Wednesday, August 02, 2006

14 traits of fascism -- not quite but still scary

There is one of these home made video making the rounds on YouTube, which you can watch below if you wish, which purports to explain the fascist nature of the Bush Administration. And I certainly agree there is a tinge of fascism within the authoritarian nature of Bush and his government. But this video overstates the case grossly. And that doesn’t help the case against this government. Admittedly they spend less than 3 minutes in total dissecting these 14 traits and perhaps they could do a better job if they spent more time on it. But they assert that all 14 traits are apparent and some of the proof they show to back this up is rather pathetic. Let me dissect each one as they present it.

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism -- pretty much spot on.

2. Disdain for the recognition of human rights --- definitely spot on.

3. Identifying enemies or scapegoats as a unifying cause. This is true but a bit more complicated then they allow. The scapegoats of Hitler were manufactured. But Hitler lso relied on real enemies such as the Communists who came close to taken over Germany in the 1920s. It is true that Bush uses terrorism as a means to rally support around anything he does. I won’t give them 100% on this but will say they are substantially correct.

4. Supremacy of the military. Not quite. In fact not really close, yet. But Bush is pushing it. He had the military on patrol during the Katrina fiasco and has troops on the US border. But the military does not reign supreme in the US. I think this one is a miss.

5. Rampant sexism. This is just Left-wing rhetoric. Fascism as a political movement (and it came from the Left) dominated in the 1940s. It was pretty much in tune with the sexist attitudes that permeated the West at the time. Of course today the term is used by the Left to mean opposition to any program they want that somehow impacts women. I would give this a miss. In fact in the video they just shout out the term and offer no evidence whatsoever.

6. Controlled mass media. Here they are on weak grounds, very weak grounds. To prove their point they show Fox News and a copy of books on left-wing bias in the media. This is not controlled mass media by any means. There are left-wing broadcasters all over the place. And the government no more controls the media today than it did under Clinton and even less so than it did under Kennedy. Media is very diverse and very free as this video itself proves. The internet is about as mass media as you can get and the most diverse source of information on the planet. I give them zero on this one.

7. Obsession with national security. I would give them most of this. There are threats but the administration exaggerates them for their own purposes.

8. Religion and government are intertwined. Now I would say this is spot on. My one problem is that I have no recollection of Hitler or Mussolini using religion that extensively. They controlled the church to some degree but then as good ex-Leftists they advocated state control of everything. But certainly they were far less religious than Bush and his administration. I say they are correct but I’m not sure how they get his as a defining characteristic of fascism.

9. Corporate power is protected. Sorry but that wasn’t fascism. Under fascism the state controlled the corporation. It was allowed to remain in private hands, the difference between socialism and fascism, but fascists demanded the corporation seek the “good of the country” and not private profits. This is a complete misreading of fascist economic policy which is today, the dominant view on the Left. Nor is corporate power protected in the US under Bush. The new regulations following Enron strips corporations of many freedoms and put them under tight federal control. That is a sign of fascism -- more control. I don’t buy this as a sign of fascism at all. I give them zero on this.

10. Labour power is suppressed. Give them a big zero. There is no suppression of organized labor in the United States. Labour unions are a dinosaur lumbering about trying to force their way into government fields but dying out by natural attrition every where else. In Nazi Germany the government took over the labour unions. In the US this is not being doing. Zero.

11. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts. I never saw this as a major trait of fascism. they wished to control the arts. Government decided what was or wasn’t art and funded it heavily. State subsidies to art are very fascistic as that which you fund you control. And disdain by whom? This is vague and I give them a miss.

12. Obsession with crime and punishment. I give them about 75% on this. But the Bush regime didn’t start this. It has been going on for decades especially with the war on drugs.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. There is cronyism and there is corruption. That comes with state power and the Left has pushed for expanded state power every chance they get. I will give them about 50% on this but is Bush really any worse than Clinton? I think not.

14. Fraudulent elections. Again this one is suspicious. Hitler didn’t need fraudulent elections and I don’t believe he used them. He won office and took power. Mussolini had popular support. Next I do think there was some fraud, particularly in Ohio. But I’m not sure this a defining characteristic of fascism. Nor is this as clear as they seem to think it was with Bush.

The claim, that “Bush’s America false neatly into all 14 categories” is just false. Let me recap how they actually score. I give them four areas where they are substantially correct (1, 2, 3 & 7) and the issue was a unique characteristic of fascism. There are four categories which I think they missed completely (4, 5, 6 & 10). The remaining characteristics were either not specifically fascist, are too vague to discuss, or are traits unique to Bush as opposed to previous administrations.

Now this is far more fascist than I prefer to be sure but it overstates the case that America is fascist. It also strikes me that the author of the 14 traits came up with traits that fit his political agenda. For instance the intertwining of religion and state. Now I want them totally separated but this wasn’t a major issue in fascist nations.

And when one goes to other Left web sites and sees the evidence that is used to support these claims it is clear they are distorting facts. For instance for rampant sexism they use Bush’ opposition to gay marriage. I support gay marriage myself and oppose Bush. But gay marriage was not legal under Clinton, under Carter, under Kennedy, etc. To use the lack of progress for equality in some areas as an indication of fascism is absurd. They also whine that not being on the government dole is fascism so if a feminist project is not funded by the state that is fascism. This is false. Funding it would be fascism. Not funding it is privatizing it. Fascism is the opposite of the private process of life it is state control of life. It is where the state funds and regulates everything.

At the same time let me be clear. I think the trend in the US is totalitarian. Whether it is fascist or socialistic doesn’t matter one iota to me. They aren’t much different. The issue is state control versus individual freedom and in the US the trends are all bad. It is one reason I no longer wish to live in the US. But this trend toward statism is pushed by Democrats, Greens, and Republicans. They just push on different issues. But between the Left and the Right freedom is being squeezed out. The Left is a potent threat to freedom as well. When they advocate state funding of various causes they are putting those causes directly in the hands of government. Government ultimately controls that which it funds. State funding of the arts is state control of the arts. And the Left pleads for it.

Now I do happen to think the Right is more of a threat to freedom than the Left. But this doesn’t mean that I support the Left agenda for statism. I oppose statism from both sides of the spectrum. I just fear the Right more than the Left at this time in history. But if the Left wants to get sanctimonious on us and condemn the Bush form of statism I won’t stop them, I think it needs to be said. But I also think they have to look into to their own agenda and see how they help the rise of fascism by pushing for more and more powers for government and more state control of almost everything. If one investigates fascism, which I have done, you will not find any area where the fascists supported more individual freedom. At all points they said the individual must live for the sake of the nation, the state or the volk. In this they were in complete agreement with the Marxists.

It is no coincidence that every major fascist leader got his start on the Left. Mussolini was a socialist member of parliament. The Nazis were “National Socialists”. Peron in Argentina pushed for state control of the economy for the workers. Mosely, the leader of the British Union of Fascists had been a Labour MP and with the radical Left of the Labour party formed the New Party which was even further to the Left. It was the New Party which formed the core of the Union of British Fascists. In the 1930s the Nazis found their best place to recruit members were from the Communists and the two fought over the same voters. Nor should we forget that the anti-Jewish scape-goating used by Hitler had been used by the Left for decades before him.

A 1932 Nazi tract said: “We have certainly succeeded in fragmenting the Marxist front and in winning large number of former Marxists to our world view.”