for what you believe in. We have a constitutional right to express our feelings about the government, and to implement change as we see fit. Yes, we do deserve a better America-- but things don't happen magically. We had 8 years of hell, and corporations still basically own our asses. 1 year isn't magically going to solve all of our problems, especially when no one will work together. The problem with any movement arises when it's members jump on the bandwagon purely on emotional response, without thinking about what they're signing on to, and without reading between the lines. Movements like this appeal to emotion, to distress, to underlying prejudice and anger. I honestly question how much these people have actually thought for themselves. Do they truly believe in torture and killing as a means of obtaining and maintaining power? If so, isn't that far more disconcerting than anything else? That while we pass judgment on other nations for their policies, here some in our society advocate crimes just as horrible against their fellow citizens, and these are the people trying to take control. Why do we as a nation think we have a right to control the world? Is power what this is truly is about? We all have different ideas of freedom and what we want for society. But why should their idea override everyone else's? So much hypocrisy as well... Some of us would rather have hope than ungrounded fear. "The Tea Party is a reaction to progressivism." -- What, you're afraid of changing and moving forward, so you recoil and try to pull society back with you? Because you refuse to adapt and accept, you want to change the world around you back to what you know? This is 2010, not 1935. We will never get anywhere if the world is in a constant power struggle based on fear. When you let your fear control you, you've already lost.

I will try to explain this part as succinctly as I can, without sounding crazier than I'm sure I already do. In high school, I ended up taking an extra history class my senior year-- Honors Modern European History. We finished up post WWII. Do you see where I'm going yet? Recent events oddly resemble a lot of things I think most of us would rather not experience. Let's paint a picture, shall we?

We have a post WW1 Europe. Germany and Italy are in social and financial shambles, morale is low... The government is going through some major changes. It's the perfect situation for a new, young, conservative, charismatic leader to gain national recognition. This leader isn't the most intelligent, but knows how to make people listen. The target group is generally always going to be the gullible, uneducated or with low intelligence, superstitious, fearful (lower) middle class, usually of Caucasian descent. The leader appeals to emotions, nationalist pride/patriotism (and anyone who disagrees is unpatriotic and must be eliminated), promise the nation the people desire... The leader finds a scapegoat, someone everyone can join together against, a common enemy. Logic, reason, and science are compromised by fear, prejudice, and anger. The "sheeple" will blindly follow their leader, believing that the answer to all of their problems just requires obedience.

Fast forward to 2010 America. After 8 years of questionable leadership (at best...), the country is close to financial ruin, and is dragging the rest of the world down with it. The government is split. A new, young, and charismatic leader takes every opportunity for gaining fame and recognition, while another struggles to follow through on the promises he's made, despite overwhelming opposition from the other side. Her intelligence is seriously lacking, yet somehow she has a huge following - of many with equally questionable intelligence. (To be honest, I truly hope she's as unintelligent as she seems. I shudder to think it's all an act, all intentional... because then, she's far more dangerous than we think.) His intelligence is well above average, and many of his followers are intelligent, forward thinkers. She targets the gullible as she blatantly lies, stirring up fear and distrust. He targets the middle, trying to inspire hope without distorting the facts of reality. She appeals to their emotions, calls for American pride, says that anyone who disagrees with her plans isn't a "real American" but a "dirty communist." He appeals to their hearts and minds, advocating equality and fairness for all, especially those in need. Her racist, sexist comrades call for nativism, anti-communism, anti-immigration policies, and opposition to liberal democracy. He calls for bipartisanship and real democracy, where everyone has a chance to voice their opinions. Yet her sheeple follow along and continue to bash him, most of them unable to even define communism or fascism, but against it because they were told to be against it. Ignorance is not bliss.

