The Fascism of Morality-Based Culture War

Organized religion is nearing the end of a long process of despiritualization that began during the Protestant Reformation. Religious symbols no longer inspire subjective truths that give meaning to life. Christianity has gone from a heartfelt belief system substantiated by transcendental awareness of divine forces to the self-serving rationale of political opportunists.

Society has been subjected to an onslaught of exploitive ethical postures in the name of Christian morality. Religion was co-opted as a political weapon, first by the moral majority, followed by morality-based culture war, and most recently in Tea Party protests and political campaigns tapping the vast reserves of working class social conservatives. With the fire and brimstone of old time religion, the pulpit has been used to sway the public to take political positions far to the right of the humble and forgiving Christian model.

The emotionally charged social issues of culture war are angst-laden symbols for fading traditions. With passion driven by fear of change, social conservatives attempt to impose religious dictates on secular government as a way to recapture the innocence and prosperity of a bygone era. Misplaced efforts to legislate morality present an ethical dilemma: everyone is expected to forfeit personal liberties and humanitarian values and conform to the intolerant beliefs and prejudicial values of the religious right. All around the world religious extremism is the source of political fascism and the same holds true for the political agenda of right-wing groups in America.

Fascism is not just about subversion of the constitution and the collusion of totalitarian government and big business. It is an attitude of the people based on their belief in an ideology and the willingness to betray their own democratic ideals to promote its objectives. Aggressive nationalism, racism, anti-intellectualism, censorship, militarism, the repressive faith-based agenda and subversion of the political process through misdirection and smear campaigns -- these are all attributes of culture war that draw parallels between right-wing politics in America and fascist regimes around the world.

The coded fascism of the right-wing agenda is masked by noble causes such as patriotism and protecting religious values, but the radical political views of protesters are increasingly recognized as a threat to democratic ideals. Tea Party rallies in particular attract embittered segments of society harboring social prejudices behind a facade of Christian values. For disgruntled citizens, the protests provide a platform for venting accusations, racial slurs and veiled threats meant to demonize everyone outside the white conservative community.

The crowd dynamics and fascist overtones of the protests empower the participants, but the hatred and bigotry underlying conservative stances on issues such as gay rights and immigration expose the hypocrisy of morality-based culture war. By allowing bigotry and religious extremism to parade behind traditional family values, the GOP undermined the moral posture of their political rallies. Condoning racism (remember the jungle bunny posters) also suggests the fascist agenda and crowd manipulation techniques of organizers and sponsors.

The ranks of the Tea Party include corporate organizers and sponsors that attract news coverage to virtually every event. There is a true grassroots component to the movement, but the rallies are media productions orchestrated to provoke the ire of working class voters in response to hot button social issues. The mob mentality generated at Tea Party rallies and by conservative talk shows appears to be on the verge of erupting into violence. Will the feverish pitch of culture war drive flag-waving patriots into committing hate crimes in the name of preserving family values and the American way of life, or will disillusioned voters see through the political ruse to recognize the motives of corporate overlords pulling the purse strings of right-wing politicians?  

Marginalized as a coalition of neo-fascists, religious zealots, gun fanatics and other right-wing extremist groups, the Tea Party has become a political liability for the GOP. As moderate conservatives attempt to move their fragmented party toward the center, hardliners redouble their efforts to control public opinion with more of the same moral posturing and dirty politics that successfully rallied the troops while masking fascist policies for more than a generation.