Every state must have its enemies. Great powers must have especially monstrous foes. Above all, these foes must arise from within, for national pride does not admit that a great nation can be defeated by any outside force. That is why, though its origins are elsewhere, the stab in the back has become the sustaining myth of modern American nationalism. Since the end of World War II it has been the device by which the American right wing has both revitalized itself and repeatedly disavowed responsibility for its own worst blunders. Indeed, the right has distilled its tale of betrayal into a formula: Advocate some momentarily popular but reckless policy. Deny culpability when that policy is exposed as disastrous. Blame the disaster on internal enemies who hate America. Repeat, always making sure to increase the number of internal enemies.
The cover story in this month's Harper's
is "Stabbed in the Back! The Past and Future of a Right-Wing Myth." It's one of those silver-bullet, can't-miss essays that succinctly explains, from McCarthy to the Dixie Chicks, just how it is we got to be in the predicament we're in. It's very good. When they put it online, as I'm sure they eventually will -- it took them over a month to put up March's controversial AIDS-denialism
piece, blogged here
-- I'll try and remember to link to it. In the meantime, you know where your local newsstand is.Dolchstosslegende is German for stab-in-the-back legend. This post self-Godwinizes. I'm not sweating it.