The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'fascism'
An article looking at the state of the neo-Nazi extreme-right fringe in Australia today; in short, there are a number of small, fractious groups who identify with Nazism, tend towards violence as a mode of action and are often influenced by groups from abroad. These are distinct from, and not to be confused with, the somewhat less batshit far-right groups, with neither side wishing to be associated with the other:
Thankfully, while accounts of less serious forms of harassment typically go unreported, reports of assaults such as that committed against Minh Duong are rare, neo-Nazi violence having peaked in the 1980s and 1990s. Further, collaboration between openly neo-Nazi groups and white nationalist or neo-fascist political parties like Australia First is generally low-key, with neither camp wanting to be associated too closely with the other. Other far-right groups are split on the subject of whether "The Jew" or "The Muslim" poses the greatest threat to White Australia.While Australia's neo-Nazi skinheads may have little to do with its common-or-garden fascists and "racial nationalists", they have found acceptably zealous comrades abroad:
Australia First has declared itself in political solidarity with the neo-Nazi Greek organization Golden Dawn. In December 2013 in Sydney, it helped to organise a rally outside the Greek consulate in order to protest criminal charges against the organization. In Melbourne, Golden Dawn has recently opened an office, though its precise location remains a secret. While generally low-key and currently enjoying little support among the local Greek population, the group has had a presence at several Greek rallies. Local Greek antifascists understand it has also been engaged in fundraising, with the money raised being used to help finance Golden Dawn’s violent activities in Greece.
Spain is looking at changing its time zone. While its longitude is close to Britain's, Spain shares with the rest of western and central Europe the condition of being one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. This state of affairs originated during World War 2, when the dictator Franco unilaterally changed Spain's timezone to match that of Germany, in solidarity with the Nazi regime; what the iron fist of fascism put in place, inertia kept in place, leading to a national case of jetlag:
"Because of a great historical error, in Spain we eat at 2pm, and we don't have dinner until 9pm, but according to the position of the sun, we eat at the same time as the rest of Europe: 1pm and 8pm," explained Professor Nuria Chinchilla, director of the International Centre for Work and Family at the IESE Business School. "We are living with 71 years of jet-lag, and it's unsustainable.
Another thing that needs to change is late-night prime-time TV, said Buqueras. "In England, the largest TV audience is at 7 or 8pm, but in Spain, it's 10pm. Because at 8pm in Spain, barely 50% of the population is at home, and you have to wait until 10pm to find that number of people at home, thus guaranteeing the viewing figures needed for prime time. Sometimes football matches don't kick off until 11pm!" he said.
All of this means people go to bed far later than they should and get less sleep than they need. Studies suggest Spaniards sleep an hour less than the rest of Europe, which means more accidents at work, less efficiency, and more children missing school. Additionally they work longer hours than their German and British counterparts, but are much less efficient.Any change to Spain's time zone is likely to also result in an end (or at least a great reduction) to the traditional siesta, the midday break for a long lunch and a nap.
Speaking of the past vanquishing the future, today is the 40th anniversary of the Chilean coup which, signed off by Richard Nixon, overthrew the (democratic socialist) Allende government and established the Pinochet dictatorship, a combination of classic Franco-style Iberian fascism and radical free-market ideology (courtesy of Chicago economist Milton Friedman, whom Nixon had parachuted in; Friedman went on to far greater things; advising Ronald Reagan and becoming the father of the neoliberal economic order we live in today). The Pinochet dictatorship ruled for seventeen years and crushed dissent, real and imagined, with stunning brutality, murdering Communists, trade unionists, human-rights activists, nuns and owners of suspicious literature (for example, books of art by Picasso—he was a Communist, you know—were enough) indiscriminately. Other than the big landowners whose near-feudal grip on their vast tracts of land and the lives of the peasants who came with it had been threatened by Allende, the big winners were multinational corporations (Friedman brought in a spree of privatisations, and the regime kept labour costs low and suppressed industrial complaints) and the Catholic Church (which was given a central role in the ultra-conservative society Pinochet built).
The Pinochet regime had its defenders for a long time after it fell; the most infamous was the late Margaret Thatcher, a close friend of Pinochet's who went to her grave proclaiming him to be a champion of freedom. (Either Thatcher's views or her outspokenness in them weren't widely shared at the time.) Other than that, it's mostly trolls and cranks these days, with most respectable conservatives tactfully keeping shtum (the Daily Torygraph's front page, for instance, is conspicuous in its lack of mention of this anniversary). As memory of the dictatorship's atrocities recedes into the past and witnesses die, however, we will undoubtedly see it rehabilitated by the self-styled mavericks of the Right, in the way that Spain's conservatives are rehabilitating the Franco regime, and the cult of Mussolini is enjoying renewed popularity in Italy; perhaps in ten years' time, we'll see a spate of articles by the rising stars of free-market thinktanks about the 50th anniversary of the Liberation Of Chile From Socialism.
Recently, celebrity right-wing intellectual Niall Ferguson caused a stir when, during an investors' conference, he implied that economist John Maynard Keynes did not care about the future, on the grounds of being childless and gay. The comments seemed to have been an attempt to attribute Keynes' famous quote, “in the long run, we are all dead”, to an amoral nihilism that comes from neglecting one's duty to reproduce in favour of a decadent hedonism and aestheticism, and thus to tar Keynes' model of government borrowing and economic stimulus, popular amongst the left of the political spectrum but anathema to the neoliberal right, with the brush of this effete, degenerate nihilism:
Another reporter, Tom Kostigen of Financial Advisor, gave a longer account. Kostigen wrote that Ferguson had also made mention of the fact that Keynes had married a ballerina, despite his gay affairs. "Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had. He explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of 'poetry' rather than procreated," Kostigen wrote. He added that the audience at the event went quiet when the remarks were uttered.Ferguson has apologised unreservedly for the remarks once they became public, calling them “stupid and tactless”; chances are that they've served their purpose as a dog whistle, and many of the sorts of people who see “Cultural Marxism” and decadent weakness all around them will agree wholeheartedly.
While Ferguson was rightly excoriated for the anti-gay tone of the remarks, there has been less comment on the other part of his statement, the assertion, still commonly held in many places, that childless people are selfish, amoral nihilists, who refuse to grow up and shoulder their responsibility:
There is, among many otherwise intelligent individuals, an assumption that those of us who make a positive choice to not reproduce are selfish, rootless and have no concern about future generations or the planet. But those who have their own children often forget about the world and just worry about their own ever shrinking one.
I have seen the most passionately committed feminist activists go gaga once they give birth. All the promises such as "I'll still come on that march/go to that conference/burn down that sex shop" disappear when they sprog. All those in my circle with offspring seem to become unhealthily obsessed with their own little world. Principles go out of the window ("I still hate the private education system/healthcare but I am not putting my politics before my children"), and socialising becomes impossible.Big families and the political Right have gone hand-in-hand for a while. Meanwhile, the white-supremacist British National Party, feeling the angry-white-people vote taken away by the less overtly fascistic UKIP, is encouraging its supporters to lie back and think of
"I know, by now you will be giggling over this suggestion. But think about it, nationalists need to buck the trend of 1.8 children per white household. We need to aim between 3 and 4 children each if not more," he writes. "And the bonus is that making babies is fun! So fellow nationalists, less TV and more fun! Let's do our bit for Britain and our race."
Matthew Collins, a former BNP member and now an anti-racism activist, said the post was an attempt by the party to get some attention after its poor election results. "It's tongue in cheek but there is a serious point. Griffin is always going on about being outbred and in the past he has said members need to put away their boots and go and meet women. The problem is that your typical BNP member is a social pariah who is more into pornography than starting a family," he saidA more frightening possibility would be if these people are successfully persuaded to do their duty, especially with the BNP's record on gender relations (they're not in favour of womens' rights; one of their MPs is on record as saying that women should be “struck like a gong”). I wonder in how many suburban culs-de-sac in BNP heartland, aspiring Josef Fritzls are now drawing up plans for soundproofing their basements and making notes on the movements and likely racial purity of fit-looking local shopgirls.
Benito Mussolini, the World War 2-era Italian fascist dictator, is enjoying a resurgence in popularity in Italy, and not just from the usual extremists either:
The decision by a town south of Rome to spend €127,000 (£100,000) of public funds this year on a tomb for Rodolfo Graziani, one of Mussolini's most blood-thirsty generals, was met with widespread indifference. Other more mundane examples include the leading businessman who proposed renaming Forli airport in Emilia Romagna – the region of northern Italy where the dictator was born – as Mussolini airport, or the headmaster in Ascoli Piceno who tried to hang a portrait of the dictator in his school.There are several explanations: some people are drawn to the idea of a populist strongman in the age of austerity, and compartmentalising all that unpleasantness with racial laws and deportations of Jews and such away from the cozy ideal of village post offices and a leader willing to bloody the noses of the elites in the name of the common man. Part of it is that, unlike in Germany, an admiration for fascism never completely left the sphere of acceptable opinion in Italy: a 1952 law forbidding fascist parties or the veneration of fascism has never been seriously enforced, and there are neo-fascist parties comprised not of shaven-headed thugs and football hooligans but of the kinds of reactionary though otherwise ordinary middle-aged and older people who, were they in Britain, would merely read the Daily Mail and grumble about how the world's going to hell. Though another likely cause in the rise of pro-fascist sentiment would be the dog-whistle politics of the Berlusconi era, in which many of the former pornocrat's close allies actively praised Mussolini and his ideals, and Berlusconi himself, whilst not explicitly doing so, did make light of Mussolini's suppression of dissent, and brought neo-fascists into his coalition:
"Today, Mussolini's racial laws against Jews remain an embarrassment, but people don't care about his hunting down anti-fascists," said Maria Laura Rodotà, a journalist at Italy's Corriere della Sera. "That became one of Berlusconi's jokes."
Admiration for Mussolini is common in Berlusconi's circle. Showbusiness agent Lele Mora, who is now on trial for allegedly pimping for the former prime minister, downloaded an Italian fascist song as his mobile ring tone, while Berlusconi's long-time friend, the senator Marcello Dell'Utri, has described Mussolini as an "extraordinary man of great culture".
The Olympics are nigh upon London, and their shadow falls heavily over the people of the capital. The stadiums are going up in the East End and the unsightly poor are being cleansed to make way for residents with more disposable income. Further afield, signs of the mass spectacle are appearing all over London, as if dropped from Mount Olympus itself by the gods to the grateful mortals below. (The mortals are grateful and in good cheer because that is the law, and the penalties, both civil and criminal, for being off-message have been subtly explained; these Olympics are, ultimately, a very understatedly British take on the totalitarian mass spectacle that the modern Olympics' Fascist originators had in mind—not so much the iron fist in the velvet glove, as the iron fist in a glove of brightly coloured, vaguely hip-hop-styled plastic foam, shipped by the containerload from China.)
Now, it has emerged that the Ministry of Defence will be billeting surface-to-air missiles on the roofs of apartment buildings in East London; one journalist who lives in the area received a leaflet notifying him of this; the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that it is considering missile deployments.
Having surface-to-air missiles deployed to defend an urban environment is a somewhat sketchy proposition at best; should the missiles be fired, whatever they shoot down will cause a lot of damage when it hits the ground (and if they miss, they themselves will cause some damage). The Whitehouse, famously, has a SAM battery on the roof (Dick Cheney reportedly ordered it as a red-meat-conservative replacement for Bill Clinton's unacceptably liberal solar cells); the implicit message being that the lives of those inside the Whitehouse are worth trading the lives of those around it for. Whether this reasoning transfers from the Commander-in-Chief of the Free World to a stadium full of spectators at a corporate promotional event is another question. (The Queen, the head of state of Britain, does not have a SAM battery defending Buckingham Palace and threatening to send any rogue aircraft down in flames onto the posh digs of Belgravia.) Meanwhile, Charlie Stross extrapolates on the possible unintended consequences:
Hmm. It's a good thing I'm a novelist who dabbles in technothrillers, not a terrorist. If I was a terrorist I'd be licking my lips, trying to work out how to trigger a missile launch. Using a motor-powered model aircraft, free flight design (no radio controls to jam) aimed vaguely towards the Olympic stadium, with a nice radio beacon or some sort of infra-red source (a flare, perhaps) on its tail to make it easy to track? These missiles will be the close-in option, because we know the RAF will already be flying combat air patrols over London; they won't have much time to evaluate threats or respond intelligently. So launch from the back of a panel van, like the IRA mortar attacks on places like Heathrow or 10 Downing Street. The twist in the scheme would be to aim past the missile launchers along a vector that would attract a hail of hypervelocity missile launches in the direction of, say, a DLR station at rush hour.Meanwhile, Stephen Graham (professor of cities and society at Newcastle University, and author of Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism) has an article on the security lockdown being imposed on London for the Olympics, much of it to protect the brand image of corporate sponsors:
Beyond these security spectaculars, more stealthy changes are underway. New, punitive and potentially invasive laws such as the London Olympic Games Act 2006 are in force. These legitimise the use of force, potentially by private security companies, to proscribe Occupy-style protests. They also allow Olympic security personnel to deal forcibly with the display of any commercial material that is deemed to challenge the complete management of London as a "clean city" to be branded for the global TV audience wholly by prime corporate sponsors (including McDonald's, Visa and Dow Chemical).
The final point is how the security operations of Olympics have major long-term legacies for their host cities and nations. The security preoccupations of Olympics present unprecedented opportunities to push through highly elitist, authoritarian and speculative urban planning efforts that otherwise would be much more heavily contested – especially in democracies. These often work to "purify" or "cleanse" diverse and messy realities of city life and portray existing places as "waste" or "derelict" spaces to be transformed by mysterious "trickle-down effects". The scale and nature of evictions and the clearance of streets of those deemed not to befit such events can seem like systematic ethnic or social cleansing. To make way for the Beijing Games, 1.5 million were evicted; clearances of local businesses and residents in London, though more stealthy, have been marked.
