Jun 12, 2008

Hey, remember The Family?

As I'm sure you recall, a while back I decided to do a post on Hilary Clinton's religious links with The Family, a rather scary and theocratic organization with what looks like a lot of clout in Washington DC.

Well today, Alternet has a very interesting post on their seeming fascination with Hitler:

Lindsay Beyerstein: In "The Family," a lot of subjects explicitly state their admiration for Hitler and other authoritarian political figures. How much of that is admiring their style, and how much is admiring their substance?

Jeff Sharlet: I'd argue that there isn't a hell of a lot of difference. I spent a lot of time living with these guys, and I remember at one point asking them, "What's the deal with all this Hitler talk?" And they'd say, "Oh, it's not the ends, it's the means." But to most of us, the means seem pretty bad, too. The means are authoritarianism.

Shartlet does go onto argue that they are not Fascist in a traditional sense, that they lack the belief in the redemptive power of violence, but that they do hover around the 80% mark going by Paxton or Umberto Eco's checklists:

Lindsay Beyerstein: So, they don't literally believe in physical conflict when they describe themselves as warriors for Christ?

Jeff Sharlet: Oh, no. (They think) that's fine, but they don't love violence the way that fascism did. Their leader, Doug Coe, says that the Bible is filled with mass murderers. And it is. The difference is that European fascism was based on this idea that you can only become truly human through violence. The Family will say, oh no, we're pursuing peace. Hitler wasn't pursuing peace. The goal was this constant redemptive violence.

The other thing is they differ in the strictness of their nationalism. The Family is an American ideology, and it has a lot of American ideology involved, but still it was founded by a Norwegian immigrant. It's more pluralist than European fascism that was about cleansing the blood. The Family is an imperial ideology, which is why I think it's ultimately worse than fascism. Since the Second World War, fascism hasn't been a very powerful ideology, but imperialism has.

Which is an interesting way of slicing it. I can't say I totally disagree...its likely such a group could attract proto-fascist elements, as David Neiwert describes them, but it lacks a certain racial component and explicitly thuggish bent/exultation of violence which seems to be a core attribute of fascism. Note he did say "(they think) thats fine" which suggests they could help cultivate such an atmosphere, but its not an end in and of itself. Plus there are a number of problems with the idea of an authoritarian Christian empire based around the world's most powerful nation, without getting into the possibility of fascist connotations.

Anyway, the interview goes on for 5 pages and is well worth reading. The book looks fascinating too, and if I wasn't so poor, I'd immediately consider ordering it from Amazon. Another day, perhaps...

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