Scurrying Fascist Cockroaches
…is the title of a recent essay of John Steppling’s, and I contacted him at his website (http://john-steppling.com/) to ask if given its length and breadth if I might use more of it than is strictly Fair Use as neither the Café nor c99% are for profit. He wrote back and kindly said, “Use what you want from any of my writings”. So I’ll most all of his Feb. 25 essay at DissidentVoice, although there’s a version at Counterpunch as well.
It may not be an easy read for those who are uncomfortable reading about the clay feet of the political heroes of the realm, nor for those who are blind to how Capital Rules the Realm. You might want to consider this essay as a one-hour class you’ve decided to check out, and stay and hang on for the ride; he’s an excellent writer as well as playwright and director as well; he writes from Norway, not far from the Arctic Circle.
Now On with the Play!
“Suppose it was discovered tomorrow that the greenhouse effects has been way underestimated, and that the catastrophic effects are actually going to set in 10 years from now, and not 100 years from now or something. Well, given the state of the popular movements we have today, we’d probably have a fascist takeover-with everybody agreeing to it, because that would be the only method for survival that anyone could think of. I’d even agree to it, because there’s just no other alternatives right now.
— Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power, 2002
We’re under attack from climate change—and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in WWII.
— Bill McKibben, The New Republic, 2016
…the survival of National Socialism within democracy (was potentially more dangerous than) the survival of fascist tendencies against democracy.
— Theodor Adorno, quote by Enzo Traverso, The New Faces of Fascism
The question of the appropriation of Environmental movements by Capital is one that has been resisted even more than I had anticipated.
Now this stuff links directly with the rise of the newest wave of sheepdogging Democratic Party hopefuls. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and now, Ilhan Omar, are the darlings of liberal media and punditry. Omar read (haltingly) from a prepared text as she questioned war criminal Elliot Abrams. She essentially called him a liar, which he is, but which is also what the US government itself already calls him. And she mentioned El Mozote. But, when push came to shove, as they say, Omar like Ocasio Cortez, signed on for regime change in Venezuela.
Now, Ocasio Cortez is floating something she calls the Green New Deal (which, in another form, was already promoted by Green Party candidate Jill Stein) and which is a nakedly pro capitalist bit of three card monte that will provide a boost to the nuclear power industry and line various corporate pockets. It’s capitalism. Omar and Ocasio Cortez also signed the odious Code Pink letter condemning US involvement in coups while at the same time slandering and fabricating stories about Maduro. The logic of the letter was that US proxy forces and covert activities had a counter productive effect and only helped to shore up the credibility of the Maduro government. In other words, fascism is OK, is just fine, only please do it in ways that will not bruise my delicate sensitivities.
Now please note: Ocasio Cortez and Omar are nearly identical physical types. Both are wildly telegenic (until they open their mouths, but maybe that’s not as a big problem as I make it out to be) and both are sort of pixie like, lithe and slender. When I point this out I am told there is nothing wrong with being slender. At which point I silently scream and tear the flesh from my face. The point is only to describe the similarities in presentation of these two political products. In other words, they are manufactured political commodities. And as Madison Avenue knows, such marketing works, even when everyone is on the manufacturing process.
The spectacle is capital to such a degree of accumulation that it becomes an image.
— Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle
All life is theatre, to some degree of other. I have written before that theatre did not come out of religion but rather religion came out of theatre. And the short explanation is that our psychic formation is tied to a self narration that must take place on stage…even if just in our heads. The scene of the crime. It is Ur-theatre. So in contemporary life I am constantly reminded of just how caught up in the spectacle… or rather…in the streaming of the spectacle, is everyone, and that it is one that occurs 24/7. And even when the smarter among us notices this facsimile existence, nothing happens. For it is ever harder to crawl up and out of capital. Out of accumulation. Out of the spectacle.
And set against this is the rising tide of Fascism. Global fascism. Chomsky, long a suspect figure and sort of the honorary chair of political gate-keeping emeritus, openly and none too timidly advises fascism as perhaps (!) the solution to “getting things done”. As in, the environmental crises — let’s use that term for now — is dire and suddenly (as they say in Hollywood story conferences) there is *a clock on it*. Meaning there is exactly no time to spare. In fact, it’s too late. Etc.
Now, there is a clear necessity for western societies to change how they live. Just a ban on the manufacturing of plastics, or pliable plastics even, would do an enormous amount of good. But that means a lot of very big and rich plastic manufacturing businesses would go out of business. Hence there is no movement toward that. Instead you get The Green New Deal. And what, you might ask, is this going to really achieve?
