Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fascism and the Future, Part Three: Weimar America

The discussion on fascism that’s taken up the last two weekly essays here on The Archdruid Report, and will finish up in this week’s post, has gone in directions that will very likely have surprised and dismayed many of my readers.  Some of you, in fact, may even be jumping up and down by this point shouting, “Okay, but what about fascism? We’ve heard more than enough about Depression-era European dictators in funny uniforms, and that’s all very well and good, but what about real fascism, the kind we have in America today?”
 
If this is what’s going through your head just now, dear reader, you’re in interesting company.  It’s a curious detail that in the last years of the Weimar Republic, a large number of avant-garde intellectuals and cultural figures were convinced that they already lived in a fascist country. They pointed, as many Americans point today, to the blatant influence of big business on the political process, to civil rights violations perpetrated by the administration in power or by state and local governments, and to the other abuses of power  common to any centralized political system, and they insisted that this amounted to fascism, since their concept of fascism—like the one standard in today’s America—assumed as a matter of course that fascism must by definition defend and support the economic and political status quo.

In point of fact, as Walter Laqueur showed in his capable survey Weimar: A Cultural History, denouncing the Weimar Republic as a fascist regime was quite the lively industry in Germany in the very late 1920s and early 1930s. Unfortunately for those who made this claim, history has a wicked sense of humor.  A good many of the people who liked to insist that Weimar Germany was a fascist state got to find out—in many cases, at the cost of their lives—that there really is a difference between a troubled, dysfunctional, and failing representative democracy and a totalitarian state, and that a movement that promises to overturn a broken status quo, and succeeds in doing so, is perfectly capable of making things much, much worse.

It’s entirely possible that we could end up on the receiving end of a similar dose of history’s gallows humor. To an embarrassing degree, after all, political thought in modern America has degenerated into the kind of reflexive venting of rage George Orwell parodied in 1984 in the Two Minutes Hate. Instead of pouring out their hatred at a cinematic image of marching Eurasian soldiers juxtaposed with the sniveling face of Goldstein, the traitorous leader of the Brotherhood, the inhabitants of our contemporary Oceania have their choice of options neatly stapled to the insides of their brains. For Democrats, the standard target until recently was an image of George W. Bush dressed up as Heinrich Himmler, lighting a bonfire using the Constitution as tinder and then tossing endangered species into the flames; for Republicans right now, it’s usually a picture of Barack Obama dressed up as Ho Chi Minh, having sex with their daughters and then walking off with their gun collections. Either way, the effect is the same.

I wish I were joking. I know people who, during Dubya’s presidency, were incapable of passing a picture of the man without screaming obscenities at it, and I know other people who have the identical kneejerk reaction these days to pictures of the White House’s current inmate.  I’ve commented here before how our political demonology stands in the way of any response to the converging crises of our time. The same sort of denunciatory frenzy was all the rage, in any sense of that word you care to choose, in Germany during the Weimar Republic—and its most important consequence was that it blinded far too many people to the difference between ordinary political dysfunction and the far grimmer realities that were waiting in the wings.

To explore the way that unfolded, let’s engage in a little thought experiment. Imagine, then, that sometime this spring, when you visit some outdoor public place, you encounter a half dozen young people dressed identically in bright green T-shirts, surplus black BDU trousers, and army-style boots.  They’re clean-cut, bright, and enthusiastic, and they want to interest you in a new political movement called the American Peoples Party. You’re not interested, and walk on by.

A couple of months later you run across another dozen or so of them, just as bright and clean and enthusiastic as the first bunch.  Now the movement is called the National Progressive American Peoples Party, NPAPP for short, and it’s got a twenty-five-point program focused on the troubled economy. You take a flyer, mostly because the young person who hands it to you is kind of cute. The twenty-five points don’t seem especially original, but they make more sense than what either Obama or the Republicans are offering. What’s more, the flyer says that the economy’s a mess and peak oil and climate change are real problem that aren’t going away, and this impresses you.

Over the months to come you see more and more of them, handing out flyers, going door to door to invite people to local caucus meetings, and doing all the other things that political parties used to do back when they were serious about grassroots organizing. A news website you follow shows a picture of the party’s chairman, a man named Fred Halliot;* he’s an earnest-looking guy in his thirties, an Army vet who did three tours in Afghanistan and earned a Silver Star for courage under fire. You glance at his face and then go look at something more interesting.

(*Yes, it’s an anagram. Work it out yourself.)

Meanwhile, the economy’s getting worse in the same slow uneven way it’s been doing for years. Two of your friends lose their jobs, and the price of gasoline spikes up to $5.69 a gallon, plunges, and finds a new stable point again well above $4. Obama insists that the recovery is already here and people just need to be patient and wait for prosperity to get to them. The Republicans insist that the only reason the economy hasn’t recovered yet is that the rich still have to pay taxes. The media are full of cheery stories about how the 2014 holiday season is going to be so big a hit that stores may run out of toys and electronic gewgaws to sell; there are record crowds on Black Friday, or that’s what the TV says, but nobody you know has the spare money to buy much this year. Not until midway through January 2015 does the media admit that the shopping season was a disaster and that two big-box chains have just gone broke.

Through all this, the new party keeps building momentum. As spring comes, Halliot begins a nationwide speaking tour. He travels in a school bus painted green and black, the NPAPP colors, and a Celtic tree-of-life symbol, the party’s new emblem.  The bus goes from town to town, and the crowds start to build. A handful of media pundits start talking about Halliot and the NPPAP, making wistful noises about how nice it is to see young idealists in politics again; a few others fling denunciations, though they don’t seem to have any clear sense what exactly they’re denouncing.  Both mainstream parties, as well as the Libertarians and the Greens, launch youth organizations with their own t-shirts and slogans, but their lack of anything approaching new ideas or credible responses to the economic mess make these efforts a waste of time.

The speaking tour ends in Washington DC with a huge rally, and things get out of hand. Exactly what happened is hard to tell afterwards, with wildly different stories coming from the feds, the mass media, the internet, and the NPAPP headquarters in St. Louis. The upshot, though, is that Halliot and two of his chief aides are arrested on federal conspiracy charges.  The trial is a media circus. Halliot gives an impassioned speech justifying his actions on the grounds that the nation and the world are in deep trouble, radical change is needed to keep things from getting much worse, and civil disobedience is justified for that reason.  He gets sentenced to four years in prison, and the other political parties breathe a huge collective sigh of relief, convinced that the NPAPP is a flash in the pan.

They’re wrong. The NPAPP weathers the crisis easily, and publicity from the trial gives Halliot and his party a major boost. Candidates from the new party enter races across the country in the 2016 elections, seizing much of the limelight from the frankly dreary presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Haley Barbour.  When the votes are counted, the new party has more than three hundred city and county positions, forty-three seats in state legislatures, and two seats in the House of Representatives. The major parties try every trick in the book to overturn the results of each race, and succeed mostly in making themselves look corrupt and scared.

Then Halliot gets released from prison, having served only nine months of his sentence.  (Word on the internet has it that the whole point of locking him up was to keep him out of the way during the election—but is that simply a NPAPP talking point?  Nobody’s sure.) It turns out that he put the time to good use, and has written a book, A Struggle for the Soul of America, which hits the bookstalls the same week President Barbour is inaugurated. You leaf through a copy at the public library; it’s not exactly a great work of literature, and it’s written in a folksy, rambling style you find irritating, but it’s full of the kind of political notions that Americans swap over beers and pizza: the kind, in other words, that no mainstream party will touch.

The book has an edge that wasn’t in NPAPP literature before Halliot’s prison term, though.  The government of the parties, he insists, must be replaced by a government of the people, guided by a new values consensus that goes beyond the broken politics of greed and special interests to do what has to be done to cope with the disintegrating economy, the challenge of peak oil, and the impacts of climate change. Time is short, he insists, and half measures aren’t enough to avoid catastrophe; a complete transformation of every aspect of American life, a Great Turning, is the only option left.  Edgy though his language and ideas have become, you note, he’s still the only person in national politics who takes the economic, energy, and climate crises seriously.

The next autumn, as if on cue, the economic troubles go into overdrive.  Petroleum prices spike again—you start commuting via public transit when the price of gasoline breaks $8 a gallon—and a big Wall Street investment bank that had huge derivative bets the other direction goes messily broke.  Attempts to get a bailout through Congress freeze up in a flurry of partisan bickering. Over the next two months, despite frantic efforts by the Barbour administration, the stock market plunges and the credit markets seize up.  Job losses snowball. Through the fall and winter, NPAPP people are everywhere, leafleting the crowds, staffing impromptu soup kitchens, marching in the streets. You would pay less attention, but by spring you’re out of a job, too.

The following years are a blur of grim headlines, hungry crowds at soup kitchens, and marching crowds in green and black. In the 2018 election,  there are rumors, never proved, of NPAPP squads keeping opposition voters away from the polls in critical districts.  One way or another, though, Halliot’s party seats six senators and 185 representatives in Congress, and takes control of the governments of a dozen states. The three-way split in the House makes it all but impossible to get anything done there, not that the Democrats or Republicans have any idea what to do, and the administration copies its last two predecessors by flailing and fumbling to no noticeable effect. One thing of importance does happen; to get NPAPP support to push a stopgap budget through the House in 2019, President Barbour is forced to grant a full federal pardon to Halliot, removing the last legal barrier to the latter’s presidential ambitions.

Fast forward to the 2020 elections, which are fought out bitterly in a flurry of marches, protests, beatings, riots, and charges and countercharges of vote fraud. When the dust has settled, it turns out that no party has a majority in the electoral college.  The election goes to the House, and since neither of the major parties is willing to vote for the other major party’s candidate, Halliot ends up winning by a whisker-thin majority on the forty-second ballot. He is inaugurated on a bitterly cold day, surrounded by NPAPP banners and greeted by marching files of party faithful in green and black.  He announces that he’s about to call a constitutional convention to replace the government of the parties with a government of the people, get the country back on its feet, and sweep away everything that stands in the way of the Great Turning that will lead America and the world to a bright new future. The crowd roars its approval.

Later that year, the crowds go wilder still when the old constitution is scrapped and the new one enacted. Those with old-fashioned ideas find some aspects of the new constitution objectionable, as it lacks such minor details as checks and balances, not to mention meaningful and enforceable guarantees of due process and civil rights.  The media doesn’t mention that, though, because the “new values consensus” is enforced by Party officials—the capital letter becomes standard usage very quickly—and those who criticized the new constitution too forcefully, well, let’s just say that nobody’s quite sure where they are now, and most people know better than to ask.

And you, dear reader? At what point along that trajectory would you have decided that for all its seeming promise, for all the youth and enthusiasm and earnestness that surround it, the National Socialist German Workers Party and the folksy, charismatic veteran who led it were likely to be worse—potentially much, much worse—than the weary, dreary, dysfunctional mess of a political system they were attempting to replace?  Or would you end up as part of the cheering crowds in that last scene?  You don’t have to tell me the answer, but in the silence of your own mind, take the time to think it through and face the question honestly.

What almost always gets forgotten about the fascist movements of Europe between the wars is just how much promise they seemed to hold, and how many people of good will saw them as the best hope of the future.  Their leaders were young—Hitler was 43 when he became chancellor of Germany, the same age as John F. Kennedy at his inauguration, and Mussolini was only 39 when he became prime minister of Italy—and most of the rank and file of both men’s followers were younger still. Hitler’s party, for example, had a huge success among German college students long before it had a mass following anywhere else. Both parties also drew to a very great extent on the avant-garde culture and popular ideas of their time. How many people even remember nowadays that before the Second World War, the swastika was seen as a pagan symbol of life, redolent of ancient roots and primal vitality, with much the same cultural ambience that the NPAPP’s Celtic tree-of-life emblem might have in America today?

The fascist movements of the 1920s and 1930s were thus closely attuned to the hopes and fears of the masses, far more so than either the mainstream parties or the established radical groups of their respective countries. Unlike the imagined “fascism” of modern radical rhetoric, they were an alternative to business as usual, an alternative that positioned itself squarely in the abandoned center of the political discourse of their eras.  In terms of that discourse, in the context of their own times and places, the talking points of the fascist parties weren’t anything like so extreme as they appear to most people nowadays—and we forget that at our deadly peril.

That’s the thing I tried to duplicate in the thought experiment above, by changing certain details of  German national socialism so I could give the National Progressive American Peoples Party a contemporary slant—one that that calls up the same reactions its earlier equivalent got in its own place and time. Antisemitism and overt militarism were socially acceptable in Germany between the wars; they aren’t socially acceptable in today’s United States, and so they won’t play a role in a neofascist movement of any importance in the American future. What will play such roles, of course, are the tropes and buzzwords that appeal to Americans today, and those may very well include the tropes and buzzwords that appeal most to you.

There’s a deeper issue I’ve tried to raise here, too.  It’s easy, comfortable, and (for the manufacturers and distributors of partisan pablum) highly profitable to approach every political conflict in the simplistic terms of good versus evil. The habit of seeing political strife in those terms becomes a reliable source of problems when the conflict in question is actually between the good and the perfect—that is, between a flawed but viable option that’s within reach, and a supposedly flawless one that isn’t. The hardest of all political choices, though, comes when the conflict lies between the bad and the much, much worse—as in the example just sketched out, between a crippled, dysfunctional, failing democratic system riddled with graft and abuses of power, on the one hand, and a shiny new tyranny on the other.

It may be that there are no easy answers to that conundrum. Unless Americans can find some way to step back from the obsessive partisan hatreds that bedevil our political life, though, it’s probably a safe bet that there will be no answers at all—not, quite possibly, until the long and ugly list of the world’s totalitarian regimes gets another entry, complete with the usual complement of prison camps and mass graves. As long as the word “fascism” retains its current status as a meaningless snarl word that’s normally flung at the status quo, certainly, that last possibility seems far more likely than any of the alternatives.

266 comments:

1 – 200 of 266   Newer›   Newest»
Ana's Daughter said...

But it can't happen here! ;-)

Andrew Brown said...

Here's an interesting quote: “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism’” New York Times, September 12, 1938.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Your vision was chilling in its likelihood.

Things are spiralling slowly down the drain here. Qantas - the national airline - announced job cuts of 5,000 full time employees today. The union officials were also quoted - if I remember correctly - that since 2010, the Board of Directors had increased their own salaries by an average of 82%, whilst at the same time the business was making losses and seeking a government bailout. It is really not a good look for any of them.

My gut feel is that large numbers of unemployed people, will lend support to whomever provides them necessities, a sense of purpose and a workable narrative.

By the way I really liked how you worked the promise of a utopian future into the essay.

I have no guide to the future but reducing reliance on a dysfunctional system, building local contacts and developing useful skills which are in short supply seems as good a bet as any.

It was interesting to see that there have been further responses to David Holmgren's recent essay. This time it was from Rob Hopkins of the Transition movement. Have you had a chance to read that response?

Had a few more problems with the bees. I'd received advice from a few different sources after the swarm that I needed to feed the bees. I did so, and robber bees killed off both hives and proceeded to enjoy the fruits of the war. It was not a good move.

I've been considering the bees from a bigger picture perspective since that time and have come to the conclusion that I need to provide far more optimal conditions for these important workers. The feral bees are prolific here since I've introduced them to the area, but obviously the colonies simply don't like the conditions that I'm providing for them.

To this end, I'm going to immerse myself in a bit of research from every non-commercial apiary text that I can get my hands on – no matter how quirky or unusual. Then hopefully next spring I can start experimenting to see what the colonies actually prefer.

Regards

Chris

Jeff Scott said...

JMG - Thank you for your insightful series on fascism. I certainly agree that a political future of the type you describe is not only possible for the U.S., but likely. Though it certainly would be worse than the failing system we have now, the status quo cannot be maintained because it is unsustainable - the elite remain in power at the expense of the masses, and that can only go on for so long. Can you envision an alternative to fascism? If so, what would that look like? Any examples from history that might serve to show us a more positive way forward into the future? Could a fascist state be maintained in an area as large as the U.S., or would various regions split off to create their own fascist regimes? Once again, thank you for your well reasoned perspective.

John Michael Greer said...

Daughter, I hear Buzz Windrip's voice whispering down the wind...

Andrew, that might have been the case in 1938. If it happens today, it'll use whatever labels appeal most to the contemporary American audience.

Cherokee, sorry to hear about the bees! As for the Utopian future, that was an important theme in the last round of fascism, and I see no reason to doubt it'll be all over the next round, too.

Richard Larson said...

I understood the end of your blog, at the beginning. Here we are, failure will enhance the possibility of such a repeat future. Learning nothing from the past?

Cherokee, a weak bee hive should have a very small entrance, even closing the entrance entirely, being sure they have enough honey, pollen, and a water source, of course. Here is how I prevent the bees from swarming: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t75Y-GLIC8M

Grebulocities said...

JMG, I think you nailed it - this is roughly what I would expect a new American version of fascism to look like. It would be populist, centrist, and it would focus on things that are actually important and which are not discussed by either major party. The totalitarian part only appears after it is in power.

My question is this: suppose you are a garden-variety American voter in the 2020 you've presented. You have three options instead of the usual two, and the third one actually talks about things that are observably happening and affecting the majority of Americans, while the two formerly major parties inhabit an alternate reality far removed from the experience of most of the people they're supposed to represent. Under these circumstances, how would you personally react, and what would you recommend to anyone who wants neither totalitarianism nor a dysfunctional (if less oppressive) regime that promises to make the current suite of problems even worse?

Dan the Farmer said...

Of course this does beg the question: What would the world look like if the Weimar Republic had muddled on for another 15 years?

Lucretia Heart said...

Thank you for so well articulating the scenario that I've imagined myself regarding one potential for our future (and a highly likely one at that.)

I like that you mention that a new tyrant and "Party" would make climate change and energy shortages major issues that would get major support, because-- to be truthful like you ask-- I would have great difficulty NOT supporting someone who FINALLY took these things seriously. Even at the cost of lost freedoms-? Great question and yes, highly tempting. I don't think so, but... yeah I see your point there.

I know plenty of people who WOULD be okay with that, close friends of mine for sure-- especially since extreme measures are often passed in a promise to make them "temporary during our crisis." But once passed, the choice to take it all back becomes quickly ever more impossible.

Everyone sees the next "Big Bad" as being someone from the other party of the 2 major ones in existence now, but I'd have to agree with you that it would have to be an entirely new party with a new agenda that comes to people's attention at just the right moment.

And that moment keeps getting closer. I see that too.

Excellent set of posts, JMG.

Enrique said...

Loved the oblique reference to David Korten. I read through your three part review of "The Great Turning" and thought it was spot on. No doubt some of the local lefties will be offended when they figure that one out.

As for radical parties avoiding things like antisemitism that are now considered socially unacceptable, someone pointed on Saker's blog that there are a growing number of far right political movements in Europe like the English Defense League and the Dutch Freedom Party that take a pro-Israel and pro-Jewish stance while denouncing Islam as a grave threat to European civilization. The Freedom Party, headed by Geert Wilders, is also pro-gay rights and gay marriage while denouncing what it sees as homophobic tendencies in Islam.

Deleted said...

This type of scenario is why I keep my passport renewed. Since I work for an international company, I might be able to get transferred out of the US. But where I would go, what I would do, and whether it's any better than anyplace else are all big questions for me.

Alex said...

Great article: wouldn't change a word. One of your best posts yet. A lot of otherwise intelligent people need to read it.

Joseph Nemeth said...

@JMG -- as you say, it's toughest when the only choices are bad, worse, and terrible.

At the core of fascism, then, is false hope. Specifically, hope in a return to past glories, whether it is Goethe's Cradle, or the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

People who have already moved on into forging something new for themselves on a more manageable, less mythic level, will probably be mostly immune to the lure of fascism. They'll likely get trampled by it when it comes rampaging through, but at least they won't be cheering it along.

Joseph Nemeth said...

@JMG -- actually, not past glories, but future glories that will outshine the past. But it seems it is nonetheless rooted in a mythology of past greatness and unity that needs to be recovered, rather than a Brand New Future. After all, there needs to be an abandoned center, which implies that the center was once occupied. It was that mythic sense of Long Ago Unity that drives the emotional component of fascism.

Glenn said...

Considering the _religious tendencies_ of the U.S. population, a await the arrival of Nehemiah Scudder with some trepidation.

Glenn

in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea
Cascadia

Pinku-Sensei said...

"Weimar America" is a phrase that is becoming more and more popular, with more than 4000 hits for links that use that exact phrase and millions of hits for links that use both in the same text. The first page of Google returns results from such reputable sources at Salon, The New Republic, and The American Conservative--oh, and you, too. All of them seem to be from the current decade. It's a meme that is in definitely in the air.

As for "the frankly dreary presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Haley Barbour," Clinton is practically a given, but not Barbour, at least now. I guess you are forecasting that the GOP will settle on an establishment figure and not go with a firebrand the base likes. That would be enough to leave room for a radical movement to take root.

Finally, as for my first thought about the youth group, I would wonder if the La Rouchies had turned sane and Green. Right now, they have those particular tactics down, being mostly a cult-like youth movement in the service of a charismatic but distinctly nutty leader, but they are decidedly anti-environmental. They also try to subvert the Democratic Party by bashing its leaders, all the time saying they are Democrats. I can tell you that most of the rest of the Democratic Party wishes they'd go away.

Stephen Heyer said...

John Michael Greer “The discussion on fascism that’s taken up the last two weekly essays here on The Archdruid Report, and will finish up in this week’s post, has gone in directions that will very likely have surprised and dismayed many of my readers.”

No John, I thought it was great. In fact so great and so full of new (for me) thoughts I haven’t been able to organize them enough to comment.

Bruce The Druid said...

While reading your essay, I kept thinking about this article I read last year very sobering: "Fascist Ecology: The "Green Wing" of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents". I was wondering if you are familiar with it? A copy of it can be found at this link...

http://www.spunk.org/texts/places/germany/sp001630/peter.html

Diablo moreno said...

hi JMG
Thanks for great laying out of a possible future...it is chilling.
I see Holmgren also thinks we down in the antipodes are prone to fascist solutions and given the dire choice might embrace a similar one.
Ever since reading DH Lawrences 'kangaroo' many years ago I can`t help but wonder about how scared people will get...and desperate.
re where might the real Weimar might have gone? It might heve been the socialists desperate enough to go with the communist party?
Thanks again for the illuminative headsup

Thomas Daulton said...

My comment starts with a jaunt off-topic, but returns to fascism, in case the connection isn't obvious immediately.

A leaked Snowden document from an obscure UK surveillance agency talks a lot about tactics of deception and altered perception -- in the online world. None of the news articles summarizing the document mention magic specifically, but reading the full presentation raised all kinds of hackles and red flags with me. It reminded me very much of your discussion of thaumaturgy. The full presentation is embedded in the bottom of this page.

On p.5, "Magic" and "Deception" are specifically noted as fields of social interaction. On p.8, the goal says "We want to build Cyber Magicians."
p.10-12 talk about "Magic Techniques" in the service of changing social perceptions. They all seem to be thaumaturgy.
On p.16 are three examples of altered perceptions, e.g. the development of camouflage, labeled "Magic, the Military and Intelligence".
The last slide quotes Teller (of Penn & Teller) about "Conjuring with information".
The entire presentation details a plan or a technique by a government agency to smear and otherwise destroy targets online, exclusively by means of planting false information and _changing perceptions_ in social media.

The targets are not only the Western world's antagonists, such as terrorists, but "Hacktivists" are specifically mentioned. The news media who are carrying this story, rightly point out that this is a clue that any "free" Western government might be right now manipulating people's perceptions for reasons that have nothing to do with terrorism.

It seems like there might be some practitioner(s) of magic in the UK at least, who is willing to advise the security agencies how to use thaumaturgy. (For all I know, there may be many in the US, but they probably don't use the word "magic" as openly when dealing with our boring economics-oriented government officials.) Oh, if only there was some kind of Harry Potter Council of Wizards who could revoke this guy's license to practice the Craft.

More realistically, as you proceed in your discussion of fascism, I really think you should remind your readers of
your previous columns about defending themselves from thaumaturgy -- and maybe even expand on them. You cited
Hitler in your previous writings as a skilled thaumaturge. We all may need to brush up on our personal magical defenses as fascism prepares for a comeback.

Bob Smith said...

Congrats JMG, +1 on you nailing it. I really enjoyed the history lesson. For all the consternation of the left wing here, most of us on the Conservative (capitol "C") side already view future history as one already past, in 2008..including the new logo. Given the rhetoric and actions of the media and the current political leaders (both sides) against us, ie Tea party, vets, gun owners, etc, all that is left is the fist inside of the velvet glove to reveal itself, but there is 2.5 years left if not more... given the discussions of a third term already. Until then, there are zeros to check, jobs to go to and new friends to make. We may be Rome's last legions, but unlike those poor souls in the 30s and 40s, we have no intention of going gently into that good night nor "getting on the railroad".

Perhaps those who don't comprehend our worship of those old dead white men will finally understand once the barrel of statism is aimed at them. I love the "It can't happen here" analogy, simply because it already is in progress. The highway is already built, and whether this fool or the next one drives on it...its only a matter of time.

I certainly don't like this Der Leader/idiot any more than the last 4 idiots, and unfortunately all for the same reasons.....

However, as you often say...its not a universal collapse, but the fireworks display promises to be be spectacular. Apres-Nous, le Deluge indeed.

Thanks for taking the time to write this, I'm going to have to break down and buy some of your books one of these days.

Unknown said...

Your point that the current oppressive corporatist situation is not properly called fascist does not make it better. Yes it is a snarl word, but there is indeed something there to snarl at.

Your main point this week is that it could happen here; I have no quarrel with that. But why not also consider that a young new group could be positive and democratic while tackling those big issues you mentioned?

Thijs Goverde said...

An interesting fiction, but do you really think that clamiate change and peak oil are, or might at some point become, "the kind of political notions that Americans swap over beers and pizza"? Or did you just put those in to make the dillemma of choosing sides clearer to your readers?

I personally think that the only role for the peak oil-aware community,in a scenario like the one you sketch, is to produce a convenient Marinus van der Lubbe-type fool to be used by Halliot and his ilk...

Glenn said...

JMG,

Nice, if rather obvious scenario. I have, as a one time herald, a problem with the "Celtic Tree of Life". It's way too busy and complex to be good flag symbol; at a distance it will tend to look like a Greek "Phi".

I figure you used it so the NPAPP could appeal to both environmental concerns and all the tattooed youngsters that Kuntsler tends to rant against.

Glenn

in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea
Cascadia

Kevin said...

Do I understand correctly from your closing paragraph that you think something like this will *probably* happen, unless Americans en masse become more educated about the accurate historical meaning of the word "fascism"? Because personally I see no sign whatsoever that they will, and don't in the least believe they will.

I find your scenario quite credible, with one minor proviso in the design department. I think Mr. Helliot and his party, being an American political outfit, are likely to consult a PR firm, and the latter will advise them to refrain from heavy ubiquitous use of the color black in their regalia. This may be the United States of Amnesia, as Gore Vidal said; but the imagery of SS uniforms, present in countless films, still haunts some old cupboard of the public imagination. To this day, no American corporation dares to use a bright red solid circle as its emblem, despite the excellence of that image as powerful dynamic logo: for that of course was the emblem painted on the Japanese Zero.

As to when I would bail on Mr. Helliot and his party - probably a good deal sooner than would have been the case before I read this post.

Mark Rice said...

I look around the world at places worse than our own "troubled dysfunctional, and failing representative democracy" and wonder what I would do. There are plenty of places with just awful choices. In the Gaza they had to chose between the very corrupt and ineffectual Fatah vs. the more competent but far more dangerous Hamas.

When I read what you wrote, I can easily picture myself making all the wrong choices for a long time. Maybe even to the end. Perhaps I would even overlook the less then democratic actions of the new party. Maybe I would rationalise that we can restore full democracy after the emergency is over.

I can hope I would not be drawn into such a thing as what you describe. But faced with real and increasing dysfunction anything is possible.

Shining Hector said...

Well, at least I don't get the urge to jump off a bridge like I usually do when reading Kunstler.

Sounds plausible. Also sounds like we have about as much power as individuals to change the overall course as we do now. Whether the power of the voting booth is a formal or informal joke seems largely academic.

The most reasonable course of action of course would be to fall in line like a good citizen. Deliberate martyrdom and suicide aren't so different, guess that's where the phrase "suicide by cop" comes from.

You know you could possibly try to mitigate the excesses in secret if you have right mix of courage and lack of survival instinct, this was a not-unknown tactic in the past that proved successful. Maybe we can all one day thank our soulless corporations and mindless bureaucracies for training a nation of passive-aggressives.

Then again, Hitler didn't have Prozac and Xanax to blunt the rest of the disaffected into a nice dull compliance. Ooh, and legalized marijuana when that fails. There's another populist issue that the Man just won't acknowledge for you. We really are doomed.

William Hunter Duncan said...

There will be plenty of anger about failed promises. Plenty of whip smart (pardon the pun) young people sitting on 60,000 +/- of undischargeable debt to help fuel and channel that anger. Loyalty tests/oaths, the whole digital history of every American for the past 20+ years, to feed trials, etc. Oh joy.

Plant fruit and nut trees, big gardens.

WHD

PhysicsDoc said...

Fred Halliot = Adolf Hitler
JMG: Great post. History does not repeat itself but it does rhyme-I think Mark Twain said that if Wikipedia is right. I almost think your fictional rise of a modern Nazi-like party is too close to the original, just the names and details have been altered, but your point is well made. I have always been annoyed at Remembrance day in my native Canada and similar memorial days in that they almost never mention the thing that is at least as important as remembering the past, namely that it can repeat itself in a form too few will recognize.

Tom Bannister said...

Wow! great post. It gets worse too, I can just see gawping admirers all over the western world saying look at 'Fred Halliot' and his party and all the wonderful things their doing! Lets be more like them...

Steve From Virginia said...


There are organized Nazi groups crawling out of their holes all over Europe. They are just like the SA but they are different at the same time: flags, bands, marching, uniforms.

There is no way to describe any Nazi leaving out the xenophobia and race hatred. Almost all the new Nazi groups in Europe are virulently anti-Jew. It is as if World War Two and Shoah never happened.

Some parties are very much on the fringe but others like Golden Dawn and Front Nationale have become 'respectable'. They stand up against the IMF and the ECB which none of the ordinary parties are willing to do. These groups are not modernistic and progressive like the NSDAP but more like Ustase. They are simply killers frustrated by the limits imposed by civilized society, they wait for the sanction ... that they might claim the night and drench it with blood.

There are Nazi-like groups emergent in Ukraine, who were the best fighters and were able to sweep away the elite Ukraine internal security forces: Svoboda and Right Sector. Again, these are legitimate parties in that country. In a new government they will have some say in how the country is run. Already a Rabbi in Kiev has warned the Jews to leave the city, not a good sign in a place that was under the hammer of the SS and Einsatzgruppen.

None of the new Nazis are going to be able to gain as much traction as the original model b/c no politician or party can pull resources out of a hat. Hitler had vast resources at his disposal in 1933, all gone now. GD and Svoboda will always be beggars at some richer country's table. Greece is Europe's West Virginia, on its way to becoming its Yemen. Ukraine is like Puerto Rico if its lucky it will not become Haiti.

Another danger is quasi-Islamic militants that are spreading like an infectious disease across Asia and Africa. There is a wide space between what they peddle and actual religion called Islam. They are simply violent psychopaths. In the best of all worlds the Nazis and jihadis would all go off into a desert somewhere and battle each other to the death.

This is the curse of the time we live in, the end of the era of plenty and eros; now a truly dark age is dawning. Hopefully it won't last too long. That the Nazis and other killers will die off or be discredited.

BTW: there were somewhere around 40 attempts made on Hitler's life, about fifteen of them before he became Chancellor leaving out his military service in WWI. All it would have taken to spare the world much grief was for one of these attempts to have succeeded ....

http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/1.575732

Crews said...

JMG,

Two "door to door" bible thumpers showed up here the other day claiming the messiah lives in the flesh at their church. They then proceeded to quote far more verses of revelations than normal. I am guessing this is just the beginning of the fall of progress.

I was talking with a Chinese Politics Professor today after our lecture about the Red Guard and China's Cultural Revolution. He made the interesting point that the production of mass corpses follows a steady process of polarization, segregation, stereo-typing, and then dehumanization. I can only guess at what dehumanizing rhetoric the fascist parties of the future will use to alienate certain groups.

Where does the funding for these sorts of neo-fascist groups? Is it really a grass roots phenomena that feeds off the distressed and disenfranchised?


Derv said...

Great article, JMG, and a strong finish to the series. I think thought experiments like this are great to bring to our minds what, exactly, are our ideals and priorities. I've often wondered if people consider democracy a primary or a secondary ideal; if we truly believe in "the will of the people," then our other ideals may well dissolve when a majority rejects them. So far, Americans haven't really had to make that choice (or didn't think about it too hard when they did), but the day may be coming when it does. If 70% of the population wanted to bring back race-based slavery, as an extreme example, I'd like to think that we'd favor the moral choice over the popular choice.

At the risk of sounding like a loon, I have to admit that democracy, to me, is a secondary ideal. If it's a choice between a democracy going down in flames or a non-democracy sparing us, I'd choose the non-democracy. The problem, of course, is just what you pointed out: if we make that choice, by definition we have given extreme power to a ruling elite, who can choose to do some very horrible things. I don't really have an answer to that, except to say a risky chance of success beats a guarantee of failure.

It would be interesting to see if someone could pull off this very same thing, using the same techniques as the fascists, and yet NOT succumb to the temptation toward authoritarianism. I can't think of a historical example, though. George Washington might fit somewhat. I would hope that someone like Ron Paul would too, though he doesn't have the charisma for it. Perhaps we should vote for the Archdruid Party and hope you've taken your own lessons to heart!

As an aside, I published a novel this week. It's a young adult fantasy novel, so this isn't exactly the target market. It does deal with some bigger themes though, particularly an Aristotlean versus a Platonic worldview, and the struggle between the American instincts toward Puritanism and fierce autonomy. I'd be grateful for any support. Anyone who's interested can check it out in the link here:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ILKTS8G

(I won't bring it up again, by the way, and hope you don't perceive this as spam. Thanks!)

steve pearson said...

I'll tell you; with a focus on environment, climate change & peak oil & downplaying any chauvinistic aspect, it would be pretty hard for a person like myself not to vote for him. I would hope to have the sense to see behind the screen, but with frustration with the mainstream parties, I hope I am not put to that test.
What would make it harder would be if the leader started as a frustrated environmentalist and developed the authoritarian aspect as he went along.
Brings to mind a book I haven't read in decades: D.H. Lawrence's "Kangaroo", a fiction about a fascist movement in Australia in the 30s.
Regards, Steve

John Michael Greer said...

Jeff, I discussed the alternative to fascism a year ago, in the last half dozen posts of my series on the end of American empire: a sustained effort to reinvigorate democratic process, starting from the grassroots with civil society and building from there. I'll probably have to talk more about that as we proceed.

Richard, and yet it's possible to learn from the past. That's the whole point of this blog, after all.

Grebulocities, wait until 2020 and it's too late to do anything. That's why I'm trying to start this conversation now.

Dan, heck of a good question, but it's hard to think of any way it could have been much worse!

Lucretia, thank you for getting it.

Enrique, I tend to think of Korten as the most likely Moeller van den Bruck of Weimar America.

Deleted, that's why it makes sense to try to do something else now.

Alex, thank you. By all means forward it to those who might benefit!

Joseph, the one potential saving grace is that the same emotional force can also be directed toward other ends.

Glenn, nah, his time is past. Heinlein foresaw, with remarkable clarity, the fundamentalist revival of 1980-2010, but that's coming apart now, and its attempts to seize power were easily sidelined by less clueless political factions.

Marc L Bernstein said...

It just recently dawned on me that clever but dark (cynical, self-serving, ruthless, dishonest) forces often find a way of corrupting good ideas and sound ideology for their own purposes. This is already happening today with respect to the environmental movement. The really large organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund, already have very wealthy persons backing them, and are affiliated with corporate or financial forces such as Bank of America.

It's trite but nevertheless true to mention that wealth corrupts. So does power and influence. It pays to maintain a clear distinction between worthwhile ideas and those who espouse them but might not put them into practice.


Your man "Halliot" would not hesitate to make backroom deals to elicit financial support from organizations such as Google and other new-age corporations not directly associated with the military-industrial complex, the insurance business, pharmaceuticals, agribusiness, Wall Street, oil and gas companies, property and housing developers, etc.

Your little fantasy scenario can be honed a bit here and there and can include the major issue of financial backing, and who would likely back someone like Halliot.

In any case, your continued insight and imagination on such issues contributes significantly to anything close to an accurate conception of where the nation is headed.

John Michael Greer said...

Pinku-sensei, that's one of the few reassuring things I can think of about all this. If a phrase like that has become part of the standard rap of the chattering classes, we probably don't have to worry about it as much.

Stephen, thank you.

Bruce, Anna Bramwell discussed that in a book decades ago. One of the other things nobody discusses about German national socialism is that most of its leaders came straight out of the counterculture of their time -- a lot of them were vegetarians, occultists, alternative thinkers of all kinds. That doesn't mean that every avant-garde thinker is a proto-fascist; what it means is that "he can't be a fascist, he's an avant-garde thinker!" is nonsense.

Diablo, I'll have to read "Kangaroo" one of these days.

Thomas, I may revisit that in a future series of posts. Thanks for the suggestion!

Bob, don't fall into the trap of mistaking a clueless moderate whose handlers managed to create a temporary personality cult for a genuine autocrat, or you may find out the hard way what the difference is!

Unknown, the only way such a group will be democratic is if a lot of people remember what the word "democratic" actually means, and start practicing the skills that make democratic process work. I'd encourage you to get to work on that.

Thijs, I'll be talking in an upcoming post about why I think that peak oil is going to come back onto the front pages in the next few years.

Glenn, exactly. It was the closest equivalent I could think of to the swastika as that symbol was understood before the Second World War.

Kevin, if you're at least a little more likely to reject the Halliots of the American future, then I've done some good in the world. Thank you.

Mark, that recognition is crucial. Now let's talk about ways to stop the downward spiral before it gets to that.

DeAnander said...

@Cherokee, have you read "The Barefoot Beekeeper"?

@JMG -- I was onto you by the time the name Fred Halliot came up, but well done!

Democracy... hmmm. Random musings... Is it over-rated? Reading the other day that in Bhutan, clear-cutting is illegal. Because the King said so. For every tree cut, three must be planted. Because the King said so. I could live with that. There isn't a lot of conspicuous wealth in Bhutan, but there isn't starvation either from what I read, and not much violence.

What I'm sayin', given a good and kind King, life in a monarchy might not be so bad... but given a bad King, it could be terrible... Allegedly in a democracy we get to elect our Kings (by a weird, watered-down kind of representation), so we can get rid of the bad 'uns now and then; but then the unbridled accumulation of wealth results in a permanent overclass whose power spans regimes and often generations; it seems in the US today that neither major party can do or say anything that offends its wealthy backers... so we can't really get rid of our bad Kings :-( bummer.

I think perhaps I'd like best to live in a Constitutional monarchy with an enlightened and benevolent monarch :-) presiding over a rich and diverse ecosystem of guilds, associations, and collectives, with authority devolving to the lowest possible level with the most local knowledge brought to bear on every decision. I think there have occasionally been polities that approximated this pipe dream of mine, but I was born in the wrong time and place to experience it myself. Too bad.

On the small island where I live, there's a fair amount of democracy in action, lots and lots of volunteer organisations and Boards. It's nice; it's also a lot of work :-) I understand why people get lazy about democracy, tired of the meetings and the endless discussion and negotiation. I get tired of it :-) but still I serve on at least one Board, feeling the need to take some responsibility for the commons.

Marc L Bernstein said...

I forgot to include a link to Sheldon Wolin, a major political philosopher, at least according to Chris Hedges.

http://www.amazon.com/Democracy-Incorporated-Managed-Inverted-Totalitarianism/dp/069114589X

From the brief synopsis:

"Wolin makes clear that today's America is in no way morally or politically comparable to totalitarian states like Nazi Germany, yet he warns that unchecked economic power risks verging on total power and has its own unnerving pathologies. Wolin examines the myths and mythmaking that justify today's politics, the quest for an ever-expanding economy, and the perverse attractions of an endless war on terror. He argues passionately that democracy's best hope lies in citizens themselves learning anew to exercise power at the local level."

Grebulocities said...

Granted, waiting until 2020 isn't a very good idea. But what can I do now, and what could I do if some sort of totalitarian populist movement arrived in the next few years? If your NPAPP shows up and doesn't appear totalitarian in its first incarnation, it's likely that my views will match up better with the NPAPP than with the Democrats, whom I tend to vote for just because I perceive them as less insane than their opponents.

If I did detect a whiff of totalitarianism, maybe I'd grudgingly still support the Democrats, but that would be a move I'd have trouble explaining to anyone whose beliefs are closer to mine than to Hillary Clinton's. Alternately I could support some fourth party. I could content myself that the 0.15% of the vote we managed to get had nothing to do with either the status quo parties or the populist, totalitarian third party. But that course of (in)action wouldn't be very useful either. So how might we proceed from here?

John Michael Greer said...

Hector, no need to jump off the bridge. Just remember that a voting booth doesn't mean a thing unless people like you and me are willing to put in the time and energy to make the rest of democratic process function. Again, I'll probably have to revisit that in a future series of posts.

William, by all means plant trees and gardens, and talk to those young people about responses other than blind rage. Now of course that requires learning something about those responses first...

PhysicsDoc, good. You get tonight's gold star for working out the anagram. Of course the scenario is far too close to the actual history of the National Socialist German Workers Party -- as a thought experiment, it had to be right along the same lines, to help people grasp just how easy it would be to fall in line.

Tom, and so could I. Lots of people said the same things about Mussolini and Hitler.

Steve, and as long as you remain fixated on them, you risk missing the ones who don't parrot the slogans of the 1930s, but choose new and more popular buzzwords instead.

Crews, yes, it's grassroots-based. The claim that the Nazis were funded by big corporations was an invention of Soviet propaganda, as I documented last week.

Derv, thanks, but I'm not in the running; like most intellectuals, I'd make a lousy political leader. I'd draw a distinction between pure democracy, which is usually a mess, and constitutional democracy, which works a lot better in practice -- a good constitution is one way to keep the tyranny of the majority from becoming just another tyranny. As for your book, congrats!

Steve, and that's one of the most likely outcomes, of course. I'll definitely put "Kangaroo" on the reading list!

Marc, I'd encourage you to go back to last week's post, and read the passage where I explained (and cited sources to document) that the claim that big business funded Hitler was a fabrication of Soviet propaganda. Please go on and read the sources I cited, too. You're trying to insist that fascism must be a puppet of the status quo, and that belief makes you a sitting duck for fascist movements that aren't -- which was, by the way, the point of this week's post.

John Michael Greer said...

DeAnander, of course democracy is imperfect. The chief advantages of constitutional democracy is that it's more resilient than most other forms, thus on average doesn't engage in as many atrocities against its own citizens or impose so many restrictions on basic civil liberties as other forms of government tend to do.

Marc, interesting. I'll take a look at his work as time permits; the idea of restarting democracy at the grassroots level is certainly promising.

Grebulocities, as I pointed out in posts a year ago, it's got to start with individuals and groups relearning the (mostly forgotten) skills of democratic process and putting those to use on the local scale, then building from there. Instead of trying to decide between the pre-chewed political gruel offered you by existing or newly founded parties, head on into the kitchen of democracy and cook up something more to your taste.

Karim said...

Greetings all!

An enlarged version would make a great entry for the second round of the short stories contest!

A few years ago, I asked myself whether democracy could survive the economic and financial onslaughts peak oil can bring about.

I came up with different possibilities that were not mutually exclusive but could follow one after the other.

(1) Dictatorship, (2) a failed state that lasts for decades,(3) our current democratic system that somehow manages to linger on, (4) or some sort of green/sustainability and democratic political movement that somehow manages to get itself into power and initiate difficult but necessary changes.

In the end I believe that our democratic system will linger on for some years followed by a failed state that gives rise to some form of dictatorship. After that I have no clue. But I no longer believe that a democratic sustainability movement will ever get close to power.

And I really wonder whether democracy will make it pass peak oil.


Pongo said...

One of the most common tropes that you see on left wing news and commentary websites is the quote "When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross", which is always attributed to either Sinclair Lewis or Huey Long. It is, of course, always used to advance the argument that right wing Christians, Republicans and/or Tea Partiers are fascists because they drape themselves in the flag and tend to promote (or at least pay lip service to) the values of Christianity. Lacking in these opinion pieces is any acknowledgement that when Long - or Lewis - or someone else - spoke those words, they were referring to values that were thoroughly mainstream at the time. In contrast, the Christian fundamentalism and the extreme flag waving that characterize the right nowadays have become less and less mainstream.

However, I am of two minds about the fascist/unfascist nature of the Tea Party. Because America is in many respects a conglomeration of different nations, nations with distinct regional borders and distinct regional cultures. And from a political perspective, Americans increasingly live in geographical areas that are more and more homogeneous politically. So in a sense I would almost consider the Tea Party to be successfully fascist on a local level and unsuccessfully fascist on the national level. Successful on the local level because the movement did find considerable support in regions where the inhabitants were never going to be liberal Democrats but who also felt that the Republicans that represented them were not actually in line with their values. The movement certainly has a streak of totalitarian thought, as well as the apparent desire among many of its members to completely remake society in the image of Ayn Rand's turgid philosophy. But not successful as fascists nationally because their values are not mainstream on the national level, because the largest parts of the population, increasingly living in denser urban areas, will never buy into them.

You asked if we all would end up as part of the cheering crowd in the last scene. No JMG, I don't have to answer that like you said, yet I will answer it anyways. I would be part of the crowd. I would take tremendous joy in seeing the institutions of modern America dismantled, in seeing the corrupt elites of the country dealt with, even if they ended up being dealt with in an extrajudicial manner. I would take great joy in this even though I would know that it was going to make things worse, even though I would know that I was watching totalitarianism in action and even though I would probably be quietly making preparations to leave the country when I saw that happen. But after the frustrations of the past decade I feel like the emotional release would be impossible to resist. I'm rather bothered by the fact that I feel this way, as I'm sure some people reading this will be bothered by it, but I am being honest about what I would do if it all started to happen at the point I am in my life. Yes, I admit it. I am a very angry person.

Wijnandt said...

Hi JMG,

a very fascinating series, your latest 3 postings on fascism!
The German author Timur Vermes has written "Er Ist Wieder Da", shortly also available in english translation: "Look Who's Back".
I have read the German edition, and am amazed how well Vermes described a way very ugly things from the past can easily slip back into the "Zeitgeist" so that it seems they never got away.

gregorach said...

Another very interesting and provocative post here... I must say, as a Scottish Green who's hoping for a "Yes" vote in the independence referendum to usher in a significant change in the politics of my own country, it's certainly food for thought, although I'm not sure I like the flavour. As for the question you pose, I'd like to think that my natural aversion to uniforms and marching would come in handy in such a situation.

Odin's Raven said...

'Three in the morning, four in the afternoon'?

The monkeys may get excited, chatter about different things, even kill a different selection of each other, but it may make less difference than they suppose.

Neo said...

Hi, I still think the likelihood of many of the big countries in the world in the long term are a fragmentation into individual warlord states. Uncontrolled decentralizing resulting in chaos will increasingly reigns until a new equilibrium can be established some decades/centuries later. To maintain a centralized state requires significant energy inputs. For the short term your fascist state might still be one possibility since we still have not reached peak energy yet.

Somewhatstunned said...

JMG, I try to avoid the kind of "hurrah" comment I'm about to make, but really, I can't resist it this one time ...

Man, seriously, I want to hug you.

SMJ said...

Hello JMG,

You've mentioned before - maybe in Blood of the Earth - that Hitler was a master of thaumaturgy. Using a symbol of life as the party emblem is presumably one of the techniques he used, could you give a brief run-through of what else he did? Might be useful for spotting future attempts.

ando said...

Socio-speculative fiction. Excellent!! And well done. But, unfortunately, probably too close to fact for comfort.

Mac

YJV said...

Hi JMG,
You raised a very important point with your thought experiment. However it also strikes me as being parallel (in some respects) to the Bolshevik takeover of Russia in 1918. Granted, the Bolsheviks weren't 'Fascist' per se (and didn't occupy a middle ground), but Lenin the charismatic leader still managed to channel the collective frustration of years of war stagnation in the armed forces and industrial working class. They too had vast grassroots networks headed in Petrograd (through the Soviets), and its own militia. In a country like Russia where power was centralised at the capital from the palace, collapse was simply a farce reminiscent of 1791 France (referring directly to Marx here). At that time the propaganda notion that Lenin was being directly funded and trained by Germany was also disseminated.

It makes me think that Indian democracy, for all of its chaos and faults, still stands a strong chance of surviving a fascist epidemic. However it's also made me rethink the populist agenda of the AAP and it's newly elected state minister, the charismatic ex-IAS official.

I think the crucial message we can all take here is that any person or group that claims to solve all of a society's problems through a master plan in a short amount of time is to be distrusted. Anyone who panders to our collective fears and asks for our loyalty for stability and progress is to be distrusted. Most of the readers know that there aren't any permanent solutions to peak oil and climate change apart from preparation. This should protect us well, but you may as well give us some advice on how to survive/escape a fascist regime while you're at it.

YJV

jim said...

(lets continue the story a little and maybe even tempt an archdruid)
In 2021 with the new found powers the Halliot administration starts five major programs
A) Bring the troops home, keep them under arms but cut the expensive useless equipment that fed the military industrial congressional complex. (only Halliot could do that!)
B)Pour money into the Conservation Society. They have the mandate to radically improve the energy efficiency of all parts of society.
c)Cut the income taxes on all income below 150,000$ a 30% tax on all income above 150,000$.
D) a carbon tax and dividend system. It imposes a tax on all fossil fuels and distributes the money equally to all Americans.
E) His administration has started to arrest the banksters and now it really sucks to be climate change denier or someone who funds them.... but I an not one of them.

Tony f. whelKs said...

