Thursday, January 3, 2013

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." -- Sinclair Lewis

How prophetic about the right wing, including the religious right, Minnesota-born Nobel-prize-for-literature-winning author and playwright Sinclair Lewis was. He knew his onions, as the saying goes, or in this case human nature and behavior, specifically conservatives, and he apparently had shrewdly observed early on the same symptoms that were later correlated as right wing authoritarian syndrome.  The term really became well known during his lifetime, born in 1885 in Sauk Centre, MN to 1951 when he died in Italy; so he used it from direct observation of fascism in his lifetime.

Because when one hears the word fascism or sees it used, it usually refers to a coercive, authoritarian, conformity requiring entity or part of the political spectrum.

As the right becomes increasingly desperate in the face of losses and failures, it is reasonable to expect they will continue to double down on the same causes of that failure, or retreat into greater extremism.  The lack the capacity to adapt, modernize, or change. Change terrifies them, and they seek consolation and comfort in ideology no matter how badly failed, like their economic policies, by ignoring the reality of that failure.

A tip of the hat and a thank you to my co-blogger Laci for permission to cross post this from his own blog.  It is eerily appropriate to some of our contemporary events :

By Lawrence W Britt, NOT Dr. Lawrence Britt - there is no such person as Dr. Britt; the author has no such academic credential.  Lawrence Britt is a former corporate executive who wrote a dystopian novel back in 1998, set in the mid 2000's.  The following is however from an email that widely circulated from this interview in July, 2004. That does not change that Britt appears to have quite correctly identified themes or characteristics common to fascism. While I'm still trying to confirm that the obit I found is for the same person, not someone who shares a name, if correct, Britt was born in 1939 and died in 2010, which would have given him at least some overlap in time with Sinclair Lewis during the rise and fall of fascism during WW II.  The following is not Sinclair Lewis Nobel prize winning literature, but it is still shrewd observation.
Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:
1. 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.
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. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
6. Controlled Mass Media – 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.
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.
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 and letters is openly attacked.
12. 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 fore-go 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 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.
14. 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.

1 comment:

  1. This definitely describes the authoritarian wing of the Republican party and conservative movement.

    Unfortunately, it also describes the authoritarian tendencies of the Democratic party as well.

    I had high hopes in 2008 that Obama was truly going to pull back on the Bush Administration's war on terror policies, but he has only expanded them. We've seen a continuation of the violations of Civil Rights, the militarism, and the use of fear of national security to enhance government powers beyond what even Bush claimed.

    The most depressing thing about the 2012 election was that it offered us nothing but a choice between two flavors of fascists who both favored indefinite detention, assassinations, a surveillance state, etc.

    And this doesn't even touch the cronyism, gerrymandering, and voter fraud that we have seen Both parties engaging in over the past 50 years.