August 7, 2008

Where the Road of Unreason Leads

By Dave

I’ve written before that I believe that Alex Jones, the John Birch Society, groups like 9/11 Truth and the more extreme elements of the Ron Paul movement are potential precursors to the kind of virulent, cult-like nationalism which launched the Fascists and the Nazis into power in the middle of the last century. Their creation of imaginary enemy groups and oppressive elites are part of a program to forge a shared identity for their followers and promote a mood of constant, irrational outrage. By divorcing their followers from reality and offering themselves up as the source of the only true answers, these demagogues lay the foundation for the kind of populist movement which starts out demanding freedom and ends up enslaving everyone.

It begins with angry mobs of idealists demanding freedom and decrying shadowy enemies of the people. The next step is blind obedience to a leader who promises to give them that freedom and destroy those enemies. The next step is the widening of the definition of the enemy to include almost everyone. The final step is an authoritarian state where freedom has become slavery in the grand Orwellian tradition and all power rests in the hands of a supreme leader and his inner circle of loyalists. Hitler and Mussolini and Lenin and Robespierre all started this way, promising to free their people from oppressive government and the business elite and the priests and the jews and the aristocrats who conspired against them. They all ended up the same way as well, in blood and war and destruction.

As an example of where these movements might be going, I offer the Grant Kidney Revolution, an amazing site from a would be demagogue who espouses what appears to be the same kind of paranoid quasi-libertarianism as Alex Jones, Lou Dobbs, Ron Paul and their followers, but at the same time is unabashed about his overwhelming desire to be a modern-day Hitler. It’s possible that Kidney’s site, books and videos are all part of an elaborate and absolutely brilliant deep satire of the political fringe, but if it’s satire it hits far too close to the truth to be funny.

I’m not suggesting that there is anyone out there who follows Kidney or takes him at all seriously, but he is a poster boy for what the next step beyond Infowars.com and the Ron Paul Revolution is likely to look like. If he were a bit less obviously Hitlerian and had a wider audience and some followers he’d be truly scary. And he’s only a hair’s breadth farther down the same road that Jones and Paul and their followers are taking the first steps on.

Demagoguery and delusion are a powerful combination. Once you get people accepting lies as truth it’s not a big step to get them to accept slavery as freedom and evil as good. Groups like 9/11 Truth and the John Birch Society have shown that they can sell the big lie to an awful lot of people. Leaders like Alex Jones and Ron Paul have shown that they can capitalize on it to make money and launch political movements. If conditions are right and a strong and charismatic leader arises to spread the delusion and capitalize on the lies, the groundwork has been laid and the foot soldiers have already been recruited to take such a movement from its idealistic start to its grim and inevitable conclusion.

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