An all too convincing scenario, from where I'm sitting, but then I have the luxury of the Atlantic separating it from me. The downside is that we have our own issues over here, of course.

To start with the trivial first: speaking as an anagram myself I thought "Fred Halliot" was setting the bar a little bit low ;-)

But to the substantive question of when or whether I'd turn away from the NPAPP... my first thought would be sometime around the publication of Halliot's American Kampf and the first stirrings of the street violence... but then again I find I'm still aligned (in real life) with some movements/issues where the notorious Black Bloc show up. So it's a big question whether the street violence is honestly connected to the movement or just someone free-riding for an excuse, or 'false flagging' it. So I had to doubt myself again, would the street-violence turn me back?

Then it dawned on me - actually, it's the first time I encounter them, that first little gaggle of leafletters on a street corner who would set off my alarms. Because I am allergic to uniforms. I don't even trust the Salvation Army or Boy Scouts. Once I spot a uniform I am on my guard.

Next point, which no one has overtly referred to yet, but has to be playing something of a silverback in the parlour role.... it's specifically that the NPAPP, like the SA was, is predominantly a YOUTH movement (and I've got enough grey to call anyone under 30 a 'youth' ;-) )

There is a meme floating around to the effect that the current crisis is becoming an intergenerational conflict, and I consider that a very dangerous meme. If there is no vertical integration between generations the social fabric is already shredded. It makes radical options easier to contemplate, it justifies ideas of sweeping away the old whether it's old social forms, or old people.... anti-semitism may have lost its social acceptability (morfe on this later...) but could 'Boomers' be the new Jews in a generationally-riven USA?

Finally, I'm also beginning to think the least likely source of a new fascist regime anywhere in the West is that bundle of violent extremists we call 'neo-Nazis' (or who even revel in that name themselves). To these groups the swastika is not anathema, and anti-semitism is still socially acceptable, although to be fair, anti-islamism is more prevalent today amongst those who harbour any hopes for wider acceptance.

These people will NOT be the source of any future fascist regime simply because they cannot capture the empty centre. Their cover is blown in that regard. Their populism is too unpopular. In a way I suspect 'Neo Nazis' are closer to a Pike and Musket Re-enactment Society - fascinated by the past, decidedly minority interest and outgunned by modern politics.

One final observation for now: in the UK only 2 parties have raised peak oil as an issue requiring serious consideration. One, of course, is the Green Party. The other was the British National Party... on the other hand, the BNP were (I don't know their current position) climate change deniers in a big way - ie they went for the 'lefty hoax' meme rather than the 'scientifically skeptical' one.

So I'd be interested to see if any fellow Europeans think our 'far right' groups like the BNP, Wilders lot etc are a real threat or sidelined by their open extremism?

--... ...--

Somewhatstunned said...

JMG - as you've just been gratuitously hugged by a complete stranger (blush), I thought I'd better make a couple of proper comments - although rather minor ones.

My first concerns a real bugbear of mine: the current usage of the word "leadership". Of course there is real and valuable behaviour that this word can refer to, but specific referents have been gradually sucked out of the word and it is now routinely used as a nice noise - a sort of sparkly-space-dust that will fix everything. "Leadership" can overcome anything including the absence of basic knowledge and competence. Anything in the world can be solved with "leadership". Yeah sure. It's used in a way that is too baggy to mean anything: anything good is somehow a manifestation of "leadership" (some folk would insist that I'm displaying leadership by modelling dissensus in posting this comment :) The word is redefined on the fly so as to always prove that "nothing is ever done without leadership". Kids applying to university (in the UK at least) are instructed to talk up their capacity for "leadership". It's become what you'd call a "warm n fuzzy" word, and what I'd call a "hooray!" word.

It wasn't like this when I was growing up (I'm only a couple of years older than yourself) - perhaps because poeple remembered the german and italian words for "leader"? In your thought-experiment, along with the nice young people and the telling-of-unpleasant-truths, the rhetoric is sure to make hay with the need for "true leadership" and whatnot, and hearing that word will trigger a quick squirt of the warm fuzzies for many people - what could be more wholesome?

(Oh and "the great turning" - don't even get me started on the use of the word "vision")


[second minor point to follow in separate post]

Somewhatstunned said...

My second minor comment on your thought-experiment.

I thought the bit about the uniforms was a subtle touch. After all they aren't real uniforms ... we'd spot those as a bad sign. Just "practical" black trousers and smart green tops. Could be a bunch of charity volunteers. And green tops - well, we'd know to worry if it was red and black. The boots? Not odd at all - could be a bunch of community gardeners, or gay eco-advocates.

The point I want to make here is a side point about the magical properties of clothes. Fact is, I recognize that the clothes - the uniformity and the smartness and the evident effort, would have a positive effect on me. I have insight into my own gut reaction and can to a large extent discount it (or at least I think I can - I know to be wary of my own feelings of exceptionalism). Most people can't. And the magical properties of clothing work on the wearer too. I find myself tempted to buy a green t-shirt right now, but it would be far too dangerous!

Nathan said...

As you have pointed out many times on the blog, we have already missed our chance many years ago to start planning for a relatively smooth transition away from a petroleum economy. Likewise, is it also to late to expect/plan for a gradual change in our politics that leaves most of our political structure in place?

There are large reservoirs of fury and hatred for most of the major institutions in our country. As Pongo wrote above, extrajudicial punishment of the criminals who masquerade as leaders will feel too good to too many people, including myself. How can we avoid it? Sure, we can practice the skills of democracy ourselves, and those skills will come in handy for potentially mitigating a totalitarian takeover. But, the way I see it, if our current president had decided to use the full powers of demagoguery after his first election in 2008 and genuinely become a populist politician, he could have ran the country like totalitarian state himself. And things have only gotten worse.

lw said...

JMG, could you be so kind as to provide us a list of sources for this series of posts?
Have you read Alexander De Grand or Renzo di Felice?

Nathan Donaldson said...

Question: Are you making a prediction or drawing an analogy?

I don't see peak oil ever becoming part of the American political conversation even after it starts kicking us in the face, remaining politically verboten as it has at the current shin level threshold of pain. Any realistic talk of a constrained future is unAmerican. Our ex-congressman tried and hardly anyone listened.

William Church said...

Pardon me if I am wrong, and John you are more than welcome to correct me if I am, but I think the wrong conclusion is being drawn by some.

The danger isn't a political power surge by the center, or a move to take down atrophied power structures that are stifling constructive debate/action in the nation. The danger is having a movement that seizes upon these issues as a pretext to take down the system of governance.

The issues with the way our government works are real. The problem is immense. It will take some real effort and thinking to free this logjam. But the problem isn't the system itself it is that we have allowed it to mutate into an unproductive mess.

We can work within the system the framers gave us to clarify the proper role of corporations within our nation. We can remove the cronyism and kickback mentality of DC without disavowing democracy. We can make the federal government more focused and effective without overthrowing the greatest success in self governance in all of history.

To my mind the real danger is the magical thinking (pardon the pun Brother John) that if we just get our federal system in line with the majority of the nation's citizens then everything will go back to "normal". Normal being the golden age of consumerism, or US global reach, or whatever. That isn't happening. No matter what we do that time has passed.

But the very real problems with the way our government functions and the insidious role of money within it have made things far, far worse than they needed to be. At least to this point. The "Peak Oil Dynamic" (to borrow a phrase from a well known commenter) or "Peak Cheap Oil", or whatever you wish to call it has only just begun. A quick on its feet, restrained but effective within a narrow band, central government can help make the path we are traveling much easier. The stymied, unfocused, cronyistic one we have can make it much worse than it need be.

The problem isn't that a power play by the center is wrongheaded. It is that the nature of politics makes it prone to being a Trojan horse for something far darker.

At least in my opinion and I could be wrong.

Will

Mister Roboto said...

I will admit, if I weren't a regular reader of TAR, and if Mr. Halliot supported homosexual civil rights and some form of quasi-legalisation of marijuana, I might just have ended up sporting an XXL green t-shirt.

Yupped said...

I do so enjoy it when you take us on these thought experiments.

Considering this topic over the last few posts, a period of fascism seems like a sort of blow-off top for a society and culture that has run out of upward options but doesn't want to face reality gracefully.

I believe the future for the US and industrial civilization generally, will have to be smaller, decentralized, more local, less energy intensive etc, etc - not out of choice but plain necessity. And I also believe most of us will do pretty much anything to avoid that necessity. We're doing that already, with the oil wars and shale and the money printing and the messing around with numbers.

So a period of Fascism could easily come as one last chapter in the attempt to maintain the old beliefs in progress, the American way and the possibility of getting back to some sort of normal. It could be the ultimate in putting our fingers in our ears and screaming to block out the sound of reality calling.

So, yes, I could easily see that happening. But Fascism also needs drama and crisis and movement to maintain its appeal. It's a hideous but temporary thing. It doesn't seem to be a slow and steady phenomenon and it won't be able to deal with energy reality anymore than our current politics can. Energy was the big motivation for Barbarossa after all. And with limits to war in a time of energy crunch and nuclear weapons, I wonder how a Fascist movement would be able to maintain momentum?

So I still tend towards the slow, messy break-up theory myself, with different things happening politically in different regions of the US, hopefully with time for a good number of us to relearn the basics of local democracy. That seemed to be one potential outcome of your "how it could happen" series. But who knows, maybe I'm the one with the fingers in the ears.

Robert said...

Reminds me of Senator Gracchus in the film Spartacus. "I'll take a bit of Republican corruption along with a bit of Republican freedom but I won't take the dictatorship of Crassus and no freedom at all! That's what he's after and that's why he'll be back!"

The historic Caesar was a populist who appealed to the left faction and the Roman plebians against the aristocratic faction led by Pompey who wanted to preserve the old Republic.

In the scenario you've described I fear I would vote for President Halliot if he promised to take peak oil and climate change seriously and get tough on the Wall Street oligarchs while the established parties proposed business as usual wrapped up in platitudes.

When he proposed changing the constitution I might start having doubts but by then it would be too late.

If the Party confined itself to sending only the most egregious Wall Street boys and some mafia druglords to reside behind barbed wire in the gulag somewhere in Alaska I don't most people would lose too much sleep. It wouldn't end there of course.

Mister Roboto said...

I also have a question that I meant to ask you: Would it be accurate to put modern-day Nazis and other militant racial and national chauvinists on the far right of today's political spectrum, on account of the fact that such ideas are now considered atavistic and regressive?

In answer to your question to me last week (about who might benefit from my thinking of racial and national chauvinism as an eternal quality of the far right), the only answer that readily came to mind was The Democratic Party and its liberal front-groups, on account of the fact that the USSR is gone and statist-communism is a dead-letter of an ideology now.

Zed Ttaltjat said...

I applaud you for not introducing a targeted, persecuted group into your thought experiment, JMG. I read along with trepidation, wondering who the equivalent to the Jews would be in your story, hoping it wouldn’t be the group to which I belong, but since you’ve taken us up only to the equivalent of 1933-34, I think you were right to exclude that variable, particularly in order to get your readers to understand the era in a Zen-koan-like new way, divorced from the usual top two or three words that come to mind when one considers the Nazi era.

I do wonder though which minority group would be the scapegoat in the “post-1934” continuation of this story, were something like it to come to pass. I’m afraid there’s always a scapegoat. At one point I would have thought it would be gay people, but since every heterosexual now realizes, or will soon, that he or she has at least one gay person in his or her extended family, I find that less plausible than I used to. (The recent, nearly unbroken string of gay-rights victories in the West is overwhelmingly a simple function of more and more of us coming out.) If I had to wager on it, and I realize this is testing the bounds of your post’s topicality, I would say the scapegoat in the United States will be the Muslims among us. They are the most convenient “other,” and their numbers are, again in the U.S., small enough and often isolated enough to serve as this type of scapegoat.

I also wonder if a scenario like the one you describe even needs a brand-new political party in order to take shape. Since “Republican” and “Democrat” are themselves malleable political terms that have meant whatever people want them to mean in order to win votes over the past 150 years (think, just as one example, of the “Solid (Democratic) South” and George Wallace running three times for president as a Democrat), I’m not even convinced this type of fascist couldn’t take power within the bounds of one of the major parties. He could brand himself a “New New Republican” (or Democrat) and break through stealthily that way. I think of Vladimir Putin also. He has come to power in the usual post-Soviet way and the scene in Russia is still “pre-1934,” but he seems to be playing the long game, and God/Goddess/All There Is only knows what all will come to pass over there in the next decade (or even, with the Ukraine crisis, in the next week).

Eric S. said...

My heart stopped when you hit the description of the Party members decked out in the colors of ecoanarchism, bearing a Celtic tree of life, and uttering popular buzzwords from alternative literature (I wonder if Halliot's speaches also talk at length about "the great forgetting")... I immediately began picturing a wave of support for a group like this hitting my local ADF grove, or spreading through some of my friends in OBOD. If they were a party that was seriously addressing climate change and peak oil transitions, i'm sure whatever issues I had with them they'd probable even get my vote at least once in that 5 year period especially if they promised to combat some of the laws that provide obstacles to personal transitions(ordinances against front lawn vegetable gardens, off the grid housing, livestock, etc.)

"Antisemitism and overt militarism were socially acceptable in Germany between the wars; they aren’t socially acceptable in today’s United States, and so they won’t play a role in a neofascist movement of any importance in the American future."

True, but I have often wondered if popular attitudes towards Islam in this country could take a more overtly sinister turn someday given the right circumstances. Hatred of Muslims tends to be one of the few things evangelical Christians and Evangelical Atheists can agree on, and I see the sentiment spread evenly enough along the political spectrum that the possibility of massive institutionalized violence against American Muslims does worry me quite a lot.

Draft said...

Hi JMG,

The one aspect of this (and previous) posts that I find very difficult to follow is where you say "it’s full of the kind of political notions that Americans swap over beers and pizza: the kind, in other words, that no mainstream party will touch."

Maybe I have been to the wrong BBQs lately, but what sorts of political notions do you mean? Could you clue me in on a few? The things I usually hear are just parroted talking points from either Fox News or MSNBC.

I have a similar question about the initial economic plan of NPPAP -- I often hear many of the things I would expect from your hypothetical NPPAP from the Libertarians and Greens.

In other words, I'm trying to better understand in specific terms what this might look like in its early years.

Shane Wilson said...

All the people obsessing over the new fascism catering to the current powers that be seem to have forgotten JMG's discussions of how all the imaginary tertiary wealth is in danger of evaporating in the near term. In the event of a financial crisis, or default of the US government, all of a sudden, a vacuum of power opens up that could be filled by an aspiring fascist movement. They wouldn't need financial backing from the powers that be because the rickety basis of said powers would have gone up in smoke in a financial crisis.

Jasmine said...

It is interesting that you mention that Fred Halliot and the NPAPP in your scenario, campaign on the issue of peak oil. It reminds me that the British National Party (BNP), which is the closest thing we have to a fascist party in the UK, are interested in peak oil. I went onto their web site once and found that they have several pages on the subject. Peak oil is a subject that the main stream political parties in the UK pretty much ignore. It is a sad fact that the fascists in the UK are much more clued up about peak oil and the coming crisis we face than the main stream democratic parties. People dismiss the BNP as ignorant bigots. They may be bigots but some of them are not as ignorant as our liberal prejudices would like to believe.

I don’t think that the BNP represent any kind of threat to democracy in the UK. Their brand is just too toxic. But a new party dealing with the pressing concerns that the main parties are ignoring could well become a threat to our democracy.

Luckymortal said...

Bravo! Much enjoyed the series.

I must fully admit that you could resurrect Adolf Hitler himself (and a whole army of Hitler Youth with him,) stick them in black and green, (with skinny jeans, no doubt, for the times) and if he toted the tree of life, and acknowledged peak oil and climate change, I'd probably "hold my nose" (literally, no doubt, with all those corpses walking around) and vote for him.

------------

So, during my last alien abduction experience, I happened (in between my disinfect and probing) to browse through the most recent edition of the ever-entertaining Journal of Homo Destructus Behavioral Curiosities.

Thanks to the Distar's universal translator circuit, I was able to read the abstract for a fascinating study of population overshoot. This study used the predictably instinctive response and humorlessness of homo destructus to evaluate overshoot in its simplest, biological form.

The authors created similar conditions on 18,272 lab planets (EA-AAA through EA-ZZT) with previously deployed homo destructus test populations, by restricting colony growth through limiting access to energy, land and other resources.

According to the authors, while 100% of test populations experienced violent population reduction significantly in excess of that predicted by reduced carrying capacity, nearly all populations reduced within predicted parameters.

With the exception of 2 atypical cases (where population was largely limited through democratically enacted "voluntary" suicide) test subjects relied upon violent and non-voluntary means to reduce population to within new carrying capacity.

Due to the "tribal" instinct to protect the gene chain, 80% relied upon a "genocidal" response against politically vulnerable groups within their societies to determine new resource distribution.

In the remaining groups, prolonged physical conflict between social groups reduced population to well below resource limits.

In 100% of cases, resource rationing was enforced by increasing hierarchical control mechanisms, characterized by increased conformity pressures and decreased behavioral and genetic diversity. Decreased individual choice regarding resource access was universal.

Human emotional response was measured by the dramatically increased incidence of the human call "fascist!," an meaningless and instinctive vocal response to non-voluntary hierarchically enforced resource rationing.

As my drugs were starting to set in, I vaguely remember the mention of a curiously familiar case of a late-series planet with a particularly brutal genocide. Apparently, researchers became fond of the comical goose-stepping, gesturing and silly mustache of one of its test individuals, who was eventually taken in as a pet by the lead research team....

Thomas Daulton said...

I've re-read your series of three, and pardon my typical American ADD, but I am struggling to find a brief, sound-byte definition of Fascism and why it's a bad thing. A "hard-and-fast" definition, as you say Nolte was careful to avoid. Your first article makes it sound kind-of like the definition of fascism is the system of industrialized liberal democracy which we have now, but then you go to great pains to point out that we don't know what _real_ fascism is like.

How about this one... drawing on our discussion here, but I am attempting to just completely side-step the current misunderstandings about how Fascism is conservative or relies on business.

"Fascism" is a pathology of democracy which occurs when a "tyranny of the majority" arises and then political expediency becomes an end unto itself, causing injustice to rebound back against the majority.

Fascism is a democratic phenomenon -- it occurs when the populace has the expectation of being represented in government, but that expectation has not been fulfilled in many years because the government bodies and/or political parties have become so polarized, ideological, aristocratic, or ossified that the normal business of a representative democracy is left undone.

Fascism leads to bad outcomes in history because, in its zeal to fulfil needs & wants which have been un-met for a long time, essential features of democracy such as checks-and-balances and minority protections are eventually cast aside in favor of political expediency. In the real-life historical cases, this tendency ultimately leads to the investment of autocratic power into a single executive or leader, at which point the society can no longer be considered a democracy. By that time, the majority in the middle of the populace may well be the target of most of the injustices of the Fascist system. When the first taste of political expediency fails to solve all the problems of a dysfunctional society, the Fascist regime tends to demand a broader and broader reach for its powers of expediency, leading to totalitarianism. However, the origins and the injustices of Fascism cannot be reduced exclusively to the foibles and bad character of the autocrat, since the majority participated in it during its rise to power.

Because the Fascist movement starts out by attempting to serve the needs and wants of an under-served majority in the middle of the political spectrum, it may be courted by businesses and economic interests, as well as other groups like religious sects; but this is not its defining characteristic. Because it is a form of "tyranny of the majority", it may attempt to scapegoat one or more minorities or sub-groups within the culture for the problems which led to its necessity; but this is not a precondition of its existence.

shtove said...

Possible candidate for a fascist movement in France - Les Bonnets Rouges, active in Brittany in the NW of the country since October.

Here's a good article pointing out the contradictions (read the notes as well):

http://antipodefoundation.org/2014/01/02/intervention-brittany-topsy-turvy-the-bonnets-rouges-movement/

Note the paradoxes in the movement - organised by farmers, trade unions and entrepreneurs, it's been called Jacobin and Tea Party.

No charismatic leader yet.

August Johnson said...

Excellent three-part series! I have several friends and know a lot of other people who would do just as your scenario suggests due to their disgust at their own and the "other" party's actions.

Steve in Colorado said...

Would I be part of the cheering crowds?

...Well, here's an alarming thought. How many of the participants in Hitler's cheering crowds were onetime leftists who had been disillusioned by the direction the Soviet Union and the various Communist Parties had taken? That's an actual question; I don't know the answer. I know that Mussolini was a former socialist, and I've read that fascist thinking involved a fusion of syndicalism with right wing ideas that I think begins with Georges Sorel, but I'm not sure.

Meanwhile, I bet I'm not the only onetime anarchist who left the fold after becoming disillusioned by the extreme authoritarianism and denial of reality found in the movement. How many of us would jump on board with the NPAPP? It makes use of the same color palette (black and green) as Pacific Northwest eco-radicals and it flies a pagan symbol. It promises to deal with all the issues we care about, but it doesn't make us sit through interminable "consensus meetings" or learn new politically correct terms for everything under the sun every time a new crop of angry college freshmen turn up threatening to purge everyone that looks at them funny. (Actually, it probably does do that eventually, but they'll be politically correct terms for different stuff. For a while we won't notice.)

It may look like all the promise of the failed movements of our youth, with none of the baggage. Honestly, I think I'd jump on board. I can't say I like that thought very much.

Twilight said...

Very well done! The key to the thought experiment is to imagine yourself living it in real time. You don't know how it ends, the existing system is truly failing, and the issues and ideas being presented by the new group really do appeal to you. How do you know what to do in the moment?

To me the best protection is as always, to try to block out the emotional appeal and look at what is really being proposed – not just the issues, but what is going to be done to address them and how that would be accomplished.

The other aspect is to look not only at the specific issues of the day, as those do change over time, but also the governing system that is being proposed. Is it worth changing a system to accomplish a specific goal? You will be stuck with the system change afterwards.

Still, it is very hard, as our system has become so complex and it is very difficult for any of us to really understand how it operates given all the interactions. And of course, most new groups may well be preaching some form of system change that seems like simplification and appears to make things more manageable.

No, it will be very difficult to see though, especially in times of real trouble when we are presented with ideas that really appeal.

Robert Mathiesen said...

More than half a century ago, the Sage of Baltimore, H. L. Mencken, wrote:

"The truth is that very few human beings really esteem or crave freedom: they are always willing to submit to authority. What happened in Italy and Germany might very well happen in the United States, and without producing any uproar save from a few fanatics. I'd holler myself, but how many other Baltimoreans would?"

I'd holler, too. But that's simply because I have a powerful visceral aversion to any sort of charisma in either a person or an institution. "Squick" is barely a strong enough word to capture the strength of my own aversion.

John Michael Greer said...

Karim, it's a good question. I don't expect a renewal of democracy, even if that could be set in motion, to take power in any obvious way; far more likely, as people relearned how to make democratic process work for them and became less vulnerable to the nonsense that passes for political discourse today, existing parties would be forced to adapt to the shifts at the grassroots. It's a long shot, granted, but to my mind it's worth trying.

Pongo, thanks for your honesty. I suspect that that would be a common reaction.

Wijnandt, I've heard of Vermes' novel! My reading knowledge of German is still shaky enough that I'll be reading it in the English translation, but I'm looking forward to it.

Gregorach, if Scotland regains its independence, it's going to be very vulnerable for a while to such things -- newly (re)founded countries very often are. I hope you and other Scots stay vigilant, and remember that independence is not a cure-all.

Raven, the parable from Chuang Tsu doesn't apply when one choice is a distribution of fruits and the other involves a lot of monkeys being shot. Really, I wish you'd think things through.

Neo, in the long run, certainly -- fascist states don't generally last more than one generation. That one generation, though, can be a real bear...

Stunned, thank you!

SMJ, unfortunately, it might also be useful in teaching people how to do it. Go read a couple of good accounts of the rise of Hitler and Mussolini; that'll give you a very clear sense of the sort of thing to watch for.

Ando, thank you!

YJV, oh, granted, Lenin had much more in common with Hitler and Mussolini than anybody wants to discuss these days. As for your broader point, exactly -- it's the promise that the Party or the Movement can bring about Utopia that makes this sort of thing so dangerous.

Jim, the problem with autocracy, of course, is that you can't know in advance what the autocrat is actually going to do, and if he decides that ecological balance requires gassing a quarter of the population, what then? No, it doesn't tempt me.

John Michael Greer said...

Tony, exactly! Your comparison of the current crop of soi-disant "Neo-Nazis" to a pike and musket reenactment society is spot on -- in American terms, perhaps, they might be considered a Society for Intolerant Anachronism. They've got a way to shock their parents and get attention, and that's as far as they're ever going to get. It's those who apply the tactics of historic fascism to the buzzwords and unmet political needs of today that are the ones to worry about.

Stunned, precisely -- the current babble about the allegedly magical powers of "leadership" can be understood much more clearly if you simply replace the word "leadership" with führerprinzip. As for the uniform, yes, that was the point -- fascist uniforms from the 1920s and 1930s appealed to the fashion sense and popular taste of the time, so the next round, if we get one, will appeal to the fashion sense and popular taste of our time, not theirs.

Nathan, that's why in both cases I'm advocating for a grassroots-first approach that starts with the individual and the local group, and sets out to establish foundations on which the future can build. It may be too late to prevent the collapse of what's left of democracy in America, but preserving and transmitting the skills of democratic process could allow a restoration later on.

Lw, I'll consider it, but it would be a very long list. I'd encourage you to start with the sources cited in the posts themselves.

Nathan, as I mentioned to Thijs, I have reason to think that a national conversation about peak oil may actually take place. More on this in a later post...

Will, that's an important part of it. The other half, to which you've alluded, is that a regime that comes to power convinced that it can make the world over in the shape of its ideology is likely to use more and more violence as its efforts to do so run into trouble. If the Great Turning and the shining new future Halliot's followers believe in so strongly can't be attained, the temptation to go hunting for the evil people who are keeping it from happening, or to engage in other useless but emotionally satisfying actions of the same kind, can be very hard for a dictatorship to resist.

Mister R., a lot of people would.

Yupped, good. Yes, it's entirely possible that a new American fascism could emerge around the idea that if only we do X, Y, and Z, we can keep the comfortable lifestyles we're used to having.

Robert, exactly. Democracy always involves corruption, compromise, and fumbling; that's why it's so easy, once it jams up (as it does in certain kinds of crisis), to insist that it has to be scrapped. I prefer basic civil liberties, thanks.

Mister R., I don't consider the idea of a linear political spectrum to be useful, so no, I wouldn't put them on it!

Luckymortal said...

Brainstorm of possible government responses to future resource restriction and rationing.
-Predatory warmonger state. "Exports" suffering to people in vulnerable countries.
-Civil war state. Same as above, but turned inward.
-Barbarism. Social darwinist state. Lets the "hammer and anvil" (as Newt Gingrich used to call them in his stump) of resource restriction wipe out "less desirable" classes. This pairs nicely with "environmental injustice," limiting population through pollution. Would claim to be "laissez faire," but would actually use the brutally firm hand of mercenary force.
-Genocidal state. Selects vulnerable social groups for deletion. Pollution could also be useful.
-Socialist state. Redistributes resources from the leisure class to those in need for as long as possible. Finds "fair" ways of choosing losers.
-Aztec-style sacrificial state. "Democratically" institutes "voluntary" population reductions a la Vonnegut's suicide booths.
-Cannibalistic state... um, running out of ideas.

All of these could be enacted "democratically" and all would likely (and fairly) be called "fascist" from some perspective.

I can see a few ways to measure the "ethics" of a government's response.
1. Smoothness of population decline. This means a government managed decline well, limiting the number of deaths as much as possilbe. This would likely require a very heavy hand.
2. Fairness. Heavy hand again.
3. Responsibility. Doesn't export suffering or stick it to those least responsible.

Robert Magill said...

[JMG: I tried to send this contest entry yesterday but I don't see it so I guess I messed up and it didn't go through. Here goes again. Robert Magill ]


Entry: Post Peak Contest

Rescuing the Republic From Itself /or
How 50 Men, Women and Children Could Save our Bacon.

...What to do? Play the trump card. What’s that? Racism? What? Yup!

You serious? Sure. Now may not be the time though. It could get worse; so we must wait. When the dire impact of two hundred dollar oil becomes common knowledge and is still ignored at the top; we’re close. When, despite all evidence to the contrary, our leaders are still shilling for unlimited growth; be ready. But be cautious because when they have spent the last dollar and nobody will lend us a nickel; we might not have to act. Look around and count the number of guys who come back from the front as basket cases because they are overused. Count the number of Americans incarcerated for protesting ForeverWar or doing drugs out of despair. Watch for further disintegration of the cities, more grinding poverty and massive, permanent, unemployment. Pervasive hunger. Then, if it appears the mass has gone critical; it’s time to begin.

This is where it gets messy and bloody:

Secret Plan: Your Eyes Only. Need-To-Know Established. Emergency use Only!

http://robertmagill.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/how-our-republic-was-finally-rescued-from-itself-or/

John Michael Greer said...

Zed, an ethnically defined scapegoat isn't a necessary part of the kit -- Mussolini's regime, for example, didn't make use of that, and it's by no means certain that an American fascism would do so. I'd expect instead to see a vague catchall category of "people who are allegedly trying to stop the Great Turning" being the focus of the Halliot regime's denunciations -- they could be anywhere, you know, so if you see anything suspicious, be sure to report it to your local Party Homeland Security officer!

Eric, that's a possibility, but as I noted to Zed, ethnic hatred is not necessarily a part of the package.

Draft, don't look for specifics -- those will change based on what's popular. I'd encourage you to read a couple of good books on how Hitler and Mussolini rose to power; that'll give you a better sense of the flavor of the thing, which is likely to be a better guide.

Shane, thank you. Yes, I've noticed how enthusiastically people have ignored those comments. Gotta have our omnipotent scapegoats...

Jasmine, exactly. It's the movement that insists it's not a political party, that hits all the popular buzzwords, that is earnest and enthusiastic and promises an end to business as usual, that's the one you have to worry about.

Mortal, our experiments here on Earth -- we call those "history" -- suggest that your aliens may be getting their statistics garbled somewhere. Genocide happens, but it's a good deal less common than all that.

Thomas, good. The one factor I'd add in is that fascist movements tend to pursue an ideal image of a perfect world, which they are convinced they can bring about by force -- and as usual, it's the gap between the world they think they ought to have and the one they actually get that becomes the mainspring for horrific violence.

Shtove, thanks for the heads up! I hadn't heard about them yet.

August, thank you.

Steve, exactly. Exactly.

Twilight, good. I'd also encourage people to be very, very suspicious of any claim that democracy has to be set aside in order to do blah blah blah -- once those checks and balances go out the door, remember, the regime can do whatever it wants to.

Robert, Mencken is always good for a crisp summary. Of course he was quite correct.

Carlo said...

Thaumaturgy - see how it is done and done well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yF-LSrsd0fw

watch all six parts about the engineering of the downfall of a once useful Ceausescu in Romania

Eddie said...

"I'd also encourage people to be very, very suspicious of any claim that democracy has to be set aside in order to do blah blah blah -- once those checks and balances go out the door, remember, the regime can do whatever it wants to."

Let me see. Where are we now with respects to democracy? We can vote for either corporate candidate. We can travel freely inside the country as long as we don't stop moving or try to "occupy" anyplace. We have the right to buy a poorly designed cheap house with borrowed money, and live there as long as we pay the taxes.

Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms seem to be subject to a great deal of interpretation and modification in the interests of things like "national security" and protecting us from seldom seen "terrorists".

Working checks and balances seem to be highly questionable from what I see. We have an executive branch that already has a secret police force. We have a judiciary perfectly willing to put a rubber stamp on corporate hegemony. We have the best legislatures money can buy.

We have a military in peacetime that the Constitution expressly forbids.We have troops in 140 countries or so.

I'm sorry, but I worry more about the thugs we have now more than I worry about future potential thuggery. Could it happen, like you said? Sure it could. But even if it doesn't we are screwed anyway.

Don't suppose there's any chance of some real, good, decent reforms that make sense from our youthful green shirts? Nah, too much to ask.



SLClaire said...

I know I feel frustration with the political process being so gummed up as it is. But the five years of reading your blog has also made me more aware of when organizations whose goals I support use language and tactics that suggest their potential to endorse violence and extralegal tactics to further their goals. That has led me to distance myself from them. With luck the NPAPP would do the same early enough that I would recognize it and avoid getting caught up in the madness. Thank you for this; I don't think I would have learned to pick up on these signals if I had not been reading your blog.

I noticed St. Louis gets a role in this story as the headquarters of NPAPP, reminding me of its role as the location of the constitutional convention in your story of the US empire's defeat. It causes me to squirm in my seat more than a little. St. Louisans seem to have an inferiority complex. I like to tease those who have lived here all their lives that the last good thing they think happened here was the 1904 World's Fair. But our fair city being the setting for momentous events and organizations in your stories suggest that we might be a bellwether for the US as a whole. I know we've played a large role as a test market for new products. Do you see us as a test market of sorts for the post-peak, post-empire US?

Eric S. said...

"I'd expect instead to see a vague catchall category of "people who are allegedly trying to stop the Great Turning" being the focus of the Halliot regime's denunciations"

Considering the reactions I've gotten for responding to ideological rants by pointing out that workers (and even CEOS) at industrial agrobusinesses and pharmaceutical companies are people too, or that one of my closest friends works for one of those big Texas oil companies and is nowhere near the hobgoblin you hear in some political discourse... I imagine there'd be no shortage of potential scapegoats for such a regime to target.

Philip Steiner said...

@jmg., @DeAnander, to quote Winston Churchill:

Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

Martin said...

Haley Barbour?! Really??

Heh

DaShui said...

Hey Adjmg,
How about Singapore, as a fascist state?
1. Ethnic dictatorship with forced intergration for citizens.
2. Charismatic leader who was influenced by the Japanese cutting off heads of random males.
3. Mandatory military service until age 45. If you become overweight, u must live at a military base until you lose weight.
4. Strong environmental laws
5. Surveillance state. My friend hit and killed someone on a scooter. Within minutes the police came, said they have everything on video, and she was free to go.
6. Harsh punishments for minor infractions, 10 lashes for vandalism.
7. Lack of free speech
8. Very little other civil liberties
9. Extreme regulations(can't chew gum, must eat all food on plate)
10. Best education system in world focusing on high tech, my cousin in high school is on the robotics team, he said Singapore mops the floor in international competition .
11. Government and corporations cooperating to build the worlds highest standard of living for Singaporeans .

Dustin Hamman said...

John,



Thank. You. For. Writing. This.


Seven years ago I was standing in front of the Reichstag, staring at the Memorial to the Murdered Members of the Reichstag, and to this day I can clearly remember the profound effect it had upon me. I am certainly no fan of members of the U.S. congress, but the thought of a rising political machine condemning them to die in concentration camps for expressing their views is bone chilling. The most recent reports coming out of Ukraine indicate strongly that something frighteningly similar could be developing there. It is important to remember that these regimes waste no time moving from their political opponents to members of the public who also happen to have a difference of opinion. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you will, but with the realization that the NSA collects and stores essentially all online activity, I would be lying if I said that I have not thought about the possibility that my activity and viewpoints today could be used against me in some kangaroo court by a similarly oppressive regime at some point in the future. Awareness of the possibility of true Fascism is, in my mind, a major step towards its prevention. (If prevention is even possible.) Thank you for this.


For those unfamiliar with the Memorial, read this for a short but excellent history lesson, pertaining directly to the discussion at hand (Click ‘History’ next to ‘Introduction’): http://www.memorialmuseums.org/eng/denkmaeler/view/1421/Memorial-to-the-Murdered-Members-of-the-Reichstag

exiledbear said...

Duality - you're forgetting it. There's going to be something else out there that will seem to be an even worse choice than your NPAPP. Not quite sure what that will be. Communists are a dying breed for the most part. Aside from the Greens and the Libertarians, which don't really look or sound that scary, who else does sound scary that might get people supporting them?

I wonder what do you think about Jesse Ventura and Howard Stern running as president and vice president? I don't perceive either one as being that scary either myself, but that's just my perception.

As far as where I draw the line? When the president starts ruling by decree, like, oh, I don't know - Obama is doing and Schliecher did, then it's a good bet the empire knows we're here and it's time to start the evacuation and warm up the ion cannons. Perhaps set my course for the Dagobah system too.

A smart person would've started learning English in Germany at that time and started figuring out ways to leave and never return.

So, what language does the smart person learn today in 2014 and where does he go with the idea of leaving never to return? I kinda like the deliciously ironic idea that Germany would be a safe place this time around. That tickles my twisted funny bone like nothing else, but I have no idea if that would actually turn out to be true or not.

Ruben said...

@Chris,

My bee guru is Michael Bush, who has an excellent website.

http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm

Marcello said...

Minor point. The american constitution is a cult object in some constituencies. It seems to me that a full frontal assault against it is going to ruffle a lot of feathers that might otherwise remain neutral or sympathetic. On the other hand it seems it would be possible to sidestep or amend it enough to keep an authoritarian government going. After all Mussolini did not bother to change the relatively liberal italian consitution.

Glenn said...

exiledbear said...
'As far as where I draw the line? When the president starts ruling by decree, like, oh, I don't know - Obama is doing'

You might do a little research. Many past presidents have used Executive Orders, many of them much more than our current president. It is, you might note, perfectly constitutional. I smell a rat when anyone complains about the activities of a particular incumbent for any office without mentioning identical activities performed by any other office holder, present or past. It usually seems to be a case of "whose ox is being gored", or in the words of our host "Tribalism".

Glenn

in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea
Cascadia

Joe Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Mathiesen said...

@exiledbear

I have been recommending Brazilian Portuguese to my (former) students since about 2005, so that they could flee to that part of South America. One of them has already relocated there. (She was the daughter of an American oil-company executive and spent her 'teen years [IIRC] growing up in pre-Chavez Venezuela, so she already had excellent Spanish.)

PS I know neither language myself; it's just my own take on all the currents swirling around the globe these days, not a personal fondness or preference for Brazil or Latin America.

Once there, add Spanish to your repertoire also.

shtove said...

@Jasmine

I watched QT tonight, broadcast from Wales.

Top of the program was the Hyde Park bombing issue - clear abuse of authority by the executive in interfering with the justice system.

Once we got past that, the Welsh audience seemed very anti-immigration + a plague on all your houses to the established parties, including Plaid Cymru: "The Tories don't care about anything in Wales because there's no electoral gain, and we have to stop voting Labour because they have screwed us. What we need is a third party."

The Bretons make love to pigs, whereas the Welsh shag sheep. The BNP? I don't know what they cuddle up to at night, but my impression is they're based in the deprived north of England, sucked dry by the empire of London.

Maybe the regions (agricultural/ fading manufacturing) are where it starts in Europe.

Kutamun said...

My dear AD , hope everything is well  your end, was becoming quite anxious when your intriguing weekly essay was a few hours late .....

So i understand from your own and Reichs observations that fascist movements find  fertile ground among the abandoned middle ground of politics and the gutted middle class, and can appear in the form of agitated patriarchy . I boldly predict the next Fascist leader will be a woman , albeit one who does not embody or hold feminine values, though she may profess to do so....., you may recognise her by her fanatical icy cold stare ..Think less Sarah Palin and more Jodie Fosters character in "Elysium"

To this end , i have constructed an Organonoscope , and am encouraging friends and family to assiduously maintain their Orgiastic Potence , by religiously releasing their Organon , and that a welcome side effect of this in Australia may well be rain ....

I have announced on our little google group here in the bush that anyone seen not disconnecting themselves from the evil globalist machine and adopting localism as their prime ethos  will be compulsorily inserted into the Organonoscope for "Orgiastic Adjustment " . In addition , i have decreed that we are to wear pink tee shirts with navy Ganesha Buddhist style elephants on the front and back to distinguish ourselves from the evil green and black fascists who are sure to emanate from that Great Satan , America .... We have other things in store for those who refuse to acknowledge or comprehend peak oil or climate change ..

"Totalitarianism is never content to rule by external means, namely, through the state and a machinery of violence; thanks to its peculiar ideology and the role assigned to it in this apparatus of coercion, totalitarianism has discovered a means of dominating and terrorizing human beings from within."

HANNAH ARENDT, The Origins of Totalitarianism
Thanks , Hanna , true , Fascism , rather than existing as an entity independent to us , has its genesis as a seed  in the hearts , or perhaps a somewhat lower region , of ordinary men and women ....

Famous Australian successfully reformed Fascists


AB Facey- author of " a fortunate life"
Bad boy Bubby - the Apotheotic high water mark of Australian cinema ...

Marinhomelander said...

Recently attended a public meeting regarding regional imposition of high density housing on Marin County through California state mandates.
"Sustainable Marin", a group of self proclaimed environmental spokesthings, was adamant that the County supervisors approve the high density housing option as it would help combat global warming through building apartments near bus stops and along the freeway,allegedly for workers that now commute in from far away by car.
Vast majority of citizens present were against such housing and the accompanying commercial development since it pays no property taxes and leapfrogs environmental review and is basically a sop to developers through special tax breaks and credits. Supervisors took the high density option off the table...for now.

What struck me was the anger and the vehemence of the "concerned environmentalists" (I consider myself to be an environmentalist in theory and long term hands on practice).
There was no room for compromise, no room for discussion--their common theme "YOU HAVE TO VOTE YES ON THIS BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE". These were mostly older women and a few men. The militancy they displayed and the dogmatic position illustrated to me at least what quasi totalitarianism looks like at the intellectual level at least.
Especially noteworthy was when a mother with a stroller stated that her neighborhood's sustainability committee was against the projects. The next speaker, a League of Women's Voters type shouted at the woman that the County Chapter had never given permission to use the word "sustainable" in their neighborhood group.
For more background on this issue see
www.savemarinwood.org

Bob Smith said...

"don't fall into the trap of mistaking a clueless moderate"
JMG I would disagree with you on the moderate statement, clueless I have thing we can agree on. Clinton was moderate from 94 on, and still would be, much to the countries betterment. However, other famous moderates, JFK or Ike, would be considered "Tea party nut cases" by today's standards. After all, JFK was a Life Member of the NRA, declared by SPLC and numerous news organizations to be a "hate group". No offense, but I probably follow this a lot closer than you do. The rhetoric even matches something that "Fred Halliot" might say.

However, you are right, it is 1937, not 1941 but a scan of the local and national news will indicate the Rule Of Law no longer applies and the machinery is in place for some horrific consequences. Who will use it, of course, is still up in the air. I've seen much of the world, including those locations run by autocrats, to me it looks like the frog is already in the pot. Unlike our current empty suit, most of those autocrats don't go out of their way to stir things up due to the law of unintended consequences not being repealed.

What a mess eh? However, despite this onslaught of bad news, I am more hopeful for the future now more than I have been in a number of years. Americans, at least those outside of notable hard left states, are remembering who they are and the veil of passivity is fading away. It won't be easy reclaiming what has been lost in the past 120-150 years, but then again, nothing worthwhile ever is.

Once again, thanks for the history lesson. It would have been my chosen profession, but engineering pays better and suits me as well.

Off topic, and I apologize for this, but I do have one question regarding climate change, due to the Greenpeace founder being in the news,...is this ever going to go away? For all the money and effort we've spent on this, we could have solved every issue of pollution. It seems to be a way to procure a lifetime of grants and prestige without actually having to accomplish anything. Seems like a huge misallocation of resources to me. I liked your challenge (last year?) to us and don't understand why some are worried about 100 years away without fixing the stacks spewing mercury (and nuke waste) now? Fukishima is a lot more dangerous than rising oceans. Would appreciate your thoughts on this if you have time this week or a possible future column.

Joseph said...

I think this is a rather unimaginative story the premise of which seems to be that there is only one version of fascism that looks basically like Hitler. But fascism may be a far more mainstream and flexible beast. What the Iraqis experienced is perhaps a little worse than what the Poles or Czechs experienced but the same idea.
I see fascism as a corporate state combined with a militarized state that lives on paranoia, predatory economics surveillance and above all enemies. American enemies are muslims, black teenagers packing skittles and those slippery omnipresent terr'ists. The totalitarian tendencies of the current state are plutocratic, so the methods of control are flexible and profit oriented, but the dollar is backed by the most powerful military ever. They don't need to take over. They have more control of more of the world than any regime in history. The problem for them is the potential for global backlash. The problem for us is that they seem to be preparing for that eventuality with surveillance, drone warfare and a massive prison system.

HalFiore said...

So would getting involved with one of the major parties and trying to get it more functional be a worthwhile thing to do? By coincidence, perhaps, a friend today suggested that I do just that. I have been convinced for years that neither is ever going to give more than lip service to any of our pressing problems. But my dabbling in the fringes of third party politics has shown me that they are, if anything, even more dysfunctional.

Now you present a scenario of an exciting, charismatic extra-party movement that sounds pretty much exactly like what I would produce if I had the organizational and persuasive talent to do so. With a major uh-oh. So I'm compelled to ponder.

The situation in my locality will not make it easy. Our parties have partitioned largely along racial lines. We are a heavily blue section of one of the reddest states in the nation. My sympathies would be more at home with the blues, but being well organized and an actually functioning political machine, it is hard for an outsider, especially a white one, to get into the organization.

OTOH, it is quite easy for an individual to move straight into a leadership role in the reds, because there is next to no Republication organization here. That's what my friend did: showed up to a county committee meeting, found himself alone with a few friends who made the trip with him, and got elected county chairman.

However, trying to pretend loyalty to the national ticket in that party would be a bigger fraud than I can imagine. So I'm left writing pithy letters to the editor and pretty much alienating everyone around here. Can't say that's been very rewarding so far...

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi DeAnander,

Thanks for the book reference. It's in the post. The quirky title sounds intriguing.

Hi Rick,

Excellent video. Thanks for the link. Nice to see that you found the Queen so quickly, but in the super. That was a very active colony.

I've just discovered today that there is such a thing as a swarm trap. I may still be able to get some of my now feral bees back.

Part of the new direction with bees here involves trying to work out how to get the bees to come to me, by simply providing food, water and lodging that suits their preferences. Basically it is an attempt to replicate the natural systems, but in a way that makes it convenient and abundant for me. Obviously, it will take some time and experimentation.

After a bit of reflection, it may have been the 5 consecutive days of 40C+ degree weather that knocked the existing two colonies around. I noticed that your place in the video looked quite green. This is not the situation here. I'm going to experiment tomorrow and see whether the feral bees - which killed off my existing colonies - can relocate to a new shady location. It should be quite interesting to see what happens.

The chickens here are located in the dappled shade and they appreciate it, as nothing wants to be in the full sun on a 44.5C degree day (recorded in the shade). I sometimes wonder what happens to chooks in chicken tractors in the full sun. It can't be good for them as even their water is hot. I have to be realistic about the environment that I live in and intense summer days seem to be getting more frequent.

Hi Steve,

I'm glad that templates has sparked you interest because as a system, they simply work. If you look closely at the concept of permaculture, what you’ll uncover is templates. It is unsurprising to me that it started off Down Under. Last night there were 4 wallabies, 1 kangaroo and a wombat all happily munching away on the herbage below the house. Right now in the afternoon sun an echidna is happily eating as many ants as it can stuff down its snout.

However, I'd suggest that you have a read of Bill Gammage's book, "The greatest estate on earth", before we speak further on the matter. Let me know when you have done so.

Last year, I was in a bit of legal bother because of my land management practices here as it offended the local council’s sensibilities. As a direct result of that problem I no longer speak about any details relating to these matters. Sorry, but despite the good outcomes for the animals here, I've been instructed to cease and desist from taking any further actions. It is a sad outcome as much can be achieved and it is inevitable that a wildfire will soon come through and destroy what the council wants to protect through its complete misunderstanding.

The white fellas here would hate to admit that they don't know as much as they think that they do.

Hi Redneckgirl,

I like your writing. You have been touched by the Great Spirit. A couple of weeks back you echoed Bill's comment about the simple fact that most people wouldn't know their heads from their tails in a natural environment. I have to second both of your opinions as the same is just as true for this location.

PS: I don't think tribes were static, but I reckon that they sought to achieve that outcome in the environment.

Regards

Chris

Marc L Bernstein said...

I was not particularly concerned that I might be a good candidate for being duped by a fascist movement with populist roots. I did vote for Obama back in 2008, so a fool I can be if I'm not careful.

I do have some questions though. What kind of a American neo-fascist movement never elicits substantial financial support from major corporations somewhere along the way? Frankly I have trouble imagining such a movement.

Fascist movements often start out as populist, but somewhere along the way they must find a source of advertising revenue, or they will become insignificant. Am I wrong here? Political philosophy is not my area of expertise.

Anselmo Muro Rodriguez said...


The use of the term fascism to describe an authoritarian regime seems inappropriate . Fascism have characteristics that make him irrepetible , "When the historical facts are repeated , which were tragedies are repeated as satires " (Victor Hugo? ) .

Speaking of fascism outside the context of Western Europe during the 20-50 years of the last century Europe , it seems inappropriate . It would be better to speak of " authoritarian regimes " .

Fascism arose in Italy , a Mediterranean country of Latin culture , where masses are prone to Caesarism , ie to give up their freedom in exchange for the leader and wait for they resolve problems ( Mass Psychology , Le Bon, 1878). Although Le Bon did not say so , it is clear that the mass psychology of the German people are also prone to Caesarism .
Moreover, throughout Western Europe , the petty bourgeoisie felt very threatened by communism , for his massacres such as occurred during the Russian Revolution , besides the loss of his possessions and status. The Russian Communists were aware that their regime , sooner or later, would be attacked again by the European powers and the only way to prevent their annihilation would be the establishment of communism in the rest of Europe , either by subversion or through military invasion .

The frustrated communist rebellion ( Spartacus ) happened in Germany during the Weimar Republic was a factor that contributed very much to the rise of Nazism. Not to forget that the Weimar republic can not be compared with the USA democracy. The Weimar Republic was a parliamentary regime imposed by a military defeat in a country lacking democratic tradition .


And regarding the question of whether it is possible the implementation of an authoritarian regime in the USA, my little knowledge of history , society and domestic policy of USA , says me that this is not possible , because the mass psychology of the people USA is opposed to Caesarism .

