12 thoughts on “Il Duce, Redux?

  1. danae

    This is what the Beak (Glenn Beck) has been raving about lately. It’s the swiftness of it all that alarms me, and I wasn’t even aware of the attempt to roll back the term limit on the presidency.

    Skerry stuff.

  2. Brock

    I’m no BHO fan, but I’m not sure that comparing him to Il Duce is very helpful (regardless of the historical accuracy). It comes across as Obama Derangement Syndrome, and most people you’d want to convince aren’t interested in getting educated on how accurate the comparison may be. It will only estrange the middle.

    BHO has many faults, and simply focusing on those and explaining why they’re bad (without the “Fascist!!” accusations) should get the job done (I hope).

  3. McGehee

    Brock, you may be right about how some will take it, but the truth never begs anybody’s pardon.

    “If the truth offends you, whose fault is that?”

  4. Carl Pham

    Didn’t Il Duce make the trains run on time, ha ha?

    When you scope out a bozon like this, you maybe wonder if it’s Charlie Chaplin playing The Great Dictator this time.

  5. Robin Goodfellow

    I agree with Brock. Obama is NOT a fascist. He may be something as bad or even worse (I certainly hope not, and I don’t believe he is, dangerous though he may be to the nation) but making such a ridiculous comparison only has the effect of encouraging precisely the folks you need to convince that you are a bozo who is not worth listening to. This is, as they say, counterproductive.

    Remember when people called Bush a fascist and a Nazi and everyone who was sensible laughed at the ridiculousness of such comparisons? That. You’re doing that. Please stop. It is ridiculous.

  6. Rand Simberg Post author

    I think that everyone can agree that it is ridiculous to call Obama a Nazi. It is much, much less so to point out similarities with Mussolini. Or Roosevelt. Or Hoover, for that matter.

  7. Carl Pham

    Honestly, I think most of you folks have mistaken Rand’s point here. He’s not calling Obama a fascist per se, in the sort of hateful way you mention, popular on the left.

    Quite to the contrary, I think. I believe he is pointing out that the people who actually were fascists, who invented the word itself, have a lot more in common with the modern Democratic Party, and with Team Obama and their governing philosophy — so maybe, just maybe, out of a sense of shame at the hypocrisy, the modern Left should abandon its regretful habit of trotting out the word “fascist” to describe everything they don’t like on the right.

    If he has a further point, it would probably be the Hayekian — almost biblical — point that the road to Hell really is paved with good intentions and an “ends justify the means” philosophy. The horrors of the 20th century — the camps, the gas ovens, the gulag, the millions starved to death in the Ukraine, the global wars of annihilation — were the direct result not of Mr. Monopoly man big business seeking greedy profits, but of socially conscious idealists wilfully ignorant of reality, and willing to repeat can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs to the point of obscenity.

    Neither Stalin nor Hitler rode to power on a program of conniving with wealthy industrialists and bankers to further concentrate their wealth, nor on a platform of Wild West deregulation and economic laissez faire. Quite to the contrary: they both represented a giant reaction to the perceived failures in the late 19th century of weak (small) government, of too much individual liberty, and of economic laissez faire free-market principles. They both promised a strong government that would further the interests of The People only, and would not allow arbitrary principles (like the property rights or freedom of speech of any actual person) to stand in the way of doing things that needed to be done for The People.

    There’s a very good reason they were so popular in the beginning. What they said and to some extent actually did seemed to be all good and noble, for wonderful, socially-sensitive reasons. Sure, they cut a few ethical and legal corners here and there, stuff only fussbudgets like Supreme Court Justices would worry about — but it was all For the Greater Good, right?

    The historical result should (but apparently doesn’t) stand as the world’s biggest memorial to the ultimate vicious inhuman cruelty of Thinking Globally, of being willing to “just try” dangerous ideas because of plausible theories of how they’ll turn out, and of being willing to use any handy means to achieve noble ends.

  8. Robin Goodfellow

    I think Rand and Carl are still missing the point. To a certain extent it wouldn’t even matter if Obama were a crypto-fascist, just waiting for the right time to copy every single one of Mussolini’s policies.

    It. Would. Not. Matter. The comparison is not helpful. It does not further the debate. IT WILL NOT CONVINCE ANYONE WHO ISN’T ALREADY CONVINCED. And if you care about your argument then that is far and away the most important purpose of putting forth an argument. Not to score points preaching to the choir, that’s easy.

    The problem is this. WWII has been placed into the bin of an “exceptional case” in the minds of the vast majority of people in the western world. Mussolini and Hitler are extraordinary exceptions to the history of mankind. Fascists and Nazis are so unreal and exceptional they can hardly be considered examples of human beings. Understand that this is what many, many people believe. Comparing someone to Hitler or Mussolini, making comparisons to Fascism and Nazism is thus, in this context, completely ridiculous. Ordinary people cannot be Hitler or Mussolini, no more than they could be Sauron or Darth Vader. When you make these comparisons you are, in essence, comparing with the upper bound of “evilness”. At that point your comparison becomes metaphorical, and people will only agree that your comparison is fair only in so far as THEY ALREADY BELIEVE the person you’re talking about to be evil.

