Last week, the Left digested three delightfully contrarian articles from two of its delightfully contrarian sons journalist Christopher Hitchens (loves fetuses, hates Mother Teresa) and popular European intellectual Slavoj Zizek (thinks Marxism could use some help from the Son of God).
In two articles for The Nation (available at www.thenation.com), Hitchens has convincingly argued that the best way for the United States to compensate for its genocidal Middle East policies is for it to overthrow the Taliban regime which he calls “fascism with an Islamic face.” Zizek published his analysis of Sept. 11 on www.lacan.com and remarked that “whenever we encounter such a purely evil Outside (he”s referring to the terrorists), we should gather the courage to endorse the Hegelian lesson: in this pure Outside, we should recognize the distilled version of our own essence.”
Could it be, then, that when we examine the evil zealots who murdered more than 6,000 people, we detect a kernal of good old American fascism?
For various reasons, this is not such an easy question to answer, but by inverting it by looking for Taliban-esque elements emerging in American society I think the frightening answer becomes pretty obvious. Consider the following information:
n Last week, the Associated Press reported that a poll by the Sienna College Research Institute found that 34 percent of people in enlightened New York state think “individuals who authorities identify as being sympathetic to terrorist causes” should be put into internment camps. It”s not hard to understand the popular appeal of such a plan if “terrorist causes” only refers to groups like al-Qaida. The problem is, our government”s “terrorists” can be someone else”s freedom fighters. For example, the United States government once labeled Nelson Mandela”s African National Congress a “terrorist organization (with) … a number of interests that were fundamentally inimical to the U.S.” That”s what Dick Cheney said in July 2000 as he tried to explain-away his 1986 vote against a House resolution demanding Mandela”s release from prison and recognition of the ANC.
n In a full-page advertisement that appeared in Friday”s Daily, “60s radical turned conservative self-promoter David Horowitz noted the similarities between the current anti-war hysteria movement and the protests against the Vietnam war. “In the 1960s and 1970s, the tolerance of anti-American hatreds was so high, that the line between dissent and treason was eventually erased,” Horowitz wrote, insinuating that protesting “America”s New War” is tantamount to treason. The penalty for treason, of course, is death. It”s a good thing Ann Arbor is close to rural areas even right-thinking students might object to a mass grave on the Diag besides, Reds stink more than people do when they decompose.
n Recently patriotic program directors at the radio conglomerate Clear Channel, concerned about maintaining national unity, began what the corporation called a “grassroots effort” to distribute amongst themselves a list of 150 songs that should not be played. Thanks to one of America”s most treasured values irresponsible, crass capitalism, “praise Jesus!” Clear Channel owns 1,213 stations across the country many of them are popular music and rock stations. Naturally, the “grassroots” list is full of un-American devil music like Simon and Garfunkel”s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Cat Stevens” “Peace Train,” and John Lennon”s “Imagine.” An article in The New York Times even disputed Clear Channel”s “grassroots” excuse and reported that the list had originated, at least in part, in the corporate office. But the list”s actual origins don”t matter. If the list was a “grassroots effort,” then that”s even scarier it means that radio program directors from all over the country were pressuring each other into “self”-censorship.
n In the radical academic community, scholars are also being censored or frightened into just shutting-up. Zizek himself is a victim of this new “radical purge” a journal that was supposed to publish an article of his about V.I. Lenin (of whom he has recently been doing a lot of original thinking) decided the day after the attacks that it was “inopportune” to proceed.
Combine these lesser-known occurrences with the high-profile assaults on (at least) scores of Arab-, Muslim- and Sikh-Americans, as well as the smearing of “Politically Incorrect” host Bill Maher and the future political outlook gets even more dismal.
Significantly, when George W. Bush characterized life in Afghanistan in his speech before a joint session of Congress, he did not mention or even imply that the Taliban regime outlaws free speech but he did mention that under the Taliban “you can be jailed for owning a television.” An army of skilled speechwriters, arguing over every single word in the address, decided that the Talibanized dystopia Bush would describe to America would be one where it is illegal to watch the networks that have been so uncritical of his administration not a place where people can actively protest their government”s actions. Respect for the First Amendment was not what the Bush administration wanted to communicate to the American people, nor is it what the American people wanted to hear, and that is very frightening.
Nick Woomer can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.