Immature Forms

If we think that we can only identify the rise of fascism by the arrival of its mature form — the goosestepping brownshirts, the full-fledged use of violence and intimidation tactics, the mass rallies — then it will be far too late. Fascism sprang up in fact as a much more atomized phenomenon, arising at first mostly in rural areas and then spreading to the cities; and if we are to look at those origins, then it’s clear that similar movements can already be seen to exist in America.

— David Neiwert
Rush, Newspeak, and Fascism (2003)

This week’s featured post is “The Political F-word: When and how should we talk about fascism?

This week everybody was talking terrorist attacks in America

but most people haven’t been calling them that. There were two major ones: the gunman who killed three at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, and the shooting of Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Minneapolis.

It took a while for Republican candidates to figure out how to respond to the Planned Parenthood attack, and most seemed to come to the same conclusion: profess ignorance about how something like this could happen. Mike Huckabee called it “absolutely unfathomable” and a John Kasich tweet described it as a “tragedy” and “senseless”.

But the attack is totally fathomable and makes perfect sense: If you believe the outrageous lies Republicans have been promoting about Planned Parenthood, that it encourages abortions so that it can profit from selling fetal organs, and if you believe that the government — even the Republican majority in Congress — is either unwilling or incapable of stopping this horror, then it’s downright logical that individuals will step up and try to stop it themselves. We don’t have a full manifesto from the attacker yet, but somebody in law enforcement quotes him as saying “no more baby parts“.

Mother Jones points out that this is part of a trend of increased violence since the release of the doctored videos at the center of the baby-part-profiteering lie.

In the four months following the release of the videos, there have been at least four suspected arsons that targeted abortion clinics, compared with just one in all of 2014 and none in 2013. There have been at least five cases of vandalism since August. In comparison, there were 12 total cases of clinic vandalism in all of 2014 and just five cases in 2013, according to federation figures.

Last Monday, white supremacists wearing masks and bulletproof vests taunted BLM demonstrators protesting the killing of Jamar Clark by police, and when organizers tried to herd them away, they opened fire.

Again, how do such things happen? They’re not senseless; they make perfect sense inside the alternative reality of the conservative bubble: If BLM really did advocate assassinating policemen, if the racism they protest were imaginary or just an excuse for lawlessness, if they were the real racists themselves, and if the Powers That Be seemed either unable or unwilling to take action against them … well, shouldn’t ordinary citizens be trying to do something about that if they can?

You can’t promote a false image so offensive that it seems to call for a violent response, and then be amazed when someone responds with violence.

Having linked to all that poisonous propaganda, I have to post an antidote. Or two.

Ted Cruz’ response to the Planned Parenthood shooting is off the scale: He is spreading the idea that the shooter is a “transgendered leftist activist” — based on more-or-less nothing.

It’s fascinating to watch anti-abortion activists be outraged that anyone could connect them to the shooter. He’s a lone wolf, they claim, so they shouldn’t have to answer for him. But how many of them will show that kind of consideration to Muslims?

and a Chicago cop charged with murder

A white police officer was charged with murdering a 17-year-old black male, Laquan McDonald, 13 months after the event. A dashcam video shows that the teen-ager had a knife, but made no threatening moves with it. The officer shot him 16 times, including several shots in the back, in full view of several other officers. The arrest was made almost simultaneously with the release of the video, which the police department had kept secret until ordered by a judge to release it. The city had previously paid a $5 million settlement to the family, but had not fired the officer.

The Chicago Police tried to cover up the murder, and would have succeeded if a whistleblower had not tipped off local reporters that the police report did not match the autopsy. No witness statements were taken on the scene, the security footage from a nearby Burger King was erased, and the official report said that McDonald had been shot once in the chest after lunging at the officer. ThinkProgress comments:

Today, even with the official story of McDonald’s death in tatters, city officials appear eager to limit the blame to Van Dyke. “One individual needs to be help accountable,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on a conference call with community leaders Monday.

Once Van Dyke is prosecuted, the mayor said, “we can go as a city and begin the process of healing.” That process seems unlikely to include accountability for Van Dyke’s colleagues who abetted the official story about why and how he killed McDonald.

We can only wonder how many previous murders Chicago police have swept under the rug, murders in which there was no video, or no one told the press about the cover-up.

In late October, the minister at my church preached an amazing sermon. In 1988, while serving in a different town, he witnessed local police killing an unarmed young black man. As white citizens did in those days, he assumed it was justified and put it out of his mind, to the point that until recently he barely remembered at all. When the Black Lives Matter movement started, he began looking back and wondering: What exactly did I see? Who was that young man? Was his death necessary? And why didn’t any of these questions occur to me before? [The YouTube is of the entire service; the sermon begins at the 34 minute mark.]

but hardly anybody was talking about this

Someday we may look back on November 11 as a negative milestone: The last day that the CO2 measurement at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii was below 400 ppm.

Unlike global temperature, global CO2 levels don’t bounce around that much: There’s a yearly cycle, but every year the measurements are higher than the year before. (The cycle bottoms out at the peak of the northern growing season, when plants have absorbed as much CO2 as they’re going to. Mauna Loa, being high and remote, is a good proxy for a global CO2 measure.)

