Posted by Brad @ 5:51 pm on August 25th 2009

The Scott Hinderaker Take

For the record, which I quote only to quote Sully’s response:

Scott Hinderaker believes that democracy fails when it tries to keep its executive branch from violating the rule of law by authorizing the brutal torture and abuse of thousands of prisoners, many innocent. Let that sink in. It is part of the failure of democracy, in Hinderaker’s view, that it doesn’t empower the government to do anything it wants to do in the name of national security.

To put it bluntly, this is the classic fascist critique of liberal democracy. Fascists have always criticized democratic restraints on executive war-power, even when that war power is specifically designed to include citizens and to apply across the territory of the homeland as well as anywhere on the globe. As for the torture techniques previously used by the Gestapo, the Communist Chinese, the Soviet Gulag, and the Vietnamese, Hinderaker believes these were all “reasonably humane.” What was done to John McCain, in Hinderaker’s view, was humane, and certainly not torture; and what McCain was forced to confess was as reliable as the tortured confessions we now see on Iranian television.

Understanding the current right’s embrace of total state power against the individual takes time to absorb. But liberal democracy has no more dangerous enemies than these.

I do not think Andrew’s calling it fascistic is hyperbolic at all. The last time an American political movement openly flirted with out-and-out fascism was the left, in the 1920s, when the Depression had them beginning to think that the whole capitalistic/democratic system might be a failed experiment, and some of those European nations with strong leaders able to guide them through crises on the power of will alone (Mussolini being the most often cited) had it right. But the explicit position of many if not most on the right is that the executive has unitary and imperial authority, literally infinite power in the name of national security, and any attempts to impede or define his responsibilities or abilities is something in the same ballpark as treason. I don’t know what else to call that.

Also for the record:

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he canít get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.


  1. Fascism implies individual subservience to the state. Obviously that is not a policy which the pro-torture right holds to, as evidenced by their opposition to the extension of the President’s domestic economic authority.

    It’s more of an imperial/security state mindset if you want to be strictly accurate. There’s a good deal more to fascism than unitary executive authority in foreign policy.

    Comment by Rojas — 8/25/2009 @ 8:45 pm

  2. But we’re not talking about foreign policy. We’re also talking about the myriad of domestic political implications to that security state mindset (which is probably a better phrasing), including total power of surveillance, a de facto suspension of due process (or at least making that a privilege instead of a right), and a demolishing of checks and balances and separation of powers. Which, to me, is fascism.

    You can certainly be, for instance, mostly capitalistic and also largely fascistic, as evidenced by, say, China or Russia or a lot of Middle Eastern countries. Economic freedom is nice and all, but if the President has the legal and unchallenged authority to have you taken from your home, thrown in a black site prison, tortured, and killed, without trial, due process, or presumption of innocence, preventing a public option in his health care package strikes me as pretty small consolation.

    Comment by Brad — 8/25/2009 @ 9:07 pm

  3. That would depend, I suppose, on how highly you value economic liberty.

    The point, though, is that the purpose of your post seems to be to claim that labelling this set of policies as “fascist” is accurate, and I think you’re as incorrect about that as you would be if you called Obama “socialist”. The torturers’ approach involves one element among many that constitutes fascist ideology; there is no sign of press censorship, the outlawing of rival parties, or the installation of corporate socialism.

    Yes, the ideology of torture is nasty and worthy of wholehearted rejection. No, it is not synonymous with fascism. And no, the use of incorrect labels for our political opponents does not enhance the effectiveness of our arguments against them. They’re not fascists; they’re dickheads.

    Comment by Rojas — 8/25/2009 @ 9:37 pm

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