Saturday, January 19, 2008

Liberal Fascism Leftovers: #2

-- by Dave

One of the ways that Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism connects liberals to fascism is by trotting out various left-wing figures of the 1920s who were unduly impressed by Mussolini or Hitler or the fascist movement's dynamism. The facsist appeal, he claims, was to socialist fellow travelers.

But as we've demonstrated, the fascist route to power was not by competing for political space on the left but by occupying that of the right. Fascists may have adopted various socialist appeals as part of their revolutionary backgrounds, but the way they obtained power was also clear: by forging financial alliances with business capitalists and social conservatives and essentially contracting out to them as their thuggish enforcers, violently attacking and destroying every vestige of "progressive" or "leftist" reform in their paths. That is, they became fully creatures of the right.

And this was so especially after they obtained power. The business capitalists like Fritz Thyssen who had been early supporters of the Nazis were rewarded with heavy investment in the Nazi war machine, and so in the 1930s large numbers of captains of industry invested likewise -- including those from the United States, such as Henry Ford (though, in the case of Thyssen notably, some of them later came to regret it).

One of the foremost of these was a fellow named Prescott Bush -- the grandfather of the current occupant of the White House. (Notably, Goldberg has snorted dismissively at this point in the past.)

And in Liberal Fascism, he omits any discussion of this -- though he does paint Prescott Bush in an interesting light (p. 310):
In 1984 the former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips wrote Staying on Top: The Business Case for a National Industrial Strategy. [DN note: At the time that Phillips wrote this, he was still very much a current Republican strategist.] “Businessmen,” Phillips warned, “must set aside old concepts of laissez-faire … it is time for the U.S. to begin plotting its economic future” on a Third Way course. [Note: Phillips never uses the phrase “Third Way.”] Amusingly, Phillips has also argued that George W. Bush’s great-grandfather S.P. Bush was a war profiteer because he served on Woodrow Wilson’s War Industries Board, the very model of the system Phillips advocates.

Actually, what Phillips writes in American Dynasty regarding Prescott Bush touches only briefly on the matter of the War Industries Board (which was largely a corrupt operation in any event) and focuses primarily on the factually well-established matter of Prescott Bush’s financial dealings in helping to funnel American capital into the building Nazi war machine of the 1930s (pp. 38-40). In pp. 40-41, he concludes:
It is almost as if these various German embroilments, despite their potential for scandal, were regarded as unfortunate but in essence business as usual. Or more plausibly, that at a high governmental level, such roles were unofficially reclassified as an intelligence function — a “tell us what you know about Germany” obligation, Those in the American legal and financial community who had decades of experience with Germany and well-placed connections there doubtless were considered to be important wartime national security assets, however questionable some of their overseas dealings. In any event, a surprising number of the descendants of the men who had dealt with Germany — William S. Farish III, William Draper III, and Josepher Verner Reed Jr. (grandson of Remington Arms chairman Samuel Pryoy, earlier a director of both UBC and American Ship and Commerce) — turned up as close personal advisers or high-level appointees in the George H.W. Bush administration.

As you can see, Phillips’ criticism of Prescott Bush (and by extension, the Bush family) was much broader-ranging — and ranges right into a fact (that American capitalists were some of the most enthusiastic financial supporters of the Nazi regime) that tends to undercut Goldberg’s claim that the Nazis were primarily left-wing socialists.

Phillips examines much of the same historical material we discussed back in 2003 regarding Prescott Bush, and reaches largely the same conclusions. As I wrote back then:
The claim that some of Prescott Bush's assets were seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act for his dealings with Nazi Germany has been thoroughly documented. Here, for instance, is a copy of the 1942 Vesting Order naming Bush, among others.

Michael Kranish at the Boston Globe discussed this in an April 23, 2001 piece titled "Triumphs, Troubles Shape Generations," that explored some of the Bush family's past troubling connections. It began like this:
Prescott Bush was surely aghast at a sensational article the New York Herald Tribune splashed on its front page in July 1942.

"Hitler's Angel Has 3 Million in US Bank," read the headline above a story reporting that Adolf Hitler's financier had stowed the fortune in Union Banking Corp., possibly to be held for "Nazi bigwigs." Bush knew all about the New York bank: He was one of its seven directors. If the Nazi tie became known, it would be a potential "embarrassment," Bush and his partners at Brown Brothers Harriman worried, explaining to government regulators that their position was merely an unpaid courtesy for a client. The situation grew more serious when the government seized Union's assets under the Trading with the Enemy Act, the sort of action that could have ruined Bush's political dreams.

As it turned out, his involvement wasn't pursued by the press or political opponents during his Senate campaigns a decade later. But the episode may well have been one of the catalysts for a dramatic change in his life. Just as the Union Banking story broke, Bush volunteered to be chairman of United Service Organizations, putting himself on the national stage for the first time. He traveled the country raising millions of dollars to help boost the morale of US troops during World War II, enhancing his stature in a way that helped him get elected US senator. A son and grandson would become presidents.

But in evaluating the evidence, it was also fair to conclude that there was no evidence of actual fascist leanings on the part of Prescott Bush, as I noted back then:
It is clear that, while the Bush/Walker clan was utterly conscienceless in its dealings with the Nazis, and at least a substantial portion of the Bush family's fortune is in fact built upon that blood-tainted business, there is no evidence that they had any serious ideological ties to them. In a literal sense, of course, it is silly to refer to them as "Nazis," since one had to be a German citizen and join the party to earn the name factually. But even in the generic ideological sense, the evidence of even an affinity, let alone an identification, with the Nazi ideology is very thin.

The problem was something much larger, and remains with us today:
What is essential to remember is that, historically speaking, fascism has only ever taken root as a genuine political power when it has formed an alliance with mainstream corporatist conservatives. While proto-fascist elements have had their moments in the sun in America -- particularly the ascendant Ku Klux Klan of the early 1920s -- they have fallen short mainly because the nation's corporatist conservatives have not deigned to ally themselves with them. This was not true in Germany or Italy, where corporatists such as Fritz Thyssen were all too happy to ride the fascist tide until it began to reveal its true nature and turn on them -- by which point, of course, it was all too late to do anything about it.

In that respect, today's mainstream corporatist conservatives -- and I think it is clear that not only President Bush but the bulk of his administration fit that description -- do not resemble Hitler and the Nazis so much as they resemble the Thyssens and Hindenburgs, the fools who believed that by co-opting their nation's growing extremist contingent, they could control it. And they resemble the Prescott Bushes and Averell Harrimans who only saw the chances for increased profits and consolidation of their power in underwriting the Nazi military machine. In the process, they all combined to unleash one of history's greatest nightmares.

... This really is why the questions around the Bush family's connections to the Nazi regime are relevant today. The episode does not point to some secret ideological affinity for fascism so much as it reveals a willingness to empower them if it furthers their ends. The really interesting question raised by the "Bush-Nazi connection" is not so much a hidden skeleton in the family closet as what the episode says about American society's willingness to ignore inconvenient truths of history, and how that affects the ethos of current public policy.

Or, as Phil Leggiere put it:
This evidence is only partly about the Bushes. More significantly, it traces the origins of the cavalier, amoral relationship between American and global financial elites and genocidal dictatorships that has characterized U.S. policy for decades.

It's clear that Jonah is not interested in discussing this reality -- his previous wave-of-the-hand dismissal is pro-forma for movement conservatives. But anyone interested in the bigger historical picture and how his thesis fits might consider it worth their while.

[Image courtesy of the Realist.]

Friday, January 18, 2008

How to Out A Sundown Town

-- by Sara

Dave and I refer often to James Loewen's research on "sundown towns" -- American towns that once had small African-American communities -- which, at some point, simply up and vanished.

The historical fact is that if you're a middle-class white American living in the north or west of the country, the odds are overwhelmingly good that the town you live in, right now, is a sundown town -- or was one at some point in the not-so-distant past.

This fact came home forcefully to Loewen as he studied the censuses of small towns and suburbs all over America. After the Civil War, newly-freed black families spread out across the country, looking for places to start over. By 1890, there was hardly a town in America that didn't have at least a small community of black tradesmen or farmers -- aspiring families putting down roots and planning better futures. There was no town too small, no corner so remote, that a handful of African-Americans didn't take refuge there -- hoping against hope they'd finally found a place that was far enough away from Jim Crow.

But Loewen noticed something else. Starting in the 1890 census -- and continuing up until the 1950 one -- these communities started to vanish from the census figures. Towns that had 50 or 60 African-Americans in one census had exactly zero in the next. It was like watching these small lights just wink out, as these communities one by one went sundown.

