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Stan Goff is a retired veteran of the U.S. Army Special Forces. During an active-duty career that spanned 1970 to 1996, he served with the elite Delta Force and Rangers, and in Vietnam, Guatemala, Grenada, El Salvador, Colombia, Peru, Somalia and Haiti....






 
 

Sowing the Seeds of Fascism in America

(Page 4)

Sex, Race, and Guns

Anson Rabinbach and Jessica Benjamin, writing in American Imago in 1995 (“In the Aftermath of Nazi Germany: Alexander Mitscherlich and Psychoanlaysis—Legend and Legacy”):

The crucial element of fascism is its explicit sexual language, what Theweleit calls “the conscious coding” or the “over-explicitness of the fascist language of symbol.” This fascist symbolization creates a particular kind of psychic economy which places sexuality in the service of destruction. Despite its sexually charged politics, fascism is an anti-eros, “the core of all fascist propaganda is a battle against everything that constitutes enjoyment and pleasure.” ... He shows that in this world of war the repudiation of one’s own body, of femininity, becomes a psychic compulsion which associates masculinity with hardness, destruction, and self-denial.

Men who are threatened by women’s decreased dependency and increased organization often adopt an individual strategy of “ overconformity,” compulsively acquiring “masculine” accoutrements, be they giant automobiles, guns or attack-breed dogs, and just as compulsively behave as if they are trying out for a role with the World Wrestling Foundation—affecting a kind of bright-eyed homicidal aggression as we are further socialized to equate fear with respect. 

Divisions of “male” labor and divisions of “female” labor respond to changes in the economic and political terrain.  Look at the more “respectable” masculinity that prioritizes responsibility to the family—which keeps men who are not in the ruling class working. Compare that to the fascistic masculinity displayed by the masculine over-conformers (described above), which merges easily with the idealization of military masculinity in times when warfare plays a more central role in society—for example, during crises of (economic and social) destabilization.  War becomes necessary to “rescue” the nation.  Gun culture is permeated with this thought, including its sense of embattlement, and its embrace of mythical frontier masculinity that sacrifices comfort to overcome dark forces from the Outside.

Economic destabilization is extremely disruptive of conventional masculinities that equate the male role with that of a provider (I am not endorsing “provider masculinity” or any expression of patriarchy, but comparing them); and create the conditions for overcompensation in the form of hyper-normal male identity ... as an armed actor.

The rise of fascistic masculinity prefigures systemic fascism, often in the form of vigilantism. Gun culture is steeped in vigilantism, which is steeped in military lore.  Guns in this milieu transcend their practical uses and take on a powerful symbolic significance.

In the last decade, the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has always had close ties with the military, has been taken over from what are considered within the organization as “moderates,” that is, those whose message emphasizes peaceful, law-abiding gun use, like hunting (which is not peaceful for the game animals, but that’s another issue). 

During my service with 3rd Special Forces Group in Haiti in 1994, members of the SFU initiated back-channel communications in support of the right-wing death squad network, FRAPH.

Two of the favored preoccupations of Barry, the SFU, Soldier of Fortune, and the NRA were Ruby Ridge, where Vicki Harris, the wife of an ex-Special Forces white supremacist (Randy Weaver), was killed by an FBI sniper with her baby in her arms, and the outrage at Waco against the Branch Davidians.

Let me say here, for the record, that the FBI actions in both these cases were criminal and inexcusable, and largely provoked by the FBI itself.  But the fact that Weaver was one of the neo-fascists own, and that Koresh and his acolytes were white, combined with the stunning abuse of power by the federal government in both cases, turned these two cases into a twin cause celebre for the militia-right.  I will also note that I own firearms; I have no problem with others owning them; and I think much liberal opposition to firearms is stupid and moralistic and drives many people into the arms of the lunatic right.  I am an advocate of the right to self-defense.  My critique of gun culture is a critique of those sectors for which guns have been combined with imaginary enemies and taken on a deeply symbolic value as tokens of a violent, reactionary masculinity that fantasizes about armed conflict as a means to actualize its paranoid male sexual identity.