It made news back in 2013 when Mauna Loa’s CO2 measurement went over 400 ppm for the first time, but it only stayed there a few days. Each year the period of 400+ measurements has increased. In the last cycle, it went above 400 ppm in February and stayed there until July.

It crossed 400 ppm again on November 12, maybe for good this time.

and you might also be interested in

The Washington NFL team didn’t grasp that some people might be offended by this tweet (which appears to have been deleted since people started linking to it).

Interesting side-effect of the well-publicized trend of young people distancing themselves from organized religion: They’re also much more likely to accept the theory of evolution.

and let’s close with something wonderful

If you just want to spend some time staring and being amazed, check out the National Geographic Photo Contest, which includes this image:


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  • Bob  On November 30, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    I’m afraid that propaganda from both sides is affecting the Black Lives Matter movement. When balloons are released en-mass at a BLM rally which say “Fuck the Police” (such as at the protest at the Christmas lighting in Seattle on Friday) that is in fact inflammatory and encouraging to those who are drawn to violence. So it’s disingenuous to say that BLM is not inciting violence towards police. Such rhetoric does nothing to de-escalate and is unfortunately divisive and contributing to the circle of violence.

    • Alan  On November 30, 2015 at 4:14 pm

      Propaganda from both sides? One side is concealing murder and trying to use lies to discredit their opponents. The other is expressing justified rage in a widely understood way.

      Intentionally or not, you’re arguing for respectability politics. Those in power like respectability politics: it makes criticism of them easier to ignore.

    • Ian Mitchell  On December 2, 2015 at 12:39 pm

      I don’t know who you are, Bob, but based on what you’ve just said I can’t imagine you have any conception of the adversity that black Americans face every day.
      What you are doing is called tone policing; discrediting the BLM movement based on presentation rather than substance. First you say “That’s not a good way to get this point across, you should be more civilized with your rhetoric”.
      Then, when the same people ask politely to be heard, they are conveniently ignored by the majority of society.
      The people who are running Black Lives Matter are responding to the fact that all other forms of acceptable discourse for black Americans have been either ignored or derailed by stereotypes such as the “Angry Black Woman”. They have no choice but to use strong imagery because that is the only kind that will be heard by the white majority- especially in Seattle, one of the whitest major cities in the country.
      You know what is inciting violence? Actual use of excessive force on the part of the SPD. If this weren’t a problem, our police department would not have been investigated by by the Department of Justice. The black community in Seattle has been disproportionately abused by our law enforcement, by our system of “justice”, and when they speak in outrage, the first thing you do is blame the victims? That’s not right.

  • Elaine Corn  On November 30, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Appreciate that in referring to global warming/climate you choose the verb “accept” over “believe.” Also, I have a hard time mentally associating BLM to Black Lives Matter. I’m so um, mature, that it will always first snap to the Bureau of Land Management, from the old Russell Means days.

  • Alan  On November 30, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    If a German had attacked one of the extermination camps during the Holocaust, trying to stop at least a small bit of the genocide, we’d remember them as a hero who bravely (if perhaps unwisely) risked their life to stop a terrible evil.

    Planned Parenthood is regularly described as being mass murderers, as committing genocide, as engaging in another Holocaust. Planned Parenthood’s opponents escalated this to a fight against one of the greatest evils in history. If one truly believes that, shouldn’t one view Robert Lewis Dear as a hero who bravely (if perhaps unwisely) risked their life to stop a terrible evil?

    Shooters like Dear are one of the prices of dealing in moral absolutes on abortion. Abortion opponents aren’t willing to accept that.

  • Tyler  On December 2, 2015 at 9:51 am

    Hey Doug,

    I have grown to really appreciate your blog, and the way you make sense of the massive amounts of junk news that comes out each week.

    I have a simple question for you: Do the republicans have a chance at taking the White House? What makes you think they have/don’t have a chance?

    I am absolutely terrified of the thought of this happening.

    • weeklysift  On December 3, 2015 at 7:07 am

      A chance, yes. But it’s not what I expect. I think the Democrats would have to screw up somehow to lose this. Not that they couldn’t, but if both sides run equally good campaigns, I think the Democrats win.

      I think the outrageous statements that are playing so well among the Republican base will not look nearly so good in front of the general electorate. That’s was the problem Romney had in 2012. I believe that if he could have run on his record in Massachusetts, as a bipartisan problem-solver whose health program Obama wound up imitating, he might have won. But to get nominated, he had to run far to the right of that. Well, all the candidates this time around are running much farther to the right. I think that will cost them in November.

      People talk a lot about how the presidency goes back and forth, that it’s hard to win three times in a row. But usually that’s because the other side has adjusted in some way: Bill Clinton ran a very different campaign than George McGovern did. Nixon in 1968 was a “New Nixon” with a new Southern strategy. The Democrats have been winning with a coalition of non-whites, women, and young people. I don’t see what the Republicans are doing that will break that up.

      • Tyler  On December 3, 2015 at 10:31 am

        Thanks Doug! I’m going to try my best to get some people to think about who they’re voting for, but I live in a small town in Georgia. I have my work cut out for me!

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