We have gotten past the point where analytically one can say that our nation is drifting towards an American version of Fascism; we are in a head long bob sled paced descent into the surrender and/or dysfunction of every function of government that is supposed to serve the people and not the interests of profit and war thirsty corporations who are literally holding captive the people of this nation. Our government is at best merely treading water awaiting some event that will mark its collapse.
The majority of Americans are complicit in the horrid crime of squandering the “Great Experiment”, whether it be by apathy, inaction or the hope of being on the side of the subjugators whose boots they will in turn end up licking as they too will in final hours be betrayed.
The following words are reposted from an earlier “Black Quill Letters” post as a reminder, a refresher of the facts.
Fascism in America won’t come with jackboots, book burnings, mass rallies, and fevered harangues, nor will it come with black helicopters or tanks on the street. It won’t come like a storm—but as a break in the weather, that sudden change of season you might feel when the wind shifts on an October evening: Everything is the same, but everything has changed. Something has gone, departed from the world, and a new reality will have taken its place. But it will all seem “normal”.
All the old forms will still be there: legislatures, elections, campaigns—plenty of bread and circuses. It will all seem “normal”.
But “consent of the governed” will no longer apply; actual control of the state will have passed to a small and privileged group who rule for the benefit of their wealthy peers and corporate patrons. But it will all seem ““normal””.
The change in America is taking place as I write, and Sinclair Lewis prophetically said” “That when Fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” And when it happens, somehow; it will all seem “normal”.
To be sure, there will be factional conflicts among the elite, and a degree of debate will be permitted; but no one outside the privileged circle will be allowed to influence state policy. Dissidents will be marginalized—usually by “the people” themselves. Deprived of historical knowledge by a thoroughly impoverished educational system designed to produce complacent consumers, left ignorant of current events by a corporate media devoted solely to profit, many will internalize the force-fed values of the ruling elite, and act accordingly. There will be little need for overt methods of control. It will all seem “normal”.
The rulers will act in secret, for reasons of “national security,” and the people will not be permitted to know what goes on in their name. Actions once unthinkable will be accepted as routine: government by executive fiat, state murder of “enemies” selected by the leader, undeclared wars, torture, mass detentions without charge, the looting of the national treasury, the creation of huge new “security structures” targeted at the populace. In time, this will be seen as ““normal”,” as the chill of autumn feels “normal” when summer is gone. It will all seem “normal”.
Fascism is a political ideology and mass movement that seeks to place thenation, defined in exclusive biological, cultural, and/or historical terms, above all other sources of loyalty, and to create a mobilized national community. Many different characteristics are attributed to fascism by different scholars, but the following elements are usually seen as its integral parts: nationalism, authoritarianism, militarism, corporatism,statism, collectivism, anti-liberalism, and anti-communism. There are numerous debates between scholars regarding the nature of fascism, and the kinds of political movements and governments that may be called fascist. For further elaboration, please see definitions of fascism andfascism and ideology.
The term fascism was first used by Benito Mussolini, and it comes from the Italian word fascio, which means "union" or "league", and from the Latin word fasces (fascis, in singular), which means rods bundled around an axe. The fasces was an ancient Roman symbol of the authority of magistrates, and the symbolism of the fasces suggested strength through unity: a single rod is easily broken, while the bundle is very difficult to break.
Since the end of World War II, there has been considerable stigma associated with fascism, and few political groups in the past 60 years have dared to openly identify themselves as fascist. Unlike other ideologies, fascism never generated a large body of dogma or political theory, and, most importantly, there have been no significant political texts written from a fascist point of view since 1945. Thus, nearly all works on the topic of fascist ideology have been written by non-fascist and anti-fascist authors, and it is often difficult to determine the fascist position on many important issues. The word "fascist" is often used pejoratively, a label used by people of all political views to draw criticism upon an opposing viewpoint. This has spilled over into debates concerning the ideological nature of fascism, with adherents of some ideologies trying to draw parallels between fascism and their own ideological opponents.
Many diverse regimes have identified themselves as fascist, and many regimes have been labelled as fascist even though they did not self-identify as such. Historians, political scientists, and other scholars have engaged in long and furious debates concerning the exact nature of fascism and its core tenets. Since the 1990s, there has been a growing move toward some rough consensus reflected in the work of Stanley Payne, Roger Eatwell, Roger Griffin, and Robert O. Paxton.
Mussolini defined fascism as being a right-wing collectivistic ideology in opposition to socialism, liberalism, democracy and individualism. He wrote in The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism:
Anti-individualistic, the fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal will of man as a historic entity.... The fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value.... Fascism is therefore opposed to that form of democracy which equates a nation to the majority, lowering it to the level of the largest number.... We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the 'right', a Fascist century. If the 19th century was the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism) we are free to believe that this is the 'collective' century, and therefore the century of the State. (a version of the text is here).
Since Mussolini, however, there have been many conflicting definitions of the term "fascism." Former Columbia University Professor Robert O. Paxton has written that:
"Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."
