Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ohmygosh, Doonesbury's Zonker Harris a Teabagger? Why not? Naomi Wolf's signed on

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DOONESBURY: Monday
[Don't forget to click on all the strips to enlarge]

"[A]s I was told by Fritz Stern, a scholar of fascism who has written about the origins of Nazism, 'In Germany there was a yearning for fascism before fascism was invented.' It is the yearning that we now see, and it is dangerous. If we do not immediately reincorporate the unemployed and the poor back into the economy, giving them jobs and relief from crippling debt, then the nascent racism and violence that are leaping up around the edges of American society will become a full-blown conflagration."
-- Chris Hedges, in an almost-important essay,

by Ken

So President Obama is now a "Drill, baby, drill" guy. And Zonker's a Teabagger.

Chris Hedges posted the above-noted piece on TruthDig Monday, by coincidence the very same day that Zonker Harris made initial contact with the Teabaggers. (For the benefit of non-Doonesbury folk, the two-time Grand National Tanning Champion's website bio begins: "Few young Americans have so thoroughly savored the joys of college -- which he once referred to as 'the best nine years of my life' -- as Californian-American Zonker Harris.") I think Hedges is a serious writer, with a lot of on-the-ground journalistic observation (and he was a good journalist, for the record) to back up his theorizing. This piece begins:
The language of violence always presages violence. I watched it in war after war from Latin America to the Balkans. The impoverishment of a working class and the snuffing out of hope and opportunity always produce angry mobs ready to kill and be killed. A bankrupt, liberal elite, which proves ineffectual against the rich and the criminal, always gets swept aside, in times of economic collapse, before thugs and demagogues emerge to play to the passions of the crowd. I have seen this drama. I know each act. I know how it ends. I have heard it in other tongues in other lands. I recognize the same stock characters, the buffoons, charlatans and fools, the same confused crowds and the same impotent and despised liberal class that deserves the hatred it engenders.

“We are ruled not by two parties but one party,” Cynthia McKinney, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket, told me. “It is the party of money and war. Our country has been hijacked. And we have to take the country away from those who have hijacked it. The only question now is whose revolution gets funded.”

The Democrats and their liberal apologists are so oblivious to the profound personal and economic despair sweeping through this country that they think offering unemployed people the right to keep their unemployed children on their nonexistent health care policies is a step forward. They think that passing a jobs bill that will give tax credits to corporations is a rational response to an unemployment rate that is, in real terms, close to 20 percent. They think that making ordinary Americans, one in eight of whom depends on food stamps to eat, fork over trillions in taxpayer dollars to pay for the crimes of Wall Street and war is acceptable. They think that the refusal to save the estimated 2.4 million people who will be forced out of their homes by foreclosure this year is justified by the bloodless language of fiscal austerity. The message is clear. Laws do not apply to the power elite. Our government does not work. And the longer we stand by and do nothing, the longer we refuse to embrace and recognize the legitimate rage of the working class, the faster we will see our anemic democracy die.

Hedges offers as an example Yugoslavia, arguing: "The Balkan war was not caused by ancient ethnic hatreds. It was caused by the economic collapse of Yugoslavia. The petty criminals and goons who took power harnessed the anger and despair of the unemployed and the desperate."

Good stuff, no? I'm glad the piece has also been posted on AlterNet, which is actually where I saw it. It's also on AlterNet that Justine Sharrock posted a provocative interview with trendy left-wing sage Naomi Wolf: "Naomi Wolf Thinks the Tea Parties Help Fight Fascism -- Is She Onto Something or in Fantasy Land?" Sharrock posted her interview on Tuesday, which again by coincidence is the day that Zonker ran into a slight glitch establishing his against-the-man credentials with the Teabaggers:

DOONESBURY: Tuesday

Naomi Wolf is best known in political circles for her 2007 book The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot,in which she argued that the Bush regime had made great progress in advancing the U.S. along the "ten steps" to fascism.
She followed it up in 2008 with Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries,a manifesto on the loss of our liberties.

