We have arrived

Originally published at The Benfell Blog. Please leave any comments there.

(UPDATE: Further evidence of the transformation of the United States into a fascist country can be seen in the spectacle of opposition to a so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” (actually a few blocks away in a neighborhood shared with strip clubs). Only a few politicians have spoken up for the developers; most, including Barack Obama, at least leave open to question the wisdom of the project, while many have denounced it. Juan Cole has perhaps the most comprehensive reply.)

It has to be the strangest thing I’ve seen since I realized that Republican political strategy was not an electoral strategy and since I began to worry about a fascist future. Joe Barton made a spectacle of himself apologizing to BP for what he called “a $20 billion shakedown.” The money to be paid in, what are for BP, entirely affordable installments, is to go into an escrow account to at least partially cover damages from the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. Those damages will be immense. The entire Gulf region faces a wipe-out of its tourism and fishing industries, anyone able to travel to the Gulf coast faces the loss of a recreation opportunities, and the environmental damage is beyond reckoning.

It’s hard to imagine anyone defending BP against charges of putting profits before caution. And as near as I can tell, no one is, even with the implication that deregulation went too far. But the right-wing reaction to Obama’s having insisted that BP set $20 billion aside has been vicious.

It’s as if BP should be allowed to go bankrupt or to otherwise abscond with the money to pay those damages before they’re assessed. It’s as if the $20 billion figure is completely out of line (in fact, it may well be low and the Obama administration has been clear that the number doesn’t represent an upper limit to BP’s liability). It’s as if–I don’t know–right wingers have gone completely out of their gourds (as if they hadn’t already).

It’s positively hysterical. It is hysteria on behalf of a corporation and on behalf of an attitude toward corporations.

Given how financial institutions have seriously damaged the economy, how workers’ wages have stagnated or decreased, how people are being foreclosed out of their homes, and how BP’s defense is even lamer than that of the banks, no one in their right mind can seriously think that small businesses and everyone else who is suffering losses due to this fiasco are not entitled to compensation for their losses. Can they?

Right wing media personalities seem adamant that any possibility of justice should be at risk. And once again, I’m trying to understand.

If you’re in any kind of broadcast, advertising revenues are a concern. And if you’re a politician, you might be looking to lucrative alternative careers in private industry. And as I have repeatedly noted, elites are for all practical purposes indistinguishable anyway: their interests are effectively identical. So it’s understandable that the predominantly white, wealthy, and male elite that runs the country and dominates the airwaves might earnestly believe that BP is being shaken down.

But you’d think that if they cared about votes, they’d keep their mouths shut about it. It isn’t like BP is scoring high approval ratings for their handling of the mess. Gallup’s survey showed 16 percent approval.

Unless the elites aren’t seeking mass approval. Unless they’re just trying to keep their followers fired up for whatever evil they have in store.

Gonzalo Lira, who lived in Chile during the Pinochet years, sees in recent Supreme Court decisions the establishment of a fascist police state. Lira argues that the system of so-called justice now functions to protect the elite from any kind of dissent and from any kind of challenge to their actions. He points out that both the definition of a terrorist organization and what constitutes support for such an organization are now entirely arbitrary and at the discretion of the President. Joan McCarter reminds us that in this decision, the Court ruled against organizations providing advice on seeking nonviolent solutions.

As Sara Robinson put it,

And now we are. In fact, if you know what you’re looking for, it’s suddenly everywhere. It’s odd that I haven’t been asked for quite a while; but if you asked me today, I’d tell you that if we’re not there right now, we’ve certainly taken that last turn into the parking lot and are now looking for a space. Either way, our fascist American future now looms very large in the front windshield — and those of us who value American democracy need to understand how we got here, what’s changing now, and what’s at stake in the very near future if these people are allowed to win — or even hold their ground.

I no longer have to wonder if we have arrived in Sara Robinson’s parking space. And with that understanding, I need no longer wonder why right wingers seem not to care in the least about popular opinion.