Paxton further defines fascism's essence as:
1. a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions;
2. belief one’s group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits;
3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts;
4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint;
5. fear of foreign `contamination."
Fascism is associated by many scholars with one or more of the following characteristics: a very high degree of nationalism, economic corporatism, a powerful, dictatorial leader who portrays the nation, state or collective as superior to the individuals or groups composing it.
Stanley Payne's Fascism: Comparison and Definition (1980) uses a lengthy itemized list of characteristics to identify fascism, including the creation of an authoritarian state; a regulated, state-integrated economic sector;fascist symbolism; anti-liberalism; anti-communism; anti-conservatism.Semiotician Umberto Eco also attempts to identify characteristics of fascism in his popular essay Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt. More recently, an emphasis has been placed upon the aspect of populist fascist rhetoric that argues for a "re-birth" of a conflatednation and ethnic people.
Most scholars hold that fascism as a social movement employs elements from the political left, but many conclude that fascism eventually allies with the political right, especially after attaining state power. For example, Nazism began as a socio-political movement that promoted a radical form of National Socialism, but altered its character once Adolf Hitler was handed state power in Germany. Some scholars and political commentators argue that fascism is a form of socialist dictatorship similar to that in Soviet Union.
The evolution of Fascism in a Democracy is the most insidious of political transitions, assembling many components from divergent intellectual, pop culture sources and fringe organizations that have fanatic devotees. Even in the face of warning, the words of the courier most often go without heed, and in fact, are frequently attacked as the ranting of lunatic alarmists; the evolutionary/transitional process, both by design of the usurpers and the climate of gradual acceptance isolates the messenger until it is too late. Everything seems rational; everything seems “normal”. Just look inside the following and tell me: Is this your idea of “normal”? From such sources is the stew being
Neo-fascism and religion
Ku Klux Klan
American Nazi Party
Alain de Benoist
William Luther Pierce
George Lincoln Rockwell
International Third Position
And the Top Neocon Think Tanks
Project for the New American Century (PNAC)
Established in 1997 by William Kristol and Robert Kagan, PNAC's goal is "to promote American global leadership." Creating a blueprint for the US' current role in the world, PNAC's original Statement of Principles called for the US to return to a "Reaganite foreign policy of military strength and moral clarity."
American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
Founded in 1943, this influential Washington think tank is known as the headquarters of neoconservative thought. In a crucial speech in the leadup to the war in Iraq, US President George W. Bush said this to an audience at AEI: "You do such good work that my administration has borrowed 20 such minds."
Jewish Intitute for National Security Affairs (JINSA)
Based in Washington, JINSA "communicates with the national security establishment and the general public to explain the role Israel can and does play in bolstering American interests, as well as the link between American defense policy and the security of Israel." Some of the strongest supporters of Israel's right-wing Likud Party in the already pro-Israel neoconservative circles are on JINSA's board of advisers.
Center for Security Policy (CSP)
CSP's 2001 annual report boasts of its influence saying it "isn't just a 'think tank' – it's an agile, durable, and highly effective 'main battle tank' in the war of ideas on national security." Securing neoconservatives' influence at the nexus of military policymakers and weapons manufacturers, CSP's mission is "to promote world peace through American strength."
The Hudson Institute
The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies
Ethics and Public Policy Center
The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
Further Sources For Investigation
In his original article, "Fascism Anyone?", Laurence Britt (interview) compared the regimes of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Suharto, and Pinochet and identified 14 characteristics common to those fascist regimes. This page is a collection of news articles dating from the start of the Bush presidency divided into topics relating to each of the 14 points of fascism. Further analysis of American Fascism done by the POAC can be read here.
1.) Powerful and Continuing Nationalism: Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
September 11 Freedom Walk—
New Majority Leader: Iraq War “May Be The Greatest Gift That We Give” Our Grandchildren
Headstones of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are inscribed with the Pentagons war-marketing slogans
White House and the RNC are going to make a habit of using uniformed military personnel as props at Republican political rallies, despite the fact that it is a plain violation of military regulations banning politicization of the armed forces.
"You must glorify war in order to get the public to accept the fact that your going to send their sons and daughters to die." The inside story of the cozy relationship between big box office American war movies and the Pentagon
2.) 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.
We are now a torturing police state: Bush signing into law that will get rid of habeas corpus, allow hearsay evidence, and allow the President to determine what is allowable torture.
Bush Offers Himself Amnesty for Human Rights Crimes
Bush threatens to veto $442b defense bill if Congress investigates detainee abuses.
Guantanamo Judge: “I don’t care about international law. I don’t want to hear the words ‘international law’ again. We are not concerned with international law.”
Rumsfeld to approve new guidelines that will formalize the administration's policy of imprisoning without the protections of the Geneva Conventions and enable the Pentagon to legally hold "ghost detainees,"
US 'preparing to detain terror suspects for life without trial'
U.S. oks evidence gained through torture
July 1, 2003: U.S. Suspends Military Aid to Nearly 50 Countries: because they have supported the International Criminal Court and failed to exempt Americans from possible prosecution.
