The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, July 16, 2007

"The Italian Connection," or "World Historical Leaders I Have Known"

The Bush years have seen lots of comparisons to the really bad Caesars of ancient Rome. I've made them myself. While BushCo makes it abominably easy to draw parallels (e.g. Condoleezza
shopping for designer shows and enjoying a Broadway musical during Katrina), the more apt comparison is to fascist Italy. It's unfortunate that comparisons to Hitler and the Third Reich are so common these days, because it's turned a powerful indictment into more of a mark against the person making the accusation. That's a shame in several ways-- that it's used so casually and that it's contributed to the sort of complacency that permits totalitarianism to stage a comeback.

The last few days have brought several stories that make the point, particularly when compared against Karl Popper's list of the elements of authoritarianism, which I first posted a year and a half ago (but still gives me the creeps).

*Joe Lieberman makes the stupefying case that history will vindicate Bush.

* Bill Kristol makes the stupefying case that history will history will prove Bush "a winner." With lies.

Excellent use of the non-falsifiable hypothesis by these clowns. Sure, this administration has wasted trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives, alienated allies and strengthened enemies, upended the rule of law and denied American citizens their constitutional rights-- but in 200 years, everyone will realize how brilliant it all was. Though clearly retarded, it can't be disproven. But it's all too familiar. Here are two of Popper's elements of authoritarianism:

Exemption from moral obligation; "historical success" as the sole judgment. The ends justify the means, up to and including propaganda and lies.

"The creative role of the Great Man," what Hegel called the "World Historical Personality," and Popper describes as the religion of glory. The "Great Man" despises public opinion in his desire to achieve something great-- indecision or moral obligations only spoil his chances of success.

So we should just be calling this 'The Hegel Administration.' But even a Grade-A egomaniacal nutjob needs enablers, and BushCo has plenty:

Senator Kent Conrad, July 13: "I had a Republican colleague tell me it is the Republican strategy to try to prevent any accomplishment of the Democratic Congress. That is set in their caucus openly and directly that they don’t intend to allow Democrats to have any legislative successes, and they intend to do it by repeated filibuster."

Maybe the GOP could just rename themselves the Hegelian party. The elections last fall represented the majority of Americans telling Congress and the White House 'we disapprove of your policies and we want want them stopped.' The neo-fascists are responding with contempt for public opinion, civic duty, and moral obligation. Because they just don't care.