Recently, I’ve made many literary comparisons between what is happening with the US government and dystopian novels such as 1984, Brave New World, or The Handmaid’s Tale. And, while literature certainly turns a mirror on society and can show us our best and worst possibilities, I do wonder, how close are we really to becoming like these fictional stories?

To figure that out, I started reading (of course.) That’s what I do! I like to read and research. I guess that’s why I gravitated toward being a writer/editor in the medical field by day. (And YA fantasy writer by night. Best of both worlds.)

But, the scientific, research side of me wanted to truly understand. What makes a fascist regime? Should I really be worried?

Here is what I discovered.

Definition of Fascism

An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization. In general use, extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice.

fascism-whereever-it-happens-philip-k-dickLet’s try a quick test. Even if you don’t live in the US, see how your country fares. Answer yes or no to these questions about your current government.

Quiz

Does your current government…

  1. Use slogans, mottoes and symbols that focus solely on our country’s importance and constantly refer back to putting country first in communications? (Y/N)
  2. View human rights and freedoms as lesser priorities compared to things such as safety and national security? (Y/N)
  3. Identify certain religious, ethnic or racial groups as major contributors to the nation’s problems? (Y/N)
  4. Put military interest above the interests of other parts of the government (eg, other government departments)? (Y/N)
  5. Support policies that restrict the rights and freedoms of women and other minorities? (Y/N)
  6. Criticize the credibility of established news media outlets? (Y/N)
  7. Put policies in place that specifically benefit corporations? (Y/N)
  8. Support suppressing scientific research that does not support the beliefs of those in power? (Y/N)
  9. Have appointees to government positions related by blood or marriage to those in power? (Y/N)
  10. Support controlling public access to information (putting restrictions on the Internet for example)? (Y/N)

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then your government might be headed more to the fascist realm than you might like. Think the answers to some of these are No? Keep reading…

Characteristics of Fascism

Let’s take it a step further. In my research I found that many people feel that the political scientist, Dr. Lawrence Britt, best classifies the characteristics of fascism based on research she performed that outline the common traits of a fascist regime based on Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile).

How do those 14 characteristics match up to what is happening in the US right now?

Let’s see…

Characteristic #1: Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottoes, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, eg, flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

Is this a characteristic of the US government? I’d say Yes.

  • Evidence: See “Make America great again”, “America first,” and various policies specifically aimed at separating America from the international community. 

Characteristic #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.”

Is this a characteristic of the US government? I’d say Yes.

  • Evidence: See ban on Muslim refugees who clearly are fleeing from terrorists that are slaughtering innocent people and in desperate need of help. 

Characteristic #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.

Is this a characteristic of the US government? I’d say definitely Yes, on many fronts.

  • Evidence: Note the attacks on the media, labeling them “the opposition party”. There is also vilification of Muslims, including a ban that caused an Iraqi interpreter who helped the US in the war in Iraq to be detained and a call for a registry. See claiming immigrants have a higher propensity to commit crime. (which is not true.) Oh, and the Mexicans. We have to build a wall (which experts say is pointless because there are these things called tunnels) to keep out these awful humans who are apparently taking all our jobs (which by the way also isn’t true.  In fact, did you know immigration is critical for a functioning economy?) 

Characteristic #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.

CHECK – See all federal hiring stopped, except for the military. (Side note: Veterans’ Affairs hospitals, i.e., the places that care for your military veterans, were overlooked completely in this freeze until someone pointed out how it will affect the veterans, although even then it was only lifted for jobs that affect ‘public safety’. But, you know, it’s much easier to be mad at Starbucks.) See ALSO seeking exception to “civilian control” of the military rule. And see that he has appointed more Generals to his cabinet than any President since WWII.  

Characteristic #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. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

Is this a characteristic of the US government? I’d say 100% Yes.

  • Evidence: There are so many in this category, I don’t know where to start. But, let’s “grab” at one of the Trump administration’s first executive actions. See the global gag rule that will cut funding for millions of women worldwide for basic care just because of potential association with abortions, which many critics say will just lead to more abortions and increase in death rates for women. AND the gag rule was signed in a room filled with a bunch of white men, not a single woman or minority present. See also minimal women in Trump’s cabinet or in positions of power.

Characteristic #6: 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.

Is this a characteristic of the US government? I’d say we’re not quite there yet, but the signs aren’t good.

  • Evidence: Excessive charges brought against journalists and the governments constant undermining of the media, plus people’s calls for the media to be quiet are getting us close. Also at the last Presidential press conference, the President was overtly hostile to any media outlet that challenged him and only answers questions from conservative media outlet representatives. Oh and that call to “close up” the internet. Do you know which countries control what people see on the Internet? North Korea and China.

Characteristic #7: Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

Is this a characteristic of the US government? I’d say yes.

  • Evidence: Again, see ban on Muslims, giving people a “test to see if they have ‘American values’,” and “extreme vetting” because some people have bought into the idea that we need to fear all Muslims apparently for the actions of a few. (Curious question: before criticizing the previous system of vetting, how many people actually looked up what it took to immigrate to the US? If you didn’t, don’t you think you should have before jumping on the bandwagon?)

Characteristic #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.

Is this a characteristic of the US government? I’d say yes.

  • Evidence: See inauguration speech and cabinet picks Carson, DeVos and Sessions, who at best blur the lines between Christian Church and State and at worst get rid of them altogether.

Characteristic #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.

Is this a characteristic of the US government? I’d say there is no possible way you could argue this is NOT happening.

  • Evidence: I don’t think this one really needs an explanation, but he drained the swamp down to the rich, white corporate elite and Wall Street (Curious question: Wasn’t one of his big criticisms of Hillary of that she was ‘in bed’ with Wall Street?)

mussulini-quote-fascism

Characteristic #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.

Is this a characteristic of the US government? I’d say yes.

  • Evidence: The vicious attack on the Chuck Jones, president of United Steelworkers 1999 who had the audacity to speak up and refute Trump’s claim that he alone saved the Carrier jobs.

Characteristic #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 is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

Is this a characteristic of the US government? I’d say absolutely.

Characteristic #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 forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

Is this a characteristic of the US government? I’d say yes here too.

  • Evidence: See calls by Trump to jail people burning flags (even if you don’t like it – I don’t agree with it like many of you – but it has been ruled time and again a 1st amendment protected right of free speech. Just because we don’t agree with something doesn’t mean we get to jail people for it.) He and other conservatives leaders have also called for criminalizing protesting. Trump has also called to jail the media. And for those of you’ve who said things like “doesn’t mean it,” so far he’s following through on every thing he’s said he would do.

Characteristic #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.

Is this a characteristic of the US government? I’d say yes, again, you can’t really deny this one.

  • Evidence: See appointing his son-in-law to position of power and appointing rich billionaire and “friends” who supported him and were “loyal” to him, even though many have almost no qualifications for the posts they have been appointed to lead.

Characteristic #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.

Is this a characteristic of the US government? I’m not ready to go there on this one. I wouldn’t call the US elections fraudulent. But I also wouldn’t call them a free election that represents the will of the people either.

  • Evidence: Rampant voter suppression in many states (see North Carolina, probably the biggest culprit. But certainly not the only one), race-based gerrymandering (a form of voter suppression), Russian involvement and flawed electoral system. (See person winning popular vote not winning electoral college twice in the last 4 presidential cycles after going over 100 years without it happening.) 
So, yes, America, by these characteristics we are edging ever closer to becoming a fascist regime. We’ve ticked most of these boxes and ticked closer to midnight on the doomsday clock in the process. We’re not the bad guys yet but we’re closer than I’d like to be.
Hopefully, soon, more will join the rest of us in fighting against fascism, rather than supporting it or rationalizing that it’s not happening. If not, history will judge you (it generally doesn’t look kindly on people who support fascism, see Germany in WWII), so no one else needs to.

 

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