Wake up and smell the fascism
February 9, 2005 7:47 AM   Subscribe

"Wake up and smell the fascism" ??? Me-Fites seem to be concerned with fascism in America recently. We've secretly replaced their regular government with new Folger's Crystals! Let's see if they notice the difference!
posted by spock (74 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, hell. Hitler was voted in, too.
But that can't happen here....right?
posted by cows of industry at 7:53 AM on February 9, 2005

I googled the name of Dr. Lawrence Britt, in hopes of finding where he teaches political science. I came up with nothing. No one mentions in any article I came across exactly where he's based. Even if he is a real political scientist, and doesn't play one in the papers, it would be a good idea for journalists and online people to provide readers with the man's basic credentials.
posted by raysmj at 7:59 AM on February 9, 2005

Great link!
posted by lobstah at 8:08 AM on February 9, 2005

Fantastic info. I'll spend days ingesting this material.
posted by jackiemcghee at 8:13 AM on February 9, 2005

Someone named Lawrence Britt has a DV camera checked out of the USF library. Dunno if he's our guy, of course.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:15 AM on February 9, 2005

It's Laurence Britt.

It looks like he's a novelist, Jim, not a doctor.
posted by Floydd at 8:18 AM on February 9, 2005

More about Britt in this interview from Rochester's City magazine.

Looks like he's a retired professional who used to work for Xerox. His article "Fascism Anyone" originally appeared in Free Inquiry magazine, which does not give him the title of doctor. I'd bet that the attribution in the Old American Century link is an error.

But don't let that stop you from giving him the Ward Churchill treatment.
posted by eatitlive at 8:20 AM on February 9, 2005

We've secretly replaced their regular government with new Folger's Crystals! Let's see if they notice the difference!

Oh. Oh dear.
posted by DaShiv at 8:25 AM on February 9, 2005

discussed here and here.

spock your second link revealed the double post in the first.
posted by three blind mice at 8:26 AM on February 9, 2005

We've secretly replaced their regular government with new Folger's Crystals!

This is just so insidious. No more government secrecy! I demand transparency.
posted by effwerd at 8:27 AM on February 9, 2005

This is the first time I've seen something like this. The Scott McConnell piece from a couple of days ago was a great read, but it's nice to have something with what looks like pretty well-indexed support. Thanks for the link.

I do worry, though, that it might be just as easy for someone of a more neocon bent to compile a similarly comprehensive list of links about how totally awesome the Bushies are (of course, 90 percent would come from Drudge and NewsMax, but still...)
posted by hifiparasol at 8:28 AM on February 9, 2005

I recently gave a run down of the four separate articles by notable conservative and libertarian thinkers regarding the march of fascism here in America.

Sorry for the self link - but for anyone looking for these articles and info on the people behind them it might be worth a read.
posted by wfrgms at 8:29 AM on February 9, 2005

Laurence Britt isn't even a Brit! What a fraud. He claims now that he was 3/16 Welsh. Discount everything he says.
posted by Cassford at 8:30 AM on February 9, 2005


Thanks for the link. It's just what I needed this morning to wake me up. No Folgers for me!
posted by OmieWise at 8:34 AM on February 9, 2005

Again, most people tend to look at the pointing finger (who is Britt?) and not at the moon (fascism in the US). Yes, the 14 defining characteristics of fascism are being posted here every so often, maybe not with so many links to this administration's actions. But at the end:

... "Under the influence of politicians, masses of people tend to ascribe the responsibility of wars to those who wield power at any given time. In World War I it was the munitions industrialists; in World War II it was the psychopathic generals who were said to be guilty. This is passing the buck. The responsibility for wars falls solely upon the shoulders of these masses of people, for they have all the necessary means to avert war in their own hands. In part by their apathy, in part by their passivity, and in part actively, these same masses of people make possible the catastrophes under which they themselves suffer more than anyone else. To stress this guilt on the part of the masses of people, to hold them solely responsible, means to take them seriously. On the other hand, to commiserate the masses of people as victims, means to treat them as small, helpless children. The former is the attitude held by the genuine freedom-fighters; the latter is the attitude held by the power-thirsty politicians."...

Reich, Wilhelm, "The Mass Psychology of Fascism". (Farrar, Straux & Giroux; New York; 1980).

via talos' Histologion
posted by acrobat at 8:37 AM on February 9, 2005

Well, if America has gone fascist, it's certainly the nicest fascist empire I've ever heard of! Although Mussolini did make the trains run on time.

The real question is, if America is a fascist empire, does that make Europe a postmodern communist bloc?
posted by loquax at 8:38 AM on February 9, 2005

1. Triple post. (Though this time, a lot of supporting links are added.)

2. That "Old American Century" site would be nice if it had something thoughtful. The best thing I could find was this one page; the left could use a good response to the "New American Century" page. If there is one, I haven't seen it; the articles there are at least well-thought.
posted by koeselitz at 8:40 AM on February 9, 2005

I really didn't want to read this.
But I'm really glad I did.

Of course, the people who NEED to read it never will.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 8:40 AM on February 9, 2005

Oh, and

3. On preview, loquax is right. Conservatives are fascists like liberals are communists.
posted by koeselitz at 8:42 AM on February 9, 2005

Oh, well - here are the links & some excerpts for those who want to stay in MeFi... (self links bum me out.)

First up is Lew Rockwell's piece The Reality of Red-State Fascism.

"The 1994 revolution failed of course, in part because the anti-government opposition was intimidated into silence by the Oklahoma City bombing of April 1995. The establishment somehow managed to pin the violent act of an ex-military man on the right-wing libertarianism of the American bourgeoisie. It was said by every important public official at that time that to be anti-government was to give aid and support to militias, secessionists, and other domestic terrorists. It was a classic intimidation campaign but, combined with a GOP leadership that never had any intention to change DC, it worked to shut down the opposition."

Next is Justin Raimondo's January 3rd piece titled Today’s Conservatives Are Fascists.

"Surely "fascism with a 'democratic' face" sums up the Bushian "global democratic revolution" just as accurately and succinctly, although admittedly this fails to capture the full horror of what the "liberation" of Iraq actually entails. Perhaps "fascism with a democratic face – and bloodstained hands" is more precise."

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, goes so far as to slap the Brownshirt label on today’s Right in his piece End-Timers & Neo-Cons.

"Like Brownshirts, the new conservatives take personally any criticism of their leader and his policies. To be a critic is to be an enemy. I went overnight from being an object of conservative adulation to one of derision when I wrote that the US invasion of Iraq was a "strategic blunder.'"

The American Conservative writer Scott McConnell connects the dots of the previous articles together for us in his piece Hunger for Dictatorship.

"The last weeks of 2004 saw several explicit warnings from the antiwar Right about the coming of an American fascism."

No where's my decaf?
posted by wfrgms at 8:43 AM on February 9, 2005

Very interesting link. It's quite strange how I was thinking about America and facism today after reading this link on the BBC:

The Virginia state house has voted to outlaw the trend of wearing trousers so low that underwear hangs over the top.

What's happened to tolerance in America? Was it lost on 9/11 or has it been brewing up for a while?
posted by derbs at 8:51 AM on February 9, 2005

The real question is, if America is a fascist empire, does that make Europe a postmodern communist bloc?

Yes, but they are the nicest communist bloc I've ever heard of.
posted by effwerd at 8:52 AM on February 9, 2005

"What's happened to tolerance in America? Was it lost on 9/11 or has it been brewing up for a while?"

Good question. Wherever it went, I'd warrant that it's not helped by people screaming "fascist!" every five minutes.

... Or -cough- by triple posts.

posted by koeselitz at 8:54 AM on February 9, 2005

Yes, but they are the nicest communist bloc I've ever heard of.

posted by loquax at 8:55 AM on February 9, 2005

I think anyone who's read my posts for a while would know I'm no fan of the Bush administration, exactly. But I'm not a fan of the tendency to present information from individuals or spokespersons for organizations without telling us anything about the person's credentials or the organization with whom the interview subject or pundit is associated. This happens far too often these days. (I'm also a political science doctoral student, and was naturally curious as to where this guy taught the subject. Ends up he doesn't.)
posted by raysmj at 8:59 AM on February 9, 2005

At this point, I'm praying that fascism descends on rapid wing so that all these Chicken Little posts will come to a screeching halt. Of course, I suppose a certain faction would find a whole new set of spooky tales to tell one another 'round the campfire.
posted by gsh at 9:09 AM on February 9, 2005

What's happened to tolerance in America? Was it lost on 9/11 or has it been brewing up for a while?

Tolerance for low-rider jeans was lost when the Republicans took over the entire government. It goes back to the Moral Majority, through the Reagan years, Buchanan's culture war, Ellen's sitcom, the blue dress, Bush II's jesus speak, 9/11, 'moral values', red states, gay marriage, etc.

