American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America by Chris Hedges
“The split in America, rather than simply economic, is between those who embrace reason, who function in the real world of cause and effect, and those who, numbed by isolation and despair, now seek meaning in a mythical world of intuition, a world that is no longer reality-based, a world of magic.”
“The triviality of American popular culture, its emptiness and gossip, accelerates this destruction of critical thought. It expands the void, the mindlessness that makes the magic, mythology, and irrationality of the Christian Right palatable. Television, the movement’s primary medium, allows viewers to preoccupy themselves with context-free information. The homogenized empty chatter on the airwaves, the banal amusement and clichés, the bizarre doublespeak endlessly repeated on cable news channels and the huge spectacles in sports stadiums have replaced America’s political, social and moral life, indeed replaced community itself. Television lends itself perfectly to this world of signs and wonders, to the narcissism of national and religious self-exaltation. Television discourages real communication. Its rapid frames and movements, its constant use of emotional images, its sudden shifts from one theme to an unrelated theme, banish logic and reason with dizzying perplexity. It, too, makes us feel good. It, too, promises to protect and serve us. It, too, promises to life us up and thrill us. The televangelists have built their movement on these commercial precepts. The totalitarian creed of the Religious Right has found in television the perfect medium. Its leaders know how television can be used to seduce and encourage us to walk away from dwindling, less exciting collectives that protect and nurture us. They have mastered television’s imperceptible, slowly induced hypnosis. And they understand the enticement of credo quia absurdum—I believe because it is absurb.”
“But this new class seeks to reduce the American working class to the levels of this global serfdom. After all, anything that drains corporate coffers is a loss of freedom–the God-given American freedom to exploit other human beings to make money. The marriage of this gospel of prosperity with raw, global capitalism, and the flaunting of the wealth and privilege it brings, are supposedly blessed and championed by Jesus Christ. Compassion is regulated to private, individual acts of charity or left to the churches. The callousness of the ideology, the notion that it in any way reflects the message of the gospels, which were preoccupied with the poor and the outcasts, illustrates how the new class has twisted Christian scripture to serve America’s god of capitalism and discredited the Enlightenment values we once prized.”
“The radical Christian Right calls for exclusion, cruelty and intolerance in the name of God. Its members do not commit evil for evil’s sake. They commit evil to make a better world. To attain this better world, they believe, some must suffer and be silenced, and at the end of time all those who oppose them must be destroyed. The worst suffering in human history has been carried out by those who preach such grand, utopian visions, those who seek to implant by force their narrow, particular version of goodness. This is true for all doctrines of personal salvation, from Christianity to ethnic nationalism to communism to fascism. Dreams of a universal good create hells of persecution, suffering and slaughter. No human being could ever be virtuous enough to attain such dreams, and the Earth has swallowed millions of hapless victims in the vain pursuit of a new heaven and a new Earth. Ironically, it is idealism that leads radical fundamentalists to strip human beings of their dignity and their sanctity and turn them into abstractions. Yet it is only by holding on to the sanctity of each individual, each human life, only by placing our faith in tiny, unheroic acts of compassion and kindness, that we survive as a community and as individual human beings. These small acts of kindness are deeply feared and subversive to these idealists.”
“Human kindness is deeply subversive to totalitarian creeds, which seek to thwart all compassion toward those deemed unworthy of moral consideration, those branded as internal or external enemies.”
“Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.”
“This is the apotheosis of capitalism, the divine sanction of the free market, of unhindered profit and the most rapacious cruelties of globalization. Corporations, rapidly turning America into an oligarchy, have little interest in Christian ethics, or anybody’s ethics. They know what they have to do, as the titans of the industry remind us, for their stockholders. They are content to increase profit at the expense of those who demand fair wages, health benefits, safe working conditions and pensions. This new oligarchic class is creating a global marketplace where all workers, to compete, will have to become like workers in dictatorships such as China: denied rights, their wages dictated to them by the state, and forbidden from organizing or striking. America once attempted to pull workers abroad up to American levels, to foster the building of foreign labor unions, to challenge the abuse of workers in factories that flood the American market with cheap goods. But this new class seeks to reduce the American working class to the levels of this global serfdom. After all, anything that drains corporate coffers is a loss of freedom—the God-given American freedom to exploit other human beings to make money. The marriage of this gospel of prosperity with raw, global capitalism, and the flaunting of the wealth and privilege it brings, are supposedly blessed and championed by Jesus Christ. Compassion is relegated to private, individual acts of charity or left to churches. The callousness of the ideology, the notion that it in any way reflects the message of the gospels, which were preoccupied with the poor and the outcasts, illustrates how the new class has twisted Christian scripture to serve America’s god of capitalism and discredited the Enlightenment values we once prized.”
