John Dean appeared this week on the Daily Show to discuss his new book Conservatives Without Conscience.
From Crooks and Liars:
Video -WMP Video -QT
Transcript by The Third Path
Dean: Unfortunately, it could happen here, and it hasn't happened here -- we don't typically talk about authoritarianism in democracy -- but indeed there is an authoritarian strain that has gotten into the conservative movement.
Dean and Stewart go on to discuss exactly how close we've come to Authoritarianism, or "Fascism" as Stewart suggest and Dean repeats his earlier statements from his Olbermann appearance that we "aren't there yet. It's only proto-Facism so far".
What Dean is describing reminds me of a fairly old story I'd heard. This High School History teacher was describing Nazi Germany to his students and one of them stood up and argued that what happened in that nation - couldn't happen here. His teacher begged to differ, and then went on to prove it. He began a student/school organization called the "Third Wave" - which was based entirely on authoritarianism. Facism. The movement swept through the school and create some rather intense results.
Dean: In dealing with that, in the Milgram experiments, where he brought people in off the street, and indeed found that he could get them to administer high voltage -- what they thought was high voltage, and it wasn't. I deal with that to show how people can set their conscience aside. In other words, how do people go into the CIA every day and carry out some of the orders for torture? How do people go into NSA and turn that incredible apparatus against Americans? This is a typical Milgram situation. I actually go beyond that to find the nature of the authoritarian personality that will follow a leader who is an authoritarian.Stewart: Do you believe that the conservative movement has been overtaken by -- I mean, authoritarianism is another word, I guess, for fascism -- or do you think it's a weird confluence of events: an attack on American soil, a government that is unchecked by an oppositional party, in some respects -- Dean: First of all, it's proto-fascism. We're not there yet....read on
Ok, so I checked the web - and here's one racist right-wing site that discusses a TV movie that was eventually made about the event - and which rather frighteningly, misses the point entirely -- but then again maybe they don't.
BACK IN 1967 a very strange thing happened in a high school history classroom in California. Something amazing. Something that turned the then-emerging "me generation" on its head -- and showed us how we could have a real youth revolution, a White youth revolution, instead of the synthetic destruction-of-youth revolution we got instead. Something that was intended to be a "lesson against hate" -- but which quickly turned into a demonstration of something quite different indeed.
'It happened at Cubberly High School in Palo Alto, California. Remember, this was the height of the "do your own thing" Haight-Ashbury movement -- you know, Janis Joplin and that kind of stuff... Big Brother and the Holding Company. That crazy Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were running around with their yellow bus, sipping LSD, and all that "groovy" stuff... the Doors, et cetera.
'And a man by the name of Ron Jones was a liberal teacher out there in Palo Alto. They didn't believe in bells and they didn't believe in textbooks. But they were talking about the "Holocaust" nonetheless.
'This was on a Friday afternoon. And Mr. Jones, the teacher, was asked "Well, listen, Mr. Jones, if they really killed six million Jews, why was it that the German people just stood around and did nothing? I mean, they could have seen the trains, they could have seen the smoke, the bones... I mean, they could have seen something. Why didn't they try to stop it?" And Jones didn't know. You know, being a good liberal, the lobotomized front part of his brain just shut off when he heard that. He didn't have an answer.
'So what he decided to do after he went home that day was to show these kids how easy it is to become a cog in a totalitarian machine. Supposedly, I mean -- this was his outlook.
But apparently not the outlook of the site I found this text on - their view was that Jones was really "on to" something, but just didn't have the heart or character to follow through on it.
Yeah - I know.
'On Monday morning he came into his classroom and began his experiment. Remember, these are 10th graders -- about 14 years old, probably. All White. All affluent. And all freaky -- with the long hair and all the rest of it.
Jones countered the students skeptism with insipiring platitudes:
"No, I'm just going to talk to you... about The Beauty of Discipline and Strength Through Discipline.
"Strength Through Discipline is going to take self training, through control, into the power of the will."
"That's the ultimate triumph that we can have: power through the will."
The lessons went on for several more days, and eventually parents began to notice the difference in their kids.
'And he went on to demonstrate that through a simple seating exercise. He had everyone line up against the wall and then quickly return to their seats, in the same position. And everyone kind of liked it. I quote him: "It was strange how quickly the students took to the uniform code of behavior. I began to wonder just how far they could be pushed. Was this display of obedience a momentary game we were all playing, or was it something else? Was the desire for discipline and uniformity a natural need?" I'll tell Mr. Jones right now: It is. As a teacher, I can see it.
'Wednesday night the rabbi called when Jones got home. He said "Mr. Jones, what are you doing to my kids? I've had many conversations with parents, and they don't like this... what is it? ...this Third Wave thing. It looks like a Nazi salute." Jones said, "Now listen, Finkelbaum, I'm just messing with their minds. I'm going to stomp on them. All I'm doing is just showing them how easy it is to become a Fascist."The school began to change, as more students become Third Wave-ers and began to bully and intimidate those who were not. Jones continued the experienment directing the movement through various catch phrases.
