What is fascism?
One of the most over-used descriptions of the antithetical political ideology you happen to hate…left of right. But hear me out.
Besides being that political pejorative that people link together with Socialist, Communist, Hitler, and every other argument losing insult – it’s the far right (erroneously attributed to the left for socialist overlap) ideological view of conservative populists who believe strongly in the moral authority of the white race to remain firmly at the top of societal echelons. Fascists espouse national unity and pride – patriotism and a fundamental religious attitude that invokes God and the State as all but equal in their level of importance. It’s the fusion of nationalist pride with racial superiority that makes fascism what it is. And there is a worrying amount of this intoxicating ideology spreading throughout the internet.
The term is often mis-used by conservatives who don’t know the diametric differences between Communism and Fascism as ideologies, nor what an ideology really is, but they take particular umbrage with the definition according to multiple sources. There are still those out there that attempt to do a little historical revisionism and swear Nazis were left wing. To me this rings of a certain level of insecurity that people on the far right (who espouse many overlapping neo-Nazi values) tend to take particular umbrage with. The fact is that every major academic, historian and person alive today that fought fascists, understand that hyper chauvinist, patriotic, and religious aspects of fascism attract those on the far right of the spectrum. There is no escaping it. So when I say, the “Alt-Right are Nazis” I mean, they are literally Nazis.
“But the Nazis were the national socialist party. So they must have been left wing!” When I hear people repeat this moldy chestnut, I shake my head, because reading comprehension is escaping them. Let me put it out there: NATIONAL socialist. NATIONAL. That’s the key part. Moving on.
Besides history, today I am ranting about the United States and how the fringe right has become the norm and how America is flirting with Fascism.
Of course, it’s not just the United States – several places in the world have begun a wild swing to the right on social issues in many nations. The UK, Italy, France, even Germany now. It seems the lessons of WWII are far enough removed from the national consciousness that people are once more okay with the idea of nationalism and the implicit authoritarianism that goes along with it. One could likely attribute this shift in national discourse to the influx of outsiders following the Syrian civil war and the rise of Islamic Fundamentalists inspiring terrorists abroad to commit atrocities on civilians in the West. To me, these Middle Eastern followers of the Shia faith are the worst dregs of humanity ever shat forth. But being that this war is an ideological one – we cannot combat them with drone strikes or surgical troops and hope to see the end of their movement in our lifetime. But that’s for another blog post. Today is merely about Fascism – of which they also evoke.
So let’s talk about a brief history. Perhaps our descent into fascism has been going on since the 1980s/90s with the advent of white nationalists (neo-Nazis from here out) flocking to rural areas of the country to escape what they saw as the corrupt cities contributing to the moral decay of our nation. A so called, “White Genocide” was being perpetrated on Americans and along with the usual amount of heavy handed anti-Semitism, these people would go on to radicalize and endlessly repeat the mantra of mistrust in the government after Ruby Ridge and Waco.
Our courtship with Fascism seemed to start in 2001 after our own major “terrorist” attacks.
Bush committed 9/11. The USA plunged into a state of constant warfare and saw the rise of neo-conservative xenophobia to the point where it rests today. It came to a head when a man with a Muslim sounding name assumed the office of President and continued the same post 9/11 Bush era doctrine of continual warfare.
Unbeknownst to the brightest of the ideologues in this conservative camp, Obama made the world’s worst socialist. In truth, he was further from being a Marxist than Ronald Reagan – but this truth harms the fragile cognitive ability of most raving conservatives and is subsequently left on the table – out of reach of their ability to comprehend. The mere perception of Obama as a socialist dictatorial commander in chief (supporting gay marriage and health care reform…oh noes!) is all that was needed to distort and gaslight the throng of radicals lining up to drink from the same bullshit trough being excreted by congressional Republicans (Tan Man / Turtle Throat Pouch) and Far Right Think Tanks like the Heritage foundation & Koch Bros.
It’s no surprise that Republicans have done everything they can to re-brand themselves in a meaningful way since 2004 – it’s just unfortunate that the re-branding from “old rich white people” & “southern ignorant sister-fucker” has turned into Literal Nazis with memes and Alt-Facts. This is the platform of the so-called Alt-Right…peaceful ethnic cleansing and separation to ensure the dominance of white English speaking peoples. I’ve not seen anything else that has yet led me to believe otherwise and if anything this view has been reaffirmed. The goal is pretty clearly espoused on every major right leaning twitter/youtube page that continues to signal boost the Neo-Nazi ideology.
A recent study confirms that Republican men think it is better to be white than a woman or a minority right now. Their whiteness and masculinity has been lowered to what everyone else would call “equal” and that is a huge part of the conservative stupidity now engulfing the nation.
Hitler’s propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, supposedly said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie.”
Whether he actually said it or not is irrelevant – but the strategy of repetition and exposure in advertising is why demand for products exists and why consumers, consume. Advertising works. The dark side of advertising is called “propaganda” and it also works because humans are predisposed to respond positively to it.
