Friday, August 7, 2009

Reverse Projection

This post responds to a post made by "Mustang Bobby" over at his blog. I should note that Bobby's post is essentially a quote from a Salon magazine article; for purposes here I'll assume Bobby adopts the quote in whole.

Bobby is disturbed by the right's accusatory rhetoric directed at Obama, particularly the charges of fascism. To me, suspicion of power is healthy. The office of the President has become far more powerful than the Framers intended, and far more powerful than is healthy for a democracy. I was glad that Bush was accused of fascism, and I'm glad to see public vigilance continue under Obama. The power of the Chief Executive must be carefully guarded and watched.

Bush and Obama have both been charged with fascism, each for different reasons. They are both valid accusations. Nowadays, it is unnecessary to explain Bush's charges--one need only visit any progressive blog. Bush bashing is still a popular sport, particularly among the intellectually dishonest who blame Bush for every present malady of the world.

The charges against Obama do require some explanation, particularly to those on the left who, as is often the case, have a poor grasp of the history of fascist regimes. Conservatives love freedom. We therefore have a tendency to study the history of fascism in some detail, both to appreciate our own freedoms in America, but also to know the enemy. The left, sadly, tends to have little interest. Perhaps because the leftist principle of pacifism is historically inconsistent with freedom? Who knows.

Bobby does not see, or does not want to see, that Obama's short time in office has been marked with unprecedented trappings of fascism. Each increment alone seems harmless, but cumulatively the result transforms a public office into a cult of personality. Before continuing, the meaning of "public office" should be elaborated. Even the President of the United States is a servant of the public. It is an office held by someone who volunteers, for relatively little compensation, to steer only the executive branch of government for four years. The people set the course of the ship, not the President. You, yes you, Joe Citizen, can look the president in the eye, wag your finger and say, "You work for me, buddy."

In a fascist state, the role of El Presidente, Der Fuhrer, etc. is quite different. He tells you what to think, and knows what is best for you. His modus operandi is to appeal to the masses as a benevolent father, a philosopher king, or as divinely chosen to the task. Instead of allowing the people to naturally resolve their political differences, the fascist meddles. He uses the power of his office to empower his minions, encouraging and supporting their proxy attacks against his opponents. The fascist uses his supporters as an extension of his will, encouraging the demonizing of all who oppose him. He appeals to primitive tribalism by propagating symbols, logos and standards. He seeks control of the media.

Obama's short time has been accompanied with all the trappings of fascism, at an alarming rate:

1. The disturbing use of government resources to compile and and deride political opposition. The latest "snitch line" is un-American. Consider the following sentence from the whitehouse.gov page, "These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation." Yes, if a co-worker mouths off against Obamacare at the water cooler, you are encouraged to report it. Interestingly, the left seems unconcerned by the government doing this. Even though the left was deeply distrubed by Bush's use of wiretaps to fight terrorism. Although there are technical differences between the two programs, the essence remains the same: Big Brother is listening. Conservatives might defend Bush's use of wiretaps as a matter of national security. Obama's snitch program is unjustified. What is the government doing with the names of those reported? (Here is the response--comforting?)

2. The massive branding and symbolism spewed by the Obama presidency is unprecedented in US history. But it is prevalent in nearly all fascist regimes. The US has historically had only one primary symbol, the Stars and Stripes, and to a lesser extent, the eagle. We are now bombarded with variations on the "O" everywhere, including at taxpayer expense: click here to see recovery.gov's logo. This "O" was affixed to public works signs at taxpayer expense. Why? Why, why, why? Harmless in and of itself (except for the wasted taxpayer $ on paint), but a symptom of the larger problem. Beyond the public sector, Obama's "O" symbol is everywhere, as is his portrait. It becomes a two-way street. Citizens under fascism develop a form of cognitive dissonance where they justify their compliance with the leader's will by attributing it to love, instead of fear, much like a battered wife. Like heart-throb posters on a teenage girl's bedroom walls, they plaster their cars and homes and streets with His images.

3. Disturbingly close ties between the media and the White House. This is of course, nothing new. But Obama has taken it above and beyond. The media worships him, dotes on his wife's outfits, and continue to promote him as a false messiah. Again, typical hallmarks of fascism.

4. Indoctrinating youth. Look here, here, and here. Here's Obama's version. And his chief of staff's version.

The left is myopic (as was the right under Bush) because they are still drunk with satisfaction that Obama is not Bush. And, of course, they agree with some of Obama's policies. Nonetheless, a true liberal ought to recognize the danger. The office of the President of the United States is becoming a throne.

6 comments:

  1. KC: you revealed your fringiness when you claimed I was a "paid political operative and in this post you manage to parrot more of the right's most ridiculous talking points.

    The media commenting on the First Lady's outfits? Never happened before!

    Indoctrinating youth? I'm not even going to waste my breath.

    "Disturbing" symbolism? My time is way too valuable.

    And the "snitch line"...wherein the Obama Administration makes use of the internet in a way only the Bush Administration could dream of in order to correct erroneous information. Like he did during the campaign.

    You got's to do better FFB. I listen to too much Beck, Hannity and Limbaugh.

    .

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  2. Hello Rick, thanks for visiting and commenting. I'll address each of your points, but due to blogger.com limits I have to do so in two separate posts:

    "KC: you revealed your fringiness when you claimed I was a paid political operative"

    Although the difference to you is probably slight, I only suspected that your blog was "astroturf". That suspicion has since dissolved, and I believe your blog to be genuine.

    "and in this post you manage to parrot more of the right's most ridiculous talking points."

    As to whether my views are parroting, I disagree. You see, I am often frustrated with "Republicans" who purportedly share my views, but at their core are simply anti-Obama. I am anti-fascist, and am generally opposed to the office of President having too much concentrated power. If you study the development of presidential power in the US, particularly from a constitutional law standpoint, you'll see that the president was never intended to be as powerful as he is today. And by power, I also mean influential. If you read my post carefully, you'll see I also had similar misgivings about Bush, which is a clear distinction from most of the right.

    "The media commenting on the First Lady's outfits? Never happened before!"

    You're absolutely correct, it has. In particular with Hillary (who sought the spotlight when Bill was in office), but less with any of the Bush wives. In my opinion, it is being done to a much greater extent today. But I think we can agree, that its not something we should care about, and any media time spent on it is a disservice to the public.

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  3. "Indoctrinating youth? I'm not even going to waste my breath."

    I wish you would. I find Emmanuel's views, in particular, disturbing. Even if you agree, and everyone does, that young people should get out and help their communities, I would hope you see something wrong with the federal government commanding it. I understand most people don't see the problem. But it strikes at the core question of what government's role in society is. To Emmanuel, he sees it as OK for the government to conscript millions of America's youth, so long as they are put to a morally acceptable use. Well, even if the results really would be great for society, I have a problem with that way of thinking. The power of government is to limit your freedom where the harm to others from exercising that freedom outweighs your cost of refrain. The government should not be posing positive obligations on you. Suppose a parent or the youth himself simply doesn't want to participate...should there be government imposed sanctions? Is that youth a draft-dodger? And as to indoctrination, I think it sets an example to the youth that it is perfectly acceptable for the government to tell you what to do and when to do it. I think the problem is that you and I see freedom very differently. To me, there is only one occasion for a positive obligation to do anything, and that is the draft as laid out in the constitution.

    ""Disturbing" symbolism? My time is way too valuable."

    Well, do you disagree that we're being bombarded by "O" symbols everywhere? There was never such symbolism in our history. We have one unifying symbol, the stars and stripes. You may think there is no impact on society by it, but I disagree. I think the effect is very subtle, but human beings are wired to respond to tribal symbols, be they flags, tatoos, whatever, but I think anthropologists would back me up on that. And fascist regimes are known for having the party symbols and pictures of the leader plastered everywhere. Nazi Germany is of course the strongest example, but not the only one. Is the "O" necessarily being used as a sword? Maybe not, but if not, then it surely is a symptom of a problem in our democracy.

    "And the "snitch line"...wherein the Obama Administration makes use of the internet in a way only the Bush Administration could dream of in order to correct erroneous information. Like he did during the campaign."

    You're not being intellectually honest here. There is nothing wrong with using the Internet to publish information. There is definitely something wrong with encouraging citizens to report dissent to Big Brother. Dude, you already know that there is Media Matters and all sorts of other Internet-based self-anointed "truth and rumor" watchdogs. They are already getting the chain emails and reading the blogs. They have absolutely no need for citizen-informants. It sets a terrible precedent. They could have asked and said, "please protect the privacy of others by not including names, email addresses or other personal information in your email to us." Again, they want to here about "casual conversations." To me, this is absolutely not what the government should be doing. We're not talking about a Swine Flu hotline or the Hurricane Rumor control hotline they run here in Florida. We're talking about debatable public policy. Indeed, the irony is that there is some dispute as to whether or not once you leave a private plan, whether or not you can get back on it. Further, there is dispute as to whether or not private plans will be able to compete with a subsidized public plan. So the example they give, "keeping" your plan, we'll that's a little misleading and oversimplifies the issue. Now, if some private organization, so PAC or lobby wants to do have a snitch program, perfectly fine with me. But the government, whitehouse.gov? Absolutely not.

    "You got's to do better FFB. I listen to too much Beck, Hannity and Limbaugh."

    Not a fan of them.

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  4. Look up "projection" in the DSM-IV and one can see the picture of Rick. Glad someone called him on it.

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  5. the Old ProfessorAugust 9, 2009 at 4:31 PM

    Look up fascism in your dictionary. Every one that I have notes a thorough link between the dictator and the major corporations, and calls it a dictatorship of the right. You may note what you think are dictatorial directions on the part of the present administration, but they would seem to fall short of that "on the right" part. On the other hand, there's always the previous administration.

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  6. Old Prof-
    Interesting points.

    1. The core of my complaint places its emphasis on the American left's growing appetite for authoritarianism.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism#Authoritarianism
    "All fascist movements advocate the creation of an authoritarian government that is an autocratic single-party state led by a charismatic leader with the powers of a dictator."

    2. Is fascism "of the left" or "of the right"? That debate is summarized here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism#Position_in_the_political_spectrum
    I have not read Jonah Goldberg's book, but I have seen him interviewed several times about it. He makes a compelling case that it is "of the left", but what I take away is that it can ferment within either the left of the right. In other words, an unhealthy left leaning progressive regime could also devolve into fascism. Wouldn't Castro, particularly in his pre-revolutionary days, have been categorized as a leftist?

    3. While historically corporatism was an element, the question becomes whether the definition is incorrect without its strong presence. I am not sure either way. But first, I would point out a few things:

    (a) The federal government became, under Obama, a majority owner of GM:
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/120842/disapprove-majority-government-ownership.aspx
    (b) And the financial bailout:
    http://curiouscapitalist.blogs.time.com/2009/03/02/why-the-aig-bailout-just-keeps-getting-bigger/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_International_Group
    (c) Very likely to become heavily involved in health care
    (d) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cap_and_trade

    Granted, the left argues that all of these things were necessary as a result of the credit crisis, to save the environment, to save health care, etc. Nonetheless, the result looks like corporatism to me.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporatism

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