Is It Fascism Yet?

By “it” I mean the U.S. government, and let me be among the first to answer, albeit tentatively, “No.”

I posed the question to an historian, who answered, “No–look at places [countries] where it’s [fascism] real.” Of course, I’d already done that, but at the same time, I still wondered about certain fascist characteristics.

Definition? What a good idea. Let’s go semi-pro (wikipedia): Fascism “is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology.”

“Radical” means “extreme” in this case, I assume.

And then there are Lawrence Britt’s 14 “markers” of fascism that are easily found online.

But back to our basic definition and its application, if any, to the U.S.: As to the authoritarian part: In the U.S., if you’re poor, Black, an immigrant, someone perceived to be an immigrant, perceived to be an enemy combatant, can’t a variety of governmental agencies do whatever they want with you in more cases than not? For example, the Executive Branch now has a “kill list,” apparently, on which may appear U.S. citizens. So if you’re a U.S. citizen perceived to be associated with terrorists, the President may order you killed and there will be few if any consequences for him or her.

As to the nationalist part: the U.S. seems as jingoistic as I’ve experienced it in several decades. The idea of “American exceptionalism” has become a parody: we have an exceptionally large military complex (spending more than the rest of the world combined on “defense”); we suck up more energy per capita than any other nation; one of our major political parties denies a human role in global warming and associates any kind of comprehensive health-care reform as “socialist.”

As I understand fascism, corporate power more or less runs the government, with the military. To quote Senator Bernie Sanders, “Wall Street regulates Congress,” and I don’t think this is news. True, it’s not the same as Mussolini’s appointing corporate leaders to a legislature, but corporate power seems virtually unchecked these days.

The U.S. invades countries at will, and I think there’s a good argument to be made that Bush II’s invasion of Iraq was illegal. It was certainly unprovoked.

Language, I think, plays a significant role in what may be a slide toward fascism. Consider how many people sincerely believe President Obama is not a “real” American. Consider how “national security” and “for national security reasons” have excused the burial of information, spying on citizens, holding people indefinitely in prison, and so on. Consider “the war on terror,” which is by definition unending. Consider “enemy combatant,” which has been applied to persons who in fact were not in combat and not enemies of the U.S.–but were just hanging around. Consider the awful euphemism, “rendition.”

It is difficult to argue that the U.S. is a fascist state, but it’s also difficult to see what would stop it from becoming one at this point. Whether the nation indeed is moving in that direction I leave to you.

What amazes me (it shouldn’t) is how sanguine most people seem to be about kill-lists, warrantless wire-tapping, Guantanamo, rendition, the national incarceration-rate, the rate of incarceration for Black Americans, the let-me-see-your-papers laws, the unaudited Pentagon, the super-secret NSA, and so on. “There’s a man with a gun over there . . .”.


One Response to “Is It Fascism Yet?”

  1. wildbillhaltom Says:

    I think that we should address “American exceptionalism” in one or more blogs entries. As brandished by various bloggers, talkers, and other repeaters of talking points, “American exceptionalism” is not equivocal but multivocal and not merely a slogan but also a shibboleth. I shall explore at least those dual dimensions of “American exceptionalism” in future entries.

    For now let me agree with Otis about dimensionalizing “fascist” or “fascistic.” We might presume “authoritarian,” “nationalistic,” and radicalism as hubs defined by “spokes” [puns with spokespersons and with speaking intended, God help me]. At the end of each spoke we may imagine opposites that define one continuum. “Authoritarian” would be a hub, for example, and “liberal” or “democratic” or both might be polar opposites. Degrees of difference between “authoritarian” and one or another poles would yield relative placements of this or that polity.

    This approach encourages us to see that the U. S. may have moved toward authoritarian or nationalistic poles and away from opposite poles.

    One could use the same dimensionalizing approach to see that President Obama is a socialist only if one adjusts one’s hubs and spokes to enable one to move Obama away from some value or good and toward one or more countervalue or evil. This enables us to see how very flexible our shibboleths are.

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