The problem is that this reaction is far from ab-normal.

There is a kind of interlocking directorate between white nationalists, gun culture, right-wing politicians, mercenary culture (like Soldier of Fortune), vigilante and militia movements, and elements within both Special Forces and—now—the privatized mercenary forces.  It is hyper-masculine, racialist, militaristic and networked.

If one simply pays attention to cultural production in the United States, especially film and video games, it is fairly easy to see that the very memes that are the cells within the body of white nationalist militarism are ubiquitous within our general cultural norms.  The film genre that most closely corresponds to a fascist mind-set is the male revenge fantasy, wherein after some offense is given that signifies the breakdown of order (usually resulting in the death or mortal imperilment of idealized wives or children) in which Enlightenment social conventions prove inadequate, and the release of irrational male violence is required to set the world straight again.  Any reader can list these fantasies without a cue. It is one of the most common film genres in American society.

R. W. Connell wrote in “Masculinities”  (University of California Press, 1995):

In gender terms, fascism was the naked reassertion of male supremacy in societies that had been moving toward equality for women.  To accomplish this, fascism promoted new images of hegemonic masculinity, glorifying irrationality (“the triumph of the will”, thinking with “the blood”) and the unrestrained violence of the frontline soldier.

Chaotic Dark Othering

It is in no way aberrant when the lionized Theodore Roosevelt can be quoted saying: “the timid man, the lazy man, the man who distrusts his country, the over-civilized man, [italics mine] who has lost the great fighting, masterful virtues, the ignorant man, and the man of dull mind, whose soul is incapable of feeling the mighty lift that thrills ‘stern men with empires in their brains’—all these, of course, shrink from seeing the nation undertake its new duties; shrink from seeing us build a navy and army adequate to our needs; shrink from seeing us do our share of the world’s work, by bringing order out of chaos in the great, fair tropic islands from which the valor of our soldiers and sailors has driven the Spanish flag.”

Roosevelt was also a lifetime member of the NRA, itself founded by Civil War veterans who were dismayed by the poor marksmanship of soldiers and decided to prepare the next generation of boys and men for armed combat.

Roosevelt is often cited as a conservationist who admired the wilderness.  What is less often noted is that “wilderness” was seen as a place where men could test themselves against “raw” nature, and that he referred to said wilderness as “lands we have won from the Indians.”  Karl Rove claims to be a major fan of Teddy Roosevelt biographies and quotes Roosevelt often.

The use of mythic male wartime figures is a common political ploy.  Former Attorney General John Ashcroft frequently used Lincoln that way to justify his own attacks on civil liberties, implicitly comparing the phony war on terror to the American Civil War.

This is not news, but it does support my general thesis that some key elements of fascism are already norms for broad sections of American society.

This should give us a special sense of concern that the military—under pressure from a retention and recruitment crisis—has relaxed the screening process against white nationalists joining the military precisely to gain military training and combat experience.  This not only allows more of these dangerous ideologues into the military, it gives them unprecedented access to other combat veterans, brutalized into the sociopathy of war and inured to white supremacy through the inevitable racialization of the occupied enemy.

What makes this particularly alarming is that another essential element for the emergence of fascism is a national enemy.  It is not unremarkable that the very people who question the federal government as an extension of ZOG/Illuminati/World-Government have also accepted the narrative—constructed by that self-same U.S. government for its own martial purposes—of a highly organized, technologically advanced terrorist threat:  Al Qaeda.  This has replaced the vastly overstated threat of the World Communist Conspiracy that proved so useful for the post-WWII American security state.  The fact that immigration is now routinely portrayed as a security issue (letting terrorists in), at the same time that anti-immigrant vigilantism is being supported by public figures like CNN’s Lou Dobbs (arguable already a fascist) and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger , should give all of us pause ... not only because we are now training future McVeighs but because the immigration polemics are finding a receptive audience even among so-called moderates and liberals of the middle-class.