US has at least 9000 prisoners in secret detention
3.) Identification of Enemies/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, etc.
Congressman: Muslims 'enemy amongst us'
SB 24, Ohio law to muzzle "liberals"
Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum has joined a conservative Washington think tank, where he will found and direct a program called "America's Enemies."
Sean Hannity creates weekly "Enemy of the State" segment on his new program
Fox radio hosts suggests putting liberal commentators and activists in concentration camps.
World history textbook used by seventh-graders at Scottsdale’s Mohave Middle School was pulled from classrooms mid-semester amid growing right criticism of the book’s unbiased portrayal of Islam
Rallies planned against 'Islamofacism': Event to 'unify all Americans behind common goal'
4.) Supremacy of the Military: Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
If you haven't seen the Oreo flash animation yet, see it here (It puts things in perspective!)
Bush’s Domestic Program Hit List (What Priorities are important?)
Bush slashes domestic programs, boosts defense. Arlen Spector calls it "scandalous"
Funding for job training, rural health care, low-income schools and help for people lacking health insurance would face big cuts under a bill passed Friday by the House
Pentagon to spend 75 billion for three new brigades
Three cable channels now feed news, information and entertainment about the armed services into millions of living rooms 24 hours a day, seven days a week: The Military Channel, the Military History Channel and the Pentagon Channel.
5.) Rampant Sexism: The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.
It's legal again, to fire gov't workers for being gay
Bush calls for Constitutional ban on same-sex marriages
Bush refuses to sign U.N proposal on women's "sexual" rights
W. David Hager chairman of the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee does not prescribe contraceptives for single women, does not do abortions, will not prescribe RU-486 and will not insert IUDs.
The State Department has awarded an explicitly anti-feminist U.S. group part of a US$10 million grant to train Iraqi women in political participation and democracy.
6.) Controlled Mass Media: Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
FBI Acknowledges: Journalists Phone Records are Fair Game
Report shows U.S. government has been engaged in illegal propaganda aimed at its own citizens and the story gets only 41 mentions in the media
Free Press details recent governmental propaganda efforts, from faux-correspondent Jeff Gannon to paid-off pundit Armstrong Williams, and from the demise of FOIA to video news releases passed off as news.
also... See a Whitehouse fake news release here (opens realplayer)
US seizes webservers from independent media sites-
Bush's war on information: US editors forbidden to publish certain foreign writers-
7.) Obsession with National Security: Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses
Bush Aides ADMIT 'stoking fear' for political gain:
Bush adviser said the president hopes to change the dynamics of the race. The strategy is aimed at stoking public fears about terrorism, raising new concerns about Kerry's ability to protect Americans and reinforcing Bush's image as the steady anti-terrorism candidate, aides said.-
The Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level. –
GOP Ad These are the stakes-
Keith Olbermann: "The Nexus of Politics and Terror."-
Cheney warns that if Kerry is elected, the USA will suffer a "devastating attack" –
GOP convention in a nutshell (quicktime) –
Rove: GOP to Use Terror As Campaign Issue in 2006
8.) Religion and Government are Intertwined: Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.
Jerry Falwell cleared of charges that he broke federal election law by urging followers to vote for Bush
NC congressman proposes law making it ok to preach politics from the pulpit
Texas Governor Mobilizes Evangelicals
Family research council: Justice Sunday
Thou shalt be like Bush:
What makes this recently established, right-wing Christian college unique are the increasingly close - critics say alarmingly close - links it has with the Bush administration and the Republican establishment.
Park Service Continues to Push Creationist Theory at Grand Canyon and other nat'l parks
9.) Corporate Power is Protected: The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
The K Street Project is a project by the Republican party to pressure Washington lobbying firms to hire Republicans in top positions, and to reward loyal GOP lobbyists with access to influential officials. It was launched in 1995, by Republican strategist Grover Norquist and House majority leader Tom DeLay.
American Conservative Magazine: One U.S. contractor received $2 million in a duffel bag... and a U.S. official was given $7 million in cash in the waning days of the CPA and told to spend it “before the Iraqis take over.”
There are 6 Congressional Committees investigating the Oil-for-Food (UN) scandal, yet not a single Republican Committee Chairman will call a hearing to investigate the whereabouts of 9 billion dollars missing in Iraq
Bush money network rooted in Florida, Texas: Since Mr. Bush took office in 2001, the federal government has awarded more than $3 billion in contracts to the President's elite 2004 Texas fund-raisers, their businesses, and lobbying clients
10.) Labor Power is Suppressed: Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
Labor Department warns unions against using their money politically
President Bush Attacks Organized Labor: Bush attacked organized labor Saturday, issuing orders effectively reducing how much money unions can spend for political activities and opening up government contracts to non-union bidding.
March 2001: President Bush signed his name to four executive orders on organized labor last month, including one that cuts the money unions will have for political campaign spending.
