If worse came to worse, if the government sent some private security
firm filled with sociopaths into your town or neighborhood to round up people
like you, could you count on your neighbors to stand with you?
The scenario is not so far-fetched. Here's what Daniel Ellsberg had to say
in a recent
The highly respected US whistleblower, former RAND strategic analyst Daniel
Ellsberg, who was Special Assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense during
the Vietnam conflict and became famous after leaking the Pentagon Papers,
has already warned of his fears that in the event of "another 9/11 or
a major war in the Middle-East involving a U.S. attack on Iran, I have no
doubt that there will be, the day after or within days an equivalent of a
Reichstag fire decree that will involve massive detentions in this country,
detention camps for middle-easterners and their quote 'sympathizers', critics
of the President's policy and essentially the wiping-out of the Bill of Rights."
Ellsberg is not alone. Former Reagan Treasury official Paul Craig Roberts has
written about the "brown
shirting " of the conservative movement, In another essay, Roberts
In the ranks of the new conservatives, however, I see and experience much
hate. It comes to me in violently worded, ignorant and irrational emails from
self-professed conservatives who literally worship George Bush. Even Christians
have fallen into idolatry. There appears to be a large number of Americans
who are prepared to kill anyone for George Bush.
(If you think Roberts is over-reaching, then spend a few minutes reading through
the comments on some of the most popular right-wing weblogs: http://www.littlegreenfootballs.com
or http://www.freerepublic.com. See what people advocate be done--by the government
and by them--to people like you.)
What if the hateful people Roberts writes about get their way? What if worse
comes to worse? Will your neighbors have your back? Will enough people stand
up against an out-of-control government and its brown shirt supporters to prevent
the arrival of full-blown fascism in America?
Find out who will and who won't after the break.
Has the Danger Passed?
The declining approval ratings for George Bush have reassured some people that
the rise of fascism in the United States has been halted, but they're terribly,
perhaps tragically, wrong. First, the Bush administration has continued to make
progress on its twin policies of permanent war and erasing the Bill of Rights
even as approval ratings have dipped below 40%:
Erasing the Bill of Rights
stepped up backdoor draft
continued wiretapping w/o warrant
urged Israel to attack Lebanon
continued tracking bank transfers w/o warrant
sending more troops to Iraq
confirmed Roberts and Alito for S. Ct.and Hayden as head of CIA
preparing for war against Iran
proposed extending no-trial detention to citizens
Second, the declining poll numbers conceal more than they reveal. Bush has long
been opposed by those who oppose his murderous and self-destructive foreign
policy along with his assault of civil liberties, but that comprises only about
35-40% of the public.
The Core Anti-Fascist Constituency
pre-emptive force rarely/never justified
Patriot Act goes too far
Pew Center Report: Beyond
Red and Blue (5/05)
Bush's loss of support has come instead from the defection of some of his most
Change in Bush Approval btw 1/05 and 3/06
Support Iraq War
Source: Pew Center Report: Bush's
Approval Falls to 33% (3/06)
This decline has been driven by the perception among some hyper-conservatives
that Bush has moved to the middle:
Perceptions of Bush's Ideology
middle of the road
Looking behind the raw approval figures, it's clear that Bush's popularity
problems come not from a public increasingly opposed to his right wing policies,
but from a perception among his most conservative followers that he is wavering
in his devotion to extremist ideology.
Who Is My Neighbor?
The threat of a fascist state in the U. s. is real--and it has not gone away.
All it will take is another terrorist attack on U. S. soil, a wider war in the
Middle East or an economic crisis triggered by another jump in oil prices or
a severe recession brought on by the failing housing market.
Are you sure that enough Americans would rise up in protest and resistance
to block an attempt to establish a totalitarian state? Many Germans, even Jews,
thought that Hitler would never survive even a few months as a chancellor who
headed an extremist, minoriy party. One Jewish newspaper urged its readers to
firm in the face of the Nazi threat:
Germany remains Germany. No one can deprive us of our homeland and fatherland.
Is it impossible or even unlikely that you can be deprived of your homeland,
or would some of your neighbors support your imprisonment while others looked
the other way or cowered in fear for their own safety?
Who are your neighbors, really?
American Brown Shirts: The Authoritatians
After the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps were revealed at the end
of World War II, many wondered if there was some peculiarity of the German people
or culture that had made that genocide possible or if the same terrible things
could happen elsewhere.
