Happy Sixth Anniversary (to me)!

I hadn't realized that I'd been posting for six years now; I'm surprised to see that the first post did not have a cartoon, and the second one featured a photograph I took of snow falling at night. Hopefully I am less obscurely self-referential these days. This also happens to be my 500th post. In honor of this occasion, I give you an old cartoon about a minor prophet.



"The Israelites again did what was offensive to the Lord."
I have mentioned to a couple people that, in rereading Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment, I've been struck by how much their discussion of anti-Semites and Fascists (remember, written by two Jewish refugees during the forties) reminds me of the Tea Party and other elements of the far right that seem to have taken over the Republican Party.

That's potentially inflammatory I realize, especially since one of the people I mean is himself Jewish. But whatever: I'm not saying the GOP has become anti-Semitic (although don't let their support for Israel fool you), or even that they are literally Nazis (well, maybe some of Ron Paul's supporters). What I mean is that their style of discourse sounds like what Adorno and Horkheimer describe, starting with "Paranoia is the symptom of the half-educated man." (195)

That's not intended to be specific of post-Weimar era Germany; it's a general observation. But note where it goes:
The paranoiac forms of consciousness tend towards the formation of alliances, parties, and rackets. Their members are afraid of believing in their delusions on their own. Projecting their madness, they see conspiracy and proselytism everywhere. (197)

That's something that I've written about before: if the Republicans are secretly fantasizing about rounding people up and putting them in camps, they accuse the Democrats of plotting to do this. Again, this isn't solely the domain of the Right: people on the progressive end of the spectrum do it as well.
It seems to me, though, that it's moved into more-or-less mainstream Republican thought these days (and the Republicans who disagree are increasingly alienated from the party - I know a few of those, too).

One of the passages that really stood out from the Dialectic of Enlightenment was the following:

“It is not possible to have a conversation with a Fascist. If anyone else speaks, the Fascist considers his intervention a brazen interruption. He is not accessible to reason, because for him reason lies in the other person’s agreement with his own ideas.” (210)

That seems to capture the attempts at discussion with people such as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, and Tea Partiers in general. Even, I would say, my attempts at conversation with an old friend who would either lecture me - sometimes using "facts" that were demonstrably wrong (and also comparing Paul Krugman's policy suggestions to the Nazi's, which is problematic for many reasons) - and then stop talking whenever I pointed out the problems. (I haven't heard from him in a long time.)

There was one more passage that struck me that I won't quote in full, but the gist was that Chamberlain was acting reasonably when negotiating with the Nazis (209ff). I haven't heard the neo-con cries of "appeasement!" lately, but probably because I'm not listening any more - but Churchill was a favorite of theirs, and Chamberlain was their whipping boy, their go-to guy when they wanted to show that negotiations were a bad idea. But please note: two Jews in the forties wrote that Chamberlain was acting reasonably; they recognize that he failed, but push more deeply into the question: why? Because he was trying to deal reasonably with people who are fundamentally unreasonable.
So, here's the thing (and some of you will have seen this coming): for me, the most obvious contemporary parallel, the person trying to negotiate reasonably in good faith with people whom he (wrongly) takes to be reasonable and failing repeatedly, is President Obama. And the Republicans had declared their intentions at the outset! How could President Obama ignored that? What were the costs?
The thing to recognize about this is that I'm not saying that we should't reëlect President Obama: I think we should. I'm saying that the GOP is behaving like Nazis, and we should treat them as such.

One last note: this is my 499th post, and next Tuesday will mark the 6th anniversary of this blog. Be sure to tune in for special festivities (by which I mean, I hope to post some time next week)!