Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Liberals Are Not Fascists, They're Authentic Americans

This is a copy of an essay I sent to the South Bend Tribune a couple days ago, in the hope that they would publish it on their op-ed page. Since I haven't heard back from them, I doubt that it will ever see the light of day, so I'm publishing it here instead.

Not even right-wing propaganda can turn a liberal into a fascist

Bt MATT BEAL

There has long been an effort by the right wing in this country to make people believe "liberal" is a dirty word. One recent example of this was when Republican candidates Mitt Romney and John McCain both tried to label each other as too "liberal" while campaigning in Florida.

Even more ridiculous is Jonah Goldberg's latest book, "Liberal Fascism," in which he argues that liberals are fascists. Apparently that idea resonates with some people, because his book is on the best-seller list. What a sad commentary on the intellectual state of affairs in this country.

All you have to do is look up the words in the dictionary to realize the two concepts are mutually exclusive.

According to the definitions I found on dictionary.com, liberal means "favorable to progress or reform; favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom; free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant; open-minded; and not bound by conventional ideas."

Why anyone would not want to be associated with those qualities is beyond me.

On the other hand, fascism is defined as "a system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism."

Why would someone who advocated maximum individual freedom support a system that suppresses individual freedom -- especially the right to dissent? People who support fascism of the kind practiced by Hitler and Mussolini may be many things, but they are not liberals.

Goldberg's effort to link liberalism with fascism is another in a long line of right-wing attempts to brainwash the American people into thinking there's something wrong with being a liberal. People need to wake up and realize this country was founded by liberals, and that means we have the right to criticize our government without being subjected to illegal surveillance, slander and other forms of harassment for exercising that right.

Unfortunately, the FBI and CIA both have a long and disgraceful history of spying on and harassing Americans for no reason other than the fact that they oppose rampant militarism, unjust economic policies or some other action that betrays the values expressed in the Constitution.

These abuses first came to light in the 1970s when The New York Times exposed Operation CHAOS, the CIA's illegal campaign to infiltrate and discredit the anti-war movement. The FBI's counterintelligence program, COINTELPRO, also saw the light of day for the first time during this period.

After Senate and House committees investigated abuses by the intelligence agencies in the 1970s, oversight committees were established, but these were and still are ineffectual in preventing those agencies and others from illegally cracking down on dissent by law-abiding Americans.

That aspect of our government certainly has more in common with fascism than it does with liberalism.

According to the late, great political researcher Steve Kangas, in the wake of the scandals of the mid-1970s, the CIA, which has always been an instrument of the elite, started to organize a system to help the wealthy consolidate their power and turn the country sharply to the right.

In an essay titled "The Origins of the Overclass," Kangas explains how the CIA and its allies in corporate America put together an organization of advocacy groups, lobbyists, think tanks, conservative foundations and PR firms that "hurtled the richest 1 percent into the stratosphere."

You can read it here: The Origins of the Overclass 

That was reflected in data released by the Internal Revenue Service last October that showed the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans earned 21.2 percent of all income in 2005, compared to 11 percent of all income in 1986.

One of the movement's most effective strategies was to saturate the airwaves with conservative talk-show hosts. This phenomenon, which gained momentum in the early 1990s and is even more pronounced today, debunks once and for all the myth of the so-called liberal media.

"Using propaganda techniques it had perfected at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, the CIA and its allies turned American AM radio into a haven for conservative talk show hosts," Kangas wrote. "Yes -- Rush Limbaugh uses the same propaganda techniques that Muscovites once heard from Voice of America."

The merger of military and corporate interests is another consequence of this country's sharp turn to the right.

One of the worst examples of this problem is the conflict of interest involving the companies that own the electronic voting systems used throughout the United States.

In "9/11 and the American Empire," edited by David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott, it was revealed that Election Systems & Software (ES&S), Diebold and Sequoia all have strong ties to the Bush administration. And the largest investors in those companies are government defense contractors Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and Accenture.

Since those companies have a vested interest in election outcomes, this conflict of interest threatens the integrity of our electoral process.

Our last two presidential elections were both tainted by electronic-voting fraud, and now there is evidence that last month's New Hampshire primary was also plagued by irregularities. Barack Obama had a decisive lead in paper ballots, but Hillary Clinton nullified that with a commanding margin in electronic votes.

In a recent column published in the Tribune, Goldberg claimed fascism will come to America in the guise of something "progressive." But the truth is, it has already gained a foothold here under the guise of "neoconservatism."

In fact, fascism has been making inroads in America since the 1930s, when DuPont, General Motors, Standard Oil (now Exxon), Ford, ITT, National City Bank and General Electric all helped to build Hitler's war machine.

After the war, the United States recruited hundreds of Nazi war criminals, intelligence officers and scientists into the CIA, universities and various other institutions. Christopher Simpson, author of "Blowback," pointed out that this had a disastrous effect on both the foreign and domestic policies of this country.

Vice President Henry Wallace warned about the dangers of American fascism in an article published by The New York Times on April 9, 1944. His remarks apply as well to President Bush, Vice President Cheney and all the other neoconservatives in the administration as they did to the Americans he was talking about in 1944:

"They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."

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