Why? Because no one in the mainstream media really wants to call out the fascistic aspects of the current administration, which they've enabled and with which they're deeply implicated, let alone seriously entertain the fact that we as a society--and yes, that includes the 48% of the nation that voted against W in 2004, and the 49%-50% in 2000--have gradually acquiesced to whatever criminal activity the administration has been up to, including the most recent outrageous news that W authorized illegal domestic wiretapping that appears to have gone beyond (how far? who knows and when will we ever know?) what either the New York Times or he initially claimed. (And why, if everything were on the up-and-up, would his deputies, including current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, have to have gone to then Attorney General John Ashcroft's sickbed to get his approval, and then persuade him, given that even he was opposed to the policy?) In fact, there were also reports that the NSA wiretapped some of the non-US missions at the UN to gauge their security council votes, and that some of the dragnetted material from the warrantless wiretaps was shared among an array of agencies. Certainly there cannot be a principled conservative in this country who agrees with this sort of scary crap, can there? I can remember when critics of Rudy Giuliani called him a "fascist," and his minions quickly turned this around as an "ethnic slur." It was hardly an ethnic slur (was General Suharto, pictured above, Italian?), but it also wasn't the most apt use of the term, because I don't think Giuliani was really a fascist, just a racist--or rather a virulently anti-Black and anti-Arab racialist, since he didn't seem to loathe Asians or light-skinned Latinos--with authoritarian tendencies and a powerful sense of public aesthetics. (He really did work wonders with the West Side Highway.)
But back to W. You may be saying, Oh, this administration is out of control but that's not fascism, and in any case, systematically murderous Hitlerian fascism, to give one example, was different in substantial ways from Benito Mussolini's (at left) nationalistic fascist state, or the Falangist, neutral state under Generalísimo Francisco Franco, and since all differ, it's impossible to draw a clear standard for a fascist state. (And then there's Suharto. The Communist dictators are beasts of a different stripe, though I've said more than once that the neoconservatives and X-ian Wrongers unsurprisingly have Stalinist leanings as well.) And what does those horrible entities have to do with the US state right now? While W is permitting and authorizing torture, abuse, extraordinary renditions, indefinite hearings of people without cause or legal representation, he's no Mussolini. (Though he does like military uniforms, despite that fact that he couldn't be bothered to stay in the one--or the military branch--he'd signed up for in the early 1970s.) And though, if one takes the aspect of Walter Benjamin's famous conclusion in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility" that deals with fascism and the aestheticization of politics at face value, W, Cheney and Rove could easily fill an encyclopedia entry. But they're not Falangists. Right?
Here's Lawrence Britt's original taxonomy. He studied Hitler's, Mussolini's, Suharto's, and others' fascist governments, and distilled the essence of the fascist state. Go down the list and think carefully about each of his points. One could make the argument that not every fascist state exhibits every one of these traits, though terrifyingly enough, all of them are in effect in the US as of today. I'm not saying that we live in a fascist state, but I am saying that comparing Britt's list with our government, and in particularly the self-aggrandizing and empowering "unitary" executive branch, really is disturbing. BTW, if you hadn't heard, the president and GOP leadership inserted a secret provision in the recent defense bill to fund religious school vouchers in the New Orleans area. It was such a big deal--despite there being no public debate or announcement about it--that right-wing Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman even called W to congratulate him on ramming this into law. Now, would the people of the city that W allowed to be destroyed while he fingered a banjo have approved? Who knows, but I doubt it. (That's number 8, by the way.) The Abramoff scandal and his plea today? Cf. No. 13. And on and on. Let's also not forget that the Republicans impeached the last president for having consensual sex with another adult, and lying about it--at first. Do the War in Iraq, the faked intelligence and statements about the non-existent WMDs, the GAO propaganda rulings, the Potemkin rallies, Abu Ghraib and the other torture scandals, the criminal actions after Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, the widespread voting irregularities in 2000, 2002 and 2004, Plamegate, the Niger memo, and other serious trangressions, in addition to the illegal domestic wiretapping, not merit the same response? Back to Britt:
Britt's "14 Characteristics of Fascism" (all the text below, from 2003, mind you, is his):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 and letters is openly attacked.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Now what do you think?