I often hear people throwing around the word: “Fascism.” The Bush administration has been calling ‘terrorists’ Islamo-Fascisist. Some Liberals claim the Bush Administration is a Fascist government. This got me to thinking: What is Fascism? Fascism is a social and political ideology with the primary guiding principle that the state or nation is the highest priority, rather than personal or individual freedoms. Historically this has taken the form of extreme anti-communistic and anti-liberal. I found the following definition, which I like because it also provides the etymology of the word:
The name comes from the Latin fasces – a bundle of rods with a projecting axe, which was the symbol of authority in ancient Rome. The term was applied by Mussolini to his movement after his rise to power in 1922. The Fascists were viciously anti-Communist and anti-liberal and, once in power, relied on an authoritarian state apparatus. They also used emotive slogans and old prejudices (for example, against the Jews) to bolster the leader’s strongman appeal. Fascism had a direct influence on Hitler’s Nazism.
Provided the term liberal, above, I’m forced to ask: In this context what is meant by liberal? The same site provides this definition:
A term that gained significance in the 19th century, when it meant the limiting of government power and the increase of social reform. In the 20th century, capitalist democracies occasionally described themselves as ‘liberal’ to indicate that they didn’t attempt to control thought and action to the same extent as Communist regimes.
Historically Liberal means a person who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties. Almost every definition defines a Liberal as someone who is concerned with the protection of civil liberties. I think this is important to point out. By this definition I consider myself Liberal. I believe government should, mostly, stay out of business and let the markets manage themseleves (within common sense) and, by God, businesses should stay the hell out government. Also, religion and government do not mix. In general, I’m fiscally conservative and consider myself to be Libertarian and very big on education. I bring this up because as a Libertarian I find Fascism terribly frightening.
Dr. Lawrence Britt, a political scientist, published an article on fascism (“Fascism Anyone?,” Free Inquiry, Spring 2003, page 20) This was the summary of a study he conducted on the fascist regimes of Franco, Mussolini, Hitler, Suharto, and Pinochet. Dr. Britt posits each of these regimes all shared 14 charateristics, which he defines as the “identifying characteristics of fascism.” The following is an except taken from Free Inquiry in accordance with the magazine’s policy.
- Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
- Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
- Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
- Supremacy of the Military
- Rampant Sexism
- Controlled Mass Media
- Obsession with National Security
- Religion and Government are Intertwined
- Corporate Power is Protected
- Labor Power is Suppressed
- Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
- Obsession with Crime and Punishment
- Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
- Fraudulent Elections
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 legislation and national policy.
Sometimes to 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.
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
Is it possible to read this without concluding that we, in the United States, are living in a regime that has been for the last six years sliding toward fascism?