On Fascism, of course

I tend to disagree with everything Adam Kirsch says; even if he’s telling a story about his own life, I have a hunch that he’s lying. It all just sounds false to me, especially his poetry. This article, sent on my @prufrocknews is no exception; especially this bit:

It was at a party in early 2002, a few months after the Sept. 11 attacks, that I first heard someone declare, as if it was self-evident, that the George W. Bush Administration was fascist. The accusation refuted itself, of course—people living under a fascist regime don’t go around loudly attacking the regime at parties—but it was symptomatic of the times. Post-Sept. 11 paranoia took many forms, and one of them was paranoia about the American government (and not just in “truther” circles).

I hate the “of course” because it’s a verbal arrogance to which I’m prone as well. It presumes that what one is saying is evident to any thinking person, which Kirsch’s claim here is not. “People living under a fascist regime don’t go around loudly attacking the regime at parties” he pronounces, settling the argument in a way somehow both definitive and obvious. I don’t know what kind of parties Kirsch attends, but, actually yes, they do. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a fascist/totalitarian regime so powerful that no person at no party would dare criticize it. Not Stalin, not Mao, not Ayatolah Komeni, not Bush. And there has especially never been a regime structured such that the presence of criticism ceased to make it fascist. Insufficiently in control, perhaps. A government can control many things, can limit press and squash dissent but only when that dissent is sufficiently public. 

Fascist governments are those which seek to enforce conservative values and behavior norms and engage in–to greater or lesser degrees, depending on the totality of their power–governmental suppression of individual freedom. You can read the Bush administration as having done such things or not, but it is not obvious that they did not. Pretty fair cases have been made that, on dozens of occasions, they sought to enforce certain behavior norms, and to limit personal freedom in the name of conservative values. Critics of the administration were fired from their jobs, scientists who suggested alternative theories about climate change were denied grants and subject to derision, an undercover agent was apparently outed (and could have been killed) for disagreeing with the march to war, and a group of pop singers who criticized the president was publicly tarred and feathered, threatened with death, and radio stations that played their music with boycotts, to cite some of the memorable, if not the most egregious, examples.

Unfavorable estimates of Bush’s tenure abound; the people who hold them may be, but are not necessarily,as Kirsch claims they are, “paranoid,” or “symptomatic,” or sick. They just disagree with you. Mmm…kay?