The generalized flexibility of the term “terrorist” makes it infinitely more useful as a political instrument than a specific nation or regime, and so invests the term with a long half-life.  The fact that Al Qaeda is a fiction created by the U.S. government—a fact well documented by researchers like Jason Burke, author of “Al Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror” (Penguin Books, 2004), and even the militarily connected Rand Corporation, which referred to Al Qaeda as “a notion.”

In a stunning bit of linguistic legerdemain, the actual mass movement of political Islam has been recoded by the neocons as ... Islamo-fascism, and among the crypto-libertarians of the white right, fascist is an epithet reserved now for liberals.

With the same semantic abracadabra, the “notion” that is Al Qaeda is transformed by our cultural paranoia in such a way that every Arab, every Muslim, every immigrant, every dissident, every person of color, every (choose your enemy) is a threat; and the world is divided between Us and the Dark Other with no resolution except the agonal, and could—with economic dislocation as the catalyst—tumble us into a paroxysm of white nationalist hyper-masculinity as prelude to a new, uniquely American ... what?

My friend, Steve McClure, a former window dresser and feral scholar in the darker residential regions of Washington, D.C. —itself a study in colonization and social contrasts—notes:

I hate the word fascist.  It has been bandied about so much and brings up images of Storm troopers in grainy newsreels that it seems devoid of meaning.  Furthermore, classical fascism was possible only in a mass society, organized along industrial lines, with one-to-many communications. Classical fascism is a reactionary modernism, a response to class struggle. Both German and Italian variants came to power after the defeat of revolutionary upsurges.

I think our own situation is very different, and a better term needs to be found that captures the unique qualities of our reactionary postmodernism.  “Military police state” doesn’t quite cut it. Fascism implies policing of thought as well as bodies, today’s reaction is selective, policing bodies but allowing private speech and the empty illusions of parliamentary democracy to stand.

The Civilizing Mission

This trend of ignoring the backgrounds of military inductees—driven by numerical necessity—is swelling the ranks of tomorrow’s vigilantes of reaction.  People have the mental habit of assuming that the powerful control their own outcomes.  They don’t.  The militarization of police forces, white flight and urban abandonment, even the international system of dollar hegemony that the military backstops ... these all develop with multiple determinations, more akin to weather than strategy, with the larger system taking on a character independent of the agents within it.  Changing outcomes is not the same as controlling them.

My greatest anxiety for my two grandchildren is not that they will be the victims of a plot but the inheritors of inertia and a society of “good Germans,” while society dives into a long period of unanticipated macho warlordism ... and, oh by the way, ecocide.

We already have whole sections of America—in the former enclaves of a now deracinated working class—where hopelessness exists alongside police forces that function very like a military occupation force.  Before the war, these occupation zones—filled with idled, angry, dark-skinned youths—were our middle-class nightmare, the Dark Chaos that inevitably leads us back to the patriarchal default, to militarized masculinity, and to the cultural celebration of bounty hunting and sexual revenge in feudal prisons.

Alas, the place-marker of a war on drugs—that created the largest national prison population on the planet—couldn’t create the pretext for bases in Southwest Asia, so the war on terror will have to do.  The recruitment crisis that has opened the door to neo-Nazi youths entering military service was anything but a plan.  The term before the war that proponents used to describe its outcome was “cakewalk.”

Now even putative liberals have copped to their own version of “white man’s burden,” saying (the rhetorical) we  cannot “abandon Iraq,” lest “we” leave behind a terrible state of disorder.  And so “we” continue down that hoary, blood-drenched path of “civilizing missions.”

The Bush administration never tires of telling us how war is necessary to protect “us” from disorder.

We need to ask ourselves, however, what sowing the winds of war abroad will reap at home.  They are not Arabs who are painting Aryan Nations graffiti on the shattered walls of Baghdad.

