The Attractions of Fascism

by Henry on December 12, 2011

Once upon a time, when I was in graduate school with some free time on my hands, I ended up co-writing a paper with my friend Barb Serfozo on the dubious sexual origins of the American right’s depiction of women as feminazis. One passage that I found, from Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen’s co-authored novel, _1945_ has stayed with me. The hero of the book, evocatively named “James Mannheim Martel,” is “watching a Nazi parade”:http://www.baen.com/chapters/1945chp1.htm.

bq. Again, Martel became uneasily aware of how his own blood was set racing by the sense of power and glory that drenched the entire artificial drama. It was like being aroused by a woman one despised. No matter the revulsion, despite the inner certainty that never would one yield; beneath all moral rectitude there lurked a dark, compelling attraction.

Lurid misogyny, and a political fantasy and sexual fantasy that are so intertwined with each other as to be indistinguishable, all wrapped up in one enticing bundle!

At one point, Gingrich was supposed to be writing a novel with his friend, noted “authority on the political attractions of Fascism”:http://www.jerrypournelle.com/debates/history.html, Jerry Pournelle. I don’t know what happened to it, but I imagine it would have made quite interesting reading (Inferno, Pournelle’s ‘Benito Mussolini redeems himself in an updated version of Dante’s hell’ schlock-epic with Larry Niven, is certainly entertaining if your tastes run to certain varieties of kitsch).

{ 65 comments }

1

J. Otto Pohl 12.12.11 at 7:24 pm

Don’t you know that Gingrich can’t be a fascist and certainly not a Nazi he is the single strongest supporter of Israel in the world currently. That is not something that is easy do do given the unconditional support given to Israel by US politicians, pundits and academics. But, no such a militant supporter of Zionism and the Jewish state must be an anti-fascist by definition. ;-)

2

Felix 12.12.11 at 7:33 pm

Oh, was this one of your references? I couldn’t finish it because the sexual fantasy life of German paramilitaries were ultimately too boring, but white I was reading it gave me the weirdest nightmares.

3

MQ 12.12.11 at 7:51 pm

Lurid misogyny, and a political fantasy and sexual fantasy that are so intertwined with each other as to be indistinguishable, all wrapped up in one enticing bundle!

The thing is, there might be some accuracy to this depiction of the attractions of fascism.

4

straightwood 12.12.11 at 8:08 pm

The prospect of a Gingrich Presidential candidacy should bring joy to the hearts of scholarly explorers of the American Id, for this man is the distillation of everything evil and corrupt in our national character. The American Weimar scenario calls for the appearance of a eloquent mobilizer of hatred against those who have “weakened” America. This burning hatred is what propels the Gingrich candidacy, and its blazing intensity illuminates the nature of the cruel, stupid, and violent Americans who enable endless war and growing inequality.

5

marcel 12.12.11 at 8:37 pm

I (vaguely) recall a scene reminiscent of this in one of Koestler’s novels, about how the fascists had all the beautiful, strong, healthy young adherents while those at the other end of the political spectrum were all misshapen, tuburcular and neurotic. Not just the women, but the men as well.

6

gmoke 12.12.11 at 8:41 pm

The best book I know which depicts the rise of Nazism from the ground level is Sebastian Haffner’s Defying Hitler. At the time, Haffner was a law student on the judicial track and in order to qualify for his court exams, Haffner had to spend time in a Nazi training camp. He describes his experience (numbers in parentheses are page numbers):

(257) “Four weeks later I was wearing jackboots and a uniform with a swastika armband, and spent many hours each day marching in a column in the vicinity of Juterbog. Along with all the others, I chorused ‘Do You See the Sunrise in the East’ or ‘Heathlands of Brandenburg’ and other marching songs. We even had a flag – with a swastika, of course – and sometimes this flag was carried before us. When we came through villages, the people on either side of the road raised their arms to greet the flag, or disappeared quickly into some house entrance. They did this because they had learned that if they did not, we, that is I, would beat them up. It made not the slightest difference that I – and, no doubt, many another among us – fled into entryways to avoid these flags, when we were not marching behind them. Now we were the ones embodying an implicit threat of violence against all bystanders. They greeted the flag or disappeared. For fear of us. For fear of me.

“I still feel dizzy when I consider my predicament then. It was the Third Reich in a nutshell.”

