Little Dick Promises Fascism If Elected
This is a classic case of Newspeak -- diminishing the range of thought (it's telling that Limbaugh originally filed this under "Making the Complex Understandable") by nullifying the meaning of words, usually by inverting its definition. ["War is Peace." "Ignorance is Strength." In this case: "Democracy is Fascism."]
In fact, even as he ironically sneers at "people who don't have the intellectual chops to defend their ideas," he resorts to the notoriously inadequate dictionary definition of fascism in order to stand the meaning of the word on its head:
"Fas•cism: A political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition."
Observe how Limbaugh abuses the definition he gives here by only emphasizing a couple of its aspects (centralized government and economic regimentation -- neither of which are actually applicable here, no more so than they would be to a hundred thousand other government programs) and utterly ignoring those aspects of it that clearly are not present in Gephardt's proposal (exalting nation and often race above the individual, forcible suppression of the opposition -- traits which, in fact, are often present in Limbaugh's own diatribes).
Any kind of consideration of Limbaugh's accusations of incipient fascism on the part of Gephardt will recognize that at the core of his argument is the suggestion that the current American bureaucracy itself, and indeed the bulk of Western civilization, particularly in its ability to tax and redistribute income, is "fascist" -- a claim that any reasonable person can see as plainly false.
Moreover, Limbaugh's "intellectual chops" notwithstanding, readers of the "Rush" series will recognize easily the many shortcomings of the ridiculously vague Merriam-Webster definition, particularly in contrast to a genuinely scholarly approach. Utterly lacking are the genuinely definitive aspects of fascism: its populism, particularly its claim to represent the "true character" of the respective national identities among which it arises; and its mythic core of national rebirth -- not to mention its corporatist component, its anti-liberalism, its glorification of violence and its contempt for weakness.
There is nothing in Gephardt's plan that even remotely suggests such behavior -- it is in fact clearly far removed from genuine fascism, especially if it were to live up to Limbaugh's rather absurd claims that it would ultimately lead to a wholesale government takeover of corporations, which is a communist and not a fascist behavior (fascism, as noted, has a clear component of open corporatism).
This is how Newspeak works: It renders language meaningless by positing a meaning of a word that is in fact its near or precise opposite.
Indeed, if we were to look for such traits, we would find them in Limbaugh's essay and numerous other of his outpourings of right-wing propaganda. Limbaugh constantly claims to be the voice of "real Americans" and regularly calls for a rebirth of the "American spirit" to be achieved by the destruction of all things liberal.
And as for forcible oppression of the opposition, observe one of the more recent outbursts by Limbaugh:
- "Tim Robbins, who thinks he can say any thing at any time . . . I have a question: How is it that Tim Robbins is still walking free? How in the world is this guy still able to go to the National Press Club and say whatever he wants to say?"
By carefully observing the machinations of the current spate of right-wing Newspeak emanating from transmitters like Limbaugh, however, it's possible to get a clear view of the movement's underlying agenda. This is possible when the meaning of Limbaugh's obfuscations are placed in their psychological context, because they constitute a fairly clear case of projection.
One of the first to observe this propensity on the right was Richard Hofstadter, whose The Paranoid Style in American Politics remains an important analysis:
- The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional).
It is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry. Secret organizations set up to combat secret organizations give the same flattery. The Ku Klux Klan imitated Catholicism to the point of donning priestly vestments, developing an elaborate ritual and an equally elaborate hierarchy. The John Birch Society emulates Communist cells and quasi-secret operation through “front” groups, and preaches a ruthless prosecution of the ideological war along lines very similar to those it finds in the Communist enemy. Spokesmen of the various fundamentalist anti-Communist “crusades” openly express their admiration for the dedication and discipline the Communist cause calls forth.
Self-proclaimed anti-authoritarians such as Limbaugh thus adopt the language and style of authoritarians themselves, and engage in Newspeak-laden propaganda whose sole purpose is to appeal to persons with totalist propensities. The anti-Gephardt essay is a classic example.
One of lessons I've gleaned from carefully observing the behavior of the American right over the years is that the best indicator of its own real agenda can be found in the very things of which it accuses the left. (Remember how during the Florida fiasco it regularly accused Al Gore of attempting to steal the election through court fiat?) When it accuses liberals of "fascism," it almost always is done so in an effort to obscure its own fascist proclivities -- and it reminds the rest of us just whose footsoldiers are in reality merrily goosestepping down the national garden path.
[A big thanks to Atrios for the heads-up.]
["Rush, Newspeak and Fascism": Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Postscript and A Little More.]