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Monday, March 28, 2011

Welcome to Kochistan Part 1 -

March 28th, 2011

by Stephanie Baselice
We encourage you to visit the author's blog, May Day Resistance
 Like many people, I have been increasingly alarmed by the political shifts in my native USA during my adult lifetime. My first vote was against Ronald Reagan in 1984, and by my standards things have been getting steadily scarier ever since. 

The advent of the Tea Party, and their recent entry into the realms of public office has been especially horrifying. Their clear intent of rolling back decades of progress on women's rights, gay rights, the environment, and other areas while simultaneously enhancing the power of already rapacious corporations to influence lawmakers and fleece the public is beyond appalling. Even more appalling is the clear willingness of many of us—especially those who call themselves conservatives--to tolerate human rights abuses and infringements of basic liberties in the name of national security. In that regard I hold with Benjamin Franklin, who once said “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety “. So imagine my reaction when I first saw Laurence Britt's 14 points of convergence of fascist societies. Reading down the list I felt a deep and growing dread. We were already hitting all 14 points! According to the article, Laurence Britt is a Political Scientist who analyzed the regimes of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia and discovered these 14 points of convergence. Here are the basic 14 points:

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights.
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.
4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism.
5. Rampant sexism.
6. A controlled mass media.
7. Obsession with national security.
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together.
9. Power of corporations protected.
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.
11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts.
12. Obsession with crime and punishment. 
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.
14. Fraudulent elections.

This was truly scary. I had been concerned about all 14 points individually, but now I feared we had descended even deeper than I thought into a dystopian nightmare.

I was also curious to see the research. So I googled Dr. Britt. There are many copies of the 14 points floating around on the internet, and a few discussions of their implications. There were no other scholarly pieces, no listing of any University post or research, nothing. There was one book, (a novel), and a pediatrician on the atlantic coast. There was also one article by Tom Head of About.Com which had taken the only journalistic approach to the 14 points that I could find. (Thank you Mr. Head). Evidently Laurence Britt is a retired corporate executive who wrote a dystopian novel called June 2004. He published his 14 points in an article for a humanist magazine, and his Phd in political science was evidently a fiction inserted by the readers who passed the points around in a chain letter after 911 when many people were dizzy with fear that President Bush was mounting a coup to become the American Dictator. Whew! Quite possibly the 14 points are not the product of vigorous peer reviewed inductive research. They may have simply been research for Mr. Britt's novel.

Yet they are still obvious and scary for those of us who wonder if we are headed toward a Koch sponsored version of The Handmaid's Tale. Mr. Head insists that if we were in fact in danger of falling into a fascist dictatorship during the Bush regime, we would already have done so, though he does exhort us to be aware of the dangers of popular presidents and chaotic times. I do hope he is correct about the structural difficulty of a fascist takeover of the United States. Recent proposed legislation in Michigan makes me wonder if there is in fact, some evil overall plan to actually take the country one municipal financial disaster area at a time and hand each former town, village or eventually city to some corporate overlord. In all likelihood, such a plan would actually be about capturing resources like water and energy distribution networks, but the disenfranchisement is real and so is my paranoia. Paranoia does not negate the possiblity that a plot is afoot, after all.

I imagine Mr. Britt was working from the idea that political influence is best pursued through the arts, as in the above mentioned Handmaids Tale or Upton Sinclair's The Jungle . It is probably important here to also mention the dreadfully influential works of Ayn Rand in that category, since she is referenced as a key influence by so many on today's right. In any case, June 2004 mirrors the events and characters of 911 era USA in a novel about a fascist society that evolved as a result of a terrorist attack. Kind of a Shock Doctrine novel. Now I'm a big fan of Naomi Klein so that approach makes perfect sense to me. As Ms. Klein so thoroughly points out, powerful interests have often used disasters to grab power, when societies are weak and reeling from the emotional and physical shock of a crisis. I remember clearly the events of 911 and the subsequent public sentiments. Many people were afraid that Bush/Cheney would use their temporary popularity and intense public fears to undo important civil liberties. This fear was with good cause, as we have seen with the Patriot Act and the many subsequent abuses of power that followed—notably the War in Iraq. Nonetheless, while we may have slid a long way towards an America that would please Barry Goldwater, (without his fondness for a corporate policy of enlightened self-interest) we have not yet quite fallen to an America that would please Joe McCarthy. I do fear we are headed in that direction, but we are not quite there yet.

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