FASCIST.

The redoubtable Geoff Nunberg has investigated the word fascist in his latest “Fresh Air” commentary and has interesting things to say about the reasons it gets used very differently in American and Europe. (Via Uncle Jazzbeau’s Gallimaufrey.)

Comments

  1. “That lower-case use of the word began with the sixties radicals, who borrowed it from the international left,” writes Nunberg.
    How, and why, then, did the “international left” come to use it as an emblematic derogatory word for their political enemies? Why indeed, if fascism was soft and nazism tough – why not use “nazis” instead?
    I’m speculating here a bit, but I think the Soviet propaganda might have something to do with it. The Soviets used “fascist” a lot – but “nazi” much more seldom. The nazi armies, for example, are usually instead referred to as “gitlerovskie vojska” – hitlerite armies.
    Since nazism was short for “national socialim”, it might be that Soviet propaganda machinery actively choose not to use a word which contained “socialism” (or at least had a connection to it) as their number one derogatory.
    Fascism – from Italien fasces – did not desecrate socialism in the same way.

  2. Makes sense. Also, “nazism” was more specific to Germany, whereas “fascism” was appropriated by right-wingers in other countries besides Italy.

  3. Do we not consider Franco the template for fascism? The only reason I can think of for not doing so is embarrassment that he basically got away with it.
    And this side of the Atlantic the Ashcroft/Cheney regime is referred to as “fascist” by persons who mean it in precisely the Yoorpean sense, which Mr Nunberg doesn’t really discuss. (Curious readers might like to try Umberto Eco’s checklist).
    It probably isn’t needless to say that I consider such accusations premature at the very least, although I wouldn’t like to choose between them and Mr Nunberg’s blithe assurance that it really couldn’t happen “here” for foolishness.

  4. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Now here.

    And an archived version of the Eco article. I don’t see much in the events of the last 25 years to contradict his insights.

  5. Googled Ashcroft. No useful results on the first page.

    Googled “fascist Ashcroft” – the fourth result (in New York Times) appeared to be correct.

    Apparently John Ashcroft was Attorney General during first George W. Bush administration.

    I must admit I have completely forgotten about this fascist.

    Sic transit…

  6. David Marjanović says:

    Ah yes, Ayatollah Ashcroft.

    (Read the first few comments, too.)

    Do we not consider Franco the template for fascism?

    …no…? The phenomenon and the word started with Mussolini.

  7. The phenomenon yes, the word… it’s complicated. Radical workers’ organizations called fasci dei lavoratori were common in Sicily in the 1880s, joining together in the early 1890s as a political group called Fasci siciliani before being suppressed by the government. In 1914 Benito Mussolini created the militaristic Fasci d’azione rivoluzionaria, called the “Milan fascio,” whose members were called fascisti, and in 1919 he reconstituted it as the Fasci italiani di combattimento, transformed in 1921 into a political party, the Partito Nazionale Fascista. So yes, “fascism” was probably first used in reference to Mussolini’s group, but that group was not originally “fascist” in the modern sense, and the fasci to which the term refers went back well before him. Compare the history of “soviet.”

  8. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Well, by the time I was growing up, Mussolini was long dead and the most successful fascist was indeed Franco. Maybe the word fascist wasn’t invented during the Civil War, but the shoe certainly fit.

    Then there were the juntas in Greece, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, and so on. That it was originally an Italian thing was just a historical detail, and the general impression was that Mussolini had just been a Hitler wannabe. (While stories about (resistance) volunteers in Spain did circulate).

  9. Mussolini probably believed that ancient Rome was the first fascist state.

  10. Well, by the time I was growing up, Mussolini was long dead and the most successful fascist was indeed Franco.

    He was certainly called a fascist (as has been pretty much every extremely conservative leader since Mussolini), but that doesn’t mean he was one. To quote Wikipedia: “Franco himself certainly detested communism, but had no commitment to any ideology: his stand was motivated not by foreign fascism but by Spanish tradition and patriotism. […] The Nazis were disappointed with Franco’s resistance to installing fascism.” It’s fun to insult people, but I prefer to keep my historical descriptors grounded in reality.

  11. Lars Mathiesen says:

    I haven’t actually researched for myself how Spanish politics worked under Franco, but his regime was described as fascist in the non-ideological sense (close cooperation between state, business, military and church, no real representation for anybody else) — I think this was a bit before fascist became an all-round insult — and that was how I meant it. I’m not sure the Nazis were properly fascist in this sense so I don’t know what to think about WP’s claim, and whether Franco himself liked the word doesn’t decide the question.

    I’m not sure if the technical term fits the various juntas I mentioned, though, maybe they were just right-wing military oppressors.

  12. David Marjanović says:

    That it was originally an Italian thing was just a historical detail, and the general impression was that Mussolini had just been a Hitler wannabe.

    Wow.

    pretty much every extremely conservative leader since Mussolini

    Have there actually been any extremely conservative leaders since Mussolini other than Franco and maybe Salazar (…and most popes)? And even Franco’s policy of making Spain a monoglot Spanish country was not conservative at all.

  13. In case you haven’t noticed, the current occupant of the White House is regularly called a fascist by those who oppose him, and my radical cohort in the ’60s applied the epithet regularly to anyone right of SDS. But I think you’re misunderstanding the word “conservative”; it’s long since ceased having anything to do with conserving anything.

  14. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    Hang on, hat, so who would you apply the word ‘fascist’ to, then? Just the Mussolini regime?

  15. Even the self-titled pre-war British Fascisti/Fascists couldn’t all quite agree on what they were and what they wanted, hence strife and factionalism.

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t go quite so far as Orwell’s “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’.”

  16. Hang on, hat, so who would you apply the word ‘fascist’ to, then? Just the Mussolini regime?

    Basically. I used to be more willing to extend it, but it’s lent itself to so much sloppy arguing that I consider it skunked. I think I basically agree with Orwell about usage in the last half-century or so.

  17. I mean, descriptions like “corporatist state” are available if one wants to talk seriously about such regimes (as opposed to showing how much you hate and despise them).

  18. One can be a right-wing authoritarian nationalist without being fascist.* Fascism was a totalitarian ideology (or rather, a group of totalitarian ideologies, for different nations). How successful the totalitarian aspects were varied significantly from country to country. Obviously, Nazi Germany was the most fully converted, Italy much less so, Arrow Cross Hungary not really at all, since by the time the Arrow Cross came to power, the war was lost and Hungary was under full German occupation.

    However, the Arrow Cross do provide a clear example of the difference between merely rightist authoritarian government and full fascism. For most of the Second World War, Hungary was governed by Miklos Horthy’s repressive, but not fascist, regime. It was an ultra-conservative government, but it tried to maintain a continuity with the pre-First-World-War past, with the dictator Horthy styling himself as regent of the Kingdom of Hungary.

    Hitler, as a true fascist ideologue, wanted to create a totally new kind if regime, a radical departure from both the Weimar Republic and the previous Kaiserreich. (He was incensed to learn that, after the conquest of the Netherlands, the army had posted an honor guard at the home of the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm.) That Franco wanted Spain to return to royal rule after his death is one of the clear indications that he was not really committed to a revolutionary fascist regime. Moreover, in Italy, the fact the Mussolini had to keep the king around, rather than completely replacing the constitution, was actually a sign of his relative weakness, and the intervention of the king did indeed end up being a key part of Mussolini’s downfall, after the Americans landings in Italy.

    The Arrow Cross, who Hitler put in charge of the civilian government of Hungary after his 1944 invasion of the country, were, unlike Horthy’s regime, which had at least made a pretense of supporting some kind of Hungarian multiculturalism, were pure Magyar ethnic fascists. Like the Nazis, or the Ustase in Croatia, the Arrow Cross ideology was based around building a new kind of society, demanding absolute loyalty. Thst loyalty would be first to the party or movement,** as the sole legitimate manifestation of the will of the ethnically pure society, and only secondarily to the state. Under the circumstances, the Arrow Cross never got to implement this principle, except on the smallest scales, but the ideological contrast with Horthy’s royalism was still stark.

    * Of course, the practice of referring to all the right-wing European dictatorships that originated in the inter-war period as “fascist” is essentially as old as Mussolini’s march on Rome. At the time, the differences in ideology (and, relatedly, murderousness) were, especially from overseas, probably harder to recognize, and they certainly did not seem particularly salient (although some of this was willful blindness, with people not wanting to take the mist radical right-wing politicians seriously, even when they set out many of their goals quite explicitly, as Hitler did in Mein Kampf).