If people bitch long enough and loud enough, you eventually have to yell back and then that recognizes their opinions as valid.
posted by Arch Stanton at 9:13 AM on February 9, 2005

I suppose it helps rationalize keeping one's head in the sand by considering everything coming from a "certain faction".
posted by spock at 9:18 AM on February 9, 2005

posted by koeselitz at 9:22 AM on February 9, 2005

To say it's the people's fault strikes me as disingenuous. We elect leaders and create governments because that's the most efficient way to allocate our time. Just like free-market capitalism, democratic governments are subject to catastrophic corrections. The course those 'corrections' take is determined, by and large, by a handful of people or one person at the top.
posted by atchafalaya at 9:23 AM on February 9, 2005

Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1999.
posted by delmoi at 9:44 AM on February 9, 2005

How Hitler became a dictator is a less strident, more historically detailed and in many ways more blood-chilling account of Hitler's rise to power. Comparisons to current events are not necessary as they spring to mind unbidden.

(I don't recall how I came by that link; I have a shitload of tabs open from doing Google searches on fascism, so apologies if this is already linked to somewhere at oldamericancentury.org...)
posted by fleetmouse at 9:48 AM on February 9, 2005

(Without making any specific application to today's state of affairs) couldn't someone have characterized those with early doubts and concerns regarding the direction things were going (say: Germany, 1930s) as "Chicken Littles"??? Only time and history will be able to answer definitively whether the caution was indeed warranted (and, in that case, to condemn those who failed to listen/act).

Calling something "Chicken Little" does not make it so. Perhaps instead of blanket dismissal you would like to address specific differences of opinio you have over a particular news story being an example of the specific identifying mark of fascism.

The 14 points of Fascism seem to be well known. Anybody with an internet connection (doesn't have to be a PhD) can look at the news and make a case for how This Particular Story seems to fit one of those conditions. Anyone else is free to argue that it doesn't.
posted by spock at 9:53 AM on February 9, 2005

Perhaps I'm missing the point of this entirely, but it seems to me that several of these characteristics are not exclusively attributable to fascist regimes but to almost any historical government.
posted by baphomet at 9:54 AM on February 9, 2005

So, who's got a good definition of what fascism actually means? I get that it's really bad. I'm just not sure that's enough to make it a useful concept.

As I understand it, it comes from the fascis, a symbolic bundle of sticks, representing (among other things) strength in uniformity. Isn't that on our money? Isn't "unity" a nice, happy concept, beloved of reggae fans and peace punx the world over?

So is "united we stand, divided we fall" a statement of benign fascism?

Smiting by Languagehat for this egregious application of historical meanings and semiotics to current usage in 10...9...8...7....
posted by freebird at 9:55 AM on February 9, 2005

I agree with freebird. There's a lot of different ways to define fascism, although I agree with many of the elements that "Dr. Lawrence Britt" proposes.

That said: The author at "Old American Century" piles on whatever facts support each factor. Without any sense of balance or proportion. So people put "Support Our Troops" magnets on their cars, or wear "Shock and Awe" t-shirts-- is that credible evidence of a fascist state?

Sure, the current regime arguably has many elements of fascism. But the information presented here is too slanted to be credible.
posted by Scooter at 10:04 AM on February 9, 2005

I liked this nice Flash animation of Ben Cohen (of Ben & Jerry's) using Oreos to explain how we could rebuild our schools, eliminate our need for Mideast oil, end world hunger, provide universal health care for children, and fully fund the Head Start program by reducing our defense spending by 12% (which would still leave us outspending our potential enemies by at least five to one). Isn't it pretty to think so?
posted by kirkaracha at 10:08 AM on February 9, 2005

Let's assume for the sake of argument that it is the intention of the current administration to create a fascist state that lasts well beyond the current president's term of office. Let's also assume that there is broad agreement that for the US to adopt fascism would be a bad thing, and further assume that it is easier/better/faster to attempt to pre-empt the formation of a fascist state than it is to attempt to revert a fascist state once its formation is complete.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that all those things were true. If some people started to notice or even suspect that the current administration were trying to create a fascist state, how best should they attempt to counter it?

In other words, is it possible to take a course of action that would bring attention to the perceived threat, with the intention of preventing it from reaching fruition, without it immediately becoming a partisan shoutfest?

