A question I shouldn’t HAVE to ask July 18, 2007 | 04:44 pm

The Nazis were bad, right?

I mean Adolph Hitler, the Swastika, the Final Solution, the whole nine yards. They’re still considered evil, right?

Because now I’m not so sure.

This used to be a question as necessary as “is water wet?” Of course they were bad. In fact, they were universally recognized as bad- even the Germans agree that the Nazis were bad. In the movies they were the perfect bad guy- you didn’t have to explain to anyone that the Nazis were bad- indeed, they were so bad that anything you did to them, no matter how horrific, was OK, even laudable. Whether it be Illinois Nazis being dropped from a height taller than the Sears Tower, or classic 1930′s Nazis being chopped to death in a plane propeller or simply melted by the wrath of God (see- even the infinitely merciful God hates Nazis!), it was OK- after all, they were Nazis.

But now I’m seeing an increasing trend of portraying the Nazis as the good guys. It started with John Ringo’s “Watch on the Rhine”. The basic premise, for those who haven’t read Ringo’s Posleen series, is that evil aliens called the Posleen are invading the galaxy, including the Earth. And the other existing high-tech races are all incapable of fighting at all- so they have to recruit humans, who are good at fighting, to fight for them. The other aliens provide some high tech items, most notably rejuvenation drugs- so all of our old soldiers from WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, etc. get hauled out again to fight the alien menace. In Germany, this means the SS. This could have been such an interesting book- a story of people who, with the wisdom of age truly repent the crimes of their youth and gain a chance for redemption, at the cost of their lives. But no. Instead we’re treated with the repeated message that it’s the damned liberals who are stabbing us in the back (again), and that what we really need is good old fashioned SS officers who teach us how real soldiers do it. And we’ll just politely ignore that bit about the Jews.

OK, that’s just one person. Sorry, John, you lost a fan with that book- but life goes on. But today we just had Amity Shlaes give a presentation at work. She’s flogging her new book, “The Forgotten Man” (I’m deliberately not linking to these books- if you really want to read them, google them yourself). In which she admits to reinterpreting history.

I didn’t stay to the end of the talk, I’ll admit. But there comes a point where I have to either rebut, or leave. Were I part of the religious right, I would have rebutted, but I’m not an asshole (or, at least, I try not to be), so I just left.

But among other fallacies I did sit still for, she called “It can’t happen here”, a play about the rise of a Fascist dictatorship here in the US funded by the federal government, “propaganda”.

Excuse me?

Is this to indicate, given that “propaganda” is generally considered a pejorative term, that maybe the government shouldn’t have been trying to prevent a fascist dictatorship?

No matter what else you think of the Roosevelt administration, I had thought that defeat of fascism was the one thing we all agreed was a good thing. Nazis = bad, right?

What we have forgotten, I think, is the real meaning of the word fascist. I mean, we all know what a communist dictatorship is- it’s a dictatorship based (loosely) on Marx/Lennin economic system (me, I’m an adherent to Marxism and Lennonism- Groucho and John, respectively). And we know what a religious dictator ship is, it’s a dictatorship based based on a particular religion. So there are obviously different flavors of dictatorship. But what does it mean to be a fascist dictator?

There is a lot of subtlety and complexity in what it means to be fascist (consider, for a moment, all the subtlety and complexity I sweep under the rug with the term “Marxism/Lenninism”, or “Roman Catholic”). But the key defining parameter, what makes a fascist dictatorship fascist, and not some other sort of dictatorship, is the fact that it’s the economic elite that are in control- a fascist dictatorship is a dictatorship of the corporations. Even Benito Mussolini said it should more appropriately be called corporatistism, and not fascism.

I find it telling that one of Mz. Shlaes’ main resume items was a stint on the editorial staff of the Wall Street Journal. If there is one body of people on this earth that are most in favor of a dictatorship by the corporations, it has to be the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal.

I’ll tell Mz. Schlaes who the forgotten man was. His name was Smedley Butler. And the fact that he’s been basically utterly forgotten, and erased from the history books tells you a lot about this nation- as, after George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, he’s the reason we have a country and a democracy at this point.

Smedley Butler was a marine- joined as a private, and worked his way up through the ranks to become the highest ranked officer in the Marine Corp at the time, Lt. General. Along the way he garnered not one, but two congressional medals of honor. He was also highly regarded- among servicemen and ex-servicemen, and the public at large. He was sort of a 1930′s version of Colin Powell, but with honor and class. Then, in 1933, with Roosevelt in the White House and the New Deal underway, he was approached by a consortium of the seriously rich- men like J.P. Morgan and Irénée du Pont (of du Pont chemicals). The promised him $30 million dollars (real money back then), half a million men, and unlimited spin coverage in the newspapers, if he were stage a coup and replace Roosevelt with a fascist dictatorship.

Smedley’s response was, in effect, to go “hmm, that’s an interesting idea”, collect up a bunch of evidence, and take it to Congress. Who, because the people involved were wealthy, big campaign donors, and politically connected, buried the whole thing and smeared Butler. It wasn’t until thr 1970′s- many decades after his death, that the truth came out.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is true patriotism. To be willing to sacrifice not just your life, and not just your wealth (career), but also you sacred honor, your reputation, your place in the history books, for your country.

You have to ask yourself: why are their no monuments to this man?

