California Über Alles
Former California Governor Jerry Brown, running for the position again after 27 years out of power, has recently compared his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. While this kind of over-the-top accusation is not uncommon in American politics, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. Not because of the absurdity of the charge, but because it lacked a certain rhetorical flourish.
In the past, Brown’s opponents have played the Hitler card against him much more effectively. In one of the most famous songs in punk rock history, The Dead Kennedys’ “California Über Alles,” the band, assuming the then governor’s voice, warned that Brown planned to “be Furher one day.”
In the same song, however, the band maintained that Brown represented a new breed of fascist that would foster a merger between totalitarian methods and the consumer values of new age yuppies. Lead singer Jello Biafara warned that,
Zen fascists will control you
You will jog for the master race
And always wear the happy face
While the song’s references to the Fuhrer are as absurd as Brown’s charges against Whitman, at least the band managed to find a more creative (and enduring) use for the fascist comparison, as well mock some of the new age nonsense and hip capitalism then making its way into California politics.
Somewhere in the middle of all these accusations of crypto-fascism, of course, is the fact that the father of the state’s current Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was actually a member of the Nazi Party and the S.S. That said, the governator had the Simon Wiesenthal Center research his father’s wartime record, which fortunately, came up with no evidence that he committed any atrocities.
Anyway, take it away Dead Kennedys: