The road to fascism in America

In an interview on ABC News which aired yesterday, Imam Feisal Rauf, who leads the Cordoba initiative which plans to open an Islamic center near the site of the World Trade Center, was asked why he does not want to relocate, in spite of strong opposition to the plan.

My major concern with moving it is that the headline in the Muslim world will be Islam is under attack in America, this will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment, this will put our people — our soldiers, our troops, our embassies, our citizens — under attack in the Muslim world and we have expanded and given and fueled terrorism.

Even if this genuinely represents the views of the imam, it is also the kind of argument one would expect to be proffered by a political consultant. Shift the debate away from religion towards national security. That’s the most easily defended political ground. Perhaps, but it also sounds lame and can be perceived as disingenuous. Moreover, if national opinion is being offended, potential damage to international opinion is the least persuasive basis on which to appeal to red-blooded Americans.

Whatever the repercussions might be outside the United States in the event that the backers of the Islamic center bow to pressure to relocate, the strongest argument for resisting such pressure should rest on the implications inside America.

Speaking with a surer, more passionate voice, Imam Rauf said:

[T]here’s growing Islamophobia in this country.

How else would you describe the fact that mosques around the country are now being attacked? We are Americans, too. As — we are — we are treated and talked about today as if — as if American Mus — and Muslims are not Americans.

We are Americans. We — we — we are — we are doctors. We are investment bankers. We are taxi drivers. We are store keepers. We are lawyers. We are — we are part of the fabric of America.

This points to the core issue which is not about Islam or Muslims per se — it’s about America’s commitment to advance as a pluralistic society.

In a discussion of the state of Islam in America, Eboo Patel, who serves as an interfaith adviser to President Obama, said: “This is a blip in the broader arc of inclusiveness that is America and the history books will read as they have read before that the forces of inclusiveness will defeat the forces of intolerance.”

Some may share Patel’s faith in America and many more will wish they had his confidence, but his interfaith evangelical fervor contrasts sharply with mounting evidence that America is actually heading in the opposite direction.

In an interview on the John Batchelor Show on Friday, Michael Vlahos, a professor at the US Naval War College, described the parallels between contemporary America and Germany in the 1930s during the period that laid the foundations for the rise of Hitler.

Michael Vlahos interviewed on the John Batchelor Show.

Vlahos says:

Our relationships with the world are taking on a depression era — and by that I mean a 1930s depression era — perspective of nativism… We look at the world as a threatening place and it’s a zero sum game. Everything that they gain, we lose. And therefore we are rejecting the very American universalism that made us great, and part of this is an objectification of threat as the other — as evil people who are trying to hurt and destroy us and hence you have this resonant image of both Muslims and Mexicans as a kind of infection of the American body. So that Americans feeling weak about their identity feel that their body is being infected by this bacterium.

On one hand you have Mexicans, who are penetrating and infecting us, and on the other hand you have Muslims — and the entire crisis over this mosque, the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” is really all about this fear that the world is coming after us. And this is a very powerful point of departure in which you have a sense that American identity, if you have the body being infected — now I’m using these metaphors, because these are the exact metaphors that Hitler used in the 20s: the notion that the German body was being infected, and who was it being infected by?… Communists and Jews. And so you see the same kind of dual infection of Muslims and Mexicans. And the fact is, this speaks to an America that is intensely anxious about its future and that is hunkering down and that has essentially thrown off its relationship to the world and is now looking at the world as a source of threat…

[The Bush administration] in its creation of the Department of Homeland Security, in the elaboration of this whole notion that the homeland was the key and the homeland was what it was all about, and that the world was out there to threaten us — this is very much like the deglobalization of the 1930s where we are pulling back from the rest of the world…

This then points to the ultimate irony: that as opponents of the Cordoba initiative hold up signs warning about an Islamic take over and as a staggering 52% of members of the White party (otherwise known as the GOP) believe that President Obama wants to impose Islamic law in America, these very Americans are unwittingly laying the foundations for the advance of fascism.

