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Est. April 5, 2002
April 12, 2018 - Issue 737

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When Is It Called Fascism?


"A study of fascism is required to understand the
implications of such a political philosophy, as there
is more than one way to look at it, but the simple
definition attributed to Mussolini back in the early
part of the last century is not far off the mark: 
It's when corporate interests and power are melded
with national (government) interests and power. 
The U.S. meets many of the criteria in 2018."

The signs have been there for some time and many observers and analysts have said that the U.S. is drifting toward fascism, although most of those assessments do not ever reach the general public.

Fascism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.” Fascism has played itself out on the world stage in a number of countries in the past centuries and pundits of the mainstream media have been loath to point out the movement in the direction of politics in the U.S.

In simple terms, the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, in the early part of the 20th Century, is said to have defined fascism as a political system in which corporate power and state power come together to rule a nation. According to, “Robert Paxton, a professor emeritus of social science at Columbia University in New York who is widely considered the father of fascism studies, defined fascism as 'a form of political practice distinctive to the 20th century that arouses popular enthusiasm by sophisticated propaganda techniques for an anti-liberal, anti-socialist, violently exclusionary, expansionist nationalist agenda.'” This definition should be kept in mind in these times.

Taking Paxton's definition piece by piece, in the era of Trump (that includes the past 30 months), popular enthusiasm has indeed been aroused, as the failed businessman used “sophisticated propaganda techniques” to stir up the pot among several groups, namely the low-income rural citizens and a large percentage of the middle class who rightly fear that their day is coming to an end in the nation's economy. If anything, Trump is anti-liberal and anti-socialist and seems to have a “violently exclusionary, expansionist nationalist agenda.” Although it played a part in other societies that have become fascist states, in the U.S. in particular, racism has played a major part in Trump's stirring of the masses in their vitriol. He called Mexicans criminals and rapists and indicated that they were invading the southern frontier. Not enough Americans have called out his outright racism on that issue. And, he all but declared war against black professional football players for their protests against police brutality and killing of unarmed black men and boys, by taking a knee when the national anthem was played before the game.

Don't think that he doesn't have a sophisticated propaganda arm in Fox (so-called) News, which has been shown to be the source of much of Trump's thought on domestic and world affairs. It doesn't help that a “news” outlet like Sinclair Broadcasting stations around the country are fully behind the president, no matter what he does or says. As most viewers know by now, Sinclair's local television station anchors were required recently to speak directly to their audiences about all of the other broadcast news outlets as somehow reporting “fake news,” but Sinclair would never do such a thing. Just ask them.

Sinclair is the largest operator of television stations in the U.S. with a total of nearly 200 station, and is said to cover some 100 markets and 40 percent of American households. That's a large percentage of television viewers, over whom the corporation has free entree to their homes and, more important, their opinions. This is an incredible amount of power for an already powerful corporation. It doesn't help the free flow of information in a democracy to have the major broadcast operations and the country's biggest newspapers (most often, the smaller local papers follow their lead) owned by fewer and fewer individuals and corporations. As ownership of information continues to be contracted into those fewer hands, the danger to the remaining democratic structures in the country is evident to those who happen to look beyond the scandal of the moment in the Trump White House.

The president has done his intended damage to those democratic instruments of a free society, especially the free press. He has managed to delegitimize many of the institutions of the democracy that was once believed to exist in the country, including the judiciary, the Congress, people who protest either the country's policies or his personal policies, and those who don't fully agree with him. But his special vitriol is reserved for the press, which is one of the few institutions (private, at that) that is mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. It proves his ignorance of so many things, but ignorance of at least the intent of the founders in writing the Constitution is inexcusable and might in itself be a reason, in the popular mind at least, for removal from office. But ignorance is not a test for removal of a president of the United States, no matter how profound.

A study of fascism is required to understand the implications of such a political philosophy, as there is more than one way to look at it, but the simple definition attributed to Mussolini back in the early part of the last century is not far off the mark: It's when corporate interests and power are melded with national (government) interests and power. The U.S. meets many of the criteria in 2018.

Thursday, April 12 is Holocaust Remembrance Day around the world, reminding people of the globe of the six million Jews, and millions of others who were murdered by the Nazis, during a regime of horror that was beyond mere fascism for the masses. It was mass murder and torture that was documented in detail by the perpetrators. And the world said “never again.” But such horrors continue to exist, albeit on a smaller scale, but just as evil. This time, however, the mass murder is carried out by states that call their murders “war.”

Americans should pay attention to the warning of a Holocaust survivor about their country in 2018. Stephen B. Jacobs, 79, is quoted in a recent issue of Newsweek magazine as saying he sees a parallel between Germany between the world wars and the U.S. today. “It feels like 1929 or 1930 Berlin...things that couldn’t be said five years ago, four years ago, three years ago - couldn’t be said in public - are now normal discourse. It’s totally unacceptable.”

Jacobs came to the U.S. soon after the end of World War II and became an architect, known for his work in New York City and for designing a Holocaust Memorial at Buchenwald in Germany. He said he knows Trump personally and how he described the U.S. president should alarm even the most casual observer of politics and the society, in general.

Jacobs told the magazine that the American far right believes it has an “enabler” in the current president, particularly since he has been supported and praised by militias, white supremacists, other racists, and those who would cleanse the U.S. of those who don't look like him. “I’m involved with New York real estate, I know this man personally,” Jacobs told Newsweek. “Trump is an enabler. Trump has no ideas. Trump is out for himself.

He’s a sick, very disturbed individual. I couldn’t say that Trump is a fascist because you’ve got to know what fascism is. And I don’t think he has the mental power to even understand it.” Although Jacobs calls New York City an “island of resistance” to both Trump and fascism, he warned that Washington must soon realize that fascism must be resisted at the root, Washington, D.C. There are few signs, though, that Washington politicians are ready to realize the power that they already have, in collusion with Corporate America, over the minds and bodies of hundreds of millions of American citizens. And, if they did realize that, who will be the first to call fascism for what it is? It can, indeed, happen here. And the signs point to it's rapid progress in the “land of the free.” Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.

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