STRENGTH THROUGH DISCIPLINE
STRENGTH THROUGH COMMUNITY
STRENGTH THROUGH ACTION
STRENGTH THROUGH PRIDE
But eventually the facade had to be broken:
On Friday he said "What's going to happen is we're going to go to the auditorium, and we'll meet the national leader. The national leader will be on television. We'll see him on television and we tell us exactly what to do." On Friday, there wasn't a set left in the auditorium. And here's what happened.Now, some argue that the entire Third Wave incident is merely urban legend which has been embellished by Jones over the years -- maybe it has. I found nothing when searching for the supposed TV movie on IMBD.com where they list The Burning Bed (1984) and the original Charlie's Angels show from 1976(on DVD) - so you'd think they'd have this too unless it was just too long ago and too obscure.
'Jones made a very big issue out of taking the TV set -- it was a portable TV set -- and plugging it in to the auditorium's AV system, and just letting it sit there, turned on but with no signal. He had tuned it between channels, and all you could see was fuzzy snow on the screen. And he just left it there, and closed the kids up in the auditorium.
'After about five minutes, a girl shrieked out: "There's no leader!" And she started to cry. And the entire audience started to cry and yell. And they broke up the TV set. They almost, to use the vernacular, trashed the place.
From what I can tell this appears to be Jones own article on the event. Some details are different from the first version I found above, but the essentials are the same.
Most sites which tend to recount this story that I've found on the net so far are Aryan Supremacist to one degree or another, and that tends to make the larger point that what Jones describes seems to dovetail quite strongly with what Dean writes. Although there are certainly authorian tendencies on the left (Communism, Socialism) the rising tide of authoritarianism and proto-Facism in modern times is coming from the Right.
These various racist sites may quibble and wring their hands over Jones' apparent ambivelence about his experiment, and the fact that Jones himself was Jewish , they still nonetheless are highly motivated by his ability (or even the suggestion that it's fairly easy) to convert these "loser surfer" kids into jack-booted thugs within a few days.
Little do they contemplate that the same thing could happen with black or brown skinned kids - and one might say that the attractiveness of an authoritarin structure is exactly what drives kids into the arms of Black and Latino gangs.
Of course Skinheads are attracted to the idea that the Third Wave could lead to the rise of the Fourth Reich, and some might argue that the methods used by Jones way back in 1967 may have already be doing exactly that - programming many in nation into Sheeple - though the constant bleat of authoritarian views on Faux News and implementation of the strictly structured standardized tests of No Child Left Behind which seek to discourage independance and originality of thought or action by our youth.
Growing up in Fontana, CA T.J. was a directionless youth until he was spotted by Skinhead scouts. They took him in, gave him "direction" -- only that direction was ultimated soaked in hate. He spent the next 15 years of his life as a member of the movement - including a stint in the Marines - until finally he saw that save hate reflected in his children - and he said "No".
He turned away from the movement (and unfortunately his wife and family who remained members), joining with the Southern Poverty Law Center and Simon Weisenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance to teach anti-facism where he worked for fives years.
He was invited by President Clinton to be a featured speaker at the White House Conference on Hate, and he has trained at the Pentagon, the FBI, military bases, and for numerous law enforcement agencies. He has spoken to more than 650,000 students. He has also testified against individuals on trial for hate crimes. Although he receives regular death threats and must take extraordinary measures to protect himself from his former friends, Leyden is committed to being a fierce advocate for the importance of appreciating the differences in all people.T.J. describes just how easy it was to recruit skinheads, particulartly while he was in the military.
[Leyden] A former Marine who regularly recruited fellow skinheads and hate-mongers into his group while wearing the uniform of his country, Leyden said the military environment - regardless of the branch of service - is a terrific feeding ground for a hate-group recruiter. "It was easy. ... The military is a great place to recruit people like I once was. They're trained, physically fit, disciplined, ... and many are away from home for the first time. Easy pickings. They're looking for anyone who will be their friend and defender," he said. "And that's just what we offered them."
That to me sounds a bit like:
Strength through Discipline - Strength through Community - Strength through Pride - Strength through Action.
At a time when reports are that skinheads are once again beginning to infiltrate our military, adn the military/authoritarian mindset is slowly creeping it's way into the national conscienceness in the wake of 9-11, and the midst of the growing Israel/Lebanon conflict - I'd say it's just too damn easy if you ask me. 23% of us can fil a whole lotta jack boots.
We can already see the trains and see the smoke, but are we - like Dean and T.J. - standing up to stop it?
Update from Dkos Comments: The movie was called "The Wave" (1981) and is listed on IMDB here, it won Two Emmys, a Peabody Award and a Young Adult Award for best Television special, the Novel by Todd Stassel is available on Amazon.com.