The canaries are dropping dead. The rats are running for the surface. Something's amiss. The Western world has become highly unbalanced. And just beneath the surface is the unmistakable smell of fascism. Turn over a station, click the mouse, open a magazine and there it is. It is the language of fascism. Ostensibly, the language looks more or less innocuous. But then, the whiff grabs us.
The syntax of fascism isn’t about fascism proper. It is about the attitude of fascism. We must be careful we don’t lose sight of the broad strokes as authors of the syntax of fascism demand that we pay close attention to the details. They will say, this is not fascism or that is not fascism because it doesn’t meet this or that criteria. In the meantime, the caravan moves along and we, the little dogs bark with little or no effect.
It is a language, a way of defining the situation that normalizes public executions, torture, and the dropping of bombs on populations. It is this use of language and means of prioritizing and valuing that is the pernicious cancer that rots away at the principles of human rights, democracy, and freedom. The syntax of fascism is common and is contained within the archaic structures of feudalism. In its simplicity it states unequivocally that might makes right. The feudal world was built on yesterday’s equivalent of street gangs or mafia. Whoever was the most violent, whoever evokes the most fear, was he who was in power.
The Language of Enlightenment
The language of the enlightenment empowered reason as the arbiter of principles and laws. And it is this language that the United States of America is founded upon. It is the language of Thomas Paine, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant. Kant observed that the enlightenment would put an end to Monarchic and clerical arbitrary power. An informed and thinking population will demand that reason and principles are placed above the morbid and vicious rule of the dark regions of human emotion. Kant said of the enlightenment that it is the freedom for the individual to use his or her own intelligence. More broadly, it demanded rule of law. No longer would human beings be ruled by cruel and capricious whims of revenge, insecurity, fear, hatred, or xenophobia. Laws, societies, and individuals would stand on a foundation of rational principles. No individual or body would rise above rule of law.
The enlightenment was thought of as humanity moving forward, away from the horror and terror of the cowardice and immaturity of the feudal past toward true justice and equality before the law. Its primary ideological antithesis would be the Divine Right of Kings.
Enlightenment ideas had fit nicely with the emerging and growing hunger of capitalism. And capitalism would provide high octane, energizing and propelling the language of the enlightenment into legislation and into our homes. The emerging bourgeois classes had tangible and pragmatic reasons to cast aside the oppressive weight of superstition and tradition. Contractual rights as opposed to traditional or arbitrary power would feed into the increasing power of the capitalist classes and correspondingly reduce the right of Kings. The enlightenment was a key element to the capitalist revolution.
The general thrust was nothing new. Initiatives aimed at the establishment of free and egalitarian societies are as old as civilization. Prior to the enlightenment there have been countless dead-end revolutions whose goal it was to establish freedom, democracy, and egalitarian principles. Almost all have no legacy. These kinds of movements were deemed terrorist or anti-monarch and ruthlessly obliterated.
The general thread of thinking known as the enlightenment were preceded by two principles that are foundational to the rational rule of law have survived and, similarly to enlightenment ideas, are vital to maintain the principles of a free and rational civilization. They are the "Great Writ" (habeas corpus) and the Magna Charta.
Habeas corpus empowers the courts to direct any authority that holds an individual in custody to show cause to the court why the individual's liberty is denied within a reasonable amount of time. If no substantial reason is provided, the individual must be set free. It is a fundamental guarantee of liberty and any free society should have no difficulty with anything as basic as habeas corpus.
The Magna Charta, written in 1215, also ensures that 'no free man shall be taken or imprisoned... except by judgement of his peers or by the law of the land'. It ensures that no man is above the law - including monarchs.
An Altered Trajectory
In the past decade or so, the United States and its subjects under NATO have skilfully changed the political syntax of the modern world. They are passing the boundary that separates free countries from autocracies and oligarchies in the dead of night. They do not deny that they are doing it; on the contrary. They do it while they scream at us to shut up; terrorists are about to strike. In fact, they use terrorist acts to justify the introduction of the language of fascism. Hitler did precisely the same thing with the fire at the Reichstag. The fire at the Reichstag was crucial to the establishment of Nazi Germany.