“This conditioning of children to fear nonconformity and blindly obey ensures continued obedience as adults. The difficult task of learning how to make moral choices, how to accept personal responsibility, how to deal with the chaos of human life is handed over to God-like authority figures. The process makes possible a perpetuation of childhood. It allows the adult to bask in the warm glow and magic of divine protection. It masks from them and from others the array of human weaknesses, including our deepest dreads, our fear of irrelevance and death, our vulnerability and uncertainty. It also makes it difficult, if not impossible, to build mature, loving relationships, for the believer is told it is all about them, about their needs, their desires, and above all, their protection and advancement. Relationships, even within families, splinter and fracture. Those who adopt the belief system, who find in the dictates of the church and its male leaders a binary world of right and wrong, build an exclusive and intolerant comradeship that subtly or overtly shuns and condemns the “unsaved.” People are no longer judged by their intrinsic qualities, by their actions or capacity for self-sacrifice and compassion, but by the rigidity of their obedience. This defines the good and the bad, the Christian and the infidel. And this obedience is a blunt and effective weapon against the possibility of a love that could overpower the dictates of the hierarchy. In many ways it is love the leaders fear most, for it is love that unleashes passions and bonds that defy the carefully constructed edifices that keep followers trapped and enclosed. And while they speak often about love, as they do about family, it is the cohesive bonds created by family and love they war against.”
“In rallies like those in Johnson’s Ohio tour, friends, neighbors, colleagues and family members who do not conform to the ideology are gradually dehumanized. They are tainted with the despised characteristics inherent in the godless. This attack is waged in highly abstract terms, to negate the reality of concrete, specific and unique human characteristics, to deny the possibility of goodness in those who do not conform. Some human beings, the message goes, are no longer human beings. They are types. This new, exclusive community fosters rigidity, conformity and intolerance. In this new binary world segments of the human race are disqualified from moral and ethical consideration. And because fundamentalist followers live in a binary universe, they are incapable of seeing others as anything more than inverted reflections of themselves. If they seek to destroy nonbelievers to create a Christian America, then nonbelievers must be seeking to destroy them. This belief system negates the possibility of the ethical life. It fails to grasp that goodness must be sought outside the self and that the best defense against evil is to seek it within. When people come to believe that they are immune from evil, that there is no resemblance between themselves and those they define as the enemy, they will inevitably grow to embody the evil they claim to fight. It is only by grasping our own capacity for evil, our own darkness, that we hold our own capacity for evil at bay. When evil is purely external, then moral purification always entails the eradication of others.”
“It is important for us to realize that emphasis on conformity and the fear of spontaneous living can have an effect almost as devastating as the totalitarian’s deliberate assault on the mind . . . . Trained into conformity the child may well grow up into an adult who welcomes with relief the authoritarian demands of a totalitarian leader. It is the welcome repetition of an old pattern that can be followed without investment of a new emotional energy.”
“The difficult task of learning how to make moral choices, how to accept personal responsibility, how to deal with the chaos of human life is handed over to God-like authority figures. The process makes possible a perpetuation of childhood. It allows the adult to bask in the warm glow and magic of divine protection. ”
“When facts are treated as if they were opinions, when there is no universal standard by which to determine truth in law, in science, in scholarship, or in the reporting of events of the day, the world becomes a place where lies become true, where people can believe what they want to believe, where there is no possibility of reaching any conclusion not predetermined by those who interpret the official, divinely inspired text.”
VSF: Chris Hedges is convinced that America is moving deeper into what he terms a ‘corporate fascism’ and in his 2006 book “American Fascists” Hedges quotes the Italian philosopher Umberto Eco’s ‘fourteen ways’ of Eternal Fascism. There is much to consider in these ideas on fascism, as the layers of lies we are suffocating within become increasingly dense and insanely absurd. Here I provide a few excerpts on Eco’s insights into what he terms Ur-Fascism. See the link below for the full article.
Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt by Umberto Eco
Both Fascists and Nazis worshipped technology …
Action … must be taken before, or without, reflection.
Thinking is a form of emasculation. … a symptom of Ur-Fascism, from Hermann Goering’s fondness for a phrase … ”When I hear the word ‘culture’ I reach for my gun” …
In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.
For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.
Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference.
The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.
… the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies.
Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. …
The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies. … must also be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies.
Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.
For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle. Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. This, however, brings about an Armageddon complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there must be a final battle, after which the movement will have control of the world. But such “final solutions” implies a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the principle of permanent war. No fascist leader has ever succeeded in solving this predicament.
Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak.
Ur-Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs to the best people in the world, the members or the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party. But there cannot be patricians without plebeians.
In fact, the Leader, knowing that his power was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler.
… the Ur-Fascist hero craves heroic death, advertised as the best reward for a heroic life. The Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.
… both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters. … the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons — doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise.
For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter.
Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak.
Newspeak was invented by Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, as the official language of what he called Ingsoc, English Socialism. But elements of Ur-Fascism are common to different forms of dictatorship. All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.
