Monday, April 20, 2009

What comes after Fascism?

Saul Anuzis, who lost out to Michael Steele in a bid to become chairman of the GOP, explains the escalation of epithets hurled at President Obama. "Liberal" no longer shocks after thirty years of overuse. "Big spender" has no credibility after eight years of Bush deficits. "Socialist" and even "Communist" no longer scare now that a whole generation has grown up without the Soviet boogyman. "We’ve so overused the word ‘socialism’ that it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago," Anuzis tells the New York Times. The GOP and Fox News needed something bigger to scare voters with, so they turned to Jonah Goldberg's silly book for guidance: "Fascism — everybody still thinks that’s a bad thing."

It's an amazing confession. Anuzis makes no attempt to explain what, if anything, is fascistic about Obama's policies. He doesn't even imply that he believes the policies are in any way fascist. Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Jonah Goldberg might be able to delude themselves into believing it, but it's nothing more than a marketing decision to Anuzis. The Republicans needed a scary name to call Obama, "fascist" still makes people take pause and listen, so "fascist" it is.

If Anuzis' cynicism is stunning, his frankness about his cynicism is doubly stunning — and stunningly stupid. This seems to be a new trend developing among political operatives. They can't seem to resist bragging about their tactics, even though that bragging lets the other side prepare their counter-punch and warns the public about how they are about to be manipulated. It's like a magician telling his audience, "I'm going to wave this shiny thing over here so you won't notice me pulling the dove out of the secret pocket in my coat with my other hand." It's counter-productive for both the magician and the political operative. In show biz, it's career suicide. In politics, it's not only career suicide; it contributes to the public's cynicism and undermines their faith in the electoral system. Democracy needs a certain amount of faith to survive.

Calling the other side fascist is usually a sign that you're a kook, losing the argument, or a kook who's losing the argument. Even when it's technically accurate, it turns off the audience. Left wing debaters have been blowing their credibility away for decades with this tactic; now it's the right wing's turn to do the same. And, when "fascism" doesn't work for them, what will they turn to next? Blood libel?

What the hell is wrong with these people?

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