In the absence of an outright admission from the administration, what manner of "evidence" would someone need to cite in order to convince the doubters? What type of credentials would that person need? What would it take to divorce the very real concern of honest, concerned people from the stigma of partisanship?

loquax, koeselitz, gsh - I'm curious to hear your viewpoints especially - what would it take, and how should it be presented such that you might listen to the arguments, consider them on their own merits, and perhaps come to the same conclusion?
posted by kcds at 10:12 AM on February 9, 2005

Perhaps I'm missing the point of this entirely, but it seems to me that several of these characteristics are not exclusively attributable to fascist regimes but to almost any historical government.

I took the point to be that it's not necessary for any of the characteristics to be attributable excusively to fascist regimes, but that the more of them you can identify with a state, the greater the likelihood that the state is a fascist one.

freebird also raises the very valid question of a working definition of the term "fascism" - personally, I like the Wikipedia definition, but YMMV.

It also occurs to me that I would hate to spend a bunch of time and energy arguing about whether the administration is pursuing a course of fascism when in fact the term we should be arguing about is totalitarianism ...
posted by kcds at 10:29 AM on February 9, 2005

That seems reasonable.
posted by baphomet at 10:38 AM on February 9, 2005

A person doesn't need "credentials--" at least if good arguments are made. I think the reason raysmj pointed out the credentials thing was because this whole piece seems to rely on the fellow's credentials. In fact, it seems to me like a rather big extension of the ad hominem argument typified by the "Hitler was a vegetarian, too" kind of thing. baphomat said it really well above: Nationalism? Religion? Militarism? These are characteristics of nearly every government that's ever existed, and so relatively defined as to be applicable to any that might crop up.

A fascist state is a real thing, with definite characteristics. If you wanted to argue that this government is fascist, you'd have to show historical precedents; you'd have to show, very carefully, the conditions and situations that are similar between now and then.

But that would really be counterproductive. An understanding of history may be necessary, but every situation is different; it'd be more to the point if you showed why current developments are bad rather than comparing them to old ones.

The PNAC people aren't fascists in any sense. A cursory reading of their stuff reveals that they're believers in a pretty classic form of military democratic republic that's been in vogue for practically the last four hundred years. I don't believe their beliefs would even allow them to question democracy; and even when you don't understand your knee-jerk belief in freedom, it's still a belief in freedom.

On preview: I don't think it's even about "terms." Those are just names, and you use them because all of us think they're ugly. The Republicans think they're not those things; you think they are. You should spend your time, then, explaining to Republicans why what they're doing is against their own principles-- the principles that lead them to hate the words "totalitarian" and "fascist"-- rather than calling them names.
posted by koeselitz at 10:39 AM on February 9, 2005

If an argument's core is that Fascism is a-comin' because Bush is president, I'm both unwilling and unable to consider them on any merits whatsoever except, perhaps, an intriguing look into the genesis of paranoia born of a need to be in a constant excitable state. I recognize it because in my wayward youth, I felt it. The thrill of thinking that a battle up against the barricades was nigh was intoxicating. I take neither the argument nor its adherents seriously.
posted by gsh at 10:39 AM on February 9, 2005

From How Hitler became dictator: Because they knew what government officials have known throughout history — that during extreme national emergencies, people are most scared and thus much more willing to surrender their liberties in return for “security.” And that’s exactly what happened during the Reichstag terrorist crisis.

Suspending civil liberties
The day after the fire, Hitler persuaded President Hindenburg to issue a decree entitled, “For the Protection of the People and the State.” Justified as a “defensive measure against Communist acts of violence endangering the state,” the decree suspended the constitutional guarantees pertaining to civil liberties:

Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications; and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

The U.S. now has: free speech "zoning" (keeping people away from the action); a media in bed with the right, which needs no censoring, they do it themselves; relaxations on warrants, phone-tapping, indefinite incarceration. We are already well on are merry way.

Via fleetmouse's link, thanks.
posted by uni verse at 10:41 AM on February 9, 2005

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.

Do you really think this is true? I mean, it would be nice if the answer to fascism were as simple as "Strenghten the unions," but something tells me this isn't the case.
posted by afroblanca at 10:44 AM on February 9, 2005

This is possibly more likely to be true in countries where "labor" is an actual political movement rather than just a bunch of people engaged in collective bargaining with their employers.
posted by kindall at 10:59 AM on February 9, 2005

kcds - I've written a few responses now, and trashed them. It's a tricky question you ask. In terms of the link, my feeling is that objectively, it's not very useful and only marginally more interesting than a USA Today infographic. I'd say the same thing about any similar list no matter what the slant or point. It's just too facile to call the US a totalitarian state or on the road to fascism on the basis of some arbitrary data points and a few links. It smacks of a Cosmo quiz trying to tell you your boyfriend is cheating on you.

