The Danger Of Fascism

“What remained was the individual person, the human being—and nothing else. Everything had fallen away from him during those years: money, power, fame; nothing was certain for him anymore: not life, not health, not happiness; all had been called into question for him: vanity, ambition, relationships. Everything was reduced to bare existence. Burnt through with pain, everything that was not essential was melted down—the human being reduced to what he was in the last analysis: either a member of the masses, therefore no one real, so really no one—the anonymous one, a nameless thing (!), that “he” had now become, just a prisoner number; or else he melted right down to his essential self.” Excerpt from Yes to Life, in Spite of Everything: Viktor Frankl’s Lost Lectures on Moving Beyond Optimism and Pessimism to Find the Deepest Source of Meaning

Political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt wrote an article about fascism (“Fascism Anyone?,” Free Inquiry Magazine, Spring 2003, page 20). Studying the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile), Dr. Britt found they all had 14 elements in common. He calls these the 14 identifying characteristics of fascism. [Copyright © 2003, This excerpt is in accordance with the magazine’s policy. Reprinted for Fair Use Only. This article was based upon the article “The Hallmarks of Fascist Regime” By: Skip Stone]

  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  6. Controlled Mass Media: Sometimes to 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.
  7. Obsession with National Security: Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.

In his 1995 essay “Ur-Fascism”, cultural theorist Umberto Eco lists fourteen general properties of fascist ideology. He argues that it is not possible to organize these into a coherent system, but that “it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it”. He uses the term “Ur-fascism” as a generic description of different historical forms of fascism. The fourteen properties are as follows: [Wikipedia contributors. “Definitions of fascism.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 6 Nov. 2021. Web. 13 Nov. 2021.]

  1. “The Cult of Tradition”, characterized by cultural syncretism, even at the risk of internal contradiction. When all truth has already been revealed by Tradition, no new learning can occur, only further interpretation and refinement.
  2. “The Rejection of modernism”, which views the rationalistic development of Western culture since the Enlightenment as a descent into depravity. Eco distinguishes this from a rejection of superficial technological advancement, as many fascist regimes cite their industrial potency as proof of the vitality of their system.
  3. “The Cult of Action for Action’s Sake”, which dictates that action is of value in itself, and should be taken without intellectual reflection. This, says Eco, is connected with anti-intellectualism and irrationalism, and often manifests in attacks on modern culture and science.
  4. “Disagreement Is Treason” – Fascism devalues intellectual discourse and critical reasoning as barriers to action, as well as out of fear that such analysis will expose the contradictions embodied in a syncretistic faith.
  5. “Fear of Difference”, which fascism seeks to exploit and exacerbate, often in the form of racism or an appeal against foreigners and immigrants.
  6. “Appeal to a Frustrated Middle Class”, fearing economic pressure from the demands and aspirations of lower social groups.
  7. “Obsession with a Plot” and the hyping-up of an enemy threat. This often combines an appeal to xenophobia with a fear of disloyalty and sabotage from marginalized groups living within the society (such as the German elite’s ‘fear’ of the 1930s Jewish populace’s businesses and well-doings; see also antisemitism). Eco also cites Pat Robertson’s book The New World Order as a prominent example of a plot obsession.
  8. Fascist societies rhetorically cast their enemies as “at the same time too strong and too weak.” On the one hand, fascists play up the power of certain disfavored elites to encourage in their followers a sense of grievance and humiliation. On the other hand, fascist leaders point to the decadence of those elites as proof of their ultimate feebleness in the face of an overwhelming popular will.
  9. “Pacifism is Trafficking with the Enemy” because “Life is Permanent Warfare” – there must always be an enemy to fight. Both fascist Germany under Hitler and Italy under Mussolini worked first to organize and clean up their respective countries and then build the war machines that they later intended to and did use, despite Germany being under restrictions of the Versailles treaty to not build a military force. This principle leads to a fundamental contradiction within fascism: the incompatibility of ultimate triumph with perpetual war.
  10. “Contempt for the Weak”, which is uncomfortably married to a chauvinistic popular elitism, in which every member of society is superior to outsiders by virtue of belonging to the in-group. Eco sees in these attitudes the root of a deep tension in the fundamentally hierarchical structure of fascist polities, as they encourage leaders to despise their underlings, up to the ultimate Leader who holds the whole country in contempt for having allowed him to overtake it by force.
  11. “Everybody is Educated to Become a Hero”, which leads to the embrace of a cult of death. As Eco observes, “[t]he Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.”
  12. “Machismo”, which sublimates the difficult work of permanent war and heroism into the sexual sphere. Fascists thus hold “both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”
  13. “Selective Populism” – The People, conceived monolithically, have a Common Will, distinct from and superior to the viewpoint of any individual. As no mass of people can ever be truly unanimous, the Leader holds himself out as the interpreter of the popular will (though truly he dictates it). Fascists use this concept to delegitimize democratic institutions they accuse of “no longer represent[ing] the Voice of the People.”
  14. “Newspeak” – Fascism employs and promotes an impoverished vocabulary in order to limit critical reasoning.

“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between true and false no longer exists.” By: Hannah Arendt

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