The unfortunate truth is that “advertising” works and “propaganda” is just advertising. Let that sink in. Negative advertising is propaganda. Whether a meme, commercial or YouTube video — it’s all the same thing. It’s a message meant to create an emotional response in you that will adjust your opinion to the message senders intended line of thought. In this case, advertising will generate an actionable response, but in political rhetoric, the aim is less coherent and merely meant to make you more receptive to a particular ideology. In this case, the hate and fear response is preyed upon to mold your brain into accepting the authority of militarized police forces shooting citizens or Trump. He can thereby act with impunity and can avoid accountability for those actions…as we’ve seen with his obstruction of justice. It is really ingenious and, of course, useful for people who are naturally conservative, or, born with the innate negativity bias found in a large portion of rural Americans. They are much more susceptible to these innate prejudices because of their ideological slant with regard to conformity and traditionalism.
Small digression: Why is it then, that the very people who mistrust the government, value individual liberty, freedom and the stockpiling of arms, cheer at seeing other Americans subjugated under an oppressive system? Why do “they” (Conservatives, generally, Neo-Nazis more so) celebrate a militarized police force that carries out extrajudicial slayings of citizens? I’m really curious about this, because it’s an embarrassing hypocrisy for the right…because I fear the presumption is, total adherence to the law, and the only reason you would be shot is if you were guilty of something. Especially if you are not white. This paradoxical line of thinking has confounded me more than anything the last few years, in my quest to understand the conservative brain.
Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, or lack of access to health care based on income or social status.
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, free-thinkers, intellectuals, and on and on. Anyone who can be made into an “other.”
4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized, dissension and criticism of this institution is not.
5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by
the government over the masses.
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be ridiculed, threatened, censored or physically harmed. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations. Even though we haven’t quite gotten there, the nation employs militarized police that started with the Patriot Act.
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
Know what to look for when you are bombarded with media at every stage of your life during the day. Here’s some good examples of dog whistles.
EDIT: In the last couple days, FBI Director Comey released a memo stating that Trump intended the jailing of journalists who had published sensitive information. Despite being completely antithetical to everything for which we value in the USA, Trump asserts the desire to control the media which would give him yet another check mark in our fascist analysis.
But anyway, suppose for the sake of argument that Trump embraces the basic tenants of fascism – all he intends to do is rebuild America and put people back to work. (We’ll forego the arguments of the many social policy issues he disagrees with). Is it all just a slippery slope?
In a way – yes – but there’s more to it than that. When you boil this down – it has nothing to do with the nation embracing socialist economic practices or expanding the economy and industry in the name of free market capitalism. It has everything to do with the end of polite rhetorical discourse and our inexorable march towards authoritarianism…paradoxically coupled with the notion of preserved individual freedom, espoused by conservatives.
You see, when Joe Blow says he wants to maintain his freedom, he’s usually referring to guns. Paradoxically, every other freedom could be slowly eroded or the freedoms of his other fellow Americans could be curtailed, but that doesn’t matter. So long as he is not personally affected — it is fine. This is the freedom that the far right wishes to ensure.
Europe flirted with fascism during the workers rebellions and rise of Communism in the wake of the industrial revolution and it didn’t turn out well for them. After they had obliterated themselves along ideological lines, the new American military industrial complex gave way to the modern American Empire that we now have – where an oligarchy of rich older people rule nearly unopposed through gerrymandered districts (both Republican and Democrat).
The problem is that despite a large younger population embracing more socially accepting values, the old generation of more staunchly conservative types have maintained their grip on nation. From an outsiders point of view, this is merely about outcomes. The United States cannot act unilaterally to halt the growth of multiculturalism and globalism. We also cannot maintain a constant state of hyper-militarized preparedness in an effort to control our empire and puppets abroad, forever. (See Roman Empire, British Empire, Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungarian Empire, Nazi Germany, Napoleonic France, Japanese Empire, USSR, etc, etc.) In every instance – the states lost as people began to suffer as a result of the totalitarian control exerted by the few clinging to power.
As power (wealth) is continually consolidated, our own citizens will begin to suffer. We’ve been heading for an ideological schism that started with the Civil War and is approaching critical mass. One where secularism and social acceptance fight against the trappings of an old faith based system of negativity biased fools purporting to be patriots.
My hope is that we can avoid it all together and find a way into an apolitical system of post-scarcity and technological abundance. But it will take a lot on the part of people currently raising a literal Nazi salute to Herr Trump to come around to this idea. For them, the idea of securing borders and abandoning the world to its fate is the only way…I disagree…but again, later post.
I predict that Trump will have to institute a major conflict in the world somewhere in order to expedite his plans of sustained economic growth – however – I am afraid that as we race to the bottom to find another conflict to involve ourselves in – we risk entering a nuclear age of complete annihilation. So – those are the stakes. But nevertheless you heard it here first. War is coming. I don’t know when or who with exactly, but it will come.