Recently, I heard an interview with ultra-conservative former congressman Dick Armey. He apparently thinks that Social Security, Medicare, and other social services should be voluntary, which would, of course, gut them. But the real surprise came when he was asked if there is anybody on the left that he admires and he named Ron Dellums, a former congressman and current mayor of Oakland. Dellums is about as far on the political left (and ineffectual) as one can get. Why should Armey say this?
David Brooks, columnist for the New York Times, in a column on March 7, looked at the far left movements of 40 years ago and today’s far right Tea Party movement. He found:
• The Tea Partiers have adopted the tactics of the New Left. They like street theater, mass rallies, marches, and shocking the public with extreme statements.
• Both believe in the notion that “the people” are good, innocent, and would be producing a utopia were it not for the evil “corrupt elites” and rotten authority structures. This notion goes back to 18th century Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who did not even believe in a school system: the young were to run free in the forest and learn from Nature. Rousseau was an inspiration for the intellectuals who produced the French Revolution. His theory, however, did not produce the innocent world he expected; it produced violence, decapitations, persecution, and a raft of conspiracy theories. France wound up with a new monarch, Napoleon, instead of a democracy of the people.
• Both are big advocates of conspiracy theories. For the old far left, the manipulation was done by shadowy corporatist/imperialist networks (as leftist Noam Chomsky still believes). For the Tea Partiers, the conspiracies are by the Fed, the FBI, the big banks and corporations, and “black helicopters” (belief that the UN is preparing a takeover of the world). It really defies credibility to think that the UN, which is barely functional as it is, would be capable of managing “black helicopters” and taking over the United States. And what would be their governing philosophy? Would it be the values of Western Europe, or would it be the dictatorial structures of the lesser-developed world—dictators plus a medieval religion? Can they agree on anything?
• Both believe in destroying the establishment—but neither has the least notion of how to replace it. They love spontaneous uprisings and deny that there is any leadership in their movements.
David Brooks, being a classical conservative, does not believe that the Tea Partiers are not conservatives; they are radically anticonservative. Conservatism, he says, is based on the belief that humans are fallible and uncertain (and can be violent); for this reason, they believe that we need social structures, permanent institutions, and just authorities. They believe in the idea of civilization.
What Brooks is not saying is that the New (and Old) Left and the Far Right are anarchists. They believe, as have generations of anarchists, that the only road to a “brave new world” is to destroy the old one. Being conspiratorial themselves, they believe that the establishment is conspiratorial too. This is what psychologists call “projection,” attributing to others what is internal to oneself.
Two books address the issue of the political extremes meeting in a 360 degree continuum: “Liberal Fascism” by Johah Goldberg and “The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy” by Daniel Pipes. Both works trace these conspiracy theories back to the French Revolution. It is mistake to think that any totalitarian system on the left is any different than one on the right. Nazism and Communism are both fascist—and today’s newest conspirators and anarchists are the Islamists—who openly model themselves on both Stalin and Hitler—using the same conspiracy theories and violent practices. Stalin and Hitler, however, had notions of what the “brave new world” would be. Today’s anarchists do not. They only know destruction.
Laina Farhat-Holzman is a writer, lecturer, and historian. You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.