Sharrock notes in the introduction to her interview:
Now, under President Obama, Wolf's book is providing ammunition for the Tea Partiers, Patriots, Ron Paul supporters and Oath Keepers, who also warn of impending tyrannical government. Even when the book first came out pre-Obama, Alex Jones, Michael Savage and Fox News invited her on their shows, and agreed with her.

It’s not just her message. She speaks their language, referring to the Founding Fathers and American Revolution as models, admitting to a profound sense of fear, warning of tyranny, fascism, Nazism and martial law. When Glenn Beck warns of these things we laugh. When Wolf draws those same connections, we listen.

Sharrock asks if Wolf realized that her book "is being lauded within the Tea Party and patriot movements.
Since I wrote Give Me Liberty, I have had a new audience that looks different than the average Smith girl. There is a giant libertarian component. I have had a lot of dialogue with the Ron Paul community. There are [Tea Partiers] writing to me on my Facebook page, but I figured they were self-selective libertarians and not arch conservatives. I am utterly stunned that I have a following in the patriot movement and I wasn’t aware that specific Tea Partiers were reading it. They haven’t invited me to speak. They invited Sarah Palin.

Wolf was invited to speak to a Ron Paul rally last summer,
and I loved it. I met a lot of people I respected, a lot of “ordinary” people, as in not privileged. They were stepping up to the plate, when my own liberal privileged fellow demographic habituates were lying around whining. It was a wake-up call to the libertarians that there’s a progressive who cares so much about the same issues. Their views of liberals are just as distorted as ours are of conservatives.

And thank goodness she set them straight about that! She also knows why "the sides don't understand each other":
Frankly, liberals are out of the habit of communicating with anyone outside their own in cohort. We have a cultural problem with self-righteousness and elitism. Liberals roll their eyes about going on "Oprah" to reach a mass audience by using language that anyone can understand even if you majored in semiotics at Yale. We look down on people we don’t agree with. It doesn’t serve us well.

Wolf has written that some of the Teabagger ideas are "ahead of their time." She provides for-instances:
I used to think “End the Fed people” were crackpots. The media paints them as deranged. But it turned out we had good reason to have more oversight. Or take their platform about states’ rights. Demographically, I’m a hippie from San Francisco and I’m not culturally inclined to be sympathetic to states' rights. My cultural heritage is FDR and Medicare and federal government solutions. But if you think through the analysis, strengthening state rights is a good corrective of the aggregation of an over-reaching federal power. Take California’s challenge of the Patriot Act or states like Vermont leading the way with addressing the corruption of the voting system. It’s a good example of the Tea Party thinking out of the box on how to address a problem.

Are you ready to scream yet? Is this apparently intelligent person really so deluded as to imagine that the right-wing (or Libertarian) hostility to the Fed or passion for states' rights has anything in common with what the vision of America she claims to believe in? Sharrock, an excellent interviewer, pursues this issue, asking, "How do you feel about your books bolstering a fight for policies you don’t agree with?"
If people are taking my book seriously and organizing, getting into office, caring about the constitution, and not waiting for someone else to lead them, I think, God bless them. All of us should be doing that. The left should be doing that. There is always the risk in advocating for democracy that the first people to wake up might not be your team, but that is a risk worth taking. I would rather have citizens I don’t agree with organized and active than an oligarchy of people that I agree with.


DOONESBURY: today

Which bring us back to Chris Hedges. As you'll recall, he's really concerned with the threat of imminent violence. Late in his piece, he writes:
When someone like [Sarah] Palin posts a map with cross hairs on the districts of Democrats, when she says “Don’t Retreat, Instead -- RELOAD!” there are desperate people cleaning their weapons who listen. When Christian fascists stand in the pulpits of megachurches and denounce Barack Obama as the Antichrist, there are messianic believers who listen. When a Republican lawmaker shouts “baby killer” at Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, there are violent extremists who see the mission of saving the unborn as a sacred duty. They have little left to lose. We made sure of that. And the violence they inflict is an expression of the violence they endure.

