Memes, mirror-neurons and emotional contagion - this post seems to have cheered a lot of people up.
Following a link in a Samizdata thread on the latest UK 'BNP threat' (which I'm far too distant from to denounce as 'hysterical') took me to an article by Sean Gabb which contains the most clear-sighted definition of fascism I have yet encountered:
A fascist, so far as I can tell, is someone who believes than an unregulated free market leads to unacceptable economic instability and unfair distributions of wealth, but who also believes that socialism is variously unworkable and immoral. He therefore believes that the state should take a more active role in national life than is allowed by the liberal philosophers: it should ensure that businesses are allowed to operate without disruption, but that the fruits are more equally shared. Of course, libertarians can reject fascism on this definition, as can radical socialists. But I fail to see how anyone else can. This has been the position of just about every mainstream political party in the civilised world during the past hundred years.
It might be worth adding immediately that the more relevant accusatory label viz the BNP would be 'national soci*list' which Gabb also defines insightfully:
"A national soci*list believes that the main agents in the world are not individuals but nations, and that these are defined genetically, and that each nation has its own characteristics and interests that may place it in conflict with others. Individuals are but parts of the greater nation, and stand to it as do the teeth to a comb. Since national soci*lism has Hegelian roots, it shares with some of the Marxists a view of knowledge according to which propositions are true or false according to who is advancing them and when: therefore the often casual dismissal of 'Jewish Physics' and 'Jewish Political Economy'. Associated with national soci*lism is a soci*listic, protectionist approach to economic management, and some strange and intellectually indefensible theories of money and credit. And central to the ideology is the belief that a government that represents the general will of the nation should not be restrained by any legal norms or moral considerations."
Whether today's BNP subscribes to this doctrine or not escapes my competence - perhaps others here have been following the situation closely enough to respond more insightfully (if the matter is judged worthy of discussion). The general issue of political taxonomy strikes me as more interesting, but then the UK-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket saga is one I can afford to contemplate with vague bemusement.
While petropolitical analysis might be tempted to see the world's present apocalyptic fervour as evidence that the Blob is undergoing its terminal incandescent spasms, there's a lot more sticky black-stuff still to emerge.
As this USNews article notes, Western Canada is becoming a principal oil node, with the entire balance of the country tilting strongly westwards due to the Alberta oil sands boom. The USA is also becoming Blob-positive:
Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming harbor a store equivalent to 2 trillion barrels of oil -- more than all the crude that has been produced worldwide since the petroleum age began.
(link via Glenn Reynolds, who wonders whether oil's new lease of life will hold back other things)
Self-flagellating Western Occidentocentrists in the Chomskyite mould could usefully reflect on this Efraim Karsh essay, which distributes appropriate initiative and agency to a competitor civilization.
Whether in its militant or its more benign version, this [Islamic] world-conquering agenda continues to meet with condescension and denial on the part of many educated Westerners. To intellectuals, foreign-policy experts, and politicians alike, "empire" and "imperialism" are categories that apply exclusively to the European powers and, more recently, to the United States. In this view of things, Muslims, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, are merely objects--the long-suffering victims of the aggressive encroachments of others. Lacking an internal, autonomous dynamic of its own, their history is rather a function of their unhappy interaction with the West, whose obligation it is to make amends. This perspective dominated the widespread explanation of the 9/11 attacks as only a response to America's (allegedly) arrogant and self-serving foreign policy, particularly with respect to the Arab-Israeli conflict.