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This program was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.
Introduction: In FTR #830, we noted the mirrored ideological constructs central to Muslim Brotherhood-based Islamic fascism and the American and European fascists who have used anti-immigrant/anti-Muslim fervor to mint valuable political coinage.
Quoting from the introduction to that program: “. . . . European fascists of the National Front variety can point to the attacks and say “See! We told you so! You can’t trust these (‘Muslims;’ ‘immigrants;’ ‘Muslim immigrants’ etc.)! We are your only hope! Join with us!”
By the same token, the Islamic fascists of the Muslim Brotherhood can point to the xenophobic reaction and say “See! We told you so! You can’t trust these infidels! We are your only hope! Join with us!”
In that context, we should note that both non-Muslim Europeans and Muslim residents of that continent [Europe] are being squeezed to the breaking point by the austerity mandate being imposed on the EU by Germany and its corporate allies–von Clausewitzian economics. . . .”
In a bellwether of how acute the situation has become, The New York Times featured no fewer than four op-ed pieces on successive days in December of 2015 (12/11 and 12/12) highlighting the march of fascist sentiment and political success around the world.
The first of the New York Times op-ed pieces from successive days that we examine is a piece by Timothy Egan noting the embrace of Donald Trump by Nazis and white supremacists. Taking note of the support for Trump expressed by David Duke and the Daily Stormer website, Egan bemoans the GOP turn to the right.
A column by Paul Krugman the previous day took note of the same dynamic, driven in part by xenophobia and fear of terrorism, the angst-driven fascism is also fueled by economic oppression.
The same day that Egan’s column ran, the opposite side of the op-ed page featured discussion of Poland’s slide into blind reaction, driven by the citizens blaming ” . . . the loss of control over their lives, real or imagined, on a conspiracy between cosmopolitan-minded elites and tribal-minded immigrants.”
On the previous day, “The Grey Lady” published an insightful piece by Aatish Tasheer that expanded the focus and the depth of analysis, citing the desire to return to a mythically idealized past as a common denominator fueling arch-reaction all over the world, including the developing nations. (We highlighted this in our discussions with Peter Levenda.)
Much of the baleful media analysis in recent days has focused on the pronouncements of Donald Trump, the front-runner in the race for the GOP Presidential nod. Not the outlier he (and others) is said to be, Trump is part and parcel to the fascism manifested by the GOP and the political right in this country.
Program Highlights Include:
- Review of the corporate connections to fascism.
- Review of the development of the Nazi wing of the GOP and the Crusade For Freedom.
- Donald Trump’s links to Helene von Damm.
- Trump’s links to Norman Vincent Peale.
- Trump’s links to Joseph McCarthy aide Roy Cohn.
- Peale’s work as a front for Axis spies and activists prior to, and during, World War II.
- The assistance given to McCarthy’s witch hunts by John “Frenchy” Grombach’s network of Nazis, headed by SS general Karl Wolff (Himmler’s personal adjutant.)
1a. Paul Krugman noted the role of long-term economic malaise in generating the rise of fascism:
A few years ago de Bromhead, Eichengreen, and O’Rourke looked at the determinants of right-wing extremism in the 1930s. They found that economic factors mattered a lot; specifically, what mattered was not the current growth of the economy but cumulative growth or, more to the point, the depth of the cumulative recession. One year of contraction was not enough to significantly boost extremism, in other words, but a depression that persisted for years was.
How’s Europe doing on that basis?
And now the National Front has scored a first-place finish in regional elections, and will probably take a couple of regions in the second round. Economics isn’t the only factor; immigration, refugees, and terrorism play into the mix. But Europe’s underperformance is slowly eroding the legitimacy, not just of the European project, but of the open society itself.
1b. The first of the New York Times op-ed pieces from successive days that we examine is a piece by Timothy Egan noting the embrace of Donald Trump by Nazis and white supremacists.
Well, he’s got the Hitler vote. The neo-Nazi website, Daily Stormer, was out and proud earlier this week: “Heil Donald Trump — the Ultimate Savior.” After endorsing the Republican presidential front-runner earlier this year for his call to deport 11 million Mexican immigrants, the fomenters of American fascism have now added an apt twist to his slogan, one not far from the truth of the campaign: “Make America White Again.”