    Again, this sort of comparison is not helpful. This is why Godwin’s law exists, because when a debate enters this area (comparisons to Hitler and such-like) the debate is over. More talking may occur but nobody is going to change their mind. And that is the purpose of debate. To persuade people. To exchange meaningful information that becomes useful in transforming our views.

    Using Hitler or Mussolini as a comparison is lazy and unhelpful. Stop doing it. Stop being lazy. Find other ways to argue your point. Ways that can actually serve to persuade the people who need to be persuaded.

    If you honestly believe that Obama poses a serious threat to our nation then you owe it to yourself, your loved ones, and your countrymen to take that threat seriously and only put forward arguments that are capable of convincing others who are unconvinced. Otherwise you are not helping. In fact, you are actually hurting, because you are diluting the quality of criticism of Obama, you are giving cause for people to downgrade the seriousness with which they take criticism of Obama.

  9. Rand Simberg Post author

    Using Hitler or Mussolini as a comparison is lazy and unhelpful.

    Mussolini is not Hitler. If people think the educate. And a good way to do it is to ask, “OK, so what it is, exactly, Mussolini did that you didn’t like?”

    I think that what is lazy and unhelpful is to let people continue to marinate in the propaganda of the left for the past seventy years.

  10. Carl Pham

    Nope, Robin. I understand your point very well — it was a complete staple on newsgroups, and has been Conventional Wisdom through the Web world since then. On the surface, it’s reasonable, logical.

    But I suggest experience says it’s another one of those plausible, reasonable ideas — like the socialist ideas about which we’re indirectly talking! — that sounds good in theory but is proved wrong in practice.

    Ask yourself whether this common wisdom has resulted in a more civil and compromising society in the very place that believes it most strongly — the Internet. Ha ha. Indeed, Internet society is just about the most vicious society there is, almost devoid of reasoned debate and mutually-respectful rationally-based argument. It’s a good rule of thumb, I’d say, that whatever rules for social conduct are widely popular in the Internet culture are ipso facto counterproductive of civil discourse. You might as well ask gang members how to prevent gang violence.

    Why the problem? I suggest it gives unreasonable leverage to the least reasonable conversants, essentially builds a culture that encourages emotional terrorism and blackmail. You get to say I’m not listening to you because you’re not being helpful, you’re just making me mad. It shifts the burden of responsibility for getting mad — for being unreasonable — away from the person who is unreasonable, and onto other people for “provoking” him by a choice of language he doesn’t like. That’s a recipe for narcissistic excess. People start to think that the primary goal is simply to upset as few people as possible, rather than to forge a strong social consensus which is inevitably going to upset some minority of people. The result is very poor social cohesion, plus a widespread culture of narcissistic self-pity, playing the victim as a power play, and sadomasochism, i.e. Internet culture. Blech.

    Nor do I think convincing people is the be-all and end-all of conversation. That’s what politicians, ethical whores, think. To them, achieving a voting majority is the only important goal. It doesn’t matter who you have to become to reach that goal. I don’t think that way. If people — even a majority of people, even every living soul on the planet other than I — think that what I have to say, and how I say it, is repulsive, but I believe down to my toes that it is right and true, then I’m not interested in changing my tone, my word choice, my meaning. Better to be lonely and keep your principles than popular and have none.

    Right here is our disagreement summarized:

    If you honestly believe that Obama poses a serious threat to our nation then you owe it to yourself, your loved ones, and your countrymen to take that threat seriously and only put forward arguments that are capable of convincing others who are unconvinced.

    I don’t agree. The duty is to put forward arguments that are true and honest. Whether they will work or not is, or should be, not a concern. We are not Madison Avenue advertisers, trying any means to persuade. We’re citizens debating our peers. That’s why it would be wrong to (for example) highlight Joe Biden’s daughter snorting coke to tar the Obama Administration even if it’s an argument that would work very well, because of people’s emotional response to it, even if that argument is most “capable of convincing other who are unconvinced.”

    And I also disagree with you about the utility of the Second World War, or any of our history. Lacking other inhabited planets, istory is the only place where ideas about governance have been tried out, and can be judged — if very imperfectly — by their actual results, instead of according to some glowing academical theory. Our best-known history, the biggest disasters, are some of its most useful bits. It’s a good thing to ask yourselves why we had the Great Depression, the Final Solution, the Cold War, the slaughter of Passchendaele, the ruin and misery of East Germany, Rwanda, Darfur, et cetera — and to ask ourselves whether and how we might be walking the same path today, to look for signs and symptoms and parallels.

    I recognize that much of history has been cartooned out of all recognition. Indeed, as a I said, I think this was one of Rand’s complaints, that the actual character of Nazis has been cartooned so far from reality that they can be used to draw the opposite conclusions reasonable men would draw. It’s Orwellian, as has become, ironically, Orwell himself (e.g. 1984 being used more to illustrate threats from the right than the left).

    But the fact that tools can be and have been grossly misused does not mean they should be abandoned, that we should cast ourselves loose from the facts of history and instead rely on such castles in the clouds as group consensus, or pick our governing philosophies on the basis of what sounds good and on which set of proponents is most flattering in the way to which they appeal to us. That way lies tragedy.

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