Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Sarah Palin & Rush Limbaugh next in the White House?
by Larry Geller
There’s a disturbing story on Huffington Post today, Homeland Security Report Warns Of Rising Right-Wing Extremism (4/14/2009). Perhaps I was a little bit more concerned because yesterday, before breakfast, I listened to a Democracy Now interview with Noam Chomsky. This one would have been better held till after breakfast, but too late.
Here’s the part that concerned me most:
AMY GOODMAN: The whole issue of populist rage, Noam Chomsky, actually, do you think that this rage is going to boil over as the unemployment figures rise?
NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s very hard to predict those things. I mean, it has a potentially positive side, like it could be like the activism of the 1930s or the 1960s, which ended up making it a more civilized society in many ways, or it could be like an unfortunate precedent that quickly comes to mind. I’ve written about it.
Take a look at Germany. In the 1920s, Germany was the absolute peak of Western civilization, in the arts and the sciences. It was regarded as a model of democracy and so on. I mean, ten years later, it was the depths of barbarism. That was a quick transition. “The descent into barbarism” it’s sometimes called in the scholarly literature.
Now, if you listen to early Nazi propaganda, you know, end of the Weimar Republic and so on, and you listen to talk radio in the United States, which I often do—it’s interesting—there’s a resemblance. And in both cases, you have a lot of demagogues appealing to people with real grievances.
Grievances aren’t invented. I mean, for the American population, the last thirty years have been some of the worst in economic history. It’s a rich country, but real wages have stagnated or declined, working hours have shot up, benefits have gone down, and people are in real trouble and now in very real trouble after the bubbles burst. And they’re angry. And they want to know, “What happened to me? You know, I’m a hard-working, white, God-fearing American. You know, how come this is happening to me?”
That’s pretty much the Nazi appeal. The grievances were real. And one of the possibilities is what Rush Limbaugh tells you: “Well, it’s happening to you because of those bad guys out there.” OK, in the Nazi case, it was the Jews and the Bolsheviks. Here, it’s the rich Democrats who run Wall Street and run the media and give everything away to illegal immigrants, and so on and so forth. It sort of peaked during the Sarah Palin period. And it’s kind of interesting. It’s been pointed out that of all the candidates, Sarah Palin is the only one who used the phrase “working class.” She was talking to the working people. And yeah, they’re the ones who are suffering. So, there are models that are not very attractive.
AMY GOODMAN: And she very much is being talked about as a leader, really, of the Republican Party.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, she was kind of a model. You know, the talk radio mob went crazy over her. And one shouldn’t demean it. You know, they describe themselves—it’s really worth listening to: “We’re fly-by country. You know, they don’t care about us, those rich Democrats on the East Coast and the West Coast who are all, you know, interested in gay rights and giving things away to illegal immigrants and so on. They don’t care about us, the hard-working, God-fearing people, so we’ve got to somehow rise up and take over and elect Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh or someone like that.”
As I say, the precedents are not attractive. Now, if—now even before the next presidential, if in the next congressional election the economy has not begun to recover, this kind of populist rage could boil over and could have very dangerous consequences. This country has a long history of being kind of ridden by fear. It’s a very frightened country. This goes back to colonial times.
I mean, we’re very lucky that we have never had an honest demagogue. I mean, the demagogues we’ve had are so corrupt that they never got anywhere—you know, Nixon, McCarthy, you know, Jimmy Swaggart and others. So they were kind of destroyed by their own corruption.
But suppose we had an honest demagogue, you know, a Hitler type, who was not corrupt. There’s probably—it could be unpleasant. There’s a background of concern and fear, tremendous fear, and searching for some answer, which they’re not getting from the establishment. “Who’s responsible for my plight?” You know, and that can be exploited. And unless there’s active, effective organizing and education, it’s dangerous. [democracynow.org, Noam Chomsky on the Global Economic Crisis, Healthcare, US Foreign Policy and Resistance to American Empire, 4/13/2009]