Congress and the Department of Labor are trying to change the rules on overtime pay, eliminating the 40 hour work week, taking eligibility for overtime pay away from millions of workers, and replacing time and a half pay with comp days.
11.) Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts: Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.
The A to Z guide to political interference in science
Bush's new economic plan cuts funding for arts, education
Artists from all over the world are being refused entry to the US on security grounds.
A group of more than 60 top U.S. scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates and several science advisers to past Republican presidents, on Wednesday accused the Bush administration of manipulating and censoring science for political purposes
Freedom of Repression: New ruling will allow censorship of campus publications
12.) Obsession with Crime and Punishment: Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations
The 10 most outrageous civil liberties violations of 2006
The United States has now become the world leader in its rate of incarceration, locking up its citizens at 5-8 times the rate of other industrialized nations.
American Gestapo is here: "There is hereby created and established a permanent police force, to be known as the 'United States Secret Service Uniformed Division.'"
America: secret jails, secret courts, secret arrests, and now secret laws
Snitch-or-Go-to-Jail bill will make pretty much anything short of reporting on everyone you see for doing just about anything a jailable offense. With minimum sentences, up to and including life without parole.
The problem with Gonzales is that he has been deeply involved in developing some of the most sweeping claims of near-dictatorial presidential power in our nation's history, allowing him to imprison and even (at least in theory) torture anyone in the world, at any time
Police officers don't have to give a reason at the time they arrest someone, the U.S. Supreme Court said in a ruling that shields officers from false-arrest lawsuits.
13.) Rampant Cronyism and Corruption: Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
Bush Cronyism: Foxes Guarding the henhouse
Who's been indicted, named as a co-conspirator or convicted? The Grand Ole Docket tracks trial dates, court appearances and sentencing hearings for players in the current array of national political scandals.
Making Sense of the Abramoff Scandal
In preparation for upcoming Congressional hearings, Bush Administration firing federal attorneys and appointing ringers without Senate confirmation via the patriot act.
If Bush's pick is confirmed, that will mean the five top appointees at Justice have zero prosecutorial experience among them.
Iran-Contra Felons Get Good Jobs from Bush
Big Iraq Reconstruction Contracts Went To Big Donors
Bush Wars -- Crooks Get Contracts : The main companies that were awarded billions of dollars worth of contracts in Iraq have paid more than $300 million in fines since 2000, to resolve allegations of fraud, bid rigging, delivery of faulty military equipment, and environmental damage.
US Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) lost track of $9 billion
"Contracting in the aftermath of the hurricanes has been marked by waste, corruption and cronyism"
14. Fraudulent Elections: Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
A couple of election workers have been convicted of rigging a recount in Ohio following the 2004 election
Rolling Stone does some investigative and rather exhaustive digging into public documents and says we’re almost guaranteed the 2004 election results were massively rigged
Powerful Government Accounting Office report confirms key 2004 stolen election findings
Conyers hearing in which Clinton Curtis testifies that he was hired to create hackable voting machines (.wmv)
The Republican Party has quietly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide private defense lawyers for a former Bush campaign official charged with conspiring to keep Democrats from voting in New Hampshire.
The Conyers Report (.pdf)
No explanation for the machines in Mahoning County that recorded Kerry votes for Bush, the improper purging in Cuyahoga County, the lock down in Warren County, the 99% voter turnout in Miami County, the machine tampering in Hocking County
Less access than Kazakhstan. Fewer fail-safes than Venezuela. Not as simple Republic of Georgia. The 2004 Elections according to international observers.
This picture is what stopped the ballot recounts in Florida shortly after it seemed that legitimate President Gore had a lead. The "citizens" started what was later called "the preppy riot". Screaming, yelling, pounding on the walls, these "outraged citizens" intimidated the polling officials to halt the court mandated recount. A closer look reveals who they really were. They were bussed and flown in at Republican law makers expense. Some even flew in on Tom Delay's private plane.
If Mussolini defines fascism as "the merger of corporate and government power" what does that make the K Street project?
"Now and Then"- Part 1 A 3 part series by W David Jenkins III on the similarities between America now and Germany post Reichstag fire-
"Now and Then"- Part II: The Propaganda Machine-
Now and Then- Part IIIHitler's Playbook: Bush and the Abuse of Power-
It may sound crazy to some, but the style of governing into which America has slid is most accurately described as fascism.-
Is America Becoming Fascist?-
Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt-
The Danger of American Fascism:With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.-
Sheila Samples: Freedom To Fascism -- A Bumpy Ride: Republicans don't seem to realize that they are no longer individual members of a coherent "party," but are merely part of a mean-spirited and dangerous movement that is threatening to sweep away democracy as we know it.-
Germany In 1933: The Easy Slide Into Fascism-
The Brownshirting of America:
Bush’s supporters demand lock-step consensus that Bush is right. They regard truthful reports that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and was not involved in the September 11 attack on the US – truths now firmly established by the Bush administration’s own reports – as treasonous America-bashing.