Social scientists conducted an extensive study of Americans to see if there
were citizens of the United States who could, under the right circumstances,
become bullying "Brown Shirts" or concentration camp guards. The result
was a book, The Authoritarian Personality, that proposed that a substantial
minority of Americans had personality traits that predisposed them to serve
either as leaders or followers of authoritarian movements.
Former Nixon aide John Dean has resurrected The Authoritarian Personality and
tied its thesis to what he observes as a growing trend in the Republican Party
toward totalitarian views and policies. Dean provided a brief
description of the follower and leader personality types in a recent interview:
The work on authoritarian followers showed a personality that is easily submissive
to authority, be it political, religious or even parental. They submit quickly,
and once they do, they become very aggressive in pushing that world view of
that authority. They become submissive because they find great comfort psychologically
in submitting. It helps them remove the ambiguities of life. And if they’re
frightened by events, then this gives them a sense of security.
And they’re typically very conventional in their lifestyle.
...They are very self-righteous. They are not self-critical. They have very
little critical thinking about their own behavior. They are often nasty and
mean-spirited. They are bullies. They are prejudiced.
...On the other side are the leaders. They are typically men whose desire
in life is to dominate others and to be in charge. They are very aggressive
when they do so. They are highly manipulative. They are also people who have
absolutely no appreciation of equality of others. They see themselves as superior,
and they are amoral in their thinking.
These are your most dangerous neighbors. Jonathan
Schell has described American leaders like Joe McCarthy who have used fear
and scapegoating to manipulate their followers into a frenzy of hatred. Ironically,
it is when these leaders fail or make mistakes that they are the most dangerous,
for they use their authority to shift the blame onto their opponents or vulnerable
out-groups in society. Hitler blamed the Jews for Germany's defeat in World
War I. American neoconservatives are already blaming critics of the Iraq War
for the United States' failures there.
When the stakes are high enough, these authoritarian leaders can be expected
to whip their followers into a hatful frenzy and turn them loose on target groups
like Muslims and critics of the Bush administration.
The Religious Right: America's Inquisition
Only slightly less dangerous are your neighbors who are caught up in the Religious
Right. A potent mixture of fundamentalist religion, hyper-patriotism, homophobia
and patriarchalism, Christian conservatives have little or no respect for America's
First Amendment tradition of separation of church and state. The most extreme,
called Dominionists or Reconstructionists, seek to replace the legal system
in the United States with bronze age statutes pulled from the Hebrew Bible.
Michelle Goldberg's book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism,
cites one example of what she calls Christian
Nationalist thinking drawn from a former executive of Coral Ridge Ministries,
a widely influential organization founded by D James Kennedy:
Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility
to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures,
just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.
These are the neighbors who may claim to only hate your "sin" while
loving you, but that won't stop them from insisting your children be brought
up in their religion or demanding that you swear allegiance to their god or
What Your Neighbors Believe: The Pew Center Report
The Pew Reearch Center undertook after the 2004 election to conduct
an extensive survey of Americans to determine what lay behind the facile
red/blue distinctions. Using a survey that probed not only political attitudes
but also values, perceptions and even personality, the Pew report uncovered
a complex combination of alliances and coalitions producing the close races
between Republicans and Demcrats over the past six years.
They found a total of ten groups distinguishable by their views on government,
personal responsibility, the fairness of the American system, religion and civil
The Right Wing's Core
Three of these groups track closely with those already described. Those the
Pew Group calls "Social Conservatives" and "Pro-Government Conservatives"
are virtually the same as the Christian Conservatives described above. The Pew
Group's "Enterprisers" contain some--though not all--of the authoritarian
leader and follower types.
Key Characteristics of Core Right Wing Pew Groups
Use overwhelming military force to defeat terrorists
homosexuality should be discouraged
dangerous books should be banned
Together, these three groups comprise 29% of the adult population
and 33% of voters.
Pollyannas and Eeyores
Obviously, thirty-three percent of voters is not enough to explain how the Republicans
currently control the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate,
vote fraud notwithstanding. It is only with the help of two other groups that
the forces of the Far Right have gained and continue to hold power in the U.
One group was key to Bush's victory in 2004. Pew calls them "The Upbeats,"
but they might also be called "Pollyannas." According to them, everything
is morning in America, and the government, big business and everyone else are
doing just fine by them. Typical is their attitude about corporations:
corporate profits are fair
Remarkably, this group comprises 11% of the population and 13% of registered
voters. They are disproportionately young, well-educated and affluent.
If Big Brother comes knocking on your door, don't expect these self-satisfied
folks to have your back.
