Brownshirts vs. hairshirts Archives

April 14, 2009

Du-ce! Du-ce!

The face of American fascism?

I was made hip to this fourth-estate fifth column by the vigilant Bob of Bob's Corner, through his link to the Taibbi report:

"Actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit"

"After all, the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way...

If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff. And bound to get weirder, I imagine, as this crisis gets worse and more complicated"

This is poison, gang -- Obama's Mickey Finn for any of us rad-rousers -- premature anti-Fascism. Circle the peace wagons! Form a broad democratic front! Oh and shut the fuck up! Unite with the moderate head of Orthrus now in power, before the whole gig crumbles into Weimar II!

It's all nonsense, of course.

  1. The pendulum is swinging in precisely the opposite direction.
  2. Fascism isn't about pre-emption, it's about redemption.
  3. We lefties gotta look like we're winning first, then actually win somewhere.
  4. Fascism will happen in a marginal industrial or post industrial state, where maybe a Glenn Beck gets invited to the quarterdeck -- and even then
  5. Never at the center of centers, which is now the U S of A.
  6. This whole teabag rumpus is just about keeping a little mindshare -- it's not even pushback time, much less putsch-back time.

October 19, 2010

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!


I cannot begin to tell you how deeply I desire to possess this set of Nazi figurines. I would play with them obsessively by the hour. We could have rallies with architectural searchlights (using small LED flashlights for the purpose). We could annex Austria and invade Poland and France and generally tear up the pea patch. We'd leave the Jews alone this time, of course -- that was always the un-cool thing about the Nazis. Strange, because the uniforms were so consummately cool, not to mention the helmets and the Panzer tanks and that irresistible salute.... Where'd that creepy nerdy kink about the Jews come from?

All preadolescent boys love the Nazis, and the preadolescent boy continues to lurk within the grave old man's mind, as the reptile brain survives beneath the neocortex. Seeing these figurines called that old preadolescent boy right up out of my vasty deeps, as fresh and feisty as he ever was.

The figurines form part of an exhibit in Berlin of Nazi memorabilia, which as the New York Times solemnly observes, "explores a wider circle of guilt". In fact, if the Times is to be believed -- admittedly, a stretch -- it posits collective guilt; something strangely like the collective guilt for the Crucifixion that used to be laid at the door of the Jews.

The Times clearly loved this idea of collective German guilt, and oddly, so do many Germans. One of the most disquieting things about contemporary bien-pensant liberal Germans is their voluptuous delight in self-flagellation over their granddads' dirty deeds.

The show focuses on the society that nurtured and empowered [Hitler]. It is not the first time historians have argued that Hitler did not corral the Germans as much as the Germans elevated Hitler. But one curator said the message was arguably more vital for Germany now than at any time in the past six decades, as rising nationalism, more open hostility to immigrants and a generational disconnect from the events of the Nazi era have older Germans concerned about repeating the past.

“The only hope for stopping extremists is to isolate them from society so that they are separated, so they do not have a relationship with the bourgeoisie and the other classes,” Mr. Thamer [the curator] said. “The Nazis were members of high society. This was the dangerous moment.

“This we have to avoid from happening.”

There's some very interesting dissection, of delicate and intricate psycho-anatomy, to be done here. One thing that comes rather quickly to mind is that these same beautiful-souled German penitentes are for the most part thoroughly down with one of the most Nazi-like states in the world today -- I mean Israel, of course. The lessons of history seem to be rather restricted in their application; and perhaps the Germans' inner Nazi has really been no better exorcized than my inner preadolescent.

The ritualistic beating of a long-dead horse no doubt serves many purposes. Perhaps most importantly, it shows that you are a Good Person. And it also costs nothing. It's a bit like waving the poor chicken over your head to avert the vengeance of a very appropriately indignant Jehovah.

Don't get me wrong here. I greatly approve of penitential rituals, and the more earthy and primitive they are, the better I like 'em. I was debarred by accident of birth from the chicken-swinging, but I well remember the gritty ashes on the forehead that my landsmen get once a year. It's only meet and right that we should be reminded every so often that we're all more or less fuckups,

But the danger comes when we think that because we've done the ritual, we're now OK. We've taken a shower, and now we're clean. Deploring the Nazis is a lot like swinging a chicken who's got so many sins of his own that he can't very well absorb ours.


January 8, 2011

Mass murder is the text...

