Monday, September 05, 2005

The strange, unexplored overlap between homosexuality and fascism

Johann Hari has recently been declared The Gay Destroyer by the Nazis of Stormfront (see here for what a Gay Destroyer might look like). So it's worth reading this article he published a year ago: The strange, unexplored overlap between homosexuality and fascism. [Hat tip: Jogo]


Jogo writes:

I have never cared for the word "gay," meaning homosexual or queer. It sounds like a Victorian euphemism, which I believe it is. I don't know when this word started popping up everywhere. I don't remember it having much currency back in the fifties and early sixties. Or certainly, it wasn't THE word, as it is now.

Maybe it became the word when the Gay Liberation Front formed (immediately post-Stonewall, 1969), and defined, and sort of began, the militant struggle for homosexual rights and acceptance.

"Gay" -- especially if you're hearing the Victorian note -- sounds extremely weird when you read it 53 times in Johan Hari's article about the homosexual/fascism connection.


This quote jumped out at me from Johann Hari's article: "Since I am an immature and wicked man, war and unrest appeal to me more than the good bourgeois order." -- Ernst Rohm

Did Rohm come up with a real insight here, or was he just being ironically, self-deprecatingly, clever?

To prefer unrest to "good bourgeois order" (to prefer it as a permanent state of being, that is) has been a dream not only of the political revolutionary mind for the past 157 years, but is also characteristic -- even a defining characteristic -- of the modern artistic mind, beginning with ... what? .... Dadaism, or the Armory Show, or Surrealism ...

Rimbaud was all about unrest set permanently against bourgeois order. Appolinaire -- and all the poets and writers of his ilk -- were deeply, emotional, psychically configured to despise bourgois order, and worked to undermine it, to replace it with chronic "unrest" and a kind of "war." An unbroken line connects them to Ginsberg and Corso, utlimately to Gangster Rap and the Poetry Slam.

The idea of Unrest as a Primal Solution lies at the heart of the ideologies and theories of all the movements of my adult lifetime -- from The Living Theater and UAW/MF to Rage Against the Machine. Unrest is deeply desired, longed for, by the likes of Barthes and Foucault, and by Lynne Stewart, who says things like "I've been fighting all my life." As if there was never a moment, for her, in which peace seemed preferable to war.

So what should we make of Ernst Rohm's statement?
[Bob:] This is a really important issue, and Hari is on to something here. As Daniel notes, this issue has been explored in the important book Male Fantasies, by historian George Mosse and, in different contexts, by Paul Gilroy in his essay "Hitler Wore Khakis" and Ian Buruma in his book Occidentalism.

The key point, I think, is that at its heart, fascism's appeal and core is aesthetic as much as ideological.

Jogo again:
Is Johann Hari very smart, or just averagely smart? He calls Pym Fortun a "fascist," using as evidence Pym's opinion that Islam is "the biggest threat to Western Civilization today." O Horrors! Whether that view is right or wrong -- or partly right -- can't one believe it without being thought a fascist?

Later, Hari writes: Fascism is often defined as "a political ideology advocating hierarchical government that systematically denies equality to certain groups." Well, he doesn't say who defines it that way. I certainly don't. I don't think that's a very good definition of fascism at all.

[Bob:] I think that the definitions of fascism that are used today have lost all clarity. People have made the term stretch so far as to make it almost meaningless. The Wikipedia definition, I think, gets it more or less right, but misses out the importance of race. The idea of fascism simply as authoritarianism or inequality - and, worse, the idea of America today as fascist - reflects the hollowing out of political debate today.

This, along with Hari's political correctness in his over-use of the anodyne, meaningless phrases "gay" - and "gay people" (where there many lesbian Nazis?) - suggests a refusal to think about certain things, which sits uneasily with his insight elsewhere in his writing.
I agree that it is utterly wrong to call Pim a "fascist". Wikipedia again:
"Fortuyn was a focus of controversy for his views on Islam and his anti-immigration positions. He called islam a backward culture and once said "if it were legally possible, I'd say no more muslim should ever enter this country". He was labelled a far-right populist by his opponents and the media, but he fiercely rejected this label and distanced himself clearly from far-right politicians like in Filip Dewinter of Vlaams Blok, Jörg Haider of Austria or Jean-Marie Le Pen of France. Fortuyn could be considered a nationalist, but on cultural, rather than racial grounds."
I think Fortuyn was wrong on most things, but the idea that he was a fascist is another one of those liberal orthodoxies that Guardianistas just take for granted without thinking about it. Again, I expect better of Hari!


One further thing: I think that Hari is wrong about gay skinheads. Hari assumes that skinheads are automatically fascist. Anyone interested in the fascinating history of queer skinheads should read Murray Healey's Gay Skins. In the 1980s anti-fascist movement (as opposed to the liberal "anti-Nazi" movement), we always used the term "boneheads" for Nazi skins.

Pim Gortune, Pym Fortine, Pim Fortuyn, Pym Fortoyn
Johan Harri, Johan Hari, Johann Harri, Johann Hari
Previous: Julia Bonk: Better living without Nazis (or, Another political babe), Mown back to heath: Hari on Chavez, Uniform fetish, Big up Kanye West, Homophobia in Iran, God hates fags, Gay Israel, Anti-semitism and gay bishops, Homophobia and Four-letter words

1 comment:

Daniel said...

check out this book (Male Fantasies) about a book on teh links between fascism and male fantasies of the modern age in Germany from Bismarck to Hitler!