How'd You Like The Show, Mrs. Lincoln?

Banner (above and below left) from the mini-series "Amerika.'

Bund Program, '39.

“When Fascism comes to America, it will (be in the name of/come under the guise of/be called) anti-Fascism!” said Huey Long, the populist governor of and senator from Louisiana, in 1935. He is also to have said that Fascism will come wrapped in an American flag. That could also mean, an American President.

Past American presidents are always being invoked in the name of patriotism. George Washington was the symbol of the Nazi German American Bund prior to World War II along with other national and mythic heroic manifestations (as well as using the Swastika).

Bund Rally in NYC.

At the tail end of the Reagan eighties an ABC mini-series, Amerika, starring Kris Kristofferson, posited a Soviet occupation of USA (not unlike Red Dawn, Starring Patrick Swayze). The former United States of America had been broken up into ten or so “administrative regions,” groupings of states that would become separate countries (i.e., California and Nevada comprised the “California Special District”; Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia comprised “Appalachia”). The design of the flags for these regions was a dark blue field with a centered golden-yellow map of the states in the region with the name of the region towards the bottom in gold letters. There were also ceremonial flags depicting pictures of Lincoln and Lenin (above), featured in a “Lincoln Week” parade in Omaha, Nebraska – shades of heroic realism.

Today, Glenn Beck’s mass “Restoring Honor” rally in the Washington Mall at the site of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is awash with Abe Lincoln. From the podium on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the rally poster of the famous Lincoln statue (below), it is all-Lincoln all-the-time.

The symbols of American patriotism rarely change. Presidents are effective ready-made symbols for one side or the other of the political spectrum too. But one does need a guidebook to keep straight who is using what symbol and when.

Lincoln hero of the nation, c.1860s.

Hero of the Tea Party, 2010.

6 thoughts on “How'd You Like The Show, Mrs. Lincoln?

  1. maureen mchale

    Thanks for sharing the parallels with previous fascist movements. Not being aware of the 1930’s Bund program is a reflection of my history classes that never even made it to WWI.
    Seeing Lincoln’s memorial in the Tea Party poster, demonstrates the power of the visual with words to make connections that don’t necessarily make sense. As we designers/advertisers have always known, we can create powerful messages simply. Or simple messages from the powerful.

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  3. francis levy

    this is particularly interesting from the science fiction/futurist point of view too. When you deal with parallel universes and altenative worlds such as Phillip K Dick does in Man in a High Castle, you have these odd configurations of fascist ideology in the American setting. it’s different than the Glenn Beck phenomenon, Essentially it’s the familiar being used as a mask. Thanks for letting me see this. love F