What is Fascism?

“Like all sound political conceptions, Fascism is action and it is thought; action in which doctrine is immanent, and doctrine arising from a given system of historical forces in which it is inserted, and working on them from within.”

-The Doctrine of Fascism

That doesn’t really answer the question.  In my efforts to answer this question for myself, I did a bit of research and found nothing from Mussolini which clearly modeled what is commonly called fascism today.  I did find more modern information which didn’t really define fascism, but gave lists of the tools for fascism which tend to be contradictory in places.  Mostly, fascism is just an insult to be hurled at anyone who insists on something you oppose, but that doesn’t suit political discussion so we need something more.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that fascism is, at its core, a political philosophy which views the state, and its leadership, as more important than the populace it would serve while establishing, as a civic duty, the need for each person to serve the state and its economy to their fullest ability, even when this doesn’t benefit them.

With such a vague definition, I decided I’d make my own list of fascist tools used to influence the populace to serve the state.  Any one of these tools is likely to be used by prominent men and women of all stripes, but I’d argue that if any politician, party, or nation utilizes a majority of these tools, it could be considered fascist.

1. Patriotic Nationalism

The belief that our nation is inherently better than all others in most or all areas regardless of evidence to the contrary, coupled with a disdain for anyone who would show disrespect to our nation, such as refusing to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem.  Flags abound, whether they’re flying above a court yard or pinned to a lapel.

2. Ethnic or Cultural Nationalism

The belief that our people are inherently better than all others, placing people from other ethnicities/cultures beneath us and less deserving of rights.

3. Scapegoating

The belief that some other or conglomeration of others is the cause of our problems, be they a minority group within our nation or some outside group manipulating our nation from afar.

4. Military Adoration

The belief that any man who would wear the uniform of our nation must be beyond reproach.  We ignore crimes committed by our soldiers and their superiors and castigate anyone who calls our attention to them.

5. Toxic Nostalgia

The belief that, not only were things better before, nothing was bad then.  Women were happy in the home, gays didn’t need equal treatment because they didn’t exist and “no one was singing the blues.”

6. Anti-intellectualism

The belief that academics will ultimately undermine our culture, possibly bringing an end to civilization as we accept it.

7. National Security Obsession

The belief that the “wolves are at the gate” and only one party or leader can protect us from this threat, real or imagined.  We must shore up our defenses, be the dominant military force on the planet and attack our enemies before they develop the ability to attack us.

8. Obsession with Law and Order

The belief that criminals are beneath the common populace and not deserving of the same rights or even due process once accused.  If a police officer kills a suspect, there must have been just cause; if a police officer doesn’t kill a suspect, we should lock the suspect up and throw away the key.

9. Human Rights Violations

The belief that the ends always justify the means of human costs.  If there’s a ticking bomb, torture becomes acceptable; if civilians don’t want to be bombed, they shouldn’t live near combatants.

10. Corporatism

Favoring major corporations with low, non-existent or even negative tax rates while ignoring their regulatory violations and worker abuses.  Sometimes allowing them to pay fines that are more profitable than correcting the violation, other times going so far as to strip away the consumer, worker and environmental protections we have in place at their request.

11. Cronyism

Favoring specific individuals or organizations, perhaps those who helped those in power to attain it, with no bid contracts or undeserved, high ranking positions.

12. Media Manipulation

Taking steps to ensure that reporters “tow the party line” whether through direct instruction from the government, media outlet takeover by corporate allies or advertising boycotts by those same allies.

13. Electoral Manipulation

Rigging elections, suppressing the vote, barring political opponents from participating or fraudulently accusing opponents of doing the same.

14. Mass Surveillance

Utilizing surveillance, not only to target criminals who are known be involved in illegal activity, but casting a wider net to find anyone who might be involved in crime or, worse yet, organized disloyalty.

15. Leader Worship

Elevating the leader to a status above the general populace.  Rallies are held in the leader’s honor and photos or portraits are prominently displayed in homes or offices.

Using this list to evaluate the political elite, can you think of anyone who exhibits these traits?  Can you think of many who don’t?

Edited on August 16, 2017 to add Item 15: Leader Worship.

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