As I said: if you live in a predominantly white town or suburb, the odds are overwhelming that one of them was yours. It wasn't an accident. It didn't happen just because the houses were too expensive, or the winters were too cold, or they just never got around to moving there. Loewen's research shows that black families settled absolutely everywhere -- almost certainly including where you are. The reason they're not there now is that somebody in your community, at some point in the past, decided to force them out.

This happened in a couple of different ways. Loewen notes that when he began his research, he assumed he'd find three different types of all-white towns. First, there were the small towns that had deliberately sundowned themselves at some point. Second, there were sundown suburbs, which were built from the beginning with restrictive covenants excluding blacks, Asians, and often Jews. Third, he expected to find places that where African-Americans had simply never bothered to go -- places that were all-white by accident. As his project progressed, however, Loewen found that every all-white town he found fit into one of the first two groups; and that, statistically, the third group simply didn't exist at all. He was shocked to discover that sundowning and covenanted suburbs, between them, told the entire story of all-white America.

This is one enormous and still very-much-present piece of our silent shared history that black Americans know and white Americans do not. African-Americans have a completely different sense of geography than white Americans do: even now, there are places they avoid, places they know they're not welcome, places where they expect to find trouble. I have African-American friends my own age who remember being on road trips with their parents in the 1970s, overhearing the quiet debates between the adults in the front seat over whether or not this town was a safe place to stop. I've also been on the other end of this myself, when I was 15 and working my first job in a diner attached to a motel. Once in a while, the manager would get a phone call from a motel at the other end of town, warning him that a black family had come in to try to get a room. The motel managers' phone tree went into action, and within 5 minutes every "No Vacancy" sign on Main Street would suddenly flicker on -- including ours. Going north or south, it was a three-hour drive to the next town where a black family could get a room. And they'd have no choice but to drive it --civil rights laws be damned.

Also: remember that it wasn't just African-Americans that were sundowned out. The Chinese were expelled from many towns across the West (including almost the entire states of Idaho and Wyoming) in the early part of the last century. Japanese communities relocated after the exclusionary acts of the 1920s, and many disappeared completely after the World War II internment. The white-hot animus we see against Latino immigrants in so many towns and suburbs today has a long and sordid history. These people have good reason to believe they can turn back the tide: they know that their own grandparents were very successful in expelling non-whites in the past, and in many cases there's a perverse sense of obligation to maintain that legacy for the generations to come. Uncovering and confronting that past gives us a powerful way to confront the would-be sundowners who are still in our midst today.

A word of warning
Loewen issues a serious warning that digging up this secret history is painful. Even today, there are probably people in your town who are very invested in not going there. They don't want to face up to the ways their parents behaved and thought, or the things their grandparents did. They don't want to give up the polite fiction that they're not racist, or are contributing to the perpetuation of a racist society. They don't want to give up a history that, in the backs of their minds, justifies continued exclusion. And, perhaps worst of all: They're afraid they'll find they owe someone something.

And they do. At the very least, they owe their children the truth. At most, they owe America the chance to heal its deepest racial wounds. Outing sundown towns, one by one, may be our last best chance for this long-awaited healing to finally begin. The good news is that it's something we can do locally. Uncovering a town's racial history can be a soul-changing service project for a church or civic group, or an engrossing task for a high school history class. Or you can do it on your own or with a few friends, sleuthing around in your spare time to discover pieces of your local past that can have an important impact on its future.

But don't kid yourself: one of the things you will certainly be forced to confront is the deep-seated racism of people you might never expect it of.

So, how do you out a sundown town? For those willing to take up the challenge, Loewen lays out the following plan of action.

Step 1: Start with the census
The census figures for your town will tell the whole story at one glance. Your local library will have the local census going back to the city's founding; or you may be able to pull the data up online at (Loewen warns that this is not an easy site to use; and my own experiments with it lead me to echo that warning.) Click on Census 2000 (even if you're looking for 1910); then look for the list of censuses for previous years. You may or may not find the year you're looking for. It may take some wandering around the site to find the data for the year, state, and town you're looking for -- a search that's made more complicated by the fact that the data for different decades are recorded according to different systems.

You're looking for the town's decade-by-decade population breakdown by race; and also by age and sex. Early census figures aren't as reliable or detailed as later ones; and it's not unusual to discover that there's no race data at all, especially for towns with a population under 2500. But from 1950 on, the figures should be reliable and quite detailed.

Look at the overall county census data, too. You may have a better chance of finding a racial breakdown. And note, too, that it was common for entire counties to go sundown at once. Loewen also point researchers to the University of Virginia's Fisher library census database, which offers census data by county and is much easier than to navigate.

Loewen's own Sundown Towns website also has census figures for the towns he's investigated, along with the data and anecdotes he's collected from thousands of sundown hunters working across the country. This is a not-to-be-missed first stop on your search. If your town is there, it will give you plenty to start with. If it's not, looking at the known sundown towns in your region may give you some insight into the timing and causes of possible sundowning.

Once you've got the figures, what are you looking for? Loewen noted several patterns that point to a possible sundown town:

-- Look for a sudden drop-off in a minority population. If the town had 200 blacks in 1920, and 12 in 1930, it's a clear sign that something happened in the course of that decade to change the demographics. It's a strong suggestion that a) sundowning happened; and b) this is decade you should focus your further research on.

-- Be suspicious if there are fewer than ten members of a given minority in a small town. In a larger city, look for an African-American (or Asian) population under 0.1%. There were often a few token people who were allowed to stay on in town provisionally: usually, they offered an unusual trade or service that a small town relied on, and were thus granted an exception to the sundown rules.

-- Look for great disparities in gender. Loewen notes that in covenanted suburbs, a female-to-male ratio above two-to-one indicates that the minority population comprises mostly live-in domestic servants. Even if the number of blacks is quite high, the town is effectively sundowned, since black families aren't allowed to live there.

-- Look at the age range of the minorities you find. If they numbers are concentrated in the 19-34 age range, it suggests there's an institution of some sort that's housing them -- another sign that minority families were discouraged from settling there.

Step 2: Visit the library
Actually: visit two. Go to the one in your town; and then also plan to make a trip to the county library's main branch at the county seat. Each library will have a local history department. (In some libraries, it's just one shelf; in others, it may be its own separate room.) Read through those local history books. If you've found the decade when the sundowning apparently happened, this will narrow your search -- but pay attention to the decades just before and after, too. What were the big issues and changes in that decade? Was there a major economic shift that brought in new groups, or brought hardship to existing ones? Who were the leaders in town at the time, and how did they manage these changes? The goal here is to gather hints as to what might have triggered the sundowning.

Don't expect to find any references to sundowning, or expulsion of certain minorities. There will be nothing about it being a sundown town, or exclusive in any way. But, even so, you may find little factoids that you can begin to draw inferences from.

You might also ask to look through the area's major newspaper for that decade. It can take a few hours to review ten years' worth of a weekly paper, but you may find hints of social and economic shifts that may have precipitated sundowning; or real estate ads that lay out the terms under which new covenanted subdivisions were first sold. (Racial exclusivity was often a major selling point, and either hinted at or overtly spelled out in the ads.)

In towns that predate the Civil War, Loewen suggests taking a close look at the town's Civil War history. Was it mainly Democratic or Republican around the time of the Civil War? Did it go for Douglas or Lincoln in 1860? Democratic towns, or those that went for Douglas, are more likely to have sundowned later on, since the 19th century Democrats were the party of white supremacy. Also: what do the histories say about the Civil War itself? In some northern towns, you'll read that the war was fought to hold the country together and eliminate slavery. If it mentions slavery as a cause of the civil war, that may be a hint suggesting positive local attitudes toward African-Americans. Also: how did the local boys go to that war? Were they drafted? Did they volunteer? Were there draft riots? A town that resisted going to war may have had more negative attitudes toward blacks.

Step 3: Take it to City Hall
Armed with proof of a racial shift, and some historical hints about how it might have happened, your next stop is City Hall.

First, sift through the city council minutes of your target decade (and, perhaps, the one or two decades before), looking for ordinances or other discussion regarding racial events. Loewen has yet to hear of a written sundown ordinance anywhere -- but there may have been other policies enacted that were effectively racist even if they weren't overtly so.

Next, look at the property deeds for various neighborhoods. Some may have names indicative of a black population ("Black Hills" or "Black Creek," for example). Look particularly for black churches, such as African Methodist Episcopal churches, and look at the dates on their deeds. If they sold their church building and didn't build a new one, that may be because they were being sundowned out. Read the original deeds for the elite suburbs, too: many of these were built as white neighborhoods, covenanted from the beginning to ensure no minorities would never live there.

