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Old February 11th, 2018, 06:03 AM   #1
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Why Didn’t Americans Take Fascism Seriously Until it Was Too Late?

Why Didn’t Americans Take Fascism Seriously Until it Was Too Late?

Or, The Price of Grandiose National Myths of Exceptionalism

Trump Saluting the Bastille Day Parade in France, Celebrating the Downfall of the Aristocracy - An Irony Lost on Him?

There’s a question that’s been echoing in my head. One I think that history will ask. Why didn’t Americans take fascism seriously until it was too late?

Perhaps that sounds harsh, maybe even absurd to you. So let me qualify it a little. “Fascism”. Friends, when a head of state wants to hold military parades — and not clapping is treason —LOL — is there another word, idea, or concept that fits better? Isn’t it then a willful denial of reality to say that such a watershed moment in a nation’s history is, if not outright atrocity, at least not the glittering spark of fascist implosion?

“Until it was too late”. There are many ways it can be “too late”. Until nothing can be done about it — or until, at least, the phenomenon itself occurred. Here, I mean the latter. Americans didn’t take fascism seriously until, at last, it (quite literally) paraded itself before their very eyes — and demanded they applaud on pain of treason. Sieg Heil! And maybe they still don’t. How funny. How strange.

Now that you understand my question perhaps it seems a little less extreme. Or maybe it still does. Maybe that reflects the times we live in. “Why didn’t Americans take the possibility of fascism seriously until it trumpeted down Constitution Avenue, letting the whole world know it had arrived?” Either way, let us try to derive an answer.

Now. The first way a nation might fail to take fascism seriously is trivial: there was no one left to warn of its dangers. But in America, at least a few of its thinkers did. They were sidelined, blacklisted, and deliberately erased. So the question then becomes: why did it become a taboo to even discuss the rise of fascism as a remote possibility — if not a likely probability? Every single major media outlet spent all of election year publishing pieces warning us not to use words like “fascism” and “authoritarianism” and “Hitler” and “Mussolini” — when they weren’t doing puff pieces on sympathetic Nazis. So there was a problem not of a lack of information in America — but of a strange, bizarre, glib kind of willful ignorance. A nation made itself blind, and now the authoritarians march and demand applause.

Why was that? Well, staying blind, we can go on believing our myths, which comfort and console us — that is exactly what elites were doing when they said things like “you cannot call it fascism!! Such a thing will never rise here!! We are the best!!!”. But, ironically — here is the point — it is the overweening belief in great myths that makes societies most vulnerable to fascism.

America has long had a culture of hierarchy, obedience, and overt, unforgiving social control. Break a rule — go to prison. Go to work — obey the boss. Go to school — recite the Pledge. And so on. Why? These are are ways to enforce a kind of conformity, aren’t they? Not just in thought — but also in appearance, in speech, in behaviour. In that way, they make true believers of national myths.

Now, there is not a nation in history whose myths do not say something like “we are wonderful and great and noble!!” That is the point of myths — to create a sense of confidence in a tribe. Then a person can give themselves over to the tribe’s goals, purposes, and uses — you, be a soldier, you, a doctor, you, a ditch-digger.

Still, some nations have more grandiose myths than others, don’t they? Some say: “well, we are pretty good”, and some say, “we are the best in the world!!”, and other still say “we are the best in history!! The best there ever was or will be!!”

Now, what happens the more grandiose a myth gets? The less room left there is for dissent, for difference, for reflection, for thought at all. There is not even any room left for reason, empirical reality, or humanity — but those are harder things. So in this way, a society so dependent on myths as grandiose as America’s is always at risk of plunging into little fascisms. The dark side of “We are the best!” is “Those filthy subhumans!! They are what is stopping us from attaining our god-given destiny!! We must cleanse ourselves of them to be the best!!”

So what do a nation’s myths protect it from? From reality. From its very real shortcomings and flaws and mistakes and catastrophes. They mythologize them away — they rationalize them away (“we had to do it!!”), they economize them away (“the benefits were greater than the costs!”), they erase them away (“that really happened?! It couldn’t have been as bad as that!!”). The more grandiose its myths are, the more detached from reality a nation can get.