    ** That under totalitarianism, whether fascist or communist, the movement, not the government, was the most important thing was one of Hannah Arendt’s observations. The Soviets obviously had a different conception of how the Communist Party came to be the preeminent manifestation of the people’s will, but the horseshoe theory is definitely in effect there.

  19. i find eco’s approach to refusing to define fascism (using the word as an umbrella term anchored in its core classical referents: italian fascism, german naziism, and spanish falangism) interesting, and at times useful. but it’s remarkably unhelpful for thinking about how to fight fascism, since it provides no analysis of how fascist movements develop, operate, or are structured. and that’s key, since they have no ideological coherence (internally or between variants) and so cannot be fought on the level of political persuasion.

    i tend to find the italian communists’ political-economic analysis from the 1930s on the one hand, and klaus theweleit’s socio-psychological analysis from the 1970s on the other, more helpful. the latter is a bit elaborate, and i won’t get into it (aside from recommending Male Fantasies). the former is fairly simple* – fascism is the political action of the most conservative elements of the owning class (in the 1930s, large landowners and heavy industry; these days, the extractive industries, agribusiness, and military contractors; consistently, the high-tech sector), mobilizing a popular base of support from the precarious middle class. even at the super-schematic level, it’s an approach that starts to point out how these movements can be combatted and defeated.

    and, of course, sinclair lewis uses (implicitly) more or less this analysis in It Can’t Happen Here, which is still the best novel (and play) yet written about the past five years of u.s. history…

    * footnote: palmiro togilatti’s Lectures on Fascism

  20. J.W. Brewer says:

    The pre-WW2 functional definition to which Brett adverts works out to more or less “any self-conscious modern alternative to bourgeois parliamentary democracy not supported by Communists.” Since outside of Iberia (and to a lesser extent maybe Latin America and various non-Western locales) such alternatives failed to survive WW2, the Communists, Communist sympathizers, fellow travelers, etc. of hat’s generation had to recast bourgeois parliamentary democracy as itself fascist or at least tending in that direction. One problem, both before and after WW2, is that you had not-particularly-democratic leaders like Franco who needed to hold together internally diverse political coalitions (same was true for Horthy in his day). There’s another thing floating around, both before and after WW2, which can definitely overlap with the “self-conscious modern alternative” thing yet is not the same, viz “any available alternative to bourgeois parliamentary democracy that attracts support for pragmatic/tactical reasons from those who really want to keep the Communists out of power in their country but do not think BPD is capable of doing so in the particular time and place.”

  21. David Eddyshaw says:

    Eco’s list is surprisingly thought-provoking (not surprising because Eco, but because I thought the subject had been done to death.)

    Particularly the very first: The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition. To say that this has an uncomfortable resonance at the present time is an understatement: uncomfortable in particular for those of us who (rightly) value tradition. I think/hope that the operative word here is cult. Eco’s notion has considerable explanatory power; and it’s a salutary warning.

  22. One can be a right-wing authoritarian nationalist without being fascist.

    The details of your argument show clearly how useless the term is; you can only discuss such things with people who share your definition of fascism, which is not that many people. Since we’re no longer having to deal with Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, or any of that wretched lot, it’s of purely academic interest to parse the differences and similarities. We can deal with the current bunch of would-be Maximum Leaders without having to agree on a definition of “fascism.”

  23. David Marjanović says:

    Ah, yes, Horthy is a good example. Also, some of the most spectacular (though not effective) resistance to Hitler came from conservatives like Stauffenberg. In Europe’s democracies today, conservatives and ever-so-slightly fascistoid xenophobes can enter coalitions on occasion (or almost every occasion like in Austria), but usually they’re quite hostile to each other, and their parties definitely don’t merge.

    But I think you’re misunderstanding the word “conservative”; it’s long since ceased having anything to do with conserving anything.

    Ah, I was definitely not using “conservative” in any of its more common American senses, yes. (For instance, what Americans of all sorts seem to call “conservative economic policy” would be called liberal extremist economic policy over here.) That said, lots of self-designated conservatives in the US have been complaining for years that Trump isn’t conservative (and I agree, useless as that is). Nothing but the two-party system, which is an inevitable outcome of the Constitution, forces them to be in the same party as him and by association to share ideological labels.

    Trump isn’t personally a fascist, or committed to any ideology at all; he doesn’t have the attention span and is a narcissist to boot. However, he constantly tries to use fascism for his goal to stay in power. As part of that he keeps genuine fascists around: Miller, formerly Bannon, and the Proud Boys who loudly glorify violence, action and carefully cherry-picked traditions. As another part, he has himself portrayed as the incarnation of the Will of the People – a representation more accurate than any election result. Then there’s the angle of literal national socialism, where Trump has himself portrayed as the grand protector of American jobs against the rest of the world and has been turning the Republicans into the new workers’ party. These effects would be the same if he were a fascist himself. The reason not that much has actually happened in that direction is instead that he’s so deeply incompetent – his narcissism prevents him from learning as well as from hiring anyone who might outshine him.

    Again and again as a tragedy, finally as a farce.

    “corporatist state”

    Ah, but the corporazioni he was talking about were the trade unions. Mussolini wanted to merge the power of the trade unions with the power of the state.

    Likewise, one of the first things Hitler did when he came to power was to merge the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of the Economy: the eternal conflict between the workers and the employers was “solved” by dictating the “solutions” from above and expecting everyone downwards of the minister to just shut up forever.

  24. Sure, that’s what a corporatist state is. I’m not disputing your analysis, just saying that the word “fascist” has become pretty useless for serious discussion.

  25. David Marjanović says:

    From Eco’s article:

    Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.

    Ah, so that’s how the Demonrat Party was at the same time strong enough to steal the presidential election and weak enough to not steal the senatorial elections! I was wondering. 🙂

  26. Yes, and the mistake rational people always make is to oppose such ideas with facts and logic. They don’t work, and using force turns you into what you oppose. Further research is needed.

  27. David Eddyshaw says:

    While (needless to say) I disagree strongly with the sentiment (and am none too fond of the poet, come to that) I do like this poem:

    https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Magna_Est_Veritas_(Patmore)

  28. Fascism is also a brand. Back when Mussolini was popular, that brand attracted various offshoots, some more, some less like the Italian model (Ba‘athism is another brand of authoritarianism.) The study of what the brand meant to various people is worthwhile in itself; nowadays it is also useful to rile up people against paricular regimes. But using it as a well-defined category by which to analyze various political systems leads to endless unfocused arguments.

  29. Exactly.

  30. I generally don’t refer to any modern politicians as “fascist,” and I agree with languagehat that it is not useful terminology for today’s politics. The key difference, I think, is the much stronger rule of law, even in states that are backsliding towards authoritarianism, like Hungary or Poland. Harassment and imprisonment of journalists may be coming back, but the 1920s and 1930s phenomena of armed paramilitaries routinely murdering masses of regime opponents are not, at least not yet.

  31. David Marjanović says:

    On the one hand, yes. The Overton Window is not where it was before WWII.

    On the other hand, “the Second Amendment people” sometimes just seem to lack coordination with each other and with Barr’s semi-secret stormtroopers…

  32. David Eddyshaw says:

    While “fascism” is certainly too narrow a term for it, there is a common thread among these fundamentally anti-human movements: they cannot even function without a sustained assault on the very concepts of objective truth and disinterested enquiry (as Eco says, Disagreement is treason.)

    The degree to which these submoral leaders throughout the world have already succeeded in separating their supporters from reality is the most frightening thing about them. So far.

  33. J.W. Brewer says:

    Re what Eco says about the “cult of tradition,” it is worth noting that he’s using “tradition” to mean something rather different and more esoteric than what David E. probably means when he says he values tradition. Traditionally-minded Brits of the “God save little shops, china cups, and virginity” sort (or the “old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist” sort) are not particularly congruent with the soi-disant https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditionalist_School, which is more what Eco is inveighing against. Of course, in much of continental Europe where nothing resembling a modern nation-state existed before a bunch of opportunists and cafe intelligentsia began willing them into existence a bare 150 or so years ago, a lot of “tradition” needed to be manufactured (or rediscovered and retrieved from unjust obscurity, if you prefer) in rather a hurry.

  34. @J.W. Brewer: Just as only being romantic about certain things is Romanticism,* only being traditional in certain ways is Traditionalism.

