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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Fascist Projection: Conservatism Uncomfortable in its Own Skin

Fascist Projection: Conservatism Uncomfortable in its Own Skin
Image © Austin Cline
Original Poster: National Archives
Click for full-sized Image

One of the more interesting behaviors of the far right is the degree to which they project their own attitudes, agenda, and ideas on to other groups — even including those who stand to suffer the most at the hands of conservative government. In doing so, conservatives achieve two important goals: they nullify liberals' criticisms of conservatism because they have to defend against the accusation that they are doing the same things, and second, what the conservatives have been doing can be masked rhetorically.

There are a variety of contexts in which this can be found, but I think that the most common context is that of fascism: conservative pundits and politicians accuse others of fascism or of having fascist leanings on a regular basis and without any good reason. Both liberals and conservatives can be found using the "fascist" label as an accusation a bit too often and with too little care, but on the conservative side this problem has been getting much, much worse.

It's possible that this is due entirely to people allowing passion and zeal to override good sense, but I have my doubts. As the accusations increase in number and intensity, I suspect that the use of the "fascist" accusation is deliberate in its dishonesty. First, it prevents people seeing the genuine links which fascism has with conservatism — links which simply don't exist with liberalism. Second, it prevents liberals from successfully explaining the parallels between the actions of modern American conservatism and past fascist movements because people become inured to the use of "fascist" as a meaningless accusation.

Jonah Goldberg seems to be trying to take the lead in this disingenuous tactic with his book Liberal Fascism. In it, Goldberg tries to repeat every falsehood and myth which conservatives like to tell themselves about fascism, like for example that it was a primarily socialist — and therefore leftist — movement. Such claims go beyond the merely "false" and into the dangerously reckless because they can't be made by anyone who has the least bit of concern for historical truth. It is, ironically, just the sort of claim which a man like Josef Goebbels would have used in his own propaganda efforts.

Particularly interesting to me is how Goldberg tries to link the Nazi movement with homosexuality. Goldberg's entire argument is based on the idea that many leading members of the Nazi and other Germanist movements were gay. Well, it's true that some were. So what? It's also true that Hitler loved dogs, so is there a connection between loving dogs and being a Nazi butcher? As it turns out, many leading Republicans have turned out to be closeted gays — is there thus a link between American conservatism and homosexuality? With repressed homosexuality, perhaps, but not homosexuality generally.

Gays suffered tremendously under the Nazi regime — in fact, they probably suffered more than any other group besides Jews. The Nazis made a concerted effort to suppress and destroy every sort of sexual expression or behavior outside of traditional marriage and male/female sexual relationships. Gays were among the first taken into concentration camps and other prison facilities. If Jonah Goldberg were to be believed — and only those without a shred of sense will do so — only a few gays suffered and that may have been an aberration.

Gays were, somehow, in charge of and guiding the Nazi movement. People today should fear organized gays in case they resurrect their Nazi ambitions. It's true that conservatives like Goldberg fear organized gays and wish that others would as well, but not for the cited reasons. They fear gays because they fear liberated sexuality, liberated relationships, and a more liberated society. They fear what the Nazis and other fascists feared and are projecting their own agenda onto those they would oppress and harm.

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