Monday, September 27, 2004

The Nazi Conscience - Part End

Orcinus published Part II of his Rise of Pseudo Fascism article today, The Architecture of Fascism. At this link you can see Part 1: The Morphing of the Conservative Movement. It's something of a coincidence for me as I also finished Koonz's The Nazi Conscience. A few of the more interesting, major ideas in her book were:

1. That the SA and SS and their respective publications and actions in Nazi Germany complemented each other by providing foils for escalating atrocities against Jews. When the SA initiated violent attacks and screeds against Jews, the SS could counter-position itself as the technocratic voice of reason, trying to assure the populace that pogroms would not interrupt day-to-day life and affect moral conscience and that there were more efficient ways to handle the issue. Thus the more violent and virulent the SA became, the more capable the SS was of putting forward their eventually exterminist agenda for Jews and in the best possible light. It would seem that this is what is going on now and I'd be interested to hear someone address it. I've heard discussions of the use of language by the right to create particular ideas, but I haven't heard a discussion about how the over-the-top ideas of the right, particularly anti-homosexual rants like those voiced by Jimmy Swaggart, or anti-Muslim diatribes like Michelle Malkin, provide a screen for the more "moderate" voices of the right preaching pretty much the exact same thing - Fox News, et al. The depth of the similarities are deeper in that this Administration maintains a relative silence on the issue of homosexuality, but offers coded assurances to supporters that it's not off the board, that the persecution of gay Americans isn't something that will be put on the wayside - observe the comments about Kerry's and Edward's hair, etc. This serves a twofold purpose of encoding a message to those who think they know the real Bush agenda and, at the same time, emasculating their opponents, one of the first rules of fascism - the language of fascism is masculine and about masculine leaders.

2. That the evolution of a group conscience aimed at expelling a minority from the body (volk) is not necessarily at odds with a different attitude toward discrete individuals by discrete individuals. While most Germans had to participate in the extermination of Jews in some manner: settling bank accounts, selling off assets, processing assets, adjusting rental units, negotiating bills for those who had disappeared - individual acts of kindness towards Jews who were friends persisted throughout the war. This is event more the case considering the right versus homosexuality where homosexuality doesn't reside in a percent or two of the population and doesn't necessarily reside with another family (if you have ten family members, you're working the odds), but likely in one's own, even if you refuse to acknowledge it. Hence, politicians like Dick Cheney and Alan Keyes who can condemn homosexuality as a whole while having gay daughters and friends.

3. There is a rewriting of history to portray your enemies as responsible for the current political woes and moral problems while simultaneously recalling a golden era when those problems did not exist. Thus, the persecution of Bill Clinton as somehow responsible for the moral breakdown of American society and the Clinton administration (and liberals and the left in general) as responsible for the problems with terrorists and a harkening back to the eras of Regan, Nixon and even McCarthy.

4. And finally, simply the existence of scholarly racism - that there exists a programmatic effort to create a structured, intellectual, scholarly movement to justify 1, 2 and 3 - a full blown funding of think tanks, publications, scientists, and other media to create the false impression of a science that does not actually demonstrate any scientific evidence outside a political viewpoint. Anyone who watched Santorum debate the number of parents necessary for a healthy family during the gay marriage debate was privileged to see the modern equivalent of this point. And any discussion of "intelligent design" raises the same specter.

I really recommend reading Koonz's book - absolutely wonderful and absolutely pertinent.

"...a creed that gathers force when modernizing societies are convulsed by dislocations which threaten convention systems of meaning." (p. 274)

"Political leaders who appear to embody the communitarian virtues of a bygone age purport to stand as beacons of moral rectitude in a sea of sin...their devoted constituencies share a fear of moral and physical pollution so profound it transcends partisan politics." (p. 274)

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