Now I'm sure you're pissed off right now. Well, I'm pretty pissed off myself with all that's been going on. Crashing a plane into a government building does not make you a hero, yet a certain-someone is being venerated as a martyr. I am tired of the hypocrisy. Yes, many people associate fascism with Hitler, but fail to recognize that it's a political ideology all on it's own that existed before him and still exists today. I'm not calling tea-partyists Nazis or brownshirts, just pointing out the similarities in their political ideology. Yes, some things change over time, which is why scholars refer to modern fascism as neo-fascism (you know, like neo-conservatives?). Neo-fascism, by definition, is a radical right-wing ideology. It shares with it's predecessor the following traits: an attitude of extreme, militant nationalism; a belief in authoritarian rather than democratic government; and a total rejection of socialist, particularly Marxist, dogma with its underlying universalist and egalitarian ethos (Jewish Virtual Library, 2008). The movements pursue progressive limitations on civil rights in the name of giving a democratic state more power to protect the populace from external aggressors (How Stuff Works). (Think Patriot Act.) It is frequently associated with or considered to be "populism." The target group is the lower/middle class, especially those who are losing jobs, and resent minority groups (or are xenophobes) and blame the minority groups for social or economic decline. (For example, there those who dislike Mexican immigrants because they believe that "the Mexicans are taking all of our jobs.") In the US, the vast majority of racism has always been directed towards "people of color," particularly those of Middle Eastern descent following September 11, 2001. This furthered the citizens' drive towards militant action in the Middle East. Another vital point that many of the articles I reviewed mentioned was that, in order for a group to be considered "true neo-fascists," they require party organization to attain power. I would say we are definitely seeing organization among these new "tea party" groups. One article states: "While neo-fascism is widespread, so far it hasn't become powerful enough to take hold in any significant way." The issue then, is what happens if they truly gain power...

Below I've listed the 14 points of Fascism as denoted by Laurence Britt, an author who compared the major fascist regimes of the 20th century and identified 14 points common to all of them, along with a few of my own notes on 21st century events.

14 points of Fascism:
1.) Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - "real Americans!"
2.) Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - support of torture. Gitmo. "Health-care is for-profit, not for everyone."
3.) Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause -"Communists! Socialists! Obama!" Muslims. Liberals.
4.) Supremacy of the Military - Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan. Constant call to "take out our enemies."
5.) Rampant Sexism - anti-women's rights/anti-feminist, anti-gay
6.) Controlled Mass Media - Fox News. propaganda. Beck, O'Reilly, Coulter, Limbaugh. censorship.
7.) Obsession with National Security - 2 words: Patriot Act.
8.) Religion and Government are Intertwined - and yet they claim that we should follow Constitution, word for word... Does separation of church and state mean anything?? How about freedom of religion? Eh? We are NOT a Christian nation. Though if we're supposed to be a "Christian nation" as they too often claim, we would be a socialist nation-- your Jesus was a socialist hippie. (Oh yea, and he was JEWISH! Middle-Eastern too. So enough of your anti-Semitic, Islamophobic bullshit!)
9.) Corporate Power is Protected - goes without saying. Republicans as we know them are traditionally on the side of big business, and will likely always be.
10.) Labor Power is Suppressed - see above. If not for Title 7 & EEO, and union laws... yikes. Though of course, current GOP is trying to stop union growth by blocking the Employee Free Choice Act.
11.) Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Apparently being smart and well-educated is just too "elitist" for some people. "The nation is divided between the wholesome Joe Sixpacks in the heartland and the over-sophisticated, over-educated, over-secularized denizens of the coasts. What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole.... Conservatives are as rare in elite universities and the mainstream media as they were 30 years ago. The smartest young Americans are now educated in an overwhelmingly liberal environment." [Eh? Where did my citation go?? This is from a conservative newspaper article about the history of anti-intellectualism among conservatives.]
12.) Obsession with Crime and Punishment - "war on drugs," capital punishment, harsh punishments. "tough on crime." Say the wrong thing at the airport, end up strip-searched and imprisoned indefinitely in a secret location.
13.) Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Oh, please don't make me list it all! Corporations, Bush, Beck, O'Reilly, Cheney, Palin's idea of Alaskan ethics... all the scandals...
14. Fraudulent Elections - 2004.

I just want to note that this post is by no means perfect in terms of comparison; it is merely a cursory analysis of the political ideology of a growing movement, based on a variety of research as well as opinion. If information is inaccurate in any way, please feel free to leave a comment along with a source.

P.S. - Historically speaking, state-control above the federal level, on a massive scale, was a recipe for complete and utter disaster and almost lead to the total collapse of the entire nation. See the Articles of Confederation for an early, but vitally important example... Just putting that out there...