Fascism then. Fascism now? When people think of fascism, they imagine Rows of goose-stepping storm troopers and puffy-chested dictators. What they don't see is the economic and political process that leads to the nightmare.
What is Fascism? Some General Ideological Features
Hello. You are now living in a fascist empire
Neo-fascism in America : Too many people believe fascism is only about goose-stepping, jack-booted Nazis. Too many people believe that American democracy is so strong that fascists could never take control of America. If you are sympathetic to those views, I invite you to consider the possibility that you are mistaken.
It is in times of fascism rising that armies of ignorance are once more resuscitated from the bowels of a society bordering on the edge of mass psychosis. The America at the dawn of the twenty-first century is no exception...
Republican Party Brown Shirts: "The Wide-Awakes": The organization was known for virulent anti-Catholicism, secretive rituals, and a military-style organization complete with "officers" and units.
Harper's Magazine: We Now Live in a Fascist State
They Saw It Coming: The 19th-Century Libertarian Critique of Fascism
Victims of Creeping Fascism: We are witnessing nothing less astonishing than the demise of the American experiment. 12-20
The ten phases of a Bush scandal. 12-22
America is headed for a soft dictatorship by the end of Bush’s second term.
The Rise of Fascism in America; A Little Repeat Reminder and Review
Fascism in America won’t come with jackboots, book burnings, mass rallies, and fevered harangues, nor will it come with black helicopters or tanks on the street.
It won’t come like a storm—but as a break in the weather, that sudden change of season you might feel when the wind shifts on an October evening: Everything is the same, but everything has changed.
Something has gone, departed from the world, and a new reality will have taken its place. All the old forms will still be there: legislatures, elections, campaigns—plenty of bread and circuses.
But “consent of the governed” will no longer apply; actual control of the state will have passed to a small and privileged group who rule for the benefit of their wealthy peers and corporate patrons.
The change in America is taking place as I write, and Sinclair Lewis prophetically said” “That when Fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”
The rulers will act in secret, for reasons of “national security,” and the people will not be permitted to know what goes on in their name.
Actions once unthinkable will be accepted as routine: government by executive fiat, state murder of “enemies” selected by the leader, undeclared wars, torture, mass detentions without charge, the looting of the national treasury, the creation of huge new “security structures” targeted at the populace.
In time, this will be seen as ““normal”,” as the chill of autumn feels “normal” when summer is gone. It will all seem “normal”.
Since the 1970’s, American businesses have grown larger and more monopolistic, helped along by deregulation, the repeal of anti-trust laws, and a steady transformation from manufacturing to capital management (dare I say, “capital manipulation”?).
As Paul Bigioni puts it in his excellent essay entitled “The Real Threat of Fascism”: “If we are to protect ourselves from the growing political influence of Big Business, then our antitrust laws must be reconceived in a way which recognizes the political danger of monopolistic conditions.”
Bigioni continues by emphasizing that “Antitrust laws do not just protect the marketplace, they protect democracy.” It is well to remember that conditions like these led to fascism in both Germany and Italy in the 1930’s, and Bigioni points out that the transformation toward fascism occurred in both countries while they were still liberal democracies.
In America, since at least 1971, the rich have gotten much, much richer and the poor have become poorer and far more numerous, largely because our government now sees its primary function as serving the interests of Big Business and its Big Money.
As of 2003, according to a Congressional Budget Office report, the top one percent of households in America accounted for 57.5% of America’s wealth, up from 38.7% only twelve years earlier. And this does not take into account the last three years of the Bush tax-cuts. In the U.S. today, there are 374 billionaires, approximately 25,000 deca-millionaires ($10,000,000-$999,000,000) and 2.5 million millionaires; and this does not even take into account the wealth of corporations!
Under such conditions, competition is minimized or thwarted, and capital is exalted over labor, the consummation of Marx’s contention that “Capital is dead labor.”
In every industry, huge monopolistic cartels dominate the playing field, following the spate of mergers and acquisitions throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. To cite just two examples: (1) Four media giants (AOL-Time Warner, Viacom, Disney, and Rupert Murdoch’s NewsGroup) control everything we read, view, listen to, see at movie houses, and do at entertainment parks. Just four conglomerates, which have oh so much in common with one another, produce (for profit) every newspaper, magazine, major internet site, movie, cd, dvd, television program, and so on.
The pressure to stay within fairly narrow bounds of covering and the fear of losing one’s job should one “think outside the box” is detailed succinctly in Danny Schechter’s March 27, 2006 column the title of which is taken from a line Edward R. Morrow utters in the movie “Good Night and Good Luck”: “The Fear is in the Room: Inside our Unbrave Media World”; Robert Fisk’s March 19 column, “The Farcical End of the American Dream”; and Bill Gallagher’s March 28th column, “There is No ‘Good News’ in Iraq."
To note one other example: if Wal-Mart were a country it would have the 19th largest economy in the world!
