Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Can Economy Produce Americanized Hitler?

April 15, 2009, 7:15 a.m.

Homeland Security Seems to be Saying:
Chomsky Got It Right

(brought to you by*)

Every once in awhile it is the serendipitous confluence of two events that is the story.

Yesterday [April 14] I added the Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! interview of Noam Chomsky to the "Obama's Potential Wall Street Downfall" blog entry of April 12.

Although I didn't refer to the following passage at that time, because it did not directly relate to the topic of the entry, I found it quite startling then and more so now -- especially when watching and listening to him deliver it in the video than from this comparatively sterile transcript:
AMY GOODMAN: The whole issue of populist rage, Noam Chomsky, actually, do you think that this rage is going to boil over as the unemployment figures rise?

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s very hard to predict those things. I mean, it has a potentially positive side, like it could be like the activism of the 1930s or the 1960s, which ended up making it a more civilized society in many ways, or it could be like an unfortunate precedent that quickly comes to mind. . . .

Take a look at Germany. In the 1920s, Germany was the absolute peak of Western civilization, in the arts and the sciences. It was regarded as a model of democracy and so on. I mean, ten years later, it was the depths of barbarism. . . .

Now, if you listen to early Nazi propaganda . . . and you listen to talk radio in the United States . . . there’s a resemblance. And in both cases, you have a lot of demagogues appealing to people with real grievances.

Grievances aren’t invented. I mean, for the American population, the last thirty years have been some of the worst in economic history. It’s a rich country, but real wages have stagnated or declined, working hours have shot up, benefits have gone down, and people are in real trouble and now in very real trouble after the bubble's burst. And they’re angry. And they want to know, “What happened to me? . . . I’m a hard-working, white, God-fearing American. [H]ow come this is happening to me?”

That’s pretty much the Nazi appeal. The grievances were real. And one of the possibilities is what Rush Limbaugh tells you: “Well, it’s happening to you because of those bad guys out there.” OK, in the Nazi case, it was the Jews and the Bolsheviks. Here, it’s the rich Democrats who run Wall Street and run the media and give everything away to illegal immigrants . . ..

AMY GOODMAN: And she [Sarah Palin] very much is being talked about as a leader, really, of the Republican Party.

NOAM CHOMSKY: [T]he talk radio mob went crazy over her. And one shouldn’t demean it. [T]hey describe themselves — it’s really worth listening to: “We’re fly-by country. [T]hey don’t care about us, those rich Democrats on the East Coast and the West Coast who are all . . . interested in gay rights and giving things away to illegal immigrants and so on. They don’t care about us, the hard-working, God-fearing people, so we’ve got to somehow rise up and take over and elect Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh or someone like that.” . . .

[T]his kind of populist rage could boil over and could have very dangerous consequences. . . .

[W]e’re very lucky that we have never had an honest demagogue. I mean, the demagogues we’ve had are so corrupt that they never got anywhere — . . . Nixon, McCarthy, Jimmy Swaggart and others . . . were kind of destroyed by their own corruption.

But suppose we had an honest demagogue, . . . a Hitler type, who was not corrupt. [I]t could be unpleasant. There’s a background of concern and fear, tremendous fear, and searching for some answer, which they’re not getting from the establishment. “Who’s responsible for my plight?” [T]hat can be exploited. And unless there’s active, effective organizing and education, it’s dangerous.
Note that Chomsky's not saying it will happen. He's saying there's a risk. He's not saying our "honest demagogue" would be Hitler, identical to Hitler, or even similar to Hitler. He's just saying that the conditions of our economy and country bear some similarity to those in pre-Hitler Germany -- and they do.

So what's my "serendipitous confluence"?

Neither Amy Goodman nor Noam Chomsky could have known on April 3, when the interview was recorded, of a Department of Homeland Security report, issued April 7, leaked to the media, and reported yesterday, April 14.

Titled U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "Assessment: Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," April 7, 2009, the text is available at The Huffington Post, "Homeland Security Report Warns of Rising Right-Wing Extremism," April 14, 2009.

