Riling Up the Brownshirts

I just wanted to start thinking about the world after January 20, 2009, but then I read this bit from the Washington Post.

“Okay, so Florida, you know that you’re going to have to hang onto your hats,” Sarah Palin told a rally of a few thousand here this morning, “because from now until Election Day it may get kind of rough.”

You betcha. And the person dishing out the roughest stuff at the moment is Sarah Palin.

“Now it turns out, one of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers,” Palin said.

“Boooo!” said the crowd.

“And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, ‘launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol,'” she continued.

“Boooo!” the crowd repeated.

“Kill him!” proposed one man in the audience.

The Great British historian Eric Hobsbawm described the rise of fascism in Germany.

Nevertheless, the combination of conservative values, the techniques of mass democracy, and an innovative ideology of irrationalist savagery, essentially centered in nationalism, must be explained…The strong commitment of the Left, from the liberal onwards, to anti-war movements, the huge popular revulsion against the mass killings of the First World War, led many to underestimate the emergence of a relatively small, but absolutely numerous, minority for whom uniform and discipline, sacrifice-of self and others- and blood arms and power were what made masculine life worth living. These Rambos of their time were natural recruits for the Radical Right.”

Palin and McCain may think there is no downside to riling up the modern day brownshirts to yell “Kill him”.

They are sadly wrong. I fear for the irrationalist savagery that will be unleashed in the next four weeks.

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0 Responses to Riling Up the Brownshirts

  1. Rick Turner says:

    We’ve already got a Vice President who is unsafe with firearms. Do we need another? And what did that poor moose every do to her, anyway?

  2. pelican says:

    Not that I in any way support the McCain/Palin’s campaign’s shift to the negative, but what happened to “let’s focus on Barack’s first 100 days” on this blog?

    A number of right-wing nut-jobs have been threatening, and occasionally committing, violence for years- as have a number of left-wing nut-jobs, although the left-wingers have been less likely to commit violence toward people and more likely to go after property. Is there something in this story that is new?

    I, my children, and my grandchildren, just paid $700 billion “to save the economy.”

    I’m now living and working overseas, and considering permanent immigration. Is there a coherent reason I shouldn’t be planning to stay out of America for the rest of my life (40-60 years, depending on the feistiness of my genes and the benefits of red wine)?

  3. So what will it be? “Negation and despair,” or “affirming flame?”

    I think a lot of people who had been politically unconnected have been attracted to this election, first by the hope of Barack Obama, and more recently by the personality of Sarah Palin. Both are charismatic public figures.

    I think political newbies who are impressed by charismatic politicians can be caught up in emotion and believe that political opponents are enemies or demons.

    Savage democracy must be avoided at all costs. John McCain and Barack Obama have an opportunity Tuesday night to lead by example. May they have a rational and respectful political conversation. Wouldn’t it be great if they used the opportunity to speak honestly about what each would do in the first 100 days?

    We are going to need a lot of cooler heads in the weeks leading up to the election and during the election.

    And if the world economic panic continues, we will need cool heads in the first 100 days as well. — Bernie

  4. Patrick says:


    Where are you, and is there room for my wife and me? Seriously, if McCain wins, or is anointed, or otherwise dons the mantle of the Presidency. And I’m all for the health benefits of red wine.

  5. re: Palin – should she have gone there? No.

    re: Random looney in the audience. Garden variety idiot.

    re: Fascism

    “Few recognize that the rise of fascism and Nazism was not a reaction against the socialist trends of the preceding period but a necessary outcome of those tendencies. Yet it is significant that many of the leaders of these movements, from Mussolini down (and including Laval and Quisling) began as socialists and ended as fascists or Nazis. In the democracies at present, many who sincerely hate all of Nazism’s manifestations are working for ideals whose realization would lead straight to the abhorred tyranny. Most of the people whose views influence developments are in some measure socialists. They believe that our economic life should be “consciously directed,” that we should substitute “economic planning” for the competitive system. Yet is there a greater tragedy imaginable than that, in our endeavor consciously to shape our future in accordance with high ideals, we should in fact unwittingly produce the very opposite of what we have been striving for?” [Hayek]

  6. Greg G says:

    Yes except that we’re already at the abhorred tyranny part. But I’m sure John McCain and Sarah Palin will correct that (or more precisely, I’m sure that Dick Cheney will let John McCain and Sarah Palin correct that).

  7. woodnsoul says:

    I think the truly scary part about this is that there is even some sort of “credible” discussion about it here in America today.

    Another scary thing is that, for the most part, these folks are amoral. The only thing that is important is power.

    Mix the Army in the US with some financial crises, stir in some right wing whack jobs and…

    I hate to sound like a conspiracy kind of nut, and still, this sort of combination makes me very concerned about the future that Jon wants to talk about and that we should be working on.

  8. Alex Bowles says:

    Here’s a nice comment for the guys at about the sum of polls taken today:

    Are John McCain’s negative attacks succeeding in eating into some of Barack Obama’s support? They certainly aren’t yet. In fact, Barack Obama has had perhaps his strongest individual polling day of the year.

    For the past couple of weeks – really, ever since McCain helicoptered into the financial crisis five days late to ‘save everything’ – the numbers they’re posting have been moving slowly but relentlessly in Obama’s favor.

    In other words, it’s looking like McCain suspended his campaign to jump the shark. And Palin still hasn’t gotten the memo. Which is why she’s out there happily trashing her own brand among the moderates, instead of keeping it clean for a better shot in 2012.

