Sunday, April 17, 2005

Digby and Religious extremism

There is, really, not much to add to this piece by Digby and one of his commenters on the totalitarian bent of far too many elements of American society right now. He points out that all of the remaining bulwarks against the dominance of right-wing memes are under attack right now:

-academe is being attacked for being insufficiently willing to allow the kind of Republican drone "academics" that infest think-tanks within its halls;
-the judiciary is being attacked for placing the law over the Commandments;
-and the cultural industry is being attacked for daring to not marginalize those who disagree with the right's consensus on acceptable discourse (witness Michael Moore and, yes, Grand Theft Auto, which is actually an example of the same kind of dark, ironic humor which drives the religious right NUTS.)

The only omission I noticed was that he didn't elaborate on this statement by the commenter:

let's forget that their path is toward a new form of totalitarianism harnessing religion as the Nazis harnessed nationalism
It's this that, I think, is the main reason why a lot of the arguments about the United States going "fascist" or not are a little off-base. Whether the link is valid or not, fascism is associated with overwhelming and irrational ethnic nationalism. While the "overwhelming and irrational" part is there, I don't buy that the totalitarian bent in the American right has that much to do with ethnic nationalism. It's there, certainly, but Thomas Frank was right in pointing out that you can have the one without the other. While Kansas is very much anti-racist, it still embraced all the right-wing arguments that characterize the modern religious right in the United States.

If anything, however, the theocratic variant is much more dangerous. The problem with fascism as a system is that it needs to see some sort of results in order to sustain itself. You can only legitimately claim that your race is superior as long as it demonstrates superiority. As soon as that demonstrated superiority is gone, the system is doomed.

Theocratic totalitarianism, however, doesn't suffer from this problem. The rewards aren't supposed to be seen in "this life", and thus visible results don't matter. If there are economic, environmental or political repercussions, they can be waved away with the promise of infinitely better results in the afterlife. The results don't have to accrue to the entire society, either; rearranging society to be more "godlike" may only spiritually benefit the rearranger and his religious allies, but that's a good enough reason to do it, so it is done.

Heck, look at the Rapture- a significant part of the dogma embraced by much of the religious right is that they don't even have to wait until death to escape any negative side effects of their "Godding" of society!

This is, of course, somewhat reminiscent of the ideology of the theocratic Muslims referred to as "Islamists". It's a term I've never fully accepted, as it limits the political bent to that specific religion, and I'm seeing that skepticism justified by what's been going on. The biggest difference appears to be the promise of earthly prosperity in Islamism... they argue that adoption of their religious laws will lead to a better society *right now*, whereas that claim in the US (where it exists) is much more muted.

In any case, go read Digby's piece.

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