Thursday, December 22, 2005

Emotional fascism

The original title for Elvis Costello's album Armed Forces was Emotional Fascism. I have always thought that the phrase captured a certain something about mass society in America.

I was treated to a particularly poignant expression of this phenomenon while trapped in a hospital cafeteria behind enemy lines in beautiful Spring, Texas. The giant TV was tuned to Fox news which had an entire program devoted to the war on Christmas. It was the first time I had ever watched more than 5 minutes of Fox, and what I saw could fairly be termed a hate rally.

The hosts focused on a resolution applauding the symbols and traditions of Christmas, which had just passed the House 401 to 22.* The lopsided results of the vote were more than sufficient to belie the constant complaints of persecution and stories of the secret liberal war against Christmas. Nonetheless, the studio audience all booed on cue as the names of the representatives who dared defy the demand for total conformity scrolled across the screen. It is not too much as stretch of the imagination to imagine this audience in a torchlight parade.

This wholly manufactured sense of persecution and self-righteous indignation was clearly critical to their group identity. Only total conformity will be tolerated. And not just conformity of action, but conformity of emotion. Toleration is not enough. Acquiescence is not enough.

Embrace the spirit of Christmas or be destroyed.

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*kudos to my representative Earl Blumenauer for resisting the pressure to conform.

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