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19 December 2011

Pattern: Fascism?

In 2003, Lawrence W. Britt wrote an article for Free Inquiry magazine that is available at Old American Century, titled Fascism Anyone?  It featured fourteen threads that were common to seven fascist regimes.  In reading this, I can't help notice parallels to what the Republican Party is becoming.  Let's explore them.
1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.
To be completely fair, most of this point could apply equally to Democrats and Republicans.  In fact, I am guilty.  Look at the symbol that I have chosen to represent myself, a stamp of a chalkboard half blocked by an American flag.  I have mentioned previously that I served in the US Navy. 

When it comes to xenophobia, that has been far too prevalent in the Republican Party.  Perhaps the most extreme positions have been the immigration laws of Alabama and Arizona, the latter now headed to the Supreme Court.
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.
 On 6 December 2011, Secretary Hillary Clinton gave a powerful and eloquent speech on Human Rights.  I praised her speech and the efforts of President Obama.  Governor Rick Perry denounced that speech.  None of the Republican contenders support full equality in the United States.
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice—relentless propaganda and disinformation—were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite “spontaneous” acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and “terrorists.” Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.
Code words for the Republican contenders:  liberal, socialist, terrorist, Kenyan, Muslim, homosexual.  There are many more examples.
4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.
Former Vice President Cheney recently complained that we are leaving Iraq too soon.  This despite the fact that our invasion of Iraq was on false pretenses.  There was no Iraq connection to the 11 September 2001 attack on the United States.  There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Lately the Republican contenders seem to want to go after Iran.  More war!
5. Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.
All of the Republicans in the House of Representatives opposed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  While Michele Bachmann is still running, she has not been seriously considered since shortly after the Iowa Straw Poll.  There are token women in office among the Republicans, far fewer Republican than Democratic women.

Regarding reproductive rights for women, Republicans have gone beyond anti-abortion with the recent emergence of the Personhood Amendments.
6. A controlled mass media. Under some of the regimes, the mass media were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes’ excesses.
Fox News is a megaphone for the Republican Party.  Misleading news may qualify as controlled.
7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting “national security,” and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.
Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann have led the border fence parade for the Republicans this year.  To be fair, they are not carrying on quite as much as Rudy Giuliani did about 9/11.
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite’s behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the “godless.” A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.
In the Republican debates, Christianity is a key virtue.  Of course, that was mild next to Rick Perry's "Day of Prayer" and what happened at this year's Value Voters Summit.
9. Power of corporations protected. Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure military production (in developed states), but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of “have-not” citizens.
Perhaps the best known quip on corporations this year belongs to Mitt Romney:  "Corporations are people, my friend."  It really is far more serious since the Supreme Court's decision on Citizens United.
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.
Republicans have been going after labor unions all year.  The best known example being Wisconsin Governor Walker's curtailing collective bargaining rights.
11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.
Republicans have long sought to limit or eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Department of Education.
12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse. “Normal” and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or “traitors” was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.
Incarceration has skyrocketed in the United States in recent decades.  This is under both Democratic and Republican administrations.  Still, some recent moves, as in the Wisconsin proposal to make signing a petition twice a felony, makes it a Republican issue.
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.
On this topic, Governor Perry wins (or loses).
14. Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.
I wrote a long piece on 3 October 2011 on the Republican efforts to disenfranchise voters.  As I wrote at the time, preventing people who should be eligible to vote from doing so is unAmerican.

I doubt that the Republicans see themselves as Fascists.  But there is a pattern here.  The pattern is uncomfortably close to Dr. Britt's fourteen common threads.  There are a number of obvious tangents that I was tempted to pursue in writing this, such as the various ways the Republicans are endeavoring to erase the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the attacks on the judiciary.  Too many parallels to Fascism.

26 February 2012:  FollowUp 1.

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