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Re: <nettime> Fascism in the USA?
Kermit Snelson on Sun, 1 Jun 2003 06:46:02 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Fascism in the USA?

> What does it mean for the average citizen to be a fascist?


Fascism is what someone does, not what someone is.  In particular, it is
one of the things that can be done with armies and police.  Without such
toys at one's disposal, one cannot be guilty of fascism.  If someone has
such toys at her command, she is not an average citizen.  By definition.

I am aware that this view is not currently fashionable.  Everybody these
days, from Foucault to the Situationists, believes that fascism is truly
a thing in the minds, hearts and even hair of the "average citizen." And
that revolution therefore occurs when the multitudes change their minds,
hearts and even hairstyles.

Of course, a phrase like "everybody, from Foucault to the Situationists"
is somewhat comical. There are more things in heaven and earth, nettime,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.  However, similar beliefs prevail
in the real world as well.  I know people who honestly believe that they
themselves are "Bush's willing executioners" because they could not stop
the recent war.  I suppose they also level the same accusation at Nelson
Mandela, not to mention the Pope.

Public opinion matters, of course.  I am not trying to argue anything as
crudely reductionistic as Mao's "political power grows out of the barrel
of a gun."  The fortunes that all regimes invest in the manufacture of a
public consensus is proof that power over people is not merely physical.
The degree to which people may be manipulated successfully by media arts
certainly determines the purposes to which a regime may wield its power.

Instead, I'm arguing that it is far too early to abandon the physical to
our oppressors, and to turn inward, and to see the path to liberation as
a set of spiritual exercises, beginning with the confession that all are
guilty.  Such are psychological mechanisms for coping with defeat.  Does
one want to be studied by historians, or by anthropologists?  Historians
write about those who organize and fight for their interests.  "Tactical
media" practitioners and "culture jammers" will be of interest, when our
period comes to be studied, to anthropologists, not historians.  Because
they will never have actually changed a thing, not even minds.

To understand how considering fascism as the psychological compliance of
the "average citizen" itself aids the cause of fascism, I suggest a read
of the following 1927 quote by Wyndham Lewis, explaining why he declared
his own support for fascism (using that very word) in a previous work:

   It had been been triumphantly demonstrated, I showed, that these
   democratic masses could be governed without a hitch by suggestion
   and hypnotism -- Press, Wireless, Cinema.  So what need is there,
   that was my humane contention, to slaughter them? [1]

The current policy of the United States is, I assure you, this very same
humane vision.  Those who rule by the sword will give way to those, like
the Platonic philosopher-kings so beloved of Paul Wolfowitz, who rule by
the mind.  The goal, like Lewis's, is to create a world that is safe for
the artist, the intellectual, the creative intellect.  Is not a world in
which people obey by their own choice preferable to a world in which one
obeys only at gunpoint?

"To that argument no answer was given, for there is no answer." That was
Lewis's next sentence.  Are the artists, the intellectuals, the creative
intellects here at nettime, as much in thrall as Lewis to media's powers
and principalities, really so interested in proving him wrong?

Kermit Snelson

[1]  Lewis, Wyndham; _Time and Western Man_, Santa Rosa, p.117

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