Looking at these various points together shows one thing: contemporary Olympics are society on steroids. They exaggerate wider trends. Far removed from their notional or founding ideals, these events dramatically embody changes in the wider world: fast-increasing inequality, growing corporate power, the rise of the homeland security complex, and the shift toward much more authoritarian styles of governance utterly obsessed by the global gaze and prestige of media spectacles.The permanent legacy of the authoritarian measures in the Olympic enabling laws mandated by the IOC cannot be emphasised enough; in Sydney, for example, restrictions on civil liberties passed for the 2000 Olympics were used, years later, to crack down on protests against the Catholic Church's “World Youth Day”, and remain on the books to this day.
And some are saying that the levels of brand policing, imposing criminal sanctions on the display of non-sponsor logos (to say nothing of political protests) within an Olympic zone and severely restricting the use of words such as “London” and “2012” by non-sponsors, will have an adverse effect on the alleged economic benefits of the Olympics, which are touted as much much of the rationale for putting up with all this in the first place.
Finally, Charlie Brooker weighs in:
Oral-B's official Olympic toothbrush exists because its parent company, Procter & Gamble, has a sponsorship deal enabling it to associate all its products with the Games. That's why if you look up Viakal limescale remover on a supermarket website, the famous five interlocking rings pop up alongside it. This in no way cheapens the Olympic emblem, which traditionally symbolises global unity, peaceful competition and gleaming stainless steel shower baskets.
Police in London have arrested 179 members of anti-immigrant group the English Defence League, after members of this group were planning a violent attack on Occupy LSX protesters outside St. Paul's, in the name of defending God and Country and bringing to bear the old ultra-violence against some "Cultural Marxists". I imagine that outspoken EDL fellow traveller Anders Breivik would have approved:
The English Defence League had issued statements and made threats on Facebook to burn down protesters tents if they were still outside St Paul's on Remembrance Sunday, according to Phillips.
A statement by the EDL on Thursday was read to the Occupy LSX general assembly on Friday morning to make people aware that there was a threat being made. "They called us all sorts of names in the statement and said we should leave "their" church and stop violating their religion," said Phillips.(Fascists claiming religion as exclusively theirs to defend and wield as a banner is nothing new: "Strength Through Purity, Purity Through Faith", as Alan Moore put it.)
Meanwhile, in eastern Germany, the story of three neo-Nazi fugitives who had been on the run since 1997 came to an end after two had shot each other in a trailer, and a third had been arrested after setting fire to the house they shared. Police searching the ruins of the house found a number of weapons, including the service pistol of a police officer killed by them during a bank robbery and a gun used in the execution-style murders of kebab shop owners across Germany. The three, calling themselves "Thüringer Heimschutz" (which Spiegel translates as "Thuringian Homeland Defence", though "Thuringian Homeland Security" is tantalisingly close) seemingly made little effort to hide, living openly among neo-Nazis in the town of Jena, which raises some questions of how they managed to avoid the attention of law-enforcement agencies:
Martina Renner, a ranking Left Party member in the state parliament, doubts these findings. "I think it's quite unlikely that those three lived for 10 years in Germany without having their cover blown." Even in 1998, she alleged -- when the manhunt began -- there were hints that the state's constitutional protection office had helped them disappear.
Renner says their alleged crimes even before 1998 were not just "petty crimes," but could have involved "explosions" of a "life-threatening magnitude." She says it's important to clarify just how deeply the state domestic intelligence office may have been involved. If a regional intelligence agency like that is prepared to "work with" such dangerous criminals, she says, the question arises whether the agency functions as an instrument to protect a democracy.
Spain's resurgent Right is moving to rehabilitate the memory of Franco. No longer a Fascist dictator whose totalitarian reign oppressed a country for two generations and left a trail of mass graves, according to Spain's Royal Academy of History, he is now merely a ruler who regrettably had to turn to authoritarian tactics to save Spain from "bandits" and "terrorists":
The fact that the dictionary has been presented under the patronage of the king himself and handsomely paid with taxpayers' money to the tune of €6.5m is doing very little to lessen the scandal many specialists and ordinary Spaniards feel at this body of work which, among other things, routinely refers to the republican side in the civil war as "the enemy" while Franco's troops are described as "the national army". Or, for example, when it praises the "pacification" of several regions, by which it means the execution of thousands of democrats, socialists, teachers and passersby in general.
Whatever the reasons, José María Aznar's eight years as prime minister between 1996 and 2004 were a great opportunity for his Popular party (PP) to distance itself from its slightly Francoist origins. But the opposite happened: it chose to legitimise Francoism instead. A whole school of revisionist historians was promoted to great success, endlessly recycling the old Francoist myths. It would have been just ridiculous were it not that at the same time the government was denying thousands of citizens the right to unearth their loved ones from the archipelago of mass graves which still covers the whole country.
Canadian psychology professor Bob Altemeyer has made available online the text of a book examining the psychology of authoritarianism. Altemeyer looks at what he calls Right-Wing Authoritarianism, a personality trait which manifests itself in a high degree of submission to the established authorities, high levels of aggression in the name of the authorities, and a high level of conventionalism, and correlates with the political right, at least in North America. (He also mentions left-wing authoritarianism—think dogmatic Maoism or similar—in passing, though dismisses it as having all but died out in North America, whereas right-wing authoritarianism is going from strength to strength.)
It’s about what happened to the American government after "conservatives" gained control of Congress in the 1990s and the White House in 2000. It’s about the disastrous decisions that government made, which have created the enormous problems we face now. It’s about the corruption that rotted the Congress. It’s about how traditional conservatism has nearly been destroyed by authoritarianism. It’s about how the “Religious Right” teamed up with amoral authoritarian leaders to push its un-democratic agenda onto the country.
For example, take the following statement: “Once our government leaders and the authorities condemn the dangerous elements in our society, it will be the duty of every patriotic citizen to help stomp out the rot that is poisoning our country from within.” Sounds like something Hitler would say, right? Want to guess how many politicians, how many lawmakers in the United States agreed with it? Want to guess what they had in common?Altemeyer puts forward a Right-Wing Authoritarian personality scale, with higher scores correlating with the trait. High-RWA individuals have a "Daddy knows best" attitute to the authorities. They defer to their leaders, and even while they often believe that the law, however harsh, must be obeyed, they will exempt their leaders from this if the ends justify the means (such as approving of illegal activities against "radicals" or "enemies of society"). They view the world in terms of in-groups and out-groups, with little sympathy for the latter, and an us-vs.-them outlook, exhibit aggression against those seen to be transgressing against the norms of society, and are quicker than average to join with others to take action against them. And, being highly conventional, they interpret a lot of things as existential threats to the established order. (Authoritarianism, in other words, seems to tie in with a survival-values worldview, driven by the perception of existential threats and the need to deal with them.) Being driven by faith in authority, high-RWAs are more capable than most of compartmentalising contradictory beliefs and resisting challenges to their beliefs posed by logic or evidence.
