BY VERN TURNER
Someone I know recently sent me a summary of characteristics [The 14 Characteristics of Fascism by Dr. Lawrence Britt, published in Free Inquiry, Spring 2003] that smacks me as pertinent in today’s Western governments, especially in the United States since 1981.
Read them and draw your own conclusions. Mine follow the list.
Dr. Britt is a political scientist who studied the fascist regimes of Hitler [Germany], Mussolini [Italy], Franco [Spain], Suharto [Indonesia], and Pinochet [Chile]. He found the regimes all had 14 things in common, and he calls these the identifying characteristics of fascism:
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, flag waving, songs, and other paraphernalia.
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, etc.
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, etc.
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.
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. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay … national policy.
6. Controlled Mass Media – … the media is directly controlled by the government, [or may be] is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or through sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in wartime, 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. [Citizens United vs. FEC, for example]
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 censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – … 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.
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 who use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability [the revolving door of lobbyists, for example]. 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 the assassination of] opposition candidates, the use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and the manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
I don’t think we are exactly ready to strap on the Sam Browne belts and jackboots, but I see the United States trending this way with some areas more strongly leaning than others. We still have the arts more or less separated from the government, but there is still political pressure to abandon government funding of artistic free expression.
The systematic destruction of public education, however, is the scariest item; we’ve always lived with a strong military and been militant as a nation throughout our history. We’ve also suppressed minority populations, even committing near genocide to aboriginal Americans.
Perhaps the most specious of these 14 items is the attack on fair elections by the Supreme Court. The new voter suppression laws in the southern and “conservative” states tells us much about where the seat of American fascism resides. In Texas, for example, there have been FOUR cases of suspected voter fraud in the last TEN years.
One should also note that it is the Republican platform and its red-headed stepchild Tea Party that most closely follow these 14 traits of fascism.
For absolutists, it is tough to see the United States without some fascism, socialism, communism, democracy [there’s still quite a bit left] and capitalism entwined in the dance for future control.
So far, we’ve been able to keep one or another of these “isms” from dominating, but ever since the Reagan Administration every Republican regime has shifted us toward more fascist behavior than toward any other.
We, the people, have much world and national history to show us what happens when one ideology dominates all the others. Not only are we a blend of various peoples, we are a blend of many ideologies. These have historically been our strengths, as has strong government that keeps single ideologies at bay … so far.
– Vern Turner is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. He lives in Marble Falls, TX, where he writes a regular column for the River Cities Daily Tribune. He is the author of three books – A Worm in the Apple: The Inside Story of Public Schools, The Voters Guide to National Salvation and Killing the Dream: America’s Flirtation With Third World Status – all available through Amazon.com.