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Monday, January 31, 2005

Orcinus on Fascism

Orcinus' series on fascism closes with these words:

Recognizing what we are up against -- namely, a kind of fascism -- is critical to dealing effectively with it, because even if wielding the term in discourse can be unhelpful (it remains a loaded term easily misinterpreted), this model gives us a key to understanding the thought -- or rather, emotive -- processes that are the core of the pseudo-fascist appeal.

Which is why I keep posting about fascism.

Our dilemma (if it could be called such) isn't that we are in danger of fascism --- it is that we are there. The people running this country are fascists. Their tactics and their intentions and their ideologies are fascist. The takeover is nearly complete and there's no useful point in characterizing what's happening as anything other than what it is.

Orcinus notes that although Classical fascism is dead, the ideology remains alive. It is an especially poisonous ideology that:

[...] grows and adapts to its circumstances [...] Fascism always wraps itself in the flag, always seeks absolute power, always brands opponents as traitors, always relies heavily on propaganda for dissemination of its ideas, always invokes subversive enemies (at home and abroad), always embraces militarism and permanent war, always favors politicizing of police functions (and expanding them and the surveillance state), always scorns intellectuals, artists, and bourgeois democratic values, always is hostile to leftist and labor movements, and is obsessed with idealized images of a mythic "better time" of the past (while at the same time destroying that past, and the nation as a whole).

It is important that we all familiarize ourselves with the traits of fascism, even those of us who are less than convinced.

It took me a while to believe this administration was anything other than a particularly noxious bunch of pissed off sanctimonious horny old white dudes. But their behavior in the months running up to the invasion of Iraq convinced me.

I knew we were under a massive campaign to traumatize and brainwash the entire country so that we would all be so rattled that we would be unable to react. When a friend said we were under psy-ops, I couldn't disagree. But I still wasn't sure what was going on.

The reaction of the radicals to my protests sealed the bargain from me. I didn't yet call them fascists because I'm a political idiot --- I had no idea if that was even the proper way to describe them.

I know now that it is. They're fascists.

Orcinus explains:

[...] propaganda succeeds by taking advantage of the public's limited ability to absorb all the details of the often complex problems that confront modern society. As Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aroson explained [...] "Given our finite ability to process information, we often adopt the strategies of the peripheral route for simplifying complex problems; we mindlessly accept a conclusion or proposition -- not for any good reason but because it is accompanied by a simplistic persuasive device."

[...]

Back in the 1930s, the short-lived Institute for Propaganda Analysis came up with the seminal catalog of [...] propaganda techniques are:

-- Name Calling, or hanging a bad label on ideas or persons.
-- Card Stacking, or the selective use of facts or outright falsehoods.
-- Band Wagon, or claiming that everyone like us thinks this way.
-- Testimonial, or the association of a respected or hated person with an approved or despised idea, respectively.
-- Plain Folks, a technique whereby the idea and its proponents are linked to "people just like you and me."
-- Transfer, or an assertion of a connection between something valued or hated and the idea or commodity being discussed.
-- Glittering Generality, or an association of something with a "virtue word" to gain approval without examining the evidence.


I have been witness to (and victim of) all of these tactics over and over again over the past few years.

Orcinus notes what has been happening has " ... all the earmarks of psychological warfare."

He goes on to delineate the work of Christopher Simpson, who "...describes in detail the often secretive development of [psychological warfare].

The point?

a. destroy the will and the ability of the enemy to fight;
b. deprive him of the support of his allies and neutrals;
c. increase in our own troops and allies the will to victory.

Psychological warfare employs any weapon to influence the mind of the enemy. The weapons are psychological only in the effect they produce and not because of the nature of the weapons themselves. In this light, overt (white), covert (black), and gray propaganda; subversion; sabotage, special operations; guerrilla warfare; espionage; political, cultural, economic, and racial pressures are all effective weapons. They are effective because they produce dissension, distrust, fear and hopelessness in the minds of the enemy, not because they originate in the psyche of propaganda or psychological warfare agencies.

Simpson goes on to explain that psychological warfare and psychological operations encompass this range of activities, as specified by the Army and the National Security Council. Several points should be underlined. First, psychological warfare in the U.S. conception has consistently made use of a wide range of violence, including guerrilla warfare, assassination, sabotage, and, more fundamentally, the maintenance of manifestly brutal regimes in client states abroad. Second, it also has involved a variety of propaganda or media work, ranging from overt (white) newscasting to covert (black) propaganda. Third, the targets of U.S. psychological warfare were not only the "enemy," but also the people of the United States and its allies.


This isn't even a basic summary of Orcinus' series, but there are critters to feed, papers to grade and dishes to wash. And it's a start.

Information is power. Arm yourself.

More tomorrow ...

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