1   2   3   4
Dig last updated on Oct. 3, 2006


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By Socrates, October 4, 2006 at 10:22 am Link to this comment
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Note to the Editor: there is a difference between “Special Forces” and “Special Operations.” The former are mostly advisors who aid foreign military forces to overcome a foe the US gov’t doesn’t like (e.g., helping the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan overcome the Taliban). The latter include very highly skilled soldiers (the cream of the crop, e.g., Navy Seals) who conduct black-ops and other small focused missions, often involving slipping in and out of an area to “neutralize” a bite-size target undetected.

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By Dear Stan;, October 4, 2006 at 10:20 am Link to this comment
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As felow Vetnam Combat veteran and former SFC thank you.  Would you mind telling me what Country you moved to and how is it.  I think it is time to leave myself with my family.

Second is Sowing the Seeds of Fascism In America a book if it is I would like to buy a copy.

Thank You,

Chris

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By Frances Greenfield, October 4, 2006 at 9:02 am Link to this comment
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Anyone who has been the least bit observant can see for themselves that this isn’t just an “American” problem. It is an ugly problem in the whole of the “white” western society in general. 

I genuinely believe we are moving towards a fascist government, not only in the United States, but in all countries that are dominately white.

How sad for the world and most likely the end of civilization as we know it - fascism has been coming for a long time - it just needed the right people in the right places to institute it and to bring down the upon our collective heads Orwell’s “1984”

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By Colonel, October 4, 2006 at 8:52 am Link to this comment
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Goff wanders all over the lot, making some good points and some not so good. What he totally misses is that the “military facism” he deplores is a copy of the Israeli Defense Force mentalty. Further, the American military “facists” who Goff denounces are being used in Iraq and other regions of the Middle East primarily in the service of Israel, not U.S., interests.

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By 131488WOLF131488, October 4, 2006 at 8:47 am Link to this comment
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So, Mr. Dig guy…are you FOR, or AGAINST???
You talk of being a veteran, so you must be of an age to have seen all the twisting of our laws and constitution, the degrading of uor land, our cities/towns/neighborhoods/SCHOOLS….our MORAL CHARACTER…all at the hands of the campaigns of those people out to DESTROY us, OUR CULTURE, AND our fine Nation…along with ALL EUROPE AND THE WORLD…You write as an authority on all this knowledge…WHAT SAY YOU??? Prey, or be preyed UPON???
  In The Awakening of White America…
                Wolf B’Shannon

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By Corporate Jesus, October 4, 2006 at 8:44 am Link to this comment
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Bukko,
  Got any room on your couch?

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By KISS, October 4, 2006 at 8:21 am Link to this comment
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While Mr. Goff does mentor some thoughts that are stimulating, I must disagree on protecting our borders as being neo-fascist. We are living in a time when a radioactive bomb will fit into a suitcase and has capabilities to kill tens of thousands of people. This is not fantasy this is realistic. Is Amerika a fascist state…it seems those seeds are germinating quite well. Corporate take-over is a reality, ” What is good for the Corporations, is good for Amerika”, that is the theme in every city, county, state and federal governments through-out our land. Globalization is the new slang for One World Government that was warned about decades ago. While those that scoffed at the time are so very still now. The middle class is soon to be at an all time low and poverty is the largest growing segment of our society..with no end in sight. While we grow poorer corporation grow bigger and bigger, with the blessings of all our governments. But while my fellow man refuses to read and think why should it get beetter?

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By BoDo, October 4, 2006 at 7:33 am Link to this comment
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A quite well-reasoned, and well-written explication of the rise of fascism, whose results we saw last week in the Congressional acceptance of the end of habeas corpus, the handing over of all power to the executive, and, to our eternal national shame, the legalization of torture and rejection of the Geneva Conventions.  Unlike the earlier commenter, I don’t have the option of moving to another country, so now, though I witnessed 9/11 personally in New York City, I finally feel the fear that our fearful leaders have been demanding of us for five years now.

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By Stan, October 4, 2006 at 6:27 am Link to this comment
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Actually, I am a 24-year veteran of the Army, and retired holding the MOS of 18Z, Special Forces.  Career outline and bio available at wiki.

But thanks agian, Truthdig.

