Checklist of Fascism

You just never know what you might find on StumbleUpon:  there’s a website titled the 14 Characteristics of Fascism.  I don’t subscribe to Free Inquiry, so I can’t assess if this article has any academic merit; it may even have been written to be a sensational editorial on Bush’s America.  Nonetheless, it is startling to walk through the checklist:

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.
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.
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.
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.  [I’d argue that we don’t have this since Pres. Bush doesn’t actually listen to their counsel.]
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.
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.
Obsession with National Security:  Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.

Anyone enough of a PoliSci major to comment on whether this is a fair characterization of fascist governments?  If it is, I can count at least 10 of the above that I could argue are present in 2007’s USA.

 

19 thoughts on “Checklist of Fascism

  1. I’d bet one could make an arguments that no time in American history have less than half of them been present in society.

  2. To me, it sounds a bit manufactured. Wordings like “national security” (has anyone ever used it in this sense before the Bushies?) seem a bit too tailor-made.

    “Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation” – applies only partially to the “traditional” facist movement.

    “Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government” – again, sounds more like something with a clear political intent would say, rather than a less involved historian.

    So I (subjectively) wouldn’t give it a high score on any “historically correct” scale. That said, I agree that much of what the list says DOES apply or tends to be that way in the US under the Shrub.

  3. If it is, I can count at least 10 of the above that I could argue are present in 2007’s USA.

    I found 10 that were present in 1942’s USA, too. And a few that were present in 1862’s USA.

    I find it odd that a brit publication would be the one carrying this, they’re a bit more in the Orwellian way than the US is right now, though they seem to like to live in denial of that.

  4. Hiya Les,

    This one has been around for quite some time is some form or another.  I remember in my PolySci class in Collage, a breakdown like this for most every Totalitarian society since they have simular goals.

  5. Les didn’t writethis post

    I would say many of these are currently present and quite a few have been for awhile.  But I tend to agree that it appears to be slanted a little with a political viewpoint.

  6. I read this list years ago and was recently hunting around for it without much success.  Thanks for the well timed post!

  7. Manufactured or not, all fourteen seem to be more or less valid classifications of the contemporary national climate. On the other hand, Theocrat is right that many of the items on the checklist have been more chronic.

  8. There’s also this essay by Umberto Eco, who is an Italian old enough to remember when the Fascists were in power in his own country.

    Looks like they differ on a few points – Eco seems to talk more about the cultural underpinnings of fascism, rather than its specific policies.

    I don’t see how you can say we don’t have supremacy of the military, though.  Every time someone wants to inflate Bush they don’t call him President, but Commander-in-Chief.  And not C-in-C of the army and navy, but C-in-C of the country, as if every other part of the country was automatically under the authority of the army and navy.

    We’re actually less sexist than a lot of other countries, and it’s not completely certain whether we have fraudulent elections or not (although the refusal to allow investigation of possible fraud is certainly a great big warning sign), but we have at least 10 of the other characteristics.

    The media is only partly controlled by sympathetic executives, and while the Republicans are certainly hostile to labor unions they haven’t managed to eliminate them yet.  But if they stayed in power another decade or so they’d have those covered too.

  9. This made me think about what mindset allowed fascism (+ similar) to gain what popularity it has. I’ve noticed sometimes in order to take ‘justify’ the unjust, polititions need to appeal to what there is of the darker and unfair side of human nature, particularly using prejudices. Discouragement of thinking by military and church makes for easier control, education is related too – as a propoganda tool but also affecting peoples drive to think. Government can counjour up predudice fairly easily should it need to and given the right oppertunity, and can then take the stance that will be most popular or most along what they’re trying to do

  10. My grteat grandfather was around Germany during the time of the rise of the facists and he told me all the most fanatical facists in his neighborhood were the guys that used to get beat up all the time at school when they were kids.
    Needless to say he hated the Nazi’s.

