- Apr 12, 2008
- Reaction score
- real world
During the Bush years, Bush was often compared to Hitler or Mussolini,. The focus of the attacks had to do with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and angst over the supposed erosion of civil liberties due to warrantless wiretaps, among other things. There was a lot of hyperbole. Bush was a monkey, a Nazi, a Fascist, the devil’s spawn. The hyperbole became so hysterical some conservatives jokingly took to calling President Bush “Chimpy McBushHitler Halliburton.” Many on the right go too far in attacking the motives of President Obama in the same way the left attacked Bush. It is neither rational nor sane.
President Obama is, unlike President Bush, a progressive, but he is not a fascist.
One must be careful to say such things clearly these days lest the outrage pimps on the left try to drum up outrage on less than clear precision of word choice. President Obama does however, like President Woodrow Wilson, seek to harness the power of the state for the collective good of the American people, even at the expense of the individual. Many on the right view it as a European style socialist tendency because he does so in the name of fairness and believes the government should decide what each citizen’s fair share is. Consider President Obama’s recent speeches on the free market and individualism and compare them to Woodrow Wilson saying, “American is not now and cannot in the future be a place for unrestricted individual enterprise.”
“Reasonable” people do not often talk of fascism in the modern American state, but fascist tendencies from an earlier time in American history, properly understood, are rearing up among progressives again as President Obama amps up his heated rhetoric against free enterprise, conservatives, and the wealthy. While President Obama is not a part of what it happening, it is clear progressives, inspired by his agenda, have taken matters into their own hands to extremes we have not seen for a hundred years.
Fascism, properly understood, is not a right-wing ideology. While many characterize it as such, Wikipedia, of all places, has a pretty accurate rendering, explaining that
[f]ascists advocate a state-directed, regulated economy that is dedicated to the nation; the use and primacy of regulated private property and private enterprise contingent upon service to the nation, the use of state enterprise where private enterprise is failing or is inefficient, and autarky.
During the First World War, Woodrow Wilson and the progressive movement used war as a means to rally society to the collective good of the nation. George Perkins, a financier of progressive causes at the time, boasted that the First World War “is striking down individualism and building up collectivism.” Michael McGerr, in his book A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, cited one progressive who championed the war claiming, “Laissez-faire is dead. Long live social control.”
Jonah Goldberg, in his well regarded book Liberal Fascism, noted that “[m]ore dissidents were arrested or jailed in a few years under Wilson than under Mussolini during the entire 1920s.” Americans often ignore our history and often the media forgets history when it choses to report or not report something.
In May of 1918, several hundred publications were denied access to the postal service. As Goldberg documented in Liberal Fascism, “In Wisconsin a state official got two and a half years for criticizing a Red Cross fund-raising drive. A Hollywood producer received a ten-year stint in jail for making a film that depicted British troops committing atrocities during the American Revolution. One man was brought to trial for explaining in his own home why he didn’t want to buy Liberty Bonds.”
This was the state acting on its own. Consider though the American Protective League, officially approved by then Attorney General Thomas Gregory, and composed of private citizens acting as a “secret” organization. The organization harassed individuals and businesses, threatening and bullying any who stood in the way of the goals of the state. They spied on their neighbors, read their mail, and acted in ways similar to the variously colored shirted organizations in Europe and former European colonies. In fact, even Woodrow Wilson had misgivings about them writing Attorney General Gregory, “It would be dangerous to have such an organization operating in the United States, and I wonder if there is any way in which we could stop it?” Wilson did not stop it.
These were not right wingers. The APL and similar groups may have targeted unions, but did so on the belief that unions were disrupting activities of the progressive state, e.g. undermining Wilson’s war effort.
The re-emerged progressive movement, springing to action to “agitate” (their word choice) for President Obama’s agenda is troubling. There is a pattern of behavior within the modern progressive movement against dissent echoing the progressive movement during Woodrow Wilson’s tenure. Then, progressives engaged in fascist strategy and tactics to silence opposition to Wilson’s advance of the state over the individual. Many on the left then hailed Benito Mussolini as a hero and champion of progress in the way many on the modern left hail Hugo Chavez as the same. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, progressive activists are engaging in a similar pattern of intimidation and violence that they perversely think will help President Obama, even as he himself has voiced misgivings about their tactics and sought to distance himself from some of his most ardent supporters.