(261) The SA officer “I cannot say that he made an unpleasant impression. He was a small, dainty, brown-haired young man with lively eyes, not a bullyboy. But I noticed a peculiar expression on his face – it was not even particularly disagreeable, but it reminded me of something and it bothered me. Suddenly I remembered: it was exactly the expression of brazen audacity that Brock had worn ever since had had become a Nazi.”

(267-268) “The worst came when he had finished. A fanfare signaled the national anthem, and we all raised our arms. A few hesitated like me, it was so dreadfully shaming. But did we want to sit our examinations, or not? For the first time, I had the feeling, so strong it left a taste in my mouth, ‘this doesn’t count. This isn’t me. It doesn’t count,’ and with this feeling I, too, raised my arm and held it stretched out ahead of me, for about three minutes. That is the combined length of ‘Deutschland uber alles’ and the ‘Horst Wessel Song.’ Most of us sang along, droning jerkily. I moved my lips a little and mimed singing, as one does with hymns in church.

“But we all had our arms stretched out, and in this pose we stood facing the radio set, which had pulled these arms out like a puppeteer manipulates the arms of his marionettes, and we all sang or pretended to do so, each one of us the Gestapo of the others.”
NB: Are you going to act as the Gestapo for yourself?

(272) “Finally, there was a typically German aspiration that began to influence us strongly, although we hardly noticed it. This was the idolization of proficiency for its own sake, the desire to do whatever you are assigned to do as well as it can possibly be done. However senseless, meaningless, or downright humiliating it may be, it should be done as efficiently, thoroughly, and faultlessly as could be imagined.”

(279-280) “What about me? I notice that I have not had occasion to use the word ‘I’ in my story for quite a while. I have used either the third person or the first person plural; there has been no opportunity to use the first person singular. That is no accident. It was one of the points – perhaps _the_ point – of what was happening to us in the camp that the individual person each of us represented played no part and was completely sidelined. That just did not count. Things were quite deliberately arranged so that the individual had no room for maneuver. What one represented, what one’s opinions were in ‘private’ and ‘actually,’ was of no concern and set aside, put on ice, as it were. On the other hand, in moments when one had the leisure to think of one’s individuality – perhaps if one awoke at night in the midst of the multifarious snoring of one’s comrades – one had a feeling that what was actually happening, in which one participated mechanically, had no real existence or validity. It was only in these hours that one could attempt to call oneself morally to account and prepare a last position of defense for one’s inner self.”

(282) “Or the other day when somebody else – otherwise a pleasant comrade – had talked about the trial of those accused of setting the Reichstag fire and said, ‘I don’t really believe they’re guilty. But what does that matter? There are enough witnesses against them. So why not just chop off their heads and be done with it. A few more or less don’t make any difference.’ (He said it pleasantly, without rancor.)

“What can one say to that? There is no answer. The only answer is to take an axe to the person’s head who said it. Just so. But me with an axe? Besides the man who said it is quite decent otherwise.”

(285-288) “To start with the essential point comradeship completely destroys the sense of responsibility for oneself, be it in the civilian or, worse still, the religious sense. A man bedded in comradeship is relieved of all personal worries, and of the rigors of the struggle for life. He has his bed in the barracks, his meals, and his uniform. His daily life is prescribed from morning to night. He need not concern himself with anything. He lives, not under the severe rule of ‘each for himself,’ but in the generous softness of ‘one for all and all for one.’ It is often of the most unpleasant falsehoods that the laws of comradeship are harder than those of ordinary civilian life. On the contrary, they are of a debilitating softness, and they are justified only for soldiers in the field, for men facing death. Only the threat of death justifies and makes this egregious dispensation from responsibility acceptable. Indeed, it is a familiar story that brave soldiers, who have been too long bedded on the soft cushions of comradeship, often find it impossible to cope with the harshness of civilian life.

“It is even worse that comradeship relieves men of responsibility for their actions, before themselves, before God, before their consciences, they do what all their comrades do. They have no choice. They have no time for thought (except when they unfortunately wake up at night). Their comrades are their conscience and give absolution for everything, provided they do what everybody else does….”

“It was comradeship, which in a few weeks in a camp at Juterbog had molded us -Referendars [court officials], after all, with an intellectual, academic education, future judges – into an unthinking, indifferent, irresponsible mass, in which sayings like those about Paris or the Reichstag fire were commonplace, went unanswered, and set the intellectual tone. Comradeship always sets the cultural tone at the lowest possible level, accessible to everyone. It cannot tolerate discussion; in the chemical solution of comradeship, discussion immediately takes on the color of whining and grumbling. It becomes a mortal sin. Comradeship admits no thoughts, just mass feelings, of the most primitive sort – these, on the other hand, are inescapable, to try and evade them is to put oneself beyond the pale. How familiar were the attitudes that governed our camp comradeship absolutely and irrevocably!