Only the Struggle Matters
By Chris Hedges
April 01, 2019 “Information Clearing House” – PARIS—
In the small chapel to the right at the entrance of the neoclassical Church of Saint-Sulpice is a large mural by Eugène Delacroix. The painter, at the end of his career and suffering from the tuberculous laryngitis that would soon kill him, depicted a story from Genesis. “Jacob is traveling with the flocks and other gifts he is taking to his brother Esau in the hope of appeasing his anger,” Delacroix wrote in 1861 when the painting was completed. “A stranger appears, blocking his path, and engages him in a fierce struggle – The holy books see this struggle as a symbol of the trials God sometimes sends His chosen ones.”
Delacroix shows the stranger—an angel—and Jacob wrestling in a sunlit clearing in a thick forest. Jacob, bent with exertion, the muscles on his back tense, attempts to push back against the angel, who stands implacably upright. The mural, created with layers of paint and bold, thick brush strokes that would later inspire the Impressionists, was Delacroix’s final testament to the inherent struggle—a struggle he was acutely aware he would soon lose—with mortality.
Delacroix asks us what constitutes victory in life. What gives life meaning? How are we to live? Why struggle against forces that we can never overcome? In the biblical story, Jacob is crippled in the long night’s fight, then blessed at dawn by the departing angel. He begs the angel’s name. But that name remains unspoken.
Delacroix painted the inscription “Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink,” from Psalm 69, over the entrance to the Chapel of the Holy Angels, which holds two other murals by Delacroix portraying clashes with angels. On the ceiling is the Archangel Michael driving the demons from heaven. On the wall opposite Jacob and the angel, Heliodorus is attacked by angels as he attempts to steal the treasures from the temple in Jerusalem. A large window in the church’s stone wall spills sunlight over the paintings.
“Painting taunts and torments me in a thousand ways,” Delacroix wrote in his journal in 1861, seven months before completing his work at Saint-Sulpice. “… [T]hings that seemed to be the easiest to overcome present appalling, interminable difficulties. How is it, then, that instead of casting me down, this eternal combat lifts me up, not discouraging, but consoling me?”
Our worth is determined, the painter attempts to show us, not by what we do in life, but by what we do with what life gives us. It is the ferocity and steadfastness of the struggle that exalt us, especially when we comprehend that victory is ultimately impossible. This wisdom would be echoed by Albert Camus almost a century after Delacroix when he wrote that life required us to “être à la hauteur de son désespoir”—rise up to the level of our despair.
Three Saturdays ago France experienced its 18th consecutive weekend protest by the gilets jaunes, or “yellow vests,” against President Emmanuel Macron’s austerity measures, tax cuts for the wealthy and privatization of public services. Members of the masked and violent Black Bloc had infiltrated the yellow-vest protest on the Champs-Élysées. A few dozen Black Bloc people smashed windows of luxury shops and torched Le Fouquet, one of the city’s best-known restaurants.
Police, who inexplicably waited to intervene, eventually used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters. The images of the clashes and property destruction were repeatedly broadcast throughout the following week. The police chief would be fired. Macron, who during the mayhem was skiing in the Pyrenees, would ban protests on the Champs-Élysées and order 6,000 counter-terrorism soldiers deployed outside government buildings. The pleadings by yellow-vest organizers for Black Bloc activists to separate themselves from the nonviolent protests were effectively drowned out by the state’s successful demonization—bolstered by the broadcast media—of the protest movement as a threat to public order and security.
As clashes took place on the Champs-Élysées, some 20,000 demonstrators thronged the streets outside the old Paris Opera House to protest the government’s refusal to address the crisis of global warming. My wife and I were in this nonviolent crowd, which was largely ignored by the press for the more colorful scenes of newspaper kiosks going up in flames on the Champs-Élysées.
The Black Bloc in France, as in the United States, is a gift to the security and surveillance apparatus. …
Macron, who is deaf to the plight of the working class and serves as a French instrument for the global social inequality orchestrated by corporate elites, is pushing significant sectors of the population off the streets and into the arms of the neofascist Marine Le Pen, with whom our corporate masters can make an accommodation, just as they have with Donald Trump. What they fear is a popular uprising. What they fear is losing power. If it takes alliances with repugnant neofascists and demagogues to retain control they will make them.
The brutality of our corporate executioners grows by the day. They will stop at nothing, including wholesale murder, to consolidate power and amass greater profits. Blinded by hubris, driven by greed, disdainful of democracy, foolishly believing their wealth will protect them, they will herd us over the cliff unless they are overthrown.
Delacroix was right. It is the struggle that matters. Not the outcome. I was where I should have been that Saturday in front of the Paris Opera House. Yes, our cries were not heard. Yes, it may be futile. But the fight is what makes us human. It gives us dignity. It affirms life in the face of death. “This eternal combat” brings with it, as the painter knew, a strange kind of consolation that lifts us up to the level of our despair.
Chris Hedges, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years. https://www.truthdig.com/author/chris_hedges/