While Catalan writer Adam Majó lists three dominant features of fascism – hierarchies, violence and populism, American political scientist Lawrence Britt has gained a bit of notoriety for an article in the 2003 Spring Issue of Free Inquiry, where he detailed 14 characteristics of fascism that he found common in fascist governments.
Since its creation Britt’s list has become famous enough to get exhibited on posters. Regrettably, it is also exhibited in the policies and actions of Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
It is an instructive list.
1. A “powerful and continuing nationalism” that is more xenophobic boosterism than responsible patriotism. Hug a flag lately, Citizen Bonespurs?
2. “Disdain for the recognition of human rights.” No rights for women, the LGBTQ community or minorities – at home and abroad.
3. “Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.” Some of these “others” are listed above. Their very existence is perceived as a threat to “good people.” It’s as if the haters don’t realize that sharing their rights and liberty with more people creates even more freedom.
4. The “supremacy of the military.” Granted Trump’s characterization of our service personnel as “suckers and losers” and his disdain for generals and military intelligence rejects the glorification of troops by most fascists, but this principle is still reflected in governmental spending priorities and threatening rhetoric.
5.” Rampant sexism” again targets “others” as inferior to male-dominated administrations who know that whatever is best for themselves is good enough for everybody else.
6. “Controlled mass media,” where the “good people” know to get their news from far right sources such as Faux News – or from a president who tweets his hatreds directly to them.
7. “Obsession with national security.” The posturing over a wall to protect us from desperate job-seekers exemplifies this – though Trump’s preference for a Russian-dominated world does offer a counterpoint.
8. “Religion and government are intertwined…even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.” Witness the many public Christians endorsing bigotry, cruelty (toward children even) and other hate speech.
9. “Corporate power is protected” through tax breaks, sweetheart cronyism deals and letting “more efficient” businesses take over public service to victimize consumers in the name of holy profit. And don’t expect these elitists to pay their share of the taxes.
10. “Labor is suppressed.” This has happened over the past 40 years as much of the workforce has been convinced that not paying union dues means more money immediately – ignoring the consequences that have decimated the working middle class.
11. “Disdain for intellectuals and the arts” is reflected by the subverting of science to political and economic ends to ignore the climate crisis and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Republicans’ continued opposition to arts funding ignores the reality that the art of past civilizations is what they are remembered for today. (Who was the richest man in Periclean Athens?) But, true artists offer realities and possibilities different from the status quo – and you never know what they might say or do.
12.” Obsession with crime and punishment.” We have more people in prison than any other country in the world, likely any other continent. “Safety” is the cry that justifies suspending civil rights. Britt even predicted “a national police force” such as Trump used to clear the street for a photo-op of him holding a Bible (upside down and backwards).
13.”Rampant cronyism and corruption” – as in former lobbyists appointed to “oversee” departments designed to protect consumers from their former employers. The president’s grift will require many trial transcripts – and explains the focus of what passes for his foreign policy.
14. “Fraudulent elections.” Election fraud in this country has been almost non-existent. But, by screaming the contrary, Trump is setting the groundwork to deny legitimacy to the November results if they prove unfavorable – while encouraging California Republicans to keep using fake mail-in ballot boxes that have been declared illegal.
I would have likely consolidated some of the points, but this is Britt’s list. While fascism expert Adam Majó assures us that the United States is not a fascist country, the direction Republicans prefer heads right down that path.
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party: scdpok.us or facebook.com/SCDPOK/.)