Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator (ludickid) wrote,
Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator
ludickid

Worse Than Hipster

Thanks to Phil Nugent for bringing to my attention this fascinating Slate article: should we be allowed to compare the Bush administration to the Nazi party?


...even though the Bush administration unapologetically practices the reality - eschewing art of propaganda—with procured "journalists," its own "news" pipeline at Fox, leader-centric ("war president") stagecraft, the classic Big Lie MO of, say, draft avoiders smearing war heroes as unpatriotic — we are not permitted to draw any comparisons to the über-propagandists of the previous century...

***

The relevance of Third Reich Germany to today's America is not that Bush equals Hitler or that the United States government is a death machine. It's that it provides a rather spectacular example of the insidious process by which decent people come to regard the unthinkable as not only thinkable but doable, justifiable. Of the way freethinkers and speakers become compliant and self-censoring. Of the mechanism by which moral or humanistic categories are converted into bureaucratic ones...

***

The most literal shock of recognition was the repulsively callous arrogance of the term "shock and awe." (The Iraqi people were supposed to pause and be impressed by our bombs before being incinerated/liberated by them?) Airstrikes as propaganda had been the invention of the German Luftwaffe, whose signature work, the terror-bombing Blitz of England, did not awe the British people into submission, either. Then there were subtler reverberations. When Bush's brain trust pushed through its executive-enhancing stratagems, I happened to be reading about brilliant German legal theoretician Carl Schmitt, who codified Hitler's führerprincip into law. (In the Balkans of cyberspace, I discovered, lurked an excellent article by Alan Wolfe detailing how Schmitt's theories also predicted the salt-the-ground political tactics of the Karl Rove conservatives.) When the administration established a class of nonpersons known as the "unlawful enemy combatant," I flashed on how the Nazis legalized their treatment of the Jews simply by rendering them stateless. And then in 2004, the Republicans threatened to override Senate rules and abolish the filibuster in order to thwart the Democrats' stand against Bush's most extremist nominees for federal judgeships. This "nuclear option" (so named by Trent Lott in acknowledgment of his party's willingness to destroy the Congress in order to save the country) struck me as a functional analog of the Enabling Act of 1933, which consolidated the German government under Chancellor Hitler and effectively dissolved the Reichstag as a parliamentary body.

***

...The official name of that 1933 National Socialist masterstroke was the "Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Reich," and the distress warranting its transfer of dictatorial power to Hitler was the state crisis provoked by the Reichstag fire the month before. And so it was under the open-ended emergency created by 9/11 that Bush's Military Commissions Act, passed in September, gave the president authority to designate anyone he so deemed, citizen or no, an "unlawful enemy combatant" and, habeas corpus having been nullified, send him away indefinitely.

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While we may prefer to believe that the Good German institutions capitulated to Hitler under the black boot of the SS, current scholarship confirms that Nazification, like segregation in America, was largely voluntary, even in the free press.

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We have become such "good Americans" that we no longer have the moral imagination to picture what it might be like to be in a bureaucratic category that voids our human rights, be it "enemy combatant" or "illegal immigrant." Thus, in the week before the election, hardly a ripple answered the latest decree from the Bush administration: Detainees held in CIA prisons were forbidden from telling their lawyers what methods of interrogation were used on them, presumably so they wouldn't give away any of the top-secret torture methods that we don't use. Cautiously, I look back on that as the crystallizing moment of Bushworld: tautological as a Gilbert and Sullivan libretto, absurd as a Marx Brothers movie, and scary as a Kafka novel.

Tags: politics
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  • The Party of What People?

    This will be my last entry of 2016.  Next year will begin, barring some unexpected act of fate, with the ascension to the presidency of Donald…

  • Anno Terribilis

    2016, the little year that absolutely could not, is almost over, and with the exception of people for whom it was a raging success —…

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