    @David Marjanović: In America, actual fascism is a very long way off. I am certainly not of the, “It can’t happen here,” school, but neither do I think it is productive to call our prospective right-wing authoritarians “fascists.” There are increasingly worrying trends, like the current administration’s failure to endorse and participate in the orderly transfer power. That is a definite and dangerous step toward authoritarianism, although if the presidential election were actually stolen, the resulting regime would still represent a very soft form of authoritarianism—at least initially.

    When it comes to physical political violence, affairs will still have to get a lot worse to be comparable to even the least violent inter-war European dictatorships, like Vaterländische Front Austria. In America, white supremacist revanchists have had a growth in visible public gatherings since Trump took office (although the white supremacist events have almost always been outnumbered by counter-protestors). There have also been sporadic incidents of right-wing violence, which have often been attributed to an increasingly emboldened ethno-nationalist right-wing fringe—although the last part might or might be a real effect, since there has been a trickling undercurrent of right-wing violence in American society for decades. Still, these are issues that need to monitored carefully, because the rule of law can deteriorate surprisingly quickly. I think it is important to understand how authoritarian movements can arise in times of (real or perceived) chaos, and understanding the different strains of authoritarian ideology is a key part of that.

    * As in, nostalgia for a rural society with a chivalric aristocracy is Romanticism, but waxing on about an egalitarian socialist utopia is Realism.

  35. In America, actual fascism is a very long way off.

    ? In the country and its so-called democracy in which McCarthyism held sway?

    [from the Eco] ” the cult of action for action’s sake” [his italics] Which takes us to Nietzsche. Which takes us to Ayn Rand. Which takes us to the numbers of American Libertarians who hold or have held positions of influence, particularly in Public Finance.

    [Eco again] The official Fascist intellectuals were mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia ‘libtards’.

    I see in American public discourse just no thread of Socialist critique that would point to the history of the rise of anti-democratic authoritarianism. Republicans criticise Putin, Xi not because they’re authoritarian, not because of what they’re doing to their own populations, but because they’re acting against U.S. interests.

  36. Traditionally-minded Brits of the “God save little shops, china cups, and virginity” sort

    Context, if anyone’s unfamiliar.

    I like this rendition.

  37. David Eddyshaw says:

    Actually, I’m pretty resistant to Tradition in that sense (even when articulated by the altogether wonderful Kinks) and have no sympathy at all for the cod-religion of “eternal sophia.” I was thinking of cultural and (genuine, as opposed to recently concocted) religious traditions, and it seems to me probable that Eco was too. The temptation to idolise the Traditionalist School seems unlikely to lead to a dangerous mass movement; but to idolise a particular Christian tradition, very much so, as the recent election in the US most grievously confirms once again.

  38. Yes, what DE said. And I like that Kate Rusby rendition (though I prefer the Kinks), so thanks for that!

  39. J.W. Brewer says:

    Eco’s specific example, hypothetically found in the “New Age” section of bookstores (and he was writing back when mass-market bookstores were still a thing) was “But combining Saint Augustine and Stonehenge — that is a symptom of Ur-Fascism.” That seems a pretty “sophia perennis” vibe. I’m not saying that Eco’s view is necessarily accurate or useful as a way of understanding past history or potential future political trends, especially outside a specifically Italian context. I’m just trying to elucidate what Eco’s view appears to be.

  40. David Eddyshaw says:

    @JWB:

    You may very well be right; though if so, I think Eco was indeed missing a trick. The New-Agey stuff is just another manifestation of the assault on the very concept of objective truth, essential to the Fascist project; the precise form the disconnect from reality takes is unimportant, so long as the concept of truth as discoverable in principle by common human endeavour in good faith has been abandoned.

    Co-opting genuine specific traditions from the start seems much more alarming: I wish there weren’t so many examples to hand. Eco may, of course, not have recognised this as a meaningful distinction; but even if one agrees with him, it seems more ominous if a proto-fascism successfully taps into an existing highly influential worldview at the outset, rather than cobbling one together as it goes.

  41. David Marjanović says:

    In the country and its so-called democracy in which McCarthyism held sway?

    That was seventy years ago – when the US was closer to fascism than today in some ways, farther away in others.

    In America, actual fascism is a very long way off.

    I agree: the goals and the execution are far apart. Like… it’s kinda cute to watch how Bannon tries to be an evil genius.

    The degree to which these submoral leaders throughout the world have already succeeded in separating their supporters from reality is the most frightening thing about them. So far.

    In the US it’s not even them, it’s Fox News.

    (I think we’re very lucky Trump doesn’t personally own a bunch of TV channels the way Berlusconi does.)

  42. J.W. Brewer says:

    And now we’re back going in circles, because explicitly illiberal regimes which draw ideological legitimacy from pre-existing influential worldviews are quite common throughout human history,. What was thought striking about fascism in its interwar context was how it differed from the traditional mode of such regimes in Europe by being a self-consciously New Thing. That’s what e.g. makes Spain a difficult case to categorize because Franco presided over a broad coalition that clearly included “let’s have a shiny new modern ideology” Falangists but also clearly included plenty of old-school illiberal nationalists who disliked liberalism because of e.g. its anti-clericalism and other forms of hostility to traditional modes of life (although as noted above there had been some shifts, since during the 19th century civil wars in Spain the liberals were generally the centralizers and the Carlists the defenders of regional autonomy).

    But perhaps the proto-fascism David E. is concerned about is not that sort of old-school illberalism but a different sort of New Thing? What does he think of the long-running claims that Saunders Lewis’ style of Welsh nationalism was fascist and/or fascist-adjacent (or at a minimum involved more reading of and admiration for Charles Maurras than a True Welshman ought to have done)?

  43. Uh-oh! Now you’ve got his Welsh blood up!

    *stands back, well out of range*

  44. David Eddyshaw says:

    I’m no fan of Saunders Lewis at all. He was indeed fascist-adjacent in the Maurras style.

    I’m glad to say that modern Plaid Cymru (which I do not support) has a very different approach (exemplified by an excellent friend and colleague of mine who was their local candidate in the last Westminster election. Didn’t stop me campaigning against him …)

    Nationalist movements are naturally prone to this trap. I admire the Scottish Nationalists (whom I do not support either) for taking great pains to avoid it.

    To speak plainly: the proto-fascism that concerns me is the sort that battens on mainstream (may God have mercy) white “evangelical” Christianity. The depth of the disease has only really become fully apparent to me in the aftermath of the US election. As far as I can see the great majority of these people have no glimmering of the shit they’re in. They need to repent.

  45. David Marjanović says:

    They need to repent.

    How dare you call them “deplorable”.

    *exit stage right, pursued by a bald eagle*

  46. The classical fascism of the 20s and 30s had no problem reconciling anti-clericalism, esoteric thinking and neo-paganism with painting itself as a defender of traditional religion and “occidental values” against godless communism. With its emphasis on “action” and on loyalty to the movement / the leader as the most important criteria, it mostly didn’t even try to dissolve such contradictions or create unified dogmas. Attempts to do so, like Rosenberg’s “Ideology if the 20th century”, or creations like “German Christianity” (with an Aryan Christ who was killed by the Jews for being Aryan) never got much traction.
    The interesting thing is that we again see such cooptations; in Germany, Covid deniers with an “alternative” / New Agey background marching together with traditional right wingers and fascists.

  47. David Eddyshaw says:

    I suppose (leveraging from what JWB said) one could make a stab at narrowing the reference of “fascism” to something more practically useful by explicitly excluding the sort of system that draws ideological legitimacy from an existing widely influential system; but I think Hat is right, nevertheless, in saying that the term is not really useful outside its specific historical contexts.

    “Protofascist”, I think, is not quite so unusable; it helps to have a word for the sort of groundwork that prepares for authoritarian rule by systematic denial of the possibility of objective truth. It’s helped me to understand (for example) what Trump and his enablers have been about right from the beginning of his presidency, with the transparent lies about the inauguration crowd size. The transparency was the point: a test run.

  48. How dare you call them “deplorable”.

    How dare you call low-information voters “ignorant”.

  49. Seriously, there are two things about HRC’s “deplorable” comment: one, she didn’t say that all of whatsis’s voters were “deplorable”: she said that some of them were, and it was clear she was talking about the awful extreme: nazis, the klan, et al. The other thing was that she used a $10 euphemism to mean “awful people”, and that helped reinforce her image as a detached elitist. That, I believe, made the gaffe much more serious than its actual content did, even misinterpreted as it was.

