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The American Way of Death

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Commenter Phil Koop flagged this really interesting analysis from Natascha Strobl, who has been monitoring the overtly fascist response to COVID-19 on what she characterizes as “extreme right wing sites” around the world, but which here in the US we like to call “the Republican party.”

Read the whole Twitter thread, but her main points are that for the Right the pandemic is being ideologized in the following ways:

(1) The panic over the virus is symptomatic of the soft, effeminate, urbanized, cosmopolitan modern world, that can’t face death with the heroic fortitude and even enthusiasm of traditional manly men.

(2) This response to the virus is undermining the virtue of the volk.

(3) The weak have a duty to die, to save society from the corrupt impulse to try to protect them, which itself weakens the body politic in general and the economy in particular.

The connections here with the sociopathic tendencies of market-worshiping libertarianism, see, e.g., Richard Epstein et. al., are striking:

All of this is of course classic fascist rhetoric. See for example Umberto Eco’s typology of what he calls Ur-fascism, which includes such features as:

For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle. Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. This, however, brings about an Armageddon complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there must be a final battle, after which the movement will have control of the world. But such a “final solution” implies a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the principle of permanent war. No fascist leader has ever succeeded in solving this predicament.

Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak. Ur-Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs to the best people of the world, the members of the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party. But there cannot be patricians without plebeians. In fact, the Leader, knowing that his power was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler. Since the group is hierarchically organized (according to a military model), every subordinate leader despises his own underlings, and each of them despises his inferiors. This reinforces the sense of mass elitism.

In such a perspective everybody is educated to become a hero. In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death. It is not by chance that a motto of the Falangists was Viva la Muerte (in English it should be translated as “Long Live Death!”). In non-fascist societies, the lay public is told that death is unpleasant but must be faced with dignity; believers are told that it is the painful way to reach a supernatural happiness. By contrast, the Ur-Fascist hero craves heroic death, advertised as the best reward for a heroic life. The Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.

Hence what perfectly “respectable mainstream” Republican figures such as Chris Christie call the American Way of Life can only continue by adopting an American Way of Death, in which the weak are sacrificed for the benefit of the strong .

Again, the parallels with Ayn Rand-influenced libertarian sociopathy are striking.

. . . Right on cue:

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