18 August 2008

Amy Alkon is a Dim Bulb (Installment 2.5 in an Irregular Series)

I promised myself not to get carried away with the dippy Ms. Alkon. But she has now begun to denounce those who question her various racist pronouncements as "fascist thugs." This, of course, is a now common charge, leveled by those on the right against virtually anyone they disagree with or whom, god forbid, has the gall to speak out against them. See this earlier post, which, given her virulent Islam-o-phobia, probably applies to Ms. Amy too. Life is too short to work through all of her ridiculous blog posts.

In any case, there is a broader point to this post ~ "fascism" is a term, like most other words, with an actual meaning. It does not help to just make shit up. So, at the risk of suggesting something she likely will find wholly inconceivable, I will recommend a book to Ms. Alkon. Unfortunately, it is one not published by her preferred right-wing vanity presses (e.g., Encounter Books) and so will be beyond her standard repertoire.* The book I have in mind is Kevin Passmore's Fascism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2002) which is generally quite good. (Don't panic Amy dearest, it is "very short" and so should neither tax your cognitive abilities nor distract you from scurrying about feverishly ferreting out the IP addresses of those who dare voice any dissent in the comment thread of your blog. Indeed, you could probably get away with reading just the second chapter!) Passmore offers a useful, reasonably simple definition:
"Fascism is a set of ideologies and practices that seeks to place the nation, defined in exclusive biological, cultural, and/or historical terms, above all other sources of loyalty, and to create a mobilized national community. Fascist nationalism is reactionary in that it entails implacable hostility to socialism and feminism, for they are seen as prioritizing class or gender rather than nation. This is why fascism is a movement of the extreme right. Fascism is also a movement of the radical right because the defeat of socialism and feminism and the creation of the mobilized nation are held to depend upon the advent to power of a new elite acting in the name of the people, headed by a charismatic leader, and embodied in a mass, militarized party. Fascists are pushed towards conservatism by common hatred of socialism and feminism, but are prepared to override conservative interests - family, property, religion, the universities, the civil service - where the interests of the nation are considered to require it. Fascist radicalism also derives from a desire to assuage discontent by accepting specific demands of the labour and women's movements, so long as these demands accord with the national priority. Fascists seek to ensure the harmonization of workers' and women's interests with those of the nation by mobilizing them within special sections of the party and/or within a corporate system. Access to these organizations and to the benefits they confer upon members depends on the individual's national, political, and/or racial characteristics. All aspects of fascist policy are suffused with ultranationalism." (page 31)
If the dippy Ms. Alkon is interested in civil dialogue (her claim, not my expectation), she might stop throwing around terms like "fascism" (which, as Passmore also notes, "has become and all-purpose term of abuse"). This would have the added virtue of making her look less ignorant, since I suspect none of the folks who've made her so furious is a nationalist in the required sense.
Tossing around the "F-word" just degrades language.

Now, Ms. Alkon might protest that she is concerned more with the thuggishness of her adversaries - even though she admits that no one has actually accosted her or her property, they've only posted comments on her blog and posts like this one elsewhere. And indeed she insists that "progressives" are egregiously and aggressively violating her personal cognitive space. This too, of course, is a common right wing response to criticism: paint those who disagree with you in terms of psycho-pathology. After all, one cannot deal with crazy people, one has no choice but to ban them from one's precious blog. This is why Amy relies so heavily on pop-psychology.

Here I'd recommend another book. (Don't panic Amy, it is short too!) I have in mind Norberto Bobbio's Left & Right: The Significance of a Political Distinction (University of Chicago Press, 1997). Bobbio makes clear that this distinction is not unidimensional. Yes, the left embraces social equality while the right embraces "natural" inequalities and the responsibilities that derive therefrom. But he also insists that that distinction is traversed by a second liberty-authoritarianism dimension mapping relative willingness to impose ones views or policies by force. Newsflash, neither left nor right has a monopoly on bad behavior! Representatives of both historically have opted for authoritarian strategies. And, to state the obvious, both should be condemned for so doing. But even here, Ms. Alkon concedes that no one has tried to force her to do anything. People are just talking back in the face of her inane pronouncements. And Amy doesn't like it when people disagree with her. Disagreement makes her very, very cranky.
* I call these sectarian enterprises vanity presses because they publish only those who know the secret handshake and are compelled to rely on subsidies from various foundations like Scaife and Olin in order to publish their tripe.

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