  50. David Eddyshaw says:

    low-information voters

    I have actually made some effort to convince myself that the enthusiastic embrace of an evil man by so many of my coreligionists could be to a great extent be explained by ignorance, gullibility …

    Wishful thinking. It’s not lack of information that’s the problem. They know enough: the trouble is that they like what they see.

    This may, of course, be perfectly appropriate in a democracy: cf the old mining MP Bill Stone’s brief yet robust defence of democracy in

    https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2010/dec/11/simon-hoggarts-week

  51. J.W. Brewer says:

    What with the Catholics historically getting to experiment with a wide range of illiberal alternatives to bourgeois parliamentary democracy (maybe Salazar at one end of the spectrum in Europe and the Ustashe at the other?) I hardly think it’s fair for David E. to begrudge his fellow Protestants the chance to try their hand at it.

    His influence is no doubt wildly exaggerated by easily-frightened outsiders, but you could say that Calvinism did generate its own American Maurras in the person of the late Rev’d R.J. Rushdoony, although to his credit Rushdoonyism is not very nationalistic at least at the level of theory.

  52. David Eddyshaw says:

    True; Rushdoony was a different sort of loony. The antidote to that sort of crap* is the (perfectly Calvinist) doctrine of Common Grace. Also basic Common Sense …

    You may like this shooting-fish-in-a-barrel takedown of Rushdoony by Murray Rothbard (worth it for the PS alone):

    https://www.libertarianism.org/essays/Rothbard-against-the-Christian-Reconstructionists

    *Apologies for technical theological terminology.

  53. the trouble is that they like what they see.

    Indeed. Despite Trump making no attempt over 4 years to dissociate himself from the “awful extreme”; and despite his manifest incompetence — I would have thought competence a sine qua non of any ‘new order’, more voted for him this time than last.

    And whatever doubts about Clinton, hardly any more voted for Biden than for her — it can mostly be explained by the increased turnout anyway. (Must say I’m deeply unimpressed by Biden too — do the Democrats have no other idea than to be nice and inoffensive?)

    But democracy is not one thing any more than is Fascism, and not all forms of democracy deserve defending in a world so changed by the information age. The U.S.’s democracy has been conspicuously broken for a long time (as has Britain’s), in such a way that it is easily usurped by authoritarians/’strong men’ (or Margaret Thatcher) whose appeal is to override the bickering and inertia.

    Other countries have had such ghastly experiences under some forms of democracy they have changed the voting system. There seems to be only a few on the periphery talking about this in U.S. or Britain.

  54. Trond Engen says:

    AntC: The U.S.’s democracy has been conspicuously broken for a long time (as has Britain’s)

    Add France, and in another way Belgium, and, in one way following another, Italy.

    I’ll argue that the accumulated powers of the presidency in France and the US, much to compensate for already dysfunctional parliamentary systems, make them broken to a different degree than the others.

  55. J.W. Brewer says:

    I don’t feel obligated to pick a side to root for in a dispute between Rushdoony and Rothbard, but I note that Rothbard does not treat Rushdoony as the problem but Calvin as the problem, believing that Calvinism is inevitably hostile to the Thomist-Lockean synthesis he suggests is foundational to his own preferred political arrangements. Back in the day Thomists and Lockeans often seemed to be on opposite sides, but maybe this was strategic disinformation as when (if you ask folks in the right part of the Balkans) the Vatican and the Freemasons pretended to dislike each other.

  56. David Eddyshaw says:

    I don’t feel obligated to pick a side to root for in a dispute between Rushdoony and Rothbard

    No indeed. A curse on both their horses. (It is funny, though.)

    I think MR has a point about Calvin, to a limited extent. It is Calvinist doctrine that our actual rational judgment is compromised by sin. However, it by no means follows from this that it is impossible for non-Christians to arrive at true judgments. Rushdoony (like all such people) doesn’t follow through the logic of his position: if there were no congruence at all between Christian and non-Christian judgments of right and wrong (a plain falsehood, but let it pass), then we would have no particular reason to believe that we Christians were worshipping a good God as opposed to a sinful Demiurge; nor would non-Christians have any reason at all to believe us when we claim that God is good (already an implausible doctrine, on the basis of how creation actually is.) Rushdoony’s position ultimately is a denial of the very first verse of the Bible.

    [Further sermons on this topic are available on request.]

  57. David Marjanović says:

    They know enough: the trouble is that they like what they see.

    Well, they like what they see on Faux Noise and worse, which is generally all that they see. That simply does not include any of the manifest incompetence; instead, it’s a common belief among Trump voters that Trump has kept a tremendous list of campaign promises.

    Add to this “media siloing” the fact that the public schools are financed by micro-local property taxes, so that there is such a thing as a bad school, and it’s really no wonder that the average ability to recognize absurdity is a bit low.

    Only then do cultural values come in that have somehow become part of Christianity in the US. One is “personal responsibility”, which often enough means “everything that happens to you is your fault, and you deserve it good and hard” and easily clashes with “love thy neighbour”. A related one is that amazing numbers of Americans across the political spectrum believe “God helps those who help themselves” is somewhere in the Bible.

    (Asterix is why I know the original is Fortuna audaces adiuvat – “Good Luck, personified as a goddess, helps the brave ones”. Completely heathen.)

    whatever doubts about Clinton, hardly any more voted for Biden than for her

    Way more voted for Biden than for her, both in absolute numbers (the count isn’t finished, but Biden is approaching 80 million votes in total, while Clinton stayed well under 70 million) and in relative ones (Biden is one of very few presidential candidates in the US to have surpassed 50% of the vote – the “third parties” were exceptionally weak this year).

    — do the Democrats have no other idea than to be nice and inoffensive?

    They have lots of other ideas, but are afraid that not enough people would vote for any such thing. Biden won the primaries because a great majority of the Democrats came to think he would make the most electable candidate – he wasn’t, in many cases, the candidate they wanted, but the candidate they thought other people wanted.

    In hindsight, that’s probably about half right: he won, in particular in the suburbs as hoped – but I think there’s a good chance Sanders, say, would have won by a similar margin, just with a somewhat different list of states and demographics.

    Other countries have had such ghastly experiences under some forms of democracy they have changed the voting system. There seems to be only a few on the periphery talking about this in U.S. or Britain.

    The US is basically out of luck there: most aspects of the voting system are at least in part in the big-C Constitution, which can only be changed by a 2/3 majority in the House of Representatives plus a 2/3 majority in the Senate plus a 1/2 majority in 3/4 of the state legislatures. (No referendum, because that wasn’t practical in the 18th century… and probably not considered a good idea by the Founders anyway.) No wonder they count their amendments and refer to them by number. The rest is in federal laws, which require a 50% majority in the House and 60% majority in the Senate to change – that strange number is not in the Constitution or anything, it’s just an internal rule of the Senate; the Senate could change it (“abolish the filibuster”) with a 50% majority, but that seems impossible for the next 2 years because there doesn’t seem to be a way to convince Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) to vote for that.

    None of that applies to the UK, but the likelihood that a lot of MPs would vote their job security away is not high either.

    I’ll argue that the accumulated powers of the presidency in France and the US, much to compensate for already dysfunctional parliamentary systems, make them broken to a different degree than the others.

    Good point.

  58. David Marjanović says:

    For fun, I should mention what may be the other extreme: how to change Austria’s constitution.

    “Minor” changes require a 1/2 majority in a referendum. “Major” ones require a 2/3 majority in parliament.

    For decades, the governing Grand Coalition actually had a 2/3 majority in parliament. So it happened pretty often that it made an ordinary law and lifted it to constitution rank so that future governments couldn’t undo it as easily. This has happened so often that nobody knows where Austria’s constitution ends.

    (That’s why you can’t get it as a booklet. What you can get are booklets with titles like “The most important laws of the constitution”. It may also be why the Constitution Court, which does almost nothing but decide if a law is constitutional when someone sues, has 14 full and 6 replacement members.)

    At this point it will have occurred to the cynical reader* that “major” and “minor” are nowhere defined. Indeed, some experts think the sheer mass of minor changes constitutes at least one major one, on which a referendum should have been held but hasn’t, so that Austria has been living in unconstitutionality for decades.

    *gelernter Österreicher “Austrian by learned trade, not just by birth”

  59. J.W. Brewer says:

    Re “one of very few presidential candidates in the US to have surpassed 50% of the vote,” the winner of the US presidential election has gotten an absolute majority of the aggregated reported popular vote, as conventionally stated in the usual sources, nine out of fourteen times during my lifetime (giving Biden the benefit of the doubt here before the dust has all settled) and fourteen out of twenty-one times during my parents’ lifetimes. It’s more the rule than the exception. Obviously the conventionally-reported official numbers are not entirely free from doubt and should on a percentage basis be understood with some margin of error, so e.g. that Jimmy Carter won in ’76 with 50.08% rather than 49.99% is the conventional account but don’t stake too much on its accuracy to that many significant digits.

  60. John Cowan says:

    I think we’re very lucky Trump doesn’t personally own a bunch of TV channels the way Berlusconi does.

    I believe he hopes to do so, soon enough.

    I’m glad to say that modern Plaid Cymru (which I do not support) has a very different approach (exemplified by an excellent friend and colleague of mine who was their local candidate in the last Westminster election. Didn’t stop me campaigning against him …)

    Nationalist movements are naturally prone to this trap. I admire the Scottish Nationalists (whom I do not support either) for taking great pains to avoid it.

    Am I right to think that you agree that both parties are civic-nationalist, and what makes you not support them is not their civic nationalism but their desire for independence? I think it would be right to refer to the NI Conservatives as a civic unionist party, for example (not that I suppose you support them either).

    They need to repent.

    That is to say, to change their minds.

    Bill Stone’s brief yet robust defence of democracy

    Much like Roman Hruska‘s, except that he was talking about a non-elected judge.

    (perfectly Calvinist) doctrine of Common Grace

    Well, not all Calvinists agree. “According to Hoeksema (and any PRC writer) God’s undeserving gifts of sunshine, rain, etc. are ‘providence’ and while providence serves grace for believers, because it adds to their spiritual growth, it is not sent in love to unbelievers and only adds condemnation to those who never believe, in the same way rain is beneficial to a living tree but causes a dead one to rot.”

    (worth it for the PS alone)

    Which makes me wonder if they paid him for these reviews by the hour, and this was in the nature of a bill for services rendered.

    In the country and its so-called democracy in which McCarthyism held sway?

    For four years from his “enemies within” speech to his censure by Congress (something that happens very, very rarely). Not nearly as serious as Trump, not to mention the multi-year or multi-decade reigns of unquestionably fascist leaders.

    Must say I’m deeply unimpressed by Biden too — do the Democrats have no other idea than to be nice and inoffensive?

    Well, yes. The ideas were (a) to reject for the moment the political wisdom of Will Rogers, who was first an Indian and then a cowboy (“I do not belong to any organized political party: I am a Democrat”) and Howard Fast, who was first a Communist and then a constitutionalist (“I am Spartacus.” “I am Spartacus.” “I am Spartacus!”), and (b) that the best way to do so was to elect a political technocrat.

    But democracy is not one thing any more than is Fascism, and not all forms of democracy deserve defending in a world so changed by the information age. The U.S.’s democracy has been conspicuously broken for a long time (as has Britain’s), in such a way that it is easily usurped by authoritarians/’strong men’ (or Margaret Thatcher) whose appeal is to override the bickering and inertia.

    Surely if some democracies are more at risk, they are the ones that most need defending.

  61. David Eddyshaw says:

    amazing numbers of Americans across the political spectrum believe “God helps those who help themselves” is somewhere in the Bible

    A delusion not confined to Americans; but it’s sweet, I suppose, that so many Americans still attribute free-floating quotations that they happen to like the sound of to the Bible, rather than Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin …

    It is all unfortunately reminiscent of those excellent motivational posters that go

    It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.

    (Apropos of nothing, my absolute favourite of this genre is “Just because you’re necessary, it doesn’t mean you’re important.”)

  62. David Eddyshaw says:

    That is to say, to change their minds.

    You make it sound so easy …

    Well, not all Calvinists agree

    True. Even Calvinists can be wrong. I can only imagine that it must be dreadful for them.

    Am I right to think that you agree that both parties are civic-nationalist, and what makes you not support them is not their civic nationalism but their desire for independence?

    Yes. I understand the motive in both cases and sympathise with it greatly, but I think that independence would in fact substantially add to the sum of human unhappiness. I have suggested to my friend the Plaid candidate that his motive for leaving the UK (or leaving the benighted English, at least) is uncomfortably similar to the motives of non-xenophobic Brexiteers (and they exist) for leaving the EU. In both cases the institution to be left has grave defects; but leaving will only exacerbate them for both the leavers and the left. The way to help all parties is to remain and work for reform from within.

  63. And ultimately to eliminate national borders.

  64. David Eddyshaw says:

    Yes. I don’t really understand socialists who aren’t internationalists. (I don’t meet many. Perhaps they’re all in Plaid.)

    MInd you, eliminating national borders does not mean eliminating national differences; those, I’m all in favour of. I want a free world, not a homogenised world. Cymru am byth!

  65. Right on!

  66. You make it sound so easy …

    Good gravy, not at all. Changing one’s mind is extremely difficult.

    The way to help all parties is to remain and work for reform from within.

    While, I understand that, I remember how the some of the Social Democrats in Germany joined with the Non-International Socialists to reform them from within, with the result that they became outwardly more Nazi than the Nazis themselves. Quoth WP:

    On 19 May [1933], the few SPD deputies who had not been jailed or fled into exile voted in favour of Hitler’s foreign policy statement, in which he declared his willingness to renounce all offensive weapons if other countries followed suit. They also publicly distanced themselves from their brethren abroad who condemned Hitler’s tactics.

    It was to no avail. Over the course of the spring, the police confiscated the SPD’s buildings, newspapers and property. On 21 June 1933, Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick ordered the SPD closed down on the basis of the Reichstag Fire Decree, declaring the party “subversive and inimical to the State.” All SPD deputies at the state and federal level were stripped of their seats, and all SPD meetings and publications were banned. Party members were also blacklisted from public office and the civil service. Frick took the line that the SPD members in exile were committing treason from abroad, while those still in Germany were helping them.

  67. The same happened to the Left SRs who joined with the Bolsheviks after their coup.

  68. David Eddyshaw says:

    The principle is certainly not a universally applicable guide to correct political action; yet, as a contingent matter, I feel that the analogy between the UK and the Nazi party, on the one hand, and between the EU and the Bolsheviks, on the other, is incomplete.

  69. PlasticPaddy says:

    The questioning of objective reality and normal conventions of discourse and logic, allowing rulers to put pseudoscience and science on an equal footing, is for me more related to a general proto- totalitarianism, Specific precursors of fascism would be for me:
    1. Führerkult-the movement’s success in obtaining and holding power is dependent on the political skill and salvationist charisma of the leader, rather than on the “moral” force of a dogma or the “physical/legal” force of an Apparat.
    2. Hygiene-the movement is obsessed with an intrinsic purity, which is not necessarily reflected in any extrinsic property and which is consistent with both radical and traditionalist policies.
    3. Sacrifice-the movement prizes individual, not collective sacrifice and heroic failure over successful compromise.

  70. heroic failure over successful compromise.

    Unfortunately, this is also practically a defining feature of left/progressive politics in America.

  71. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Protototalitarian” might indeed be a better name than “protofascist”, both on grounds of accuracy and because “totalitarian”, unlike “fascist”, has not degenerated in common usage into little more than “thoroughly unpleasant mendacious right-winger.” Accordingly, it sounds (as it should) even more alarming …

  72. @Hans: There’s a quote, early in Raiders of the Lost Ark, from one of the government men, about Hitler being “obsessed with the occult.” The first time I watch the DVD with each of my kids, I always pause it to point out that this isn’t true. Hitler didn’t care about that stuff, although Himmler really was obsessed with the occult, neo-paganism, etc. Hitler, although he surely didn’t believe anything, was happy to remain an enrolled Catholic for his entire life. In fact, probably every single right-wing European dictator (it depends a little on how you count in certain puppet states) before and during the Second World War was at least nominally Catholic. (One waa even a monsignor.)

  73. J.W. Brewer says:

    I can’t immediately find confirmation on the internet, but I would wager at least a modest amount of money that this pre-WW2 European dictator was not even nominally Catholic (probably nominally Lutheran). Although the fact that he was AFAIK the only authoritarian strongman of the era to be an alumnus of the University of Nebraska already made him a bit of an outlier. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C4%81rlis_Ulmanis

  74. J.W. Brewer says:

    Re border-elimination, the Orwell piece mentioned upthread notes that “Nationalism is universally regarded as inherently Fascist, but this is held only to apply to such national movements as the speaker happens to disapprove of. Arab nationalism, Polish nationalism, Finnish nationalism, the Indian Congress Party, the Muslim League, Zionism, and the I.R.A. are all described as Fascist but not by the same people.” He wrote this only two or three years after pamphlet wars were specifically accusing Welsh nationalism (rightly or wrongly) of being Fascist, so it’s rather an insult to the Welsh to leave them off the list if you ask me.

