The Moral Imagination of Fear

When the authoritarians finally and fully take over the United States, they will do so by fear-mongering about authoritarianism.

They will say that government is the problem, that mobocracy is the danger. They will say that they are being oppressed when the poor and minorities, workers and immigrants demand equal rights and freedom, equal representation and opportunity. They will accuse of others the very authoritarianism they seek to promote.

It is no accident that in this country that there is an overlap between authoritarianism and the conservative movement. Many studies have shown this strong correlation. These people don’t fear authoritarianism, but rather the possibility of sharing power with others, which means the loss of their privilege and position.

As they lose power in the numbers they once held, they will become more vicious and devious in their manipulations of that waning power. Sure, they will likely wrap themselves in the American flag and hug the cross, but it won’t end there. They will do anything and everything. They will even embrace the rhetoric and tactics of the political left, as they take on the mantle of populism and progressivism. They will offer the solutions to the problems they created.

The attack is merely the first step. That is where fear takes over, the battlefield that ever favors the demagogue or worse still the dictator. Only then will they offer their stark vision.

Birds of a Feather
by Corey Robin

Nixon to Kissinger:

We’ve got to destroy the confidence of the people in the American establishment.

Mao to the Red Guards:

Bombard the headquarters.

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Thomas Frank on Glenn Beck, Conservatism and Kansas

Thomas Frank discussing the ideas from his books:

Here is an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal article by Thomas Frank:

Glenn Beck’s Hotline to Nowhere

Glenn Beck, the popular Fox News host, has a red telephone on his desk that never seems to ring. Every now and then, in a moment of acute frustration, he will pick it up and give the camera his trademark pleading-puppy look.

What Mr. Beck wants to hear from the phone are answers, and he wants to hear them from the highest authority in the land: the phone, he says, is “a dedicated line right to the White House.” And when Mr. Beck gets things wrong, he wants his antagonists on Pennsylvania Avenue to correct him. But “They don’t call. They’re not going to call.”

[…]  Consider a few of the other grand assertions tossed out by the panic-peddling host last week: that the cause of last year’s financial crisis was pressure exerted by Acorn and “the people in Washington” on otherwise-reluctant mortgage lenders; that the cause of the inflation of the 1970s was President Jimmy Carter’s quest for a “socialist utopia.”

These are postulates that it is only possible to believe after you have utterly closed yourself off to conventional ways of knowing, after you have decided that the reporting and analysis and scholarship on these subjects are not worth reading, and that you will choose ideological fairy tales over reality until the day a magical phone call comes from on high.

What Mr. Beck’s silent phone really symbolizes is a new kind of ignorance, a coming high-tech dark age in which people can choose to blow off professional standards of inquiry; in which they can wall themselves off with cable TV and friendly Web sites, dismiss what displeases as liberal bias, and demand that any contrary view be transmitted to them via telephone call from the president himself.

Why not let Mr. Beck and his viewers have their fun? Because ideas have consequences. Maybe, as many believe, Glenn Beck is indeed the future of the conservative movement. From tea parties to town-hall meetings, thousands are signing up and fitting themselves out with their very own hotline to nowhere.

Here is a reposting of a blog post by intactmale from the local newspaper website:

Thomas Frank writes about Glenn Beck in this month’s issue of Playboy

In my case, you can be sure I’m only reading Playboy for the articles.  Thomas Frank’s book What’s the Matter With Kansas is one of my favorite political books from the last few years. Frank’s analysis of Glenn Beck’s broadcast and writing continues the theme Frank continues summed up best by a quote from Kansas:

Grandstanding leaders never deliver, their fury mounts and mounts, and nevertheless they turn out every two years to return their right-wing heroes to office for a second, a third, a twentieth try. The trick never ages; the illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically correct college professors; receive electricity deregulation. Vote to get government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meatpacking. Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated then ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEOs are rewarded in a manner beyond imagining.

In fact, Glenn Beck really just schills for the status quo, giving average working class people the illusion that they are likely to someday be rich (it worked for Joe the Plumber, right?). Frank even wonders if Beck is profiting from his own politics by also advertising gold purchases on his show. 

Here’s on quote from the Playboy article that I especially liked, about Beck’s purposeful misunderstanding of Thomas Paine:

Should we read The Rights of Man all the way to the end, we find Paine calling on the English government to furnish the public with old-age pensions, subsidies to the poor, payments to mothers on the birth of children (welfare!) and guaranteed employment for everyone in the large cities. Should we carry our interest in Paine so far as to read his 1797 pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, we will find—I hope you are sitting down for this, Beck—that Paine proposed a national pension system based on a property tax! Now, hating Social Security is such a no-­brainer on the right—the host himself has called it a Ponzi scheme—that perhaps Beck’s followers can be excused for assuming that old Tom Paine was right there with them down to the last shake of their Ayn Rand placard. Still, they might have bothered to consult the Social Security website, where they will find Paine’s pamphlet reproduced as one of the “key early documents” in the struggle for old-age security.Read the entire article here…  a warning for the easily offended, it is Playboy.

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And some other videos of Thomas Frank: