Monday, June 27, 2005

Never Again!

Back in 1991, before I left Belgrade, we were demonstrating against Milosevic. Many plackards and graffiti at the time compared Milosevic to Saddam. They were mostly NOT comparing him to Hitler. Why? Not because we liked Milosevic and did not want to insult him. Not because we thought it was bad strategy. It was because we wanted to put him down, to show him how small he is, how transparent he is, how impotent he is. It would have been too great an honor to compare him to Hitler.

There is quite a lot of writing these days about the appropriatness of using Nazi analogies to the Bush administration. While the Right is screaming bloody murder whenever a Democrat mentions Hitler (or Stalin) and gloat when a Republican compares somebody to Hitler (or Stalin), there are many more cooler heads on both sides of the political landscape who are arguing against the use of such comparisons.

One of the given reasons includes bad strategy, as invoking Hitler evokes emotions and stops all discussion (Godwin's Law). That appears, on the surface, to be a good reason.

Others point out that comparing everything and everybody to Hitler cheapens the metaphor. I can agree with that point. See, for instance this collection, most of which is indeed mis-use of the Hitler's name: IN THE FUTURE, EVERYONE WILL BE HITLER FOR 15 MINUTES. There is even silly stuff out there, e.g., this (and here is why it is silly).

But, the argument most often invoked is that Bush should not be compared to Hitler and Stalin because the latter two killed millions each, while Bush only killed thousands. There are many instances of this, for instance, see Orac in this post: And on the seventh day, the Hitler zombie rested (I hope) and the links within. Or Publius' retraction of the Gitmo-Gulag comparison in this post: LAST THING ON GULAG.

When the wars in the Balkans started in 1991, only Israeli press was on the Serbian side. Why? Because of "Never again!". They have recognized what the Westerners did not - the fascistic nature of Tudjman's new government in Croatia. Tudjman was even so blatant to actually use the flag, coat-of-arms, anthem and currency of the WWII-era Croatian fascist state in his new country. It was just too obvious.

Of course fascism will take different forms in different places and at different times. No state is going to resurrect the swastika today. The signs and emblems fascism do not make. It is the underlying ideology which can be coated in whatever symbols people are already used to - and proud of - including the American flag.

Perhaps due to my growing up in Europe, or being Jewish, or losing 42 family members in the Holocaust (including my maternal grandparents), I may be oversensitized. But, when I first heard GW Bush's campaign speeches in 1999, I got chills down my spine. I was able, due to my upbringing, to recognize something most Americans did not at the time, though many are waking up now. This was the rhetoric, the platform, the ideology, and the campaign strategy deeply soaked in fascistic way of thinking.

Neither Nazism nor Stalinism sprung up suddenly out of nowhere. Both built up gradually, over the years, slowly acclimating the populations to the ever-increasing levels of totalitarianism, and utilizing the fears and emotional insecurity of the few to rein in the many. The mass killings were just the last phase. It is like boiling a frog (or a lobster) alive: put it in cold water and warm up gradually. If you put a frog in hot water it will jump out, but if you warm it up gradually, it will just sit there until it is served well done. Read this book to see how it happened in Germany and you will realize that there is nothing to prevent it from happening in the USA.

If you look at The 14 Defining Characteristics Of Fascism you will recognize that all 14 are at some stage of implementation by the current US government. You will also notice that none of the 14 speak to the numbers of victims as "defining". Those are specific outcomes of specific historical examples of fascism.

One of the biggest differences between 1930s/1940s and today is that today there is television, there are reporters in the field, instant communication, there is Internet and there are blogs. One of the reasons why Rove and Cheney have not killed millions and probably never will is because they cannot hide the corpses. They are getting already enough flack from us for Gitmo, Iraq and Abu-Ghraib. They have to rein in their murderous instincts if they want to remain in power. The modern technology allows them to "neutralize" their enemies without killing them, thus allowing them to repeat that they are better than Hitler and Stalin as they did not kill millions. They can feign outrage that someone would even consider comparing them to Hitler and Stalin. We should not let them have that excuse.

However, while quantitatively they did not and probably will not kill as many people, there is not much qualitatively that makes them different from other historical instances of fascism. Look up the 14 characteristics again. Fascism is not about the killing. It is about the state, in bed with the church and the big business, terrorizing its own population (and perhaps some other populations). It is about pitting some groups against others. It is about state control of the media and propaganda. It is about hierarchy in which some (e.g., white rich Protestant straight men, give or take an attribute or two) are more worthy than the others (e.g., Blacks, Jews, women, gays, foreigners, etc). It is about institutionalising core conservative "values" - and yes, Stalin was a conservative, too.

I don't personally know Cheney and Rove (Bush is just a puppet, so he can be disregarded), but everything they have said and done so far suggests that, if they were living in 1930s and they were in position of power, they would have slaughtered millions. Nothing in ther behavior suggests the tiniest modicum of decency. Their psychological profiles of bigoted, femiphobic, white, rich males does not differ at all from the leaders of the Nazi-era Germany or Stalin-era USSR.

And if you have the guts to go over to the comments at The Corner and The Little Green Footballs, it is obvious that this is the kind of people who were the first to put on the brown shirts in the early 1930s. It is the same psychological profile, the same emotional problems, the same ideology, the same rhetoric, the same behavior. Bunches of sissies are finding each other and forming dangerous hate-groups all over the country under the banners of God, SuperMan and Country.

Spend some time digging through the archives of Orcinus for detailed descriptions of activities of such groups and how their activities add up to what Dr.Neiwart calls proto-fascism. Why "proto"? Because we still do not see millions of victims. I don't think we ever will because there is too many of us, educated and informed citizens with online access who are capable of springing into action within minutes or hours. We are not dependent on state-intimidated media for information. There are bloggers everywhere, in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Texas and in Washington DC. One canot hide from us. That is why I do not think there is anything "proto" about it. This is not even a very early stage. It is the fifth year of the steady gradual rise of fascism in the USA.

Thus, whoever advises not to use Hitler/Stalin comparisons is depriving us of a potent tool in the fight against the rise of fascism. Actually, we need to keep invoking the comparison in order to get people to think about it, to look around themselves, to read some history, to see for themselves. They need constant reminders that the water is getting warmer. Bush in no Milosevic - he is much, much worse.

My clumsy prose and emotional rhetoric may not sway you. Instead, take some time and read these posts that argue a similar position with much more eloquence:

Truth and Consequences
Actually, no
Not Quite a Gulag
Civic Duty

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:32 AM | permalink | (4 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink