Is It Fascism Yet? Experts Disagree

Over at the vastly entertaining and provocative 10ZenMonkeys, RU Sirius has asked a bunch of wise men (and one woman) whether the U.S. is now a fascist country--a fair enough question given the way that various folks across the spectrum throw around the term. The responses range from hell yes to don't be stupid and worth a look. Here's a snippet from Ken Layne, blogger extraordinaire and a central player at the dearly departed Sploid:

Humorless liberals yell “Fascist!” at anything they don’t like: NASCAR, Wal-Mart, or especially somebody enjoying a nice hamburger.

The Neocons have made the bizarre decision that Fascism is actually a 1,400-year-old Semitic religion from Arabia, even though that religion is virtually indistinguishable from the monotheistic Semitic religions they claim to follow. Of course, the Neocons are the closest thing to a purely Fascist party in America.

And my beloved libertarians have the bad habit of believing Fascism is a mom asking grandpa not to blow cigar smoke on the babies, or the cops asking some target shooters to point away from the pre-school....

It’s not fascism, yet. And it’s unlikely that the USA’s post-9/11 dystopia will ever be called Fascism by future historians. It will never become outright Fascism if enough of us take our guns to D.C. and clean house.

More--from the likes of Michael Badnarik's campaign consultant, Howard "Smart Mobs" Rheingold, and sexpert Suzie Bright--here.  

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  • ||

    Can someone explain to me how NAFTA and GATT constitute government control of the economy? Shouldn't libertarians like the fact that you can sue the government for being a dick, even if in limited circumstances?

  • ||

    Slate has an interesting piece today comparing the civil liberties infringements of Bush to key points in the rise of fascism in Germany. I'm with Sirius but the artice was thought-provoking.

  • thoreau||

    See, I was with Ken Layne until that last sentence. That sort of rhetoric is counter-productive and will cause some to suspect that libertarians are dangerous people.

  • ChrisO||

    Although I'm engaging in a bit of reductio ad absurdum, the point of several of the writers seems to be that America is "fascist" whenever the GOP is in power and a "democracy" when it is not. Or, more pointedly, they are saying that "fascism" occurs whenever my favorite political party is out of power. The socialists in the bunch seem to think that "fascism" is whatever state of affairs is the opposite of socialism or communism.

    In other words, what bunk. American life has always had liberal and illiberal elements, and I think we lose historical perspective by saying that America is markedly more illiberal than it was 40 or 50 years ago. In some ways it is, but in other ways our liberty is much greater now. As a libertarian, obviously I'd like to see much more liberty. But it's hardly time to pick up the pitchforks and rifles and start marching on the White House.

  • ||

    However bad anything might be now, it isn't as bad as before. Can anything compare to lynch mob dominated trials before WWII? At the time, they were viewed by many as an advance because it is better to give someone an unfair trial and summarily execute them, then just to summarily execute them.

  • ||

    Election machines are increasingly owned and operated by the GOP interests, and vote stealing is all but ignored.

    Thus explaining the huge Republican victory this year.

    What a fucking idiot.

  • ||

    The necessary legal elements have been put in place for what might be called "friendly fascism" (although that was the title of a book back in 1980, I am not necessarily referring to the concepts discussed therein). What you lack is a "trigger". 9/11 certainly laid the foundation for the placing of the necessary legal elements I referred to, but something else will have to seal the deal. Certainly, if we faced some act of nuclear terrorism, you can pretty much write off the USA as a free and open society.

  • ||

    I was going to take that article seriously, but stopped after this crap:

    "Fascism includes "regimenting all industry, commerce, etc." which can be summed up nicely by mentioning NAFTA, GATT, and the "Free Trade Area of the Americas" (FTAA).

    Is he just making shit up?

  • ||

    "Certainly, if we faced some act of nuclear terrorism, you can pretty much write off the USA as a free and open society."

    You are exactly right. One of the things that drives me crazy about libertarians is this idea that people should or will trade their security and lives for liberties. They won't. If there is ever an act of nuclear terrorism in this country people will go crazy. We have to prevent that if we want to continue to have a free society.

    I would hope the last election would make the idiots who claimed that Bush was Hitler and all voting machines are fixed, and such feel pretty stupid. But, I guess if you are dumb enough to believe that crap you are probably beyond any shame, so I am sure the next Republican victory in the polls will be treated the same way.

  • ||

    "Fascism includes "regimenting all industry, commerce, etc." which can be summed up nicely by mentioning NAFTA, GATT, and the "Free Trade Area of the Americas" (FTAA).

    Is he just making shit up?"

    WTF? Yeah I wondered about that to. I wasn't aware that Hitler was a big free trader. I guess all the history books were wrong; Nazism wasn't about blood and soil and killing the inferior races, it was all about getting Germany a good global trade agrement.

  • ||

    I've recently been reading John Flynn's As We Go Marching, which is an excellent primer on Fascism. I'd highly recommend it to anyone pondering the question.

    (Flynn is concerned about Fascism in the US in 1944, but the arguments and warning signs he notes are similarly useful today.)

  • ||

    There are, and will always be, the first preconditions of fascism. Those are:

    The willingness of the people to censor unpopular speech, and the willingness of politicians to take political advantage in doing so

    The willingness of the people to trade liberty for security, and the willingness of politicians to take political advantage by increasing the rate of trade

    The willingness of the people to oppose external and internal enemies, if presented with them, and the willingness of politicians to take political advantage by making such presentations

    The presence of all of these means that protofascist movements can always arise--the country is always ovulating, ready to gestate fascism.

    Severe crises (9/11 was not severe on this scale) like the depression+deliberate ruin of the Weimar government in Germany in the early 1930s, the doubling in size of Rumania in the 1920s, the overextension, collapse, and lack of reward of Italy in the 1920s...those are like the sperm of fascism.

    And when a country gets sufficiently fucked, the sperm fertilizes the egg and we get fascism.

    9/11 is barely oral sex. Yes, the country sucks, but we're nowhere near fucked yet.

  • Mr. X||

    from the likes of Michael Badnarik's campaign consultant, Howard "Smart Mobs" Rheingold

    FYI: Badnarik's campaign manager was Allen "Secret Plan" Hacker, not Rheingold.

  • Jesse Walker||

    I believe those are supposed to be two separate items in a list, Mr. X, unless Michael Badnarik's campaign consultant is also sexpert Susie Bright.

  • Brian||

    Fascism is a mass populist movement. No way you're getting americans away from their Cheetos to go to some Nuremburg Rally. After 9/11 we were told to go shopping.

    I think a more viable analogy is Latin America. Bush is our first latin american president and we're turning into Mexico.

  • ||

    Thoreau:

    Meanwhile in Britain, the hand that used to rock the cradle of liberty has felonized handguns, made firearms posession contingent on police consent,moved to outlaw swords and locally banned drinking from glass containers to keep sharp objects out of reach of its infantized charges. Its campaign against hunting, in both the US and English English senses of the word continues apace, and the latest right to be espoused by the Blair regime is that to inflict punishment on those resisting breaking and entering in the night.

    Don't even think about pitchforks and torches.

  • Franklin Harris||

    The comments by John Shirley are instructive. He quotes Marc Baber of something called Truth in Voting to make the case that Republicans always try to steal elections: "The only reason the Democrats did so well in 2006 is that Democrats actually won by margins of 6-8% greater than the official results showed." Oh, if only the GOP weren't stealing votes!

    My god, I'd been so busy hating George Bush I'd forgotten why I hate the left, too. The left are not only sore losers, they're sore winners. At least the GOP can lose an election without making up bullshit about the Democrats stealing it. Hell, if Nixon/Kennedy in 1960 is any indication, the Democrats actually can steal an election, and the GOP can know it, without the GOP putting up a fight! But the Democrats can't even win without bitching about something: alleged GOP vote fraud, Republicans trying to "prevent" Democrat voters from voting, whatever.

    Damn crybabies!

    Oh, and the U.S. has been fascist since Truman. Next question.

  • Franklin Harris||

    unless Michael Badnarik's campaign consultant is also sexpert Susie Bright

    Which would have been an improvement, no doubt.

  • Larry A||

    It will never become outright Fascism if enough of us take our guns to D.C. and clean house.

    See what happens over the next two years on gun control. If the Republicans decide it's a barganing chip things will really get interesting.

    The right to have opposition parties which can be voted into power is not characteristic of fascism.

    Even if the parties don't in any practical way "oppose" each other?

  • ||

    Oh, and the U.S. has been fascist since Truman.

    Oh, it started before that.

    The fact that it was a benign fascism compared to Mussolini's doesn't change the fact that the New Deal was totally in keeping with the general worldwide fascist trend of the 1930's.

    We've been living with that same benign fascism ever since.

    Even if the parties don't in any practical way "oppose" each other?

    Nail, meet hammer!

  • ||

    The most interesting thing about Frankling Harris's outburst is that the accuracy of the charge that Republicans are cheating is wholly irrelevant. Whether they were, or not, would make absolutely no difference to his position.

    Oh, and 1960 was 46 years ago, and over a dozen years before my birth. That argument would be a lot more compelling if the pictures weren't in black and white.

  • ||

    I agree with the posters who point out that the seeds for a more hard core fascism have been laid and all it takes is a sufficient cause like a nuke attack. The legal elements are in place and all that would be left is the "all animals are equal but some are more equal than others" species of reasoning that we got by the supreme court in Raich and Kelo to tip us into the abyss that would allow whatever conduct the government thinks it would need to "protect" us from what ever risks, real or imagined.

  • ||

    Che cazzo state dicendo? Nazism was not Fascism either! Hitler screwed it all up! Fascism is all about the parades, the clothes and singing loud military songs!! And having good looking mistresses! America will never be Fascist because you Americani have no sense of style.

  • Franklin Harris||

    The most interesting thing about Frankling [sic] Harris's outburst is that the accuracy of the charge that Republicans are cheating is wholly irrelevant.

    No. I called the charges bullshit, so I think I made my judgment of the accuracy of the charges clear.

  • The President of the United St||

    ...But that threat is not isolated. And you must not believe it is. We see that threat again in the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.

    [snip]

    That is why I have insisted that Congress pass strong anti-terrorism legislation immediately -- to provide for more than 1,000 new law enforcement personnel solely to fight terrorism; to create a domestic anti-terrorism center;

    [snip]

    This is about America's future. It is about your future. (Applause.)

    We can do this without undermining our constitutional rights. In fact, the failure to act will undermine those rights.

    [snip]

    It is with this in mind that I would like to say something to [those] who believe the greatest threat to America comes not from terrorists from within our country or beyond our borders, but from our own government.

    [snip]

    I am well aware that most of you have never violated the law of the land.

    [snip]

    But I also know there have been lawbreakers among those who espouse your philosophy.

    [snip]

    But the Weathermen of the radical left who resorted to violence in the 1960s were wrong. Today, the gang members who use life on the mean streets of America, as terrible as it is, to justify taking the law into their own hands and taking innocent life are wrong. The people who came to the United States to bomb the World Trade Center were wrong.

    [snip]

    How dare you suggest that we in the freest nation on Earth live in tyranny. How dare you call yourselves patriots and heroes.

    [snip]

    [T]here is nothing patriotic about hating your country, or pretending that you can love your country but despise your government....

  • ||

    "That sort of rhetoric is counter-productive and will cause some to suspect that libertarians are dangerous people."

    We're harmless, officer, honest. We're doing nothing here but polishing our Smith and ..., I mean Smith Bros Cough Drops.

  • ||

    [T]here is nothing patriotic about pretending that you can love your country but despise your government....

    I can't think of a more anti-libertarian sentiment than that one. That is a great example of pure fascist rhetoric - "the people and government are one!".

  • ||

    Well the U.S. has flirted with fascism since it first tried it out in WW-I

    Fascism is literally a system wherein all resources are marshalled for the good of the state which according to Benito Mussolini is a proxy for the people.

    It is unfortunate that most people think of Germany under the Nazi leadership as the archetype of fascism. It is one of many flavors. Fascism in its purest form was I think Italy under Mussolini.

    In a fascist state, the economy is highly regulated, and while individuals nominally own the factors of production, what is produced, in what quantities and at what price it is sold are controlled.

    In World War I, the U.S. government imposed this form of regimentation. The effect of it was to ensure high "profits" for politically connected firms at the expense of outsiders.

    After the war, the government loosened its control, but not entirely, and many of the leading "businessmen" worked actively to recentralize and cartelize the economy. Their man was Herbert Hoover, who (along with the Federal Reserve) managed to intervene enough in the economy to cause a recession which morphed into a depression.

    FDR who ran initially on a free-market platform, once in office wasted no time in dramatically expanding Hoover's programs. He also adopted many of Mussolini's programs, including a similar economic cartelization (the National Recovery Act).

    This regimentation continued through World War II and into the early post-war period. Fortunately as the central control lurched ot its inevitable conclusion, Truman took a step back. Faced with a meat shortage created by his agricultural policies, Truman considered having the National Guard sweep through farms confiscating livestock and chickens, but chose instead to lift the price-controls. Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin would quite happily have shot the farmers.

    The U.S. has retained the essential elements of economic fascism. Mass media is controled by the government. Agriculture is still controlled by the government (as those poor farmers who bred the "ugly" tomato found out whn they tried to ship them out of Florida). The purchase and sale of businesses is monitored by the FTC.

    We also retain the fuhrerprincip, the belief in a great leader who controls everything. We talk about how the president "managed" the economy.

    I would argue that the U.S. is a fascist-lite country. It is not as fascist as it was under FDR or Nixon, but it retains many of the forms of fascism. However, the U.S. government has always hesitated when confronted with the decision of whether to engage in mass-murder or brutal repression to support its economic policies such as when Truman lifted price controls rather than have the National Guard shoot farmers.

    I think the U.S. will try out fascism at some point in the near future. I found the attitudes of policemen and Natl. Guard in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina very troubling. The confiscation of guns, the in our face patrolling showed a willingness to dehumanize their countrymen. The reluctance that was a critical check on full blown totalitarianism is no more.

  • ||

    "It will never become outright Fascism if enough of us take our guns to D.C. and clean house."

    I hereby nominate Ken Layne to be the commandor of the Libertarin militia.

    Who's going to second me?

  • ||

    Please don't say it's fascism, yet. I'm still working on the knife-throwing.

  • ||

    What's your last name, Terry? Is it Nichols? They let you access the web from the supermax? Good for you. I would have thought that you learned your lesson.

  • ||

    "The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home"

    James Madison

  • ||

    Eternal vigilance is one thing, hyperbole is another.

  • ol pete||

    Anyone who doesn't think that republicans use electoral fraud with electronic vote machines has made absolute zero effort to examine the subject.

    Any chance the fucking idiot who doesn't believe that all the evidence means anything can provide the premises for his conclusion.

    Dems won some elections therefore it isn't so doesn't really work...

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