Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

The New Fascism

Frightening extremist rhetoric from America’s critics.

by Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

Watching televised clips from a recent pro-Palestinian rally in Washington, along with other such demonstrations over the last few weeks, can be a chilling experience. One woman chanted, “Israel will be no more” — apparently a call for the abject and utter destruction of the Jewish state. On posters the Star of David was juxtaposed to a swastika — the sick subtext of that message lost on no one. Many openly condemned the “Jews” and “Zionists” in a manner reminiscent of Nuremberg circa 1936. The past few days their government-sponsored supporters in the Arab world talked of Jews as “monkeys,” and called for the “termination” of Israel.

During a time of war, with a still-damaged Pentagon not far in the distance, the United States was roundly denounced on television as imperialistic and a promoter of terror and international murder. Our commander-in-chief was repeatedly called a traitor and terrorist. Calls were made for solidarity withconvicted cop killers like Mumia Abu-Jamal and H. Rap Brown. Several spokesmen made impassioned appeals on behalf of totalitarian Cuba and North Korea, while calling America a lawless and rogue state. As I listened to more and far worse hatred, my thoughts drifted back to my hacking Swedish grandfather gassed in the Argonne, my father who flew on 39 missions over Japan, my uncle Victor killed on Okinawa, and a cousin Holt shot at Normandy. So as I heard such virulent hatred of America in its greatest crisis in 60 years, I thought — so they fought for all this?

The murderous regimes of Iraq, Libya, and Iran were the favored nations of many of the speakers. Threats against Sharon’s person and Israel were frequently voiced — all broadcast live on C-SPAN. What are we to make of this recent, and very odd, coalescence of the new anti-American Left with radical Islamicists and pro-Palestinian extremists?

In one sense, it is hilarious. Militant Arab Americans — who know a little about doing business in the inner city — looked a little nonplussed by calls for empathy with police murderers. In turn, some anti-globalists seemed pained to hear the thinly disguised anti-Semitism from Islamic activists and fundamentalists.

The only common denominator that seemed to keep all happy was an entertaining mixture of envy for and hatred of all things American. A Philippine speaker on the one hand damned America for fighting terrorism in her homeland, and on the other blasted the United States for not allowing more illegal immigrants in from the Philippines. Her message apparently was “Get out of my country — and take us with you.”

Several Middle Easterners denounced America for trouncing on civil liberties and monitoring Islamic groups after Sept. 11 — as preparation for praising the Palestinian authority, which allows neither free speech nor a free press. Some called the elected Bush an illegitimate authoritarian as they praised the authoritarian Palestinian authority that hasn’t had an election in years — or an opposition and free press ever.

Arabs were commended for immigrating to the United States from their home countries, which, of course, were also praised. Apparently a distant America looks good when you live under a fascist police state, which in turn suddenly looks good from a distance when you finally get free and reach America.

Despite the carnival atmosphere, this new virulent form of anti-Americanism has also an old and disturbing fascist ring to it. The subtext of the entire rally was really anti-Semitism and tacit support for suicide bombing as a means to attack Israel. The buzz words “holocaust” and “genocide” were sprinkled about as an obvious sneer — as if the deaths of a hundred in Jenin at last would mean that six million gassed no longer deserved any special moral capital. Again and again we were told that dark influences force the United States to give billions to Israel against the will of its citizenry. Religious authoritarianism was evident — punctuated by readings from the Koran and several apocalyptic threats and pronouncements. Several speakers in black shirts and quasi-military garb screamed for international resistance by a coalition of Palestinians, people of color, and anti-capitalists.

All the nations praised by the various speakers — Cuba, Palestine, Libya, Iran, and Iraq — are run by strongmen and are without freedom. A constant topos was that the democratic government of the United States does not represent the people — and that real Americans are not served by traditional elections, which were repeatedly labeled fraudulent. Congress and the president are purportedly illegitimate and so their votes for aid to Israel are intolerable. A few American flags and repeated references to the “real” America made it clear that the activists believe they are the true nationalists and alone comprise the patriotic grassroots core of the country who wish “to take it back” “by any means necessary” from its corrupt government and elite.

If I were to distill the shrill agenda of the various groups who mouthed such unadulterated hatred — Palestinian extremists, anti-Americanists, racial supremacists — it would run something like this: None want democracy and a real free exchange of ideas, open dialogue, and discussion in which their own agendas would, and have had, little resonance. The modus operandi is to scream, threaten, and lie — the bigger the better — to unleash hatred. Indeed, many of the speakers at the rally seem to be seething that a rather secure and free American citizenry does not much care for their views. No matter — they favor some type of authoritarian figure or hierarchy to implement their own particular agenda of “workers’ rights,” utopian egalitarianism, American realignment overseas toward countries run by dictators, and a crackdown on their purported enemies — Jews, global corporations, and capitalists in general.

