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applegrove

(119,523 posts)
Sat Aug 22, 2015, 09:57 PM Aug 2015

The Plague of American Authoritarianism

The Plague of American Authoritarianism

by Henry Giroux at CounterPunch

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/08/21/the-plague-of-american-authoritarianism/

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Authoritarianism in the American collective psyche and in what might be called traditional narratives of historical memory is always viewed as existing elsewhere. Viewed as an alien and demagogic political system, it is primarily understood as a mode of governance associated with the dictatorships in Latin America in the 1970s and, of course, in its most vile extremes, with Hitler’s poisonous Nazi rule and Mussolini’s fascist state in the 1930s and 1940s. These were and are societies that idealized war, soldiers, nationalism, militarism, political certainty, fallen warriors, racial cleansing, and a dogmatic allegiance to the homeland. Education and the media were the propaganda tools of authoritarianism, merging fascist and religious symbols with the language of God, family, and country, and were integral to promoting servility and conformity among the populace. This script is well known to the American public and it has been played out in films, popular culture, museums, the mainstream media, and other cultural apparatuses. Historical memory that posits the threat of the return of an updated authoritarianism turns the potential threat of the return of authoritarianism into dead memory. Hence, any totalitarian mode of governance is now treated as a relic of a sealed past that bears no relationship to the present. The need to retell the story of totalitarianism becomes a frozen lesson in history rather than a narrative necessary to understanding the present

Hannah Arendt, the great theorist of totalitarianism, believed that the protean elements of totalitarianism are still with us and that they would crystalize in different forms.[ii] Far from being a thing of the past, she believed that totalitarianism “heralds as a possible model for the future.”[iii] Arendt was keenly aware that the culture of traditionalism, an ever present culture of fear, the corporatization of civil society, the capture of state power by corporations, the destruction of public goods, the corporate control of the media, the rise of a survival-of-the-fittest ethos, the dismantling of civil and political rights, the ongoing militarization of society, the “religionization of politics,”[iv] a rampant sexism, an attack on labor, an obsession with national security, human rights abuses, the emergence of a police state, a deeply rooted racism, and the attempts by demagogues to undermine critical education as a foundation for producing critical citizenry were all at work in American society. For Arendt, these anti-democratic elements in American society constituted what she called the “sand storm,” a metaphor for totalitarianism.[v]

Historical conjunctures produce different forms of authoritarianism, though they all share a hatred for democracy, dissent, and human rights. It is too easy to believe in a simplistic binary logic that strictly categorizes a country as either authoritarian or democratic and leaves no room for entertaining the possibility of a mixture of both systems. American politics today suggests a more updated if not different form of authoritarianism or what some have called the curse of totalitarianism. In this context, it is worth remembering what Huey Long said in response to the question of whether America could ever become fascist: “Yes, but we will call it anti-fascist.” [vi] Long’s reply indicates that fascism is not an ideological apparatus frozen in a particular historical period, but as Arendt suggested a complex and often shifting theoretical and political register for understanding how democracy can be subverted, if not destroyed, from within.

The notion of soft fascism was articulated in 1985 in Bertram Gross’s book, Friendly Fascism, in which he argued that if fascism came to the United States it would not embody the same characteristics associated with fascist forms in the historical past. There would be no Nuremberg rallies, doctrines of racial superiority, government-sanctioned book burnings, death camps, genocidal purges, or the abrogation of the constitution. In short, fascism would not take the form of an ideological grid from the past simply downloaded onto another country under different historical conditions. Gross believed that fascism was an ongoing danger and had the ability to become relevant under new conditions, taking on familiar forms of thought that resonate with nativist traditions, experiences, and political relations. Similarly, in his Anatomy of Fascism, Robert O. Paxton argued that the texture of American fascism would not mimic traditional European forms but would be rooted in the language, symbols, and culture of everyday life. According to Paxton:



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The Plague of American Authoritarianism (Original Post) applegrove Aug 2015 OP
That is how Hillary should run against Trump and the GOP in general. applegrove Aug 2015 #1
This should be required reading on DU Stuckinthebush Aug 2015 #2
Thank you for sharing, applegrove! OldEurope Aug 2015 #3
You're welcome. applegrove Aug 2015 #4
A few more choice quotes Doctor_J Aug 2015 #5
 

Doctor_J

(36,392 posts)
5. A few more choice quotes
Tue Aug 25, 2015, 10:38 AM
Aug 2015
Instead of a charismatic leader, the government is now governed through the anonymous and largely remote hands of corporate power and finance capital. Political sovereignty is largely replaced by economic sovereignty as corporate power takes over the reins of governance. The more money influences politics, the more corrupt the political culture becomes. Under such circumstances, holding office is largely dependent on having huge amounts of capital at one’s disposal, while laws and policies at all levels of government are mostly fashioned by lobbyists representing big business corporations and financial institutions. Moreover, as the politics of Obama’s health-care reform indicate–a gift to the health insurance giants–such lobbying, as corrupt and unethical as it may be, is now carried out in the open and displayed by insurance and drug companies as a badge of honor...

Rather than forcing a populace to adhere to a particular state ideology, the general public in the United States is largely depoliticized through the influence of corporations over schools, higher education, and other cultural apparatuses...

Civic literacy in the United States is not simply in decline, it is the object of scorn and derision. The corporate controlled media have abandoned even the pretense of holding power accountable and now primarily serve as second rate entertainment venues spouting the virtues of balance, consumerism, greed, and American exceptionalism...

What is particularly troublesome is the manifestations of totalitarianism in the discourse and proposed policy measures of the extremists that now govern the Republican Party and how this is taken up in the mainstream media. One finds in the rhetoric of Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and others a mix of war like values, expressions of racism, a hatred of women’s rights, unabashed support for the financial elite, a religious fundamentalism, a celebration of war, and a deep seated hostility for all things public. Chris Christie sells himself to the American public as a bully and believes that threatening violence is a crucial element of leadership.


Please read the entire thing. It's why I won't be voting for Clinton. I don't want one more thing that should be free/public to be sold to the profiteers.
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