  9. Alex Bowles says:

    Just came across this. Looks like McCain is already regretting his decision to open up a can of Uncut Palin Sauce – especially when he was standing close enough for the blowback to land in his shot.

    Not Presidential at all.

  10. douglas newhouse says:

    obviously Jon you find it easier to focus on politics then the hard cold reality that Obama will face come January–forget Palin–a total side show to the real issues of fixing this country–

  11. Dan says:

    People who label Mussolini and Hitler as socialists demonstrate that they know very little about either. Read a couple of books. Hitler was never in any way remotely socialist. Mussolini was a socialist at one point; he was everything at one point.

    Fascism was defined by thuggery: physical intimidation, coercion, blackmail, kidnappings, beatings, arson, murder, and endless drumbeating of crude propaganda that focused on how traitorous “others” were secretly working to undermine the Good of the Fatherland.

    Disruption of due process. Suspension of habeas corpus Ignoring laws, or “signing orders” that “make” laws without reference to any legislative bodies. Kicking off wars on false pretexts. Torture. Secret prisons. Does any of this sound familiar?

    Fox News today suggested that Obama is sponsoring voter drives in Ohio to sign up ineligible voters. All of the voters shown registering were black.

    I’ll keep on reminding people who truck out the Fascism meme what Fascism actually was until either talk about Fascism is at least somewhat accurate or it stops altogether.

  12. Dan says:

    As far as Jon’s quote from the British historian, it also seems to ignore the vast mobs of Communists in Germany who were not, I assure you, in any way averse to cracking skulls and spilling blood. The German Communist Party never had such a ruthless, self-serving, megalomaniacal leader as Hitler, or they probably would have ended up in power.

  13. pond says:

    Yeah, Jon, where’s the new page? I don’t see one after ‘Turn the Page’ …

    America is now at a point where we continue as a democratic republic only at the good will and forebearance of the President. All the laws to create tyranny are on the books — suspension of Posse Comitatus, laws enabling the President to kidnap, torture, and kill any person on Earth he deems, in his sole judgment, to be a supporter of ‘terrorism,’ the US Army now beginning to operate within the US borders, spy satellites trained on America, provisions in place to suspend Congress and elections should any distressing event happen, anywhere in the world, again at the sole determination of the President, and finally the growing trend of laws passed that declare themselves to be ‘not subject to judicial review.’

    So it seems to me the wisest strategy of a New Federalism would be to look 50% at the national level, and try to roll back these measures and restore the Republic. We can try that, but it didn’t work in Imperial Rome, where the Senate was totally cowed by the Emperor — as the Democratic Congress seems to be cowed today by the Executive.

    The other 50% of our focus should be directed at the local level of things: how can we work for a more self-reliant, independent, caring, just, economic well-off, thrifty, frugal, and sustainable village, town, city, county.

    With efforts to contain global warming seeming stymied on the national level, more and more mayors and governors and taking the lead. That should be our model on finance, energy, agriculture, and the environment on the whole.

    If we can at the same time redirect the focus of local ‘Brownshirts’ (a rather inflammatory term, that!) to local issues, I think that partisanship and intolerance would yield somewhat, and maybe a lot, to a realization that we are all in it together, and if we work together, we stand a better chance of leading better lives.

    It’s easy enough to loathe and fear ‘Muslims’ and ‘liberals’ when Ann Coulter speaks of them in the abstract. It’s a lot tougher to hate the guy down the street, when you are face to face with him, talking about teacher pay and local budgets and supporting local businesses, and which banks are really interested in helping our community, and which are run by people far-away with little regard for us here in lil’ Podunk.

    Jon, I know with the campaign running redhot, and the mud slinging kicking into overdrive, it’s an almost unbearable temptation to eschew wading into the fray. So I’d like to respectfully suggest that you alternate posts: for every pro-Obama/anti-McCain post you put up, you give us one post of looking forward, and trying to blaze a trail out of this dark tangled mess we have worked ourselves into.

    Thanks for you time and for this blog, which I discovered through BoingBoing, and the many posts that you’ve given us of thoughtful, independent analysis.

  14. STS says:


    A lot of us thought surely this country would see through GWB in 2004, and yet it did not. Perhaps the current economic implosion, added to our ongoing military overreach will actually help us to turn the page on the soulless Bush/McCain agenda of God talk for the poor and bucket loads of cash for the rich. But the all negative, all the time strategy is what worked last time and so some of us are anxious that we’ll get a repeat.

    The anxiety will be useful if it prevents overconfidence.

  15. douglas newhouse says:

    STS–I agree with you but at some level I feel that we have to move on and not fight the last war–maybe I am premature–but I suppose it will be hard not to look back and maybe thats cathartic– however I am trying to understand in practicle terms where do we go from here–taxes, spending milatary social programs etc–

  16. len bullard says:

    Jabez Stone was certainly guilty but the jury had to admire the eloquence of his defender.

    No matter who wins we will still have the same problems the next day. It isn’ that it doesn’t matter who wins, it does. It is that we will still need us to fix the problems.

    What makes a Federation hold together, Rick asks. People do.

    So ask the right questions. It is doubtful that the immediate cause of Kent State was ever proven, but the effects of the bullets were easy to see and impossible to undo: four dead. If we push back violently, it won’t matter who pulls the triggers.

    Sit down. Ahimsa. Sit down. That is the winning strategy. Show them what real strength is: character, not Obama’s, not McCain’s, but your own.

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