Step 4: Talk to people
Since the sundowning movement started in 1890 and ran up until 1950 -- and covenanted suburbs were being built right up until the Fair Housing Act of 1968 -- odds are good you can find some old-timers who remember this first-hand, or at least have it second-hand from parents or grandparents who were there. Loewen suggests that the main purpose of the earlier research is to provide a foundation that will enable you to find these people, and ask the kinds of questions that will yield a rich oral history of what happened.

Start with the librarians at the two libraries. There's usually one in every town library who specializes in local history, and who can be a tremendous resource -- or something of a barrier, depending on how strongly he or she is invested in promoting a feel-good narrative of the area's past. Loewen finds that it's useful to start the conversation on some topic other than race relations. Ask about population variations over time: "I notice Smithville did very well through the Depression..." Ask about those economic and demographic shifts in the decade that you're focusing on. Only after that person's comfortable do you ask about the declines in black population that showed up in the census figures.

The local historical and geneology societies are your next stop. "The geneologists are often very useful: they love stories about the black sheep in families, and will dish enthusiastically," says Loewen. On the other hand, he warns that historical societies are often (either officially, or in their own minds) a de facto branch of the Chamber of Commerce. They may try to give you the best possible gloss, and will offer nothing incriminating in writing. On the other hand, a sympathetic member may tell you things off the official record that can take your search all kinds of interesting places.

There are two important questions to ask everyone you talk to. The first one is: "How do you know what you're telling me?" Did they see sundown signs themselves? (Of course, many towns never bothered to put up signs.) Were there ordinances? Did they hear family stories? Was there police harassment? (Though actual ordinances are very rare, police typically enforced this unwritten law anyway.) Oral history is tricky business, because so much is unverifiable. Asking "How do you know this?" about every story you hear will help you assess the veracity of the tales.

The second question is: "Who else knows the history around here?" Keep following up, and eventually you'll find the people who can validate what you've already heard; and help you piece together what happened, when, for what reasons, and under whose instigation.

Step 5: Go public
Loewen stresses that it's important not to go public with your project until after the bulk of your research is done. He suggests that the best strategy is to get the early research done quickly, before word gets around. People may be far less likely to want to talk to you once they know what you're up to.

Once you've got the goods, write an article. Start talking to church, school, or service groups. Make a presentation to the historical and geneological societies. Loewen believes that that this information empowers people: in many towns, having this piece of history exposed is the first step in a larger truth and reconciliation effort that can put the future on an entirely different path.

According to Loewen, towns that remain overwhelmingly white need to take three steps to get over it:
1. Admit it. Being confronted with the particulars of their own local history helps.

2. Apologize. Make amends. Put up an exhibit in the local history museum; find ways to discuss and commemorate these events and ensure they won't evaporate again from the local historical narrative.

3. State that you don't do it any more -- and mean it. This may mean educating real-estate agents who still quietly practice "steering." Or having a parents' group visit the schools, talk to the teachers, and review the history books to find out what the kids are learning about both national and local racial history. What's being slid under the rug? Is the teacher qualified? (Loewen notes that nationally, there are more history teachers teaching out of their field than in any other subject, especially in the south and midwest. Furthermore: a striking number of these are sports coaches.) Or educating business people on the ways ethnic and racial diversity increase the economic prospects of an area, pointing out that the most depressed parts of the country are invariably also the most segregated ones.
Most importantly, it may mean talking, openly and honestly, about what kind of community you want to be. Sundowning and covenanting directly created the urban ghettos of the 20th century: black America settled in the inner cities because it literally had nowhere else to go. Reversing that trend, and restoring the right of all Americans to live and travel where they please, is the first step in reversing a whole cascade of other social ills that still proceed from a century and a half of segregation.

The sins of the past are only sins now if you're still engaging in them. This is one sin we have a chance to put a real, history-making stop to -- in ones and twos and small groups, working from our living rooms and church basements, in the perceived safety of our all-white enclaves where race only apparently ceased to be a question a very long time ago.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Calling Jonah

-- by Dave

My weekly post at Firedoglake calls out Jonah Goldberg for his evasion of a "serious" debate with liberal critics of his misbegotten monstrosity, Liberal Fascism:
Jonah Goldberg has been complaining since before the release of his book, Liberal Fascism: How To Smear Liberals With Classic Right-Wing Projection, that there just weren't any liberals who took it seriously. And it's been a steady patter ever after, joyfully dismissing liberal critics either for being too scatological, or for not having read the book, or for just not being "serious."

And then there's me.

I did read the book, and wrote a review for The American Prospect that was, frankly, quite scathing, but otherwise perfectly serious in its examination of Goldberg's arguments and evidence. Jonah responded, kind of: as I promptly pointed out, that while Goldberg expends a great deal of time excoriating and dismissing various details within the review, he utterly neglected to address its central point. Which seemed to me a reasonable expectation.

Since then, Goldberg simply hasn't responded himself, except for a brief dismissal. But hey, the fans keep sending in those cards and letters! And those nasty liberals still won't talk about his book seriously! Meanwhile, I published a detailed counter to his response last Sunday -- but so far, Goldberg has neglected to acknowledge its existence.

I've also e-mailed and asked if he could at least let me know if he'd be responding, and have heard nothing back.

So it now appears that Goldberg is more than happy to respond to right-wingers like his NRO cohort Michael Ledeen because, well, they're "serious" -- which is to say, they don't attack his central thesis. The left? Oh, they're just not "serious". OK, even when they are "serious" -- that is, they read the book, published their review in a national venue, and the critical issues raised are by any standard serious points, they're not really serious because they're not on subjects that Jonah wants to talk about (i.e., subjects that undermine the entirety of his enterprise).

Now, I know being raised in a place like Idaho makes me something of a crude bumpkin, manners-wise, but where I came from, there was just one word for this kind of nonsense: chickenshit.

We "liberal fascists" want to know: Is Goldberg sincere about having a serious dialogue about the real problems with his thesis? Or is he just playing a deeply cynical game? I think the answer is becoming clearer daily.

There's lots more, of course. Hope you enjoy.

UPDATE: Be sure to check out John Emerson's takedown.

Bush, whales, and the rule of law

-- by Dave

"If the administration can just wave a magic wand and do away with the will of Congress and do away with the will of the courts, that raises a very serious question about how our democracy is functioning."

A lot of people have been raising this point over the past year and more about the Bush administration -- notably the civil libertarians and legal experts who have been creating a chorus of concern about the Bush administration and its assertions of executive privilege in shielding itself from congressional investigations, or its similar assertion of immunity from judicial review in such matters as military tribunals, or its insistence that torture is an acceptable tactic in fighting "the war on terror," and its insistence on flouting the law regarding the use of wiretapping and other surveillance of American citizens.

Namely: Is the Bush administration now above the law?

The same point was made today on the front page of the Seattle P-I by Daniel Hinerfeld of the Natural Resources Defense Council. The NRDC, you see, had sued to stop the Bush administration from allowing the Navy to use experimental sonar in sensitive areas of the California coast -- and they were feeling the tracks of the Bush steamroller all over their backs:
In a memorandum issued while he was traveling in the Middle East, Bush said the training was "in the paramount interest of the United States" and "essential to national security," and he therefore issued the Navy a waiver excusing it from certain laws.

... Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper in Los Angeles issued an injunction limiting the Navy's use of midfrequency action sonar. Citing the Navy's documents, she said that the training could cause temporary harm to whales in 8,000 cases and permanent hearing damage in 466 cases.

The same kind of sonar is used in Puget Sound and on the Washington coast, local Navy officials said Wednesday. It's the primary means for detecting diesel electric submarines.

In California, Cooper ordered the Navy to maintain a 12-mile no-sonar buffer zone along the coastline, to turn off the sonar when marine mammals were seen within 6,560 feet, and to monitor for the presence of marine mammals.

Navy officials called the restrictions "untenable" and said that they created "a significant and unreasonable risk that the Navy will not be able to conduct effective sonar training necessary to certify strike groups for deployment."

Bush's waiver alone doesn't sink the court's injunction, but could strengthen the military's case. The fight was expected to go to a three-judge panel in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, but late Wednesday the appeals court remanded the issue to the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to consider first.

Let's not kid ourselves: Bush's edict means a likely death sentence, or at best serious injury, for any cetaceans -- whales, dolphins, porpoises, all of them creatures whose primary world is a sonic one -- who happen to be in the area when the Navy sets off its blasts. It won't be pretty -- but then, only a few of them will wash up, so who's to notice?

Last summer I reported earlier that something was afoot with the administration regarding the sonar policy:
One thing I've learned from watching this administration is that when it breaks well-established norms, and then tries to pretend that doing so is normal, it's all a pretense to cover something devious in the offing. Think of the case of the eight fired U.S. attorneys, an action that reflected the White House's now-evident determination to politicize the Justice Department.

In this case, the administration is short-circuiting the normal hearing process -- typically, the public is given 60 to 90 days for comment, not 14 -- because it's self-evident that it is determined to deploy its deadly new sonar in the Puget Sound, the public -- and the wildlife -- be damned. What ulterior motives lie beneath that are hard to discern.

Well, I think we can see what those motives were now: To keep the "unitary presidency" ball moving forward, expanding its purview to even environmental policy.

This reminds me of a truth about the larger picture of politics, a truth that's one of the reasons we operate this blog the way we do: The power-mongering right-wing approach to governance has poisonous consequences for nearly everything it touches. The Bush White House's seizure of seemingly illimitable executive powers has affected not just criminal law enforcement and the civil justice system, but nearly everything that falls under the umbrella of our democratic institutions: civil rights, consumer protections, education, the environment.

It's bad for all of us, and all the more reason for all these disparate interests to join forces and take up each others' cause. When people like Bush and his minions get away with ignoring the FISA statutes and outing the identity of a CIA agent, that helps that big ball of all-consuming power get rolling. And by the time it has finished its spiral downward, it manages to crush just about everyone who gets in its way.

That includes, at the bottom, real-world end, whales and dolphins and porpoises. Of course, you'll argue, they're only animals. Yes, perhaps so, but you're talking about animals killed needlessly and heedlessly -- and most of all, illegally, were the normal rule of law to be adhered to here.

But it isn't. It's George W. Bush's world; we just live in it.

Of course, most of us are simply looking forward to the national recovery scheduled to begin January 21, 2009. You just have to hope that anything is left standing.

Calling Out Jonah Goldberg

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

Jonah Goldberg has been complaining since before the release of his book, Liberal Fascism: How To Smear Liberals With Classic Right-Wing Projection, that there just weren’t any liberals who took it seriously. And it’s been a steady patter ever after, joyfully dismissing liberal critics either for being too scatological, or for not having read the book, or for just not being "serious."

And then there’s me.

I did read the book, and wrote a review for The American Prospect that was, frankly, quite scathing, but otherwise perfectly serious in its examination of Goldberg’s arguments and evidence. Jonah responded, kind of: as I promptly pointed out, while Goldberg expends a great deal of time excoriating and dismissing various details within the review, he utterly neglected to address its central point. Which seemed to me a reasonable expectation.

Since then, Goldberg simply hasn’t responded himself, except for a brief dismissal. But hey, the fans keep sending in those cards and letters! And those nasty liberals still won’t talk about his book seriously! Meanwhile, I published a detailed counter to his response last Sunday — but so far, Goldberg has neglected to acknowledge its existence.

I’ve also e-mailed and asked if he could at least let me know if he’d be responding, and have heard nothing back.

So it now appears that Goldberg is more than happy to respond to right-wingers like his NRO cohort Michael Ledeen because, well, they’re "serious" — which is to say, they don’t attack his central thesis. The left? Oh, they’re just not "serious". OK, even when they are "serious" — that is, they read the book, published their review in a national venue, and the critical issues raised are by any standard serious points, they’re not really serious because they’re not on subjects that Jonah wants to talk about (i.e., subjects that undermine the entirety of his enterprise).

Now, I know being raised in a place like Idaho makes me something of a crude bumpkin, manners-wise, but where I came from, there was just one word for this kind of nonsense: chickenshit.
We "liberal fascists" want to know: Is Goldberg sincere about having a serious dialogue about the real problems with his thesis? Or is he just playing a deeply cynical game? I think the answer is becoming clearer daily.

Perhaps it would help if Jonah explained what he means by "serious." I know that I’m being deadly serious, because Goldberg’s book, in my view, wreaks havoc with the public’s understanding of the very real phenomenon of fascism — a subject I’ve been involved in trying to educate the public about for years.

So let me be clear about where I’m coming from regarding Goldberg’s book. My chief credential for reviewing it is that I understand fascism from the ground up: I was a reporter and newspaper editor for some years in northern Idaho and western Montana and covered the racist right folks who set up camp in our neck of the woods in the 1970s, particularly the Aryan Nations and Posse Comitatus; that work extended into the 1990s, covering groups like the Montana Freemen. These people were all, by any definition of the word, fascists, and not only did I cover their rallies and their crimes (I used to get phone calls from Robert Matthews, the leader of The Order), I also interviewed many, many of their followers. I also became familiar with the academic study of fascism and its permutations at that time. (Secondarily, I’m not a historian, but I’m more than familiar with the milieu; my last book was a piece of history, written journalistically, that nonetheless underwent rigorous peer review from historians in the process of being published.)

Fascism isn’t just a theory for me, and it’s certainly not ancient history. But it’s clear that for Goldberg, this is largely a semantical exercise, a chance to bend definitions, to play rhetorical tit-for-tat with liberals who bandy the term about too freely (and they do exist). In other words, for the most frivolous reasons, he’s purposefully muddying the public discourse when it comes to the very real problems posed by the existence of very real fascists.

It needs to be pointed out that there are a number of groups — not just well-known organizations like the ADL and the SPLC, but church-based groups like the Center for New Community and community-organizing efforts like Not In Our Town — whose primary mission entails helping the public deal with the very real issues created by the ongoing presence and activities of these groups. The key to their efforts entails educating the public, and having a clear understanding of the nature of the beast is an essential predicate of that.

What Goldberg’s book means to them is that, when they try to identify real fascist organizations (particularly skinheads, neo-Nazis, and the Klan) as operating within their communities, the mainstream conservatives who constitute Goldberg’s audience — only a fraction of whom will have actually read the book (Jonah insists therein, you see, that he’s not claiming that all liberals are fascists, and anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t being serious), while the rest will mostly have absorbed its title — will more than likely just dismiss them: "Nah, it’s you liberals who are the real fascists!"

And let’s also be clear: mainstream conservatives are not fascists. While both are clearly creatures of the right, they are quite distinct, and it’s essential to our understanding of fascism that we make that distinction. Moreover, it’s my belief that right-wing extremists pose at least as great an existential threat to mainstream conservatives as they do to liberals, even though the latter are in fact their natural enemies. Maintaining the line between the far right and the mainstream is an essential project for all of us — especially conservatives.

Now, I’ve raised more than a few eyebrows among some of my colleagues on the left for even taking Goldberg seriously in the first place. Atrios quite adroitly observed that "while I appreciate that the light needs to shine on such stupidity occasionally, I do not understand the endless efforts to actually grapple with his very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care."

Heh indeedy. For starters, there’s the whole issue of even attempting to engage movement conservatives in serious dialogue, because for all their waving about the snotty rag of "seriousness" they’ve made clear that they’re only interested in dialogue on their own terms, i.e., terms that include pretending that the utter horseshit they’re selling is actually the finest ambrosia. The instances where this has happened have been too numerous to count, including those well within my realm of experience. Several commenters have observed that I was deluding myself if I thought I would actually get a dialogue in good faith with Goldberg, and so far they’ve been proven right.

Then there’s the larger point of the effect of taking a book like this seriously: It’s such a ludicrous premise, it deserves not serious examination but scornful ridicule. Treating it as anything but a joke gives it a patina of seriousness it shouldn’t get, and just gives Goldberg’s meme that much more air.

I appreciate these points, which certainly have some validity. But the problem with dismissing Liberal Fascism out of hand is that the mainstream media certainly haven’t dismissed the book out of hand: Goldberg’s been on a regular rotation of cable-talk shows since the book’s release, and more certainly are on the way. As much as we might wish this noxious meme would choke on its own fumes, it’s clear that isn’t going to happen: the "liberal media" is all too happy to present this fraud as "serious," and there are going to be large swaths of the public lapping it up. (There already are, in fact.) Pretty soon any discussion of actual fascists will be dismissed with a wave of the "ah, you libruls are the real fascists" hand.

Moreover, from where I stand, his grotesque misreadings of history and the realities of the rise of fascism both in Europe and America, his eradication and trivialization of genuine American fascist elements from the pages of that history — those things simply cannot go unanswered. Someone needs to point out that the Pantload has no clothes.