Fascism (or Communism, or pretty much any -ism) is in the eye of the beholder. If you are so inclined, you can make the argument that any state is fascist without having to cite precedent so long as you own political views support that hypothesis, and you'd be right because of your starting point. Given that, the only meaningful discussion that I can have with someone regarding the relative fascist nature of a state is someone who is very close to me in terms of their political beliefs.

So for someone on the left side of things, Chomsky or this Britt person can warn of fascism and be taken seriously. Conversely for someone on the right, it would take, say, a Kissinger or a Krauthammer to do it. I'll say that if and when the Economist, or the New Republic, or Foreign Policy runs a lead along the lines of "Fascist America?" I'll pay attention. Until then I'll dismiss such talk as wild speculation and hysteria on a political spectrum foreign to me. The same way a left-leaning person dismisses talk of communism and soviet canuckistan on Fox News.
posted by loquax at 11:00 AM on February 9, 2005

afroblanca: Alot of presidents / leaders have had hatred for unions, which expose their business relationships, from Hitler to Thatcher to Bush. Unions' power is in their experience in fighting business and drawing hordes of people together, unfortunately both of which has waned. The power of marches and real media coverage, however, are threats to government.
posted by uni verse at 11:03 AM on February 9, 2005

kcds, the difference is that I don't think the "fascist impulse," if you want to call it that, is coming from the administration itself. I think it's coming from what some writers, including Paul Craig Roberts, have called "new conservatives."

Call it the culture of intimidation, and you're now seeing it in full flower with the Ward Churchill thing: it is, first, the dissemination of the information and the talking points via an interconnected and sophisticated media network; a coordinated response which almost always includes as many threats of physical violence as attempts to reason with the dissenter; the outrage machine, then, becomes the manner by which free speech might be suppressed. Not because the administration itself is passing any sedition laws, but because the new conservatives have taken it upon themselves to intimidate the likes of Churchill, to demand that he be fired - among other things.

And when those who dare dissent are all shouted down in this manner, their livelihoods threatened, is there any doubt that free speech as we have known it in this country is abrogated? And the new conservatives will say, hey, the government didn't have anything to do with it; words have consequences. But, of course, it is they who have campaigned for the consequences, they who have made the new rules and the punishments and they who will see to it they are enforced.

It comes from the ground up, not the top down. And this administration has used this fanatacism when politically necessary; they may not fully buy into, it, or at least I hope not. But the sentiment exists, the sentiment existed prior to 9/11; but the events of that day, the resentment and seething hatred, have empowered it, and empowered them.
posted by kgasmart at 11:36 AM on February 9, 2005

The real question is, if America is a fascist empire, does that make Europe a postmodern communist bloc?

Do you know what 'postmodern' actualy entails?
posted by delmoi at 11:38 AM on February 9, 2005

Perhaps I'm missing the point of this entirely, but it seems to me that several of these characteristics are not exclusively attributable to fascist regimes but to almost any historical government.

True enough. A fever is a symptom in countless maladies, too. But a combination of symptoms makes a more accurate diagnosis far more likely. The point you may be missing is: Are we seeing all 14 symptoms at the same time in the U.S. now? The more symptoms that fit, the harder it becomes to explain away. To ignore a potential diagnosis because we don't like the name of the disease is foolishness.
posted by spock at 11:45 AM on February 9, 2005

Smiting by Languagehat for this egregious application of historical meanings and semiotics to current usage in 10...9...8...7....

Nah, I'm too bummed out by the triple post and the idiocy about "Hitler was voted in" to bother. The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.
posted by languagehat at 11:47 AM on February 9, 2005

...not a fan of the tendency to present information from individuals or spokespersons for organizations without telling us anything about the person's credentials...

This is a compilation of links to sites like BBC, ABC, etc... Who cares who compiled them?

