Fake Fascism, Phony Populism & False Outrage
BY ALLAN UTHMAN
I’m actually starting to feel sorry for conservatives. They’ve never made much sense, but the trouncing they took in November appears to have driven them completely insane.
I can’t think of a better word to describe people who meet up to protest taxes when taxes have not been raised, or who actually accuse the president who ended torture of being a fascist.
It seems fairly obvious, but if taxes and deficits were the issue, these same people would have been out in the streets for years now. The real issues, the true motives behind these paltry protests, are fairly simple: They lost, and there’s a black guy with a foreign-sounding name in the White House. Does anyone think a bunch of old white people would be out in the street shouting crazy shit about fascism if Hillary Clinton was president? Not a chance. They’d be mad, but not insane.
What evidence is there that Obama’s a fascist? So far, it seems that his insistence on the resignation of GM CEO Rick Wagoner is pretty much it. There is carping that he is asserting “unconstrained control” of the economy, but this is hogwash. He is, of course, totally constrained by congress; they just want to give him what he wants at the moment, much like the Delay congress did for Bush. Primarily, it seems, it is Obama’s very charisma that right-wingers see as a sign of fascism. That is, of course, totally ridiculous. A charismatic leader is not a requirement of fascism, only that a leader be in total control and willing to use force to suppress his political opposition, neither condition being met by Obama. But to the Right, the very fact of Obama’s popularity is proof enough that he is a black Hitler.
Just look at the signs in those ubiquitous pictures of the ludicrously over-hyped “tea parties” on tax day. “Obama’s plan: white slavery.” “Barack Hussein Obama: The new face of Hitler.” And my personal favorite, “The American taxpayers are the Jews for Obama’s ovens.”
It would be bad enough if this were the worst of it, but there is much more. We’ve all heard the crazed, baseless conspiracy theories about Obama’s birth certificate, the flatly idiotic notions of his plans to impose Islamic law, the accusations of “radical Marxism.” But the hits just keep on coming. Recently, Alan Keyes, fast becoming the most ridiculous man in America, asserted that Obama would stage terrorist acts as a pretext for declaring martial law and cancelling future elections.
It’s hard to gauge just how many people really believe this crazy crap, but it’s obviously not enough to hurt Obama’s approval ratings, which is just driving the right even crazier. Glenn Beck, for instance, appears to be having a nervous breakdown on live TV, to the entertainment of millions.
Beck, the new model of faux populist outrage, is really something to behold. There’s an element of danger to his performances that you just don’t see in the typical right wing ideologue. Hannity is Hannity every day—he’s not going to have a fit or burst into tears on camera, not ever. Beck, on the other hand, is doing some kind of schizophrenic high wire act, descending further into madness with each broadcast.
If you want to understand real fascism, check out his new website, the912project.com, which “is designed to bring us back to the place we were on September 12th, 2001.” Think about that for a second. Glenn Beck and his ilk think America was at its best on the day we were the most frightened, traumatized, and bewildered in recent history. I remember 9/12/01. People who had always seemed reasonable to me were bellowing about leaving glass craters in the desert. It was the most bloodthirsty, irrational, and easily led that this nation has been in my life, and Beck thinks that’s exactly where we need to be. This is because Glenn Beck is a real fascist. He wants the American people scared shitless, willing to submit to any violation of their rights, begging for a strongman to protect them from the evil other. Charisma’s got nothing to do with it.
Of course, there has always been a crazy left, too. The difference is that they never got the kind of media attention that these teabagging faux populists have. There were truly grassroots demonstrations against the Iraq invasion, involving not hundreds, but hundreds of thousands. But they never received even a hundredth of the press coverage these ridiculous tea parties did. In fact, they were ignored as much as possible, to the point of implausibility.
The highest estimate I’ve seen for tea party turnout, the one cited by Michelle Malkin and other conservative ideologues with an obvious desire to inflate the numbers as much as possible, is 250,000 nationwide, at 800 events. First of all, that makes for an average of 312 people per event. Second, 250,000 people is fewer than showed up at a single anti-war rally in DC before the Iraq invasion, which received nothing like the press coverage these ridiculous tea parties did. Guess how many people showed for the DC tea party? 3,000. Three fucking thousand. That’s your big scary tax revolt, after weeks of promotion on cable news.
I want to emphasize this point again. Even former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, whose FreedomWorks non-profit coordinated the tea parties, said on Meet the Press that there were “over 800 tea parties around the country, with attendance in the hundreds.” Get that? That’s hundreds. The largest congregation of teabaggers of all was in the largest southern capitol, Atlanta, numbering 15,000.
Folks, these numbers aren’t modest; they are completely pathetic. 15,000 white people isn’t a major people’s movement; it’s a Rush concert. In other cities, the protests drew fewer people than a good street magician. There is no legitimate justification for the amount of coverage these tiny crowds received.
The hard right—people who call guys like Beck, Limbaugh and Hannity “great Americans”—find themselves suddenly marginalized, powerless, irrelevant. There is a natural radicalization that goes along with this kind of political alienation, and we saw some of this on the left during the Bush years. The difference is that the “loony left” and even the not-so-loony left was almost completely ignored by the press in those years. Even now, the equivalents of these “Obama=Hitler” nutjobs on the left, if there are any, aren’t paid any mind. However, this rapidly dwindling, obviously ignorant, increasingly manic fringe on the right is still somehow a major media focus point.
Why? Maybe it’s because their ostensible message about taxes is one shared by the extremely wealthy, the ones who actually stand to lose something (about 4% of their income) if Obama’s tax plan is implemented. Maybe it’s because the press has been swallowed up by giant conglomerates, which also stand to lose. Of course, it’s sad that there are always a few pawns willing to work on their behalf, but it’s also pretty encouraging just how few of them there are. Despite the best efforts of hugely popular media outlets to confuse the issues and demonize Obama as a fascist socialist America-hater, his approval rating is at 64%. And in an amazing development, the majority of Americans don’t even think their taxes are too high.
It seems that people may finally be wising up to the fraudulent economics of the GOP, despite the corporate press’ best efforts to fool them. Yes, we have a huge debt problem, but we all know whose fault that is. And the only way we will ever pay down that debt is to raise taxes. That’s not fascism; that’s reality.
But reality is the last thing on the teabaggers’ minds. In fact, reality is the enemy. What they want, what they appear to need, is something, anything, that will enable them to deny their own culpability in causing the truly horrific condition this country was in the day Obama walked into the Oval Office and Bush flew away from a crowd of jeering people–a very, very big crowd.