Do not be hoodwinked by labels here: there was nothing “socialist” about Hitler’s National Socialist Party, despite his clever employment of terms such as “volk” (the people or the folks), “heimat” (homeland), or the solidarity sounding “ein land” (one country)! Likewise, there is no genuinely human freedom in the free market, despite the intoxicating rhetoric of the neo-liberals. Bigioni quotes Thurman Arnold, the head of the Anti-trust section of the Justice Department in 1939:
“Germany, of course, has developed within 15 years from an industrial autocracy into a dictatorship. Most people are under the impression that the power of Hitler was the result of his demagogic blandishments and appeals to the mob. . . Actually, Hitler holds his power through the final and inevitable development of the uncontrolled tendency to combine in restraint of trade.” And in another address, Arnold told the American Bar Association that “Germany presents the logical end of the process of cartelization.”
And, of course, every cartel needs a strong leader, a commander-in-chief with an iron fist, And Arnold says that Hitler filled that role, but that if it had not been Hitler, it would have been someone else. (Americans today might draw an analogy: if it were not George W. Bush, the first M.B.A. President, who would serve as the front-man for Big Business, it would be someone else.)
Bigioni writes, “Compulsory slave labor was the crowning achievement of Nazi labor relations.” By analogy, Employment-at-Will, the outsourcing of manufacturing and even service jobs, and the rejection of a living wage, is the crowning achievement of American labor relations. (See, for example, Harold Meyerson’s article, “Three Ideas to Radically Reorder Economy” (Providence Journal, March 24, 2006) and Princeton University Professor Alan Blinder’s article in the March-April issue of Foreign Affairs.
The disappearance of union jobs, outsourcing and downsizing has been the crowning achievement of American business relations over the past 30 years or so. The other factors contributing to what Bigioni calls “the fascist trajectory” includes low taxes, various forms of corporate welfare, the decimation of small businesses, and the ability of corporations to discharge obligations to employees, to the environment, and to the country as a whole.
In short, the United States is suffocating from the deleterious effects of Big Money interests in virtually every arena, from public political processes to the privatization of much of what belongs to all of us. Corporate advertising secures the pernicious effects. From time to time, one hears a call for public financing of elections, for truth in advertising, and for more regulation and oversight of lobbying activities, but on the whole, Americans seem glib about the way things are, supposing that this is the only way they can be.
The status quo breeds resignation in the citizenry, and this resignation, too, is in large part an effect of Big Business and its Big Money. It keeps ordinary folks and their common sense away from the political arena, which might otherwise force a change in the way things are done. Big Money does everything it can to sour people on political participation, so that the little guys who just don’t know what’s best for themselves or the country will leave matters of governance to the professional ruling class.
To formalize this relatively recent reality, it would seem necessary to reword our Constitution to reflect those entities called “corporations,” which have now been deemed “persons” and whose capital is now regarded as a form of “speech.” (See, for example, Jeffrey Kaplan, “Uncivil Liberties: ACLU Defense of ‘Money=Speech’ Precedent Undermines Democracy.”) The United States has become a country “of the corporation, by the corporation, and for the corporation.”
Public financing of elections and campaign expenditure limits are shouted down as communism or socialism, in a manner very similar to Big Money’s cries of “class warfare” when the population at large objects to additional giveaways to the richest few Americans. Big Money (representing a small, elite class) does everything in its power to prevent the American people from awakening to the fact that what it is seeing really is class warfare: warfare that is being waged from the top down, against the poor and what we used to call the “middle class,” which are now subsidizing Big Money interests that control the political agenda and its legislative processes.
The influence of Big Money on U.S. elections cannot be underestimated. (See, for example, Greg Palast’s “Jim Crow in Cyberspace” in The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, the work on election fraud by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, and the recent articles by Warren Stewart “Do You Know How Your Vote Will be Counted?” and Fred Grimm “Election Official Hammered for Telling the Truth”. The problem with the role of money in a supposedly democratic country is not restricted to the many and all-too regular scandals—such as the Abramoff affair or the conviction of Randy “Duke” Cunningham—nor is the problem restricted to the corruption that has ensnared elected officials and exposed lobbyists as little more than bribes makers and bagmen.
(See Geov Parrish, “That Old-Fashioned Corruption,” and Katrina vanden Heuvel’s, “Annals of Outrage I, II, and III) It is, rather, that money, as John McCain famously said, “is the mother’s milk of politics” (at least in the U.S. political system.) The need to raise money at every level, from city to state to federal offices, pollutes and perverts the democratic process.
The corruption is bipartisan; at present, the Republican Party enjoys greater favor with the corporate paymasters than does the Democratic Party, but both parties are “on the take”. It does little to assuage one’s concern for democracy that one party gets 55-60% of the paymasters’ money and the other only 40-45%. In a country that prides itself on being democratic, private money peddles its influence across the political spectrum.