The latest example of this is Obama’s openly sneaking past the 60 day deadline that is required, by law, to obtain congressional approval for war with Libya. Amid Ron Paul’s protests, Obama walked silently by the deadline where his actions in Libya would have gained the legal seal of approval. Obama is breaking the law intentionally and showing open contempt for the rule of law. This, along with a pattern that has started in GW Bush’s Presidency, is an intentional policy and the goal is to change the overall definition of the state's power over rule of law. Its aim - to lift the state above the rule of law. It is easily done against larger than life terrorists, extremists, insurgents, and so on and the terms 'terrorist', 'extremist', and 'insurgent' and examples of the language of fascism.
Previous to the war against Libya, Obama has openly called for the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen (Al Awlaki) without the benefit of trial or charges or any sort of legal process. Obama made an attempt at assassinating him (killing two Yemeni citizens) one week after carrying out the extra judicial killing of Osama bin Laden. Political assassinations are currently auditioning for general acceptance. Gaddafi appears to be next in line. In each and every case the state carries out its transgression through a politically popular directive or operation. If there are complaints, they are easily ignored. After all, these people are terrorists and the state is making us safe from terrorism. The question that needs to be asked is; who is making us safe from the state?
Prior to this, there has been whispered acknowledgment that the state may torture, utilize collective punishment, spy on citizens and generally ignore the fundamental precepts that have been the basis of modern common law and civil law. And from these bases the constitutional principles of all legal frameworks in the developed West find their footing. Without that footing, without that principled base, we have no logical basis of protection against arbitrary state power.
It is openly acknowledged and generally accepted that the President of the United States and the United States has a role in global governance. The United States may invade where it sees fit, ostensibly to correct a human rights violation or to install democracy. This acknowledgement must be observed through the lens that acknowledges the United States as a tool utilized for imperial and corporate conquest. The notion that the United States or any other nation has power over nation's sovereignty part and parcel of the syntax of fascism. To ruling elites, national sovereignty is treated with the same contempt as is the rule of law.
Children of Feudal Power
While rule of law and individual freedom are adhered to within the formal structures of the state, residual feudalism maintains some currency within the scope of social norms. Traditional ideas about women, gays, the church and so on maintain traditional adherents and followers. The counter culture revolution of the 60s and the mass movement of individuals from rural to urban centres have been devastating blows to traditional ideas. The cultural syntax of residual feudalism however, impacts everything from casual conversations to high level policy decisions in the most developed and modern societies. This syntax typically manifests from the right wing and as a general rule, the further to the right, the healthier the demon is. And it is this language, with all its assumptions, values, and beliefs that will be the fertilizer that will promote a flourishing and dangerous new display of fascistic rule.
Donald Trump in his recent scare (to run for President of the United States) openly stated that the United States should bomb them and take the oil. Who 'them' is, is not important. By 'them' he means anybody. And his suggestion would be repeated in barbershops around the country. The widespread acceptance of this very dangerous and violent mentality is similar to attitudes in Germany after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
We have evolved from feudal power where it was openly acknowledged that might makes right. Naked reliance on violence and fear is what legitimized the power of monarchs. The state was an openly violent and oppressive institution. Power rested in the hands of Kings that could make arbitrary decisions based on His own highly charged emotions like revenge, fear, or greed.
The Divine Right of Kings gave way to the power of parliament and the people. It empowered reason and we could all rest well knowing that reason, and not arbitrary violence, guarded our rights as human beings. Political action has been utilized, with rational law as a legitimizing base, to render many static feudal attitudes archaic. Thus, the liberal West has led the way in liberating women, gay people, and visible minorities from state oppression. And, in the West, social attitudes have been catching up to legislation that is based in rational law. The trajectory has been increasingly directed toward laws, followed by common attitudes, becoming increasingly rational. That basis has made us all sleep well at night knowing that the world has improved and has become far less violent and will continue to do so.
The Elephant in the Room
The power of language maintains much of its power by its 'hidden in plain sight' yet subconscious assimilation of implicit meaning, valuing, and perspective. It has the power to change our minds while we are unaware of the overarching syntax and structural context. It is language that can deepen our collective acceptance of state power.