So my initial review at TAP Online raised this point right in the subhed:
In his new book, Goldberg has decided to dream up fascists on the left rather than acknowledge the fact that the real American fascists have been lurking in the right’s closet for lo these many years.
Here’s what the review states in its culminative paragraphs:
What goes missing from Goldberg’s account of fascism is that, while he describes nearly every kind of liberal enterprise or ideology as representing American fascism, he wipes from the pages of history the fact that there have been fascists operating within the nation’s culture for the better part of the past century. Robert O. Paxton, in his book The Anatomy of Fascism, identifies the Ku Klux Klan as the first genuine fascist organization, a suggestion that Goldberg airily dismisses with the dumb explanation that the Klan of the 1920s disliked Mussolini and his adherents because they were Italian (somewhat true for a time but irrelevant in terms of their ideological affinities, which were substantial enough that by the 1930s, historians have noted, there were frequent operative associations between Klan leaders and European fascists). [More here and here on that.]

Beyond the Klan, completely missing from the pages of Goldberg’s book is any mention of the Silver Shirts, the American Nazi Party, the Posse Comitatus, the Aryan Nations, or the National Alliance — all of them openly fascist organizations, many of them involved in some of the nation’s most horrific historical events. (The Oklahoma City bombing, for instance, was the product of a blueprint drawn up by the National Alliance’s William Pierce.) Goldberg sees fit to declare people like Wilson, FDR, LBJ, and Hillary Clinton "American fascists," but he makes no mention of William Dudley Pelley, Gerald L.K. Smith, George Lincoln Rockwell, William Potter Gale, Richard Butler, or David Duke — all of them bona fide fascists: the real thing.

This is a telling omission, because the continuing existence of these groups makes clear what an absurd and nakedly self-serving thing Goldberg’s alternate version of reality is. Why dream up fascists on the left when the reality is that real American fascists have been lurking in the right’s closet for lo these many years? Well, maybe because it’s a handy way of getting everyone to forget that fact.
And that fact, as I point out, makes clear that fascism, in its current, modern-day context, clearly describes entities that reside well on the right of the political spectrum. Regardless of how many strands of progressivism he can dig up from the 1920s (when, as he constantly reminds us without any appreciation for how it affects his own thesis, the context was very different indeed), fascism today lives on, as it has now for all those generations since the ’20s, in entities who are unquestionably right-wing.

So how did Goldberg respond? By composing two pages of sneer (the review, he says, was "shallow, cliché ridden, attack-the-messenger stuff") that, rather predictably, completely elided any discussion of the central point. When I promptly pointed this out, Jonah posted this lame response:
From a reader:
Jonah: Contemporary labels are opportunistic and confuse the political
reality. Here is why this is…

Neiwart: Labels aren’t the issue. Fascists are racists, racists are
right-wingers, therefore you and the right have a lot of accounting to
do! Why aren’t you accounting?!
I’m tempted to just leave it there since I think so little of Neiwart’s attempt. It seems to boil down to: Fascists are always the bad guys. There are real bad guys today. They are on the right. Therefore they are the real fascists. Talk about anti-intellectual!
Well, as I pointed out immediately, this is just a classic strawman, a grotesque misrepresentation of both Jonah’s argument (his response said nothing about "contemporary labels confusing the political reality") and, even moreso, mine: As I said then, the people I’m talking about — the Klan, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, skinheads, and nativists — are not definably fascist because they’re "bad guys" (whatever the hell that means). We can identify them as fascist for a number of reasons:

– They share a direct lineage with American fascists of the 1920s and ’30s whose activities never ceased in the intervening years, and whose ideologies and activities both in the 1920s and since were clearly on the political right, as they are today.

– These contemporary groups all currently employ the symbolism, ideology, rhetoric and behavior of classical fascists. Many of them openly admire, even worship, Hitler.

– They fully meet the definition of fascism — not merely Jonah’s, which as we’ve explained is wholly inadequate, but the broadly accepted understanding of fascism derived from the academic study of the phenomenon.

Yet, indeed, Jonah indeed seems to have just "left it there." After pointing this out, Jonah responded no further, except to quote e-mail from his fan club, as well as an e-mail from "a very sharp law professor friend" who basically suggested ways to politely blow me off (gee, that sounds familiar).

The closest he came to addressing my critique any further came in another post citing another e-mail:
From a reader:

I know you are incredibly busy, but I’m curious if anyone has written anything challenging your basic premise in the book that you found somewhat credible and worth reading for a different point of view. Or are most of the comments just the written equivalent of mouth foam and drool?

So far, nope. I mean Siegel and Oshinsky aren’t droolers by any stretch. But neither offered a sustained and serious critique. Pretty much all the leftwing blog stuff I’ve seen is too vile to pick through the trash in search of a good argument. Some conservative friends have some thoughtful and constructive critiques (Yuval Levin’s going to write some of them up to get a conversation going). I would like to see such a critique, but the leftwingers don’t seem interested in providing it, invested as they are in the character-assassination gambit.
In the meantime, Goldberg has airily dismissed his other liberal critics on various grounds: Ezra Klein and John Holbo (they didn’t read the book), morte at TPM (also didn’t read it, and his irony in calling it "Definitive" in the headline escaped Goldberg), Gavin McNett at Alternet (who chose to mock the enterprise, therefore he’s not serious), and Matt Yglesias, who he later tackles again with a "serious response" that doesn’t demonstrate any intent to actually engage Yglesias’ point at all:
In short, his review is a piece of theater used to disguise his own cognitive dissonance. Nothing to see here folks, no need to read this book, no need to do any heavy thinking whatsoever. Indeed, thinking is the last thing Matt or his friends on the left want to do when it comes to my book.
Well, here’s what Yglesias actually wrote:
I’m not going to say that means contemporary conservatives are fascists. I agree with Goldberg that that’s a superficial line of argument that completely ignores the sociocultural roots of American conservatism and European fascism. But nobody with allegiances like that can seriously turn around, point at the other ideological camp, at start yelling "fascism" at the slightest whiff of collectivism.
Now, that is a serious point, whether Goldberg wants to acknowledge it or not — but he clearly doesn’t, since doing so would concede Yglesias’ chief point, to wit, "there’s no real coherent argument to be extracted here at all."

Ah, but we do know now what constitutes a "serious" argument in Goldberg’s book: a critique from his NRO colleague Michael Ledeen, which he greets with a "Now this is what I’m talking about" post.

In the meantime, I wrote and published a detailed rejoinder to Goldberg’s two-page sneer. It certainly is serious, again, but also quite damning. To date, Goldberg has neither acknowledged its existence at his blog, nor even hinted at attempting a response.

Well, it’s time for this mendacious cowardly and dishonest chickenshit nonsense to end. Let’s make it simple. Here are three very clear and very serious questions for Goldberg to answer.

– How does he account
for the continuing presence — from the 1920s up through the present — of definably fascist groups, not just American entities like the Ku Klux Klan, the Christian Identity movement, the Posse Comitatus, the Aryan Nations, the National Alliance, Hammerskin Nation, and White Aryan Resistance (to name just a few), but also European groups like Vlaams Belang and Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front, all of whom are clearly right-wing political entities? Doesn’t this lay waste to his claim that fascism is "a phenomenon of the left"?

– How does he defend
his whitewashing of the Ku Klux Klan? Is he seriously trying to argue that the Klan is a "phenomenon of the left"?

– How does he explain
the self-evident inadequacy of his definition of fascism? (Goldberg’s definition, as we’ve explained, describes not fascism — particularly not any of the traits that make it distinct — but rather totalitarianism (or authoritarianism, if you will) generally, of which fascism is but a particular species, and a definitively right-wing one at that).

(Oh, and while he’s at it, he might want to address Jeet Heer’s very pointed questions about his linguistic credentials in assessing his source material — though no doubt that too is not a "serious" matter.)

Now, Goldberg can seriously address these three questions and thereby make clear that his demands for a "serious debate" over his book were made in good faith.

Or he can continue to pretend that these points haven’t been raised and that they don’t seriously undermine his thesis. In which case I think we can all pretty clearly conclude, without any further adieu, that Goldberg is a fraud — not just his book, but his pose of intellectual seriousness.

Then, I say, let the mockery proceed apace. It’s all he deserves. And if he tries to whine that no one on the left is engaging him seriously anymore, they’ll know where to point when they tell him: You have no one to blame for that but yourself.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Jonah and the Klan

-- by Dave

I'd like the public to remember someone left out of Jonah Goldberg's book about American fascism, Liberal Fascism. Someone who might have something to say on the subject, were he still alive.

