The McPain campain‘s incitement of hate and verbal violence from its supporters should come as no surprise. (See the disturbing footage of the Bethesda PA rally both at the Keystone Progress blog and on YouTube, where McPain supporters yell at Obama supporters with “Get a job!” and “Commie faggots!” I wonder if McPain supporters ever figured out that they were taking off work like the Obama supporters and should have been yelling at themselves, “Get a job!”)
Palin is a jingoist, no doubt. Extreme nationalism, excessive pride in belief that one’s country is superior to all others, belligerent foreign policy — those are elements that define jingoism, and I think Palin’s comments testify to that. But does that make her a fascist? Jeffrey Feldman says “no” in his article, “Palin Rallies Ignite Widespread Talk of ‘Fascism.'” While I appreciate Feldman’s caution in slinging such an incendiary term, a caution he shares with the not-so-nice George Orwell (in 1944, Orwell stated in “What is Fascism?” that the term had become meaningless, applied to groups as varied as Catholics, communists, and conservatives), I still think Palin is fascist. As much as I admire Orwell, I’m about to ignore the admonition at the end of “What is Fascism?”: “All one can do for the moment is to use the word with a certain amount of circumspection and not, as is usually done, degrade it to the level of a swearword.”
Well, maybe I am trying to attend to Orwell’s advice because here I am — trying to prove why I think Palin is a fascist. Feldman concludes that Palin’s crime is not fascism but populism: “Despite all these questions and concerns, I have not concluded that Sarah Palin’s past or recent campaign events represent the emergence of fascism in American politics. In particular, Sarah Palin does not bring anything even closely approaching a comprehensive totalitarian nationalist ideology to the campaign trail. … What she does bring is a noteworthy skill with extreme, often violent populism.”
I think Feldman is wrong. Populism — even “violent populism” — is just too tame a term for what Palin espouses. The glaring omission in Feldman’s article is any reference to Palin’s connections to the Alaska Independence Party, connections which have been well-covered in articles such as “Meet Sarah Palin’s radical right-wing pals” by Max Blumenthal and David Neiwert, and “The Palins’ un-American activities” by David Talbot. Oh, heck — go read “Sarah Palin: The view from Alaska” by Nick Jans, which has nothing about the Alaska Independence Party but exposes Palin as a poseur. Here’s the end of his article:
In the end, Palin’s attempt to cash in on the Eau d’Alaska mystique as she supports its destruction sickens those of us who do love this land, not for what it will be some day, after the roads and mines and pipelines and cities and malls are all in, but for what it is now. What we see before us is the soul of an ambitious, ruthless, Parks Highway hillbilly — a woman who represents the Alaska you probably never want to meet, and the one we wish never existed. That said, we’re all too willing to take her back. The alternative is just too damn frightening.
Palin’s connections to the Alaska Independence Party and her statements during recent rallies qualify her as fascist. Several definitions of fascism fit Palin, but I’ll focus on Umberto Eco’s criteria. Wikipedia has a good list of these criteria taken from Eco’s essay called “Ur-Fascism”, published in The New York Review of Books, 22 June 1995. They include fear of difference (“Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks for consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference“) , disagreement is treason (“The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism”), pacifism is trafficking with the enemy (“It is bad because life is permanent warfare“), obsession with a plot (“The followers must feel beseiged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia”), selective populism (“…the Leader pretends to be their [the People’s] interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction”), and reliance on Orwell’s Newspeak (“All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning”). Sounds a lot like Palin.
I’ll just finish with the ending of Eco’s article:
Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier for us if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Blackshirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances–every day, in every part of the world.