Great post spock. Double, triple or not.
posted by LouReedsSon at 11:50 AM on February 9, 2005

Do you know what 'postmodern' actualy entails?

delmoi: Absolutely I do and that is exactly why I used the term, albeit half-jokingly.
posted by loquax at 12:01 PM on February 9, 2005

I don't blame what I see as fascist tendencies in the US on Bush. I've been worried since Reagan. And yes, I include Clinton. Hell, I thought Cops (the TV show) was a bad sign. But it's not like I go around with my hair on fire either so I don't see any harm in worrying for the sake of some nihilistic amusement. The recent Bush administration hasn't done anything to make me feel we might avoid this slide any time soon but certainly we're not there yet. MetaFilter would not exist were we living under a facist regime. Nonetheless, I don't blame anyone for keeping a close eye on the government. I think the most salient argument in this thread is the MeTa issue but as long as we're here...
posted by effwerd at 12:07 PM on February 9, 2005

Okay, here's a suggestion: if you want to argue that the seeds of Fascism are indeed flowering, citing the drubbing of a craven liar--Ward Churchill--as a sign of the coming thunder of jackboots is a very bad way to begin. It shows that you're not paying attention to the details of the story. If CU decides to can Churchill (and on the grounds of scholarship and ethics, the action would be justified) it would be solely because they want to avoid a messy PR battle. Choosing Churchill as your martyr further demeans your argument.
posted by gsh at 12:14 PM on February 9, 2005

Nah, I'm too bummed out by the triple post and the idiocy about "Hitler was voted in" to bother.

Indeed. Though I was hoping for a rousing discussion of the actual meaning of the word that everyone seems to fling around without defining, because that to me is much more interesting.

I agree about not learning from history - it seems to me that people really don't get that there are aspects of fascism that are very appealing, and fit very nicely with political views we all accept as valid and even progressive.
posted by freebird at 12:16 PM on February 9, 2005

effwerd: I don't like this article, particularly. It wouldn't pass muster in a real political science course, even at the undergraduate level. Even so I do fear what's going on with the U.S. right now. I too realize things have been getting worse over time. Our government is, however, getting out of control, and the Iraq invasion was, I fear, the start of some new dark chapter. You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to think so. You just have to keep up with the stories of the day, and have a sound understanding of the Bill of Rights and major civil liberties cases related to those amendments.

A historian once told a class of mine that history doesn't repeat itself, though. It echoes instead.
posted by raysmj at 12:46 PM on February 9, 2005

Though I was hoping for a rousing discussion of the actual meaning of the word that everyone seems to fling around without defining

This may be one of those words that has been left without any usable meaning -- all it's good for is generalized abuse. If you're right-wing, you call people commies; if you're a leftie, you call 'em fascists. The difference is that communism, however discredited, is an international movement with a richly documented history, basic texts, and reams of theory, so it's possible to have a meaningful discussion about it; fascism is more like imagism in that it was invented by one person in one set of circumstances, then metamorphosed as the circumstances changed and the number of people using it grew, with no central coordination -- there was no Fascist International to crack the whip over the Hungarians and Romanians and make sure they were following Mussolini's party line. I don't see why there's any need to slap the label on what Bush & Co. are up to; isn't it frightening enough anyway? If people don't care about the Bill of Rights being dismantled, they're not going to be energized by the Fourteen Points of Fascism.
posted by languagehat at 12:47 PM on February 9, 2005

if you want to argue that the seeds of Fascism are indeed flowering, citing the drubbing of a craven liar--Ward Churchill--as a sign of the coming thunder of jackboots is a very bad way to begin.

Not at all - because the "controversy" over Churchill's three-year-old remarks was entirely ginned up and is a perfect example of how nascent fascism already is working in this country.

Step one: Identify someone whose message is clearly out at the fringe, but do so in a manner that suggests all people of this political stripe agree with the extreme sentiments; use the witch hunt as an opportunity to smear everyone on the other side of the fence.

Step two: Orchestrate a campaign to punish the dissenter for his or her views; demand that he or she be fired - again, in this case, based on something written more than three years ago - and continually assert that "words have consequences," even while you are trying to manufacture those consequences.

Step three: Rinse and repeat.

This is how you stamp out free speech in this country - not by prohibiting it at the governmental level, but by making sure that those who exercise it face such "consequences."

Remember Rockwell's famous painting? Now imagine that guy going home, having a brick through his window (or in Churchill's case, his truck vandalized) and a phone call from his employer saying his services are no longer needed because he opened his mouth.

You don't need sedition laws in such an atmosphere; free speech can be entirely marginalized without it, and then nascent fascists can say, "The government isn't doing it, it isn't fascism!" - all the while, they are making the rules, and they are enforcing them as well.