These movements are not yet full-blown fascist movements. They do not openly call for the extermination of ethnic or religious groups. They do not openly advocate violence. But, as I was told by Fritz Stern, a scholar of fascism who has written about the origins of Nazism, “In Germany there was a yearning for fascism before fascism was invented.” It is the yearning that we now see, and it is dangerous. If we do not immediately reincorporate the unemployed and the poor back into the economy, giving them jobs and relief from crippling debt, then the nascent racism and violence that are leaping up around the edges of American society will become a full-blown conflagration.

Left unchecked, the hatred for radical Islam will transform itself into a hatred for Muslims. The hatred for undocumented workers will become a hatred for Mexicans and Central Americans. The hatred for those not defined by this largely white movement as American patriots will become a hatred for African-Americans. The hatred for liberals will morph into a hatred for all democratic institutions, from universities to government agencies to the press. Our continued impotence and cowardice, our refusal to articulate this anger and stand up in open defiance to the Democrats and the Republicans, will see us swept aside for an age of terror and blood.

Well, okay, I don't think any of us would disagree. The only thing is, Hedges seems to think he's sounding a brand-new alarm, that he's the first to warn that we could be on a path that leads to fascism. Actually, by my count he is . . . um, let's see, carry the one . . . just about the last to warn that we're on a path to fascism. He has helpfully added Fritz Stern's idea of a "yearning for fascism" that precedes the real thing; I think that's something to think about. But I describe his piece as "almost-important" because for all its smug self-assurance it doesn't seem to me really to advance the discussion.

Listen again: "If we do not immediately reincorporate the unemployed and the poor back into the economy, giving them jobs and relief from crippling debt, then the nascent racism and violence that are leaping up around the edges of American society will become a full-blown conflagration." Um, Chris, do you have any, you know, ideas about how that might be done? Perhaps that's so obvious that it didn't need to be explained, unlike all this other stuff that you explain very eloquently but that really many of us kind of worked out for ourselves.

If Hedges had started the piece by saying, "I don't have a damned clue how we might do it, but if we do not immediately reincorporate the unemployed and the poor back into the economy, giving them jobs and relief from crippling debt, then the nascent racism and violence that are leaping up around the edges of American society will become a full-blown conflagration," I would at least feel that we have something to talk about.

The Teabaggers have grievances. Yeah, I get it. By and large, they don't have a clue what has actually happened to them, or what can be done about it. They're mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. Not exactly a blueprint for change we can believe in.

Now, however, it appears that the Teabaggers have Zonker. As if they weren't confused enough!
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6 Comments:

At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Hedges' writing, but I've tapered off reading it because after a while it just becomes insufferable. Everything is the most dire thing that ever existed or could exist. And like a broken clock, sometime or other he'll be right. Still, I respect his mind and understanding of political, social, and economic dynamics.

 
At 7:23 PM, Blogger Daro said...

Capitalism is a law like gravity. And the same way people put up guide ropes and safety nets to stop citizens plunging to their deaths, so capitalism needs controls and restrictions.

But here the biggest threat are the glibertarians. They see capitalism as some immutable theological purity that should never be interfered with like fresh water.

The "law of the jungle" is not a philosophy. Any more than "gravitationalism" is a philosophy. They have their gated compound and inheritance trust fund and just see increased poverty as a means of sourcing cheaper labour.

But a la the quote doing the rounds; "When people have nothing left to lose, they lose it."

 
At 10:19 PM, Blogger Doug Kahn said...

Okay, that's scary. Those comments weren't ironical, were they?

 
At 7:49 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Well, there's plenty to be scared of, isn't there, Doug?

And Anon, I think you've expressed really well my feelings about Chris Hedges' writing. Thanks! (There has to be a way to work this into a system for getting smarter people to say better than I can what's on my mind.)

I also have a bone to pick with him about his casual tossing around of that phrase "liberal elite." I'm working on a post that includes this subject. Unless someone else would be kind enough to write it for me, saving wear and tear on my poor brain.

Ken

 
At 2:29 AM, Blogger DiSCo said...

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At 12:37 PM, Blogger DiSCo said...

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