To cite one illustrative example, Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen, an energy industry watchdog, reports that Big Oil and Gas doled out $55 million to various campaigns for legislative and executive seats since 2001. And why not, ExxonMobil alone made a profit of $36.1 billion in 2005, the most profit ever recorded by a U.S. corporation in a year, and a rate of return on investment of 46-59%. And what did these donations buy the industry? Among other things, when the executives of the top five oil and gas companies were called before Congress to testify about possible price-gouging and the prospect of a windfall profits tax, the five company representatives were not required to testify under oath!
Big Money and the future of Democracy in America
I suspect that everything just recounted is entirely by design: not by the design of our framers, but by the design of Big Money interests. The role of money ensures that only the wealthy and well-connected have any chance of influencing the political process or holding elected office at a significant level.
In the 2004 election campaign, 549 people each raised $100,000 for Bush’s re-election, and John Kerry, too, relied on big donors on his side of the political equation. Thus, it was not by sheer coincidence that, in the 2000 presidential campaign, voters were given a choice between a Yale graduate, whose father had been President and whose grandfather was a Senator, and a Harvard graduate, whose father was a Senator.
And in the 2004 presidential contest, the choice was even more narrow, between a multi-millionaire Yale “Skull and Bones” man and a billionaire Yale “Skull and Bones” man. Nepotism, like corruption, discourages most good Americans from participating in elections, to say nothing of running for office!
If in 1968, I had hung a poster on my bedroom wall that read: “Wanna Be President of the United States? First Find $25 Million”! Today, that wouldn’t buy a Senate seat or even a New York City Mayor’s job.
We should be either shocking or disgusting to realize that John Corzine spent $63 million for a New Jersey Senate seat, and Michael Bloomberg spent $70 million to become the mayor of New York City. With rumblings that he is considering a run for the Presidency we need not worry about being hounded for contributions by Mr. Bloomberg. He can foot the bill himself, and should he run you can rest assured that he won’t have to; there will be freely volunteered contributions to curry later favors.
Corporations give money to both parties in staggering amounts, and what they do not give directly to their favorites, they spend on advertising to shape the public mind. The result is a net loss both for the public good and for democracy. It costs the corporations only a small fraction in contributions for what they gain through their wheel-greasing.
Do you wonder how much the oil and natural gas lobby paid to secure that $9 billion in windfall profits that they stand to gain from the Bush administration’s plan for “royalty relief”. And that million dollar donation by the UAE to the Bush library in Crawford was surely just a down-payment on the ports deal they hoped to get!
It seems quaint nowadays to reflect back on the corporate culture of the 1960’s. John Kenneth Galbraith wrote the following description in his1967 book, The New Industrial State, as quoted by Paul Krugman in his excellent October 20, 2002 New York Times Magazine article, “For Richer”:
“Management does not go out ruthlessly to reward itself---a sound management is expected to exercise restraint. . . With the power of decision goes opportunity for making money . . . Were everyone to seek to do so . . . the corporation would be a chaos of competitive avarice. But these are not the sort of thing that a good company man does; a remarkably effective code bans such behavior. Group decision-making insures, moreover, that almost everyone’s actions and even thoughts are known to others. This acts to enforce the code and, more than incidentally, a high standard of personal honesty as well.”
Does anyone believe that such a self-policing culture exists today? If the corporate scandals of the 1990’s taught us anything, it is that corporations no longer even aim to stay in business, a goal that used to temper their penchant for excess and bridge-burning. The cases of Enron, Tyco, Adelphia, WorldCom, Global Crossing, and many more perpetrators, should have made abundantly clear that there is no limit to corporate excess or insatiable greed, and, in the absence of federal and international regulations, it is usually the stockholders and the public at large who end up underwriting the thefts, cleaning up the pollution, and dealing with the displaced workforce.
Most of this is not new. In fact, the seeds of corporate rule over America were sown by the 1971 ”Powell Memorandum.” And we need only think back to the Savings and Loan scandal of the 1980’s, to recall another half a trillion dollar boondoggle that taxpayers had to underwrite.
There have been plenty of books written about such scandals (see, for example, William S. Greider, Who Will Tell the People?, Arianna Huffingtom, Pigs at the Trough, Jim Hightower, Thieves in High Places, and David K. Johnston, Perfectly Legal, for starters.) Yet despite the recurrent malfeasance, little has been done to curb corporate excesses and outright frauds.
What is more, trans-national corporations need have no allegiance to the United States of America. They have offices in many countries and on many continents, and most of them have already shipped their profits offshore to avoid the patriotic duty of paying their fair share of U.S. taxes.
Remembering President Eisenhower’s Warning
Several commentators have recently reminded us of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s January 17, 1961 farewell address, warning of the threat posed by the “military-industrial complex”. Usually omitted from discussions of President Eisenhower’s warning is the less well-known fact that, until the final version of the speech, Eisenhower used the phrase, “military-industrial-congressional complex”. He is said to have deleted the reference to Congress from his final version to avoid offending legislators.