The Authoritarians looks at the RWA scale and other phenomena, such as religious fundamentalism, social-dominance orientation and real-world politics. Not surprisingly, there are correlations between right-wing authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism, and both are strong predictors of prejudice against out-groups. (Paradoxically, many high-RWA people exhibit both racial prejudices and hostility to overt racism, largely due to not seeing themselves or their peers as racially prejudiced; this would be the dampening effect authoritarianism has on insight and analysis.) Meanwhile, there are both parallels and differences between right-wing authoritarian followers and people who score highly on the social dominance scale; the former don't necessarily want personal power, whereas the latter are less likely to be religious or constrained by rules, though will often happily feign religiosity as a means to an end. Some individuals, of course, score highly on both scales. Because authoritarian followers are receptive to messages that feel right, and are suspicious of critical thought, right-wing authoritarian movements attract more than their share of power-hungry sociopaths willing to pound the right talking points to get willing, unquestioning followers.
The bad news is, the authoritarians have been ascendant over the past decade (in the US, Altemeyer says, they have largely seized the Republican Party). The good news is that right-wing authoritarianism, as a tendency, can be defeated. Studies have found that fear increases RWA scores, in effect making people shut up and follow the leader. (This was used to great effect by the Bush Whitehouse, for example, by instituting a prominent colour-coded terror threat level, seldom dipping below "severe", and raising it inexplicably before elections.) Fearful societies are governed by authoritarian survival values, which have a harder time of getting a grip without fear. Exposure to people unlike oneself and one's "in-group" also weakens authoritarian tendencies, as does a liberal education. A study cited by Altemeyer showed university students' RWA scores declining steadily over the course of their studies, and remaining low throughout their lives. (Parenting, meanwhile, causes one's RWA scores to increase slightly.)
There are other ideas Altemeyer's Right-Wing Authoritarianism scale ties into, such as Lakoff's strict-father/nurturing-parent family dichotomy (which Altemeyer looks at though finds weakly connected), Milgram's obedience experiment, Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment, and theories about the mass psychology of fascism. (Of which this strikes me as one of the more useful ones; while it may be fun to posit connections between fascism and manned flight or the mass spectacle of rock'n'roll, those are probably less useful for actually understanding the threat of fascism as a mass movement.)
(via Boing Boing)
The BNP has announced that it is forming an alliance in the EU with other nationalist parties. The European Alliance of National Movements will include the likes of France's National Front and the Hungarian neofascist group JOBBIK, though has fallen short of being an EU-recognised formal political grouping, mostly because the Tories' "European Conservatives and Reformers" group has cherry-picked most of the far right MEPs.
Anyway, I give them six months before the whole thing implodes with members accusing each other of being racially inferior and/or subhuman.
VICE Magazine's latest piece of
exploitation journalism: Babes of the BNP, in which they get a number of young female supporters of the far-right party, each of them as thick as two short planks, to disrobe for the camera and answer a few gentle interview questions:
When people say the BNP is a fascist party, what do you think?
Fascist – I don’t understand that word.
Think of Nazi Germany, or 1930s Italy.
I can’t even remember when that happened really, but I’m against them anyway.
You’re against who?
The Germans. I know that sounds evil… I was brought up that way.
Are most of your friends BNP?
Some of them are. I kind of got into it through my friend Danny. He’s really racist. Everyone calls him “Nazi Danny”. He started telling me about them, and it made a lot of sense.
In terms of the BNP’s repatriation policy on immigration, if you had to choose, who would you repatriate first – Dizzee Rascal or Tinchy Stryder?
Dizzee Rascal. I know this is gonna sound horrible, because he’s the one who’s the most, like… because, my problem is that when immigrants come over to this country, they try and bring in their own churches and languages. And I think he expresses himself more as like an African or whatever he is, whereas Tinchy Stryder is more American. That’s the difference.
Peter Andre – hero or villain?
Jeremy Clarkson – hero or villain?
Enoch Powell – hero or villain?
Nelson Mandela – hero or villain?
But would it be possible to maybe come to a compromise with a noble race like the Chinese? Perhaps keep them on as a sort of servant class?
Yeah. I wouldn’t mind them if they actually worked and didn’t take all of our jobs, basically.
The Independent looks at the Tories' new allies in Brussels, or, in particular, the other prospective members of the new right-wing group they're setting up because the standard centre-right is not strident enough:
It is expected to include the Belgian Lijst Dedecker party, some of whose politicians are former members of the far-right Vlaams Belang part, whose candidates backed a statement saying: "We urgently need global chemotherapy against Islam to save civilisation", and used campaigning material featuring an ape with the words "I have not forgotten my roots ... have you?"
The Tories are also in talks with the Dutch Christian Union, which includes the SGP, a Calvinist party which believes the Bible means that women should not stand for parliament but have a "nurturing role" at home. Mr Cameron's party is also wooing the Latvian Fatherland and Freedom party, several of whose MPs marched in Riga with veterans of the Latvian SS in March.
The 25 Tories will be the biggest national team in the new group. Its other prominent members will be the Polish Law and Justice Party, which has 15 MEPs, and the Czech Civic Democrats, which has nine. The Polish party, headed by the controversial Kaczynski twins, is anti-gay, and banned gay-rights processions. In talks on EU voting power, it demanded that Poland's losses at the hands of Hitler be added to its current population so it would have more clout.Noted by their absence are the other right-wing British parties, i.e., the UKIP (which is essentially the voice of Daily Mail-reading Britain) and the BNP (who are disadvantaged by being fascists with a high profile in Britain, unlike the Latvian Freedom and Fatherland party). The Tories are also trying to block the Italian Northern League from joining, though are in a quandary: they need MEPs from at least 7 EU states for the group to officially exist, and there are too few parties which aren't either happy in a mainstream group or on the wrong side of politics; so the Tories are walking a tightrope, having to pick parties with right-wing populist appeal who aren't obviously unpalatable. Which, in the age of the internet, may be harder to get away with.
The EU election results are in. It is, of course, a disastrous result for New Labour, with them winning only 11 seats, finishing third behind a single-issue minor party.
Britain also lurched sharply to the right. Everyone is, of course, talking about the BNP, a party which strenuously denies being fascist or racist with one breath and then talks about kicking dark-skinned people out of Britain with the next. They got two MEPs up. Though as attention-grabbing as neo-Nazis and those of that ilk are, the real news is elsewhere; the UKIP (a right-wing populist party currently focussed on pulling Britain out of the EU, though whose MEPs have in the past railed against womens' rights; they're like the BNP minus the overt racism and fascism) came second, winning 13 seats. First, of course, were the Tories, who, whilst paying lip service to centrism in Britain, have allied themselves with the right-wing fringe in the EU, having left the centre-right European People's Party and joined a new fringe-right bloc. The 24 Tory MEPs just elected will ally themselves with right-wing hardliners such as Poland's rabidly illiberal Law and Justice Party and Latvia's Fatherland and Freedom Party. The Greens, meanwhile, only scored two seats and a whisker more votes than the BNP, and the traditional leftist parties seem to have vanished into thin air.
