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The Rise of Penthouse Punk

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Stand on the corner of iconic Haight Street and Ashbury, the epicenter of the 60s counter-cultural movement, and you can still find a vestige of the anti-establishment ethos: the Gutter-Punk.

Slumping on the sidewalk begging with an impish smile, the Gutter Punk invariably sports his (or her) uniform: a ragged black sweater plastered with patches, like some sort of grungy NASCAR driver. Instead of logos for Pennzoil, the Gutter Punk's hand-stitched patches advertise antipathy towards authority of any kind. You'll often see patches for bands with provocative names like the Exploited, the Misfits, the Dead Kennedys, and slogans decrying Fascism and Nazism, littered among self-made holes, beer stains, and scary spikes.

The Gutter Punk has effectively dropped out of society, like his flower-children ancestors, convinced that The System, and specifically the government, is a totalitarian organization bent on systemically denying freedom.

This election season, meet the new Gutter Punks -- the Plutocratic Punks on their way down on a private elevator from the penthouse, ready to scream Fascism as if they were rocking out at a Misfits show. The Penthouse Punk is a new breed, with the money of a stockbroker, the views of a neo-conservative economist, but the anti-establishment rhetoric of a black-hooded anarchist chucking rocks at cops in a riot.

Paul Krugman, building on an excellent recent article in New York Magazine, shines a spotlight on the "Angry Rich," who see government regulation literally as tantamount to a Nazi takeover. He tells us the story of Penthouse Punk Billionaire Wall Street magnate Stephen Schwarzman, who compared Obama's proposal to close a tax loophole to the "the Nazi invasion of Poland." And, as the NYM article "The Wail of the 1%" points out, Schwarzman is not alone in playing Poland, as many of the rich on Wall Street who bankrupted the economy feel that they have been "mugged" by Obama's modest government intervention.

Scharwazman's Penthouse Punk mentality seems to be an ideological sentiment that reaches beyond Wall Street. In fact, it appears to be the primary selling point in this year's election that government intervention of any kind, especially of the super-rich, is Fascist. Joe Barton, the Republican Representative, referred to the $20 billion BP fund as a "shakedown," much like those on Wall Street, who feel "mugged" by the closing of tax loopholes. And while Barton later apologized, other prominent Republicans, like Rand Paul and Sarah Palin, have unrepentantly asserted his position.

In a recent ABC interview, Paul castigates Obama as "really un-American in his criticism of business" after the BP Gusher. Similarly, Sarah Palin defended BP in a recent Tweet, in which she passed along a blog by Thomas Sowell, a National Review writer, and conservative Think Tank Hoover Institute fellow. Sowell argues that the Obama administration has committed a "totalitarian" power grab by setting up a fund for BP, to ensure they pay out those damaged by the volcano of oil washing onto Gulf shores. In "Is the US on a Slippery Slope to Tyranny," Sowell, like Schwarzman, uses the analogy to Nazi Germany, arguing that the forcing BP to pay into the fund is in essence an attack on constitutional democracy.

Comparing Obama, and progressive policies, to Nazism is not unique to Sowell, the Tea Party leadership, nor disaffected billionaire bankers, as I wrote about two years ago in "Obama is Hitler? WTF!" and more recently, a chapter in Project Censored 2011. Not surprisingly, Glenn Beck frequently used the comparison, as The Daily Show's permanently outraged comedic pundit Lewis Black pointed out with a series of clips over 2009, claiming Beck has "Nazi Tourette's."

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Beck's fits appeared to have been inspired by another Hoover Institute Fellow, National Review editor and Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg, author of Liberal Fascism. And yet another Hoover Institute Fellow and FOX regular, Newt Gingrich, also used the same Nazi analogy in his recent book. These are not fringe cases: FAIR's Noah Lederman observed in a recent media analysis that hyperbolic analogy, the Penthouse Punk style has become "standard right wing trope."

In short, playing the Penthouse Punk crying fascism, invoking Hitler's ghost, acting the victim of The System while raking in billions by exploiting it, appears to be a coordinated, Think-Tank-engineered strategy to convince the American public to unwittingly support the Plutocracy, at the expense of their own interests.

The Penthouse Punk is not a victim of The System, but if anything, its primary architect, fortifying the income inequity that is pushing the American public, quite literally, into the gutter (with the punks).

The Penthouse Punk is not anti-establishment, but rather, he runs the establishment.

Greed is not counterculture. Simply because he wears the Gutter Punk patches on his tailored suit, simply because he adorns himself with the struggles of the common man and woman, the Penthouse Punk does not fight for us, but against us.

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Adam Bessie is an assistant professor of English at Diablo Valley College, in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a co-wrote a chapter in the 2011 edition of Project Censored on metaphor and political language, and is a frequent contributor to (more...)
 

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