Let's not make the mistake of thinking that when/if fascism comes to this country, it will come with brown shirts and armbands. As Huey Long said, it will march under the stars and stripes, and probably the cross, too.
posted by kgasmart at 12:52 PM on February 9, 2005

Numbers 4, 6 & 7 all in one move. Nice one, Pentagon.
posted by Spacelegoman at 12:54 PM on February 9, 2005

This may be one of those words that has been left without any usable meaning

Yes, I guess that's really my point (I think loquax made it as well). So it's unclear to me what can be accomplished by arguing about whether the US is becoming fascist.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I do think this is a place where thinking about the roots of a word can be edifying. I think you would say, and I would agree, that whatever meaning "fascism" may have had in the past is irrelevant to its current usage. So thinking about the symbolism of the "fascis" doesn't directly pertain to this sort of debate, inasmuch as noone else is thinking about it that way.

However - if the word does have that root, I think it says some very interesting things. It says that nice concepts like "united we stand" can lead to some bad concepts, and that totalitarian regimes don't always come out of nowhere or from "bad people". It adds some complex semiotic flavor to the symbolism we take for granted on (for example) our currency. And so forth.

So while I would completely agree that the latin word "fascis" has no relation to the English word "fascism" in terms of understanding current usage, there is some interesting stuff about political philosophy and theory to be gained by examining the historical relation between the two.
posted by freebird at 1:25 PM on February 9, 2005

No argument from me, raysmj. Bush does not bode well in any respect. And a conspiracy is not required for a long string of presidents pursuing the prevailing trends in foreign and domestic policy. The reactions of the Bush administration to 911 are consistent with these trends and given the severity of the circumstance. This doesn't make it any less scary, for sure.

But I can also understand the idea that any cries that fascism is alive and well in America is bordering on hyperbole. I think the social manifestations that have been brought up to show that it is already actively in control are nothing more than suspicions, not evidence. We are still at a point when we should hold politicians to their word, which is why I so despise this administration. I am more inclined to take them at their word and deem them incompetent rather than imply some nefarious plot. For now.

I think if we should focus on anything it should be plain old corruption.

Maybe if we replace the word "fascism" with "fashizzlism" the ongoing debate might get a little more interesting ;).
posted by effwerd at 1:32 PM on February 9, 2005

effwerd: Taking people overseas - including Canadian citizens, for gosh sakes - and having them tortured is not incompetence. Not allowing people being detained without charge to have attorneys present at arraignment-style hearings regarding their requests to have their detainment challenged (as the Supreme Court suggested many would have the right to do - yet only three out of 500 were allowed to do, ultimately) is not incompetence. It's done by design, and is absolutely corrupt. And I finally joined the ACLU after reading about it.
posted by raysmj at 1:47 PM on February 9, 2005

Let's not make the mistake of thinking that when/if fascism comes to this country, it will come with brown shirts and armbands. As Huey Long said, it will march under the stars and stripes, and probably the cross, too.

As obvious as this may seem, I think this is actually a pretty important point. Germans in the 30s weren't marching around thinking, yay, we're evil! They were just being patriotic and proud. What brings 'fascism' to mind, I guess, is the culture of fear, the centrality of the military, and the unwavering patriotism. Sure, lots of governments have had these things. But as a modern, educated democracy, we should be able to get beyond them.

I agree the word choice is difficult, and it does become reminiscent of all the "social security=communism" type claims, so I also would prefer other words... but it still feels as if we are moving in a bad direction. I will say, though, that it may just be 'stylistic' or something. I remember feeling this way as a kid under Reagan, and some people consider him a great president. I do not particularly remember feeling this way under Bush I or Clinton.

In all likelihood, we'll vote in someone else in a few years, and some people will look back over bush II as the greatest years, and others (like me) will feel relieved that it's over, and hope we can rebuild... the same way different folks look back over the reagan years. But that still doesn't relieve the uneasiness I feel now (that perhaps later it will be over-)
posted by mdn at 3:21 PM on February 9, 2005

raysmj: I don't see how this is particularly new except for degree. The foundations of these tactics aren't rooted in the current administration. And I wasn't saying such behavior is merely incompetence exclusive of all other evaluations, emotional or otherwise. I was saying given the trends toward fascist behaviors over the past decades, Bush seems to be following the curve (adjusted for 911) as expected. Either as an implementor of some grand fascist plot or a simple public servant gone awry, given all that is the office of POTUS, he is, by far, best characterized as incompetent. I see the reprehensible tactics you mention as merely a part of the office. It's been there for some time now. Yeah it's corrupt government and something we should be working to fix but I don't think it's so much a unique sign of fascism.
posted by effwerd at 3:25 PM on February 9, 2005

Maybe if we replace the word "fascism" with "fashizzlism" the ongoing debate might get a little more interesting ;)

Seems many people replaced it with "facism" a while ago. Maybe it's sort of racist fascism?
posted by kcds at 3:28 PM on February 9, 2005

I have a feeling, by the way, that fascism might not be the thing to fear. When "something bad" happens to the United States, it will be new and different, not the same thing that happened fifty years ago and that every one of us hates now. There are many evils that could occur; fascism would be the most obvious, and therefore the most unlikely, I think. To me, at the moment, the two most likely things are either anarchy or capitalist oligarchy.

Also, people are so afraid of fascism that they take the smallest things that the fascists did and demonise them. For example, a certain amount of militarism is necessary for the survival of every government, large or small; but now, a single brass button or shiny gun seems to some people to be an omen of Hitlerism. The same goes for "religious sentiment" and "nationalism" and "anti-modernism."
posted by koeselitz at 3:34 PM on February 9, 2005

Maybe if we replace the word "fascism" with "fashizzlism" the ongoing debate might get a little more interesting ;)

Seems many people replaced it with "facism" a while ago. Maybe it's sort of racist fascism?

Eh? I hope I didn't seem racist with my weak attempt at humor (based on the recent Gizoogle post).
posted by effwerd at 3:54 PM on February 9, 2005

I think the Western movements (and they are movements: they have no structure, only direction) described as fascist should actually be referred to as corporatist. Despite the fact that fascism in WW2 Italy was born under the banner of corporatism, somehow the word and the idea have never really been discredited in the same way that fascism has: Dreadlocked radicals do not scream 'corporatist!' across the barricades.

Corporatism, it has been pointed out many times, is experiencing a resurgence not only in that politics described as being of the 'right', but also that described as being of the 'left' (the Australian Labor Prime Minister in the 1980s, Bob Hawke, used a corporatist approach). The end is always the same: to rob people of their democratic voice and turn that power over to various bodies, groups, guilds, corporations, what-have-you. These bodies control the political agenda: they are the only entities capable of sticking their issues on the agenda and keeping them there.

On the face of it, the idea seems benign; a necessary streamlining of the democratic process in a society encumbered by too many people, too many special interests, too much talking. It's just a way of making things more efficient and tidy, right? It is, however, in the process of streamlining democracy right out of existence.

Oh sure, you'll still be able to vote. But that's all you'll be able to do. And your vote will have about as much meaning, individually or collectively, as a poll conducted in the street. To those to whom democratic involvement begins and ends with marking a ballot every few years, there really is nothing the matter.
posted by Ritchie at 4:33 AM on February 10, 2005

Good points on corporation/business influence. Seems to me that this is simply a corollary to Point 4 (Supremacy of the Military). There can be little argument that the military = "Big Business". So perhaps we should change Point 4 to: Supremacy of the Military/Big Business.

The result is still the same.
posted by spock at 7:48 AM on February 10, 2005

a very telling roundup report on the recent CPAC Conference
Is there enough going on to make you nervous yet? The Vice President of the United States was the keynote speaker at a conference where other speakers called for "a new McCarthyism" to bring "terror" to intellectuals, saying "let's oppress them [liberals]," and "the entire Harvard faculty" are "traitors." A Congressman said, "America's Operation Iraqi Freedom is still producing shock and awe, this time among the blame-America-first crowd." Then he said, "We continue to discover biological and chemical weapons and facilities to make them inside Iraq."
Meanwhile, right-wing commentators talk about killing American journalists, their premier blogs talk about former president Carter as being on the side of the enemy and leftists have "seamlessly taken up the cause of Islamic fascism". I have provided only a few examples.
When you hear threatening talk like this, in the company of the country's leadership, you know that whatever comes next isn't going to be pleasant.
(emphasis mine)
posted by amberglow at 5:14 PM on February 22, 2005

Well, at least the intro to the post ranks in the upper percentile of posts. LOL.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:17 PM on February 22, 2005

Wake up and smell the truisms.....YAWN....
posted by ParisParamus at 5:33 PM on February 22, 2005

oh, really? how so?
posted by amberglow at 5:35 PM on February 22, 2005

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