What are such mistakes in American history? It would be an error to this is the only fascist moment in American history. There have been many. Anti-Chinese laws. Japanese internment. Italian discrimination. Anti-semitism. And of course the many horrors of slavery, segregation, and native genocide, too, cannot go unsaid. Those points make a trend, a leaning towards sudden collapses into fascism, which might seem small relative to Nazi Germany, but assuredly weren’t to those living through them. There is a distinct fascist tendency in American history that isn’t oft present elsewhere. This moment in American history is not an anomaly.

Still, this moment feels special, doesn’t it? Why is that? Because now it is not just minorities at risk of fascism’s depredations — but the majority , too. Do you see how a society that depends on myths cannot learn from its mistakes? Do you see how the societies that rely most on grandiose myths as forms of social control and cohesion, then, are the most vulnerable to fascist implosions?

The more grandiose a nation’s myths, the more vulnerable it is to fascism — and that is why America’s history has been marked by fascist implosions. The more grandiose a nation’s myths, the more harsh and exploitative it must be too, just like any narcissist, who needs to defend his sense of specialness and destiny at any price. And the more grandiose a nation’s myths, the less it can ever admit its mistakes — and so the vicious cycle just goes on and on. Fascist implosions never stop. Progress slows to a halt. Life stops improving. Tribal takes hold. Cruelty becomes a way of life. Sound familiar yet?

So all this is — and I admit it is hard to understand, come to grips with, get a feel for — the problem that America must face, in a deeper way. It’s reliance on grandiose national myths of greatness and exceptionalism have shielded and protected it for too long, from at least three aspects of reality. First, history: its tendency to implode into fascism. Second, economics: the failure to write a working social contract that all the above implies. Third, modernity: its inability to keep up with the rest of the advanced world in terms of basic quality of life since the 1970s or so. Unless those three aspects are faced, then, I think that America will be as vulnerable to fascist collapses as it has ever been.

Only America’s fascist collapses are likely to grow worse. Why is that? We have established that it is now even the majority who is at risk of fascism’s harms — not only the minority. What does that really mean? It means that America never built a working social contract. It was always necessary to exploit, enslave, or turn on someone, for the economy to grind away.

It’s true to say that in history, that much was true for every colonial empire — but it was distinctly not true after the waves of reform that swept the rest of the world from the late 1900s onwards, and established, for example, NHSes and BBCs. America was too busy, instead, looking for the next group to exploit — once the last had been chewed up, natives, blacks, Asians, Latinos. Until, at last, there was no one left — but poor whites themselves.

One can hardly blame them for turning to fascism, then. How much easier it is believe in myths of especial greatness and nobility and destiny at the precise moment that you are being exploited, than to ask yourself to see the terrible truth: you have been failed, just as all those around you have been failed. No one was special, above anyone else, or singular. All were victims of a broken way of life.

Myths might liberate us in one way — they allow us to live lives filled with pride and belief — but they subjugate us in others: pride soon enough becomes hubris, and belief soon enough becomes ignorance. And so the more grandiose a myth is, the harder the fall. It is liberation from that subjugation, of hubris and ignorance, that Americans need most. If that sounds harsh to you, I can only say this much: I mean it in a gentle way, because the work of freeing one’s self is always difficult. Sometimes, too difficult to bear — especially when there are pleasant fairy tales of your very own specialness and preciousness to be told and heard and kept safe and pure.

That is why Americans didn’t see fascism coming until it was too late. They never do.

By Umair Haque

I believe this article is unusually intelligent and well written...and takes seriously a very serious issue.

Note, the red highlighted portions of the article are my own highlights, not the authors. I found them to be exceptionally pertinent to this forum in particular.

In particular, the comment about the 'glib' way the Trump supporters treat this frightening vision of a future America. That there can be light hearted jokes (and slurs about dissenters) absolutely dumbfounds and confounds me.