  75. You forgot about Conducător Antonescu.

    He was Romanian Orthodox and right-wing dictator.

    I’d say he was a fascist too.

    I mean, if killing three hundred thousand Romanian Jews in the Holocaust doesn’t make him fascist, the word has no meaning.

  76. I always picture him going up and down the aisle collecting fares.

  77. David Eddyshaw says:

    so it’s rather an insult to the Welsh to leave them off the list if you ask me

    We are too warm and cuddly to be taken for Fascists.

  78. It’s true! And you don’t sing Die Wacht am Rhein or Giovinezza, you sing Cwm Rhondda.

  79. J.W. Brewer says:

    I always assumed the sense of the English word etymologically akin to “Conducator” you were supposed to think of was not “ticket-collector” but “guy at the front of the orchestra with a baton who will by the way have you shot if you’re out of tune or come in a beat too early or too late.” The nation as an orchestra of individuals with distinct roles to play who can unite in harmony if but only if they carefully follow the cues of the one authoritative man wielding the baton up front is not a bad image as images for authoritarian and illiberal regimes go. For an interestingly-similar metaphor in American (and Protestant) political discourse, see https://dcist.com/story/13/08/01/botched-drum-major-quote-being-remo/.

    But those un-Protestant foreigners always have silly-sounding foreign titles, like “caudillo” or “duce” or whatnot. The respectably Calvinist name for the job position is traditionally “Lord Protector.” Who (with any sense of self-preservation) would dare to laugh at that?

  80. I always assumed the sense of the English word etymologically akin to “Conducator” you were supposed to think of was not “ticket-collector” but “guy at the front of the orchestra with a baton who will by the way have you shot if you’re out of tune or come in a beat too early or too late.”

    Sure, but I’ve always had trouble thinking what I was supposed to think. It’s a failing.

  81. David Eddyshaw says:

    The only really acceptable foreign term for “Supreme Leader” is Tlatoani.

    (I was just looking up Simón Bolívar on Wikipedia, for Reasons, and discovered the splendidly 1066 And All That statement: Bolívar fought 100 battles, of which 79 were important.)

  82. @Y:

    she didn’t say that all of whatsis’s voters were “deplorable”: she said that some of them were, and it was clear she was talking about the awful extreme

    She said “to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables”. So it depends on how far “grossly generalistic” tones down “half”.

    @David Eddyshaw:

    “Protototalitarian” might indeed be a better name than “protofascist”

    Ripe for haplololology though.

    @David Marjanović:

    “Minor” changes require a 1/2 majority in a referendum. “Major” ones require a 2/3 majority in parliament.

    In case any one else was confused, transpose “major” and “minor”

  83. A locomotive, run by an engineer, who is busy with slide rules over a drafting table; behind it a train, in which a conductor walks up and down the aisles in a tailcoat and wild hair, waving a baton (which occasionally strikes a compartment door, startling the passengers inside.)

    Yes.

  84. A more uncompromising version would be a prototototalitarian.

  85. David Eddyshaw says:

    Protototototalitarianism is the worst. I am sure no Hatter would ever be proprotototototalitarian, or even show protoproprotototototalitarian tendencies.

  86. @J.W. Brewer, SFReader: I confess that I was repeating a fact(oid)—albeit one that I had seen numerous times. For whatever reason, Karlis Ulmanis never seems to be mentioned in (English-language) discussions of inter-war authoritarianism. In fact, none of the Baltic states’ authoritarian governments seem to be much discussed; I imagine this is a product of some kind of Cold War myopia. Of the other Baltic dictators, Konstantin Pats in Estonia was apparently also Orthodox, and Antanas Smetona in Lithuania was Catholic. Regarding Ion Antonescu, on the other hand, I had actually seen affirmative claims that he was Catholic, but this is evidently not correct.

  87. Lars Mathiesen says:

    warm and cuddly — that’s the sheep. Or goats, was it?

    The flip side of the situation with the US Constitution is that the Federal Government may not be able to prevent something like the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Research is needed, though. (The research would probably be done by the SCOTUS).

  88. J.W. Brewer says:

    Another authoritarian-and-maybe-technically-fascist strongman of the same era of whom the Orthodox could boast (were we prone to boasting) is Ioannis Metaxas, who generally got favorable press in the West for standing up to Mussolini (Όχι !) after several years of trying to construct a bargain-basement imitation of Mussolini’s regime. [EDITED TO ADD: yes, the linked piece is full of numerous comical errors on matters of factual detail – better information is available for the googling] https://metaxas-project.com/the-fascist-hero-who-changed-the-course-of-history/

  89. David Eddyshaw says:

    Obviously, in safeguarding our institutions, what we really need to know is the chance of a randomly selected* Catholic becoming a fascist leader.

    The safest thing may be to stick with Mennonites, where the accumulated evidence suggests that the risk is comparatively low.

    *Or “democratically elected”, to use the PPE jargon.

  90. J.W. Brewer says:

    @Lars: Hey, this is America. Do your own research rather than expecting someone else to do it for you. (More technically, unlike the system that to my understanding prevails in certain other countries, the U.S. federal courts have a norm of refraining from giving so-called advisory opinions. Not sure if what you’re thinking of doing is constitutional? Go ahead and do it and see if you get sued, and if you do maybe then you can get a federal court to rule.)

  91. David Eddyshaw says:

    that’s the sheep

    And your point is? Sheep are people too. I’ve had to call you out on this blatant ovinism before.

  92. The principle that the courts (specifically the Supreme Court in this case, but precedentially all Article III federal courts and in most cases state courts as well) do not provide advisory opinions was first set out in a return letter from the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay (writing on behalf of the Court itself) to George Washington’s administration. The key part is

    The lines of Separation drawn by the Constitution between the three Departments of Government, their being in certain Respects checks on each other, and our being judges of a court in the last Resort, are Considerations which afford strong arguments against the Propriety of our extrajudicially deciding the questions alluded to; especially as the Power given by the Constitution to the President of calling on the Heads of Departments for opinions, seems to have been purposely as well as expressly limited to executive Departments.

    Interestingly, the argument in Jay’s letter is completely different from the usual one given against the issuance of advisory opinions, which is that the courts’ jurisdictional purview is limited to “actual cases or controversies.” However, I am not sure where the particular phrasing “actual cases or controversies” originates;* it is not in the Constitution, in which Article III, Section 2 merely lists a number of types of cases and controversies over which court jurisdiction extends. The fact that advisory opinions are not listed is read as precluding them, since the federal government supposedly does not have any powers except those specifically enumerated to it. This principle was considered by most to be implied by the original Constitution, but it was in any case made explicit in the Tenth Ammendment:

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

    * The Supreme Court’s opinion in the 1906 case Muskrat v. United States** mentions “cases and controversies” numerous times, but not “actual cases and controversies.”

    ** Sadly, not brought by an actual muskrat.

  93. Lars Mathiesen says:

    That’s what I meant, if the Compact aforementioned is ever passed by enough state legislatures, I’m sure that they will be sued around ten minutes later by somebody who thinks they stand to lose by it, and the matter will end up before the Supreme Court. There is not really any point in anybody else trying to figure out if it’s constitutional, just try it and see.

  94. J.W. Brewer says:

    I must regretfully caution David Eddyshaw that there are no sure bets in human affairs. I have myself had professional dealings with what you might call a Mennonite-adjacent religious community with allegedly-authoritarian leadership who at one point back in the mid-Nineties (before my colleagues and I got involved and helped them learn why it had perhaps been a bad idea) decided to follow the path of the Scientologists et al. in trying to use defamation lawsuits in Caesar’s courts to silence critics and dissident ex-members.

  95. David Eddyshaw says:

    Oh dear. It only takes one Mennonite Fascist to tip the balance conclusively in favour of Catholics. We may need to move on to Nestorians.

  96. Whatever you do, keep the Circumcellions out of it.

  97. Rogatists.

  98. J.W. Brewer says:

    Baathism in Iraq (as the illiberal/authoritarian alternative to a more explicitly Islam-based illiberal regime) understandably found some support among the Christian minorities and I expect the Nestorians were not absent from that support although I take the point that supporting a regime is a different thing from presiding over it. (Saddam Hussein’s high-profile Christian deputy Tariq Aziz was a Chaldean Catholic, and thus sort of post-Nestorian.)

