Saturday, September 17, 2011

At last! The Fascist Threat

Alexander Cockburn writes this weekend:

“Instead of the Sermon on the Mount, we are now confronted by well-funded conservative evangelicals promoting a sinister vision of America as a corporate autocracy, with Dominionists as Gauleiters of a totalitarian state religion.”

So Lawrence Swaim, Executive Director of the Interfaith Freedom Foundation wrote on this site last week. Swaim concluded with a familiar quote: “This recalls the prescient words of novelist Sinclair Lewis: ‘When fascism comes to America,’ he wrote in 1935, ‘it will come wrapped in the flag, and carrying a cross.’”

Not in my opinion. As a rule, the field of battle between secularism and our Christian ultras ends up stained with the blood of the latter, as Satan counter-attacks. Just glance at the the career of the original Know-Nothings or the history of prohibition. Indeed, looking across the American landscape, I’d say the Dark One has scant cause for lament amid quavering pieces about the Dominionist threat which so delight fundraisers for nonprofits touting the menace of Christian evangelism. Back in the god-sodden Fifties who could presage that a half century later tots could go online to view fornication in every guise and combination.

In my view fascism mostly crosses the threshold these days wrapped in Green clothing, with a thousand summary edicts, which people gloomily strain to read by the pallid glimmer of the new, mercury-filled light bulbs promoted by greens, the General Electric Corp., and signed into law by George Bush Jr. whose own timid effort to promote the fusion of church and state – allowing religious non-profits to run some government programs — didn’t fare too well.

The main purpose of invoking the fascist threat is to scare people into voting Democrat, as Frank Bardacke has often remarked to me. In 1964 it was the Goldwater threat, in 2011 – for now – the Perry threat. Obama will save us from fascism. Alas, fascism is currently wrapped in the decorous clothing of this self-same former constitutional professor.

Back on September 13, 2001, I wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that “The lust for retaliation traditionally outstrips precision in identifying the actual assailant. The targets abroad will be all the usual suspects — the Taliban or Saddam Hussein, who started off as creatures of U.S. intelligence. The target at home will be the Bill of Rights.”

It was maybe an hour after the north tower of the World Trade Center collapsed that I heard the first of a thousand pundits that day saying that America might soon have to sacrifice “some of those freedoms we have taken for granted.” They said this with grave relish, as though the Bill of Rights – the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution – was somehow responsible for the onslaught, and should join the rubble of the towers, carted off to New Jersey and exported to China for recycling into abutments for the Three Gorges Dam, with a special packet of “nano-thermite” (aka paint dust) reserved for Paul Craig Roberts to sprinkle on his porridge.

Of course it didn’t take 9/11 to give the Bill of Rights a battering. It is always under duress and erosion. Where there’s emergency, there’s opportunity for the enemies of freedom. The Patriot Act, passed in October 2001 (the bits that Bill Clinton’s DOJ forgot to put into the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act) and periodically renewed in most of its essentials in the Bush and Obama years, kicked new holes in at least six of our Bill of Rights protections.

The government can search and seize citizens’ papers and effects without probable cause, spy on their electronic communications, and has, amid ongoing court battles on the issue, eavesdropped on their conversations without a warrant.

Goodbye to the right to a speedy public trial with assistance of counsel. Welcome indefinite incarceration without charges, denial of the assistance of legal counsel and of the right to confront witnesses or even have a trial. Until beaten back by the courts, the Patriot Act gave a sound whack at the 1st Amendment, too, since the government could now prosecute librarians or keepers of any records if they told anyone the government had subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation.

Let’s not forget that a suspect may be in no position to do any confronting or waiting for trial since American citizens deemed a threat to their country can be extrajudicially and summarily executed by order of the president, with the reasons for the order shielded from the light of day as “state secrets”. That takes us back to the bills of attainder the Framers expressly banned in Article One of the U.S. Constitution, about as far from the Bill of Rights as you can get.

There’s a difference between fascism and a efficiently functioning modern police state. America is well into the latter, instrumented by laws shoved through on a federal bipartisan basis and through state legislatures. Check out the DUI laws and penalties, state by state. A friend here in California was just telling me about a friend up on his second DUI, among whose penalties for his offense has been 45 days house arrest, with a camera installed to observe every move. No visitors allowed. He can go out for two hours a day to do his shopping. The supervising officer in semi-SWAT rig enters his house without knocking or permission at any time. Let’s not even talk about the treatment of sex offenders.