Nazis — I hate these guys. Oh, but they’re a tiny minority of pink-faced malcontents living in basements with the windows taped up. Everybody hates them. Add to that supporters of the Ku Klux Klan, who’ve thrown in with Trump as well. David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Klan, liked everything he heard from Trump this week, embracing him for standing up for white nationalism.
And sure, all the little Hitlers probably don’t amount to a hill of beans. But what about the 35 percent of Republican voters, in the New York Times/CBS News poll, who say they’re all in with the man sieg heiled by aspiring brownshirts and men in white sheets?
It’s a very ugly political moment, but there it is: The Republican Party is now home to millions of people who would throw out the Constitution, welcome a police state against Latinos and Muslims, and enforce a religious test for entry into a country built by people fleeing religious persecution. This stuff polls well in their party, even if the Bill of Rights does not.
Trump’s proposal — “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” — is not just flotsam from the lunatic fringe. Well, it is. But the fringe is huge: Early polls show a plurality of Republican voters agree with Trump on banning all Muslims. And many would go even further.
“Add in every other kind of immigrant and it’s perfect,” tweeted Ann Coulter, who sells xenophobia as a mean girl provocateur, with many friends in the far right media universe.
Trump himself doesn’t seem to care about comparisons to the buffoonish (Mussolini), the truly scary (the evil one admired by the Daily Stormer) or the fictional — worse than Voldemort, as J. K. Rowling tweeted.
He sloughed off the fascism talk by associating his proposal with the internment in America of the Japanese during World War II. There’s a winning thought. I was wondering when he was going to get around to alienating Asian-Americans, the highest-earning, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States, according to Pew.
To review: He started with “the blacks,” through his smear campaign on the citizenship of the nation’s first African-American president. Moved on to Mexicans, war veterans, women who look less than flawless in middle age, the disabled, all Muslims and now people whose grandparents were rousted from their American homes and put in camps.
Which gets us back to his base and their awful bedfellows in the neo-Nazi bunkers. Who are these people? His supporters, most of them, do not see the shadow of the Reich when they look in the mirror. They are white, lower middle class, with little education beyond high school. The global economy has run them over. They don’t recognize their country. And they need a villain.
Still, it’s hard to take seriously House Speaker Paul Ryan’s rare objection to a lunatic suggestion from his party’s presidential front-runner when he says he would also back Trump should he be the nominee.
“It’s not our party,” lamented Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. “It’s not our country.” As a Mormon, the senator has to be familiar with a time when there was an open war on his faith, when Mormons were considered not only un-American but domestic terrorists.
That history is instructive, as we struggle with Trump’s hysteria and the millions fired up by his hate. But the only way to get rid of the goose-steppers drawn to the G.O.P. is to vow to never support the man giving them something to march to.
2. The previous day, Paul Krugman noted the effects of xenophobia on electorates in Europe and the U.S.
We live in an era of political news that is, all too often, shocking but not surprising. The rise of Donald Trump definitely falls into that category. And so does the electoral earthquake that struck France in Sunday’s regional elections, with the right-wing National Front winning more votes than either of the major mainstream parties.
What do these events have in common? Both involved political figures tapping into the resentments of a bloc of xenophobic and/or racist voters who have been there all along. The good news is that such voters are a minority; the bad news is that it’s a pretty big minority, on both sides of the Atlantic. If you are wondering where the support for Mr. Trump or Marine Le Pen, the head of the National Front, is coming from, you just haven’t been paying attention.
But why are these voters making themselves heard so loudly now? Have they become much more numerous? Maybe, but it’s not clear. More important, I’d argue, is the way the strategies elites have traditionally used to keep a lid on those angry voters have finally broken down.
Let me start with what is happening in Europe, both because it’s probably less familiar to American readers and because it is, in a way, a simpler story than what is happening here.
My European friends will no doubt say that I’m oversimplifying, but from an American perspective it looks as if Europe’s establishment has tried to freeze the xenophobic right, not just out of political power, but out of any role in acceptable discourse. To be a respectable European politician, whether of the left or of the right, you have had to accept the European project of ever-closer union, of free movement of people, open borders, and harmonized regulations. This leaves no room for right-wing nationalists, even though right-wing nationalism has always had substantial popular support.
What the European establishment may not have realized, however, is that its ability to define the limits of discourse rests on the perception that it knows what it is doing. Even admirers and supporters of the European project (like me) have to admit that it has never had deep popular support or a lot of democratic legitimacy. It is, instead, an elite project sold largely on the claim that there is no alternative, that it is the path of wisdom.
