Naiomi Wolf's Fascist America, in 10 easy steps provides an interesting evaluation of America's situation with respect to the experience of societies that have succumbed to totalitarian ideologies (i.e. fascism). I thought that the most interesting "step" was the third--Develop a thug caste--both because it is the weakest link in her argument that America is on the brink of totalitarianism, and because if such a caste really exists, it is the single most telling sign that we are on the brink.
Wolf seems to be concerned about "groups of angry young Republican men, dressed in identical shirts and trousers" who caused a ruckus during the Florida vote recount of 2000. While I'm not too concerned about those guys, I am a bit worried about the other group that she identified: the "security contractors" (a.k.a. mercenaries)who are providing firepower in Iraq without the accountability that real soldiers have.
While these organizations have their own command structure that seems to be aligned with the current government, and they have been called upon for domestic duty during the Hurricane Katrina disaster, I hope that most of the employees would think of America as the place where they relax and have a life, and be unwilling to take up arms for combat within the United Sates. However, if we ever have riots, mass demonstrations, or a general strike in the USA while the National Guard is deployed overseas, I wouldn't be surprized if state and federal governments call upon these organizations to bust a few heads. I'm afraid that these guys would have even less restraint than the National Guard -- remember Kent State?
The striking thing about the two groups that Wolf listed is that they don't fit the mold of the prototypical thug castes: the Nazi Stormtroopers and Fascist Blackshirts. While those organizations were largely composed of proletariat street-fighters, Wolf's prospective thug castes seem to be made of middle-class political activists and professional soldiers.
However, there's a third prospective thug caste, which Wolf didn't mention, but fits the mold better than the other two. This prospective thug caste is best represented by the Gathering of Eagles, a supposedly impromptu organization dedicated to staging "counter demonstrations" against anti-war protesters.
They've been promoted by the likes of Michelle Malkin, and are clearly cut from the cloth of American right-wing militarism. They claim to be a defensive group, but have a very broad idea of what "defense" means:
What the Eagles will not stand for, however, are “violence, vandalism, physical or verbal assaults on our veterans, and the destruction or desecration of our memorials. By defending and honoring these sacred places, we defend and honor those whose blood gave all of us the right to speak as freely as our minds think.”This raises the question: What constitutes verbal assault or desecration of a memorial, and what are they going to do about it? By some accounts, they interpret those words rather liberally, such that they will resort to physical intimidation and property destruction in order to silence the political opposition.
Disgruntled veterans made up a substantial portion of the the Fascists and Nazi thug castes, and that seems to be the same for the Gathering of Eagles. These "disgruntled veterans" are people who believe that their country lost a war primarily because their countrymen failed to provide the necessary support...if only we had fought a little bit longer and a little bit harder, we would have won. This is one of the most frightening side effects of waging foolish wars--our society generates large numbers of men with military experience who feel that they have been jerked around and abused. This is the path to tyranny.