Church Shooter Loved Wingnut Propaganda
Michael Savage became a multi-millionaire when he stopped peddling snake oil and started peddling hate
It didn't surprise me when police found books by Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage in the home of Jim David Adkisson after Adkisson murdered two people and wounded six during a shooting spree at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. After all, if you believed the crap that the bestselling authors on the right are spewing, it would be hard to escape the conclusion that you had a patriotic duty to kill liberals. After all, it's the liberals who are trying to take guns away from patriotic Americans like Jim David Adkisson.
Of course, there are also violent extremists on the left, but they tend to admire authors like Mao, Régis Debray, Eldridge Cleaver, and Frantz Fanon, not the popular mainstream authors of the left. That's because writers like Vincent Bugliosi, Stephen Colbert, Michael Moore, David Sirota, and Amanda Marcotte don't turn out hate-filled screeds that demonize liberals, intellectuals, and the entertainment industry (scapegoats who used to be referred to collectively as "the Jews", before Hitler made such shorthand unfashionable).
But that sort of crypto-fascist ideology is exactly what the popular political authors of the right are peddling. In their work, it's easy to see echos of Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West, which provided most of the underpinnings of the fascist movement. And Savage, Hannity, and O'Reilly aren't alone in pushing for their Americanized version of fascism. Pat Buchanan openly alludes to Spengler's work in Death of the West, and in Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, he argues that Churchill was wrong to oppose Hitler. In her book In Defense of Internment: The Case for “Racial Profiling” in World War II and the War on Terror, Michelle Malkin argues for imprisoning people based on their ethnicity.
Given the pervasiveness of fascist ideology among popular conservative opinion makers, is it any wonder that one of their admirers decided to shoot up a Unitarian congregation, or that others bomb clinics and assassinate doctors?
Note that when I say "popular" conservative authors, I'm not necessarily talking about the ones at the top of the bestseller list. I mean "popular" in the sense of being light and easily accessible as well as being widely read.
I should say a few words about the work of Oswald Spengler for the benefit of those unfamiliar with his work. Spengler held that civilizations inevitably pass through "seasons". In Spring, the civilization is strong, vibrant, passionate, and expansive. In Summer, the civilization matures and becomes more rationalist, and a more rigid hierarchy develops. In Autumn, the civilization is at the height of its power, but becomes overly rationalist and is undermined by the rise of the bourgeoisie (middle class). In Winter, the civilization goes into decline, weighted down by materialism, rationalism, and moral decadence.
Spengler's work is relentlessly pessimistic, but the fascists believed that they could renew their civilization (Spengler's admirers inevitably see their own civilization as being in either Winter or Late Autumn) by purging the "Winter" elements: materialism, rationalism, and moral decadence. In Germany and elsewhere in Europe, Jews were identified with these qualities, so it was natural for the fascists to see the purging of the Jews as the first step toward renewal. Urbanization was also thought to be a cause of these evils, so Hitler embarked on a pan-European war, with the goal of acquiring enough land in Poland and western Russia to empty the German cities and turn Germany into a civilization of yeoman farmers, thus returning German civilization to its Spring phase.
It's easy to see the hostility toward materialism (now promulgated by atheists, rather than Jews), intellectuals, the "decadent" entertainment industry, and urban life in the work of people like Savage, Hannity, and O'Reilly. You can even see it in the work of less angry conservative popular authors like George Will and David Brooks. And increasingly, the modern Spenglers are becoming less shy in their calls for a fascist renewal, to be achieved by purging the soft, intellectual, and "deviant" elements from our society.
Spengler's ideas were made popular in the English-speaking world by historian Arnold J. Toynbee, who is still very much admired in both the United States and the United Kingdom. And it should surprise no-one to find that his admirers include some of the architects of the Neoconservative movement, including George Kennan and Henry Kissinger.
Spengler was not, of course, the first to believe that civilizations follow predictable cycles that end in decline, nor the first to believe that decline is caused by urbanization and materialism. And Hitler was not the first to believe that civilization could be renewed by pushing "non-civilized" people off of their land so that "civilized" people could become farmers and experience renewal. Thomas Jefferson believed that urbanization was killing the American spirit (at a time when the largest city in the US had just over 50,000 people), and his policy of deliberately dispossessing Indians of their land was driven by his desire to empty America's cities and turn the US into a nation of yeoman farmers.
Note, however, that Jefferson did not favor forcibly driving the Indians from their land (that policy would come with the administration of Andrew Jackson), but instead pursued a strategy of offering credit to prominent Indians, which would then be paid off by ceding communal Indian land.
(cross posted at appletree)