Unlike authoritarianism or totalitarianism, fascism is an easy word to say, and that may be why it’s used (and misused) a lot.
Just because fascism is a term that is overused and loosely applied, doesn’t mean that it isn’t a political ideology that has specific components. They are worth knowing and reflecting upon.
Given the absolutely calamitous outcome of fascism in the countries where it’s been practiced (e.g., Italy and Germany in World War II), I think Americans have to be very much on guard against (and attentive to) any success achieved by this dogma.
Fascism is characterized by:
Unwavering and unquestioning loyalty to a “strong man” leader and his oligarchic supporters. (And it’s almost always a man because women are seen by fascists as “the weaker sex”).
The Rule of Fear rather than the Rule of Law. Flagrant lying and rumor mongering to gin up anxiety and terror in the population
Conformity and the loss of individualism. People who don’t agree with the leader are to be ostracized and/or hunted down as threats to the stability of the state
Militaristic nationalism and a state of perpetual warfare. Enemies are everywhere. Only “pure” folks, whatever that means, are true citizens. “Foreigners” who don’t have the proper pedigree (e.g., don’t speak a society’s official language well) are suspect.
Minority groups and people with skin color or religious traditions that are not held by the majority of the population constitute a threat. Even if they reside in a territorial possession or colony of the leader’s society, they are not “one of us.”
The majority is aggrieved usually by a supposedly nefarious and secretive minority whose allegiances to some other homeland or creed outweigh its members’ commitment to the dominant culture and its ways. They should be watched closely and, under various circumstances, interned or expelled.
War and chaos are better than peace and tranquility. War gives men a chance to be real men. Chaos makes you tough, helps you face “the mean world with required strength.” Peace and tranquility are weak and feminine.
An independent media is the enemy of the state. The function of the media is propagandize the point of view and fine character of the leader.
Many people are considered no better than vermin: subhuman “infestations.”
One of the best ways to conduct foreign policy with other authoritarian regimes is to pay no attention to the topic of “human rights” because every society has its malingers and malcontents who question the authority and probity of the leader. Artists, intellectuals and scientists are frequently the worst offenders.
Religions and governments calling for subservience to authority are intertwined.
Election fraud is widespread and campaigning is a one-party farce. Corruption and cronyism are rampant.
In the United States, through our system of checks and balances, the behavior of any individual or group seeking to be the singular voice of authority over national affairs is restrained.
Our Constitution was designed to protect the republic from every brand of tyranny.
Attempts by the current executive branch to debase the power and rights of Congress and the judiciary have raised concern about the trend toward a government that frequently feels fascistic in its tone and policies. The specter of creeping fascism hasn’t been as prominent in the U.S., Europe and other places around the world since World War II as it is at present.
Facisim’s unAmerican tendencies are ascendant in the current era. There are many reasons why this is the case.
For example, our educational system and our media have not and are not preparing us to engage the complexity of our world. We are distracted, ill-informed and vulnerable to misinformation and conspiracy theories.
Much more can and will be said on this topic.
In my opinion, it will be simpler for those of us who understand the centrality of the Constitution to the American project to name the fascist tendencies of the current regime for what they are.
If the shoe fits, make them wear it.
Clearly articulating the parallels between current regimes and fascism can awaken those in the thrall of tax cuts or other short-term benefits to the real dangers and long-term risks to our freedom and democracy.
Michael Sales lives in Newburyport.