The genius that has plied you to buy Sham Wow or New and Improved Tide pales in comparison to the maestros that tell you what to think about and how to think about it. The syntax of fascism is bombarding you with 'enhanced interrogation', 'collateral damage', or 'extrajudicial killing'. The context of this is Tony Blair loudly proclaiming that 'radical Islam' is the greatest threat facing the world today. It is President Obama openly killing people that he deems enemies in cold blood without trial or due process. This is the backdrop to the Anders Brevik murders in Norway. These murders were encouraged by the climate of fear and xenophobia that has emerged, mostly against Muslims, since 9 11. He is, in effect, an expression of the American State Department. He is a parrot and a harbinger of things to come. It is written in the language. It is the language of patriotism, security, and xenophobia. It is the language of power, violence, and war. The menacing Jew of the 1930s has been replaced with today's radical Muslim.
Let's be clear. There is one nation leading the chorus and directing the speech of cowardice, hatred, and intolerance. And that nation is the United States of America. Throughout their political ranks and throughout their media, the over the top nationalism and patriotism has the rest of the world on edge. It is getting frightening.
In the name of their 'national security' they have increasingly used the language of fascism. The United States have reacted to their own fire at the Reichstag with utter contempt for their own Constitution. Instead of showing determination to not let a terrorist act change them, as they appear to be doing in Norway, the United States has shown, shamefully, all the bravado of a cornered rat. This is not America's finest hour.
A New Normal
One propaganda term that has been thrown around in recent years is ' the new normal'. It is designed to have us accept that things will be different from now on. The point is we don't have to accept it.
The collapse of the robust American economy has been coming for some time now. The collapse of manufacturing has been intentional and planned. In the 1980s people began talking about free trade, about competing in the global marketplace, becoming lean and mean, about globalization. A new glossary was opened and we had to become accustomed to a myriad of new gimmick-like Orwellian terms. And there was significant 'blowback' culminating in the 'battle in Seattle'. The riots and protests in Seattle were not the manageable single issue protests authorities were used to. They were anti-capitalist protests. This was a major red flag in ruling circles.
The attacks on 9 11 seems to have changed that developing protest movement. Suddenly, somebody burned down the Reighstag. People were now suspect, especially Muslims. Everything became a threat to national security. It became dangerous to be anti-American, especially in America.
And since that time, the new normal has been a precipitous erosion of rights and freedoms in the Western world. Wedges are continually driven between the world we have become accustomed to; a world shaped through hundreds of years of wars, protests, and courageous politicians and citizens, a world that is the child of the enlightenment, and the world of arbitrary state power.
And as America demands more control and say over how other nations do our business, we need to consider to some extent we are all in the same boat. It isn't just a problem for American citizens. Canadian, Australian, British governments all toe the line as do the governments of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt.
In the United States, while they wrestle with the mind boggling debt, they maintain over 800 military bases all over the world and the Department of Homeland Security has provided "$31 billion in grants since 2003 to state and local governments for homeland security and to improve their ability to find and protect against terrorists, including $3.8 billion in 2010.”
There is an old saying. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. Or, just because a lot of crackpots thrive on conspiracy theories doesn't mean conspiracies don't exist.
The propaganda machine has been working overtime of late. We must maintain our capacity for critical reflection and thinking. We are entering uncharted waters. The last time they wore brown shirts, jackboots, and displayed swastikas. They spewed a specific kind of rhetoric. They appealed to certain kinds of fears.
This time it will not bear the exact signature of Mussolini or Adolph Hitler. In fact, it will be consciously displayed with different colours. But the fundamentals will remain. And those fundamentals are: state power over the rule of law, extreme nationalism, xenophobia, imperialism, systematic propaganda, state and corporate collusion, and endless war.
Throughout history there have been types and sub types of fascism ruling most of us. Monarchical power is a form of fascism. And the cancer has not been eradicated. It has been in remission. But there are some bad signs.
And let us not forget that those that perpetuate it are not necessarily bad people. They are merely speaking their mother tongue. They are still developing through feudal darkness. But our drive to freedom, justice, democracy, and equality has always prevented tyrants from fully exhaling. It is because you and I like the generations of people that have lived and died before us, will always speak in the syntax of our mother tongue.
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|Allen L. Jasson|