    But I guess you can say that a sufficiently authoritarian Mennonite is No True Mennonite and thus doesn’t count, just as, w/o being “authoritarian” in the relevant sense, Dwight Eisenhower, while a child of Mennonite parents, proved himself No True Mennonite over the course of his military and political career.

  99. David Eddyshaw says:

    One of the principal founders (if not the principal founder) of Ba’athism was in fact a Christian:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Aflaq

    and another was Alawite: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaki_al-Arsuzi

    Ba’athism is quite interesting, and in some respects even quite attractive, as a system; I think it’s been somewhat ill-served by those purporting to put it into practice (sound familiar?)

  100. The Ba‘th/Ba‘ath Party has a most interesting history; I recommend Patrick Seale’s The Struggle for Syria to all interested parties. A quote (from p. 154):

    In ‘Aflaq’s view, socialism is less a set of recipes for solving specific social and economic problems than an instrument for the moral improvement of the people at large. In western Europe, he argues, the state is in the service of the bourgeoisie; western socialism, reflecting the needs of dispossessed classes, is therefore bound to be both materialistic and anti-nationalistic. But Arab socialism is the very opposite: it is both spiritual and identified with nationalism, because it involves the genius of the entire people. ‘Socialism is the body, national unity is the spiriť. Political unity is hailed as a creative force which will, of itself, inspire a socialist society. This mystical marriage of nationalism and socialism is ‘Aflaq’s peculiar message.

  101. Seale’s biography Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East is also excellent (though of course out of date).

  102. What part of Latvia was Ulmanis from? The SE (Latgale) is Catholic, I think.

  103. He was born on a homestead near Dobele.

  104. Well, so much for that. Thanks.

  105. David Marjanović says:

    mystical marriage of nationalism and socialism

    *all music coming to a halt*

    …no, not attractive as a belief system at all. Trump is what it gives you in the best case.

  106. David Eddyshaw says:

    In what sense is Trump “socialist”? I feel his supporters deserve to know …

    The “nationalist” aspect of Ba’athism was supposed to be pan-Arabism, and a designedly non-sectarian pan-Arabism at that; I think you can make a very good argument that what it became in Syria and Iraq was a major betrayal of its origins. Even then, in Iraq, at least, it was a good deal better than what followed.

  107. I think you can make a very good argument that what it became in Syria and Iraq was a major betrayal of its origins.

    I don’t think anyone denies that, except presumably Ba’th party leaders.

  108. David Eddyshaw says:

    Even Iraqi Ba’athism under Saddam was by no means comparable to Nazism; not the least of the stupidities of the occupiers after the Iraq war was their treating it as if it was:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De-Ba%27athification

  109. The Ba’ath movement was, by design, a broad-tent, non-sectarian, inclusionary pan-Arab movement. This was, probably unfortunately, not a particularly viable political approach during the post-Second-World-War period. The two Ba’ath regimes that survived in the long term only became stable when they resorted to bloody authoritarian measures, which was certainly not what most of the Ba’ath movement founders, like Michel Aflaq, had envisioned. The whole history of the Ba’ath party is tangled up with post-war Arab internationalism. The Wikipedia article for the Arab Cold War describes the conflict as “between Soviet-backed Arab republics and US-backed Arab monarchies,” but that is a gross oversimplification.

    Egypt was the preeminent Arab state throughout most of the twentieth century, whether under the Khedival dynasty founded by (the Albanian!) Muhammed Ali until 1952, or under Nasser and his successors afterwards. Alignment with or against Egypt was, as perceived in the Arab world, the most important trans-national political allegiance. Nasser himself famously proclaimed Egypt’s “non-aligned” status, which meant that governments like Egypt’s or Congress Party India’s were willing to accept assistance from both the West (meaning overwhelmingly America and Britain, for both Egypt and India) and the Soviet Bloc. However, in America at least, those “non-aligned” countries were largely seen as pro-Soviet; some of that may have been unfair, but it was also a manifestation of the fact that for a long time, military assistance to countries like Egypt ended up coming primarily from the Soviet side.

    Nasser also supported the idea of pan-Arab nationalism, which he portrayed as consistent with Ba’athism. In fact, ideologically, Nasserism and Ba’athism may not have been incompatible. Ba’athists in Syria generally supported the Egyptian-led United Arab Republic,* although they were, like most Syrians, dissatisfied with Nasser’s attempts to consolidate control over Syrian territory in Egyptian hands. After the collapse of the UAR in 1961, there were coups and counter-coups (twice in 1963, then again in 1966) between Syrian Ba’ath factions that were pro-Egyptian and more anti-Egyptian, until Hafez al-Assad’s final seizure of power in 1970. However, with each coup, the country came more under the Soviet sway, as Soviet advisors to the Syrian Army manipulated the political situation to the Soviets’ advantage. (The Soviets had actually precipitated the 1967 Six Days War by feeding the Syrians fake reconnaissance data that indicated the Israelis were preparing to attack their Arab neighbors.)

    The situation in Iraq was rather similar. Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr seized power twice, in 1963 and 1968. After the first takeover, he seriously overplayed his hand, suggesting a union with Ba’athist Syria and alienating many Nasserites in the country (which had only overthrown the Hashemite monarchy in 1958—after which the Ba’ath faction had wanted to join the UAR). He was quickly forced from power, but after five years, he took over again and cemented the Ba’ath rule that lasted until 2003, even though he was forced out by his right-hand man Saddam Hussein in 1979, turning the country in a far more repressive and bellicose direction.

    * My father once asked me, thinking it would be a difficult trivia question, “What countries made up the United Arab Republic?”** My answer was: “Egypt, Syria, and whichever half of Yemen they controlled.” That last part, relating to the civil war in Yemen, has no clean answer, actually. At various times, Nasser claimed that Yemen was or was not part of the UAR.

    ** For some reason, the seventh-grade geography textbook that was in use at my middle school until some time in the 1990s, still listed Egypt as the “United Arab Republic,” even though Anwar Sadat had dropped that affectation back in 1971.

  110. (The Soviets had actually precipitated the 1967 Six Days War by feeding the Syrians fake reconnaissance data that indicated the Israelis were preparing to attack their Arab neighbors.)

    I’ll clarify, just in case*: USSR could hardly benefit from the war and provoking it would be against their policy at the time. Where the report originated is unclear (to public), but the known story of the report is clearly a chain of blunders. It is not unlikely that unknown story is also a chain of blunders.

    Golan, G. (2006). The Soviet Union and the Outbreak of the June 1967 Six-Day War (sci-hub)

    CIA report


    *I don’t know if the implication was that USSR could have wanted it, and anyway it is not that I like what they were doing. It was just in case.

  111. al-Bakr

    Al-Kuzdur Al-Galiki stoically bundled Al-Bakr and is using Kurds on Ibn Bakr…

  112. John Cowan says:

    For some reason, the seventh-grade geography textbook that was in use at my middle school until some time in the 1990s, still listed Egypt as the “United Arab Republic,” even though Anwar Sadat had dropped that affectation back in 1971.

    For the same reason that biology textbooks say Eohippus was the size of a small fox terrier: they copy each other. (I note that Eohippus, having become Hyracotherium for a while, has reverted to being Eohippus: Hyracotherium, though the senior synonym, was found to be paraphyletic.)

  113. @drasvi: Indeed, I don’t know what the Soviets were trying to accomplish with the faked photographs they passed to the Arabs, but the Six Days War, and the way it played out, was very clearly not it.

  114. From an article linked above:

    For the Soviet Union, this phrasing did not seem unusual because the Russian language does not use articles (“the” and “a”), but the Soviet position both then and afterward was that all the territories occupied in 1967 were to be evacuated.

    Verily so. But is “from territories occupied in the recent conflict” normal English at all?

    the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:
    (i) Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

    Is not it something that an Enlgish-speaking mind would interpret as omitted article? “The” as such doesn’t indicate completeness: “partial withdrawal from the territories”.

  115. @drasvi: I think the parts of your comment are out of order.

    However, “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict,” sounds totally fine to me. It might be better with articles, but it’s already reasonable as is.

  116. Brett, the second quotation comes from Security Council Resolution 242, the first one is from Galia Golan’s article.