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Please excuse my temerity, but what I believe is at the core of what we are discussing here is one possible mechanism through which the human population works its way back into balance with the outputs of the ecosystem. It is an unpleasant topic to be sure, but it is an inevitable situation. Nature always balances her books. It is our choices and narratives which determine which of the four horsemen actually does the deed.

The Great Depression provides another possible outcome too. I'm unsure how attractive grinding poverty is for most people these days, but it is an option. Albeit, one with a less violent outcome than in your possible future scenario. Although as you've previously pointed out, the culture here is somewhat different from US culture. Mind you, the culture here has changed radically since that the 1930's so who knows what may happen as reality fails to meet expectations for people.

As an interesting observation, I noted recently that Canada has stopped wealthy Asian's, sorry, people without Canadian citizenship, from purchasing property and thus gaining citizenship. Those same people are - I suspect and I'd be happy to be corrected - propping up the high end real estate market here. Interesting times.

I don't know whether you'd seen the latest OECD world economic forecast?

By the way, what is it with the US$4/gallon price magic? It reminds me of the rhetoric surrounding the no more than a 2C degree rise in average global temperature meme that I constantly see, despite the fact that the limit has well and truly been passed here. It is somehow as if it was the belief that is important and human actions are somehow secondary, and if we just imagined hard enough…

I can assure people that if I want fuel here it costs at least 50% more than the US$4/gallon. Yet still life goes on.

Just sayin.

As an interesting side note, I spotted a new bird here today: A Masked Woodswallow. Feed and house them and they will come.

Regards

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

I'm only halfway through the comments and what stands out as being obvious to me (and Blind Freddy too, for that matter) is that not one single commenter (yet) has said that they'd give up some of their First World perquisites to avoid the scenario that you'd penned in your essay.

Regards

Chris

KL Cooke said...

"I tend to think of Korten as the most likely Moeller van den Bruck of Weimar America."

That's heavy. It seems the Unitarians have bought into him.

KL Cooke said...

"Heinlein foresaw, with remarkable clarity, the fundamentalist revival of 1980-2010"

Yeah, the Fosterites. That was funny.

S P said...

It may be personal bias but I still think fascism in America will be associated with the white, Christian, and neocon right-wing.

However, there are some aspects of this group, generally speaking, that must be said, for clarification and lest anyone doubt where the battle lines are, so to speak.

The Christian right wing is rabidly pro empire and rabidly pro business. This entails being rabidly pro-Israel (fear of brown Muslims, Rapture anticipation, and years of watching too many Hollywood movies), rabidly pro-black (in a broad sense of the Anglo "white man's burden" to civilize and improve the others), and rabidly pro-corporation (because corporations are the ultimate expression of business growth).

It is worth pointing out that these positions are in opposition to both the disaffected libertarian right, and the disaffected peacenik left. Both of these groups share the general belief that the empire should be liquidated and that businesses should succeed or fail on their own merits rather than live on in endless state subsidy. The only point of contention is the role of the state...with libertarians obviously seeing it as limited, whereas the left wants some role for the general welfare.

I see these groups as also perhaps being more in tune with the limits to growth, even though the full implications will of course escape almost everyone. Still, I don't see these groups as fascist in their intent. The American fascists will be the ones that want us to go to church, work for the man, and die in the deserts of the Middle East.

SMJ said...

Following on from Thomas Daulton - yes, please JMG could you remind us and possibly expand on how to guard against thaumaturgy. That's what I was trying to get at in my previous comment, only I hadn't noticed that Thomas Daulton had already brought it up.

Could you also recommend a couple of good accounts of the rise of Hitler and Mussolini? I can't quite bring myself to entirely trust reviews on Amazon.

magicalthyme said...

The anagram was a bit too easy, JMG. I knew it before I read it, lol! Enjoyed the thought experiment, although I ended up where I always do. I've been doing some version of that experiment since I was a kid. Price of gas irrelevent because I end up using horse transportation. And living in an area hostile and remote enough that few stick around, and when they do the environment changes you. That would be Maine. Most visitors survive one winter, two at most, and wander away. Those who survive and stay become Mainers.

I need to stray off the week's topic now to share these videos. Looking for the source now, but it's about small communities taking back community rights within the current system. Please ignore that the videos were made in Oregon. The movement started in rural PA 13 years ago. Tiny Maine villages versus Nestle are the 2nd example. Important to see how it's done :)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Prylnj4NQ8&feature=player_embedded

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Smu0x05qs58

Mary

magicalthyme said...

Ok, here is the organization Mr. Cienfuegos talks about in the videos I posted.

http://www.celdf.org/

They help small communities organize to protect their commons within the legal system. Important example, I think, for our future.

Mary

Phitio said...

You have described with bewildering precision what is currently happening in Italy with the "five stars Movement" which was able to get one third of parliament and senate chamber in the last elections.

The two (maybe three) conductors are Casaleggio , which is giving is infrastucture and political thinking support, and Beppe Grillo, which has the charismatic appeal and travels along Italy in a camper to speech to the masses.

Recently, four senator where expelled from the party on account on mere criticism expressed about Grillo's attitude towards the new Prime minister Renzi during the consultations to create the government team.

Such is the nature of fascism. It is growing in Italy, unrecognized until recently.

Fidelius said...

Very interesting post by JMG and many interesting comments here.

Regarding the post, I found it obvious from the beginning that JMG was modeling the rise of the NPAPP after the rise of the Nazi party and I got the Fred Halliot anagram immediately. The important point here is that it's not the "political content" and its expression in specific uniforms, ideology etc. that makes a good indicator for a fascist party; as JMG rightly pointed out, this will change according to the opinions and fashions of the time. Rather it's the process and circumstances of how such a party fills a void and comes to power.

Regarding the comments, I've seen some people here engaging in what Ivan Illich termed "apocalyptic randiness" - the act of describing some fact or development in the most horrible terms possible, followed by others trying to trump that with an even more horrible development. I don't think that's a helpful attitude; it kills your heart and prevents you from actually doing something (preferably something good!).

One last note about the novel "Look Who's Back" by Timur Vermes: The premise of the book is that Hitler wakes up in 2011 Berlin with a terrible headache and, after coming to the conclusion that Fate itself has teleported him there, pursues a career as a TV comedian "impersonating" Hitler, gaining a large following and using that to influence public opinion according to his ideology. I've read it in the original German version and while it's extremely funny and thought-provoking, it's also full of wordplay, puns and references to contemporary German politics and popular culture. This means that most of its humour is probably lost in translation, unless the translator used hundreds of footnotes. Still, there are many gems that should survive translation, like when Hitler analyses contemporary political parties and comes to the conclusion that the Green party is closest to his beliefs; the reasons he gives are ridiculous, astounding and perfectly logical at the same time.

Picador said...

JMG:

Excellent post. Thank you.

I appreciate that you updated the rhetoric of the fascist movement to reflect the relatively new taboo on overt racism and antisemitism, etc -- it's a subtle touch that makes the whole thing go down much easier for modern audiences. However, I think you're overstating the case:

"Antisemitism and overt militarism were socially acceptable in Germany between the wars; they aren’t socially acceptable in today’s United States, and so they won’t play a role in a neofascist movement of any importance in the American future."

The truth is that anti-immigrant sentiment, Islamophobia, and fear of poor non-white Americans have been tremendously effective political strategies for candidates from both major parties in America as far back -- or as recently -- as we'd care to look. One can even pull nominally "progressive" voters into these trap by talking about how the Arabs treat women badly, or how the Chinese don't respect human rights or the environment. Talk about how working class Americans are losing their jobs to illegal immigrants. Talk about black Americans' "cultural pathologies". Maybe they just need a jobs program... in the form of labour camps. Maybe sinister foreign investors need to have their property in the US seized on behalf of Real Americans. Maybe refugees from Central America and Haiti need to be sent back where they came from, after a lengthy stay in an "immigration processing facility". And have you ever noticed all the rats and garbage in Chinatown? Those people refuse to assimilate and they're making life unlivable for the rest of us with their filth and their barbaric, unenlightened values... and on top of that, their hyper-studious kids are taking all the spots in the fancy universities! (Trust me, I've heard this kind of racist garbage come out of the mouths of "good liberals" more than once, without any apparent awareness of how closely it mirrors the Nazis' rhetoric about the Jews.)

As for overt militarism no longer being acceptable: I'm honestly flabbergasted. The parallels between the German invasion of Poland and the American invasion of Iraq (with full bipartisan support, mind you) are almost perfect. They're certainly identical from the point of view of international law. Modern Americans' appetite for overt militarism is just as healthy as that of Germans in the 1930s, if not more so.

John Michael Greer said...

Mortal, how about "dysfunctional, crumbling, ineffectual state"? I consider that considerably more likely than any of the options you've listed.

Robert, got it.

Carlo, thanks for the link.

Eddie, you're making the same mistake as the people I cited who thought that the Weimar Republic was already as bad as it could get. How many of your friends have been dragged off by death squads recently?

SLClaire, I've been convinced for some time now that what the chattering classes call "the flyover states" are where the future of America will take shape. St. Louis is a convenient representative of the two or three dozen inland cities, once thriving cultural as well as economic centers, that were left to die on the vine with the rise of the imperial tribute economy. It could as well have been Milwaukee or Cincinnati.

Eric, exactly.

Philip, no argument there.

Martin, I needed somebody as dreary as Hillary Clinton, and he seemed to fit the bill.

DaShui, check it against Ernst Nolte's typology cited in last week's post. As far as I know, it's not a close match.

Dustin, you're welcome. Thank you for getting it.

Bear, I'm not forgetting it at all. What scares most Americans these days are the two existing parties -- listen to the rhetoric that's been directed at the existing system in the comments on this blog, for heaven's sake!

Marcello, that's why I had Halliot draw so heavily on the imagery of the end of American culture that doesn't treat the Constitution as sacred.

John Michael Greer said...

Kutamun, I suggest you build a Hieronymus machine and some Mesmeric baquets while you're at it!

Marin, I've met the equivalent.

Bob, it would be worth sitting you down sometime over a couple of beers with one of the many disappointed liberals who believe that Obama has betrayed his constituency and is pandering to the right wing. Remember that "moderate" isn't necessarily a compliment -- as I suggested in last week's post, when both parties are united in the pursuit of a disastrously wrongheaded set of policies, "moderate" simply means "even more committed to those policies than the pseudo-left and pseudo-right."

As for climate change, that's probably a topic for a post all to itself. The very short form is that Greenpeace and its many equivalents aren't in the business of solving environmental problems -- if those problems actually got fixed, what would happen to their donations, political clout, etc.? If you remember Friar Tetzel, the guy who went around Germany just before the Reformation hawking indulgences -- you committed adultery, no problem, ten thalers and you go straight to heaven anyway -- you know the business model: the people who cut four- and five-figure checks to Greenpeace are buying indulgences for their ecological sins.

Joseph, that is to say, you're trying to erase the historical reality of fascism so you can keep on using the term as a snarl word for the existing order of society. Sorry, that won't wash.

Hal, the major parties are pretty well insulated against pressure from the grassroots just now -- though that may change. Are there any third parties that appeal to you? The Republicans were a third party until 1860, remember.

Marc, please read the books I cited in last week's post, and then apply the same principles to a modern movement in America.

Anselmo, I wish you were right. The American people these days are much more open to Caesarism than they once were -- the cult of celebrity, the necrophiliac wallowings in the anniversary of JFK's assassination, and the entire fixation on "leadership" are all pointers in that direction.

Cherokee, of course you're right, but of the ways that America could get back in balance with ecological reality, mass killings by a fascist dictator aren't my idea of an optimal choice. Yes, I saw the latest forecast; "slow growth" is a charming euphemism, isn't it?

As for Blind Freddy, I'm starting to be impressed by his perceptiveness, because he's clearly seeing things that a lot of other people are missing... ;-)

KL, the Unitarians have bought into Korten? Oh bright gods. I suppose it's never occurred to them that "higher developmental level" is the current Newspeak for herrenvolk.

SP, and my point is that your personal bias may well blind you to a fascist movement that doesn't fit that stereotype.

Robert Mathiesen said...

@ Marc L Bernstein

Yes, of course, any new party that accepts large contributions to pay for its political advertising will inevitably be coöpted into the current dysfunctional political system. Major political parties have become largely a mere "choice of one brand over the other" in our present consumerist society, rather than principles on which one might act in one's own life. They offer and provide status and community to the voter, not service to the nation. And without advertising, what will your party's "market share" be?

However, there is a way out of this dilemma, and it involves putting out a new sort of "advertising" into the few publicly accessible channels that are still open. Parades, for one, and all sorts of other public displays of presence in the streets, in the parks and in all available public spaces. This would require enormous sacrifices of time and work, and significant sacrifices of cash, of the part of several hundred people to put them on in one city. These people would also -- this is even more important! -- to rule all the displays of presence with an iron hand, so that they are firmly kept from ever becoming at all disruptive. The organizers and supporters will have carefully to clean up every mess their presence makes, and thoroughly to reimburse the Powers That Be for any costs and inconvenience they cause. They will also have to completely shut out everyone who comes just to have a blast, make a mess and stick it to the Man. Completely!!! Even by force, if no lesser measure will work, arranged in advance in close cooperation with law enforcement. If you can start by coöpting significant law enforcement officers into the movement, so much the easier. It must be seen as a movement against the political system, not against law and order in general, if it is to have any chance of working.

Also, if such a movement and its public demonstrations can become a significant revenue source in a city or town's budget (or for its law enforcement establishment), not a revenue sink, it will be looked on with greater favor than otherwise. If it generates enough revenue for the city, it may even become openly welcomed!

So . . . who will step up to the plate? Will anyone? If no one, or only a few, will do so, then the battle is already lost and the dysfunctional political system has won. And if the firm discipline in what I describe is not to the taste of those who might otherwise do the work, the battle may have been lost long ago. Discipline and "fascism" are not two words for the same thing.

Bob said...

JMG -

Thank you. Those were three excellent essays.

I had a few questionstatements:

Fascism =

1) Power/Violence.
All nation-states have this to one degree or another. Everyone submits in one way or another. The exercise of power is very important (but not unique) to fascism.

+

2) Social and Political acceptance.
I LOVE THE LEADER! Is the populace just going to allow free government power?

+

3a) Revenge (Hate). How else are you going to get people to do things that they might not otherwise do?

and/or

3b) Apathy/Ignorance. Who cares what my government is doing!? Look at what's on FaceInstaSpaceTube!!


Personally, it's 3b) I'm worried about. Kinda gives 1) a blank slate.

Malcolm Green said...

Thanks again, well written as always. Interesting to note with current events this is already occurring in Russia (Putin Jugend!). Tragic that the same mistakes are made over and over.

das monde said...

The interesting question is, how much willingly does the deep state facilitate this same "tries" scenario.

Draft said...

JMG,

I know you worry that I and others will focus too much on specifics if you give them, but I think you may be overestimating our (or at least my) ability to see the fascism forest for the individual historical autocrat trees.

I've read history about the era, but I can't say I know how to generalize from that to see parallels today. I understand what the ~2020 scenario you're talking about might look like -- where things take a more totalitarian tone, ignore democratic institutions and constitutional protections, etc. It's the precursor that's unclear.

What would such a proto-fascist movement look like now? You say not to look for specifics. Ok. You say that the solutions offered by past fascist movements were real solutions, that solved for a time the problems of the day. Does that mean that the nature of the movement really depends on the nature of the leader (i.e. if the person isn't inclined to autocracy then what we get is more like, say, FDR or Lincoln using extraordinary but non-fascist means to get through a crisis)? Or are the flavor of the solutions on offer themselves the difference, and that's how we can tell in the early years?

Varun Bhaskar said...

JGM,

Great essay series, probably the best I've read on authoritarianism. Way better than anything I read while I was college. I'm gonna make your blog required reading for my friends and family pretty soon.

I'll also be referring to you as “The Prophet Greer,” from now on for my own amusement.

I'm finally making progress convincing my friends and family about the storms in our future. It turns out that historical knowledge mixed with an unweaving of our civilizational story has a very deep impact on the perceptions of people. I'll be meeting with two friends this coming week to convince them to start a resilience community. I'm still trying to internalize the idea that the unfolding of history isn't a problem that can be fixed, just prepared for.

I think your particular unrealized reality will take at least a decade of gestation in the soup of decline before it manifests. The results have given me a good story idea though, so I'm gonna try my hand at writing a decline story right after I get this article about Europe and the right-wing done.

By the way, to any of you who have registered for the site, you all have access to post on the message boards and contribute articles. For some reason our auto alerts aren't going out, still working on that one.

Varun Bhaskar
Chief Administrator
View on the Ground

dave1941 said...

European politics in a nutshell:

Fascism: We must make our people strong, so that we may conquer and enslave others.

Anti-Fascism: We must make our people weak, so that others may conquer and enslave us.

Classical liberalism went extinct in Europe around 1900. Some Americans still hold its meritocratic ideals, but they're outnumbered by Democrats and RINOs.

So yes, America could go Nazi after the dollar collapses. The nation would benefit immensely from deporting low-IQ criminals and welfare leeches to Africa and Mexico, but we'd probably also lose the high-IQ Jews and Asians.

Justin Wade said...

JMG,
One variable to consider is that we are awash in guns in the U.S., which makes things much more horrific in the case of a fascist movement developing. Civil war or a horrifying spectacle of grassroots, DIY national purifying.

One aspect of the German movement is that in the face of steep economic contraction, the Germans simply took to killing off excess population.

The American identity is not very deep and indefinable, our national identity is brittle, and we also have a lot of ego tied into that identity. When that identity really gets into exclusive/inclusive, i.e. deciding who is a real American and who is a 'cancer' to the American body as we stumble and slide down economic contraction, I think you are probably right that all bets are off.

I could imagine outcomes from national dissolution, pockets of war lordism, to a massive orgy of nationalist expression as violence and purification and all kinds of muddling status quo in between.

I wonder what you make of my position, which is essentially that we are facing irreconcilable systemic problems - meaning that the dominant institutions of our time are facing an invalidating condition to common root assumptions: infinite growth and middle class wealth for everybody. The institutions are essentially designed to fail, its not a failure of anyone in power. All range of actions and outcomes within the dominant institutional contexts are doomed to fail, the details are really only a question of how fast and how badly. If I understand you correctly, the consequence of a fascist movement would be to throw a monkey wrench into an already failing engine.

I can buy into the notion that the reason the system is failing to even address what is happening is because it can't, not because it won't.

RPC said...

Just thought I'd point out that the last time a third party managed to replace one of the two majors in this country, we got, not Fred Halliot/Adolf Hitler, but Abraham Lincoln. "The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. ... As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew" do sound like words you could put in the mouth of a Halliot, but they led neither to fascism nor to the loss of the Constitution. (Some of my fellow commenters from the South may argue that, of course!) OTOH, this was a different country back then. But it leads me to ask how one can differentiate a genuine reformer from a Fuehrer-in-the-making.

Ian Stewart said...

There's one big obstacle to relocalization that I see out here in California dreamland. Most of the really effective local politicians, the ones who dominate the dialogue, generally use local government as a stepping-stone to higher levels of government. The somewhat impotent planning commission is a step towards city council, then once you're a councilperson, it's time to step up to county supervisor, state assembly/Senate, or go whole hog and run for Congress... Very few want to stick around to build something enduring on the local level, it's all about interfacing with national government and corporate interests and returning the spoils to the local level.

Now, obviously, if we're going to deindustrialize, that model isn't going to work going forward. I'm wondering if our host can suggest some localized organizations that might be more amenable to sustaining democratic practice. If anything, I find myself more amenable to falling for a localized movement than a national one, so it's surely pretty important to start making sure all voices are heard on the local level.

Also, for comic relief, here's Reltih Floda, the Reverse-Hitler of Magno World!

Agent Provocateur said...

JMG,

I'm trying to concisely work the whole thing up from first principles. Here is my best effort so far. You got me thinking. I do this slowly. Please indulge me as I'm probably a week behind.

[0) The unspoken assumption: People understand that it is in fact the responsibility of the federal government to assist people in meeting their basic needs]
1) A critical mass of people are unable to meet their basic needs due to the economic consequences of peak oil.
2) There is a common perception of extreme social injustice i.e. the wealth of the nation is not justly distributed; some starve while others feast
3) There is also a common understanding that the reason why the federal government cannot meet many people's basic needs is because the political/social system is in need of fundamental reform.

If these conditions are met, we will likely find political reform movements arising due to peak oil. The reform movement that will be initially most attractive, and so initially politically successful, would likely contain the following elements:

1) It would stake out the center of whatever political axis, plane, volume, or phase space you care to use as this is where the votes are.
2) It would sell some version of the progress narrative (i.e. “We can make things better”) as this is also the votes are.
3) It would try to effect, and possibly succeed in implementing, radical political and social reform as this is what it said it would do to make things better.

The trajectory of the dominant reform movement would as follows:

1) The movement would form a political party that would obtain power.
2) There would be some initial successes. These would likely involve radical redistribution of wealth.
3) It too would start to fail in meeting people's basic needs. It would fail because material regress is certain on the other side of Hubbert's Curve. If wealth redistribution efforts kept ahead of overall loss in prosperity, it might take some time to fail, but its failure is certain nonetheless.
4) As this new party fails to meet people's basic needs, and in direct proportion to how much it believes its own rhetoric, its efforts will become increasingly radical and so violent, illegal, unjust, and possibly totalitarian.
5) The political experiment having failed, people just muddle on more exhausted and disillusioned.

Having done this far out on the limb of speculation, I might as well jump right off. Here are some my possible take away points:

1) Even if the dominant reform movement is not fascist (e.g. not centralist, or not totalitarian, or not etc.), the trajectory is the same in proportion to its own delusion.
2) The key weakness of all such potential reform movements will be “progress mongering” i.e. they are not based on reality. There is no better tomorrow.
3) Once a reform movement gained power, it could chose to be honest and change its public message to “We can't make it better in the long run. We can only make it hurt a little less right now.” and then make lawful and just reforms that focus on having everyone's basic need met. Failure is still certain, there is no material progress, but at least the central complaint of social injustice is largely addressed and more people's basic needs are met. This reduces the violence involved in descent.
4) No matter what happens, in the long run we all sit around campfires in our earthen floor tribal long houses singing kumbaya.

C.L. Kelley said...

magicalthyme, there's a third category you neglected to mention - those who come, stay for a winter, and discover they've been Mainers all along... (hello from Midcoast, seems to be a wicked lot of us fozen-northerners around here...)


Excellent post, and an invaluable thought experiment - especially for those of us young enough to have "benefitted" from a modern education in history. I am forever indebted to a particular civics teacher in high school (the last year civics was taught at all) who considered educating young people in the practice of civil society to be essential, for instilling in me some modicum of historical good sense. I would hope to be not as vulnerable as some (though I'm sure more vulnerable than many) but I can easily see the appeal of such a movement to many, many of my acquaintances.

Zeitgeist/Thrive/What the Bleep do We Know?, anyone? Bueller?

Mark Luterra said...

This comment is not as well-thought-out as I would like it to be, so bear with me...

Part 1

It occurs to me that the most appropriate scale of civic organization varies with the degree of overall prosperity. When there is enough to go around, there are benefits to consolidating power at the national level. When times are hard, smaller groups have a tendency to band together to weather the storm while larger groups tend toward scapegoating and genocide. It is an externalization of sorts: if the people who have to die to keep my life good are not people I know or care about, I am more likely to turn a blind eye.

You suggest that your scenario is relatively likely. I'm not sure I would agree, though I would stand for "possible." The US is a larger and more regionally diverse country than 1930s Germany, Italy, or perhaps any nation that has ever weathered a fascist takeover.

We are not yet ready for Fred Halliot and the NPAPP. It will take, as you point out, a few more years of intensifying crisis, oil shocks, and rampant unemployment. With that will come a continued shirking of federal responsibility, with more and more programs cut. Local assistance programs and nonprofits, where available, will supplant food stamps and welfare. States and communities will find ways to maintain essential services that lose federal funding. Through its continued failure to accomplish anything meaningful, the federal government will gradually lose relevance.

The question, in my mind, is whether Fred Halliot will appear before the national identity is too far fragmented for him to energize the populace from coast to coast. If he is too late, the emergence of an autocratic movement somewhere in the country could be the powder keg that begins the process of national dissolution. Of course, if the autocratic state happens to wind up with a significant fraction of the armed forces, what happens next might be equally unpleasant.

The larger and more populous the nation, the greater the potential for tragedy. It remains my hope that we can transition from a failing empire to a more community-centered form of governance with a minimum of bloodshed.

Part 2

There is a global movement for nonviolent resistance to imposition of control - the open-source movement, the "anonymous" hackers, Wikileaks, etc. While the (mostly young) people behind this movement may initially support a Fred Halliot, it will be much harder to cover up death camps and mass executions today than it was in 1930s Germany. At whatever point Halliot dares to unmask himself as an unbridled autocrat, he will face a battle for control of information: a battle that he will be far from certain to win. As you have pointed out before, a military has no power if its rank-and-file soldiers decide to lay down arms.

Chris G said...

JMG - Admirably done! I think for your readers who've paid attention, the point is that Fascism might be clothed in something that appears very good.

A curious second anagram: Halt Oil. Is it possible a future fascism might turn utterly against industrialism?

One of the troubles I think in predicting the future based on the past is that once peak-human-control-of-energy has passed, many things in the human community appear the same but in reverse. Particularly, it ought to be recognized that it will be a struggle, in some ways, to survive. Probably, the most successful societies are going to be those that function cohesively, that are cooperative - whether they like it or not. Peak-Energy is kind of another way of saying Peak-Personal-Freedom. Many freedoms will have to go by the wayside in order to preserve survival.

You wrote in the past about something like "intentional communities" and why many failed in the 60's and 70's: too much personal freedom. But the successful ones of the future: might they be rather totalitarian? Maybe not national fascism, but certainly a polity encompassing both personal and public life. That might appear as more than a path to utopia, but under the circumstances a necessity.

AlanfromBigEasy said...

Vote for the Crook - It's Important

Perhaps the most honest bumper sticker of my life. The Louisiana gubernatorial election between Edwin Edwards (later to serve 10 years) and David Duke (former KKK Grand Wizard).

Edwin (known as a ladies man) had a clever quote. "My esteemed opponent and I have something in common. We are both wizards beneath the sheets".

I can see Hispanics or Moslems replacing the Jews next time.

AlanfromBigEasy said...

Forgive some optimism.

I left New Orleans 4 hours before the roads closed (with 3 car less strangers in my otherwise empty seats) and returned 3 days after my zip code was allowed back in (through an 82nd Airborne checkpoint).

A crisis that motivated large scale citizen involvement with excellent results. A school system that may reach the national average in 2 or 3 years, a dramatic decline in corruption after enacting the strongest, and most innovative, Inspector General law in the nation, much more bicycling, and much more. A ground swell of reform born of crisis.

The rest of the United States does not have our unique society, so I cannot predict such a response elsewhere. But it is possible !

Cathy McGuire said...

Very good thought experiment! I certainly can picture something similar... but I wonder how media (including internet/blogs)might be able to dig into da Furor before it gets too powerful, to reveal clay feet? Though mainstream media is crap, there are some decent journalist still, and people like Christie being "outed". Unless you're also assuming that by then the internet will be hogtied (which is a very real possibility). In any case - very thought provoking!

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

About that Constitutional Convention--

The Constitution we currently operate under was debated and approved by elected representatives of the states, but their deliberations were secret. The finished document contained plenty of checks and balances, but little in the way of "meaningful and enforceable guarantees of due process and civil rights."

When it was offered to the states for ratification, this was noticed and some states refused to accept the constitution until the Bill of Rights was added to it. Some of the objectors wanted limited government and civil liberties. Some regarded having any kind of federal government as the lesser evil and wanted to make sure it did not have much power to interfere with the governance of their own state.

We have lived with a strong central government and a continental economy for so long that the constituencies for limiting the power of the national government are weak. Civil libertarians alone would not be able to get the Bill of Rights passed if we had to do it again right now.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

My years in the Girl Scouts did me a lot of good, so I'm neutral on uniformed youth organizations.

I've thought of a dandy organizing method for the NPAPP. With some modification, it might work for a nonfascist political movements, but I'm not sure about that.

I put two phenomena together. One is that Islamist parties have acquired popular support in countries with corrupt and ineffectual governments by providing the services to the poor that the government doesn't care to provide--food aid, medical treatment, schools, etc. One of the Black Panther Party's most effective programs was giving out free breakfasts.

The second is that elite universities and colleges have begun to promote the idea that incoming freshmen should take a gap year after high school graduation, and spend it doing some kind of social service at home or abroad. The elite colleges are subsidizing and monitoring these programs for the freshmen they have admitted.

Most middle and low income students who get admitted to college go to less well funded institutions that don't have the money to subsidize these programs, and the students themselves can't afford to take a year doing low paid or unpaid work between high school and college.

Put these two phenomena together with some private funding and you have a Party program for Youth In Service to America. By day, these college-bound, public spirited youngsters in their snappy outfits renovate low income housing, operate food banks and teach other youth how to repair bikes. By night, they live rent free in Party dormitories where they Have Fun and learn all about the ideals and programs of the Party.

Liberals and corporations will be falling over themselves to donate.

Is there a flaw to this?

rj8957 said...

One of the best things I've read on
Fascism, JMG! I wish we'd had this in college, rather then the vague political spectrum from the French rev. This leads me to a couple of thoughts.

I have to admit that had I not known that this was part of a thought experiment related to fascism I would would've been tempted to think of the NPAPP as
a breath of fresh air. Some of this has to do with their talk of the reality we live in, economic and ecological, but it's also my own frustration with a system that lost the plot a long time ago. Call it the ultimate protest vote.
I'm glad you did this post; maybe I'll be able to better guard against the temptation to march under banners in the future.


I do wonder how much success a movement like this would have, though? At least in my area such talk about peak oil and ecological limits would get all sorts of snarl words, thanks for introducing that word to my vocabulary, hurled at oneself. Also, it would seem that such a movement would run into trouble, given that trying to get Americans to do anything as a group is like trying herd cats. Perhaps this reluctance to work together is a luxury of living in an Industrial society?

Finally, it seems that your conception of fascism is in line with the Bonapartist model talked about by Stanley Payne, among others. I've often been curious about what would have happened had
Mussolini and the Corporal stayed in power; thank goodness they didn't. Would their regimes have ossified, and fallen apart like the USSR? Would they've been able to become empires? Or was a final ragnorak inevitable due to the apocalyptic nature of the ideology? Anyway, this is at the top, or near it, among your series'; which is saying something.

HalFiore said...

JMG,

Sorry I wasn't more clear. I wasn't dreaming I might be able to affect a national party by getting involved at the grassroots. It was more along the lines of your suggestion to learn and practice the skills of democratic governance (hope I haven't misconstrued you there.)

As far as third parties are concerned, I was involved with the Greens in two counties in California in the 90s. My experience with them pretty much convinced me that if you are ever going to see change come to this country, it isn't going to be from them. Still, I suppose I ought to give Mississippi Greens a look, if there is such a beast.

latefall said...

@Pongo:
Thank you for your self-critical and emotional assessment. To my mind it may be the single most constructive comment on the thread.

I may not have read all of the comments careful enough, but to me too many read too much like the obedient going-through-the-motion reflection I witnessed at least half a dozen times in German high school.
Not to offend anyone but this is a little how it feels to me. I am not saying one shouldn't reflect on this. But this is a pretty intimate issue, and in my mind one has to go WELL out of the comfort zone. This is something that you can rarely do on call (without severe external pressure). Also to my mind it is counterproductive to set out with the hope of getting close to an answer in a time frame measured in days.
I assume some have not done this very often (and may understandably be thrilled by this intellectual experiment).
But if you've sat through this a couple more times and witnessed how the teacher would give the class some 20 minutes to eventually all agree:
Yes it was bad, very bad and we have to make sure it does not happen again. How? Well don't be bad to each other, guard against the very beginnings, and don't fall for anyone's cheap rhetorical tricks and "mob mentality". Do we all agree? Ye-hes!

And then when there's a Neo-Nazi march in town, what fraction of these people show up/support the counter demonstration?
What fraction of of people have moved out of their emotional comfort zone on any of these occasions? What fraction believes "Mitläufer" has some redeeming quality to it?
Are the school bullies reformed or do they develop deflective thinking patterns through this?

Harry J. Lerwill said...

Thomas said, "It seems like there might be some practitioner(s) of magic in the UK at least, who is willing to advise the security agencies how to use thaumaturgy. (For all I know, there may be many in the US, but they probably don't use the word "magic" as openly when dealing with our boring economics-oriented government officials.) Oh, if only there was some kind of Harry Potter Council of Wizards who could revoke this guy's license to practice the Craft."

Cheltenham, where GCHQ is based, is a really interesting town, I lived there for many years and I have an avid interest in parapsychology, so met quite a few members of the local "occult" community. One gentleman and regular member at the public lectures we facilitated on parapsychology, James Ellis, was a quirky fellow; a spiritualist, and once he got to know us, an avid parapsychologist.

The town has a high level of "paranormal activity", well researched and documented by the Royal Society of Psychical research (SPR), the Cheltenham Psychic Research Group in the early 90's, and other research groups since. Some of the most famous UK hauntings are in this area, like St Anne's, which I had the pleasure of investigating in the 90's with the CPRG. Prestbury, in walking distance, vies for the title of "most haunted village in the UK". James Ellis would often gave researchers the spiritualist perspective on a haunting, and would sometimes help a spirit "move on" if a family experiencing a haunting requested it. When there appeared to be a change in the Spontaneous Case Activity (sounds more respectable than haunting) afterwards, there was a lot of debate over "magic" versus "psychology" as the cause.

Cheltenham also has a larger occult community than most towns of its size, and it would not surprise me to know that many work there, it's a major employer in the area. Grinder and Bandler's NLP was very popular with the occult circle back in the 90's, so there may have been occults working at GCHQ for decades, occultists who would know how to put magical techniques into the language of psychology.

To bring it back to my late friend, James Ellis's contributions to humanity only really came out after he died, although many of us knew the truth years earlier. Ellis developed pubic-key encryption while he was working at GCHQ. You can read his story here: http://cryptome.org/ukpk-alt.htm

Cheltenham not unique. Col. Michael Aquino of the US army, who purportedly works with the NSA, was the head of the Temple of Set for many years.

There are a number of distinct NLP terms in those JTRIG documents.

latefall said...

@Agent Provo
I agree with the general gist - but not with the conclusion.
You have to be careful with those quantifiers - we're not ALL going to sit in our long houses.

Not all are created equal in all respects. And neither is concentrated energy distributed

equally.
You can think of energy as necessary, discretionary, or luxury. The line between the latter two is quite blurred, the line between the first two less so. They are very much open to debate though.

A society that actually tries to get some useful return on energy investment will quickly rise

above one that only burns it to smell the fumes. In the long term it is also more likely to

secure the sources for concentrated energy. In effect the "first world" will become far smaller

and more localized, quite possibly discontinuous.

Unfortunately, I currently don't see many dynamics creating incentives to modify our mores

towards peacefully trying to convince people to "survive a little longer so they can be cared for while maybe, maybe attempting to "live within their means".
There's much more effective ways to get more energy or food per capita. Once enough people get

around to put a halfway consistent excel sheet together that shows how to have some proxy

reduce "enough of right the kind of capita" there's going to be some busy think tanks coming up with a solution to adjust all our mores accordingly.

I'll try to post something more constructive in the next post - at the risk of sounding ridiculous...

John Michael Greer said...

SMJ, I'll consider it. As for reviews on Amazon, by all means distrust them -- and I'd be interested in hearing from any readers who have books on those subjects to recommend.

Thyme, thanks for the links!

Phitio, yes, I've been watching that. I wonder when the signs saying "Grillo Is Always Right" will go up.

Fidelius, the phrase "apocalyptic randiness" is a keeper! I've been calling the same thing "apocalypse machismo" for a while now -- "I can imagine a more hideous apocalypse than you can" is the basic theme either way.

Picador, I did say overt militarism. Americans love to see the US as the world's most peace-loving nation, even while blowing the crap out of other nations around the world; if you went out and tried to encourage people that we ought to just go out and invade Canada to steal its tar sands, you'd get all kinds of backpedaling -- much as though you'd spoken openly about sex in Victorian England. We may well invade Canada and steal its tar sands, but you can be absolutely sure that if we do, there'll be quite a bit of moralizing cant to justify it!

Bob, if you wanted to demonstrate that you either didn't read or didn't absorb anything I wrote in the last three posts, you did quite a decent job. Sigh...

Malcolm, I see Putin less as a fascist leader than as something much more traditional in Russian history. The word "tsar" somehow comes to mind.

Das Monde, nah, it's the fault of the evil space lizards. Sheesh.

Draft, fair enough. Look for claims that democracy is the problem, that some people are naturally better suited to lead than others, that all we need is the right leaders and/or the right ideas and all our problems can be solved. Those are the markers I expect to see soonest.

Varun, glad to hear it. I'll look forward to your story!

Dave, er, I think you need to get out more often.

Justin, I agree entirely with your basic position. An American fascism of the kind I've sketched out in this post would be a short term phenomenon, because it would be no more able to solve the spiralling crises of our time than any other system. We may still see something of the sort happen on the rough road down.

John Michael Greer said...

RPC, it's also possible -- and I've discussed the possibility in earlier posts -- that a genuine, nonfascist third party could seize the abandoned center, or some other strong position, and reshape American politics. The touchstone, as I mentioned to Draft, is the attitude of the new party to democratic process; a third party that could accomplish some good will affirm it, and teach people how to use it -- as indeed the Republicans did in Lincoln's time.

Ian, consider joining your local Grange, or some other community organization that still uses democratic process. Find some old books on how to run a meeting, and when you become an officer -- which probably won't take long -- put them into practice. A few years of that and you'll know enough about democratic process to take things the next step, which is to get involved in local politics in some context or another.

Agent, no, we don't end up singing "Kum Ba Ya." I'd tear my tongue out first. ;-)

Mark, my guess is that we're more likely to transition, with or without a fascist interlude, from an imperial government to no government at all, and any more community-centered form of governance will arise later, by way of the usual (and lengthy) interlude of feudalism. I'll be talking about that in an upcoming series of posts. As for the movement opposed to control, er, millions of Germans had access to information about what their government was doing between 1933 and 1945, and the vast majority chose to ignore it. I'd strongly encourage you to read something on the social history of the Third Reich to get a sense of just how steep the psychological barriers are that such a movement would have to surmount.

Chris, an old-fashioned monastery is in the strict sense totalitarian -- every hour of the day and every action is under the authority of the monastic rule -- so you may well be right.

Alan, I'm sure a lot of people in an assortment of German and Italian cities had similar beliefs...

Cathy, here again, it's one thing to circulate information about a charismatic leader, and quite another to get people to absorb it and think about it.

Unknown Deborah, two good points. (As for your deleted comment, please put through a not-for-posting comment with your email address -- otherwise I have no way to contact you.)

RJ, thank you. As I've mentioned already, I think we may be approaching a sea change in the public perception of peak oil, for reasons I'll be explaining in an upcoming post.

Hal, my experience with the Greens is that they're the last place to learn democratic process, as they aren't familiar with it and don't use it. Hmm. In that case, you might look for community organizations, or see if you can hold your nose and join the local party.

John Michael Greer said...

Mariou (offlist), got it. You're in the contest.

latefall said...

I like the idea of starting things bottom up. There's some risks of course - but my gut feeling

is that it is much less than a top-down - or combined effort.

Here's a few things could imagine would help:

- Make votes revokable
Technical solution: when voting you break a piece of ceramic (made for this purpose), cast one

half and keep the other. It is highly unlikely another fracture surface will match yours. Even

for a 1E7 votes. When things go bad you cast the other half as well, which has to be matched up,

and your vote is revoked.

- Have candidate penalties for low voter turnout
If the politicians can't get enough people to put something in the ballot box it will have

negative consequences for them. If you feel like it you can consider backing this by compulsory

voting (which I would not recommend)

- Experiment a lot more with deliberative systems
e.g. much of the craziness the folks at http://liquiddemocracy.net/ are fussing about with.

There's hand full of others I ran into at some point - but my feeling is that the LD guys are

making most progress at the time cause they actually use it in a party.


- Consider saving up votes / spending extra votes (and shutting up later)
The idea being that someone about to die could arguably have less say in things that pan out

beyond his horizon. This one is complex and potentially quite dangerous.


But voting is really only one element in a chain of things that could use some tweaking. Of course it would make sense to start on the young end, and let the oldies die in peace.


I would say many of the core concepts that school ingrains into us are very limiting and not suited to the problems at hand.
However I am just one more voice in a gigantic shouting match. Therefore I would recommend, diversifying, recording data, discussing metrics, reviewing data.

My money would be on integration with working life/project based education, alternating with very limited basics in class room, but iterations in short intervals, embracing mutualism vs competition, very high focus on efficiency and rate of learning (retention & multiplication of skills and knowledge per teacher hour). Tests would be unannounced and at wildly different times. Top students would be required to improve below average student's performance for high score. Special recognition awarded (to teacher) when students surpass their teacher. Reduction of the formal difference between student and teacher.

As for wealth distribution I've been toying with a simple concept based on the notion that most good things do not come from individuals, but cooperating individuals.
If you get money you only get to keep 1/5th and have to pass the rest on to at least 4 people, none of whom gets more than 1/5th. The same rule applies to them.
Of course this will not me the optimum way to do things, but I have some hope it could create a few useful incentives.

steve pearson said...

Hi Chris, Will definitely put the Gammage book on my list. Thanks.
I have a friend who is a bee keeper& very knowledgeable at the permaculture/natural building center in CA, where I spend a lot of time. It is high desert & 40degree summer days are not unusual. I could put you in touch with him.
The wealthy Asians are certainly propping up the high end market here in Honolulu. Sydney, San Francisco, London,and probably many other places as well. Hey, they are just trying to get their turn at the trough.Everyone else has.
@JMG et al, Just read a really good "magic realism?" novel set in Nazi Germany called"The Book Thief". Haunting.
Regards, Steve

KL Cooke said...

"I'd expect instead to see a vague catchall category of "people who are allegedly trying to stop the Great Turning" being the focus of the Halliot regime's denunciations -- they could be anywhere, you know, so if you see anything suspicious, be sure to report it to your local Party Homeland Security officer!"

In other words, thoughtcrime. Internet data mining will be a big weapon against that. At first, anyway. Then we'll have the Neighborhood Watch.

"Under the spreading chestnut tree/I sold you and you sold me"

The man was prescient, wasn't he?

Mark Northfield said...

Hello there. Very interesting series of posts, even by your high standards. From my UK perspective, I think such an outcome is unlikely here because there seems to be a default inclination (defence mechanism?) in our culture to refuse to enthuse about anything new, even while we might grumble a bit about what's in place.

Some of this is apathy, for sure, but a good chunk of it is a distrust of new-fangled ways of doing things (support for the monarchy is a good example of this principle in action). The majority of people are conservative with a small 'c', even if they don't vote Tory.

This can be profoundly irritating in many ways, but I think as times get harder it will prove a valuable barrier against charismatic tyranny. It is also why I don't believe the Scots will vote for independence this year; 'better the devil you know' pretty much sums up the British way.

The UK Independence Party have shaken things up lately because they are a one-trick pony tapping into a national obsession (the EU), but they have a complete lack of rigour with policy (their leader has admitted that their last election manifesto was 'drivel'), have been regularly ridiculed in the media and will probably find their balloon of hot rhetorical air punctured after an in or out referendum on EU membership, which could well happen before 2020.

Reading your comment about Greens in the US, I feel duty bound to politely point out that the Green Party here (of England and Wales, with the Scottish Greens very similar I'm sure) are profoundly democratic, with one person/one vote at conferences for all policy motions (and easy access for any member to speak at debates or get involved with policy working groups), along with clear guidance for local parties, not least in selecting candidates to stand for parliament.

Of course, there is little chance of any great breakthrough for the Greens for the 'better the devil you know' reasons mentioned above, despite the fact that they occupy left-wing territory Labour has vacated in recent decades and have very little competition there. The dedication required for a 'new' party to make headway at a local level is daunting and takes years and years of (often frustrating) effort. In parliament under first-past-the-post? Even longer. And we won't be changing that voting system any time soon!

Reasons to be cheerful and grumble simultaneously.

Regards,

Mark

Bob Smith said...

JMG,

I work with such a fellow, ie a disappointed liberal. Unlike most offices, where most things are verboten, we have pretty lively discussions on the subjects of the day. One of the advantages of being in the middle of the country is that we aren't mentally handicapped by the PC nonsense of the coasts. Anyway, this guy feels the same way as you describe and no amount of reasoning will convince him otherwise. Its interesting because his family spent time in the mountains of Greece during WWII with the resistance, so historical lessons have no meaning for him. "It can't happen here."

Of course, if the current empty suit was any more "moderate", then it would be 1860 all over again, there is a reason the NICS phones have been ringing like mad since 2008. We've been fortunate in that he is just a fool, surrounded by more fools, despite the Nazi rhetoric. However, Connecticut, NY and Cali bear watching for Ft Sumter in the near term... it could get ugly real quick and the people have had enough of the "limo set" who live in gated communities surrounded by bodyguards.

I honestly hadn't thought of Greenpeace as an organization selling indulgences....interesting take and most likely the correct one, considering their funding sources. Of course, the NRA has been accused of doing the same for their political operation, ie keeping the operation going for profit instead of accomplishing its purpose and disbanding. However, other grassroots organizations are substantially less dedicated to continuing operations and usually push the NRA into doing the right thing in spite of themselves. I'm a member of most of the smaller groups as well since I'm a firm believer in civil liberties. As Malcom X said "Freedom, by any means necessary"

It amazes me reading this and other blogs that some are willing to sacrifice their rights so quickly. This concerns me a great deal, much more than anything the fedgov does at present. I'd much rather see an amicable divorce of the states than a dictatorship, even one that had a "plan" for peak oil. As you mention, it frequently dissolves onto firing squads and labor camps although of varying scale. Once civil liberties are gone they aren't coming back without bloodshed.

I also find the focus on race troubling, I really don't think the middle of the country cares any more, intermarriage of all types has changed so much of this. We're much more prejudiced against people from NY, NJ, Chicago, and coastal California than we are against any particular color...call it "guilty until proven innocent". O being black is literally the only thing we liked about him, but of course we're surrounded by cows so we know what manure smells like. He never won a single county here, both times. Most likely, couldn't get elected dog catcher anywhere either.

I also find the redistribution tendencies troubling. Has it occurred to anyone that there isn't any wealth left to redistribute? After all, its not like the super rich will ever pay up, so its just stealing from your neighbors and always has been. Not to mention that it has created a HUGE criminal/underclass that expects a free lunch to be provided, no matter what. This is color blind as well since it spawns the ghettos to the trailer parks. I grew up in a trailer park so I saw this first hand. Sounds good in principle, but what a disaster in practice. I have numerous arguments with the above coworker about this, results don't matter, only "concern for my fellow man" does. Although my fellow man seems to have no concern for himself, his family and doesn't even bother to be polite to me.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these. Hope this doesn't come across too much as late night ramblings.

Bob Smith said...

BTW,

Your discussion this week is taking place in other locations, is the Universe trying to tell us something?

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/timstanley/100261121/hitler-wasnt-a-socialist-stop-saying-he-was/

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100260720/whenever-you-mention-fascisms-socialist-roots-left-wingers-become-incandescent-why/

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/372197/nazis-still-socialists-jonah-goldberg

daelach said...

@ SMJ: Concerning Hitler's occult side, there is an excellent book. It is a bit hard to read because it isn't geared at the masses, but at university level historic research. But you'll find tons of intersting information there. In case English isn't your native language, there are translations into a number of other languages (French, Polish, Italian, Russian, Czech, German and Greek).

Clarke & Goodrick: "The Occult Roots of Nazism"

@ topic: if the existing major political parties don't address the things that matter to the majority of the voters any more, how can they be called "democratic"?

Myriad said...

Thank you JMG for this great essay. Though I know it was planned all along, I also can't help seeing it as insightfully expanding on the answer to my comments thread question last week.

I assume that for most people here, the expected nightmare scenario is rather opposite to the Halliot narrative. That is, a politician who others describe as charismatic (but who gives us the creeps) proposes stupid, absurd, objectionable, or horrible things, and millions of our neighbors cheer. (You're right that "let's invade Canada for its tar sands" wouldn't fly, but under various plausible scenarios, "let's get tough with Canada to get them to stop withholding their tar sands" might.) Expected, because we've all lived watered-down versions of it over and over again. So the warning that real danger could look completely different is well taken.

Besides illuminating how fascism on the rise might look, the scenario might also help foster some sympathy for people who, due to their views of the world and/or their susceptibility to the thaumaturgy, actually have been effectively swayed by recent-day political rhetoric, and been disappointed by the actual results not quite to the point of reading it as the betrayal it was, over and over again.

Now, after reflecting on this topic, I have to admit some dark thoughts along the lines of Cherokee's (and possibly Raven's, if I'm interpreting correctly). In my mind those dark thoughts are phrased as, "If the game is Musical Chairs, does the tune really matter?" That's me, stumbling over the line between having a sense of perspective, and fatalism. (One simple, and possibly even correct, answer: the game always has been and always will be Musical Chairs, and the tune is all that matters.)

Anyhow, add my appreciation to Pongo and all the others who have faced the "given the circumstances, would I support Halliot's party?" question head-on. Consider going one perilous question farther: "Given the circumstances, could I be Halliot?"

latefall said...

"erratum": the liquid democracy quip was actually aimed at them: https://liqd.net/en/schwerpunkte/theoretische-grundlagen/
however the http://liquiddemocracy.net/ is worth reading as well I would say.

And once more to drone on the left/right terms again:
You may have the impression that they clearly identify groups in a US context. Well I can tell you things are not clear cut in a wider context.

Have a quick look at the "political compass":
US: http://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2012
Australia: http://www.politicalcompass.org/aus2013
Germany: http://www.politicalcompass.org/germany2013

To my mind it is very likely that the use of "left right" brings about an antagonism and deadlock that would not exist if it was not used. And before you ask, of course the plane is nothing that will solve the issue - but I think one can start to think of better representations from this basis. Einstein was surely not the first to say something like: “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” I know it is hard. It is not a new problem though.