If the UKIP are going to be the New Tory Britain's opposition party, they'll have to come up with some policies other than pulling Britain out of the EU and kicking all the Polish plumbers out. Such as, perhaps, bringing back the death penalty, national service or public flogging.
Wikileaks has posted what appears to be the British National Party's "Language & Concepts Discipline Manual, a set of guidelines for party activists to ensure that they don't appear, you know, racist or anything. A few choice excerpts:
Rule #1: The BNP is not a ‘racist’ or ‘racial’ or ‘racialist’ or ‘race-conscious’ or ‘white’ or ‘whitepeople’s’ party. It should never be referred to as such by BNP activists, and anyone else who does so must be politely but firmly corrected. The precisely correct description of what we are, in the standard terminology of international comparative politics, is an ‘ethno-nationalist’ party. That is, we espouse, like many political parties all over the world, the interests of the particular ethnic groups to which we belong. There is nothing fascistic or unusual about this, and we don’t have to apologise for it. If we must describe our attitude towards race, it is ‘racial realism,’ as no-one can admit being against realism.
Rule #15. BNP activists and writers should never refer to ‘black Britons’ or ‘Asian Britons’ etc, for the simple reason that such persons do not exist. These people are ‘black residents’ of the UK etc, and are no more British than an Englishman living in Hong Kong is Chinese. Collectively, foreign residents of other races should be referred to as ‘racial foreigners’, a non-pejorative term that makes clear the distinction needing to be drawn. The key in such matters is above all to maintain necessary distinctions while avoiding provocation and insult.
Rule #17. Britain does not have ‘immigrants,’ a term proper for use in settler societies like Canada, Argentina, and the USA. It has ‘guest workers,’ ‘foreign workers,’ or ‘descendants of foreign workers.’ They are, depending on who they are, ‘racial foreigners,’ ‘religious foreigners’ or ‘persons of foreign religion,’ or ‘ethnic foreigners.’ The last term is meant to apply to persons racially similar to Britons, but ethnically dissimilar, like Dutchmen.Meanwhile, Charlie Brooker tears into the BNP's ugly campaign materials:
The other day, the BNP had a political broadcast on the box. I wasn't in my beloved homeland at the time, but I heard about it, via internet chuckles of derision. Fellow geeky types tweeting about the poor production values. I looked it up on YouTube. Sure enough, it was badly made. No surprise there. Extremist material of any kind always looks gaudy and cheap, like a bad pizza menu. Not because they can't afford decent computers - these days you can knock up a professional CD cover on a pay-as-you-go mobile - but because anyone who's good at graphic design is likely to be a thoughtful, inquisitive sort by nature. And thoughtful, inquisitive sorts tend to think fascism is a bit shit, to be honest. If the BNP really were the greatest British party, they'd have the greatest British designer working for them - Jonathan Ive, perhaps, the man who designed the iPod. But they don't. They've got someone who tries to stab your eyes out with primary colours.
A new exhibition in Spain explores sexual relations under Franco's fascist régime, through official advice given to women by the Feminine Section of the Falange, the fascist party:
"If your husband asks you for unusual sexual practices, be obedient and don’t complain. If he suggests union, agree humbly? When the culminating moment arrives, a small whimper on your part is sufficient to indicate any pleasure that might have been experienced."
From 1937 to 1977, some three million women aged 17 to 35 joined an organisation that urged young girls "not to burden themselves with books ? there’s no need to be an intellectual". And although sport was encouraged – one of few positives of the mass mobilisation – enthusiasts were warned: "Don’t take sport as a pretext to wear scandalous costumes."
The head of the women’s section was Pilar Primo de Rivera, sister of Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, who founded the fascist Falange, the ideological backbone of Franco’s rule. "The life of every woman ? is nothing more than the eternal desire to find someone to submit to," she wrote.
For 40 years, women were drafted into "social service", a form of military conscription that supplied free labour for hospitals, publicly run restaurants and other social institutions.
It's getting harder to identify the neo-Nazis; no longer content to shave their heads and wear white bootlaces (much to the relief of skinheads into the scene for the music), they now have their own street-casual sportswear brand, Thor Steinar, which looks like any other streetwear, only with a few more Nordic symbols and (allegedly) the odd hint at Nazi sympathies:
Many of the symbols are straightforward. On one Thor Steinar T-shirt, the word kontaktfreudig is splashed across red splotches that look like spatters of blood. The word could be translated as "outgoing," or more literally, "happy to make contact." The display on Rosa-Luxemburg Street includes clothing with common symbols like an eagle for German pride, or "18" and "88" for "Adolf Hitler" and "Heil Hitler" -- numbers freighted with meaning because of the position of the initials in the alphabet.The Thor Steinar brand (some of whose earlier designs have been banned for looking too runic and warlike) denies deliberately appealing to neo-Nazis, though some regard these denials with scepticism. Still, it's not clear how long they can cash in on the crypto-Nazi demographic, now that the company has been bought by a Dubai-based Arab investor. On the other hand, the Nazis of today aren't necessarily all that discerning:
"They are getting harder to spot," she said, taking a picture out of a folder showing far-right and far-left activists facing off at a march. Both groups wore Che Guevara T-shirts and checked scarves -- long a leftist symbol of solidarity with Palestinians. But the far right co-opted both symbols, she explained, just as neo-Nazis have taken to wearing all black, which used to be an anarchist fashion statement.
Guevara may be the strangest appropriation of all. Neo-Nazis wear his image but don't hesitate to beat up people who look different -- including Latin Americans.Perhaps next they'll adopt Robert Mugabe as a political icon; after all, he's thuggish enough, and is one of the few political leaders in recent times to have proudly equated himself to Hitler. The whole "white-supremacy" angle could prove to be a stumbling block though.
An argument has erupted between Italy's brusquely right-wing Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and archtitect Daniel Libeskind (best known for the Berlin Jewish Museum, New York's planned Freedom Tower and the Metropolitan University student union building in Holloway Road), after Berlusconi criticised Libeskind's design for a tower in Milan for not being straight enough, and emanating "a sense of impotence":
"In Fascist Italy, everything that was not 'straight' was considered 'perverse art'," said Libeskind. "My tower is inspired by the work of Leonardo da Vinci, and great Italian culture. [Mr Berlusconi] does not have the time or intellect to study these.
"As an American and Jew brought up in Poland, I find Berlusconi abominable. His concept of nationalism, of closing borders and denying what's different, is repugnant. He hates foreigners."Some are now speculating that Berlusconi will have planning permission for the project revoked. (Which suggests that in Italy, rule of law is sufficiently feeble to allow the prime minister to override local decision-makers out of pique.)