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4 thoughts on “The road to fascism in America

  1. Christopher Hoare

    Robert Redford, visiting Canada, was interviewed on CBC news yesterday. In answer to questions about the Tea Party, he very diplomatically suggested that Americans are ‘confused’; and in answer to the question, “Which seems to be working better today, the American ‘melting pot’ or the Canadian ‘cultural mosaic'”, he grinned and suggested, “The melting pot seems to be melting.”

    The melting pot worked for various flavours of Christian whites, but it only demonizes the immigrants (and poor African Americans) who cannot fit into that mold.

    And as for being, ‘confused’, I wonder whose insidious propaganda has been driving the confusion for the past 30 years? The GOP and the rich could well get their payback by being the first to be ducked in Boston Harbour in November.

  2. Colm O' Toole

    Good analysis Paul,

    I to dislike Imam Raufs, in my mind cowardly, reasoning that if he backs down it will hurt National Security. He should be brave enough to come out and say “I have a right to build a mosque on property that I own in America” or “Muslim’s have the right to worship in lower Manhattan like every other religious group”. Instead he just claims that if he moved it Muslims would think they are under attack and harm US troops and interests. Weasel words basically.

    On the subject of Fascism what is there really to say. I try not to box myself into labels but it should be obvious to most that the Political-Military Machine that is the US government is not a nice machine at the present time. Anyone here view the US government as benign or friendly?

  3. Ian Arbuckle

    Vincent J, Absolutely, you are right, and as for the second part of your comment O’Toole, I would point out that Fascism is not a label that boxes “you” in. It is an established political, social and economic pattern that is defined by Michael Mann as “the pursuit of a transcendent and cleansing nation-statism through paramilitarism.” or by Robert O. Paxton: “Fascism may be defined as a form of political behaviour marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a massed-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

    Paul Woodward, this is a very good subject you have raised at the heart of more than just this Cordoba Islamic Culture centre building project, which is less than a pimple on the face of an orchestrated grand national self delusion, but the one part of the interview you passed over in your transcript was to me the most important, just after, …. “this is very much like the deglobalization of the 1930s where we are pulling back from the rest of the world…” the part I thought important covered the question of John Batchelor’s opinion that “…..this was not done consciously but done with great deliberation…..”

    On this I disagree with him. As I see it, the move to the of the right, pandering to and even cultivating the ignorant extremes; manipulating the economic crisis has been fostered. These events are not happenstance or accident. Since Regan’s administration and before the political right of US and through its plutocracy has been cultivating this path covertly and in some cases overtly. 9-11 was definitely not orchestrated by Bin Laden from Afghanistan other than as a CIA operative or carried out by 19 terrorist highjackers without considerable inside help within government, military and media. Confirmed evidence of controlled demolition, pre-emptive media gaffs, government deceit and evidentiary tampering and suppression was conclusive, for me anyway, that this event was the successful catalyst of a movement that had power beyond government inside and outside the USA. 9-11 was an inside job. At this point I think it is important here to remember Naomi Wolf’s 10 steps to Fascism:

    1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
    2. Create a gulag
    3. Develop a thug caste
    4. Set up an internal surveillance system
    5. Harass citizens’ groups
    6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
    7. Target key individuals
    8. Control the press
    9. Dissent equals treason
    10. Suspend the rule of law

    Conclusion: America, politically, economically, socially, and morally is in freefall collapse. On major topic of importance nationally and internationally the American people are conditioned to frame their views in irrational emotive terms such as “ground Zero”, and “Muslim extremist”, “the terrorist threat”. Remember Goebbels’ principles of propaganda, “Propaganda must label events and people with distinctive phrases or slogans. ” and “Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred.” As well as “Propaganda to the home front must create an optimum anxiety level”..

    Above all remember the quote:

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” – Joseph Goebbels.

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