His name was Leo Frank. You may have heard of him. Evidently, either Jonah has either never heard of him, or has forgotten all about him, or perhaps would just like everyone else to forget all about him. Leo, you see, inspired the formation of the Anti-Defamation League, though not through any action of his own.

From the Wikipedia entry:
Leo Max Frank (April 17, 1884 – August 17, 1915) was an American Jew. His lynching by a mob of prominent citizens in Marietta, Georgia, in 1915 demonstrated anti-Semitism in the United States and led to the founding of the Anti-Defamation League.

Frank, the manager of a pencil factory in Atlanta, Georgia, was convicted on the basis of circumstantial and direct evidence of murdering an employee, 13-year-old Mary Phagan. The case is widely regarded as a miscarriage of justice. The trial was sensationalized by the media. The Georgia politician and publisher Tom Watson used the case to build personal political power and support for a revival of the Ku Klux Klan.

Shortly after Frank's conviction, new evidence emerged that cast doubt on his guilt. After the governor commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment, Frank was kidnapped from prison by a group of prominent citizens calling itself "The Knights of Mary Phagan", and lynched. The mob is reported to have included the son of a senator, a former governor, lawyers, and a prosecutor.

As the entry (which is quite accurate) goes on to explain, the Frank lynching played a key role in the founding of the Ku Klux Klan:
Southerners who believed Frank was guilty saw similarities between the Frank trial and The Birth of a Nation. Watson used sentiments aroused by sensational coverage of the Frank trial to build up power. Some members of the lynching mob decided to create a new Ku Klux Klan. The new Klan was inaugurated in 1915 at a mountaintop meeting, led by William J. Simmons, and attended by aging members of the original Klan, along with members of the Knights of Mary Phagan.

I want people to remember Leo Frank, and how his lynching inspired the birth of not just the ADL but more particularly the Klan, because Liberal Fascism contains probably the worst whitewashing of the Ku Klux Klan I have read, outside of overt Klan apologists, in my thirty years or so of writing about them and studying them. Here it is, on pp. 259-260:
Perhaps an even better indication of how little modern popular conceptions jibe with the historical reality during this period is the Ku Klux Klan. For decades the Klan has stood as the most obvious candidate for an American brand of fascism. That makes quite a bit of sense. The right-wing label, on the other hand, isn't nearly as clean a fit. The Klan of the Progressive Era was not the same Klan that arose after the Civil War. Rather, it was collection of loosely independent organization spread across the United States. What united them, besides their name and absurd getups, was that they were all inspired by the film The Birth of a Nation. They were, in fact, a "creepy fan subculture" of the film. Founded the week of the film's release in 1915, the second Klan was certainly racist, but not much more than the society in general. Of course, this is less a defense of the Klan than an indictment of the society that produced.

For years the conventional view among scholars and laymen alike was that the Klan was rural and fundamentalist. The truth is that it was often quite cosmopolitan and modern, thriving in cities like New York and Chicago. In many communities, the Klan focused on the reform of local government and maintaining social values. It was often the principal extralegal enforcer of Prohibition, the consummate progressive "reform." "these Klansmen," writes Jesse Walker in an illuminating survey of the latest scholarship, "were more likely to flog you for bootlegging or breaking your marriage vows than for being black or Jewish."

...Moreover, if the Klan was less racist than we've been led to believe, academia was staggeringly more so. ...

This is, of course, outrageous. Nothing that Goldberg presents as "evidence" actually suggests that "the Klan was less racist" -- rather, it only demonstrates that the Klan, a profoundly racist organization, was more than merely a collection of rural rubes; it was, in fact, a complicated phenomenon. And while popular conceptions of the Klan such as Goldberg cites may have distorted that reality, there have never been any illusions about that on the part of historians.

Nor has there been any illusion about where the Klan resides on the American political spectrum: it is an established figure of the far right, and it is so for many reasons besides its racism.

The Klan, of course, was much, much more than merely a "creepy fan subculture" for a film. It used the film for its symbology -- its costumes and cross-burnings were taken from the film, not from the old Klan -- but the heart of its meaning and purpose could be found in the lynching of Leo Frank.

Because the Klan, as Robert O. Paxton explains in his 2004 book The Anatomy of Fascism, was probably the first real manifestation of fascism as an organization, not just in America but anywhere:
... [I]t is further back in American history that one comes upon the earliest phenomenon that seems functionally related to fascism: the Ku Klux Klan. Just after the Civil War, some Confederate officers, fearing the vote given to African Americans by the Radical Reconstructionists in 1867, set up a militia to restore an overturned social order. The Klan constituted an alternate civic authority, parallel to the legal state, which, in its founders' eyes, no longer defended their community's legitimate interests. In its adoption of a uniform (white robe and hood), as well as its techniques of intimidation and its conviction that violence was justified in the cause of the group's destiny, the first version of the Klan in the defeated American South was a remarkable preview of the way fascist movements were to function in interwar Europe.

Moreover, as Paxton explains, the Klan was fascist not just in its function and the political space it occupied, but in being the embodiment of its ideology, namely:
Although one can deduce from fascist language implicit Social Darwinist assumptions about human nature, the need for community and authority in human society, and the destiny of nations in history, fascism does not base its claims to validity upon their truth. Fascists despise thought and reason, abandon intellectual positions casually, and cast aside many intellectual fellow-travellers. They subordinate thought and reason not to Faith, as did the traditional Right, but to the promptings of the blood and the historic destiny of the group. Their only moral yardstick is the prowess of the race, of the nation, of the community. They claim legitimacy by no universal standard except a Darwinian triumph of the strongest community.

Elsewhere, Paxton explains:
Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal constraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

David Chalmers, in his Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan, also is unequivocal in placing the Klan firmly on the right of the political spectrum:
Throughout its history, the Klan has been a conservative, not revolutionary, organization. As a vigilante, it has sought to uphold "law and order," white dominance, and traditional morality. To do this it has threatened, flogged, mutilated, and on occasion, murdered. The main purpose of the Klansmen, Kligrapps, Kludds, and Night Hawks, Cyclopses, Titans, Dragons, and Wizards assembled in their Dens, Klaverns, and Klonvokations, rallying in rented cow pastures, and marching in solemn procession through city streets, has been to defend and restore what they conceived as traditional social values. The Klan has bascially been a revitalization movement.

This happens to confirm the identification of the Klan with American fascism if we follow Roger Griffin's definition of fascism as "a palingenetic and populist form of ultranationalism" (palingenesis referring to a core myth of phoenix-like national rebirth).

The Klan was about much more than mere racism, which was more an expression of its larger mission -- enforcing, through violence, threats, and intimidation, "traditional values" and what it called "100 percent Americanism." It was essentially populist, certainly, but there was no mistaking it for anything "progressive." The latter, in fact, was its sworn enemy.

Chalmers describes (pp. 32-33) how Col. William J. Simmons, the man most responsible for the revival of the Klan in the 1915-20 period, and the leader of that group that burned a cross atop Stone Mountain in honor of the Frank lynch mob, shifted the Klan's focus from merely attacking blacks to a very broad menu of targets:
Upon being introduced to an audience of Georgia Klansmen, Colonel Simmons silently took a Colt automatic from his pocket and placed it on the table in front of him. Then he took a revolver from another pocket and put it on the table too. Then he unbuckled a cartridge belt and draped it in a crescent shape between the two weapons. Next, without having uttered a word, he drew out a bowie knife and plunged it in the center of the things on the table. "Now let the Niggers, Catholics, Jews, and all the others who disdain my imperial wizardry, come on," he said. The Jews, Mrs. Tyler told newspapermen during a shopping trip in New York, were upset because they know that the Klan "teaches the wisdom of spending American money with American men." To be for the white race, she continued, means to be against all others. Clarke suggested sterilizing the Negro. Simmons explained that the Japanese were but a superior colored race. Never in the history of the world, the Klan believed, had a "mongrel civilization" survived. The major theme, however, was the rich vein of anti-Catholicism, which the Klan was to mine avidly during the 1920s, and it was this more than anything else which made the Klan.

To the Negro, Jew, Oriental, Roman Catholic, and alien, were added dope, bootlegging, graft, night clubs and road houses, violation of the Sabbath, unfair business dealings, sex, marital "goings-on," and scandalous behavior, as the proper concern of the one-hundred-percent American. The Klan organizer was told to find out what was worrying a community and to offer the Klan as a solution.

Simmons' conception of the Klan as a special secret service bustling about spying on radicalism and questionable patriotism and generally reliving its wartime grandeur, was translated into a more enduring system of societal vigilance. The Klan was brought to Muncie, Indiana, by leading businessmen to cope with a corrupt Democratic city government. It entered Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Herrin County, Illinois, to put down bootlegging. When a newly formed Klan chapter would write to Atlanta for suggestions as to what to do first, the response was almost unvaryingly to "clean up the town," an injunction which usually came to rest it emphasis on the enforcement of the small-town version of the Ten Commandments.

Philip Dray, in his history of the "lynching era," At the Hands of Persons Unknown, describes this opportunism on the part of the Klan as well:
Marketed like any other business or lodge association, the Klan was eventually franchised in twenty-seven states and varied its purpose to confront a wide palette of enemies. To a town inundated with unemployed blacks, one historian has pointed out, it was the Klan of the Griffith film; if bootleggers ran amok, the Klan was an auxiliary police outfit; in the face of labor activism, Klan members became corporate thugs and enforcers; where immigrants threatened to overwhelm a city, the Klan stood ready to publicize 100 percent Americanism. As the organization served as a kind of enforcement group for godly values, many clergymen became Klan members of boosters. Jesus Christ himself, it was said, would have been a Klansman.

A history of the Klan by the SPLC explains that the "community values" agenda in short order became a justification for all kinds of violence:
The message was clear--the new Klan was going to mean business. And that soon meant expanding its list of enemies to include Asians, immigrants, bootleggers, dope, graft, night clubs and road houses, violation of the Sabbath, sex, pre- and extra-marital escapades and scandalous behavior. The Klan, with its new mission of social vigilance, soon had organizers scouring the nation, probing for the communities' fears and then exploiting them to the hilt.

And the tactic was an overnight raging success. By the late summer of 1921 nearly 100,000 people had enrolled in the invisible empire, and at ten dollars a head (tax-free since the Klan was a "benevolent" society), the profits were impressive. While Simmons made speeches and tinkered with ritual, Clarke busied himself with expanding the treasury, launching Klan publishing and manufacturing firms and investing in real estate. The future looked very good.

...And its violence was clearly revealed. Under Evans a wave of repression punctuated by lynchings, shootings and whippings swept over the nation in the early and mid-1920's and many communities were firmly in the grasp of the Klan's terror. The victims were usually blacks, Jews, Catholics, Mexicans and various immigrants, but sometimes they were white, Protestant, and female. Klansmen attacked people they considered "immoral" or "traitors" to the white race.

In Alabama, for example, a divorcee with two children was flogged for the crime of remarrying, and then given a jar of Vaseline for her wounds. In Georgia a woman was given 60 lashes for a vague charge of "immorality and failure to go to church." And when her 15-year-old son ran to her rescue, he received the same treatment. In both cases the leaders of the Klansmen responsible turned out to be ministers.

But such instances were not confined to the South--in Oklahoma Klansmen applied the lash to girls caught riding in automobiles with young men, and the Klan in the San Joaquin Valley in California were know to flog and torture women.

In a period when many women were fighting for the vote, for a place in the job market, and for personal and cultural freedom, the Klan claimed to stand for "pure womanhood" and frequently attacked women who sought independence.

Although politicians became increasingly uncomfortable with Klan allies as a result of the turmoil, the success of the Klan candidates across the nation in 1924 buoyed Evans' spirits. His notoriety peaked with a parade of 40,000 Klansmen down Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue to the Washington Monument in August 1925. Evans boasted of having helped re-elect Coolidge, of having secured passage of strict anti-immigration laws and of having checked the ambitions of Catholics and others intent on "perverting" the nation. All in all, the Klan was riding high in the saddle.

As we recently noted, the Klan briefly became a real political force: a nationwide organization with chapters in all 48 states that briefly became a political powerhouse in a number of states, including Oregon, Indiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Maine, where the Klan played a critical role in the 1924 election of Owen Brewster to the governorship. That same year, the Klan made waves at the Democratic Convention when the Klan-backed candidate, William Gibbs McAdoo of Georgia, declined to denounce them. Al Smith of New York managed to block his nomination, largely on these grounds, and West Virginia's John Davis emerged as the compromise selection. He lost to Calvin Coolidge.

As Chalmers records:
In 1922, the Klan helped elect governors in Georgia, Alabama, California, and Oregon, and came close to knocking Missouri's Jim Reed out of the U.S. Senate. It was reported that perhaps as many as seventy-five members of the lower house had received help from Klan votes. An undetermined, and unguessable, number of congressmen, veterans, and newcomers, had actually joined the hooded order, and E.Y. Clarke was asking the local chapters to suggest likely candidates for the future. The next year, the Klan continued to expand, with its greatest strength developing in the upper Mississippi Valley and in the Great Lakes kingdom of D.C. Stephenson.

All this time, the Klan's propensity for violence became its very byword. In Tulsa, where the Klan was such a prominent and active presence that it kept a public "whipping field" at which it publicly humiliated various miscreants, the violence evenutally erupted into the massive Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, where the resulting death toll of African Americans is estimated to have been between 300 and 3,000.

[More photos from the riot here.]

Klan violence clearly was not relegated strictly to the South, but its was particularly intense there, especially the use of cross burnings to threaten and intimidate blacks. This became especially the case in the 1930s and '40s, when the Klan rose to attempt to stem the oncoming tide of the Civil Rights movement; and in the early 1950s, the Brown v. Board of Education ruling ordering the desegregation of Southern schools actually produced a second revival of the Klan, all of it focused on the "traditional values" of white supremacy and its fruits: Jim Crow, segregation, lynching.

There were thousands of these lynchings. They are the human victims, like Leo Frank, of the Klan who Jonah Goldberg so casually and carelessly airbrushes out of the pages of his history of American fascism.

And it is not as if the Klan has gone away since. In the ensuing years, it has remained the implacable enemy not merely of civil rights for blacks, but for any minority, including gays and lesbians. Its activities have remained associated with violence of various kinds, including a broad gamut of hate crimes committed against every kind of non-white, or non-Christian, or for that matter non-conservative.

In the recent past, it has revived its nativist roots by becoming vociferously active in the immigration debate, openly sponsoring anti-immigrant rallies at which the Klan robes have come out:

Somewhat predictably, immigration has become a major point of recruitment for the Klan and other white supremacists. And just as predictably, a sharp spike of bias crimes against Latinos has followed in their wake.

This is of a piece with Goldberg's treatment of fascism generally: just as he has managed to trivialize a genuinely destructive and monstrous ideology such as fascism, so does he whitewash and minimize the horrendously poisonous history of real American fascists like the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, it seems as if Goldberg is almost poised to declare the Klan "liberal" or yet another "progressive" offspring; but surely even that must give a pseudo-thinker like Goldberg pause. If the Klan is just another "phenomenon of the Left," then the word no longer has any meaning.

Jonah Goldberg doesn't just want us to forget about Leo Frank; he wants us to ignore the Klan's real presence, and its many victims, even today, as well as its long-running poisoning of the body politic. Because that would kind of, you know, undermine his thesis that the real American fascists are those dirty liberals. And you know what? The Klan would probably agree with him.

Who Goes Nazi?

-- by Sara

In 1939, Time magazine named Dorothy Thompson the second most influential woman in America after Eleanor Roosevelt. The first American journalist expelled from Nazi Germany -- and still then the wife of Sinclair Lewis -- she was one of the country's leading voices against fascism. She'd seen it up close in Europe, and was furiously outspoken about its creeping influence in America.

In the August 1941 issue of Harper's, Thompson wrote a short piece, based on her long European experience, outlining which Americans at any given dinner party might be expected to "go Nazi." It's still in Harper's archives, and it's as insightful and prescient now as it was on the eve of America's entry into World War II:
It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times–in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis.

It is preposterous to think that they are divided by any racial characteristics. Germans may be more susceptible to Nazism than most people, but I doubt it. Jews are barred out, but it is an arbitrary ruling. I know lots of Jews who are born Nazis and many others who would heil Hitler tomorrow morning if given a chance. There are Jews who have repudiated their own ancestors in order to become “Honorary Aryans and Nazis”; there are full-blooded Jews who have enthusiastically entered Hitler’s secret service. Nazism has nothing to do with race and nationality. It appeals to a certain type of mind.

It is also, to an immense extent, the disease of a generation–the generation which was either young or unborn at the end of the last war. This is as true of Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Americans as of Germans. It is the disease of the so-called “lost generation.”

Sometimes I think there are direct biological factors at work–a type of education, feeding, and physical training which has produced a new kind of human being with an imbalance in his nature. He has been fed vitamins and filled with energies that are beyond the capacity of his intellect to discipline. He has been treated to forms of education which have released him from inhibitions. His body is vigorous. His mind is childish. His soul has been almost completely neglected....

.... Kind, good, happy, gentlemanly, secure people never go Nazi. They may be the gentle philosopher whose name is in the Blue Book, or Bill from City College to whom democracy gave a chance to design airplanes–you’ll never make Nazis out of them. But the frustrated and humiliated intellectual, the rich and scared speculator, the spoiled son, the labor tyrant, the fellow who has achieved success by smelling out the wind of success–they would all go Nazi in a crisis.

Believe me, nice people don’t go Nazi. Their race, color, creed, or social condition is not the criterion. It is something in them.

Those who haven’t anything in them to tell them what they like and what they don’t-whether it is breeding, or happiness, or wisdom, or a code, however old-fashioned or however modern, go Nazi. It’s an amusing game. Try it at the next big party you go to.
The whole thing is an easy but rewarding read -- an perceptive look at the way class, power, motivation, and character intertwine in the individual political choices we make in the face of authoritarian power. Thompson watched people sort themselves on one side or another of an invisible line that, in Europe, had already hardened into a battle front. From the distance of 67 years, she reports to us what she saw, how they got there, and who among us will be most likely to take us there again.

The clearing view of Ron Paul

-- by Dave

Well, we've been saying all along that Ron Paul's presidential campaign -- which is charged up enough with very public xenophobia as it is -- is attracting white supremacists and other extremists in large droves because, largely, that's who Ron Paul is.

Clearly, more people are coming to realize this, thanks in no small part to Jamie Kirchick's superb reporting in The New Republic last week on Paul's long history of publishing newletters riddled with racism, homophobia, and conspiracy-mongering. Kirchick has a follow-up this week with even more newsletters, and as he observes at the TNR blog:
At this point, it seems that the only people still defending Ron Paul are the openly bigoted or the comically credulous. For the former, the revelation that Paul had (at best, negligent at worst, complicit) involvement in the publishing of and profiting from paranoid and bigoted newsletters for over two decades neatly confirms the reasons why they had chosen to support the Texas Congressman presidential campaign in the first place. For the latter, no amount of evidence will ever convince them that “Dr. No” is anything less than some saintly, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” caricature.

Now comes the revelation that one of Paul's organizers in Michigan -- a man he's seen posing with in the photo below, located on the site -- is also a notorious neo-Nazi and Klan organizer in that neck of the woods.

Phenry at DailyKos (who has been doing a bang-up job tracking Paul all along) has the details:
As voters in Michigan go to the polls to vote in today's primary, volunteer coordinators for the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates are working hard across the state. One of these is Randy Gray, a 29-year-old resident of Midland, Michigan whom the Ron Paul 2008 Michigan Campaign Web site lists as the Midland County coordinator for the Ron Paul campaign. Gray's campaign profile page, a cached version of which can be seen here, doesn't go into much detail; there's a picture of Gray with the candidate, along with Gray's statement that "I support Ron Paul because he is in the fight for freedom." The page contains no mention of one of Gray's other roles: organizer with the Knight's Party faction of the Ku Klux Klan.

Modest Mouse goes on to detail this:
Randy Gray is referenced in our Far Right in West Michigan Database due to a speech he delivered at the fiftieth anniversary of the Knight's Party faction of the Ku Klux Klan.... Since 2005, Gray has filed the paperwork necessary to air the program "This is the Klan" on Midland Community Television. The program, hosted by Thomas Robb and Rachel Pendergraft, is a thirty minute program designed primarily for viewing on the Internet....

Gray has attended various racist events with and without the Ku Klux Klan in recent years as well. He is quoted in a May 2004 article in the Tennessean in which the Ku Klux Klan planned a rally against a "Gay Day" event at the "Dollywood" theme park.... Gray was twice (1, 2) kicked out of city council meetings for protesting the city's permitting process in relation to a Klan protest against the Martin Luther King holiday.

There's also a video of Gray speaking at that white-power rally in Tennessee:

... [S]o many of these savages, according to our statistics, they're murdering our people, on a daily basis, and there's nobody in our legal system that would dare say, "Bring back the rope! Bring back the electric chair!" Instead, they take our tax dollars and they feed these animals at the cost of our race!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you have been lied to about diversity and multiculturalism. The immigration crisis that's being pushed upon us by the race traitors of Washington, D.C. -- they don't care about our people, they're too concerned about the homosexual rights! They're too worred about protecting the rights of the Highlander communist school in New Market, Tennessee, that pushes this immigration, this race problem in our nation today -- comes right out of the communist school. It was closed down originally in 1960 by the state of Tennessee, but they are in New Market, Tennessee, and we were up there yesterday taking photo pictures.

One of the interesting aspects of Kirchick's follow-up is that it makes clear how much Paul's newsletters were relying on the work of the "academic" white supremacist Jared Taylor of American Renaissance,, something we had pointed out earlier in relation to the newsletters.

Even more revealing, perhaps, is the reportage from Julian Sanchez and David Weigel of Reason regarding the chief authorship of the newsletters. as was hinted at earlier, it was none other than Lew Rockwell:
[I]n interviews with Reason, a half-dozen longtime libertarian activists—including some still close to Paul—all named the same man as Paul's chief ghostwriter: Ludwig von Mises Institute founder Llewellyn Rockwell, Jr.

Financial records from 1985 and 2001 show that Rockwell, Paul's congressional chief of staff from 1978 to 1982, was a vice president of Ron Paul & Associates, the corporation that published the Ron Paul Political Report and the Ron Paul Survival Report. The company was dissolved in 2001. During the period when the most incendiary items appeared—roughly 1989 to 1994—Rockwell and the prominent libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard championed an open strategy of exploiting racial and class resentment to build a coalition with populist "paleoconservatives," producing a flurry of articles and manifestos whose racially charged talking points and vocabulary mirrored the controversial Paul newsletters recently unearthed by The New Republic. To this day Rockwell remains a friend and advisor to Paul—accompanying him to major media appearances; promoting his candidacy on the blog; publishing his books; and peddling an array of the avuncular Texas congressman's recent writings and audio recordings.

Rockwell has denied responsibility for the newsletters' contents to The New Republic's Jamie Kirchick. Rockwell twice declined to discuss the matter with reason, maintaining this week that he had "nothing to say." He has characterized discussion of the newsletters as "hysterical smears aimed at political enemies" of The New Republic. Paul himself called the controversy "old news" and "ancient history" when we reached him last week, and he has not responded to further request for comment.

But a source close to the Paul presidential campaign told reason that Rockwell authored much of the content of the Political Report and Survival Report. "If Rockwell had any honor he'd come out and I say, ‘I wrote this stuff,'" said the source, who asked not to be named because Paul remains friendly with Rockwell and is reluctant to assign responsibility for the letters. "He should have done it 10 years ago."

Rockwell was publicly named as Paul's ghostwriter as far back as a 1988 issue of the now-defunct movement monthly American Libertarian. "This was based on my understanding at the time that Lew would write things that appeared in Ron's various newsletters," former AL editor Mike Holmes told reason. "Neither Ron nor Lew ever told me that, but other people close to them such as Murray Rothbard suggested that Lew was involved, and it was a common belief in libertarian circles."

And they also uncover the point that this was not a penny-ante operation:
The publishing operation was lucrative. A tax document from June 1993—wrapping up the year in which the Political Report had published the "welfare checks" comment on the L.A. riots—reported an annual income of $940,000 for Ron Paul & Associates, listing four employees in Texas (Paul's family and Rockwell) and seven more employees around the country. If Paul didn't know who was writing his newsletters, he knew they were a crucial source of income and a successful tool for building his fundraising base for a political comeback.

As Kirchick observes:
To believe that Ron Paul had no knowledge of what was being written in his own name, in his own office, for 20 years -- and that he didn't even read his own monthly publication -- not only “stretches credulity to the breaking point,” it actually requires believing bald-faced lies.

Moreover, the whole picture is now emerging into public view of Ron Paul, not just regarding his integrity and honesty on these matters, but of what his politics really are.

He has successfully sold himself to many people -- including many thoughtful, smart people who believe in his decency -- as a libertarian.

But what he really always has been is a far-right Bircherite who has successfully adapted the language of libertarianism to fit an extremist agenda -- which is why he has so many neo-Nazis hanging out in his woodshed.

And now people can see that clearly -- if they can find it within themselves to shed their emotional attachments.