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By malcolmartin, October 4, 2006 at 6:25 am Link to this comment
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Much like Charles Darwin’s immutable truths regarding of the origins and evolution of life, Karl Marx guided us through the reasons capitalism was born, why it would thrive and dominate for a time, and how its inherent contradictions condemn it to be replaced by a superior economic system called socialism. Marx’s brilliant science-based vision can no longer be challenged on the facts. It has and is going to continue to unfold just as he forecast. Capitalism is doomed.

So now as capitalism enters its final stages, gasping desperately for life-giving profit, politically a nearly seamless transition to fascism is taking place in the US, just as Mr. Goff states. The trappings of bourgeois democracy are a brake on profits and so they are being shredded. The Constitution and its Bill of Rights are being rendered meaningless by presidential signing statements and the theory of the unitary executive, extraordinary rendition, government surveillance programs and the like. Programs based on democratic principles like the public schools, Social Security, Medicare, affirmative action and welfare are being starved to death. The mass media and electoral machinery and both major political parties are now fully under the control of those in power. Bloodless coups in 2000 and 2004 installed George W. Bush in the White House and no future election will remove the candidate of the ruling class from power.

It would take a team of psychoanalysts to catalogue the many and varied mental pathologies of George W. Bush and his henchmen in the U.S. government. The point to keep in mind is that in this time and in this place the capitalist system needed people in power capable of carrying out insane and grotesquely inhumane policies, up to and including the coming nuclear strike on Iran.

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By Miguel, October 4, 2006 at 6:22 am Link to this comment
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‘Bukko in Australia’ paints a scary picture for the future of America. My hope is that he/she is wrong. Never the less, I’m staying right where I am, outside of the USA.

Maybe, if I live long enough, I’ll return, with others, to help rebuild America. Hopefully to help bring back the country I was born in to what it was meant to be.

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By rabblerowzer, October 4, 2006 at 5:45 am Link to this comment
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Republican voters fear the Foley scandal threatens their party’s control of government, so don’t hold your breath waiting for them to do any house cleaning. For Republicans, control is the main thing, and in fact the only thing. They don’t care that their party rigs elections to win, they don’t care that their party lied us into war, and they don’t care that their party has given Bush dictatorial powers.

Lust for control and power is the unifying force that binds billionaires and food-stamp republicans together. Lust for control, power and dominance over others is the psychological imperative that drives all republicans, from the richest to the poorest. That irresistible craving for dominance is their defining characteristic.

Every republican is “Ming the Merciless.”

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By atheist mom, October 4, 2006 at 5:15 am Link to this comment
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My husband and I are about to move our family out of the USA also. Ironically, we’re moving to Germany, which offers a better quality of life all around. I’m fifty, and things have never looked so bad here in my life.

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By oneyedjack, October 4, 2006 at 4:26 am Link to this comment
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Very good observation Bukko.  You’re right of course, it will get a lot worse before it gets better…if it ever gets better.

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By Bukko in Australia, October 4, 2006 at 1:59 am Link to this comment
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This is a well-reasoned, if somewhat psychologially deep and Freudian, look at the danger of fascism in the U.S. The American government has already moved a long way toward economic fascism, when the power of the state is used for the benefit of business, not the people. One of the reasons I left the U.S. was that I fear the rise of everyday fascism, as pointed out by this article.

Sorry to slag the troops, but I worry that they’ll be used to ride herd over the American people when the U.S. finally has to admit it has lost the war in Iraq. When the soldiers, airmen and Marines straggle home in defeat, in the midst of the coming depression, they’re going to want somewhere to vent their wrath. Whipped up by the rabid right-wing media, it will be easy to turn their anger on the “liberals who helped the terrorists.”

Jobless soldiers, mercenaries from Blackwater and other companies who are already being used for security inside the U.S., plus the angry downtrodden white men who carry guns and grudges, will have no trouble breaking the bones of any protesters who rally against government policies. Environmental groups, labor strikers, Democrats and anyone else who opposes the right, will be violently crushed.

America, you’re slipping into a long, dark night. Good luck.

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