They were not really the official Nazi party line, they certainly had a Nazi character. They were the attitudes we had had as boys during the Great War, which had dominated the Rennbund [an informal sports group] and the athletics clubs in the Stresemann era. A few Nazi-specific ideas had not yet taken root. For instance ‘we’ were still not virulently anti-Semitic. But ‘we’ were not prepared to make an issue of it. That was a trifle. Who could take it seriously? ‘We’ had become a collective entity, and with all the intellectual cowardice and dishonesty of a collective being we instinctively ignored or belittled anything that could disturb our collective self-satisfaction. A German Reich in microcosm.

“It was remarkable how comradeship actively decomposed all the elements of individuality and civilization. The most important part of individual life, which cannot be subsumed in communal life, is love. So comradeship has its special weapon against love: smut. Every evening in bed, after the last patrol round, there was the ritual reciting of lewd songs and jokes. That is a hard and fast rule of male comradeship, and nothing is more mistaken than the widely held opinion that this is a safety valve for frustrated erotic or sexual feelings. These songs and jokes do not have an erotic, arousing effect. On the contrary, they make the act of love appear as unappetizing as possible. They treat it like digestion and defecation, and make it an object of ridicule. The men who recited rude songs and used coarse words for female body parts were in effect denying that they had ever had tender feelings or been in love, that they had ever made themselves attractive, behaved gently, and used sweet words for these same parts… They were rough, tough and above such civilized tenderness.”

(292) “Nevertheless, the condition of comradeship, dangerous as it is, has its weak point – as does every condition that is based on deception, doping, and mumbo-jumbo. The moment, namely, that its external requisites are missing, it disappears into thin air. That has been observed many thousand times, even with genuine, legitimate, wartime comradeships: men who in the trenches would have given their lives for one another, and more than once shared their last cigarette, feel the greatest shyness and inhibitions when they meet again as civilians – and it is _not_ the civilian meeting that is deceptive and illusory.”

7

JRoth 12.12.11 at 8:42 pm

I can’t make heads nor tails of the Pournelle thing you linked to, but I’m fascinated how it presages a very serious, thoughtful argument that would subsequently be made in great detail and with great care.

Also, he talks about how growing income disparities could lead to American fascism , which is an interesting take for 2002.

8

Anderson 12.12.11 at 9:26 pm

I couldn’t finish it because the sexual fantasy life of German paramilitaries were ultimately too boring, but white I was reading it gave me the weirdest nightmares.

Isn’t it just the weirdest book? But he’s really on to something. I would love to see somebody do a similar study of the Bachmann/Santorum wing of the GOP.

9

x.trapnel 12.12.11 at 9:30 pm

I ended up co-writing a paper with my friend Barb Serfozo on the dubious sexual origins of the American right’s depiction of women as feminazis

Is this available anywhere?

10

Felix 12.12.11 at 9:34 pm

Wow, seeing it quoted, did I write a badly constructed sentence or what?

But yes, that was one of the most memorably weird and fascinating books I’ve ever failed to finish!

11

Henry 12.12.11 at 9:48 pm

bq. Is this available anywhere?

Yes – search for it on the internets. I will say that while it sounded fun when we came up with the idea (we were drunk – Barb was doing film stuff for her Ph.D. in German, I was reading Newt because the idea of him doing alternative history sounded awesome), doing some of the actual research for it was very unpleasant indeed – we had to watch 1970s soft porn movies premised on the idea that horrible things happening with women in concentration camps was sexy.

12

David Moles 12.12.11 at 10:00 pm

Found it here: “From Sex-Vixens to Senators – Representation in Nazi Porn and the Discourse of the American Right Wing” http://www.yorku.ca/jspot/1/hfarrell2.htm

13

Henry 12.12.11 at 10:05 pm

Damn you Moles! One plausible interpretation of my blogging career is that it is a concerted effort to bury that paper under a heap of irrelevant Google results, a la G.K. Chesterton. Or maybe not so much – while I haven’t put it on my CV, it not being the kind of paper that political scientists write, I think there was some good stuff in it. And it got me to a fun conference in Canada (after the organizers got over their initial suspicions that we were CIA plants, because we were both studying at Georgetown).

