Penny is reading Art and Propaganda in the Twentieth Century by Toby Clark and loving it. Every now and then she can’t contain herself and insists on reading bits out to me. This, for instance:
[Fascists] openly rejected rationalism as the arid and soulless outlook of bourgeois modernity, and described their movement as a cult of action and passion free of doctrinal rules. Thus the French fascist Robert Brasillach spoke of fascism not as a theory but a ‘poetry’ of faith and emotion, and Mussolini declared: ‘I am not a statesman, I am more like a mad poet.’ In the book Mein Kampf, … Adolf Hitler … stated that a leader could not gain followers by mere explanation or instruction; these have never moved the masses, he argued: ‘it is always a devotion which has inspired them, and often a kind of hysteria which has urged them to action.’
Now I’m not wanting to call anyone a Fascist, but it’s hard not to see some relevance to current Australian Federal politics. Doesn’t the Opposition spokesman on finance sometimes sound just a little like a mad (and not very good) poet? And how about Tony Abbott as fostering a cult of action and passion, and portraying the Government’s methodical approach to policy as arid and soulless: let’s be photographed in lycra and talk about a Great. Big. Tax. On. Everything rather than apply something approaching thought to the dominant issue of the day. Mind you, at the risk of agreeing with Hitler even a little bit, a little passion from the PM wouldn’t go astray. Even though I’m wearing my ‘Join the Kevolution’ t-shirt as I type this, the idea of devotion to Kevin Rudd seems more deeply ironic than ever. His habitual way of talking to us isn’t even as animated as ‘explanation or instruction’ – more like footnoting and indexing.