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Is There A Threat of Fascism in the USA?

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Does Fascism Lurk Around The Corner In The USA?

By Danny Schechter
Author of The Crime Of Our Time

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Fascism is one of those words that sounds like it belongs in the past, conjuring up, as it does, marching jack boots in the streets, charismatic demagogues like Italy's Mussolini or Spain's Franco and armed crackdowns on dissent and freedom of expression.

It is a term we are used to reading in histories about World War 2---not in news stories from present day America.

And yet the word, and the dark reality behind it, is creeping into popular contemporary usage.
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Radical activists on the left have never been hesitant to label their opponents with this "F word" whenever governments support laws that limit opposition or overdo national security or abuse human rights. Government paranoia turns critics paranoid.

One example: writer Naomi Wolf forecast fascism creeping into America during the Bush years accelerated by the erosion of democracy, writing:

"It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here."

Wolf feared Americans couldn't see the warning signs:

"Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree - domestically - as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government - the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognize the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security - remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" - didn't raise the alarm bells it might have."

Now, those bells are now being rung by John Hall, an outgoing Democratic Congressman from upstate New York. His fear of fascism has less to do with repressive laws and militarism than the influx of corporate money into politics, swamping it with special interests that buy influence for right wing policies and politicians.

"I learned when I was in social studies class in school that corporate ownership or corporate control of government is called Fascism," he told the New York Observer. "So that's really the question-- is that the destination if this court decision goes unchecked?"

Reports New York's Observer, "The court decision he is referring to is Citizens United, the controversial Supreme Court ruling that led to greater corporate spending in the midterm elections, much of it anonymous. In the wake of the decision, Democrats tried to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would have mandated that corporate donors identify themselves in their advertising, but the measure failed amid GOP opposition. Ads from groups with anonymous donors were particularly prone to misleading or false claims.

Hall said the influx of corporate money in the wake of Citizens United handed the House of Representatives to Republicans "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power."

Photo by Bill Perry

Many in mainstream politics who understand that big money can dominate elections although not in every case share Hall's fears. In California, two well-known female candidates from the corporate world raised millions but still went down in defeat.

So money alone is not the be all and end all of a shift towards a red white and blue brand of fascism. Other ingredients are needed and some may be on the way--like an economic collapse, defeat in foreign wars, rise in domestic terrorism and the emergence of a right-wing populist movement that puts order before justice and wants to crush its opponents

Some argue we have just such a movement in the Tea Party although other critics focus on the rise of the Christian right that promotes fundamentalist politics in the name of God.

The Tea Party is not just after Democrats; it has started a campaign against the liberal Methodist Church. It is not internally democratic either with no elected officers or set of by by-laws. It seems to be managed and manipulated by shadowy political operatives and PR firms, financed by a few billionaires who support populism to defang it.

Already militias are forming because of fears of immigration, and there is also concern that if unemployment remains high there is likely to be more violence with police forces understaffed because of government cutbacks. Gun sales went up after the recent violent incidents in Arizona.
The erosion of economic stability with the rise of foreclosures and the shredding of social services is already turning a financial crisis into a social one.

We already have sharp partisan divide and inflation of hateful rhetoric with vicious putdowns of the President and condemnations by members of Congress calling him corrupt, even a traitor.

According to set of the characteristics of fascist nations, there is "a 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.

"In place of human rights enemies are turned into 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."

This process is already far along in the USA

Among the classical characteristics of fascism is a shutting down of debate and a focus on the state--which in our country is controlled by lobbyists and private interests. Wall Street and the military-industrial complex have far more clout than elected officials.

In the past, during the depression, there was a plot to overthrow Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was exposed and neutered. Could something like that happen again?

Maybe it doesn't have to, what with hawks already in control of Congress, major media outlets, the military and poised to slash the power of unions and curb progressive social programs including public education.

Several writers believe that if and when fascism comes to America it will be packaged in a friendly form tied to beneficial advertising slogans and public interest messaging. It will be sold, 1984, style as being unavoidable, even cool, and in our best interest.

Louisiana's infamous Senator Huey Long, a mesmerizing agitator, once said, "Fascism will come to America in the name of anti-fascism."