14

mtraven 12.12.11 at 10:11 pm

Gingrich was obviously aiming for “daring” and hit “creepy” instead. I imagine this happens to him quite a lot.

The Haffner book is very good, but mistitled since there is almost no defiance anywhere in it. Capitulating to Hitler would have been better.

15

SamChevre 12.12.11 at 10:23 pm

Everything I’ve read about the rise to power of the National Socialists in Germany would make it seem that the quoted passage gets it almost exactly right–even people who knew it was evil found the “artificial drama” compelling.

16

Simon 12.12.11 at 10:31 pm

@ MQ and SamChevre:

Agreed. It seemed that in the face of the disenchantment of the world, as Weber called it, Fascism offered a return to mythical glory. The really sorry thing is that it is being rekindled today on the Buchananinite right, with Tom Tancredo’s Youth for Western Civilization, for example.

17

LFC 12.12.11 at 10:46 pm

not being the kind of paper that political scientists write

Some political scientists have spent their entire careers writing nothing but this kind of paper (at least judging from the title, I haven’t read the paper itself).

18

gordon 12.12.11 at 11:03 pm

From the linked Pournelle page: “We think that Liberal Democracy is the endpoint of history, and that the class war will end through assimilation of all who matter into the middle class”.

And those who don’t matter? Would they be the 98%? God help them in Pournelle’s world.

19

Izzy 12.12.11 at 11:38 pm

Pournelle: “Fascism, in other words, is a form of ‘socialism’ that seeks to end class warfare by requiring the classes to work together, the rich to help the poor (preferably voluntarily) while all are bound by loyalty to the State…”

Can anyone suggest a plausible meaning to this passage? Let’s all force the rich to help the poor voluntarily!

More: “In Germany [fascism] was never tried.”

Like conservatism, it can only be failed.

20

JP Stormcrow 12.13.11 at 12:02 am

I assume the Gingrich/Pournelle book is the one described in this item from The Nation in 1995:

Now Pournelle and Gingrich are writing for Baen Books a novel set in the near future featuring a weak, dithering President and a muscular, assertive leader of the opposition party. In the absence of a Communist menace, the new enemy is Japan. Publisher Jim Baen says he played a small role in developing the premise of the book, tentatively titled, “The Faction.”

21

MQ 12.13.11 at 12:10 am

The quotes in 6 are amazing.

22

JP Stormcrow 12.13.11 at 12:13 am

Also see pp. 179-180 in Disch’s The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of

At last report 120,000 words of the book have been written, but according to publisher Jim Baen, the book remains unfinished and “in need of drastic revision because of some kinks in the plot.”

23

Ross Smith 12.13.11 at 12:27 am

Marcel@5: …the fascists had all the beautiful, strong, healthy young adherents while those at the other end of the political spectrum were all misshapen, tuburcular and neurotic.

Anybody who remembers high school will have no trouble understanding why this should be the case. (See also.)

24

Down and Out of Sài Gòn 12.13.11 at 12:44 am

gordon: it’s a confusing piece. Pournelle also says in the same article:

“The fact is that history has not ended, not everywhere, and liberal democracy is not the solution to everyone’s problems. ”

Perhaps he’s so absent-minded that he forgets what he said four paragraphs later. Alternately, there’s an absence of formatting that indicates one sentences is quoted or paraphrased to contrast against the other.

I believe Pournelle is in the “history has not ended” camp. Conservative he is, authoritarian he often is, and asshole he sometimes is, but he’s no neo-con. One of his eternal obsessions is “Is America a Republic or an Empire”? All his writing on the subject indicates that he prefer being in a republic, and thinks the Iraq adventure a bad idea because it moves the US towards empiredom… rather than (say) killing a couple of hundred thousands of Iraqis.

For similar reasons, I can’t see the man as a fascist. Social control at gunpoint is not his thing. And he did place Mussolini in hell in Inferno.

25

Rich Puchalsky 12.13.11 at 12:58 am

If we’re talking Newt Gingrich implicitly vs. PKD — since the book that _1945_ inevitably invites comparison to in a bad-vs-good fashion is that other alternate history, _The Man In the High Castle_ — can I put in a word for _The Flight To Lucifer_?

_The Flight To Lucifer_ is an amazing book. Imagine that Harold Bloom decided to write bad nearly-fanfic of an obscure (but really sort of good) 1920 Gnostic SF novel. Then imagine that Bloom amped up the misogyny by a factor of 10. Then imagine that Bloom disowned the novel later on. Well, now you don’t have to imagine!