It essentially confirms and echos Chomsky's concerns.

There has been a rise in extremist organizations' membership. Much of their rhetoric has been consistent with Chomsky's characterizations -- including concerns about gun control and immigration. There have been efforts to recruit returning soldiers, with their military training.

You need to read the report; I'm not going to repeat it all. For summaries see The Huffington Post story, linked above, and the Washington Times take, Audrey Hudson and Eli Lake, "Federal agency warns of radicals on right; 9-page report sent to police," Washington Times, April 14, 2009.

As with Chomsky's concerns, Homeland Security is not suggesting that a demagogue is on the verge of taking over, let alone one backed by armed mobs. It's merely noting, as Chomsky did, that our economic conditions, the extremists' recruiting efforts, and the rhetoric make this a legitimate concern of the Department, something worth watching carefully.

Also worth watching carefully are the rightwing extremist, Obama-hating talk show hosts and Republicans who have even said they want him (and presumably the rest of us with him) to fail. It's bad enough when they are just playing politics. Now they are also playing with fire.

For my own take on the connection between oligarchy and revolution a full year ago see, Nicholas Johnson, "Golden Rules & Revolutions: A Series - I; Income Disparity & Revolution," April 12, 2008.

Ah, the far, far reaching consequences of the greed and ignorance of the Wall Street oligarchy. The price we end up paying, in this country and abroad, may be far more than global economic collapse, the trillions they have taken from the taxpayers (with the help of their friends Obama recruited to "solve" the problem), the resulting inevitable inflation, and the debt we're all leaving to our great grandchildren.

* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source -- even if I have to embed it myself. -- Nicholas Johnson

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North Liberty said...


There is no 'Wall Street Conspiracy' to take over the US Govt. Wall St is generally composed of business bullies, bean-counters, and sociopaths who are interested in money. Sure they manipulate the markets. Sure they cheat the stockholders and the general public out of money by wisking profits offshore and keeping debts onshore. They manipulate news to short stocks and make millions. They are sociopaths, what do you expect?

Jim Cramer (Mad Money, former hedge fund jerk) is a good example. While Cramer is a Wall St sociopath who was undressed by Jon Stewart, his college roommate was an Ivy League sociopath who went into Govt -- Elliot Spitzer. It's a game for these guys who consider themselves the smartest human beings on the planet.

There are some businessmen who hate the 'Govt liberals', running companies like Olin (weapons ammunition). Likewise, the oil men may be more interested in Govt policy than most, however they can afford to place their boys like Dick Cheney high up in Govt. However they have their own devices to manipulate Govt. Goldman-Sachs controls the treasury and that gives Wall St plenty of control of Govt.

Obama is acutely aware of these boys having gone to school with them, and having started as a Wall St Lawyer. There is a reason he moved to Chicago, which gives him the second city's muscle which is as ruthless as New York, but more directed. This is business as usual.

The real threat of fascism comes from the likes of Dick Armey and Rush dependent-Limbaugh with inroads to money, and a much higher level of sociopathy than the guys who simply want billions of dollars and a few hot call-girls.

The recent 'grass roots' Tea Bag parties are financed and orchestrated by Armey, Hannity, Limbaugh and the lunatic right, who managed to pull the impossible and reverse the New Deal. Obama now threatens to re-institute the Roosevelt reforms and that drives these wing nuts more crazy.

More interesting is the participation of Fox (Hannity, and even Cavuto) and CNBC with people like the former coke-head Kudlow. That is very interesting.

Now, not only are 'news (ahahahah) networks' reporting on the news but they are participating in and making the news. Think about it..that is fascism and that is your most menacing threat.

In the Euro-American countries the left can cause significant problems; however the lunatic right generates far more of a sinister threat.

Nuts like Limbaugh have to see that their party is a running joke, and their power is slipping away as more and more of the voting population rejects their weird combination of less Govt (which really means more) and their odd anti-Gay, anti-black, anti-abortion, anti-science, anti-climate change, anti-evolution, pro-guilded age, control-your-behavior ideology. Then these guys become very dangerous.

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