Reflections on a Double Standard: the Right Absurdly Calls Democrats Socialists, but Liberals Can’t Correctly Call the Right Fascist

Do CounterPunch, Agosto 31, 2021

I hope I am not the only one who has noticed a curious double-standard in American media-politics culture: right wing politicians and commentators are free to inaccurately and routinely describe corporate Democrats as “socialists,” “Marxists,” and even “communists” but it is exceedingly rare for politicos, pundits, and talking heads to properly describe the Amerikaner right as fascist. The irony behind this double standard is deepened by the fact that obsessive anti-socialism/anti-Marxism and the related conflation of liberals and centrists with “the radical Left” are central themes in fascist politics and propaganda past and present.

Look at the mainstream media-politics treatment of a Twitter statement in which the putschist Congressman Mo Brooks (APoT[1]-AL) expressed compassion for the actions of the North Carolina Trumpist Floyd Ray Roseberry, who threatened to set off a bomb outside the Library of Congress last Thursday. Brooks voiced sympathy with Roseberry, saying this: “I understand citizenry anger directed at dictatorial Socialism and its threat to liberty, freedom and the very fabric of American society. The way to stop Socialism’s march,” Brooks added, “is for patriotic Americans to fight back in the 2022 and 2024 elections.”

Brooks’ statement contained no forthright denunciation of Roseberry’s action (for which the pathetic terrorist could face life in prison) and ended with an ominous warning: “Bluntly stated, America’s future is at risk.”

At risk of what? Socialism on the path to “communist tyranny,” of course.

Bear in mind who Mo Brooks is: he’s the white-supremacist Alabama Congressman who donned body armor to give a fiery speech that helped spark the January 6th insurrection. On that infamous day, Brooks urged Capital Stormers to stop the “radical Left” and “Save America” by physically descending upon the US Congress to block the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election. “Today is the day,” Brooks said, “American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” It was a not-so veiled call for mass political violence to advance white-nationalist goals in defiance of normal bourgeois constitutional rule of law.

Brooks’ remarks on the Roseberry episode have been denounced across the liberal punditocracy and political class. He has been rightly accused of coddling extremism and of being in no position to comment on the incident given his own record of inciting right-wing violence against the federal government.

Good, but notice what escapes mainstream liberal and centrist attention: the absurdity of calling centrist corporate Democrats “socialists” and the intimately related fascistic ideological content of Brooks’ statement and politics. The mainstream commentators have repeated Brooks statement about “dictatorial socialism” as if its absurdity was elementarily self-evident, requiring no elaboration. That’s because a serious discussion of why it is ludicrous would require acknowledging that the Democrats are captive to concentrated corporate and financial wealth and power and function as agents of a global capitalist empire. Seriously digging into why it is preposterous to see the Democrats as socialist, Marxist, and even communist (recall Trump’s farcical 2020 claim that Kamala Harris was a communist) means opening a can of worms Democrats would prefer to keep shut.

It’s less dicey, perhaps, for mainstream liberal and centrist politicos and commentators to call Brooks, Trump, and their backers fascists. One can in fact occasionally find pundits, talking heads, and some politicos applying “the F-word” (all too accurately) to Brooks and other APoT politicos and their supporters these days. (MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Mary Trump have said it this year and MSNBCs Media Hasan and Chris Hayes said it a bit last year, when PBS put on liberal Yale philosopher Jason Stanley to correctly explain that Trump was channeling core fascist political narratives). Still, even after last January 6th, when Dear Leader Trump sent thousands of his maniacal supporters on a violent putsch attempt (and cult leader rescue operation) conducted in the name of the Big Hitlerian Stolen Election Lie, it is still considered largely outside the box of acceptable conduct to acknowledge the horrifying fact that one of the nation’s two reigning capitalist parties has gone basically fascist.

This reluctance is rooted, I think in five basic considerations. First, the term fascism is particularly associated with the actual radical Left, itself long incentivized to properly identify and warn against fascism in part because that radical Left is typically one of fascism’s leading targets (along with racial and ethnic minorities, intellectuals, liberals, and additional Otherized demons accused of stabbing national greatness in the back). Liberals and centrists want minimal association with the actual radical Left (whose values they don’t share), particularly in a time when powerful right wing (fascist and fascistic) forces are falsely conflating them with the radical Left.

Second, there’s a long history across the ideological spectrum of the F-word being thrown around recklessly to mean pretty much anything and everything someone doesn’t like, from permanent striker replacements to Stalin’s farm collectivization program or a US state passing a mask mandate to protect children and the common good in public schools and buildings. Loose usage of the term has discouraged use of it even when smart and careful application applies.

Third, liberals and others in the US are deeply indoctrinated in an American Exceptionalist ideology which precludes their supposed “land of liberty” from ever falling under authoritarian control of any kind. “It can’t happen here” — the ironic title of Sinclair Lewis’ haunting 1935 novel depicting a fascist takeover of the US — is conventional wisdom for most American political thinkers.

Fourth, calling the APoT fascist or at least fascistic would mean having to do things that largely comfortable, privileged, temperamentally conservative, and often cowardly liberals would rather not do: call for the mobilization of masses of Americans to rise-up against the grave existential menace posed by the ever more mainstreamed far right – and perhaps even go oneself (imagine!) into the streets and public squares. The problems for liberals and centrists is this: when you call the basic citizenry into the public roadways and plazas and political debates they may find a common voice and will to demand things that go beyond what liberals and centrists (and their paymasters and bankrollers) want to see: socialist health care for all, workers’ control on the job, the dismantlement of the police and mass incarceration state, free higher education, massive green jobs programs, the tear down of the giant Pentagon System and reinvestment of its largesse in addressing vast unmet human and social needs.

Fifth, getting honest about how fascistic and powerful the other major capitalist party has become raises uncomfortable questions about the Weimar-like role of the dismal, dollar-drenched neoliberal Democrats in greasing the skids for the chilling right-wing drift of US society and politics. Admitting that you are aligned with a corporate-managed party that is deeply complicit in the fascitization of the world’s most powerful and dangerous country is cognitively unpleasant to say the least.

Thus it is that good conservative liberals know not to say anything specific about how and why it is absurd for a white nationalist maniac like Mo Brooks to call the Democrats “socialists” or how the false, paranoid-style conflation of liberals and centrists with socialists, Marxists, and communists is a hallmark of fascist propaganda.


1. I have renamed the old GOP, the Republican Party, as the Amerikaner Party of Trump, APoT for short. As far as I am aware, I am the “inventor” of the term “Amerikaner” in left political discourse. It is a play on the name of the white Dutch-Anglo minority that imposed a regime of savage Third World fascist regime of racial apartheid and white minority rule on South Africa during the 19th and 20th Centuries. Like the Afrikaners, I maintain, the U.S. hard right core Trump base and white nationalist movement is heir to an earlier history of genocidal and imperialist white un- “settlement.” It is opposed to majority rule democracy and committed to the imposition of racial and ethnic separatism and inequality. White fears of coming minority white demographic status in the increasingly non-white United States are one aspect of the parallel, reflected in the adoption of the term by certain part of the nation’s fascistic alt-right.

Paul Street’s new book is The Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and Politics of Appeasement.

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