I know if I'd be coming back from a convention where I had to represent a bunch of people I wouldn't say: "I was sitting in the second column from the right (or even at -5/-5). On the third day I thought about moving two to the left, but no one wanted to switch seats so I just stayed there. I hope that aligns with your opinions."

Even uneventful times, perceptions of what is left/right/middle have a way of quietly shifting large distances over time. Usually they do this in a "coordinated fashion". The vote distribution does not reflect it - but a few years/decades later decisions like the PATRIOT act make you see that even though the political constellation is more or less the same, something has shifted big time. In my view this (absence of opposition or debate) is often part of the fast track to scary developments. The major hot button issues give parties an easy to communicate reason to exist - so there's no incentive to tackle them.

Joseph Nemeth said...

@JMG: Huge article in the New Yorker on ITER, a massive scientific consortium in Europe building a multi-billion-dollar Tokomak for hot fusion.

I stopped reading and started skimming after a while. Couldn't handle the hype. Drat you, Mr. Greer! :-)

Seriously, it is fascinating to see the blinders that people have put on. At every full stop, the writer pounds on the idea that we NEED fusion energy to SURVIVE. There are NO ALTERNATIVES. This research is NOT OPTIONAL. NOTHING ELSE can SAVE us.

There is not one hint of an intimation that our current energy expenditures are one Joule short of BARE SURVIVAL OF THE SPECIES.

Brrrr.

Robert Beckett said...

Anagram Poem

A droll thief
led riot half,
flail'd other
doth fear ill.
Fail the Lord -
Oh 'ell adrift.


Spacing of final line to conform with ADR etiquette.

As ever, a thoughtful and thought-provoking essay, many thanks, JMG.

Presently I'm reading The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood, 2009. God's Gardeners is her fascinating take on an very earth-centred spiritual & prepper movement outside of and opposed to the inequitable, corporate-controlled society she describes. For those into futuristic non-batty sci-fi, her trilogy is worth the read.

(from eedorke - rude captcha

AlanfromBigEasy said...

James Wilkes Booth was not alone in making that judgment of Lincoln. Remember his words after firing the fatal shot.

AlanfromBigEasy said...

There is the example of Arnie Fielkow. He left a $1+ million job as GM for the NFL Saints, ran for New Orleans City Council ($40,000/yr) after Katrina, authored unique Inspectors General law, helped other reform and rebuilding, spurned offer to run for US Senate against Vitter, resigned after 7 years to take $1+ million job running retired NBA Players Assoc. Doing a good job there.

Plans to retire in New Orleans. I hope he takes some Board position.

Shane Wilson said...

JMG,
I'm surprised you didn't tie a financial crisis into your thought experiment, since you've stated that all the hallucinatory wealth of the tertiary economy needs to evaporate in the near term, and that aspiring empires like China & Russia will want to cash in their growing clout in concrete terms, and that a imperial system in which 5% of the world's population uses 25% of its resources has not escaped their notice. Considering that the Great Depression and hyperinflation was vital to the rise of the NSDAP & Hitler, wouldn't a similar financial scenario imposed by outside forces play a similar part in a hypothetical Fred Halliot & NPAPP? Considering that the power of all the current political players is based on a torrent of tertiary wealth, wouldn't they be caught flat footed in a financial/debt crisis as the basis of their power goes up in smoke? Many posters here have made the mistake of confusing control/access to tertiary wealth w/political power, yet when push comes to shove and the tertiary wealth disappears, more concrete political power, like you depicted in your NPAPP's grassroots organizing, matters.
I'm looking at the Ukraine situation, as well as other international dustups in Asia, thinking that Russia & China's patience with the US is wearing thin, and that the time is coming soon that they're going to cash in their clout and exercise their own "Suez moment" on the US, whether it involves an oil embargo, crashing the Treasury market, or some other measures.
@Chris
I'm surprised Canada would do anything to rock the boat w/China or India, considering I thought that cozying up to them would be the next logical step, given Canada's history. Loyalists fleeing the US figure in Canada's history the same way that Patriots figure in American history, and Canada is still part of the Crown, and a constitutional monarchy. It was directly under Britain until Confederation in 1867, & the Constitution wasn't patriated fully until 1982. With the fall of the British empire and the rise of the US, Canada became the US closest ally. The next logical step as the US implodes, and one that, given generous immigration laws & significant immigrant communities, was for Canada to snuggle up to the next imperial power, like China or India. I could see the Chinese helping the Canadians build a wall to protect themselves from an imploding US...
One very frightening thing to remember about fascism in the US is that there will be no outside power that will feel the US is valuable enough to rescue from itself, the way the Soviet Union and the US (belatedly) felt about Europe. Any fascist movement in the US would be left to run its course without outside assistance to defeat it, which is truly scary.
@JMG
I'm pretty pessimistic regarding democratic revival in the US, given Americans ignorance of Roberts Rules of Order. (*&#%@!, there's no "third" or "forth" after a motion is seconded) I mean, I can't even imagine how to impose Roberts Rules of Order on any current organization. With everyone valuing everyone's opinion, no matter how inane or irrelevant, and desire for consensus, no matter if everyone has fallen asleep after 12 hours of circular discussion, Roberts Rules of Order is considered downright evil, since it's geared to shut down unproductive discussion as much as facilitate productive discussion.

John Michael Greer said...

Latefall, perhaps, but I'd like to suggest starting with something more basic -- learning, and then teaching others, the basic skills of democratic process, which actually have little to do with the voting booth. Knowing how to engage in reasoned discourse, and to conduct a meeting in which people deliberate an issue and take action on it, will do more than any amount of tinkering with the mechanisms of voting.

Steve. thanks for the tip!

KL, actually, he didn't need to be prescient -- he was taking what was going on in Europe at the time and simply fast-forwarding it a little.

Mark, oh, granted -- the British have turned muddling through into a fine art over the centuries. As for Green parties elsewhere, I certainly don't mean to cast any oppobrium in their direction; my comment was directed at the US version of same, in which "consensus" (i.e., passive-aggressive manipulation by a faction with an agenda) has taken the place of democratic process.

Bob, I'm sure your friend at work is just as baffled by the fact that nothing he can say can convince you that you're wrong! As for the redistribution of wealth, though, of course you're quite correct -- I've commented here several times that current stats on wealth inequality are massively distorted by the manufacture of imaginary paper wealth, which is sold to the rich and is generally worth less than the transient magnetic fields it's printed on. I'd like to see somebody rework the statistics on wealth distribution in the US with all the unpayable IOUs, worthless securities, et al. deleted -- it might make interesting reading.

Thanks also for the links. It was amusing to see the first guy insist that national socialism can't be socialism because, well, because it's not Marx -- as though Marxian socialism is the only kind there ever was or could ever be. Oceania has never been allied with Eurasia...

Daelach, that's why I keep on noting that what we've got is a dysfunctional, failing democracy. It's precisely when the connection between the people and the parties gets lost that democracies fail, and either get reformed or fall into one or another kind of autocracy; Polybius wrote about this stuff twenty centuries ago. BTW, it's not "Clarke & Goodrick" -- Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke is the author, and yes, the book's well worth reading.

Myriad, good. I'd point out that in a game of musical chairs, how many chairs get taken away how fast also matters, and so does the fate of those people who end up without chairs.

Latefall, er, did you notice that I critiqued the entire idea of "left" and "right" as political labels in last week's post?

Joseph, yes, I saw that. I'll be talking about the category to which the ITER boondoggle belongs two weeks from now.

Robert, the anagram poem gets you today's gold star -- thank you!

Alan, er, John Wilkes Booth, I believe.

latefall said...

@JMG re teaching and voting

I should have written the "political compass" comment more concisely and less concrete (and aggressive) I believe.

I was trying to get to the point that I regard learning/teaching/discussing/deciding (including voting) as very much related.
Learning and observing are perhaps the most critical aspects as they are usually regarded as establishing the fundamental fact that goes into the teaching/discussing/deciding function.
But can't it be that the way we discuss or decide on something also determines what we can observe or learn? Especially if you consider complex psychologically influenced systems such as societies?

Also, arguing about education is a pretty old hobby of mankind. Surely not because there is no merit to it. However even though I might be able to add another twist here and there I doubt, even if my ideas were "better", that it would reflect in the metrics used to measure progress.
The metrics are usually a function of values, which are a function of politics, which is (to a degree) a function of how decisions are made.

Still I like to teach people and there's usually not a shortage of people who like to be taught by me, so I end up doing it quite a lot. But in academia you quickly run into hard limits regarding how things are done.
I have thought quite some time about alternatives, and came up with quite many. The umbrella term for it now is "Big Data".
Admittedly there is a pretty wide scatter of how things are done in different institutions and places - but mostly progress is done one funeral at a time. So my preferences are indirect, alternative or subversive approaches.

In school - how often did you have the opportunity to change your mind about an answer - and earn credit for the fact that you admitted to be wrong the first time around?

Most of the time collaboration is punished for the simple reason that it messes up the assessment of individual performance (as if that was fundamentally important). Then after a certain threshold it flips and you are required to collaborate and be inspired by (or copy) others.

When the teacher asks a student a question in class - does the rest start thinking about what they would say, or do they instantly become spectators in a "psychological hierarchy show"?

How much of the syllabus content learned in school is useful later on? What is the half life of the content learned for exams? What point is there to announce time or scope of an exam? How does it relate to valuing metacognition?

Do you get credit if you can point to someone in class who knows the answer to a question better than you?

Isn't getting by without doing your homework a far more helpful skill to acquire in the world we live in?

Really, I think all this is not independent of how we talk about other peoples perceptions, and how we go about deciding on issues.

On this note I should probably add, that I very much appreciate what (and how) Cherokee Organics is doing here: Thanks a lot!

Dwig said...

"Pinku-sensei, that's one of the few reassuring things I can think of about all this. If a phrase like that has become part of the standard rap of the chattering classes, we probably don't have to worry about it as much. "

Out of curiosity, I did a search for it. Here's a few of the sites, with ideological labels attached, based on what I saw at the sties. (Yes, I know, don't put much weight on them, but it does give a pretty good indication that it's not just one group's obsession.)


- alternet.org: liberal
- libertyunyielding.com/: conservative
- truthdig.com: liberal
- prorevnews.blogspot.com: progressive
- newrepublic.com: conservative
- attackthesystem.com: pan-anarchism
- hnn.us: history news network
- swordattheready.wordpress.com: christian right
- theamericanconservative.com: what it says

Ares Olympus said...

Great story telling John, I'm a worrier, and distrust the emotionalism of "power of the people" on the streets, seeing they can just as easily support something worse as something better. I admit I was waiting for a scapegoat and Tom Perkin's 1% a ready target?

I'm not sure if peak oil and climate change are "populous" enough, since there are no answers except to powerdown, although I guess its standard faith for progressives that socialism raises all boats on diffuse solar power, and my skepticism doesn't really touch true believers.

Today rewatched Adam Curtis's Century of Self, first episode, and another reminder we've been here before, however different the details.
http://vimeo.com/67977038

The last century is horrendous, such gain in technology, communication, but also power to massive killing. Going back to the first war I'm reminded WWI started on July 28, 2014, and I've heard no one talking about this anniversary. And the scale of soldier deaths in WW1&2 dwarf what at least America has seen since. Even the Viet Nam war is now ancient and 58,000 American dead dwarfs Iraq.

So no one can control the news sources, and so maybe the great wars are all past? Or maybe it'll take a US peace movement of a Rand Paul president and his magical libertarian thinking isolationism to finally defund the military under a balanced budget amendment and the newly unpoliced world can have a free-for-all of local bullies taking what can't be stopped?

Anyway, a masterful attempt here and reminder all revolutionary action is co-optable into the polar opposite of its public values.

Unknown said...

It seems blindingly obvious to me that the US is primed and ready for a nasty round of totalitarian bloodletting.
Usually I can see where most of the US commenters are comming from even if I deeply disagree with them, but for the past couple weeks I've been wondering if I grew up in a different country from those that STILL can't see that nationwide fasicist movement is almost certainly in it's infancy right now. Even many who claim to "get it" don't seem to be getting it from their follow up comments.
Then I realized that maybe I did grow up in a different country. Maybe it's because of my age.
Now perhaps I'm completely wrong and I don't "get it" either but it seems to me that fascism is primarily a Youth Movement. Meaning that if I were now asked to define the word fascism, I would say that's it's a Youth Movement with certain characteristics that you've outlined to a degree.
I think defining fascism as a youth movement is meaningful because it springs from the political center of the youth cohort (16-35 year olds) not the political center of the nation as a whole. That's where, it seems to me, many of the commenters are losing a key piece of understanding which allows them to reassure themselves, “It could never happen here.”
I hope what follows will inform them.
Being a person under 40 who has lived in 5 different major regions of the US, I can assert that there is, in fact, a rather large unseized political center among young Americans. We have common ground whether we live in the PNW, the Great Basin, the Rust Belt, BosWash, or the Old South and regardless of self identifying as Right, Left, or far more likely indifferent.
Many of us see ourselves as having been victimized by the established order of things (economic, political, academic, medical, social)and nearly all of us believe that previous generations have trashed our environmental inheritance.
The majority of us perceive that previous generations came to similar realizations but allowed themselves to be bought off, and we know there's nothing real left to buy us off with. In fact we hear our elders and their leaders plotting and moralising our long term enslavement so that they can get the entire payoff they've been promised.
We are also near completely ignorant of democratic process and do not have a particularly reverent view of the "Democracy" we've seen practiced in the last 2-4 decades.

Joseph Nemeth said...

@JMG: Re: worthless securities.

I've speculated for some time that the only reason inflation (e.g. shadowstats corrected value, not the CPI) is as low as it is, is exactly what you've mentioned.

Normally, when you put money in circulation at a faster rate than the economy is growing, you get currency devaluation, aka monetary inflation. But if you don't put it into circulation, but instead put it all into Bob's pocket, Bob becomes enormously wealthy on paper, but no inflation ensues. Bob can't spend that kind of money, so it just sits in his pocket, which grows into a bigger and bigger bulge.

We don't have a single Bob, but we do have a stock market (and other financial markets), and as near as I can tell, these are mostly just a big pool of endlessly circulating electronic dollar-tokens. If you give a billion dollars to a defense contractor, a bit of it goes into the economy, but most of it eventually gets diverted into the pockets of many Bobs, all of whom immediately "invest" the money in financial markets. And there it stays, until we have a "market correction" (a bubble burst) that destroys that money. Ergo, no inflation.

I have no idea how you'd quantify that. I certainly have no idea how you could quantify that in a way that would be compelling to economists.

Mark Rice said...

First a comment:
I notice that the fascism invented in the story was designed to appeal to readers of this blog. This made the story effective. I can see how I could succumb to such nonsense.

Second:
I am still laughing about how Greenpeace is in the business of selling indulgences so we can atone for our sins against the environment.

Third:
Slightly off topic -- a an article in the New Yorker on the organizational and technical difficulties of building the ITER fusion reactor. The article mentions peak oil and climate change as motivations for this expensive endeavour. It does not look like fusion will save us any time soon.

Bill Pulliam said...

Hmm, given this particular scenario, I think I stick by my hypothesis from last week that the Southeast and Intermountain West would be the hotbeds of resistance, *not* the wellspring from which fascism would emerge. Green don't get ya very far down here. The West would likely be subdued pretty quickly except for intractable guerillas in the wild lands. But the South might pose a more formidable opponent, especially if some states secede and take parts of the military with them.

Whether or not the South would provide any realistic alternative, or just opposition to the movement, is another matter. And what would happen ultimately? Who know? It's a hypothetical future anyway!

Khadija said...

Long-time reader, first time commenter here.

@Bob Smith,

You said, "I also find the focus on race troubling, I really don't think the middle of the country cares any more, intermarriage of all types has changed so much of this. We're much more prejudiced against people from NY, NJ, Chicago, and coastal California than we are against any particular color...call it "guilty until proven innocent". O being black is literally the only thing we liked about him, but of course we're surrounded by cows so we know what manure smells like."

"Focus on race." What "focus on race"? During this particular conversation, a commenter made a blatantly racist statement. [dave1941 said, "So yes, America could go Nazi after the dollar collapses. The nation would benefit immensely from deporting low-IQ criminals and welfare leeches to Africa and Mexico, but we'd probably also lose the high-IQ Jews and Asians."

This racist statement was met with an extremely bland, one-sentence response from the Archdruid. And (so far) silence from the rest of the commenters.

As a semi-retired African-American blogger who has encouraged other African-American women to participate more in the "mainstream" of American society, I don't find this silence comforting. It also undermines any confidence in your assurances that the middle of the country doesn't care [anymore] about race one way or the other.

Unfortunately, many folks don't perceive racism unless and until there's a cross burning on their front yard.

I would expect large numbers of people to have similarly blind, silent, or apathetic responses to the onset of fascism. It's a human urge. As the old saying goes, we all have the strength to endure the misfortunes of others.

patriciaormsby said...

This is a wonderful series, JMG! I love how you put history in terms that can be easily understood in terms of our own current situation. All I learned in school was that fascism was a monolithic tyranny of the majority in response to austerity enforced from outside. History is full of examples of people led by valiant heroes who overthrew a malignant monarchy and then established something far far worse, and the origin of the word "tyrant" was from one such group of heroes. Thank you for making it clear what it is that we ought to be watching out for.

A decade or so ago, when I was first ordained a Shinto priestess, I was approached by a prominent member of the community I was serving, who wanted me to create a new religion to preach environmental ideals and thereby popularize them. Because we had recently witnessed Aum Shinrikyo and I was aware even within myself of a queasiness regarding religions in general because of their capacity for evil, I had already started studying up on where religions go wrong.
Rule one is obviously "don't mix religion and politics," and rule two, I decided, was "beware of new religions." The old ones have obvious hang-ups, with bickering and domineering, but within them, you find a core of dedicated people who know how to get past the petty BS and return to the original ideals of helping others. The new ones usually lack this, and it takes time to acquire this ability. I guess you could call me a "conservative" of the old school. My father would roll in his grave--but he was the same!
Have you read Andrej Lobaczewski's Political Ponerology? He describes the dynamics of how well-intentioned movements get derailed by people with hidden motives. The key is that well-meaning people within the movement tend to rationalize what is happening, even if it is the opposite of their ideals, and they wind up going along with it.
I do not think, however, that popular movements are the only road to tyranny. Lobaczewski said there is more hope for resistance in a regime imposed from the outside than in a home-grown tyranny. It will be interesting (not to mention mortifying) to see how the coup in Ukraine plays out, where it appears a home-grown popular(?) minority is being empowered by foreign interests.
OTOH, there are lots of countries where this has happened and nobody cared, because we could rationalize that they were backward. While the foreign power stays, the violence never seems to stop.

Iuval Clejan said...

Could the neo-fascist political party use some new age ideas and be an example of the second religiosity as well? Or is it limited to politics? I am thinking something like the Landmark Forum (use to be EST). Except that they are totally apolitical and don't think beyond individuals.

Kurt Cagle said...

JMG -

Definitely this has been a good set of columns (and definitely good to see you quoting S.I. Hayakawa, who I've considered a particularly prescient linguist - what is it about linguistics in particular that tends to radicalize its theorists?).

One question - where do you see the Tea Party in all of this? I do not see the progressives in this country having anywhere near the cohesiveness to pull off a totalitarianism even remotely comparable to Germany's NSD (Mussolini's Fascists, viewed outside of the context of WWII, are not that significantly different than Italy under today's PMs), but I could definitely see the Tea Party doing so, especially as the party breaks free from the GOP orbit. I've noticed a distinctly populist spin beginning to re-emerge of late as the party tries to re-establish themselves in the wake of established corporate backers becoming aware that the Tea Party could very readily derail the status quo that these organizations depend heavily upon. There's also been a fairly heavy contingent of Libertarian presence within the TP, most of whom felt very snubbed by the GOP in the leadup to the 2012 election. The Tea Party also shares a number of characteristics with the Weimar Era NSD party - its apppeal to the former middle class watching as their standard of living erodes beneath them, a strong anti-intellectual bias, a definite appeal to veterans, a love of division politics and semiotic flourishes, and a ready intent to rewrite the Constitutional rules, albeit in a very unspecified way.

DeAnander said...

Speakin' of boondoggles, was saying to my podner t'other day that the English language needs a word for a phenomenon of late capitalism that's familiar, yet hard to name succinctly. What I refer to is the empty, eerie physical infrastructure of a big, hubristic, oversold project all of whose promises failed. I bet we can all think of one. I'm told there's a multi-acre parking lot in Vancouver where no one ever parks; in Nanaimo, a luxury waterfront condo development was sitting 90 percent empty last I saw; there's the famous Chinese amusement park called Wonderland... Add your own examples, but our current world is full of 'em. And we just keep building more. N Korean freeway system? They are all related in my mind, all are the end stage of a boondoggle or fantasy-based planning process, and I don't know what to call them in their pathetic declining years -- maybe a "boondogpatch"? or a boondogpile perhaps.

They're a symptom of confident planning for futures that don't arrive, and I expect to see more and more of them in the next decade or two. I include the remarkably delusional NSA super-surveillance-disc-farm of recent notoriety, and -- pace all fusion fans -- the ITER gizmo. One day, perhaps not so far from today, people will be scratching their heads as they hike around these things. If things go better than I expect, they'll be saying "what were they thinking?". If things go badly, they might be starting new religions based on the intriguing ruins. Who knows.

John Michael Greer said...

Latefall, thanks for clarifying. I plan on discussing alternative structures for adult education in a later series of posts -- probably not too much later, as the academic industry in the US is closing in on a crisis that may leave half the nation's colleges and universities shuttered for the foreseeable future, and the current colleges by and large don't teach much anyway. More on this as we proceed.

Dwig, fascinating. Thanks for the leads.

Ares, people all over Europe are talking about the First World War; it's just in what Gore Vidal used to call the United States of Amnesia that we forget about anything older than Khloe Kardashian.

Unknown, good. That's exactly what I was talking about, of course.

Joseph, excellent! Yes, at some point in the not too distant future I need to do a post on the way that financial fraud and the inflating and popping of bubbles are the essential other side of quantitative easing -- they take out the excess paper wealth that QE puts in, producing relative stability.

Mark, thank you. Yes, I had several people forward me the ITER article -- the serene cluelessness of an energy program that pretends that the world's most expensive energy source might somehow keep business as usual chugging along forever is impressive, to say the least.

Bill, I'm not arguing.

Khadija (if I may interject), I delete the vast majority of attempted comments like Dave1941's. I used to delete all of them, but some of my overseas readers insisted that nobody could actually be that dumb, so these days I put through one every so often as an educational opportunity, and respond to it -- as I did with Dave1941 -- with a curt dismissal. I don't engage with trolls; it's a waste of breath, and it gives them what they want. (Did you ever see a badly behaved five-year-old throw a tantrum in the middle of the living room just to get attention? I tend to think of my trolls in those terms.) I'm aware that other people prefer other responses to that sort of thing, and if you do something different on your blog, of course, that's your right.

Patricia, of course popular movements aren't the only road to tyranny. The point I wanted to make is that they can be a road to tyranny, despite the very common assumption that all tyranny must be in the service of the status quo.

Iuval, well, German national socialism was riddled with ideas borrowed from the New Age of its time, so it's certainly a possibility.

Kurt, the Tea Party is an example of a very common phenomenon in American history, an outburst of grassroots intolerance on the part of the rural and small town middle classes. You might read up on the history of the Know-Nothing Party as a good comparison. Since such movements are entirely focused on defending the status and perks of a specific class, they don't have the appeal to get beyond the status of minor political party, and run themselves into the ground in a decade or less.

John Michael Greer said...

Joseph (offlist), your comment already got through -- you'll find it about halfway up the stack. Please don't just keep on trying to put it through again.

Khadija said...

JMG,

I hear you; and I share your view that's it's not good to allow trolls to derail discussions. I also agree that a curt and quick dismissal of/pushback against nonsense while quickly getting back to the point of the discussion is often the most helpful response.

My point is that total silence in response to public bigotry, eliminationist hate speech, and so on, is not a good thing. For all the historical reasons this readership is familiar with. Particularly for those folks who are concerned about guarding against the rise of fascism in the future.

Kindest regards,
Khadija

John Roth said...

On the racism thing: an internet personality I follow just left Google and commented that the Bay Area was overtly racist. He got a lot of pushback, but what he essentially said was that the people in his business (high end software development) were all white, Chinese or Indian (Asian); I’d include Japanese, while the people washing floors and serving at fast food joints were all black, Mexican or South American. In Vancouver, on the other hand, he claims not to be able to tell the occupation or social status of someone by their skin color or accent.

I wouldn’t put racism as out of bounds for a new fascist party.


@KL Cooke

You might want to check your facts before stating things like “the Unitarians have bought into him.”

To me, as a member of a Unitarian-Universalist congregation, this translates to “The Unitarian-Universalist Association’s General Assembly has adopted his work as a significant position at an annual meeting.” To the best of my knowledge, this is not true.

What is true is that a “dynamic, independent grassroots affiliate of the UUA,” (their words) called the “Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community,” adopted Korten for their 2007-2008 campaign. According to their front page, they’re also pushing for Single Payer Health Care, so I have absolutely no idea how active or influential they are currently. I’ve never heard of them before this.

steve pearson said...

@Khadija, Sorry. I too thought Dave 1941's comment was so moronic & disgusting that I didn't bother to comment; kind of like feeding the trolls. Glad JMG filters out most of that garbage for us.
My apologies to you for not commenting, Steve

Ruben said...

@Shane,

Here in Canada the most contentious national issue is building pipelines to send oil to China. Chinese state companies own a pretty share of our oil sands. So, I would say we are well along to cozying up to the next empire.

Slight pickle though, in that we share an enormously long land border with the US, whereas China would have quite a challenge landing troops to defend their interests in our oil. So things are complicated.

@Unknown. I like what you are saying about fascism being a youth movement.

But I wonder if that is just the historical flavour--youth are usually the first to get discarded, but it seems to me the middle-class is being compressed very sharply right now, which may provide many more of the middle-aged to a new fascist movement. Be curious to hear what you think about that dynamic.


As someone who has studied behaviour in some depth, and cares about the harm we are causing our life support system, I find myself uncomfortably familiar with many of the details in JMG's scenario. If you want to get things done, fascism sure looks effective--nice central planning, tight grip...

So, I wonder if fascism is just pragmatism gone very, very wrong.


@ Khadija

Speaking for myself, I just dismissed Dave1941.

I am a very active commenter on several blogs, and on some of them I argue the finest of points at the most rudimentary levels, because I think that matters for the audience.

I think this comment section is smarter, and therefore needs less attention. I assumed that most people would just dismiss him.

But, you may be right, and I may just be being racist there. I really like your comment "We all have the strength to endure the misfortunes of others." I will try to watch out for my own racism more.

But now for a nice anti-racist story, not to absolve, but just because I already mentioned Canada, and this is one of the most awesome things I have ever seen.

I got on a bus in Vancouver BC, maybe a few years after 9/11. The driver--and I am not kidding--looked like Osama Bin Laden. Not in a "All arab men look the same" or "all people in turbans look the same" sort of way. In a very specific, could have been brothers, looked a lot like Osama Bin Laden sort of way.

Even for a sensitive 90's guy like myself it was a little disconcerting.

And then a very drunk man got on the bus and proceeded to berate the driver, for at least ten minutes. He ranted about how the bus was late, he ranted about the transit system, he ranted about the government. He was absolutely stumbling, sloppy drunk, and he belligerently ranted at the driver for a good ten minutes.

But then he made some comment--and I don't remember the exact words--about the driver being an Arab. Maybe he should go back where he came from, or something, I don't remember.

The whole bus erupted, like twenty people shouted him down. A man got up and stood threateningly close to him. I actually got a little tear in my eye at the Canadianness of it all. We all tolerated his drunken idiocy until he crossed our line. He backpedalled so fast it was amazing he could keep his feet.

Anyhow. I don't tell this story to try to justify not shouting Dave1941 down, just because it was one of the nicest anti-racist things I have seen in my life. That may be telling in itself, but there you go.

Ruben said...

also @Khadija

I read several of your posts at your retired blog The Sojourner's Passport

I thought they were painfully excellent. If you start a new blog, please let us know, as I would put you in my RSS feed in a heartbeat.

And if you have free time, my own site is at a Small and Delicious Life — Common Sense for the New Times.

I mentioned I studied behaviour, and the latest post is on that topic. But I also can tell you how to smoke bacon.

Best,

Ruben.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Yeah, Blind Freddy is an astute observer of the human condition. hehe!

I reckon, your essays are circling around the central theme of your spell, in that there is no brighter future. Respect.

Yeah, I'm not really excited by the concept of a totalitarian state either, but I will point out that it is the desire for a utopian future in a time of trouble that provides the human energy and support for such things. Otherwise we’d probably all get on with the real job at hand.

Perhaps also at such times there is the opportunity to try a novel approach, which as you correctly point out usually ends in disaster.

But then perhaps that is the path that has to be travelled so that some or all of the population can back down on their expectations.

Poverty is a viable option, it is just a very hard sell if people have bought heavily into the narrative of the myth of progress.

As an interesting side note, I went to a wedding last night and of all the people that I spoke with, one was an agronomist working in international aid projects. What's the chances of that? It was a fascinating conversation, but unfortunately I walked away from the conversation with the thought that international aid was put in place to serve the interests of the country donating the funds. Just sayin...

Regards

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Just remembered this thought:

The meme that some sort of elite group is running the US (or at least controlling) for their own benefit raises its head time and time again in the comments here. It is a strange meme.

I've been wondering about this meme for quite a while and it recently occurred to me that the contemplation of that meme by the population (and it is a recurring theme) raises the possibility of that actuality?

Dunno, but if I were considering implementing a totalitarian state in the US, then such a meme could only be helpful. People would be more willing to go along for the ride with big change if it were also in their benefit.

I can already imagine them justifying the situation by saying: "it's not like the change in government will make any difference, we already live in a fascist state controlled by a powerful elite."

It is an eerie thought.

Regards

Chris

latefall said...

(looks like this comment was lost the first time round)

Another possible indicator for advent of autocratic regimes is when the relative constellation of parties becomes less stable as the result of individuals (esp from the inner circles) abandoning ship. Of course this may often go hand in hand with a wave of scandals (as non disclosure agreements fail), in the later stages it gets more quiet again as the "cleansing" is done using other means. I wouldn't be surprised if you could see the dynamics around this gentleman in other settings as well. But by their nature they rarely come to light as nicely as here.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Noske
[...] a member of the socialist movement, he used army and paramilitary forces to bloodily suppress the socialist/communist uprisings of 1919. He thus allied himself with forces that would later turn against the republic and ultimately [...]
You could argue that his influence lasts until today - especially if you look at the SPD (socialist party) preferred coalition partners.


@Anselmo
When reflecting on a cultural predisposition to authoritarian regimes, I would not want to reduce it to a "lack of democratic tradition" in Germany. Sure the English had a head start with the Magna Carta, etc. But if you look at the hanseatic league you'll find some development of consensus decision making - arguably a long shot from democracy, but definitely progress in that direction.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanseatic_League#Organization
Also here and there you can find the odd republic in the 15th century:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dithmarshen#History
To say nothing of Italian Republics...

I would argue that the 3rd Reich is just one more instance in a long series of failed anti-authoritarian movements in Germany. The list is so long that it really is no surprise these forces don't have a well developed and effective power structure.
If you want, it started with bad news from the French Revolution traveling fast and being heard loud and clear in the upper parts of German society (eventually resulting in the blackened, red, and bronze flag - let's not romanticize here - we fly again today), the 1832/1848 revolt where they got thoroughly whipped - again (those with some sense left for the US), a few years respite, at least for non-socialists (Bismarck), before all being lead to the slaughter in WWI by a GWB-class leader. After that if comrade Noske & company did not rat you out, you had your next chance to get off the stage in the Spanish Civil War. Again you could pick which side would do you in.

Now if you still had not got the memo after regular thorough political spanking, prosecution, outlawing and eventual failure - from the time of your great grand-parents - you were perfectly free to pull a Snowden/Manning/Assange and collect a Nobel Peace Prize, like this gentleman did:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_von_Ossietzky
He was fairly independent of large power blocks and blew the whistle on "extralegal" (because governments don't do illegal things) re-armament of Germany. Fat lot of good the prize did him when he died in prison. BTW the verdict was upheld in 1992, if you had any questions.

Khadija said...

@Steve Pearson & Ruben,

Steve, there's no need for any apologies. I believe that most of the audience members here dismissed Dave1941's comment out of hand.

I just wanted to point out that total silence as a response is often taken by the bigots as assent (which encourages them to say and do worse); and leaves members of the targeted group(s) even more vulnerable.

I see this readership of budding Green Wizards as people who will have increasing influence as the Long Descent continues. And so I felt it fairly important to point this out.

I'm a couple of years younger than our Archdruid. I've seen genuine, widespread and major attitude shifts over the past 30 years in terms of "acceptable" levels of public racism.

However, I suspect that this change is widespread but paper-thin and more fragile than people realize. Much like the mass attitude shifts regarding bigotry against gays and lesbians. I doubt these positive changes will hold up for very long under the economic stress of the Long Descent.

I look at phenomena like the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece, and feel that similar things are coming attractions for the U.S. I'd like to see the positive changes that have evolved over the past 3 decades persist for as long as possible.

Ruben, thanks for your kind words about my retired blog. I appreciate it. And thanks for the invitation to check out your blog. I look forward to it. The bees at the top caught my eye. {smile}

Kindest regards,
Khadija

jld said...

Hummm... Well... May be you are a bit old fashioned in your analysis/definition of fascism, it could be that the US is already running a "modern" concealed version of it: William Engdahl on "curious" Ukraine events

Shane Wilson said...

@Bill
perhaps a green, peak oil based fascism would not appeal in the South, but, what with what's going on in Ukraine, perhaps peak oil will come to the fore quickly in the US? (If the US attempts sanctions on Russia, Russia and other oil producing countries might respond in kind) Also, I know Putin is a popular figure among certain Pseudoconservatives, so maybe Southern opposition to authoritarianism might not be so strong, depending on how the fascism presents itself? The South is the most pro-military, and overrepresented in the armed forces.
@Ruben
I kinda imagine China, perhaps India, in the future, maintaining Canada as a province/playground of the wealthy, where the really good, top 1% get to go and live the good life? Canada kept as a plum reward for the cream of Chinese/Indian society? IDK, just a thought...

das monde said...

LOL, JGM! The act of evil space lizards is more transparent in Europe, especially along its Eastern and Southern peripheries. How to choose between just fascisms?

ay kay said...

I am a relatively new follower of your blog, and I have come to appreciate it very much. I've been steadily making my way through the archives this Winter, and your writing has been a significant source of inspiration and refreshingly nuanced food for thought. This series on fascism and Weimar America has been especially powerful for me. Thank you for your work.

One thing that my friends and I have found especially frustrating to witness is the whole “culture wars” business that currently dominates political discourse. As a gay man born and raised in Texas, with many family members who would identify as conservative or libertarian, I feel like I've had plenty of exposure to the whole affair on both an intellectual and a visceral, deeply experiential level.

I think that there are unnamed, unspoken class antagonisms that the culture wars are exploiting and drawing fuel from while obscuring them. Specifically, I see a lot of disenfranchised, rural, poor white people who truly have every reason to be bitter, but who have a really narrow and reactionary analysis of power, which means that their bitterness is easily channeled towards rather useless ends. Meanwhile, they see these smug, (sub)urbane, often middle and upper class people awash in political hypocrisy, who look down on them, calling them backwards, and seemingly imposing their own cultural values via federal government impositions and the ubiquitous influence of the “liberal media,” which would of course be more usefully understood as the corporate media, but isn't.

The liberals point to the (very real) racism of these right-wing folks while steadfastly denying their own, and choose to focus on a strategy of crusades of political correctness in speech rather than a structural dismantling of racism on an institutional level. And, having thrown their lot entirely in with the Democratic Party, which has long abandoned pretending to have any interest in the well-being of poor people, the issues that are being pushed forward by liberals, such as civil rights for gay people, end up appearing to be rather bougie and out of touch with the day-to-day concerns of the working classes. Meanwhile, the gay rights movement, which was once very concerned with issues facing working class and homeless people, has become focused on securing comforts and privileges for well-to-do gays. One consequence of this is an erasure of the fact that gay people are disproportionally represented among the homeless and the poor.

This is but one dimension of the phenomenon, wherein a bunch of red herrings are beaten to death by people who might otherwise find some common interests with each other. Issues such as peak oil and climate change are on the backburner or tossed behind the stove entirely. People who should be just as wary of federal government power end up defending it in order to see their own cultural agendas imposed, etc.

Meanwhile, I have a feeling that all of this misplaced antagonism is somehow contributing to the groundwork for profound surges of vigilante violence targeting immigrants, LGBT people, and people of color. It may also be contributing to the groundwork for a civil war, though I'm not quite sure of it.

My questions for you are: what role do you perceive the whole mess of the “culture wars” to likely play in the framing and content of a fascist movement in this country? If fascism is a centrist phenomenon, will it play – or attempt to play - a reconciling role culturally between left and right in the coming times? What role do you think vigilante groups among civil society could play? Where I'm from, people have been quietly forming the loose outlines of what could be right-wing militias for decades, or at least they certainly like to think that's what they've been doing. How seriously do you take such developments and trends, and how do you think those trends will likely play out?

Bill Pulliam said...

One thing I think about in all of these discussions... Has our social structure really been disrupted to the same extent as Germany's in the 1920s? They had a horrific war fought on their soil; we only have very distant wars fought by a small minority. Sure we have economic troubles that will continue to deepen. But have we really had sufficently fundamental traumas to basically abandon the whole idea of liberty and constitutional government? Plus, may rapidly-growing demographic sectors have quite different views of American and what it represents than the shrinking anglo majority. So maybe we won't continue on a path that reflects our european origins so much? Hard to judge.

Re: the Google guy who spoke the unspeakable truth about upwardly-mobile white California culture, whooo boy! White Californians REALLY don't take it well when their deep pervasive racism is pointed out! Racism is something that happens in those backwards flyover states, not on the enlightened liberal progressive advanced left coast! But ask one of them to pull into a (perfectly clean and decent-looking) gas station when there is a pickup truck with some brown guys parked at one of the pumps, and they will react as though you just asked them to drink from the toilet.

John Franklin said...

Not just racist, but racialist, a word I prefer for its nice, clear link to Chamberlain's nauseating theory of racial superiority, in contrast to a sort of vagueness that can apply to race, culture, etc., and is more useful (as a weapon) to certain types of politicians for that reason.

I may be shouted down for this, but I'm actually happy Mr. Greer lets the occasional disgusting, parochial, faintly moronic commenter through.

In my view, fascists may very easily go the opposite direction with racism. After all, taken to an extreme, it can replace the old bigotry with a new one, becoming an easy witch hunting word for someone like Mr. Halliot.

Excellent article.

Joseph Nemeth said...

@DeAnander: I don't think it's restricted to capitalism. I'm thinking of the 14th-century cathedral-building craze in Europe, the Great Wall of China, the Egyptian pyramids, etc., etc.

I'd want to check all the dates on these things to make sure they really happened at the end of the civilization, which I'm too lazy today to do, but I'd suggest that every civilization in its late stages "blooms," just like a flower when it's stressed and its biological clock says it's nearing the end of its life-cycle.

Bob Smith said...

JMG,

Yes, as you pointed out, I am an unfeeling monster. However, he refuses to discuss whether something actually works or the unintended consequences. His cognitive dissonance on this various aspects doesn't give me a lot of hope for some areas of the country. Too much concern about feelings not enough about results.

Please indulge me to respond to some of the comments above.

@Shane Wilson. IMHO, you just outlined the best case scenario, ie the states are left to sort out our own issues. After all, its not like the Russians or the Chinese will leave if the country is in hand, and I doubt any of us would like to live under their rules. Most of us would be off the gulags just for posting here.

@Bill Pulliam. Agreed on the hotbeds of resistance, but I don't see any rural area of the country being being easy pickings for anyone, note the problems we had in Afghanistan and Iraq then multiply 100X, 4GW has arrived in force and there are a lot more resources to re-purpose here. To me, the only "fascism" that might occur would have to be a "dump them into the sea" movement promising earthquakes so as to be rid of both coasts. This is already occurring on a smaller scale in NY, CO and Cali with the "divorce" movements. As I said, flyover states are prejudiced against the coasts and vice versa.

@Khadija
I saw this comment and was offended as well, however IMHO, the worst response is to provide a soapbox for the offender, it only encourages this kind of thing. Of course, the MSM promotes this craziness due ratings. However, there is an extreme double standard at work here, reference Justice Thomas' remarks recently and the responses to it. While our current empty suit might not have a job as dog catcher, I assure you that Col West is quite popular, same for Herman Cain. The writings of Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams can rightly be called the ideological godfathers of the Tea party/constitutional movement, although as JMG has stated this may be short lived or co-opted. If I may recommend a little known author, Star Parker has some interesting insights on racism that you may not have considered. Given LBJ's statements and reasoning behind the Civil Rights and various other acts, I think you would be surprised where in the country that you are actually welcome. Cowards burning crosses are properly greeted with hi-power rifles as Robert F. Williams showed in the 50s and 60s.

We all have friends and relatives that occasionally say ignorant things, plus none of us are immune to doing the same. Freedom of Speech requires that all of us be offended at times, and tolerate it quietly. We all have our "touchy" issues...ie your feelings on racism reflect mine on redistribution. However, being offended should never get in the way of honest and thoughtful discussions/debate. After all, tyrants prefer an outraged mob since its much easier to control via soundbites rather than having to generate a well reasoned argument and we have plenty of would be tyrants.

Bob Smith said...

BTW @Khadija

I really like your blog, and you make some very valid points. Since we're snowed in here in OKC, I have time to peruse the archives.

John Naylor said...

Strange coincidence: I'm reading The Mystical Qabalah (1935) right now, and in the chapter on Chesed, Dion Fortune writes:

"It is effectual and inspiring leadership that is the crying need of the world at the present time, and country after country is seeking and finding the ruler who approximates most closely to its national ideal, and is falling in as one man behind him. It is the benign, organising, ordering Jupiter influence that is the only medicine for the world's sickness; as this comes to bear, the nations will recover their emotional poise and physical health."

Hmmm, there's that word "leadership" again. So the author of Psychic Self-Defense was glancing approvingly at the rise of thaumaturgic states, or am I reading too much into it? If so, this really hammers the point home for me that this kind of thing can really happen again. This does underscore the benefit you sited years ago of reading books older than you, to better see the unthinking assumptions and presuppositions of their time. Continuing the Qabalistic metaphor, what happened in Europe next is a nice example of this surplus of "organising influence" leading to a epic dose of Geburah.

Myriad said...

@Khadija,

I certainly noticed the offensive comment. My twin brother is developmentally disabled, so rest assured, talking about deporting "low IQ" individuals rouses my inner mother grizzly, even when the offense was meant to be directed at a different target.

If that had been posted at the forum I consider my home ground, or if I'd seen it at some venue that's an open battleground, I wouldn't have stayed silent. By habit, a suitably devastating (and yet, exquisitely polite) response was fully composed in my mind within a few minutes of reading it. But here, in at atmosphere that is (to me) more like the Q and A period after a university lecture, I go along with the Archdruid's preferred way of handling it instead. That does not signify agreement with such drivel.

That said, I'm glad you brought it up, even if it does ripple the calm deep waters a bit. My previous silence is worth reconsidering. I don't like to offer excuses and apologies at the same time, so if you find these excuses wanting, let me know and an apology will follow.

steve pearson said...

@Bill Pulman, Just a small quibble. Though the Germans suffered horrendous losses, the war wasn't fought on their soil. I believe the Russians advanced a little ways into E. Prussia in the early days of the war, but that was about it. The Western front was all in France & Belgium.
Regards, Steve

Robert Mathiesen said...

@jld"

I just read that column by Engdahl. He really doesn't seem to know all that much about Ukraine in general, and his unnamed sources seem almost hysterical about the possibility of Ukrainian neo-nazi fascism. I's take it with a whole shakerful of salt.

Ruben said...

@Khadija

Your analysis that our current anti-bigotry is widespread but paper-thin rings true for me.

I am an ardent regionalist, and passionate believer in communities based on a human scale. But the one thing I truly love about federalism is the protections offered to minority groups.

But, as you say, that umbrella is going away, whether we like it or not, and I worry that bigotry will replace it.

I think that right now is the time we must be building community structures to prevent bigots such as Golden Dawn.

And I worry, because I don't see that happening at all. I worry that 99.5% of people have accepted that good times are coming back, and so there is no need to build strength for when good times stay away.

This column in particular was hard on me, as I have been a big fan of Beppe Grillo and M5S. In fact, when Russell Brand was saying so many smart things I started wondering if the populist future could be guided by comedians--I think that would be much preferable to fascists. But this post forces me to ask how easily the comedians will become totalitarians.

Nastarana said...

Joseph Nemeth,

About medieval cathedrals:

There are, roughly speaking, two kinds of great churches, Romanesque and Gothic.

The former began to be built in the 1ate 11thC. The first gothic churches were being built in the area around Paris in the 12thC, beginning with St. Denis around 1140. More were built all over much of Europe during the next two centuries. This is the high Middle Ages, the time of scholastic philosophy and improvements and shipbuilding and agriculture. Cathedral building slowed down in the 14thC because great churches were expensive projects and towns--most were built by towns, not the baron in his castle, who had a private chapel--could no longer afford the expense.

May I suggest a modest thought experiment? Look at pictures of a representative gothic cathedral, Lincoln, or Chartres, or Wells. Note how many statues, stained glass windows inside and outside. Call to mind that everything was made by hand. Look up demographic estimates of populations of France or England at the time. Then ask yourself how, in an allegedly stratified society where everyone knew his or her place from birth, the cathedral builders ever found enough artisans to make the windows and the statues, at what almost every scholar of architecture agrees, is the highest artistic standard?

Unknown said...

@Ruben

Men who find themselves permanently marginalized in middle-age greatly tend to turn inward and self destruct in ways that injure only themselves and their close relationships, that is to say immediate family and (former) workmates. Those that survive those tendencies may very well become ardent and influential members of the movements but as a whole they won't be numerically meaningful.

Middle-aged women tend to be more pragmatic, which could lead to numbers them becoming involved in fascist movements in certain scenarios but I can't really picture them as the visible core of such a movement. Perhaps I lack imagination.



As far as scapegoating goes, the only real question is, “Who will be the scapegoats?” Who should be punished, (as opposed to who's to blame) is probably the biggest difference between the young American center viewpoints of the various regions, which means the scapegoats will depend on which region gets the movement rolling. There are some groups that are universally “okay to hate” among young Americans (to the point that most of them are unaware of their prejudices) but I've only seen a couple of them mentioned in comments this week and I don't want to make a list. For the same reason, I don't want to make a list of talking points for a future dictator.

Shane Wilson said...

@Bill
the South's role for the rest of the country is to play the Scapegoat for poverty, ignorance, and particularly racism. It has no real bearing on actual history or race relations in the South, by making a strawman of the South upon which to place all their blame, relieves them of the need to look at their own issues. It really has nothing to do with the South. Honestly, only a mere 40 years separates the end of slavery in the North and the end of slavery in the South. It really is all about them, particularly when you think about how culturally entwined black & white are in the South.

John Michael Greer said...

Khadija, thank you for a thoughtful response. I'd point out, though, that there's silence and then there's silence; there's the silence that condones and approves, but there's also the silence that ostracizes and dismisses. That latter is part of this blog's culture; as a longtime reader, you'll no doubt have noticed how often irrelevant blather from conspiracy theorists, cornucopians, etc. gets the verbal equivalent of a rolling of the eyes, followed by what an older generation used to call the cut direct. The same principle applies here.

There's a strategy behind that approach. Have you by any chance read Worth Weller's book Under the Hood? It's basically the chronicle of Brad Thompson, who joined the Ku Klux Klan and rose to the rank of Indiana Grand Dragon before shaking himself out of it and becoming a decent human being again. One of the things Thompson described was the sheer emotional rush that comes from hating and being hated. He and his buddies would put on their bedsheets and go someplace and start shouting their racist nonsense through bullhorns, and they'd quickly draw a crowd that was shouting insults back at them -- and they loved it. The experience of being hated, of being the total focus of attention of an enraged crowd that mirrored their own hate back at them, was as addictive as a drug.

I'm pretty sure that rush is one of the core motivations of internet trolls, racist and otherwise. Certainly when I give them no more attention than I would give a turd on the sidewalk, they generally creep away in short order -- and I wonder whether the people who, with the best intentions in the world, believe it's essential to confront and call out racism wherever it appears might actually be feeding the thing they think they're fighting.

John, that's an interesting point. Still, I suspect in most parts of the country, you'd be more likely to get a fascist movement going if you promised to get rid of California and Californians!

Cherokee, it's a counterspell -- and one of the things it counters is the thaumaturgy of the self-proclaimed "great leader" who insists he can lead us all to Utopia. As for the belief that the country is already controlled by an omnipotent evil elite, well, that same claim was made back in the Weimar Republic, by, among other people, the Nazis -- their version of "the 1%" was "the Committee of 300," which still gets some play in conspiracy theory websites these days.

Latefall, thanks for reposting -- yes, Blogger eats things sometimes. That strikes me as quite a plausible parallel.

Jld, nah, the US puppet regime in the Ukraine is a standard banana republic thug-ocracy, the sort of thing we used to install in Latin American countries all the time.

Das Monde, funny. I prefer the ones that don't wear turquoise track suits, but that's just a matter of taste, I suppose.

Ay Kay, excellent. Yes, there's a great deal of unspoken class warfare in the US today, and the "culture wars" nonsense serves as a stalking horse for that -- middle class liberals don't like to talk about the fact that they've maintained their standard of living since the 1970s by throwing the American working class under the bus, while what's left of the working class doesn't want to talk about class warfare for fear of handing rhetorical weapons to the classes below them. My guess, though, is that the ongoing collapse of resistance to gay marriage marks a watershed in the way social conflicts get framed in the US, and that new battle lines may be drawn in the next decade or so. Stay tuned!

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