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs on Med His latest film, Plunder The Crime of Our Time treats the financial crisis as a crime story. Comments to Email address removed


News Dissector Danny Schechter is blogger in chief at Mediachannel.Org He is the author of PLUNDER: Investigating Our Economic Calamity (Cosimo Books) available at See

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What's your view? Mine is in my new Op Ed News com... by Danny Schechter on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 12:26:24 PM
Mr. Schechter, I agree with you but from a somewha... by Roberto Benitez on Wednesday, Jan 26, 2011 at 10:51:25 PM
The SCOTUS' Citizens United vs. Federal Election C... by Roberto Benitez on Wednesday, Jan 26, 2011 at 10:58:18 PM
Welcome to the party... by S. Paul Forrest on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 1:41:38 PM
It has been growing since Reagan. Each president ... by Dennis Kaiser on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 3:34:27 PM
Not to disagree with your first statement, but I c... by Kip Anderson on Tuesday, Jan 18, 2011 at 9:58:16 AM
Dennis, it's been going on this before Teddy Roose... by Roberto Benitez on Wednesday, Jan 26, 2011 at 9:36:14 PM
Common. Control is in the hands of the rulers, not... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 5:00:33 PM
those who can improperly influence them get away w... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 5:02:37 PM
fascism is testing the waters. There are plenty of... by robert braunstein on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 5:45:57 PM
"Fascism" is a problematic term, in that I don't b... by Stewart Wechsler on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 5:53:52 PM
Consider this OpEdNews article: Fascism American-S... by R A Bows on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 6:23:00 PM
From ************* "In... by Mike Preston on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 6:50:27 PM
Barry Ritholtz is a good writer and his blog on in... by Mike Preston on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 6:58:27 PM
Top/down or bottom/up. The more authoritarian the ... by Margaret Bassett on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 7:04:01 PM
What a nonsensical question: Is There A Threat of... by Skip Cook on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 7:04:51 PM
Limiting government just gives the corporations mo... by liberalsrock on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 9:18:28 AM
Don't believe it is stupid. I think it is an obvi... by Skip Cook on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 7:34:26 PM
I think to put it more accurately, they fear comp... by Jack Flanders on Monday, Jan 17, 2011 at 8:22:18 AM
before reading to the end. My mistake. We need gov... by Daniel Geery on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 11:22:37 AM
I'm a progressive, Skip.I remember in history clas... by Marlene Bomer on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 5:59:29 PM
Marlene, you make my case about "ignorance" with y... by Skip Cook on Monday, Jan 17, 2011 at 1:24:28 PM
failing dealing prevails produces the most benefit... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Monday, Jan 17, 2011 at 2:21:26 PM
Capitalism always is demagogued as the crazy, crim... by Skip Cook on Monday, Jan 17, 2011 at 2:42:23 PM
Marlene, you make my case about "ignorance" with y... by Skip Cook on Monday, Jan 17, 2011 at 2:12:24 PM
Shortly after the S&L industry was deregulated... by Jack Flanders on Tuesday, Jan 18, 2011 at 4:06:59 PM
There is a growing "mushroom cloud" of it already ... by Robert P. Philipps on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 7:13:45 PM
Fascist states are what the world became as the re... by James OShanahan on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 9:53:36 PM
"In the past, during the depression, there was a p... by Saman Mohammadi on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 10:54:57 PM
From Webster's dictionary: Facism: (also fascism),... by Michael McCoy on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 1:18:53 AM
I have read in many different blogs and internet n... by mike buchan on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 1:46:04 AM
Keep coming to this site.Pay special attention to ... by Ned Lud on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 6:29:14 AM
What's making America go fascist right now was des... by Kyle Griffith on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 6:45:03 AM
That should get you started.... by Mike Preston on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 9:49:36 AM
Alex Jones has given names before and his whole th... by Mike Preston on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 10:04:56 AM
The reason I fanned Mike Preston is that I can rel... by Elizabeth Hanson on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 10:10:40 AM
A few words on what Alex Jones says. AJ says the C... by Mike Preston on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 10:54:45 AM
are the reason I try to read and comment on every ... by Paul Rye on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 12:26:16 PM
Upton Sinclair said fascism will come to America b... by Ted Newcomen on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 7:00:05 AM
The one writer who said we ave always been a facis... by liberalsrock on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 9:10:11 AM
Hall wasn't the first to say "Fascism should more ... by Scott Baker on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 11:34:21 AM
Competitive capitalism appears to be only the firs... by Bernard on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 11:52:43 AM
If an organization rewards liars, like Glenn Beck,... by Donnie McLeod on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 3:13:37 PM
While Beck, Limbaugh and Palin are spouting psycho... by Stewart Wechsler on Monday, Jan 17, 2011 at 2:14:48 PM
Sinclair Lewis Facism will come with a bible and... by Gracia Bittner on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 5:31:16 PM
We can think about rich moguls with big bucks. And... by Margaret Bassett on Monday, Jan 17, 2011 at 1:47:24 AM
There is a difficulty in determining if fascism ha... by AAA AAA on Monday, Jan 17, 2011 at 11:52:39 AM
We do not have Political Persecutions with Obama, ... by William Huie on Monday, Jan 17, 2011 at 7:24:57 PM