But President Eisenhower regularly referred to “the triangle” and even to “the iron triangle” consisting of the military, the industries that profit from war, and the Congress, which is charged with declaring war, appropriating funding for wars (and everything else the federal government spends money on), and for exercising oversight functions of various kinds.
According to University of Washington Emeritus Professor of engineering, public affairs, and social management, Edward Ward Wenk, Jr.: “These three cornered fellowships coupled hungry defense contractors, ambitious military officers whose promotions rested on husbanding new defense systems, and members of Congress eager to steer new funds and job opportunities to their district.”
Eisenhower might have added “educational institutions” to the list, since universities conducted research for the Manhattan Project and institutions, such as UC Berkeley, which managed the Los Alamos laboratory (which produced the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) from its inception until last year, when the University put Los Alamos on the auction block and Bechtel secured the management contract.
President Eisenhower’s speechwriter—whom Professor Wenk revealed to be Malcolm Moos—recalled that Eisenhower feared a “pathological influence of the military-industrial coalition beyond a healthy arm’s-length relationship, especially if the national psyche was prodded artificially by fear. A future chief executive might exploit political energies of the coalition to further a narrow and dangerous agenda” (Italics mine).
Professor Wenk, who served in the administrations of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, and who was the first incumbent in the post of science advisor to Congress during the Eisenhower administration, draws this conclusion in his March 17 article, “Ike’s Warning Reverberates Today” by saying: “I see coalitions increasingly entrenched. Failed weapons systems are seldom canceled. Auditing is cursory for moving and feeding troops; malperformance is accepted in the fog of war, and penalties for fraud uncollected. . .” “Influence of coalitions also has grown with the cost of political campaigns. Members spend half their time raising funds, rather than forging policy. . . In the absence of strong vigilance, their concern about a corporate state hatched by stealth might yet happen.”
Indeed, it has already taken place, repeatedly!
It appears glaringly obvious these days that Congress has failed miserably in its oversight, appropriation, and war-declaration functions. This lack of oversight is apparent not only with respect to the Administration’s reckless adventure in Iraq, but also with regard to the passage of the Patriot Act (and its renewal), the muted response against policies condoning torture, the suspension of Habeas Corpus, the practice of “extraordinary rendition”, the warrantless wiretapping on American citizens, and the insuring of free and fair elections with verifiable ballot-counting.
What we have now is a military-industrial-Congressional complex indeed…a real foundation for Fascist formulation!
I nonetheless, really believe that “most” public officials begin their careers with a desire to serve the people and to make America better. I do not believe that members of Congress, or members of state legislatures, for that matter, run for office merely to enrich themselves. No, I think that most of them begin their political careers as genuine and sincere people. But the systemic role of money, as I have said, pollutes and perverts processes and people.
It is a bit like boiling a frog. If you drop the frog in boiling water, it will immediately jump out of the kettle; but if you drop the frog in lukewarm water and slowly increase the temperature, the frog will neither jump out of the kettle nor croak anymore. And that is just what happens to far too many of our public servants and to the citizenry as a whole.
It is ironic that Big Business tries to insure that government stays on the sidelines and pursues laissez faire policies, until Big Business needs the government (usually aided by the U.S. military) to make some country or region “safe” for its business interests.
From making Cuba safe for the United Fruit Company, to securing access to Persian Gulf oil and South Asian gas, Big Business is always ready to have the government protecting its interests. One notes again and again, however, that such security is paid for by taxpayers, while the profits go straight into the corporate coffers.
But beware, Big Business; for as Bigioni warns: “Just as monopoly is the ruin of the free market, fascism is the ultimate degradation of liberal capitalism.” It’s sort of like be careful of what you wish for…
But then again the drift downward will be in a comfortable proper patriotic, flag wrapped, Christian, Family Values fog will all seem so “normal”…except, sooner of later the fog lifts and reality become clear. Its sort of like mowing the lawn on a hot summer day and having one or two too many beers. You lay down on the sofa for a few minutes with a fan blowing on you to cool down, and sleep comes quickly, a sleep broken by the rudeness of your neighbor ringing your door bell to report you left you mower running and it is now at rest against the side of his house….
Or you’ve had a good party with friends and your pitchers of Martinis were good and gone, and you awake to find yourself on that sofa again, and as you stumble in the Martini haze through the darkened house, you discover the bedroom door locked. You don’t know what you did, but you know you are in trouble, and at that moment you don’t know what you are going to have to do.
The arrival of Fascism is like that, seductive, intoxicating, and comfortable because your leaders have assured you that they are strong enough and have the answers to keep you safe and happy, and then comes the political hang over that can last for generations!
I on the other hand have no question as to where I stand, for the following words are, and will be, my refuge and resort when everyone has failed and the Fascist Flag Flies; I will be on the other side ready to begin anew the fight to regain what we all once knew before we succumbed to the intoxication, woke up in a fog pondering: “What do we do now, or as was written on the original book jacket of Sinclair Lewis’s, “ It Can’t Happen Here: “What will happen when Dictatorship comes to America?”
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government.