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
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”):
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):
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:
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.
Dig last updated on Oct. 3, 2006
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