The level of ignorance on display at some of these town-hall meetings is just embarrassing. For example, a short while ago, I caught some video footage of an angry tea-bagger storming out of a town-hall held by Senator Arlen Specter (who is showing surprising fortitude in this debate). The tea-bagger looked to be a white (of course) man in his mid-forties. As he left he shouted at Specter: "You're a socialist, fascist pig!"
See? He was doing fine until he got to the big words.
Poor Mr. Tea-bagger is obviously unaware of the inherent contradiction in his furious outburst. Conflating fascism and socialism is like describing someone as "fat-skinny," or "stupid-smart." On the ideological spectrum, the two philosophies are at opposite extremes.
First, a quick definition of each, courtesy of Oxford English dictionary:
- Socialism: Freq. with capital initial. A theory or system of social organization based on state or collective ownership and regulation of the means of production, distribution, and exchange for the common benefit of all members of society; advocacy or practice of such a system, esp. as a political movement. Now also: any of various systems of liberal social democracy which retain a commitment to social justice and social reform, or feature some degree of state intervention in the running of the economy.
- Fascism: The principles and organization of Fascists. Also, loosely, any form of right-wing authoritarianism.
Back in the day...
Conveniently, we need go back only 70 years or so to get a couple real-world, contemporaneous examples.
For an example of socialism, there is Uncle Joe Stalin's Soviet Union. Of course, this is an imperfect example when one considers that the socialism that Karl Marx wrote about was modeled for industrialized nations. Most certainly not for Russia which, at the beginning of the 20th century, was an agrarian nation. And Stalin, the paranoid sociopath the he was, mostly used socialism as a vehicle to achieve his dictatorial powers. But in broad terms, we can see that there was some loose adherence to socialism through the nationalization of industry, state-control of distribution and exchange, and the (largely fraudulent) establishment of a "classless" society.
On the other side, we have Adolf Hitler's German version of fascism, which protected the existing social order by suppressing working-class movements. Fascists hated and feared labor unions and anything that smacked of populism. Tactically, fascists made good use of scape-goats (Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and socialists) to instill fear in the German hoi polloi.
These two states would seem to be diametrically opposed, yes? And that's why the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty of Non-Aggression, signed in August 1939, was such an incredibly cynical and despicable development. The idea that two nations, both of which were gearing up for war, would sign an agreement like that was appalling. (But, of course, we know now, just as many knew back then, that Hitler and Stalin each thought he had pulled a fast one on the other. As my brother-in-law, Tim, once said, "They were signing with one hand, and cocking their pistols with the other.")
And now we have...
Freedom Works or demagogues like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. People have a right to protest in this country.
And, if these angry fake patriots want to call those who advocate health care reform that includes a strong public option "socialists," that's okay with me, too. (I was registered to vote as a member of the Socialist Party of Oregon for years.) I suppose, in a certain sense, the idea of a public option, taken together with the recent government acquisition of some private industry, hints at socialism.
But, if that is true, is it not also true that knee-jerk objection to a change in the system, that visceral defense of the status quo, and the scape-goating of undocumented immigrants, "terrorists," and that old right-wing favorite, homosexuals, smacks of fascism?
Given their dim recognition of anything beyond the blather that gets fed to them through right-wing media channels, I'd say probably so. Ah, well.