Any argument about whether Sarah Palin caused the shooting in Arizona today, either directly or indirectly, is fruitless and petty. What is disturbing is what the violence, both in rhetoric and in real life, may represent for the direction our society is moving in. I came across this article by Robert Paxton, and I thought this excerpt was especially unsettling.
Feelings propel fascism more than thought does. We might call them mobilizing passions, since they function in fascist movements to recruit followers and in fascist regimes to “weld” the fascist “tribe” to its leader. The following mobilizing passions are present in fascisms, though they may sometimes be articulated only implicitly:
1. The primacy of th group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, whether universal or individual.
2. The belief that one’s group is a victim, a sentiment which justifies any action against the group’s enemies, internal as well as external.
3. Dread of the group’s decadence under the corrosive effect of individualistic and cosmopolitan liberalism.
4. Closer integration of the community within a brotherhood (fascio) whose unity and purity are forged by common conviction, if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary.
5. An enhanced sense of identity and belonging, in which the grandeur of the group reinforces individual self-esteem.
6. Authority of natural leaders (always male) throughout society, culminating in a national chieftain who alone is capable of incarnating the group’s destiny.
7. The beauty of violence and of will, when they are devoted to the group’s success in a Darwinian struggle.
- The Five Stages of Fascism, Robert O. Paxton, The Journal of Modern History , Vol. 70, No. 1.(Mar., 1998), pp.1-23
Palin may be breaking the glass ceiling of #6. She’s been tapping into a an undercurrent of the population that is afraid that a black president means the end of the world. Think of how much you associate her with guns, hunting, shooting, and militarism. Think of her use of imagery like “pit bull”and “grizzly” and #7.
Look, I’m sure Sarah Palin’s not going, “I’m going to be the head of the Fascist Party of America!” Rather, she is shrewdly capitalizing on a set of conditions presented to her. When you have a population that is afraid and militarized, it will respond to strategies indicative of fascist regimes.