Is Fascism Lurking?

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 II--not
in news stories from present day America.

And
yet the word, and the dark reality behind it, is creeping into
popular contemporary usage.

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."

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