    Your humble scribe;
    Allan W Janssen

  11. While tempting to call Bush/Republicans out for what I call poor ways to govern a democracy or even any society, a checklist like this is in some ways disrespectful to what you great-grandfather may have seen or had to live with.  Yet perhaps having the question out there is a nod of respect after all. 

    With most of us not around during those years, we can use Nazi or fascism as a rhetoric label too easily and forget just how real it was.

  12. Every time someone wants to inflate Bush they don’t call him President, but Commander-in-Chief.  And not C-in-C of the army and navy, but C-in-C of the country, as if every other part of the country was automatically under the authority of the army and navy.

    Well, President of the United States, the US’s highest office, is part of the Executive branch, which is primarily composed of the police and the military…

  13. “Primarily”?  Do you want to count up how many employees are in the executive branch and see how many are police and military?  I bet it’s not a majority.  The federal government does a lot of things and the FBI is only one of them.

    Most police aren’t even federal.  And when did police and the military become the same thing?  Now *that*‘s an alarming development, when you think about what a military is for.

    I think you’re engaging in exactly the kind of military-first thinking I was pointing out.

    BTW, what makes the president a “higher” office than Chief Justice or Speaker of the House?  If you think the executive branch is “higher” than the other two branches, I don’t think you understand how our government is supposed to work.

    Anyway, the point is that the civilian government is *supposed* to be in control of the country, not some kind of military dictatorship.  Whatever happened to that idea?

    Oh, and if you want to know what makes fascists the way they are, try this web-published book of research on authoritarianism.

  14. “Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government” – again, sounds more like something with a clear political intent would say, rather than a less involved historian.

    Indeed, ingolfson.  And as Boulder Dude points out, the checklist fits all flavors of totalitarianism pretty well; why exclude Communism?  It’s more a list detailing government abuses of power than about any particular point on the left-right spectrum.

  15. I think you’re engaging in exactly the kind of military-first thinking I was pointing out.

    I think you’re taking too much out of what I said.  I wasn’t condoning or approving of anything.  You said you’re offended that people call Bush commander in chief, as if the military superceded all other positions.  I was just pointing out that he is, technically, the commander in chief (he’s in the executive branch) and he also happens to hold the highest office in the country. 

    Yeah, perhaps the executive branch isn’t really primarily composed of police and military, that’s just how I think of it.  Though I would consider FBI and sheriffs police, and I would bet there are more police/soldiers than mayors and other political offices in the executive branch. (though once again, that’s just an assumption on my part)

    Police and military aren’t the same thing, but their role is supposed to be the same, protect the citizens (whether against the citizens’ will or not)  My mention of police just goes under the fact that police departments (and the FBI, I believe) also make use of the title “Chief”.

    What makes president higher than Chief Justice or Speaker of the House are a few things.  First, as Bush has shown, he can ignore all other branches and do what he wants.  Not to mention Speaker of the House is in the line of succession for presidency, either directly after vice president or further down the line.  Although ideally no branch is supposed to have any power over the others, checks and balances and all that, presidents such as Bush and Lincoln have shown the President of the United States can do almost whatever he wants.

  16. Okay, I’m a huge advocate of civil rights, and will cheerfully point at the neocons, and object to their horrid tactics.

    But I also object to mixed-logic pieces designed to prove a point, and feel a need to rip this one apart..even if the point it’s probably trying to make (that the US is showing disturbing trends) is one I’d normally support.

    In short, this work is an attempt by somebody to say “facists are defined as X” and which then leaves it to the reader to decide that X applies to our current situation.

    First of all…The whole basis of a government of ANY size is that some degree of personal freedom, economy and rights are traded for (hopefully higher) benefits in the form of security, consistancy and opportunity. As such, in any citizen-government relationship, people will always be looking hard at those tradeoffs, ensuring that the costs aren’t too high, and the benefits aren’t too low—and there will always be people who believe that whatever the current equation looks like, is either too much or too little.

    Looking at the list above:

    Powerful and Continuing Nationalism: 

    This is always present in any government, to some degree. And every government will cheerfully use patriotism to try and garner support for a position.

    Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights:

    The heading is a true indicator of fasism, and the idea of looking the other way with things like torture certainly is. But for the rest of it, it’s all about the trade-offs and trying to keep them in balance.

    Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause:

    This isn’t facism. This is government marketing. Get people into a frenzy, and they won’t look too closely at the details of your handling, your screw ups, or unrelated gaps. (“Our government budget equation is 700 billion dollars off of where it was 8 years ago…but Iraq is evil, so don’t worry about it.”)

    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.

    This is true of any government. If military get cut, then the country isn’t as able to react to military threats…and anyone trying to cut the military gets accused of being soft…so they don’t bother.

    Rampant Sexism: The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated.

    This one is just crap. Virtually all world governments are male-dominated, with some advances in the last 20-50 years. The anti-abortion and anti-gay points are especially absurd and unrelated to facism.

    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.

    True of every government ever. Try to schmooze the media outlets, so you don’t get as many people second guessing you. This is especially true in wartime. Also, if a given government is economically helpful or idealogically aligned to the owner of a large media outlet, that outlet is a lot less likely to trash the government.

    Obsession with National Security:  Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

    Fear is an effective motivational tool of every government ever.

    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.

    Religion has always been a great way of controlling the masses, in every government ever. If logic doesn’t fully justify a position, use “Your God wants you to.”

    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.

    Money begets power? Wow..only facists have ever thought of that.

    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.

    Labor is a theat to corporate bottom lines, so rich people use the aforementioned power to crush them whenever possible, including using governmental power if they can. While labor has political power, drawing a direct link from government to labor is highly dubious.

    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.

    Points for this one. However, it’s also true that both academics and artists tend to be more open minded, thoughtful and liberal, which makes them an ongoing target for conservative governments—especially in the funding area, which in an open society is government’s best leverage.

    Obsession with Crime and Punishment: Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws.

    As described, you are certainly dealing with facism, but scaled back just a bit, and you’re dealing with normal trade-offs and battles between rights and security.

    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.

    People with power using that power to help their friends and make some money isn’t facism…it’s just corruption, and can exist in the business world as easily as the government world.

    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.

    This statement is a wondeful mix of actual facist ideals, mixed with ubiquitous political tactics. Putting assassination next to “smear campaigns” implies they are somehow in the same moral space. Of course, they are totally unrelated…smear campaigns have existed ever since the first candidate for a given role realized he couldn’t win on talent alone.

  17. I was just pointing out that he is, technically, the commander in chief (he’s in the executive branch) and he also happens to hold the highest office in the country.

    I may be wrong here (if I am, please correct me), but isn’t the CinC applied to wartime – and doesn’t that make the president subject to … I can’t call it military law, can I? Well, anyway.

    The president is not, per se, higher than anyone else. He has veto power which he can typically only excercise in limited doses. Congress, Senate and the Supreme Court were all essentially with the GoP before the midterm elections – that’s why Bush had free reign. He doesn’t anymore. His party is fighting against him to clean up their image for the next election.

    But for the article, anyone who wants to maintain power in gov’t has to control a limited set of channels. Mass media affiliation is a must – you can’t get on a televised debate if you don’t have the air coverage already. You have to be well associated with business – you want sponsorship, gotta work with the lobbyists.

    I don’t fear fascism. I fear naivete. It would be naive to believe that major powers don’t share these properties – but you know it’s on a runaway when you can see them all.

  18. I may be wrong here (if I am, please correct me), but isn’t the CinC applied to wartime – and doesn’t that make the president subject to … I can’t call it military law, can I? Well, anyway.

    He is commander in chief during peace time or war. Most presidents don’t use the term, but it is still valid. The fact that he seems to prefer this term does however speak to his character. It makes him look like he has little man syndrome.

    The UCMJ (universal code of millitary justice) does not apply to the president, as he is subject only to impeachment by the senate. Congress can set budget limits and earmark funds as a way to force the president to fall in line. There are also veto overides that can be used, but are hard to get.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.