There’s always something about this book that cheers me up. Not reading it, certainly. Something between the MST3K element and the paradoxical humanization of Bloom as someone who could do this to himself. Since he’s not a political leader, it seems more funny than _1945_ does.

26

herr doktor bimler 12.13.11 at 2:01 am

Inferno, Pournelle’s ‘Benito Mussolini redeems himself in an updated version of Dante’s hell’ schlock-epic with Larry Niven, is certainly entertaining if your tastes run to certain varieties of kitsch

But wait, there’s a sequel now, even longer than the original!

27

Con George-Kotzabasis 12.13.11 at 2:31 am

Has Henry ever considered that the raising of a scarecrow in serious discussion is not an “attraction” but detraction from thoughtful argument? And to attach “fascism” by implication and by a long distance in the past to the person of Gingrich is intellectually shameful. With such cerebral credentials, Plato would never allow him to enter his academy.

28

Doug 12.13.11 at 5:55 am

Henry @13, For really efficient search-engine burial, I suggest getting your Namensdoppelgänger a C-level position at Google. It worked for me. I’m not sure that this Henry Farrell is up to the job.

29

JakeB 12.13.11 at 7:27 am

Can you make this blogpost into a book? For I have Robert Paxton’s _Anatomy of Fascism_ and Alastair Hamilton’s _Appeal of Fascism_ on my bookshelf right here, and would like to continue the set.

30

Walt 12.13.11 at 7:32 am

Con, Newt Gingrich is a little shit. Calling a fascist, if anything, elevates the man.

31

Doug M. 12.13.11 at 7:53 am

Pournelle is a minor but interesting figure who stands at the intersection of various threads of late-20th century right-wing thought. And although he’s a romantic nationalist with a firm belief in the redemptive power of violence, he’s not any sort of fascist. “Technocratic reactionary Catholic authoritarian with a small intermittent libertarian streak”, in ten words or less.

If that seems weird, keep in mind that the guy was born in Depression-era Louisiana, stayed there until he got drafted and sent off to Korea, and then ended up — as ambitious young Americans in the 1950s tended to do — in Southern California. He then spent a decade in obscurity, working as a minor academic in some dim corner of the UC system, until he broke into politics in the 1960s. He spent several years as a remora attached to Sam Yorty’s belly, but then quickly evolved away in his own idiosyncratic direction.

He’s not very bright, he likes puffing his credentials, and he’s regularly behaved like a complete jackhole in public, but for all that there’s a weird sort of integrity to the man.

As for _Inferno_, there are many legitimate criticisms that can be made of that book! But “kitsch”? Er.

Doug M.

32

ajay 12.13.11 at 9:21 am

5 reminds me of the passage in Robert Harris’ “Enigma” where one of the characters remarks that he really wishes the Germans could see not only just how comprehensively they are being screwed by GC&CS, but who GC&CS consists of – weakling intellectuals, asthmatics, aging Jewish academics… “sometimes that thought is all that keeps me going”.

33

Alex 12.13.11 at 10:33 am

the fascists had all the beautiful, strong, healthy young adherents while those at the other end of the political spectrum were all misshapen, tuburcular and neurotic.

Also, 35. I think this is wrong, at least from a British point of view; the ideal-type British extremist of the mid century was Kim Philby, not a man ever short of a date of a Saturday night. The elite headed for *both* ends of the spectrum, leaving gay, aspergy Turing, aging Jewish prof Newman, and snaggle-toothed, chippy phone engineer Flowers* to sink or swim with…Democracy! (To say nothing of piss-artist journo Churchill, cricket-obsessed do-gooder Attlee, pie-monster Ernie Bevin, half-French twitcher Alan Brooke, comedy press baron Beaverbrook, yer actual communist intellectual Stafford Cripps. the master race, all right.)

34

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.13.11 at 11:13 am

What Walt said @30. Gingrich sounds like an arrogant narcissistic asshole and nothing else. Which is a good thing. If he was a sincere fascist, I’d be worrying.

35

Steve LaBonne 12.13.11 at 12:28 pm

Henri, it’s generally the puppets who are sincere, not the puppetmasters.

36

Barry 12.13.11 at 12:32 pm

Seconding all on Pournelle; at his peak he counts as somebody foolish enough to believe that fascism light Strong Leadership was compatible with the free market, and he’s long since passed his peak.