Naomi Wolf claims that, after 9/11, Bush's America has been following a historically well-trodden path — the path from an open society to fascism:
If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.
As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.The steps Wolf cites, giving examples of each, are:
- Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
- Create a gulag
- Develop a thug caste
- Set up an internal surveillance system
- Harass citizens' groups
- Engage in arbitrary detention and release
- Target key individuals
- Control the press
- Dissent equals treason
- Suspend the rule of law
It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere - while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: "dogs go on with their doggy life ... How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster."
What if, in a year and a half, there is another attack - say, God forbid, a dirty bomb? The executive can declare a state of emergency. History shows that any leader, of any party, will be tempted to maintain emergency powers after the crisis has passed. With the gutting of traditional checks and balances, we are no less endangered by a President Hillary than by a President Giuliani - because any executive will be tempted to enforce his or her will through edict rather than the arduous, uncertain process of democratic negotiation and compromise.
What if the publisher of a major US newspaper were charged with treason or espionage, as a rightwing effort seemed to threaten Keller with last year? What if he or she got 10 years in jail? What would the newspapers look like the next day? Judging from history, they would not cease publishing; but they would suddenly be very polite.
We need to look at history and face the "what ifs". For if we keep going down this road, the "end of America" could come for each of us in a different way, at a different moment; each of us might have a different moment when we feel forced to look back and think: that is how it was before - and this is the way it is now.An exercise for the reader: which, if any, of the 10 steps to fascism have been taken in your country?
Rock aristocrat Bryan Ferry, unapologetic Tory and fox-hunting advocate, has expressed his admiration for the Nazis' aesthetic achievements:
In an interview withWelt am Sonntag, the 61-year-old also acknowledged that he calls his studio in west London his "Führerbunker". "My God, the Nazis knew how to put themselves in the limelight and present themselves," he said. "Leni Riefenstahl's movies and Albert Speer's buildings and the mass parades and the flags - just amazing. Really beautiful."Of course, when cornered about this, Ferry denied having Nazi sympathies, making all the right noises about abhorring Nazism itself and repudiating the Nazis' genocidal actions and ideologies. No, to him, it was purely about the spiffy uniforms and spectacular parades:
The singer, who is also a model for Marks and Spencer, issued a statement yesterday in which he said he was "deeply upset" by the negative publicity his remarks had caused. It added: "I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused by my comments on Nazi iconography, which were solely made from an art history perspective.Which would be alright, except for a few things; as No Rock'n'Roll Fun argues, you can't separate the aesthetics of Nazism from the "bad bits", without seeming monstrously callous at best and at worst to be protesting too much. And then there's his statement that he refers to his studio as the "Führerbunker" thing, which seems to give lie to his protests of having no Nazi sympathies whatsoever.
Though just looking at the aesthetics whose praises he sang so loudly: Albert Speer's cyclopean monumentalism, the Wagnerian bombast, the masses marching and chanting in unison, all subtlety subsumed beneath the single-minded show of raw, primal force. There isn't much good that can be said about these things; at best, they're crass and kitschy, and at worst, the mindset behind them is inseparable from that which would countenance projects such as the Third Reich. One does wonder about the mindset of someone with such aesthetic sensibilities.
And here is Momus' take on the whole matter, in which he reiterates his view that the aesthetics of rock are inherently fascist:
The fact that I sense some kind of fascism in rock music (especially live rock music) is absolutely central to my lifelong avoidance of the form. And rock stars don't seem to disagree with me, just disagree that it's bad, or matters. In 1975 a coked- and occulted-up David Bowie called Hitler "the first rock star -- he staged a whole country". Keith Moon liked to dress up as a Nazi, and Bobby Gillespie is fond of throwing Hitler salutes, probably more in tribute to Iggy than Adolf. What Ferry is saying now is a tame, drawing room version of the same thing.
Italian Prime Minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi has made statements defending a footballer, facing criticism for using the Fascist salute as "a bit of a show-off". That, in itself, is not particularly shocking for a conservative politician; however, he followed it up with a defense of the legitimacy of Fascism:
"Fascism in Italy was never a criminal doctrine. There were the racial laws, horrible, but because one wanted to win the war with Hitler," Mr Berlusconi told foreign journalists.Of course, given that Berlusconi has near-total control of Italy's television (owning the largest private TV network and controlling state-run TV, which, presumably, is not funded by a BBC-style license fee), he stands a chance of getting away with it and winning the next election (which he is confidently boasting that he will).
In 1950, a book titled The Authoritarian Personality posited the claim that, far from being alien, fascist tendencies were commonplace in American society. The book is best known for the "F Scale", a test of how inclined one would be, should the opportunity present itself, to don the jackboots of authoritarianism. The test consisted of a number of multiple-choice questions, with the answers added to give a score; in that sense, it's an ancestor of numerous OKCupid tests and LiveJournal memes.
The F Scale is not perfect: for one, it focuses almost exclusively on a strain of traditionalist, right-wing authoritarianism, ignoring other strains, such as Soviet-style social engineering. (This could be because one of the authors was the famous Marxist critical theorist Theodor Adorno, and/or because authoritarian utopianism à la Lenin never had more than niche popularity in the US, where the research was carried out.) However, according to this article, it's more relevant today than it was when it was written:
In the June 19, 2005, issue of The New York Times Magazine, the journalist Russell Shorto interviewed activists against gay marriage and concluded that they were motivated not by a defense of traditional marriage, but by hatred of homosexuality itself. "Their passion," Shorto wrote, "comes from their conviction that homosexuality is a sin, is immoral, harms children and spreads disease. Not only that, but they see homosexuality itself as a kind of disease, one that afflicts not only individuals but also society at large and that shares one of the prominent features of a disease: It seeks to spread itself." It is not difficult to conclude where those people would have stood on the F scale.
Consider the case of John R. Bolton, now our ambassador to the United Nations. While testifying about Bolton's often contentious personality, Carl Ford Jr., a former head of intelligence within the U.S. State Department, called him a "a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy." Surely, in one pithy sentence, that perfectly summarizes the characteristics of those who identify with strength and disparage weakness. Everything Americans have learned about Bolton -- his temper tantrums, intolerance of dissent, and black-and-white view of the world -- step right out of the clinical material assembled by the authors of The Authoritarian Personality.
One item on the F scale, in particular, seems to capture in just a few words the way that many Christian-right politicians view the world in an age of terror: "Too many people today are living in an unnatural, soft way; we should return to the fundamentals, to a more red-blooded, active way of life."
John Birmingham's eulogy for Joh Bjelke-Petersen, former despot of Queensland:
As long as there is a spark of life in Australian democracy, the mid 1980s, when Bjelke-Petersen ruled alone, at the very zenith of his powers, should be studied in civics courses as an object lesson in what happens when untrammelled power is gathered into the shaky, liver-spotted hands of a stuttering, proto-fascist brute with just enough rat-bastard cunning to mask his true nature behind a carefully constructed facade of endearing bumpkinry.
Should his legacy be the flight of thousands of Queenslanders to safer, less contested lives in those states where politics did not threaten to become an intimately personal matter, something that could, in the worst case, reach out and touch you, shrivelling your options to fight or flight? And, really, only to the latter.
His state funeral should be an appropriate ceremony. Perhaps a pack of dingoes could be starved for a week before being sooled upon his corpse in the mudflats down by the Brisbane River. Or he could be buried at sea with the worst of his cabinet ministers, all of them dipped in chum and fed to the hammerheads and reef sharks off the Great Barrier Reef which they were so keen to open up to mining.
It looks like the next generation of Americans are finally getting over that "free speech" fad that gripped the country for 200 or so years. A survey of US schoolchildren has revealed that one in three believe the First Amendment goes "too far", Meanwhile, half of students believe that the government has the power to restrict any indecent material on the internet and newspapers should require government approval of stories for publication. This is in contrast with dangerously liberal views held by their pinko-coddling baby-boomer elders:
When asked whether people should be allowed to express unpopular views, 97 percent of teachers and 99 percent of school principals said yes. Only 83 percent of students did.
Eventually, though, the baby boomers will die away and America can complete its transformation into the new Sparta, all without anybody noticing that anything has changed. Or maybe it won't; perhaps this is not so much a trend as part of a cycle. I heard accounts of similar things happening during the McCarthy era (one in which someone once posted a copy of the Bill of Rights, without the heading, somewhere, attracting outraged complaints about "Communist propaganda").
An interesting article titled The Rise of American Fascism. No, it's not about the PATRIOT Act and FOXNews, but starts over 100 years ago with the introduction of the Pledge of Allegiance, and goes on to the massive popularity of the Ku Klux Klan (who, back then, were mainstream in the way that Bill O'Reilly is), the epidemics of lynchings, the eugenics movement, internment camps, various Red Scares, the influence of the likes of Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh, multinational corporations having a bob each way during WW2: (via gimbo)
Ford had developed a "Sociological Department" for his company, the goal of which was to "put a soul into the company." Ford told the head of the department that he wanted him to, "put Jesus Christ in my factory." In order to qualify for the $5 a day wage that Ford was offering a worker had to submit to corporate surveillance of his lifestyle by the Sociological Department. Employees were subject to home inspections, had to prove they were sober, prove they regularly saved a portion of their paycheck, and prove that they were not "living riotously," which included activities such as gambling or staying out late.The article puts the 1950s as the time when "America would truly became a fascist country in both the economic and social sense":
This last change to the pledge is very symbolic of the finalization of the fascist state in America. During the 1950s, as happened in Italy and Germany, the barriers between Church, State, and Corporation had all been broken.
In 1956 Congress changed the national motto from "E Pluribus Unum" to "In God We Trust", and "So help me God" was added to federal oaths (despite the fact that the Christian Bible clearly states not to swear on God or any other person, place, or thing when taking an oath. Matthew 5:33-37, James 5:12).
All of this is exactly the same type of thing that took place in Fascist Europe, and just as in Europe these were changes that were not forced upon people by the State, but they were in fact supported by the people out of the increasingly conservative social climate.
A gallery in London is staging an exhibition of Italian late-futurist "aeropainting", vaguely Art Deco-ish paintings of bombers on missions and such from Mussolini's Italy. The Ettorick Collection are downplaying the fascist subtext of the images, though that hasn't gotten past the appalled Guardian columnist, who also suggests that the Berlusconi government's backing of such an exhibition may be part of an attempt to rehabilitate Mussolini, and/or a fascist streak in the right-wing Italian government.
Tato painted this piece of fascist crap in 1937. Does the date ring a bell? It was on April 26 1937 that the Condor Legion of the German Luftwaffe, in support of General Franco's war against the Spanish Republic, bombed the Basque capital Guernica, on a market day, killing 1,654 people out of a population of 7,000. Pablo Picasso began Guernica after he read about this new chapter in the story of human cruelty. It seems plausible that Tato's painting Aerial Mission refers to the same events. For more than half a century Picasso's Guernica has preserved the memory of a town torn to pieces by aerial bombing. Now, at last, Futurist Skies gives us the other point of view: that of the murderer in the cockpit.
Futurist Skies is not a joke. It is not a parody but an example of the moronic complacency of the art world. And it really does have the support of the Italian state. Silvio Berlusconi's government has meanly and destructively starved museums of cash. But the director of the Estorick Collection warmly thanks the Italian foreign ministry for its "commitment" and "support" for this exhibition of meretricious art from the golden age of Il Duce. At least it's good to know where the Berlusconi government's cultural priorities lie. Claiming "aeropainting" as a major 20th-century art amounts to rehabilitating fascist kitsch.
And, for reference, Flying and the Fascist Aesthetic, a screed from USENET a decade or so ago, making a connection between the two subjects:
Why is flying inherently fascist? Because it exploits man's drive to put himself *above* the masses, as if the masses were some sort of disease that needs to be expurged from the soul. Flight becomes partly a search for clarity [of the sort that fascist movements purport to offer], partly a quest to raise the spectre of patriarchic hegemony to new, unfounded heights. Here there are many parallels to Hitler. Everything in Hitler's speeches built on the idea of "purity", "room for living", etc. So it is no doubt that some parallels may rise to the surface, once that surface is scratched.
Leftist anti-racist groups are calling for a boycott of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, citing organiser Richard Wolstencroft's statements professing admiration for various dictators, including Hitler and Mussolini (though also Nu Marxist idols Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro). Already, anarchist punk band CRASS have withdrawn permission for their films to screen (assuming that they gave it in the first place, which given Wolstencroft's maverick style of doing business, may not necessarily be the case). (via Rocknerd)
Speaking to The Bulletin, Wolstencroft said: I have controversial ideas about things, and I dont hide them. And sometimes I say stupid things. But I am not a racist, and Im not interested in nationalism. What he is interested in is something he calls transcendental fascism, which he stresses is non-racist and non-violent. Is it hierarchical? It is certainly not hierarchical based on anything like race, he says.
Co-founder of Loonar Watch, Shane Lyons, admits there is no proof that Wolstencroft is racist or anti-Semitic. My problem with [Wolstencroft] is that hes taking money in the form of entry fees to the festival, mostly from young film-makers, he says.
All this reminds me of the story recounted in Jon Ronson's THEM where some Canadian radical socialist types tried to cream-pie David Icke on the grounds that they could not imagine "giant lizards" could not be anything but a sneaky codeword for "Jews" (of course...) It's another example of what author Curtis White calls the Middle Mind in action; people who have gotten so used to going with the flow, delegating the thinking to the herd at large (on the subconscious assumption that someone smarter than oneself must have done it) that they have lost the ability to think for themselves, instead replacing thought with a keyword-matching mechanism for seeking out hot buttons to react against. Incidentally, it's not just the left who are guilty of this by any stretch; look at all the "patriots" in the USA who dutifully threw their Dixie Chicks CDs on bonfires because the man on Clear Channel told them to.
