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Could America Go Fascist?

Posted by Rick · March 13th, 2005 · 1 Comment

A lot of people think that it’s just more “liberal craziness” to even consider the possibility of Fascism in America.

Those people don’t read enough history.

As author David Neiwert points out, “the way fascism works” is “in a vacuum of denial.” (David Neiwert, “The Rise of Pseudo-Fascism” p. 10 (February 25, 2005) Orcinus.)

And it doesn’t spring onto the stage in full goose-stepping form. It has more subtle beginnings.

In Germany, in the run-up to the reign of the Third Reich,

What happened…was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national secuirty. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it. — (David Neiwert, “The Rise of Pseudo-Fascism” p. 10 (February 25, 2005) Orcinus.)

Sound familiar yet?

It’s probably hard for us to imagine an entire population identifying with and trusting Hitler. But it’s important to realize that Hitler did not spring onto the German stage in a blaze of fascism. The acquisition of power that allowed him ultimately to control the Germans, alter or suspend laws to his advantage, disenfranchise Jews and other “undesirables,” set-up concentration camps and start a world war was not incredibly slow, but it did take many years.

And Hitler himself? He started out as the Nazi Party’s “most effective recruiter and, thanks to paid attendance at his speeches, its most successful fundraiser” in about 1920. (“Adolf Hitler” (2005) Microsoft Encarta (last visited March 13, 2005).) After threatening several times to leave the party — a political move he used before he had enough power to push his rivals out directly — he became the Führer of the party in 1921.

The Encarta article says of Hitler’s early rise to power:

Hitler appealed to a wide variety of people by combining an effective and carefully rehearsed speaking style with what looked like absolute sincerity and determination.

It’s worth noting that Hitler’s first high-handed attempt to start a revolution failed. As a consequence, he was imprisoned by the Weimar Republic. But in 1928, he began “to build the power of the party by democratic means.” (Encarta, supra.) In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the German people were generally disturbed. They believed that their country was moving in the wrong direction. The economy was not doing as well as they would expect. Unemployment was higher than desirable. “The Nazis were the one group that claimed to have all the answers.” (Ibid.) And the people were desperate for answers. They wanted a strong follower.

It was at that point, in around 1932-1933, that Hitler began to consolidate his power. And he did so through the mechanism of law. He began to pass laws that approved loans for “the right kind” of marriage. Yep, just as today, the German government was focused on using the law to ensure that only the governmentally-approved sort of marriages happened. The law in Germany gradually became more discriminatory, but it didn’t impact most “good” Germans. Sure, the government in an over-zealous fit might occasionally trample legal rights and accidentally arrest some lawyer living in Oregon after “terrorists” blew up a passenger train in Spain. A citizen might be grabbed at a Chicago airport and spirited away, to be held uncharged for any crimes for more than two-and-a-half years, based on a suspicions that he was a “material witness” — a witness, mind you; not a criminal — to “activities against the State.” But the majority of Germans didn’t notice any immediate alteration in their own status, so there was little uproar.

Still, it would take just over five more years before Hitler’s policy of demonizing particular segments of the population — Jews (not Muslims), homosexuals and the poor (gypsies) — would result in Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” when some elements of the population physically turned on Jews by attacking Jewish businesses, breaking their windows and looting their stores.

None of this is to say that America is currently being run by a future Hitler. I’m not claiming that America is definitely on the road to fascism, although I confess that I worry it is. I’m just trying to point out that fascism doesn’t happen overnight. It starts out slow, gaining momentum as it moves along.

It’s important to remember that most Germans in Hitler’s time were ordinary people. Good people. Many of them were churchgoing christians. If you walked right up to them and said, “So, how do you feel about this? Let’s create a fascist government. We’ll eliminate all rights in the interest of the State,” the majority of Germans would have recoiled. They would not have approved it.

On the other hand, if you pitched it to them differently, slowly, and gradually changed the laws…well, we know what happened.

Could America go fascist? Sure it could. Anyone who doubts that just doesn’t read enough. The Germans were not the first — and they will not be the last — to follow a charismatic dictatorial leader.

However, as I said, fascism won’t spring onto the stage fully-formed. It’s going to happen slowly. And there may be — as there was with Hitler’s first attempt at a Beer Hall putsch — mis-steps. But as I also said in “The New Fascism,”

That doesn’t, in my mind, translate into making it impossible to know when we’ve started down the path of fascism. Certainly the first step or two — maybe even several — will be missed…[T]he more astute observers will (accurately) pick out some point at which we’re clearly on the path and will (again accurately) note that the majority has failed to notice. — Rick Horowitz, “The New Fascism” (February 28, 2005) Unspun™

In the United States, we’ve already started showing some signs that should be scaring us. Those who are paying attention should already be recognizing the slow abrogation of the Constitution of the United States via such new legislation as the USA PATRIOT Act. Even librarians — not exactly the Rambos of anyone’s Revolution — have come out against it.

And this is just the start.

Could America go fascist? Not overnight. It might take two or three terms in office.

Think about it.

Categories: The Bush Regime


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 rowan // Mar 14, 2005 at 8:41 pm

    I think that we are well on the way to fascism. Look at control of the media. Look at the creation of fake news reports by over 20 government agencies. Look at the power of corporations and industry lobbies on the political process. On the other side of the scale we have the increasing transparency of individual’s lives – both by corporations and governments – Choice Point is an excellent example. I live in Oregon which until recently allowed people to buy the Driver’s License database on a CD.

    This is not a process that started with G. W. Bush, but it has certainly dramatically accelerated under his watch. Meanwhile we seem to have a growing perception in the US that everything is a matter of opinion (or “belief’). There is no base reality, there are no facts, there is no science. It’s just an opinion. Whoever controls the opinion machine controls the people.

    I personally find our current position alarming, and the path we are on down right frightening.

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