37

soru 12.13.11 at 1:02 pm

he’s not any sort of fascist. “Technocratic reactionary Catholic authoritarian with a small intermittent libertarian streak”, in ten words or less.

Except that that phrase also reasonably describes Franco, Galtieri, Pinochet, etc. There isn’t really a better common English word for ‘person who has the political opinion that a dictatorship is preferable to the alternatives, while not being unusually racist or supportive of a plan for starting a war for world domination’.

Not really much prospect of needing to add one: no hypothetical future Fuhrer of the US is likely to avoid taking advantage of the populist possibilities of majority prejudices, let alone the chances of cheap victories the US military would offer if it was directed at softer and richer targets.

38

straightwood 12.13.11 at 2:23 pm

The zest for theoretical classification seems to have overwhelmed the sketchy evidence supporting the ideological coherence of what is called fascism. Hitler and Mussolini were adventurers who made things up as they went along. They were not political philosophers or architects of political theory, like Marx.

To the degree that Gingrich is an unstable egomaniac proclaiming a prophetic leadership role in a quest for national salvation, his Hitlerian resemblance is substantial, and no test of fascistic ideological purity is necessary. Gingrich is a very dangerous politician, and his rise in the polls reflects a deep malaise in the American electorate. American Weimar, here we come.

39

LFC 12.13.11 at 3:13 pm

“American Weimar, here we come”

This theme is sounded periodically. Google “American Weimar” and the first thing that comes up is a piece in the LA Times magazine from 1995. One can find this theme going back, I’ve no doubt, through the decades. There’s no especially compelling reason to think that this time it’s an accurate analogy, Gingrich or no Gingrich.

40

straightwood 12.13.11 at 4:21 pm

There’s no especially compelling reason to think that this time it’s an accurate analogy

History rhymes, and we appear to be facing an ugly combination of deteriorating conditions that, while not precisely equivalent to those of Weimar Germany, are capable of delivering the same barbaric outcome. I would be delighted to be mistaken, but the trends are quite discouraging.

9/11 was our Reichstag fire. The torture of Padilla and the killing of Awalaki is the symbolic equivalent of the Night of the Long Knives. Our Congress is busily legalizing the power of the President to jail and kill at his discretion. It is just a matter of time before domestic political dissent is declared to be a form of terrorism, and all good Americans learn to keep their political opinions to themselves.

41

Omar 12.13.11 at 4:59 pm

straightwood, how is the killing of Awlaki and the torture of Padilla the symbolic equivalent of the night of the long knives? do tell…
The trends were never as good as they are remembered. But relax, its not the end of the world. Or don’t relax, if thats what makes you happy.

42

FS 12.13.11 at 5:16 pm

Gosh, I rather liked Inferno. It’s not Dante or anything, but it was rather clever, and you could have fun trying to figure out which real world SF authors were which characters.

43

straightwood 12.13.11 at 6:22 pm

The Night of the Long Knives, the summary execution of dozens of Hitler’s rivals, established the acceptance of the supreme authority of the Reichsfuhrer. The American President, as the self declared protector of the national security state, is about to be formally granted the power to imprison and/or execute American citizens without due process, a power already exercised in the cases of Padilla and Awlaki.

The Night of the Long Knives represented a triumph for Hitler, and a turning point for the German government. It established Hitler as “the supreme judge of the German people”, as he put it in his July 13 speech to the Reichstag. Later, in April 1942, Hitler would formally adopt this title, thus placing himself de jure as well as de facto above the reach of the law. Centuries of jurisprudence proscribing extra-judicial killings were swept aside.

Source: Wikipedia (Night of the Long Knives)

44

mds 12.13.11 at 6:36 pm

Social control at gunpoint is not his thing.

Erm, in The Mercenary, Falkenberg’s Legion subdues a gathering of civilian protestors in a stadium by use of disproportionate force. The Wikipedia entry notes that it’s like the Odessa Steps, only with the sympathies reversed. If mercenaries heroically gunning down untrained civilian rabble-rousers in a sporting arena isn’t social control at gunpoint, what is? Falkenberg was not particularly happy about the atrocity, but considered it necessary nonetheless. (Of course, a work of fiction is not necessarily expressing the views of the author, but John Christian Falkenberg is pretty unequivocally one of the heroes of an entire series of stories, and it’s not like he was painted like that British officer in Attenborough’s Gandhi.)

The thing is, there might be some accuracy to this depiction of the attractions of fascism.

