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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/6/18

The important question is, Can fascism create social stability?

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The instability of democracy in the United States grows steadily as a concern. Prominent journalists, like Thom Hartmann, sound the alarm concerning how billionaire-funded activism may finish off the U.S. middle class, the nation's historical barrier against fascism. In his recent film Fahrenheit 11/9, Michael Moore no longer views democracy as something to be regained, but as something requiring immediate, active, and very aggressive pursuit.

I certainly agree with Hartmann that intensive, well-funded efforts to enhance fascism require more serious address, but Moore is right. The U.S. Middle Class has always served to buttress plutocracy's rule from mass dissent. Democracy has never been other than conditional in this nation. What appears to have changed is oligarchy's need to maintain the illusion of full democracy. But what exactly does this mean for the future, to most citizens? As the facade of democratic-capitalism crumbles and fascism openly bares its teeth, how does one respond?

How do I respond? I deplore fascism! But I happen to occupy a demographic that an already fairly fascist elite tolerates and will likely continue to tolerate, and utilize, in the future -- mainly white and Christian/Judeo in the U.S. and Europe. And so I face a moral dilemma. As others are disenfranchised, even annihilated, I need not share their fate. To what extent shall I, and others like me, prioritize The Golden Rule over personal safety as things becomes uglier and uglier? I hope a great deal, but I am not at all certain that ethics will trump fear for most of us.

On the other hand, what if I become convinced that fascism is unlikely to prevail against what Chalmers Johnson terms blowback, or what media and most people call terrorism, or what articles in Wired have described as Guerilla Warfare? Third-World communities essentially enslaved, heretofore, by Western oligarchies are now viewed as expendable. As fascism hardens, their fate rapidly becomes more tenuous. In the past their response to ruthless oppression was of little concern to oligarchy; however this may no longer be the case. Increasing evidence indicates that whom Franz Fanon called "The Wretched of the Earth" now possess substantial powers of mutually-assured-destruction, and sophisticated skills of guerrilla warfare. Articles in The Atlantic and The New York Times seem to suggest that North Korea's autocrat may well have the ability to create nuclear winter on earth no matter how much devastation his nation suffers, or how quickly. It seems not far-fetched to imagine that in the near future a dozen other countries will possess similar capability. Not to mention how vulnerable the United States and other First World nations have become to chemical and biological terrorism, according to articles in Scientific American and other journals. If I should become convinced that fascism is probably not likely to deal effectively with these threats, would this increase my willingness to take on greater risk to oppose it? I think so. So do many others I talk to, especially people in their thirties and forties.

Before drawing this conclusion I turn to a noted pundit who reassures me that I have nothing to worry about. In his 2008 tome, Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century, Phillip Bobbitt, former University of Texas Law School professor and prominent contributor to neo-liberal/neo-conservative thinking, described in considerable detail how serious the threats posed by sophisticated, well-organized terrorism have become. He proclaimed that U.S. leadership could capably respond to such threats on condition that the public accept significant shrinkage of constitutional protections against plutocracy -- in short, they must welcome and embrace a prolonged police state. He offered no response to arguments by eminent scholars such as Joseph Stiglitz, Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson and many others questioning the wisdom of placing such faith in U.S. policy makers' good will, or competence. Nor did Bobbitt present evidence of his own in support of either. Nevertheless, his book occupies a place of honor in every neo-liberal/neo-conservative library, essentially up-dating Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations.

When I turn for advice to colleagues in close touch with these issues, including members of Historians Against The War and the Union for Concerned Scientists, none disagree with Bobbitt's threat analysis. However, they fail to share his optimism concerning an outcome resulting in social stability. Some candidly assert that they expect a world in which no one can be safe, a world defined not by terrible dictatorship but by a substantial degree of chaos. Most are disinclined to say so publicly, however. This reluctance stems from concern that a fully informed public is likely either to panic, or to seek even more ruthless autocracy rather than the elimination of fascism.

As a social psychologist I understand their concerns. Even more than people crave freedom, they crave social stability above all else. If fascism can provide it, they may well accept it. On the other hand, if they perceive that fascism cannot provide it, they seem far more likely to push back. Rationally, therefore, if it is the case that current trends predict a world resembling Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Russia, where no citizen can reliably predict what tomorrow will look like, or plan one's own and one's family thriving with any confidence whatsoever, then citizens must be made aware of this fact. Evidence is a necessary if not a sufficient condition for tipping-point formation. Eventually, what is so will become apparent to all, but possibly too late to have much effect. And so I appeal to progressive journalists and film makers like Hartmann and Moore to force the issue into prominent discussion: Is fascism likely to produce a kind of terrible but sustainable social stability? Or is fascist rule likely to hurl human society into an abyss?

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David Weiner received his doctorate in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1964 and subsequently taught at SUNY/Buffalo and The University of Houston, where he received a Teaching Award. He currently teaches community college (more...)

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