And there’s nothing quite like sustained poor economic performance – the kind of poor performance brought on by Europe’s austerity and hard-money obsessions — to undermine the elite’s reputation for competence. That’s probably why one recent study found a consistent historical relationship between financial crises and the rise of right-wing extremism. And history is repeating itself.
The story is quite different in America, because the Republican Party hasn’t tried to freeze out the kind of people who vote National Front in France. Instead, it has tried to exploit them, mobilizing their resentment via dog whistles to win elections. This was the essence of Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy,” and explains why the G.O.P. gets the overwhelming majority of Southern white votes.
But there is a strong element of bait-and-switch to this strategy. Whatever dog whistles get sent during the campaign, once in power the G.O.P. has made serving the interests of a small, wealthy economic elite, especially through big tax cuts, its main priority — a priority that remains intact, as you can see if you look at the tax plans of the establishment presidential candidates this cycle.
3. On the same day that Egan’s op-ed piece ran, The Times featured a piece about Poland’s rightward shift:
During the recent electoral campaign in Poland, a constant question raised by pundits and politicians was not whether the country would go right, but whether it would go wrong.
Would the conservative Law and Justice Party, the expected victors in the poll, go the way of Viktor Orban’s increasingly authoritarian Hungary, or would it stay closer to the center? Given the nationalist, anti-liberal slant of the party’s campaign platform, could Poland’s seemingly consolidated liberal institutions reverse course? Law and Justice won decisively, and after only three weeks we have an answer: a distressing yes. . . .
. . . . These populist and radical parties aren’t just parties; they are constitutional movements. They promise voters what liberal democracy cannot: a sense of victory where majorities — not just political majorities, but ethnic and religious ones, too — can do what they please.
The rise of these parties is symptomatic of the explosion of threatened majorities as a force in European politics. They blame the loss of control over their lives, real or imagined, on a conspiracy between cosmopolitan-minded elites and tribal-minded immigrants. They blame liberal ideas and institutions for weakening the national will and eroding national unity. . . .
4. On the same day that the Krugman column above ran, The Times featured an insightful op-ed piece that extended the analysis. Noting a fixation on a mythical, idealized past, Aatish Taseer set forth the fundamental position of that dynamic in the Islamic fascism propounded by ISIS, the Hindu nationalist fascism of Modi’s India.
Taseer notes, correctly, that this is happening “all over the world.”
An Islamic philosopher in Karachi, an ideologue who provides violent ideas to some of Pakistan’s fiercest extremist groups, once told me that there are two kinds of history: dead and living. “Dead history is something on a shelf or in a museum,” he said. “Living history is part of your consciousness, something in your blood that inspires you.”
I was reminded of this last month during a conversation with a different kind of scholar. William McCants is the author of the excellent new book “The ISIS Apocalypse,” and he is nothing if not a student of “living history.” Mr. McCants looks at the Islamic State’s idea of the past and how the group’s adherents view their place in it. The picture that emerges is one of a terrific tension between the dead past and the ways in which it is being remade to fit the needs of the living present. The Islamic State’s treatment of history is particularly extreme, but a similar return of history is occurring with varying degrees of intensity all across the old world.
The jihadists in Syria and Iraq, Mr. McCants told me, are “infatuated” with Harun al-Rashid, the great Abbasid caliph whose court reportedly inspired “One Thousand and One Nights.” “They see him as the pinnacle of success, and the caliphate that he ruled over as the golden age,” Mr. McCants said, “but they elide all those parts of his rule that don’t mesh with their own.” The eighth-century caliph being idolized by the Islamic State practiced a far more lenient rule than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi does. Harun was tolerant of Shiites and religious minorities. His court would engage in freewheeling debates over matters of faith. “You could play musical instruments,” Mr. McCants said. “He loved to drink wine, he loved men.”
That the Islamic State has made violent use of history shouldn’t come as a surprise. Perhaps more surprising is that in all those places where a modern nation has been grafted onto an ancient culture, history has returned with a vengeance. From Confucian China to Buddhist Myanmar to Hindu India, history has become the source of a fierce new conservatism that is being used to curb freedoms of women and stoke hatred of minorities. As the ultimate source of legitimacy, history has become a way for modernizing societies to procure the trappings of modernity while guarding themselves from its values.