... which generally provokes a disappointingly low grade of commentary.

(Some of you old-timers may recognize the image above. Answer at the end of this post.)

More morals have been drawn, in the last couple of hours, from today's shooting of Representative Giffords (and a number of bystanders), than pints in all the pubs in Dublin on St Patrick's Day. Matty Woodchuck's is, not surprisingly, the most glorious cocktail of shallowness, heartlessness, and silliness:

I think a deadly political assassination is an ideal time to remind people that violent rhetoric should be avoided.
"Ideal time"! Twitter really is the ideal medium for folks like Matty and Melissa Haruspex-Perspex, isn't it?

Matty's theory seems to be that if only the memesphere were a less polluted place -- if only our public discourse were more civil and reasonable -- then folks like this Arizona gunman would leave the semiauto at home. Or perhaps never pick it up in the first place.

More broadly in the pwoggienet, there seems to be universal agreement -- based on what, I don't know, other than wishful thinking -- that the shooter must have been some Teabagger type. And of course this has fuelled a new torrent of brownshirts-on-the-march garment-rending and hair-tearing from the usual Chicken Littles.

Events like this seem to be so useful for all of us that perhaps it's no wonder they happen so often. I mean, if you look at the thing sociobiologically.

Of course it's quite possible that the guy was a Teabagger. Arizona, and all that. He's certainly not likely to have been a Pwog, for sure -- they're all talk. And there are a lot more highly motivated right-wing crazies than left-wing crazies; we don't seem to have even enough vitality to attract crazy people.

Now I don't approve of shooting legislators. Don't get me wrong. Hell, I wouldn't even shoot Joe Lieberman. There's no point. They just go find another one, without missing a beat, and the supply seems to be endless. That's why only a crazy person would bother to waste the ammo -- if politics really had anything to do with it.

Presumably we'll find out more about this would-be assassin -- whose name, it seems, is Jared Laughner, according to a recent update. But even if he turns out to have been a devoted Teabagger, I'd argue that that doesn't explain why he did what he did -- though it might perhaps explain his choice of targets.

The great American culture medium seems to nourish, every few years, a person who just can't sleep at night until he's blown away a dozen or so strangers. The image up top shows one of the first of these who came to my own attention when I was young -- Charles Whitman, the 1966 Texas Tower sniper.

Being an 'umble obscure person myself, I personally would selfishly prefer that these folks, when they finally snap, should go after notables and officials and celebrities rather than climbing a tower and opening up on ordinary pedestrians like me, innocently going about our pedestrian occasions. At least it takes us out of the line of fire.

But this seems to be almost the opposite of Matty's feeling on the subject. If Laughner had just shot up a shopping mall, one rather thinks that Matty, had he deigned to comment at all, would have simply filed the event under "random craziness". Since it was a Congressperson, however, and a Democrat at that, it's a far more weighty matter, for Matty -- an assault on the very structure of society, perhaps; a sacrilege.

Of course, it's worth thinking about what processes produce individuals like Laughner. Perhaps it's not even culture-bound at all; how widespread, across the world, is the phenomenon of running amok? Is the characteristic American variant simply more lethal because we're a better-armed people than the average?

I dunno. But if it's true that we do run amok more often than other people, the explanation has got to be more structural than anything Matty is interested in thinking about. Those kids at Columbine weren't wound up and set on their course by Republican campaign ads.

Crank up the platitude machine

No sooner do you surmise something than a Democrat confirms it. Here's Steny Hoyer, channeling Matty Woodchuck -- or is it the other way round?

“Today’s cowardly attack is ... equally devastating to every American—to everyone who cares about our democracy. Our form of government, like all human things, is imperfect and flawed; but one of its greatest virtues is its power to resolve questions of the greatest import without violence. An attack on a member of that government—of whatever party or whatever views—is an attack on that principle, in which every American has a stake.”
Perfect, huh? If it had been half a dozen random Amurricans in a food court, that would have been one thing. But an attack on a member of the government...!

It's amazing how widespread, and widely accepted, this kind of thinking is. To take a random example, there are minatory notices these days, all over the various mass-transit modes that I ride, direly warning me that an assault on a bus driver or a train conductor or a token clerk is a very serious crime, much more serious than an assault on my elderly person would be, and I'd better not even think about it -- though I do think about it, and think about it a lot. Especially the bus drivers -- half bureaucrat, half motorist. Talk about hellspawn.

And then of course there's that business about shooting cops. Shoot a civilian, and take your chances. But shoot a cop, and you'll be hunted to the ends of the earth. Why, I wonder, are cops' and politicians' and, yes, busdrivers' lives, worth more than yours and mine?

I also can't forbear to remark on what must be my favorite cliche, which really needs to go into the famous Catechism:

Q: Of what variety was today's attack on us?
A: The cowardly variety.
Q: And by whom was our latest attack on someone else committed?
A: By our brave heroes in uniform, begob.
Rosy-fingered dawn, fleet-footed Achilles, cowardly attack.

Now the crazed Laughner is not exactly a hero of mine, but for Steny Hoyer to call him a coward seems a bit much. Laughner showed up in person, knowing undoubtedly that troops of armed gendarmerie were prowling the streets, as they always and everywhere are these days, and he took his chances at close range. He must surely have known that either he would be killed on the spot, or dispatched leisurely, with all the refinements of medico-legal crypto-sadism, on a gurney in some antiseptic room, watched intently by a ghoulish Presbyterian board of elders trying to conceal their crypto-boners.

Whereas Steny and Obie and Hillary and Co. commit their mass murders by proxy, and never have to worry about the cops, or the needle.

I remember this "cowardly attack" trope from the 11 September aftermath. You couldn't mention the WTC attacks without noting, obligatorily, that they were "cowardly". Now the September airplane bombers knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that they would die the instant their mission was accomplished. In what demented world of discourse does the word "cowardly" fit their case?

January 10, 2011

Poster kids

Remember this fellow?

I submit Dembo operatives are working up a series of party-building scenarios to exploit any appropriate new look for Congressperson Gibbons, up to and including the timeless living-relic act. Here is an earlier Rahmocrat look:

Poor Brady was wheeled around for a generation to run over the gun lobby. I wonder, can this poor lady hope for anything better?

The scold's bridle

At left, the item of ingenious early-modern penal technology from which I take my title. At right, the pony who may yet appear if the technology is judiciously used.

The increasingly manifest deep-rooted insanity of Jared Loughner has certainly not deterred the Pwogsphere from increasingly shrill cries for the application of the Scold's Bridle to those awful teabaggers, and indeed to Republicans in general. This is really their moment, the Pwogs; the reek of smug Miss Manners self-righteousness off these people would stun a turkey vulture. "See what you've done?!" they shriek, and wring their hands, and weep.

It's not much of a moment, though, and it won't do 'em much good. "Play nice" is a rather feeble political rallying cry. But as Larry David says about Christmas, Hey, let them have their holiday.

The Republicans' ability to indulge in unbridled extravagant rhetoric has long been a source of resentment and envy to the Democrats. The situation is asymmetrical because the Democrats -- once the party of Jackson! -- no longer have much of anything resembling a popular base. The core constituency is refined people who are easily shocked, easily grossed-out; superior souls of the type DH Lawrence mentions in a memorable bit of doggerel:

My mother was a superior soul,
A superior soul was she,
Cut out to play a superior role
In the God-damned bourgeoisie.
It's a lot easier to get these people to go along with a war than with a coarse expression.

January 11, 2011

Threats & menaces

Pwogville is wringing its collective hands so much over the Arizona massacre that I fear they may end up permanently crippled. My favorite shrill email from today:

Tell Sarah Palin: Violent Threats Have Consequences!

Sarah Palin has a special responsibility and opportunity in the wake of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, because it was Palin who earlier put the crosshairs of a gun on Rep. Giffords.

To be clear: we don't know why the shooter targeted Rep. Giffords and Palin did not arm him or pull the trigger. We don't know if he admired, loathed, or ignored Sarah Palin. But...

But still! But still!

Violent threats have consequences, huh? If only that were so. Bill Gates would have been dead years ago.

January 12, 2011

Violence, senseless and sensible

Frere IOZ, who has a good ear, noticed this splendid new entry for the catechism of cliche:

One of the verbal tics that's most in evidence now is the catechismal insertion of the adjective senseless before the word violence. What kind of violence was it, Mister President? Senseless violence.
The notion of "senseless" violence obviously presupposes that there might be a sensible violence. Perhaps the tragedy of young Cousin Fester, shown above, is that he was denied an opportunity to participate in the latter. Apparently he tried to enlist in the armed forces -- to fill a pair of those boots on the ground we hear so much about -- but was turned down because of some drug thing.

Drugs? In the military? Oh noes, as IOZ might say.

Dunno what it's like now, but back in the day, dope was the only thing that got most ordinary people through the military. (Of course the people destined to become colonels and generals were another matter; what they had to worry about was being shot in the back by their own troops. Presumably rear-echelon jobs were to them what dope was to the grunts.)

Quite apart from the preposterous dope hypocrisy, it seems an awful shame and waste that Jared didn't have his opportunity to kick ass in Afghanistan. Schizophrenic, schvitzophrenic -- these are the boys we need.

If Jared had become a soldier boy, by this time he would have collected several medals, and then been unofficially dispatched by one of his fellow-grunts, on a lonely hill somewhere in Waziristan, while the rest of the platoon just happened to be looking in another direction. His country and his family would be proud of him, and the kind soul who gave him his long-sought quietus would never say a word about it.

March 30, 2011


Cruise missile liberals are willing to concede that bombing and shooting people requires supplies of munitions. They understand that the supplies of munitions come from companies that politick against the cruise missile liberals' favored domestic policies. They understand the process that gives money to the suppliers of munitions. They even understand that some of the money will be used to politick against them, that none of the money will be used for their benefit and that their advocacy for war is effectively advocacy for increases in the amount of money given to suppliers of munitions. However they bristle at the suggestion that they're fundamentally the same as the bumper sticker patriot, peckerwood jingoist Republicans, who also do everything humanly possible to sink themselves into squalor, and they meet any suggestion to that effect with accusations of groupthink.

The suggestion that they're fundamentally the same as the bumper sticker patriot, peckerwood jingoist Republicans is unfair. They're not. The bumper sticker patriots only get enthusiastic for wars started by Republicans. The cruise missile liberals maintain an impeccable, non-partisan consistency: any war will do.

April 15, 2011

The world will be a poorer place

What made Fox push Beck out the tower window -- bad ratings dynamics or a growing corporate sponsor boycott?

It could have required both, of course, but that's no fun to juggle around. More fun to say pure ratings is always sufficient, or pure advertising in this case was sufficient. Maybe both are true...would that be a instance of over-determination?

Whatever the causal pattern, for us speculating outsiders, ever vigilant to avoid the Smiff hammer of scorn -- let's call this a Roar Shark test.

My first cut? I'd like to think it's all about ratings. The show's on a toboggan slide. Roger, to his flunksters: "Get the fuckin' hook, boys!"

That appeals to my baser sense of corporate decision-making: it's all about shameless commerce, and we gotta win here to earn.

But then there's this delicous Tartuffian boycott wave, and that becomes a tale within a tale. Did the corporates decide not to alienate melanin-enhanced folks from their proffered products? Or recalling the hump that is investor relations, might they, on a wild low-percentage shot, fear an NPO hygienic portfolio backlash scourge agin' 'em?

The executive suite scenarios get to multiplying here quick as hell, don't they? Fibonacci speculating! I'd love to see a TV movie on one of these episodes in virtual ethnic cleansing, wouldn't you?

"Yes, Ms Bracewell-Bagshot, we are as outraged as you by Jimmy Crack Corn's racist tirades! Why, even if you had never approached us, the decision was already made to stop advertising on The Angry White Guy Hour!"

[Hangs up phone, turns to flunky]

"Janie, get Frackle in here NOW! Why? Why? Because I say so, you idiot!"

[Exit flunky, enter Frackle]

"Look, Frack, we gotta 86 those ads on Freckle-Faces show. I want you personally to call whoever you call over there... no, better, go over there yourself, TODAY -- and read whoever you read to at that Godforsaken hen coop the fuckin rubber bullet riot act! They better dump that motherfucker, like yesterday. We can't afford to miss all those bloodshot fucking fools' eyeballs that batshit gimp's got turning on him every night. Tell em to axe that pencil-necked rooster or we'll pull off the whole network!"

Oh hell, this is just daydreaming. I do a lot of that. It's a part of the dialectical process.

All things considered, I agree with Alex: better they axe Robert Spoegelman at NPR. In fact, better axe NPR itself than end the joyous mixed-nuts run of Glenn at Fox Hollow.

We marginal left-outs were never left out with you, Mr Beck!

About Brownshirts vs. hairshirts

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in the Brownshirts vs. hairshirts category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Brain bugs is the previous category.

Camelot, shamelot is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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