October 10, 2005

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Bankrupt Faith: Between Fascism and Stalinism Frank Rich has a great column today. He argues that the Miers' nomination marks a turning point in the Christian right's support for Bush. And, even more interesting, he considers how out of touch the Bush administration is, how it somehow now seems trapped in its own spin. Since those inside the White House only seem to talk to each other, they are oddly out of touch with the fact that growing numbers of conservative Americans have lost their faith in the President's faith. He is ever more exposed in his lies, his cronyism, and is intractable insistency that the only factor that matters in any policy choice is his conviction. That's just not enough anymore. Bush's ensnarement in his own spin reminds me of Zizek's reading of Mein Kampf. Was Hitler strictly an opportunist or did he believe what he was writing? Zizek's answer is both: Hitler is an opportunist who believes precisely the positions he espouses opportunistically. He describes how to manipulate the people, the crowds, and believes his own manipulations. The Bush White House is clearly caught in the trap that they built: with Rove as their guide, they've based their entire administration on staging, manipulation, and spin, all with faith in the center; now that there have been real issues of governance, issues at home, issues that can't be pushed away like some foreign war or war against an unseen, imaginary enemy, the facade isn't enough. Why would they think it a good idea to put...
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Nazism is to Communism as Bushism is to ... ...liberalism? In discussing Nazism, Zizek occasionally invokes conservative German historian Ernst Nolte's point that Nazism was a reaction to the communist threat. This is not particularly surprising. Marxist historians have also read Nazism as a capitalist reaction, an effort to insure the continuation of capitalist production while trying nonetheless to shield society from Capital's disruptions. Zizek's point is that Nazism displaces class struggle onto racial struggle; society's fundamental antagonism is attributed to a disruptive foreign influence (Jews) that must be expelled. Might this model be helpful in thinking about contemporary conservative politics in the US? The US Right was able to consolidate itself by attacking Liberals and the radical Left. The oddity of this attack is that there hasn't been a radical Left in the US since at least the mid-70s. And, what exactly were these Liberals, anyway? Liberalism is a doctrine of basic rights of freedom of speech, religion, and property, rights to which mainstream American politicians always appeal. Citing Bob Herbert, Hysterical Blackness provides a clue: Listen to the late Lee Atwater in a 1981 interview explaining the evolution of the G.O.P.'s Southern strategy: You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.' By 1968 you can't say 'nigger' - that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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