The problem is, to much of the modern American Right, it’s not so much “like being aroused by a woman one despised” as “like being aroused by a woman who openly meets one’s self-proclaimed standards for beauty,” even if they’re unable to recognize this due to decades of equating fascism with American political liberalism.

45

patrick 12.13.11 at 7:41 pm

Marcel@5 – I think the book you’re thinking of is Arrival and Departure which for reasons I can’t quite recall, I read at the age of about 15. Can’t remember much about it now, but that bit stuck in my head.

46

herr doktor bimler 12.13.11 at 10:36 pm

Pournelle is a minor but interesting figure who stands at the intersection of various threads of late-20th century right-wing thought. And although he’s a romantic nationalist with a firm belief in the redemptive power of violence, he’s not any sort of fascist.

How about ‘neo-feudalist’?

47

john c. halasz 12.14.11 at 3:03 am

@37:

“Except that that phrase also reasonably describes Franco, Galtieri, Pinochet, etc. There isn’t really a better common English word for ‘person who has the political opinion that a dictatorship is preferable to the alternatives, while not being unusually racist or supportive of a plan for starting a war for world domination’.”

The word is phalangist, which is a a kissing cousin to fascism. The American fundamentalist Christian right are clearly reactionaries of the phalangist variety, not quite fascists.

48

David 12.14.11 at 5:19 am

Pournelle’s biography should include time spent in Seattle in the 1960s, being offended by the nascent local counterculture. One product of his distaste was a ludicrous potboiler, under the pen name Wade Curtis, entitled “Red Heroin,” which managed to mangle all kinds of facts.

49

Jim 12.14.11 at 10:32 am

Good article by James R MacLean here, describing how Falangism differs from Fascism.

http://www.jamesrmaclean.com/mw/index.php/Falangism

50

Jim 12.14.11 at 10:39 am

Sorry, this is the one I remembered: it has a warmer, more personal style, and more discussion of the differences.

http://www.jamesrmaclean.com/archives/archive_fascism_falangism.html

51

ajay 12.14.11 at 10:46 am

History rhymes

No, actually, history doesn’t rhyme. The Ottoman Empire didn’t come to the same end as the Byzantine Empire. The Russian Empire was overthrown in the middle of a major war by a violent revolution, and the Soviet Empire… wasn’t. America was a massive British colony that eventually achieved independence through a war with foreign support. India was a massive British colony that eventually achieved independence in a completely different way. 1930s Germany was a formerly-authoritarian former empire going through economic trauma that ended up going to war against its perceived foreign enemies; 1990s Russia was exactly the same except it didn’t.
It’s true that you can form some pretty strained comparisons, but they have no predictive power.

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Doug M. 12.14.11 at 1:17 pm

To Pournelle’s credit, he’s embarrassed by _Red Heroin_. (And he’s not a man who embarrasses easily.)

Social control at gunpoint: again, he’s very into the redemptive power of violence, if the actors of violence are Good Men who are Doing What Must Be Done. He tends to depict this as Necessary Defense of the Innocent rather than, you know, machinegunning civilians.

For a particularly interesting example, see the last couple of pages of _Footfall_: In desperate battle with invading aliens, US President has an attack of the chickenshits at the critical moment. A military man, a Man of Action, steps up and does What Must Be Done. One is left with the strong impression that Pournelle not only thinks this is fine, but truly does not grasp the real-world relevance or implications.

That said, _Inferno_ is a flawed but interesting book. Rewriting Dante’s Inferno for the late 20th century? Come on! Yeah, I have a weakness for ambitious high concept — but there was some good stuff in that book. The island in the river of blood, what it’s made of and who lives on it? The fitness glutton, the killer cars, the pagan observatory, the crazy psychiatrist in the Bolgia of counterfeiters? The rationalist trying to escape Hell in a hang-glider? The fact that Carpentier is finally brought to reality by Geryon!

Of course, there’s also some deeply stupid stuff in there too. (“Dyslexia is witchcraft.”) And the sequel was pretty dire. But _Inferno_ is an interesting book.

(Mind, it’s not the best treatment of the Inferno in science fiction. That would be _Neuromancer_, which actually turns Violence, Fraud and Treachery into characters. But that’s a story for another thread.)

Doug M.

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straightwood 12.14.11 at 2:18 pm

It’s true that you can form some pretty strained comparisons, but they have no predictive power.

I welcome historical examples of a nation in decline, with a corrupt ruling class, a crumbling economy, and a pathological militarism, that experiences a glorious rebirth of freedom and democracy without external intervention.

America’s triumph in WWII was a poisoned chalice from which we imbibed militarism and imperial hubris. It has taken a long time, but the poisons have done their work.

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Oliver 12.14.11 at 3:07 pm

Jerry Pournelle believes in elections. He just doesn’t believe in universal franchise.

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ajay 12.14.11 at 3:15 pm

I welcome historical examples of a nation in decline, with a corrupt ruling class, a crumbling economy, and a pathological militarism, that experiences a glorious rebirth of freedom and democracy without external intervention.

France.

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Barry 12.14.11 at 5:37 pm

England?

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Tim Worstall 12.14.11 at 8:27 pm

@ 53.

Thatcher?

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straightwood 12.15.11 at 12:05 am

@55

France’s humiliating defeat in WWII and its abominable collaboration in the extermination of its Jewish population put an end to its grandiose ambitions. This was an externally imposed attitude adjustment, similar to that experienced by Germany.

@56

England’s rebirth is a dubious proposition, since it was fueled largely by North Sea oil (dwindling fast) and financial chicanery (under attack by the EU). Rising inequality, increasingly Orwellian security measures, and suicidal austerity policies do not augur well for a happy ending for the UK.

The model nations of the world, which consistently lead the rankings of health, welfare, and quality of life statistics are the nations that put away their militaristic toys and social Darwinist nostrums long ago: Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark and a few others.

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Jeffrey Davis 12.15.11 at 1:13 am

Like a lot of people, apparently, I read Pournelle’s Byte columns. Then, I made the mistake of reading his novel of rock-throwing space-alien elephants. The single most ludicrous thing I’ve ever read. Once you’ve read the phrase “rock-throwing space-alien elephants” you exhausted the intellectual aspects of the book.

Who cares what Pournelle may or may not think?

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Meredith 12.15.11 at 2:15 am

straightwood, funny you should mention Norway:

http://sorisomail.com/email/16993/exibicao-de-banda-militar–um-espectaculo-imperdivel.html

Of course, a long distance between all this and fascism, at least, usually. But I have been thinking lately about choruses, choirs (’tis the season, after all), syncretized movement and voices generally. The audience fascination with groups of people — the larger the group, the more fascinating — who use their voices and bodies in perfect unison and/or harmony.

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chris 12.15.11 at 3:48 am

@ajay: the Terror was a glorious rebirth of freedom and democracy? Or do I have the wrong era of decline under a corrupt ruling class?

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Gene O'Grady 12.15.11 at 4:41 am

Reminds me of when I was living in Rome and Rachele Mussolini died. The neo-Fascists put up some posters in homage to her talking about her dedication to home and family and traditional values (pretty ironic considering who her husband ended up on a meat hook next to); I desperately wanted one to take home but was afraid (probably not without reason) of being murdered on the street if I tried to take one off the wall — this from a guy who once stole a Muhammed Ali vs. Zora Foley poster off the side of Madison Square Garden only to have his mother throw it out since it was of no value.

I was tempted to go to the MSI headquarters and beg for one to take home for a friend who was an American Fascist (that’s quite an exaggeration, but he would have appreciated it) but never had the nerve.

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Harald Korneliussen 12.15.11 at 9:47 am

England’s rebirth is a dubious proposition, since it was fueled largely by North Sea oil (dwindling fast) and financial chicanery (under attack by the EU). Rising inequality, increasingly Orwellian security measures, and suicidal austerity policies do not augur well for a happy ending for the UK.

What about Scottish secession, do you think there’s any chance of that? It has received some attention up here in Norway, with the claimed SNP leak that they plan to “align with Scandinavia”. I imagine that would drive the political climate in the rest quite a bit to the right?

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straightwood 12.15.11 at 4:45 pm

I see nation-states as an endangered species, squeezed between the need for global protocols and revived local control of basic needs. So we may well see political localism and globalism increasing concurrently, at the expense of the existing national governments.

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Ken 12.17.11 at 1:53 am

herr doktor bimler @26: But wait, there’s a sequel now, even longer than the original!

I once read a review (I forget by whom) that said that in Ringworld Larry Niven had written a novel, but the sequel showed that was an accident. So history does rhyme in this case.

(Not that Inferno made it to novel status, but as Doug M. said, it did have some good ideas. For me the most intriguing one was the purpose of Hell.)

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