Who said it: Little Green Footballs or Late German Fascist? See if you can tell your warbloggers from your Nazis. (via Ben Butler)
(Re Godwin's Law: Is it still mentioning Nazis in vain when it's about someone calling for mass sterilisation of "subhuman vermin", as opposed to advocating their text editor preferences or whatever?)
A future history of the fall of the United States, which descends into authentic fascism under the influence of reality television, celebrity politics and news/entertainment programming. (via MeFi)
An Independent piece claiming similarities between Tony Blair and Mussolini:
For a start, Blair extols the virtues of the Third Way, which was the phrase coined by the Fascists, no less, to describe their alternative to capitalism and communism. Blair began as a left-wing pacifist and became a right-wing warmonger. He is dictatorial and ignores Parliament if he can and he is a master of propaganda (spin). He is also a bit of a musician - always a dangerous sign in a politician - and plays the electric guitar. So was Mussolini. He played the violin.
People, especially people on the left, tend to forget - presumably because it is inconvenient to remember - that Mussolini was a revolutionary socialist before he was anything else. They forget, too, that he founded Fascism not as a right-wing dictatorship but as a left-wing revolutionary movement that provided an alternative first to socialism then to communism.
It then goes on to compare Mussolini's Corporate State with the New Labour Third Way of corporatisation and neo-liberal economics. And then there's both statesmen's gift for spin:
A phrase Mussolini often used to describe the Italian parliament was that it was "invincibly nauseous". Fascism transformed political participation from an isolated act involving the ballot box into a daily act of religious faith. Blair has not - heavens, no - abolished democracy as Mussolini did, but democracy has diminished under Blair. The Opposition languishes in torpid impotence. The Prime Minister appears increasingly to resemble some whacky kind of cult leader. He avoids debate in Parliament if he can. He talks to the people direct, via television, as Mussolini did via the piazza. Mussolini was famous for his balcony speeches - his "dialogues with the crowd". A modern Mussolini would not need to do anything so obvious as to tackle democracy head on. He could just side-step it with spin.
A piece in the Age about the Blackshirts, the militant "men's group" who want adultery to be punishable by death and seek to achieve this by intimidating women who left their husbands, and their founder, former fixture of the rock'n'roll scene John Abbott.
He now lives with his parents, attends church and plans Blackshirts' campaigns. He quotes the Bible, laments the loss of his children, but defends his decision not to see them. They will be reunited in heaven, he says. "The whole family will be reinstated. That's what heaven's about; there there's no pain."
The Blackshirts could be said to be the extreme wing of the reactionary wave washing through Australian culture, that started with One Nation and went on to the Howard government and its bring-back-the-Menzies-era paternalism. If they get sufficiently big and threatening, we could see the government co-opt some of their less insane policies (such as abolishing no-fault divorce laws, or "reforming" the family court system).
Another (somewhat more detailed) article, this time in the Grauniad, about the Blackshirts, the adamantly non-racist, neo-fascist, extreme "men's movement". This time it goes beyond the scary uniforms and the this-is-not-a-swastika logos and actually gets these gents' opinions (which are, as one might expect, somewhat unhinged): (via Feorag)
The Blackshirts say that their only intention is to promote the sanctity of marriage, and they believe that to achieve this aim adultery should be punishable by death. Furthermore, they warn that if the law does not change they may resort to dragging adulterers from their homes and lynching them.
One Blackshirt, who gave his name only as Dominic, admitted that he had been refused custody of his daughter because of an unfavourable psychological report, but put the result down to bias in court.
Gee, I wonder why...
(It reminds me of the guy in the Bourke St. Mall with the signs about how The Simpsons and rock lyrics are full of Masonic codewords, who claimed that the Freemasons were trying to destroy him because he got in fights with the sons of Masons when he was a boy, and now whenever he gets a job, they deliberately set it up so that he gets in a fight and is dismissed.)
Mr Abbott claims that a fifth of Blackshirts are female and that a women's arm of the organisation is about to be established. But there were no women at yesterday's demonstration. "They do more the administrative work," he explained.
I'll bet they do...
Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns into bed: In Melbourne, a group of divorced fathers angry at the state of family law have decided to do the most sensible thing about it: form a paramilitary fascist group, complete with uniforms, balaclavas and a historically ominous name (the Blackshirts), and go around campaigning to "re-establish marriage" by the most direct route: that is, of course, by anonymously harrassing their and each others' ex-wives. Now it turns out that the organiser of this group is a fixture of Melbourne's rock'n'roll scene. He has apparently run a rehearsal studio for over a decade, and users of it are familiar with his numerous psychoceramic beliefs (such as towing Tasmania back to the mainland).
This was good enough to plagiarise in its entirety: Charlie Stross on copyright fascism:
- The key feature of the political system known as Fascism is that the State is more important than the individual -- your body does not belong to you, it belongs to the State.
- The key feature of the ideological system known as Copyright Fascism is that the Rights holder is more important than the consumer -- your experiences don't belong to you, they belong to the Distributor.
You can identify copyright fascists because they're the guys who say things like "skipping advertising breaks on TV is theft", and apply emotive words like "piracy" (armed robbery and murder on the high seas) to having an unauthorised copy of a piece of software (shoplifting).
There's an agenda at work here, folks. Learn to recognize it.
(NB:I'd use the term "creator" instead of Distributor, except that there are precious few musicians, programmers, authors or editors who'd take such an extremist position. As usual, the ones who are least creative are the ones who are most anxious to defend totalitarianism.)
Creepy link of the day: The White Supremacist guide to dating, or how to be the psychopath women can't resist and win over the Eva Braun of your dreams (attributed to one "Elizabeth Bennett", who I think is named after a Jane Austen character; go figure):
Many people have pondered and scratched their heads, wondering what the connection is between sex and violence. The answer is, sex IS violence and women want to have sex with a violent man... The fact is, women experience sex as a delicious form of violence. What is more violent than losing control of your body for nine months, swelling up like a tick? I know it's hard for you to understand (because you aren't a faggot who wants to be dominated) but if you don't understand how women feel about sex -- the mixture of pleasure and pain, fear and excitement, melting in a haze of pleasure and degradation -- then you can't be a good lover.
(You know, parts of this read like a neo-Nazi version of Ayn Rand, or perhaps Houseplants of Gor...) (via NtK, bOING bOING)
First there was the Kazakhstan hobbit crackdown, and now, Italian neo-fascists are getting really into Tolkien, running "Hobbit Camps" for young fascists. What's going on?
For the fortysomethings of Alleanza Nazionale (AN), the right-wing party in government, J R R Tolkien and his cast of elves and hobbits are as much a part of their political property as Che Guevara was for the left-wing. So much so that AN members of parliament and sympathisers held their own private première of the film.