Also, the caption under the photo is my own, not the caption (nor the photo) that accompanies the original article.

I have no doubt that this will either be ignored by the Trump advocates and Trumpeteers - or, more likely, I will be derided and ridiculed for posting it. But even knowing that, I felt it was an important article that deserved attention.
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Old February 11th, 2018, 06:13 AM   #2
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Thanks for posting this giant full article.
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Old February 11th, 2018, 06:35 AM   #3
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The really good fascists did something that Trump won't do.
They delivered economic miracles.
Under Mussolini, the depression seemed to bypass Italy.

Hitler took Germany from hyperinflation and 50% unemployment to zero inflation and full employment in one year.

Trump took America from almost no inflation and slightly under 5% unemployment to almost no inflation and slightly more than 4% unemployment.

Trump's economic miracle is measured in increments of fractions of a percent.
This will elicit bombastic superlatives from the likes of Sean Hannity.
But for the real people, the difference between now and a year ago is vanishingly small.

What ever change the tax cut has made to my pay envelope if it has, is not noticeable, I have direct deposit, my insurance rates changed, I have a pay increase, I get a bonus (same bonus for the last 5 years), I paid in full for some things I used to pay monthly, and my bank balance is where I don't have to worry about it, but since I don't watch it closely, I can't tell you what difference the tax cut made.
The coal industry added something like 500 jobs last year, OK, that is increased employment in the coal industry, but for actual miners, they see nothing, there aren't mines reopening, the long term trend is still down.
Steel mills are still laying off, and this is after 9 years of economic expansion.

Trump can tell people how great things are compared to a year ago, but if you live in a town where the mill closed 5 years ago, the mill is still closed.
If you were doing OK a year ago, you're probably still doing OK, if things were tough a year ago, things are probably still tough.

So the people putting their faith in a leader, and voting away democracy in favor of fascism, probably isn't going to happen here, because the huge public opinion changing events haven't happened here.

Last edited by goober; February 11th, 2018 at 06:51 AM.
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Old February 11th, 2018, 06:44 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by justoneman View Post
Thanks for posting this giant full article.
Thanks for adding nothing to the discussion whatsoever but attempting to side track it onto a discussion about 'rules' ... nice way to obfuscate your own endorsement of fascism.
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Old February 11th, 2018, 06:48 AM   #5
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we don't have to, with juststoneman here.
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Old February 11th, 2018, 07:41 AM   #6
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Fascism is good. Most people are too stupid for democracy to work.
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Old February 11th, 2018, 11:11 AM   #7
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Old February 11th, 2018, 11:21 AM   #8
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The ‘Fascist’ left in America


It’s hard to find a self-respecting liberal these days who doesn’t denounce Donald Trump as “a fascist.” if you Google “fascist” the first thing that pops on the screen is a photo of Mr. Trump.

Those in the media or the university professors or Democratic pundits who don’t call him a fascist resort to over-the-top sneering terms like “racist,” “repellent,” and even “Nazi.” After Mr. Trump’s call for a moratorium on Muslim immigration, here were a few of the choice words for those tolerant people on the left:

“He is running for president as a fascist demagogue.” - Martin O’Malley, Democratic presidential candidate.

“Trump literally wants to write racism into our law books” — Huma Abedin, aide to Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

“It is … entirely fair to call him a mendacious racist.” - Ben Smith, editor-in-chief, Buzzfeed.

“America’s modern Mussolini.” -Dana Milbank, The Washington Post.

“Trump is a proto-fascist, rather than an actual fascist. He has many ideas that are fascistic in nature . CNN.

At the end of this sneering commentary, CNN launched into a fascinating tutorial on what a Fascist is. Here are several key characteristics of a fascist leader according to CNN:

• “The superiority of the leader’s instincts over abstract and universal reason.”

• “The belief of one group that it is the victim, justifying any action.”

• “The need for authority by natural leaders (always male) culminating in a national chief who alone is capable of incarnating the group’s destiny.”

Wait a minute. What modern politician best fits this description? Could it be … Barack Obama. The Messiah. The chosen one. The man who holds political rallies with gothic columns in giant amphitheaters who enters the stage as if he were a Greek god? The greatest demagogue of modern times, who convinced the vast electorate that they are “victims” and that their key to happiness and prosperity is to take from the rich — people, he says, who have way more wealth than they could possibly need.

President Obama’s whole political success rests on identity politics — of persuading blacks, Hispanics, Jews, women, the disabled, gays, students, the poor, immigrants, that they are victims of a vast American government conspiracy against them.

As for belief in the “superiority” of the leader’s powers “over reason,” Barack Obama the omnipotent tells his followers that he has the capability of “healing the planet,” changing the earth’s weather pattern, and stopping oceans from rising. He is promising miracles that require people to suspend all reason and believe that he can achieve the equivalent of Moses parting the oceans.

So just who is the “proto-fascist” really? By the way, Mr. Obama doesn’t advocate violence either.

Liberal fascism, as my friend Jonah Goldberg has aptly pointed out in his book of the same title, is the “collaboration of government, church, unions and interest groups to expand government. It is simply the liberal impulse for controlling the lives of others.” It is the religion of the left.

The weird argument that Mr. Trump is a fascist, but Mr. Obama isn’t, is as specious as the left’s rant that the greatest surgeon in the world, Ben Carson, doesn’t have the right qualifications to be president, but a man who’s only accomplishment in life was to be a community organizer in the streets of Chicago was perfectly trained to oversee our $18 trillion economy and take over as our commander in chief.

Ironically, the left intelligentsia that is accusing Mr. Trump of fascism, are many of the same people in Hollywood who just made a movie celebrating the communists/fascists of the 1950s within their ranks — and portraying them sympathetically as blackballed victims, rather than subversive supporters of butchers who killed millions of Jews, blacks, gays, Christians, and dissidents.

Many of the communists in Hollywood, not least of all Trumbo, were avid supporters of Stalin and even remained so after his genocidal purges were well-documented. Even the Russians themselves have repudiated the savagery of Stalin — but not the American left.

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Old February 11th, 2018, 11:25 AM   #9
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So what really is fascism? The left simplistically has redefined the term to mean it is when massive numbers of voters support a conservative cause supported by the right and opposed by the left. If you oppose racial quotas or gun control, you are a fascist. If you support traditional marriage, you are a fascist. If you want to cut welfare benefits, you are a fascist. If you support Donald Trump, you are a fascist. By this definition liberals can’t be fascists because they are on a righteous cause.

But the real definition of a fascist is a leader who wants to use governmental power to suppress rights of individuals. It is the partnership of government and private industry for the collective good. Corporate cronyism is a classic form of fascism, which would include programs like Export Import Bank.

Fascism, communism, socialism, Naziism, progressivism, are all just variations on this same theme. These isms all feed on subjugating freedom.

The left might want to engage in some introspection and ask why so many millions of Americans — many of whom enthusiastically voted for Obama — now agree with Mr. Trump. Are these suddenly terrible people? Have they been duped by a charismatic leader? More likely the answer is that an ever-shrinking number of Americans trust Mr. Obama to keep the dangerous Muslims out. People want above all right now to keep their families safe, and since Mr. Obama has no interest in real and effective terrorist screening, many Americans say best to keep them all out for now.

If middle class American voters are so afraid, so angry, so distrustful of Washington, and feeling so economically marginalized that millions would throw their support behind a man routinely denounced as a dangerous Nazi/fascist, maybe the left might want to ask: who made things so bad that it has come to this? Without Barack Obama’s full slate of failures and his eight years of polarizing politics, there could be no Donald Trump.

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Old February 11th, 2018, 11:30 AM   #10
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I read this and I think to myself:
1. Which party is demanding to end the electoral college?
2. Which party was represented by rioting on inauguration day?
3. Which party was represented by rioting after the election?
4. Which party attempted to road block roads to Campaign rallies?
5. Which party is demanding laws to curb speech?

Who is advocating for fascism again?
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