When I was in Sri Lanka in 2013, the Bodu Bala Sena, a radical Buddhist nationalist group, had conjured up a prudish Buddha who scolded young girls about their clothes and told them what time they should be home at night. In reality, the Buddha, like many Eastern thinkers, was generally reticent on the subject of sexual morality. Sex concerned him only to the extent that it interfered with men realizing the fullness of their spiritual lives.
Similarly, in India, a breach has appeared between a sensuous and liberal past and an ugly, puritanical present. In my daily reading of Sanskrit poetry, there are women with disheveled hair, half-open eyes and cheeks covered in sweat from the exertion of coitus. But turn on the television and the minister of culture, who says that the Hindu holy books are ideal texts for teaching moral values, informs modern Indians that “girls wanting a night out” may be all right elsewhere, but it is “not part of Indian culture.” (He seeks to cleanse Indian culture of the pollution of the West, but if it’s sex the minister worries about, he’ll have to cleanse Indian culture of itself. No one did it better than ancient India.)
The past is alive as it never has been before. It seems almost to serve as a kind of armor against an alien and impure present. And modernity, in the shallow sense of the word — that world of highways and blue-glass malls and men in the uniforms of foreign companies — does not satisfy the demands for this “living history.” In fact a certain dispiriting experience of modernity, felt often as the loss of a sense of self and of old ways, exacerbates these demands. This is what lies behind this violent need to reclaim history. “We are called from the past and must make our home in the future,” the great South Asian philosopher and art historian Ananda K. Coomaraswamy wrote almost a century ago. “But to understand, to endorse with passionate conviction, and to love what we have left behind us is the only possible foundation for power.”
But there is all the difference in the world between loving the past and wishing to return to it. Love contains the spirit of regeneration; perverse nostalgia is almost always a violent enterprise. Mr. McCants pointed out the inorganic newness of the Islamic State’s experiment. “They purport to be reviving a medieval tradition of rule,” he said, “but, to my knowledge, we never had in medieval Islam a state that was so eager to impose what’s in scripture, and tradition.”
Islam, with its rich textual history and detailed recordings of the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad, offers the faithful an especially aggressive blueprint for turning the past into a weapon against the present. But the return of history is not specific to Islam. All over the old world, the spread of modernity and the wearing down of tradition have led to a frantic need to repossess the past. But this act of reclamation, through an ever-closer adherence to text without context, does not give back what was lost. It creates something radical and new — and dangerous.
5. In our discussions with Peter Levenda, we noted that an element common to fascism of various kinds is a preoccupation with, and desire to return to, a mythical, idealized past.
. . . . Both the American Nazi and the Klan movements wanted America to go back to the way it was before the Great Depression, before the First World War, to a time that never really existed the way they thought it did: a time before the advent of Communist states like the Soviet Union; a time before blacks and Jews could be considered equal citizens of the nation. Like many of today’s extreme right protestors, the Nazis and Klansmen of the 1920s and 1930s wanted to “take their country back,” in this case–and possibly in the present case also–“back” meant “back in time.” . . . .
. . . . This focus on purity could be seen as a desire to return to a more primitive time–in illo tempore–when the world was pristine. That this time probably never existed did not occur (or was not acceptable) to those promoting this “return to nature” and “return to our roots” philosophy. Legends of ancient Greece and Rome were conflated with legends concerning Atlantis and Thule: the latter the presumed ancient homeland of the Aryans. With the coming of Western civilization–according to this theory–much of humanity’s basic goodness and inherent physical and psychic powers were lost, a kind of Samson and Delilah moment when the virile and pure Samson is shorn of his hair and thus loses his potency and strength to the Levantine, Semitic seductress. . . . It is also an implicit acknowledgment of failure. This yearning for a return to some other state in the distant indicates an incapability of dealing with present-day issues in any other way. It represents a desire to wipe the slate clean and start over, which may be attractive as a fantasy but not practicable in life. . . .
6a. GOP front-runner Donald Trump has garnered much attention for his pronouncements in the racist/xenophobic vein. We note his close association with Norman Vincent Peale and former Joe McCarthy aide Roy Cohn.
. . . . As might be expected, the Trumps travel in rarefied circles. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale is their pastor, Roy Cohn their attorney. “Donald Trump is an extraordinary young man,” says Peale. “He has the elements of genius.” Cohn says Trump is “one of the most enterprising, ingenious businessmen on the American scene…a miracle man who can’t seem to make a mistake even if he tries.” . . . .