The group the Pew study calls "The Disaffected" are almost the mirror
image of the "Upbeats." These people struggle in the current economic
system, but are deeply cynical that government can or will help them. They are
immigrants are a burden
Few of the Disaffecteds vote on a regular basis, and when they do, they lean
Republican. Most are preoccupied with surviving economically and have little
or no interest in what happens to those around them. Disaffecteds comprise 9%
of the population and 10% of registered voters.
These neighbors are not likely to risk what little they have for you
if things get rough.
Even more disconnected from politics are those the Pew report labels "Bystanders."
They neither vote nor follow political news. They comprise 10% of the population.
Democrats by Habit
This group is older and more religious than Democrats on average, but despite
their more conservative views on social issues and foreign policty, they usually
vote Democratic as they have in the past. But they should not be mistaken for
must believe in God to be moral
Approximately 14% of the population and 15% of registered voters are Conservative
The group is disporportionately old, female, minority and poor. While
their heart may be in the right place, these neighbors have little influence
and less inclination to stick their necks out for someone who is different from
What remains is what's left of the Left in America. It is composed of two of
Pew's groups: Disadvantaged Democrats and Liberals. Disadvantaged Democrats
are struggling to survive, but still hope that government can provide a leg
up. Nearly half are minority, sixty percent are female, and more than half have
someone in the family who's been unemployed in the past year. Disadvantaged
Democrats comprise 10% of the population and 10% of registered voters.
Liberals are disproportionately affluent and well-educated, and are far more
worried about militarism, the Religious Right and infringements on civil liberties
than any other group.
Liberals comprise 17% of the population and 19% of registered voters and are
concentrated on the East and West Coasts.
When the Unthinkable Happens: How Neighbors Kill Neighbors
Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosnians had lived together in peace
for a generation following the Second World War. The death of dictator Tito
and economic difficulties increased the level of stress in Yugoslavian society
in the late 80s. Neo-fascist elements began to exploit ethnic divisions by spreading
rumors and escalating hate rhetoric to the point that some minority residents
began to relocate to areas where they were part of the ethnic majority.
When the situation escalated, authoritarian leaders sent gangs of thugs into
areas they wanted to "ethnically cleanse." Author
Suzy Hansen describes the process:
One of the things that happened in Bosnia is that Slobodan Milosevic, who
was engineering this whole push for a greater Serbia, had sent in paramilitary
forces. And these were guys -- when we talk about evil, this is the level
you're talking about -- who were thugs that were recruited from the criminal
classes specifically because they have no moral stance. Some of them are psychopaths
and others were opportunists who wanted to make a buck and could care less
if they killed people along the way.
Once the killing had begun, locals were recruited
to assist in killing their neighbors:
''They came around looking for volunteers,'' one Serb told Sudetic. ''They
said, 'Grab your gun and come down to the soccer field.' ''
But America Is Different
But that could never happen here.
We want to believe that, but America is not so different. Has one group gone
to war against another, committing murder and rape in order to drive people
from their homes and "purify" the area? Such violence became almost
commonplace in the post-World War I period as whites
attacked African-Americans in cities across the country.
We would like to think that the public and the courts would never allow the
government to round people up and put them in concentration camps just because
of their race or religion, but that's exactly what they did to Japanese-Americans
in World War II.
We hope that the electoral balance between the parties is too close in the
United States for a right-wing dictatorship to succeed, but Hitler and the Nazis
never even managed to win 40% of the vote in Germany. In the election immediately
preceding Hitler's appointment as Chancellor, the Nazis actually lost
34 seats in the Reichstag. It was the crisis atmosphere and the support
of wealthy industrialists that catapulted Hitler into a positionof power that
he then leveraged, using terror and lies, into a total dictatorship.
Will Your Neighbors Have Your Back?
Martin Niemoeller was a Lutheran pastor who first supported the Nazis, but
then opposed them and was sent to prison. He survived because he had been a
heavily decorated U-boat captain in World War I, and he emerged from a concentration
camp to pen words
often quoted as a reminded of how a people can allow terrible things to happen:
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
Perhaps we should all consider the converse of Niemoeller's poem. We
might call it:
If They Come For Me
If they come for me, who will speak up?
Will the flag-waving Republican?
Or will he chortle that it was he who fingered me?
If they come for me, who will speak up?
Will the Falwell-loving Sunday School teacher?
Or will she only promise to pray for me?
If they come for me, who will speak up?
Will the junior vice-president?
Or will he snicker, "What a loser"?
If they come for me, who will speak up?
Will the poor, the Muslim, the gay, the liberal?
Or will they be coming for them too?
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