    ….the British UN representative, Lord Caradon, told the Egyptians that the purposely vague term of “territories occupied in the recent conflict” actually meant “all the territories.” This interpretation was subsequently rejected by Israel, but it enabled Egypt and Jordan (though not Syria) to agree to what became Security Council Resolution 242. For the Soviet Union, this phrasing did not seem unusual because the Russian language does not use articles(“the” and “a”), but the Soviet position both then and afterward was that all the territories occupied in 1967 were to be evacuated. Moreover, in addition to the ambiguity on the territorial issue, the absence of a timetable or clear se-quence of steps to be taken in accordance with Resolution 242 avoided another controversial matter.

    Galia Golan implies that omission of “the” allowed Israel to intepret the resolution differently.

  117. “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict,” sounds totally fine to me.

    Me too, and I’m confident in saying it’s perfectly good English; it’s just phrased so as to avoid specifying what territories are meant.

  118. It would not reflect well on the competence of the Soviet foreign ministry if they did not recognize the intentional ambiguity in the wording of that resolution. By November, when the resolution was passed, Eshkol and Eban had made it absolutely clear to the Americans and the British (and probably also the French) that there was no way Israel was going to return all the territory they had captured. In particular, while territory outside the Jerusalem’s Old City was negotiable, Israel was never going to cede the Temple Mount back to Jordan.

    (I am used to the Wikipedia articles for topics related to the Arab-Israeli conflict being controversial and thus bad. However, the article about Resolution 242 is remarkable for currently having the wrong map at the top; usually, both sides can at least agree on which territory Israel captured during the war.)

  119. John Cowan says:

    Two great examples of English-language articles packing a punch: by commission in Keynes’s monograph The Economic Consequences of the Peace (i.e. all of them), and by omission in Shippey’s book J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century (i.e. one of them).

  120. David Marjanović says:

    In what sense is Trump “socialist”? I feel his supporters deserve to know …

    Only in the sense of making noises in that general direction: treating what would have been called “the working class” as his base and showering them with claims he was going to bring lost jobs back.

    That fits together with xenophobia as the good old “they’re coming to steal your jobs”, a sentiment that didn’t have a political home before Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party.

    It worked in that Trump increased his share of the vote among non-college Blacks and Latinos.

    Rhetorics-wise it’s also a drastic change from what the Republican Party had been doing, which was to talk about big business, mention everyone else only in the ever-recurrent attempt to believe in the trickle-down theory, and shout about the culture war as a distraction. Trump said “I’m a strong Christian” once, promised to nominate partisan judges, and left it at that.

    Back home, the FPÖ became the new workers’ party in the late 1990s. One of its current slogans is Die soziale Heimatpartei because soziale Nationalpartei would be too obvious. (Also, in Austria, the question of “so which nation is that, then” would get awkward.) Germany’s NPD (to the right of the AfD) has no such concerns and says things like sozial geht nur national ~ “having a social state is only possible at a national scale, we can’t be kind to anybody outside the nation”. They’re getting a much smaller share of the vote because they’re too obvious (well, among other things).

    and a designedly non-sectarian pan-Arabism at that

    The actual Nazis pointedly ignored the deep divide between Catholic and Protestant Germans, and their definition of “Jew” had nothing to do with religion either… except to the extent that their own ideology counts as a religion in the wider sense.

    Even Iraqi Ba’athism under Saddam was by no means comparable to Nazism; not the least of the stupidities of the occupiers after the Iraq war was their treating it as if it was:

    They were locked into carrying this stupidity out because of the “Axis of Evil” speech.

    “the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:
    (i) Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;”

    That’s perfectly cromulent. “The territories” would mean all of them; without the article it’s vague and implies “not all” – “some”, “certain”, even “any” (i.e. Israel could deny it had occupied any territories at all, presumably by redefining “occupy”). It works the same in German and French.

    The Economic Consequences of the Peace

    …where “the peace” can only be one particular peace treaty.

  121. @David Marjanović: Trump’s takeover of the Republican party was not really that hostile, and even his rhetoric is, apart from being more brash, not really that different from what mainstream Republicans had been trending towards for decades. Trump represents the apotheosis of the party’s increasing trend toward demagoguery, overt racism and misogyny, and authoritarian thinking that has been evident since at least 1994. Most other Republican politicians’ and commentators’ initial objections to Trump’s approach were based not so much on any disagreement with Trump on matters if policy, but on the perception that his overt crassness was not going to be a winning strategy. That meant that when he did win in 2016, they found it relatively easy to line up behind him.

  122. the party’s increasing trend toward demagoguery, overt racism and misogyny, and authoritarian thinking that has been evident since at least 1994.

    I would backdate that to 1980, and maybe 1968.

  123. Yes, I also personally think there is a clear line through Nixon and Reagan to Trump. However, that is something about which people seem to legitimately disagree, whereas I don’t think any honest observer can question that by the time of the Gingrich revolution, the Republican party was certainly on track toward its current position.

  124. David Marjanović says:

    the apotheosis of the party’s increasing trend toward demagoguery, overt racism and misogyny

    Yes, but the xenophobia is new, as are the pretense to care about blue-collar jobs and the reduced emphasis on conservativism, including religion (replacing “shun the unbeliever” by “own the libs”). The mere continuation of the existing trends was Cruz, not Trump. Trump is the victory of the Beer Party over the Tea Party.

    This is similar to the hostile takeover of Austria’s conservatives by Sebastian Kurz. He single-handedly introduced xenophobia (competing with the FPÖ), largely replaced conservativism by his personal charisma and changed the party’s color from black to turquoise – that’s like replacing the Republican elephant by a turtle.

  125. @David Marjanović: The xenophobia is not really that new. It has been a undercurrent, rising every closer to the surface, in Republican politics since at least the 1980s. And Reagan was renowned for his appeal to blue-collar white Americans—the famed “Reagan democrats.” Reagan’s appeal to that demographic was mostly esthetic, rather than based on any specific economic policies, but so is Trump’s, in the main; and when asked about why they supported Reagan or Trump, those kinds of voters tended to give qualitatively very similar answers—that Reagan or Trump spoke honestly to them and cared about their kind of regular folks.

    What was certainly surprising to me (although even in this instance, perhaps I should have expected it) was that so many conservative evangelicals were instantly willing to throw themselves absolutely behind Trump, even though he was obviously a greedy, lying, philandering atheist from New York. It turned out that, if an American politician supports the particular culture war positions that are important to the religious right, virtually nothing else about the politician’s behaviors and attitude matter. Evangelical Christian morality is apparently purely performative and restricted to a relatively small number of currently-hot-button issues. The most important victories that a president can provide to the religious right in the ongoing culture wars are anti-abortion Supreme Court justices. The death of Antonin Scalia had the effect of galvanizing a lot of evangelicals to get out and vote, because in their view, nothing could be more important than keeping Scalia’s seat out Democratic hands. Before the election, it seemed like there might have been some real conflict among the evangelicals about the hypocrisy of having to vote for the utterly godless and immoral Trump in order to secure the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority; but it turned out not to matter a whit. Maybe Bloix would say that it should have been evident all along that the evangelicals would tolerate—indeed prefer—Trump’s crudity, since for at least a generation, right-wing white Christians have been focused almost purely on airing their grievances against their declining centrality in American culture and railing against anyone who questions their innate Christian superiority. Since Trump’s 2016 victory, I have only seen that attitude borne out more and more—with evangelicals crowing about every little opportunity Trump has given them to attack or try to humiliate the liberals and Democrats.

  126. Yup, what Brett said.

  127. David Eddyshaw says:

    for at least a generation, right-wing white Christians have been focused almost purely on airing their grievances against their declining centrality in American culture

    Seems to me that leucochristianophobia is a perfectly rational attitude in the US.

    The “Evangelical Christian”* movement in the USA currently seems to consist very largely of people whose actions (though not words) reveal that they think Jesus made the wrong choice over the offer related in Matthew 4:8-9.

    There are exceptions; far too few. It’s a scandal (in the full theological sense.)

    *scare quotes intended. Oh, so much intended.

  128. Matthew 4:8-9

    Why did you make me look that up?

    Too much insider talk here.

  129. David Eddyshaw says:

    I believe it’s the case that most white voters voted for Trump. It’s not only Christians who need to get used to saying, very, very loudly, #notAll[INSERT YOUR OWN DEMOGRAPHIC HERE]. And doing something about it. (History suggests that Americans – eventually – do do something about it.)

    Too much insider talk here

    It’s the insiders that bother me. They think they know the passage already. I’m preaching to the converted. They need to repent.

    However, taking your point, I provide a helpful link to “scandal” which explains the theological sense:

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/scandal

    Esssentially, “bringing the game into disrepute.”

Speak Your Mind

*