The constant refrain of “people of color” and the repeated invocation of 19th-century oppressions of slavery, Indian reservations, and immigration biases made it clear that the common oppressor in all this, then and now, is also so-called white America. The Big Lie was evident throughout — “ten thousand” Palestinians murdered in Jenin; Mr. Sharon’s purportedly private confessions of his desire to murder and molest Palestinian innocents; and all the usual fabrications about President Bush, the oil conspiracy, the CIA — along with other assorted lunatic rantings not heard on national television since last Halloween when C-SPAN aired similar venom and anti-Semitism from a kindred alliance of Islamic fundamentalists and black nationalists who denied bin Laden was involved in 9/11. After watching a half hour of all this, I though I was viewing al-Jazeera rather than C-SPAN — until it was announced that, in fact, al-Jazeera was broadcasting it as well!

History and facts mattered little, and so were not mentioned. Suicide murdering; bound and gagged Palestinians executed by their own comrades; booby-trapped homes and corpses; ambulances used as terrorist vehicles; bomb factories at U.N. camps; ample U.S. military aid to Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine; and the long history of the region that has witnessed three wars against Israel launched from the Arab-controlled West Bank to destroy the Jewish state never came up. Nor did the current popularity of Mein Kampf in Arab bookstores.

We have seen this all before. Think back to a Hitler, not in 1939 at the head of the German state and posed for world war — but rather in the late 1920s when he was an irrelevant firebrand trying to bully his way into the German national consciousness through poorly attended rallies and rag-tag marches. His message of victimhood was very similar to what we have been witnessing in the current ad hoc coalescence of ” underdogs” that has sprung up to support Mr. Arafat and his campaign of terror. As a nationalist who alone represented the “Volk,” Hitler ranted that a corrupt democracy had bypassed the “people,” and that only radical change could “save Germany.” Then the Jews and their all-reaching influence as capitalists, bankers, and international financiers — the old globalists, in other words — were likewise responsible for the world’s ills. Conspiracies abounded that aimed to enrich a few at the expense of the common man.

For the early fascists, ethnic solidarity was paramount — friends and enemies were thus defined in group terms and on the basis on their race. Dictators abroad like Mussolini who were for the “people” — like Khaddafi or Arafat now? — were far preferable to the illegitimate, weak, and decadent liberal democracies in France, England, and America.

At home aristocrats and the wealthy were the “oppressors” of the German working class — hence the need for a powerful National Socialist Workers’ Party run by cadres of militants. Elected German officials of Weimar were “traitors” who were “selling out” Germany’s true national interests. “Oppressed” Germans were under terrible occupation by Jewish-controlled governments in France, Czechoslovakia, and Poland and subject to horrendous outrages that went unanswered.

Fringe causes from radical environmentalism to crackpot mysticism found sympathy and alliance under such an energized reformist. Respectable journalists, politicians, and academics saw Hitler’s buffoons as laughable and so ignored his constant litany of hate and untruths. History was to be made up and distorted — the First World War was not caused by an aggressive Germany, but surely lost by a “stab in the back” by Jews at home. Thugs, murderers, and bombers were not condemned, but cited as symptoms of a larger corruption of the German state — the maltreated victims who lacked a voice and were thus “forced” out of “desperation” to the streets and violence.

The truth is that a lunatic fringe similar to Hitler of the early 1920s is also active now in America, and has tried to galvanize resistance to the Untied States by using the events of Sept. 11 and the recent fighting in the Middle East. But this time the racists, fascists, and faux-victims are from the purported Left and not the Right. If the Democratic party will not denounce these totalitarians and their extremist supporters like Al Sharpton — as the Republicans once ostracized the militias and white supremacists — then all ordinary Americans must step up to employ clear and honest language in opposing their frightening agenda. They are not progressives, not even socialists, communists, or anarchists. Rather, their language is pure hatred — as well as anti-Semitic and fascistic. The governments they support overseas are murderous and dictatorial; their currency is race — oppressed “people of color” are good, other “oppressors,” especially Jews, less so — and their message is violent and wishes an end to the present democratically elected government in the United States.

The only way to confront the new fascists is to speak honestly about them and not remain silent. Each time a Palestinian extremist uses the word “Jew,” each time an activist praises Libya, Iraq, or Iran and either condones or praises suicide murderers, each time a screaming protestor slanders the present president of the United States as a killer, terrorist, and war criminal, each time we hear of conspiracies that explain our aid to Jewish Israel, we must all simply remonstrate, “Hitler would smile at every thing you say.”

And, of course, he would.

©2002 Victor Davis Hanson

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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