May 17, 2011

Newspeak encounter of the day -- fascist loose cannons

Listened to the commentary track on Dirty Harry and wasn't surprised to hear that it caused many libs to wee-wee their panties back when whining was still a legitimate form of argument. Still, it's funny and sad to read that Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert -- and lots of others, judging from the hundreds of thousands of google results -- throw the word "fascist" around when describing the moral worldview of the movie.

Now, that was 1971 when the counter-culture was still strong, and I realize that people don't ejaculate the term so often in public these days. But it nevertheless shows just how stupid the political culture was, and to some extent still is, when famous critics can use the word "fascist" -- with all its images of rigid hierarchy, marching in lockstep, knowing and unquestioningly respecting your given role so that the machine functions smoothly, etc. -- to describe a do-what-you-think-is-best outlook, and a way of acting that cuts the individual free of the society's regulations if they are only getting in the way of achieving the goal (here, of protecting the group).

If anything from that era was totalitarian, it was the liberal bureaucracy that told Dirty Harry to just follow orders from above, to not second-guess their appropriateness by thinking for himself. This is for the greater good: after all, when one piece wiggles out of its proper place in the machine, it will throw every other sub-system outta-whack, and the broken apparatus will no longer be able to protect the group. So just shut up and do as you're told.

I'm sure there are conservative morons who think Dirty Harry shows the value of hierarchical discipline and obeying authority, but they don't make it into the critics circle, so I couldn't easily find any famous examples.

The mandarin class is fundamentally drawn to the powerful -- at least when their favorite party is in power -- so they are always caught completely off-guard when Dirty Harry figures arise. I mean, they just don't make any sense. Vigilantes are anti-authoritarian, which is good if our guys are not in power but bad if they are. And they're acting to protect the larger community (unlike anti-authoritarian loner / hermit types), which is good, but their protection reaches a level that the rulers have proven impotent to achieve. This embarrasses and even discredits the rulers, and again that's good if our guys are not in power but bad if they are.

So sure, if the other guys are in power, let's welcome the vigilantes -- just think of the terrible publicity it'll give our rivals. Then again, given how the enjoyment of power fluctuates between parties, you know what, it's better to not risk being on the side of loose cannons, just in case it's us who's in power.

This explains why so much criticism of movies that treat the theme of authority sounds ridiculous -- since the intellectual class only talks to itself and lusts for power or at least influence over the powerful, they only hear arguments that take the sanctity of following orders for granted. They argue instead over whose plan for society should be rigidly adhered to, lest the whole thing come crumbling apart. The handful of anti-authoritarians who go into academia, the media, etc., are of the loner / hermit type who want to cast off society's shackles so that they can be left alone to themselves and maybe their family, not so that they can better do their job as a member of the team or group or community. They watch X-Files, not Aliens.

I'm not sure where to go to find commentators who might get it. Obviously not the typical places where critics hang out. But outside-the-establishment haunts on the internet are mostly peopled by nerds, and they too fall into the same groups as mainstream critics, although with more of the "just leave me alone" / "the truth is out there" hermits, and fewer chap-lipped dicksuckers of the powerful. If anyone's run across a good place online or off, say where in the comments.


  1. I think there's really only 2 decent theories on authority:
    1. Authority flows from the family into the clan/local group and then into the government. People are free to make their own choices and band together for protection and mutual support.
    2. Authority flows from the state/ruler/religious leader who owns the populace. The populous has to obey and follow the system.

    American originally came from the first view while today we have largely morphed into the second. The second view is the system that most benefits our mandarin. Both systems work and have different advantages and disadvantages. But the conflict within American comes from the fight between these 2 systems.

    The left really never had the 1st types among them. Their terrorists, criminals and state destroyers always worked with in the framework the left provided and backed off when left changed it's mind on the limits or boundaries of what's allowed (See the soviet union after Stalin).

    I think fundamentally the left uses criminals as a form of low level warfare on the people it does not like and rewards the criminals with social welfare benefits, foreign aid, ect. As fascist really means heretic Harry was a man who enforced the older American system of punishing evil people instead of following the progressive system of law enforcement.

  2. The type "rogue police who acts ignoring the regulations" could have both an anti-authoritarian and a pro-authoritarian interpretation: the anti-authoritarian view is that of agnostic, the "individual rebelling against his superiors and the laws"; but there is also the opposite interpretation - the "strong man who needs to be above the law to get things done".

    Btw, true fascism begin as a kind of "vigilantism" - the big difference between fascism and the garden-variety conservative dictatorship (Pinochet-style) is that, while classical conservative authoritarians use the state machine (specially the army) as the source of his power, fascists create militias (black/brown/gree/blue/etc. shirts) to fight in the streets against their enemies.

  3. The heirs of the "New Left" do not believe in individuals. I don't mean that they distrust individuals the way an authoritarian conservative would; I mean they do not believe individuals can come up with anything on their own. This theory leads to the following conclusion: If someone is not going along with a group (The People) then he/she must be following another group (The Establishment).

    If The People agree with The Establishment they are not acting in accordance with their true nature and can be disregarded. If 90% of The People believe in family values, the work ethic, religion, etc. (Establishment values) and 10% don't, the 10% are the real mainstream of The People. (Authoritarian conservatives think that "nonconformists" are trying to be nonconformists. They're not. They're trying to be their type of conformist.)

    In this theory, individualism and The Establishment are two sides of the same coin. The Establishment is the source of individualism because there is no other reason why so many people would oppose community. Individualism produced The Establishment because without individualism The Establishment would not oppose the community.

  4. Miguel beat me to it. Before fascism takes over, it seems like a kind of authoritarian anti-authoritarianism. Haven't seen the Dirty Harry movies to know whether the epithet applies, but my general rule is that it doesn't outside interwar European nations with lots of Catholics.


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