“Today’s climate emergency mobilization must be recognized for what it is: a strategically orchestrated campaign financed and managed by the world’s most powerful institutions – for the preservation of capitalism and global economic growth. This is the launch of a new growth industry in the Global South coupled with the creation of new and untapped markets. Leading up to this precipice, The B Team, the Open Society Foundation, Oxfam, and many others that serve as the human face of capitalism, have moved their offices or set up new divisions in both Africa and Latin America.”
— Cory Morningstar and Forest Palmer, “Wrong Kind of Green”, Part IV
“…the above plan and language mirrors that in the strategy document “Leading the Public into Emergency Mode: A New Strategy for the Climate Movement” being led by organizations whose affiliations with the Democrats, the Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez campaigns are publicly disclosed. Second, we must recognize that behind large institutions and media outlets such as Grist, branded as both “left” and “progressive”, are power structures subservient to capital. Grist CEO is Brady Walkinshaw. Prior to his role of CEO in 2017, Walkinshaw a former US State representative, worked as a program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Before his tenure at the Gates Foundation, Walkinshaw, a Fulbright scholar of the US State Department, worked as a special assistant to the World Bank. Within the Grist board of directors is 350.org founder, Bill McKibben – defacto foot soldier for Bernie Sanders and the Democrats in general.”
The same fingerprints are always found. The Gates Foundation, 350.org, the US state department and an assortment of varied NGOs of the moment (all based in the West). Western capital is in transition phase. And riding along in the propaganda wing is a clear new focus on fascist iconography and symbol, and on metaphors of war and the military. Getting things done!!
The rehab of fascism is laying the groundwork for various states of emergency to come. Most will be given a token coat of green paint. The worst thing you can be…even worse than an apologist for Harvey Weinstein or something, is a climate denier. It has already superceded Conspiracy theorist as most toxic appellation available today. Pedophile, Conspiracy Theorist, and at the top…Climate Denier.
In a society in which public education is a shell of its former mediocre self, and one in which science is not much emphasized, it is amazing how many times I have had complex statistics and calculus quoted in regard to global warming or rising sea levels or methane bubbles etc. It has become a kind of incantatory recital of belief. And it is about shaming and stigmatizing. And about self righteousness. And again, the trouble with all this is that there IS a climate crisis. There is massive environmental decay and pollution. And there is, in the U.S. certainly, a crumbling material infrastructure. Clean water will be ever more of a problem. There is ample but very general evidence for all of this. But I am not a scientist. And I have to say I have a healthy suspicion of professional science overall. The planet is very very very complex. And again, I may have missed it, but where are the scientists pointing fingers at the military? I ask that one sincerely. I’d like to know. For there is one thing I do feel pretty confident about: And that is..the military produces pollution, kills sea life, poisons the ground and humans both. And on a massive massive massive scale. So why is that never a target do you suppose?
“As a major turning point in the history of Europe, total war introduced mass violence into everyday life, ‘brutalized’ societies, and accustomed them to industrial massacres and anonymous mass death. As a nationalist political movement, fascism grew out from this trauma. Mosse sees it as a product of the ‘nationalization of the masses’ that was powerfully accelerated during the war. In fact, anti-communism characterized fascism from the beginning to the end of its historical trajectory. It was a militant, radical, aggressive anti-communism that transformed the nationalist ‘civil religion’ into a ‘crusade’ against the enemy.”
— Enzo Traverso (The New Faces of Fascism)
When Trump said “Make America Great Again”, what he meant, of course, was make America white again. But not just white, but a fascist white. For the very idea of *greatness* resides in that exceptionalism that is connected at its roots to manifest destiny and slave owning. The appeal to a manufactured nostalgia of greatness is an appeal to a white hierarchical martial heroism that is today reflected in Marvel and DC comic super hero movies. And this rehabilitation is neo-colonial as well. Communism fought against the colonial European powers, while the US and western capital fought on the side of apartheid and colonial powers. Make America colonial again. Make America a land of plantations, again. Make it a land of *Indian killers*. All of this is running through popular culture today. The masculine panic of Liam Neeson is the same one, on a cruder level aesthetically, found at Trump rallies, but also found on Wall Street and in the industrial usage of escort services those brokers are known to indulge — and in fraternities at universities across