Fascism is one of those ideas you hear about all the time that no one can cleanly define. Perhaps that’s why it has become to American politics what “ironic” is to popular music. It’s notoriously difficult to teach to kids—here I mean the historical-political concept; it turns out children learn to actually do fascism really quickly—and yet, since it caused the war that ushered in the modern era, it comes up a lot. So fascism is a real problem. The best way to explain it is to note that all fascist governments are different, but they invariably have a few features in common: aggressive nationalism, authoritarian social structures, consolidation of governing power. And let us not forget the George Harrison of fascism, close cooperation between government and industry.
It may not be as well-known as belligerent ethno-centrism (John) or secret police (Ringo,) but CC between G and I is the engine that makes fascism run.* You don’t corrupt a government with force; you corrupt it with money. The first time I read this article in which Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association fo American, criticizes Wikipedia and other sites that participated in the SOPA blackout, I had to run a quick senility check. But yes, that is former Connecticut senator Chris Dodd, calling the blackout protests “stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns.” Those of you who believe there is still some separation between a mainstream and a counterculture should consider the former senator and now CEO’s warning that opposing a copyright enforcement bill will make you into a corporate pawn. The rebellion we were raised on is a diversion.
But I digress—propaganda is not a necessary element of fascism. In a modern context, as Mr. Dodd reminds us, it does not sufficiently differ from marketing. Still, one rough-and-ready way to think of fascism is as for-profit government—you know, like what William Delahunt does. After he retired from the House last year, Delahunt started a lobbying firm. He’s helping the town of Hull, Massachusetts administer a wind-energy project—specifically, the wind-energy project for which he earmarked $1.7 million during his last term in Congress. At least three of Delahunt’s other clients received “millions of dollars of federal aid” thanks to his lawmaking. That was once your money, by the way. Statistically, it’s probably more your money than Mitt Romney’s, or that of fellow millionaire William Delahunt.
I’m not sure regional governors who dramatically overestimate their own importance are a hallmark of fascism, but I bet there have been a lot of them. Just now we have Jan Brewer, who wrote in her recent book—titled Scorpions For Breakfast, which is probably figurative—that Obama was “patronizing” when she first met with him about border security. “It was [as] though President Obama thought he could lecture me,” Brewer writes, “and I would learn at his knee.” That is the governor of a state talking about the President of the United States. The President may or may not think he can lecture Jan Brewer, but he seems pretty sure he can threaten her. I quote the White House statement:
The governor handed the President a letter and said she was inviting him to meet with her. The president said he’d be glad to meet with her again, but did note that after their last meeting, a cordial discussion in the Oval Office, the governor inaccurately described the meeting in her book. The president looks forward to continuing taking steps to help Arizona’s economy grow.
I hope I will be able to provide you with federal highway funding in the future, and also I have a birthday coming up. Enclosed please find several scorpions.
I’ve tried to think of different ways to make this last one about fascism, but it just isn’t. It is a special writhe-in-ecstatic-agony treat for New Yorkers, concerning the rent-controlled apartments above the Cherry Lane Theater. Don’t think about how, when you first moved to New York, the Cherry Lane seemed a symbol of how theatre was everywhere in the city and therefore something anyone could do. Don’t think about how Arnold Warwick, who lives in a 1,200 square-foot apartment above said theater, pays $331.76 a month—less than your share of the rent on a place with no heat in 2001 Bushwick. Think about remaining positive: