In the original posting I wrote that Stockdale was a current Board Member of the Rockford Institute. Stockdale resigned in 1989. I apologize for the error which was picked up from a reporter who misunderstood the Hoover/Rockford sequence. Stockdale was on the Rockford board during the Neuhaus controversy where the issues of racial insensitivity and anti-Semitism first surfaced.
More information on the Rockford Institute, Stockdale, the Paleocons, and the Perot campaign
My original posting suggested that Stockdale needed to answer some tough questions about his service on the Board of Directors of Rockford. Many people seem to have lost sight of that key point. This is a fair issue to raise about someone running for vice-president.
The Rockford Institute feud where the staff in New York was tossed out for raising issues of racial tolerance was covered in the New York Times, May 16, 1989 (pp. 1, 8). Perot's running mate Stockdale was on the Board of Directors of Rockford in 1989. Theologian Rev. Richard John Neuhaus and his staff at the Center for Religion and Society were fired and locked out of their offices.
From the Times:
"The raid on the center's office was provoked by Pastor Neuhaus's complaint, supported by a number of leading conservative figures, that the Rockford Institute's monthly publication, Chronicles, was tilting toward views favoring native-born citizens and values and that it was 'insensitive to the classic language of anti-Semitism.'"
"Pastor Neuhaus and his Center for Religion and Society have become symbols of the neo-conservative side of the argument, standing opposite the center's parent organization, the Rockford Institute."
To unravel the background of the dispute takes a political scorecard. The Rockford Institute and rightists like Pat Buchanan are allied with reactionary and hard-line rightist forces in the U.S. The more moderate of these hard-right forces sometimes are called paleo-conservatives or "Paleocons" due to their ties to the "Old Right" in the United States. The farthest fringe of this circle is populated by persons who reflect a racial-nationalist or even neo-fascist viewpoint. Buchanan networks across the spectrum of the hard-right, from Paleocon to neo-Fascist. Racism and anti-Jewish bigotry were common themes in some (although not all) Old Right groups.
Buchanan endorsed the work of the Rockford Institute after the Neuhaus incident. In his January 25, 1990 newsletter, Buchanan penned what was in essence an ode to fascism which celebrated the efficiency of autocracy, and concluded with the line, "If the people are corrupt, the more democracy, the worse the government." The column also echoed historically racialist themes.
The "Neocons," the neo-conservative movement in the United States for over ten years quietly tolerated more than a little anti-democratic authoritarianism, anti-Jewish bigotry, and racism from their tactical allies on the Paleocon right. Their alliance was based on shared support for militant anti-communism, celebration of unfettered free enterprise, calls for high levels of U.S. spending on the U.S. military, and support for a militarily strong Israel dominated by hard-line ultra-conservative political parties that would stand as a bulwark against communism in the Middle East.
Since there are some high-profile Jews in the intellectual
leadership of the neo-conservative movement, some persons have
concluded that neo-conservatism is a Jewish ideology. This is a
prejudiced assertion, and it is at the heart of much of the
Neocon/Paleocon dispute, with the Paleocons repeatedly making
bigotted references about the people who "control" the Neocon
movement and charge them with "anti-Semitism" and "nativism." See
for example the June 1992
For a look at the Neocon view of Buchanan and the Rockford crowd see the May 1992 issues of First Things published by Neuhaus ("The Year that Conservatism Turned Ugly"), and Commentary ("Buchanan and the Conservative Crackup").
Fascist political movements are experiencing a resurgence around the world. In the United States, the 1992 presidential campaigns of David Duke, Patrick Buchanan, and H. Ross Perot echoed different elements of historic fascism.
Duke's neo-Nazi past resonates, in a consciously sanitized form, in his current formulations of white supremacist and anti-Jewish political theories. Duke has embraced key elements of the neo-Nazi Christian Identity religion.
Buchanan's theories of isolationist nationalism and xenophobia hearken back to the proto-fascist ideas of the 1930's America First movement and its well-known promoters, Charles Lindbergh and Father Charles Coughlin. In his Republican convention speech, Buchanan eerily invoked Nazi symbols of blood, soil and honor.
Perot's candidacy provided us with a contemporary model of the fascist concept of the organic leader, the "Man on a White Horse" whose strong egocentric commands are seen as reflecting the will of the people.
These three candidacies were played out as the Bush Administration pursued its agenda of a managed corporate economy, a repressive national security state, and an aggressive foreign policy based on military threat, all of which borrows heavily from the theories of corporatism, authoritarianism, and militarism adopted by Italian fascism.
Duke, Buchanan, and Perot all feed on the politics of resentment, alienation, frustration, anger and fear. Their supporters tended to blame our vexing societal problems on handy scapegoats and they sought salvation from a strong charismatic leader. See the prescient article on "The Politics of Frustration" by conservative Republican analyst Kevin Phillips in The New York Times Magazine April 12, 1992, pp. 38-42. In this article, Phillips, (remember, he is an anti-Bush conservative Republican) raises the issue of similarity between the current campaign and the Weimar period in Germany when the fascists were organizing under the banner of national socialism and popular discontent.
There are other strains of fascism active today. While much attention has been paid to the more extreme biological-determinist neo-Nazi groups such as racist skinheads, there has also been steady growth in other forms of Fascism. Corporatism (sometimes called corporativism) and the economic nationalist branch of fascism are being revived. In Eastern Europe, racial nationalism, a key component of fascism, has surfaced in many new political parties, and is a driving force behind the tragic bloodletting and drive for "ethnic cleansing" in the former nation of Yugoslavia. Other pillars of fascism such as racism, xenophobia, anti-Jewish theories and anti-immigrant scapegoating provide a sinister backdrop for increasing physical assaults on people of color and lesbians and gay men.
Further complicating matters is the reemergence in Europe of fascist ideologies that promote concepts of racial nationalism: a national socialist strain of fascist ideology called the Third Position or Third Way, and its more intellectual aristocratic ally called the European New Right (Nouvelle Droit) For a brilliant short essay on the rise of the Nouvelle Droit see "Pograms Begin in the Mind" by Wolfgang Haug, a transcribed lecture with a challenging introduction by Janet Biehl (Green Perspectives May 1992, P.O. Box 111, Burlington, Vermont 05402.) Intellectual leaders of the European New Right, such as Alain de Benoist, are hailed as profound thinkers in U.S. reactionary publications such as the Rockford Institute's Chronicles. The more overtly neo-Nazi segment of the Third Position has intellectual links to the Strasserite wing of German national socialism, and is critical of Hitler's brand of Nazism for having betrayed the working class. See magazines such as Scorpion or Third Way published in England. Third Position groups believe in a racially-homogeneous decentralized tribal form of nationalism, and claim to have evolved an ideology "beyond communism and capitalism."
Third Position adherents actively seek to recruit from the left. One such group is the American Front in Portland, Oregon, which runs a phone hotline that in late November, 1991 featured an attack on critics of left/right coalitions. White supremacist leader Tom Metzger promotes Third Position politics in his newspaper WAR which stands for White Aryan Resistance. Third Position themes have surfaced in the ecology movement and other movements championed by progressives.
Conspiracism and scapegoating go hand-in-hand, and both are key ingredients of the fascist phenomenon. Fascism is difficult to define succinctly. As Roger Scruton observes in "A Dictionary of Political Tought," fascism is "An amalgam of disparate conceptions." (Scruton, Roger. "A Dictionary of Political Tought," London: The Macmillan Press, 1982, p. 169)
"[Fascism is] more notable as a political phenomenon on which diverse intellectual influences converge than as a distinct idea; as political phenomenon, one of its most remarkable features has been the ability to win massive popular support for ideas that are expressly anti-egalitarian."
"Fascism is characterised by the following features (not all of which need be present in any of its recognized instances): nationalism; hostility to democracy, to egalitarianism, and to the values of the enlightenment; the cult of the leader, and admiration for his special qualities; a respect for collective organization, and a love of the symbols associated with it, such as uniforms, parades and army discipline."
"The ultimate doctrine contains little that is specific, beyond an appeal to energy, and action."
Another way to look at fascism is as a movement of extreme racial or cultural nationalism, combined with economic corporatism and authoritarian autocracy; masked during its rise to state power by pseudo-radical populist appeals to overthrow a conspiratorial elitist regime; spurred by a strong charismatic leader whose reactionary ideas are said to organically express the will of the masses who are urged to engage in a heroic collective effort to attain a metaphysical goal against the machinations of a scapegoated demonized adversary.
In any case, in most definitions of fascism the themes of conspiracism and a needed scapegoat emerge.
In recent years the four main centers of paranoid conspiracism and scapegoating on the right have been the John Birch Society, the Liberty Lobby, the LaRouchians, and the right-wing Christian fundamentalist sector of the movement known as the New Right.
The most useful general sources of information on U.S. right-wing conspiracy theories and the basis for understanding the role of reductionism and scapegoating in these movements are: Richard Hofstadter, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" (New York: Knopf, 1965); George Johnson, "Architects of Fear: Conspiracy Theories and Paranoia in American Politics" (Los Angeles: Tarcher/Houghton Mifflin, 1983); and Frank P. Mintz, "The Liberty Lobby and the American Right: Race, Conspiracy, and Culture" (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1985).
For a lengthy discussion of scapegoating and witch hunts, see the September/October issue of The Humanist with a special section on "Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, which includes the author's article on the far right's scapegoating of secular humanism.
For a deeper understanding of fascism and its use of scapegoating, see: A. J. Nichols, "Weimar and the Rise of Hitler" (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979), Daniel Guerin, "Fascism and Big Business" (New York: Monad Press/Pathfinder, 1973), James Joes, "Fascism in the Contemporary World: Ideology, Evolution, Resurgence" (Boulder: Westview, 1978).
Chip Berlet, analyst
Political Research Associates
678 Massachusetts Ave, #702
Cambridge, MA 02139
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