By Dennis Loo
By now we have nearly all heard about the raucous town hall meetings over health care. In the August 11, 2009 Washington Post, for example, Sen. Arlen Specter, meeting with the public in a Lebanon, PA town hall meeting, reproducing a similar scene that greeted him in Philadelphia last week, is this revealing excerpt:
"’You have awakened a sleeping giant,’ said Katy Abram, 35, a stay-at-home mother from Lebanon. ‘I don't want this country turning into Russia, turning into a socialized country.’
“Specter fielded 13 questions before someone voiced support for the health-care reform efforts. Questioner No. 14, Marilyn Boogaard, said she was nervous to stand up and say something positive about Democrats' health plan for fear of being booed.
"’I almost didn't want to ask my question because it's so intimidating,’ said Boogaard, 58, a nurse practitioner from Lebanon.”
“Outside the event where President Obama will conduct his town hall, there is an anti-Obama protestor with a gun -- a pistol strapped to his lower leg.
“The local police chief said it's legal for the man to have a registered handgun -- as long as it is not concealed. What's more, he is on private property, a church yard, which has given him permission to be there.”
Some people look at all of this and think, “This is crazy.”
It is crazy, but there is a deadly underlying method to this madness. The intimidation and bullying, thuggish, atmosphere fueled by alarmist, fabricated, lying, and distorted propaganda from the organs of right wing extremists at Fox News, the Christian fascist movement and the motley crew of fascists working in collusion with the GOP leadership, are purposeful, engineered, and extremely dangerous.
As Marilyn Boogard cited in the Post article says, she was afraid to say something positive about the Democrats’ health care plan because of the lynch mob atmosphere being whipped up. This is remarkable if you think about it: at town halls, where polite discourse is the norm, people who support the majority party in Congress and the party that holds the White House are almost too scared to speak up in the face of worked-up- into-a-lather conservatives who think that Obama’s an illegitimate president, a socialist, and that the Democratic Party is chock full of traitors.
When a movement seeks to take power, they do so in steps. By this point all too many steps have already been taken to fascist norms. The transition from being afraid to speak up to being physically shut up is a short step indeed.
The following article, written before the Town Hall fracases, can be usefully read in conjunction with the very latest developments. While I don’t see it in every respect the same way, it makes must reading because of these fascist moves:
Is the U.S. on the Brink of Fascism?
By Sara Robinson, Campaign for America's Future,
Posted on August 7, 2009,
“All through the dark years of the Bush Administration, progressives watched in horror as Constitutional protections vanished, nativist rhetoric ratcheted up, hate speech turned into intimidation and violence, and the president of the United States seized for himself powers only demanded by history's worst dictators. With each new outrage, the small handful of us who'd made ourselves experts on right-wing culture and politics would hear once again from worried readers: Is this it? Have we finally become a fascist state? Are we there yet?
“And every time this question got asked, people like Chip Berlet and Dave Neiwert and Fred Clarkson and yours truly would look up from our maps like a parent on a long drive, and smile a wan smile of reassurance. ‘Wellll...we're on a bad road, and if we don't change course, we could end up there soon enough. But there's also still plenty of time and opportunity to turn back. Watch, but don't worry. As bad as this looks: no -- we are not there yet.’
“In tracking the mileage on this trip to perdition, many of us relied on the work of historian Robert Paxton, who is probably the world's pre-eminent scholar on the subject of how countries turn fascist. In a 1998 paper published in The Journal of Modern History, Paxton argued that the best way to recognize emerging fascist movements isn't by their rhetoric, their politics, or their aesthetics. Rather, he said, mature democracies turn fascist by a recognizable process, a set of five stages that may be the most important family resemblance that links all the whole motley collection of 20th Century fascisms together. According to our reading of Paxton's stages, we weren't there yet. There were certain signs -- one in particular -- we were keeping an eye out for, and we just weren't seeing it.
“And now we are. In fact, if you know what you're looking for, it's suddenly everywhere. It's odd that I haven't been asked for quite a while; but if you asked me today, I'd tell you that if we're not there right now, we've certainly taken that last turn into the parking lot and are now looking for a space. Either way, our fascist American future now looms very large in the front windshield -- and those of us who value American democracy need to understand how we got here, what's changing now, and what's at stake in the very near future if these people are allowed to win -- or even hold their ground.”
The rest of this article can be found at AlterNet.