Friday, February 16, 2007

American Fascists

So here it is the moment you've all been waiting for (or dreading). Now to start of with I do have to confess that I haven't actually read the book, obviously that's a huge negative right there, perhaps enough so that you'll just want to stop reading. However I have seen him out promoting the book twice, a long fairly in-depth program on CSPAN, and a fluffier piece on the Colbert Report. I've also read every other review of it I could find, so absent reading the book itself, which I have neither the time or inclination for, I've tried to get as close as I can. With that caveat aside, here we go.

So the central premise of the book is that radical christians are on the verge of taking over this country in the same way the Nazis took over Germany. His principle argument for this in both of his television appearances was that historically, evangelicals and other true-believers have eschewed politics, but no longer. Well the mere fact that someone enters the political arena does not automatically crown them as the victor. Looking at his other writings (for example here another main point of his is that the christians are taking over the military. Certainly I agree with his point that the military and law enforcement slant more right than other organizations but I have a hard time making the same intuitive leap from that to an incipient coup.

He mentions that "It [The Christian Embassy] hosts weekly Bible sessions with senior officers, by its own count some 40 generals, and weekly prayer breakfasts..." DA DA DUM!!! As if this was some sort of prima facie evidence of the vast christian conspiracy he imagines. The point I would make about this is that religious observances of this sort have been going on for as long as the country has been around, that 50 years ago "under God" could be added to the Pledge of Allegiance without the country ending (imagine what Hodges would make of such an attempt if it happened today). That in fact the Christian right is not revolutionary it's reactionary. For a long time they've had it pretty good, but the wind has largely shifted against them. Gay marriage is just a matter of time, despite the increase in the conservative side of the judiciary, no serious threats to Roe v. Wade have appeared. They've temporarily won on stem cells, but I can't imagine they see that as anything more than a Pyrrhic Victory. I think most of them would just be happy to hold the ground they have.

Now don't get me wrong I think the christian right has done a lot of dumb and even damaging things, and I think the Republican Party has become far too beholden to those groups, but Hedges idea that we are in "...the final and perhaps most deadly stage in the long campaign by the radical Christian right to dismantle America’s open society and build a theocratic state" is ridiculous.

Where is the charismatic leader? Where is the leader period? While these evangelical groups may seem fairly similiar in goals and aims and beliefs, that's only on the surface, underneath there are all sorts of divisions, to say nothing of the divisions you'll begin to find once you start talking about Protestants and Catholics.

Where is the galvanising motive, the desperate poverty and humiliation of the Weimer Republic? Hedges admits it's going to take "...a period of instability caused by another catastrophic terrorist attack, an economic meltdown or a series of environmental disasters..." but does he really appreciate the scale of the economic meltdown in the Weimer Republic or the catastrophe that was World War I? Or how fragile that government was?

Perhaps I'm cherry picking by focusing on the Weimar Republic but that's the same example Hedges wants to use. And by comparing the USA to the Weimar Republic he demonstrates an appalling lack of faith in the resiliance of our democracy, which is perhaps what bothers me the most. Perhaps you'll recall the blog I wrote about countries which have survived intact since 1911. Now I admit that can be read as either "Countries are more fragile than you think" or "The US is execeptionally durable." But you'd have to go a lot farther back than 1911 to include the US in the list of countries which didn't survive, so I would choose the latter interpretation.

Interpreting things to suit my purposes since 1971


Anonymous ed said...

Um, have these morons even looked at a directory of churches in the U.S.? Which one is going to run it? Even if you argue some broad coalition, it would never really hold together for long, if it came together at all.

1:29 PM  
Anonymous john said...

Your ending tag line is the best I've seen yet. Hahaha.

1:42 PM  
Blogger aozora said...

In dealing with groups, the view from the outside is always different from the inside. "Lumping" becomes a huge problem.

An outside view may tie together certain Kansas City School Board advocates, Eric Rudolph sympathizers and pederast priests accomplices with everyday church goers without seeing the "true" diversity.

Seen as one force it is a mighty scary thing. But it is as false a view as lumping all Muslims together (Hamas vs. PLA?!)

4:08 PM  

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