6b. Trump is close to Helene Von Damm, the Otto von Bolschwing protege who selected the personnel for Ronald Reagan’s cabinet. Von Damm became Reagan’s Ambassador to Austria. It would not be unreasonable to ask if Trump’s business dealings are involved with the Bormann capital network?
. . . . She would like to divide her time between Vienna and New York, where her campaign days reaped several close friendships in big business circles, notably with construction magnate Donald Trump. . . .
7. Among the Christian prelates operating on behalf of the Nazi cause was The Reverend Norman Vincent Peale Among the Christian prelates operating on behalf of the Nazi cause. Best known as the exponent of “the power of positive thinking,” Peale long graced the pages of publications like Reader’s Digest and his name became synonymous with wholesome, mainstream Americana in the postwar years. Prior to and during the war, however, Peale fronted for Edward A. Rumely, a spy and agitator for Germany during both World Wars. Like so many others, Rumely, too, benefited from his association with Hitler benefactor Henry Ford. Note that another of Rumely’s fellow travelers in the Fifth Column movement was Frank Gannett, founder of the newspaper chain that bears his name.
. . . . Rumely is boss of the Committee for Constitutional Government and second in command to Frank E. Gannett, publisher of a string of newspapers and founder of the committee in 1937. As soon as the Senatorial investigation was over, Rumely literally went underground and erased his name from the Committee stationery. But he continued to run it by appointing a docile Protestant clergyman as ‘acting chairman and secretary’ who visited the office only occasionally. He was the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, once a joint speaker with [American fascist] Mrs. Elizabeth Dilling and the Reverend Edward Lodge Curran [key aide to Father Coughlin] at a ‘pro-American mass meeting sponsored by more than 50 patriotic organizations’ at the Hotel Commodore in New York. . . . Rumely’s friendship with Henry Ford dated prior to the summer of 1918 when Ford rushed to Washington in an unsuccessful attempt to save Rumely from being indicted. . . .”
8. Reviewing part of the political history of McCarthyism, we detail “The Pond”–an intelligence network run by John “Frenchy” Grombach. A portion of the historical depth to the development of American fascism is contained in this analysis. The New York Times–predictably–does not discuss dynamics like this.
SS general Karl Wolff began feeding information to “Frenchy” Grombach, a former military intelligence agent who formed a network of operatives who fed information to the CIA, among others. As indicated here, one of Grombach’s major sources in his efforts was Wolff.
. . . One of Grombach’s most important assets, according to U.S. naval intelligence records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, was SS General Karl Wolff, a major war criminal who had gone into the arms trade in Europe after the war. . . . Grombach worked simultaneously under contract to the Department of State and the CIA. The ex-military intelligence man succeeded in creating ‘one of the most unusual organizations in the history of the federal government,’ according to CIA Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick. ‘It was developed completely outside of the normal governmental structure, [but it] used all of the normal cover and communications facilities normally operated by intelligence organizations, and yet never was under any control from Washington.’ By the early 1950s the U.S. government was bankrolling Grombach’s underground activities at more than $1 million annually, Kirkpatrick has said. . . .
9. Among the primary recipients of Grombach’s and Wolff’s information was Senator Joseph McCarthy, who utilized dirt given him by the network to smear his opponents.
. . . Grombach banked on his close connections with Senators Joseph McCarthy, William Jenner, and other members of the extreme Republican right to propel him to national power. . . .Grombach’s outfit effectively became the foreign espionage agency for the far right, often serving as the overseas complement to McCarthy’s generally warm relations with J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI at home . . . . U.S. government contracts bankrolling a network of former Nazis and collaborators gave him much of the ammunition he needed to do the job. Grombach used his networks primarily to gather dirt. This was the American agent’s specialty, his true passion: political dirt, sexual dirt, any kind of compromising information at all. ‘He got into a lot of garbage pails,’ as Kirkpatrick puts it, ‘and issued ‘dirty linen’ ‘reports on Americans. ‘Grombach collected scandal, cataloged it, and used it carefully, just as he had done during the earlier McCormack investigation. He leaked smears to his political allies in Congress and the press when it suited his purposes to do so. Grombach and congressional ‘internal security’ investigators bartered these dossiers with one another almost as though they were boys trading baseball cards. . . .