The reason is that the dream of a fascist dictatorship- of a corporate dictatorship- in America is not dead. The flame was kept alive, in the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, in the Federalist Society, in innumerable think tanks, in the board rooms, and, most importantly, in the minds of so-called “conservatives” across the country. The boardroom of major corporations have been an especially important reservoir of infection. I mean, think about it- the modern corporation is about as undemocractic an institution as is possible. In fact, in social structure, it is not unlike Stalinist Russia. You have the politburo/board of directors which wield ultimate power, only shareholders/party members are allowed to vote, although even most of them are unable to effect any change, and the peons at the bottom have no power whatsoever. Plus, in a fascist dictatorship, the CEOs are going to be the ones in charge- what could be more natural, from their perspective, then to run the country like they run their business?

I hold this truth to be self evident: that America is, first and foremost, a democratic country, and that all dictatorships, of all flavors, are evil. I am willing to debate anything else- the legality, cost, or benefit of the New Deal, the value of libertarianism or laissez faire economics, on the nature or religion (if any) of the country, of the truth of evolution or creationism, the value of logic, any given policy, all are open to debate. But on this issue, I brook no argument. If you support dictatorship in any form, and oppose democracy, you are anti-american, a traitor, and scum. Period.

Oh, and Nazis are evil.

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  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/robertfischer Robert Fischer

    This is one of the things that get me. As recent German immigrants during WW2, my family’s psyche was deeply touched by the Nazis, and that’s become a part of our family culture. As a fan of Germany, I’ve ended up in some social circles that rubbed shoulders with Neo-Nazi groups. I’ve known people who have been converted into that ideology, and I’ve seen how it can be both attractive and self-destructive. Struggling with theology the systematic and total evil of the Nazis and the relentless social, philosophical, and scientific campaigns is something that can easily crush your faith in God and humanity — see Ellie Weisel’s “Night” for one example. So this is an issue that is very serious to me.

    If you aren’t petrified of Nazis and overwhelmed by the demonstrated and enticing evil, then you don’t understand what was really going on. It’s simply horrific — every facility of human progress was turned into an instrument of evil with unnerving ease and alacrity.

    This is part of the reason I still can’t deal with Cardinal Ratzinger being made the pope. Anyone who has taken an oath of allegiance to the Nazis, under duress or otherwise, is unfit for an influential office. I wouldn’t have them as the Worshipful Master of my Masonic Lodge, and much less as the leader of the largest church in Christianity. It’s simply not okay: this guy, at one point, swore an oath to Hitler. That’s all I need to know about him: he’s out.

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  • http://miusheri.livejournal.com Minna

    I’d never heard of Smedley Butler before. What a tragedy! In response to this, I posted in my LJ about him and submitted his Wiki bio to Fark- see if I couldn’t educate the masses a bit. ;) The link was redlit, but a couple of the TotalFarkers saw it and left positive remarks (which, if you know anything about the typical Farker mentality, is really impressive).

    Thanks for the new knowledge! He’s been added to my pantheon of personal heroes. =)

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  • http://greiferz.blogpost.com Raoul Duke

    Thank you for the post. While I don’t have a 100% problem with people playing around with Nazis in fiction (P K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle is a great book), I completely agree that fascist dictatorships are evil, and that the dream of having one is entirely too alive and well in the USA. And I didn’t know about Bulter. Where do I sign the petition to revoke the privileged status of “coporation”s? Seriously. (Oh, that movie The Corporation is pretty good, too.)

  • http://grieferz.blogspot.com/ Raoul Duke

    (Sorry if this ends up being a double post. The blog ware doesn’t like me?) Hey, but e.g. The Man in the High Castle was a good book. I should be able to get into fiction w/out that equating me to a fascist supporter, because I am not a fascist supporter. Where can we sign the petition to remove the special status corporations have under law in the USA? Seriously. (That movie The Corporation was fun!) So far I’m pretty much expecting the fascism to become rock solid in, like, say, the next decade? As if it already isn’t?

  • Kir

    While fascism does involve a corporatist economic system. You oversimplify to state that it’s the sum total of the fascist idea. You’ve essentially done the same thing as those who use the phrase “islamic fascism”, but from the other side.

    Fascism is more properly understood as a combination of the authoritarian nationalism (the part ‘islamic fascism’ has), and the corporatism (the part that the US has temptations towards periodically). It’s obvious looking at them that both Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany exhibited both of these. But what many people (including yourself), seem to have missed is that either side, individually, is present in many countries and governments.

    The Business Plot may or may not have been a real threat. Personally I’m suspicious that Butler was used by a middle-man, working for one of the industrialists in an internal power-game. I have no more evidence than anyone else, but let’s just say Butler had less than ironclad proof of his claims.

    You finish with a blanket, and completely unsupported, condemnation of the economic right. It would be better if you simply said “the right wing are all NAZIS!!!” and quit pretending to be doing serious analysis.

  • JZ

    If western democracy has any real meaning, its not in a voting system, but instead a separation of powers. Being against dictatorship is not so simple as to be anti-corporation or anti-government, it’s about balancing those powers against each other. If we don’t see that we will get trapped into pointless support or denouncing of structures that at any point in time may be in the right or wrong. Sometimes corporations should be afforded more power, sometimes less.

    If your stock answer is always more or always less for some group, then you’re probably not understanding what makes a democracy good. That said, typically a democracy runs on the strong disagreement between people who don’t understand that what makes the system work is the framework that lets them disagree. It is a gross simplification, but in some ways dictatorship comes from the removal of outlets and systems for disagreement.