3/16/2007

America's Road to Fascism

By mediagonebad

Is the United States on the road to fascism? Below are some defining characteristics of fascism based on the work of Dr. Lawrence Britt (Free Inquiry Magazine, Volume 23, Number 2), who studied the common characteristics of fascist regimes in Italy, Germany, Spain, Indonesia, Portugal, Chile, and Greece. I have applied Britt's characteristics of fascism to the United States and the Bush and Obama administrations.

1. Powerful and continuing nationalism. This is best understood as displays of flags and simplistic patriotic slogans, symbols, lapel pins, bumper stickers, and so forth. After 9/11, George W. Bush used catch-phrases -- like "we have to fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" -- that were repeated over and over by members of his administration. This is meant to separate "them" (the bad) from "us" (the good) so we can feel good about ourselves as we bomb or starve them into submission to Big Oil.

In 2009, the Tea Party, organized by FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey, became a populist conservative movement favoring limited federal government, fewer taxes, deregulation, immigration enforcement, and rejection of global warming science. Members spanned a range of political views spurred on largely by Tax Day protests. By the mid-term elections in 2010, the Tea Party ran several candidates on the Republican ticket, including Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sharron Angle of Nevada, Christine O'Donnell of Delaware, and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota
. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin went on a national speaking tour on behalf of Tea Party candidates. Overall, the Tea Party did not fare well in the mid-terms, but their views affected mainstream Republicans like John Boehner of Ohio and Jim Demint of South Carolina. Overall, the Tea Party slogans in the 2010 mid-term election helped shift the Republican Party even further to the right.

2. Disdain for the recognition of human rights. The Bush administration argued that human rights can be ignored in certain situations because of the "need" to gather information. Constitutional law can be side-stepped. The Geneva Conventions can suddenly be ignored. Torture, indefinite incarceration, and political assassinations become acceptable. The concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, the documented torture at Abu Ghraib, and the policy of extraordinary rendition of prisoners to secret prisons in third countries are current examples. President Obama has bolstered this policy by supporting indefinite detention of American citizens, who can be whisked away and imprisoned in third countries without any recourse or due process of law. The U.S. Constitution is being undermined without a whimper from the mass media.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a unifying cause. After 9/11, Arab-Americans and Muslims suddenly became targets of hate speech and racial profiling simply because of their race or religion and not because of any link with terrorists. Even wearing a tee-shirt with Arabic lettering can be cause for detention at airports. Anti-immigrant rhetoric has also been stepped up and Mexican immigrants are blamed for the economic woes created by the massive war debt.

4. Supremacy of the military. Like Hitler declared himself the German "fuhrer" or "leader," George W. Bush declared himself "the war president" and "the decider." And like the German Reichstag gave Hitler dictatorial powers to control the German army, the U.S. Congress gave Bush dictatorial powers to conduct the so-called "war on terror." Military service has become glamorized and military spending has increased while the national debt spirals out of control. Domestic entitlement programs suffer, including, even, the medical after-care of wounded soldiers. Recruiters aggressively target vulnerable working-class high school kids with promises of money and college.

And private corporations like Haliburton and Blackwater are becoming more than "military support contractors." They are becoming private armies in and of themselves that go on armed missions just like the Army and the Marines. Just what are these missions, anyway? Are these militias operating legally under the U.S. Constitution? Is Congress fulfilling its Constitutional duty to regulate and discipline them? If not, then who is in charge of them? The President? The Pentagon? The CIA? Or is Vice President Cheney and his super-secret "energy task force" (Big Oil) now in charge?

5. Rampant Sexism. Dr. Britt notes that fascist regimes are male-dominated and that the state takes an increased role as the guardian of the nuclear family as an institution, with women as second-class citizens. Fascist regimes tout vague terms like "family values" and become more strict regarding divorce, abortion and homosexuality. Organizations that help single parents and the poor with a variety of services, like ACORN and Planned Parenthood, have been under continous attack. A smear campaign against ACORN forced it to close, so it no longer provides voter registration services or assistance with heating bills.

6. Controlled mass media. The media in the United States are not controlled by the government, per se, but the owners go along with military censorship of war reporting and fail to provide opposing views. Public officials and press secretaries have daily "talking points" that serve as an echo chamber. Each official repeats the same terminology. For example, in the build-up to the occupation of Iraq, members of the Bush administration repeated the imagery of the "mushroom cloud" to convince the public that Iraq was an imminent threat to U.S. national security because it "wanted" nuclear weapons. The media did nothing to challenge the assertions or to demand proof -- even when then Secretary of State Colin Powell presented cartoon drawings to the United Nations as "evidence" that Iraq had mobile chemical weapons labs.

7. Obsession with national security. After 9/11, people were driven into a frenzy over getting revenge and eliminating an exaggerated common threat -- terrorism. New color-coded "threat" levels, prominently displayed by the national media news networks, added to the atmosphere of fear and confusion. Although terrorism is a real and despicable political tactic, it is also rare and often random.

8. Religion and government become intertwined.
Christians do not live in a reality-based world and this is really the heart of America's road to totalitarian fascism. Politicians know that religion has long been used to manipulate people and to convince them that what "faith-based" government does is moral and just. Opponents are not just adversaries, but are considered traitors who are committing heresy. Christians are an easily controlled group because they are issue-oriented and vote according to dominant electoral "themes" like opposition to abortion and gay marriage. Bush loyalist Karl Rove was very good at manipulating this group. [Author Chris Hedges wrote a fine book called "American Fascists," which goes into much more detail about god and government.]

9. Corporate power is protected. Ever since the first permanent settlement at Jamestown in 1607, the corporation has been more important than the individual. Within weeks after Jamestown set up a crude government, the first of many slave ships began arriving to provide the new settlers with slave labor. Now, 400 years later, abject slavery has been replaced by wage slavery. The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are "persons" and are thus protected by the First Amendment. The problem with this is that corporations, because of their great financial power, can never be equal with real flesh-and-blood citizens when conflicts occur. When Oprah Winfrey criticized the beef industry on national television, Texas beef industry representatives sued her for libel and took her to court. She ultimately won her case, largely because she had the financial resources of her own to mount a legal challenge. The vast majority of citizens cannot fight back. Corporate power has become so huge and international that it has swallowed up the three branches of government and leads the military charge to grab the world's oil.

In January 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission affirmed corporate personhood and ruled that the federal government may not restrict political spending by corporations wanting to sway voters in elections. Corporations may spend whatever they want in order to influence voters.

The greatest challenge to corporate greed has been the Occupy movement, a worldwide movement of people occupying public spaces and setting up democratic encampments that even provide meals and health services. The corporate masters and their militarized police forces are trying to break this people's movement by coersion and by force. In the U.S., the Occupy movement has shut down major seaports with the support of dock workers' unions. Corporations do not like challenges to their power and they will fight back violently, as any detailed study of American history shows.

10. Labor power is suppressed.
Labor unions have been largely busted up and workers are losing ground on wages and benefits while housing and health care costs soar. Large numbers of people have become disenfranchised from the old American dream of economic prosperity with equality and justice for all. Jobs are being outsourced to foreign nations where safety rules, environmental laws, and child labor laws do not exist. Meanwhile, corporate lobbyists buy favors and votes in Congress and get tax cuts and multi-billion-dollar no-bid contracts for military support services. The mass media is a part of this corporate power structure and does a piss-poor job of speaking truth to power and standing up for citizens. The media do not expose the societal harm that corporate abuses cause because their parent companies are involved in this fleecing of the public.

11. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts.
Academic intellectuals and opponents of government policy are treated as unpatriotic "liberals" or as inarticulate whackos in the media while government officials are basically provided with an open microphone to lie at will without any challenge to their assertions. Reporters ask sheepish, softball questions and accept the responses as truth. Serious debate is stifled by omission and artists like the Dixie Chicks are vilified for speaking out.

12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Under the misnamed "Patriot Act," the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI were given broad new powers to spy on Americans. Constitutional and civil rights began to erode. Giant telecommunication companies willingly provided personal information on thousands of Americans to the FBI. With more than two million Americans in jails and prisons -- many for non-violent crimes such as violating drug laws -- prisons are increasingly becoming privatized factories-with-fences to provide cheap labor to manufacture products for corporations.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Scandal after scandal is beginning to unravel while the Bush administration circles its wagons and dishes out pure spin to the media. Bush has always appointed his close friends to high government positions and they support his policies regardless of the law. When confronted, Bush claimed "executive privilege" as president and commander-in-chief. Obama has solidified this. Once such power is achieved, it is not given up, no matter what the Constitution says on the separation of powers.

14. Fraudulent elections. Elections can be rigged by increasing the registration requirements in key states, by reducing the number of voting machines in key districts, by changing the times when the polls will be open, by kicking eligible voters off the roles, by making ballots more confusing, and by eliminating paper records of voting so that all recounts will have to be done by hacker-vulnerable computers. These are all tricks used in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 to give Bush the presidency. The 2010 Supreme Court ruling also comes into play when corporations became free to spend unlimited money to influence elections and, in November 2010, Republicans took back the House after a particularly nasty year of negative commercials in which truth did not matter.

Many of these fascist characteristics have been building slowing over a number of years through both Democratic and Republican administrations. But the reign of George W. Bush has taken these characteristics to dangerous new levels. If we value our constitutional freedoms, then we must do everything we can to challenge him on multiple fronts. After Bush's recent visit to Guatemala, Mayan priests performed a purification ceremony to rid their sacred sites of the evil spirits left behind by Bush. If we intend to pursue any measure of justice for his abuses of power and for his crimes against humanity, then he needs to be arrested and brought to trial. And Obama, whose election gave high hopes to many and who won a Nobel Peace Prize based on this hope, should be marched out of the White House in leg irons for allowing crimes against humanity to continue on his watch.

The worldwide trend over the past 40 years has been toward mass privatization brought about by some kind of societal event, such as a civil war or a natural disaster, in which civil liberties can be suspended while economic law is re-written to favor unfettered capitalism. The war on Iraq was an example of this. Saddam Hussein's government was taken down by force while economic laws were re-written by foreign corporate interests in order to extract Iraq's wealth one contract at a time. This can happen in any country at any time -- even in the United States as citizens divide and hostility grows. Keep in mind that there are those who want to eliminate the Constitution and impose laissez faire capitalism no matter what the human toll.

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