Plagiarising the Independent (sort of)

I have to admit agreement with the Independent Newspaper when they say:

It is always tempting to home in on the absurdity of the Republican right in America, the almost comic quality of some of their views and the ludicrous nature of the accusations they hurl at President Barack Obama.

The paranoid and hate-filled world of the “birthers”, the Tea Party people and all the rest is so alien to the British experience as to be incomprehensible. We tend not to take them seriously, or assume that the Republicans’ constant lurch to the right inevitably renders them unelectable. We may be making a mistake. The huge size of the rally held in Washington at the weekend – where several hundred thousand people turned up to hear the Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck announce that America was “turning back to God” – provides further disturbing proof, if any were needed, of the growing popularity of the hard right.

It seems incomprehensible to me that the views expressed by the extreme right in the US are given any creedence, let alone considered pursuasive. The rightward movement in US politics is incredibly frightening since it has gone to the point where what would be considered centrist politics is labelled “far left”.

Here on the other side of the Atlantic, we await two things: for so-called ordinary Americans to recoil from and disavow the right’s toxic, divisive rhetoric; and for moderate Republicans to start re-asserting the very different traditions of Lincoln, Eisenhower, and George Bush senior, for that matter.

Neither of those outcomes seems to be materialising. Centrist Republicans have become a marginalised minority in their own party – eclipsed and somehow out of place among people who have come to expect references to God’s will to appear in almost every sentence. Meanwhile, Obama’s fellow Democrats are heading towards mid-term elections in November in a mood of despondency, and expect a drubbing at the hands of their adrenaline-filled opponents.

Where is the voice of the left in the USA? I thought that one of the signs of facism was that there was no longer a viable left wing. Although one sign is that the people are rallied around a unifying patriotism directed against some common threat: communists, liberals, a racial, ethnic or religious minority, intellectuals, homosexuals, terrorists, and so on.

Liberals and any form of political thought which mentions equality is seen as a threat.

Another aspect of facism is a disdain for intellectuals – Fascist society tends to create an environment of extreme hostility to critical thought in general, and to academics in particular. Those who question the messages given by the far right are treated with hositlity. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

I seriously fear for the United States as a country, but this problem has been ongoing in that the US has always had a dislike for intellectuals and thought. I consistently like to quote P.T. Barnum’s saying that “nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”

Additionally, I wonder how many Americans are amongst the silent majority who refuse to be active in politics until the situation gets out of hand.

The fact that Glenn Beck, the tea party, and the rest of the lunatic right wing remains unchallenged is frightening to me.

But I will add one further warning sign of facism: Supremacy of the military – The military establishment receives a disproportionate share of government resources, even as pressing domestic needs are neglected. Individual soldiers and military culture are glamorized and made constantly visible.

This provides both an object for public glorification, as well as sharp warning to possibly restless citizens that the power of the state stands close at hand, ready to use its great potential for violence.

When one watches the radical right in the United States, one wonders where the potential for violence will come from: the state or private factions?

The worst scenario is that any political violence leads to a true police state.

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