Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos (Land of the Free), slogans (Axis of Evil), symbols (yellow ribbons), songs (usually sung by Toby Keith), and other paraphernalia (bumperstickers). Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays. Putting a flag on your car is literally the least you can do. What exactly does it accomplish? Is a blind show of support really a good idea? Shouldn’t we be posting questions on our cars instead?
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. We’re already pretty aware of the Abu Grab prison scandal and what’s going on down at Guantanamo Bay. We’ve discussed the Patriot Act. Why are we allowing these things to happen without discussion or complaint? What else do you think is coming? Are there things we don’t know about yet?
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. We’ve declared a War on Terror even though we know it’s impossible to defeat all of the terrorists. We’re choosing villains like Saddam Hussein even though they may not be a threat. We’re ignoring other possible enemies for no apparent reason. Liberals are seen as irrational because they disagree.
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. In the beginning of the war extra funding was given to the military and veteran services. Even with that funding, it still wasn’t enough to get armored vehicles for the troops. Domestic issues have been largely ignored, though there are slogans to support them. Funding is lacking for education, health care, and social security. Soldiers like Jessica Lynch are glorified.
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. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution. The government is still male-dominated. Gender-roles are pretty rigid though we tend to pretend they’re not. The First Lady has stepped out of the forefront and disappeared behind her husband. Legislation against homosexuals has been threatened, though it hasn’t gone through yet. Women’s rights are compromised and people who have abortions are vilified.
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. Reports have been shown on National TV that have been written and produced by the government, yet there were no disclaimers on the report. All media outlets are owned by a few companies or individuals which limits content. Superficial stories like the Runaway Bride are shown rather than important world events. Uproars are created over what people think should be censored, especially language expression.
7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses. Constant and vague security alerts promote fear, as does the reminded that Osama bin Laden is still at large. (When we have him, what is the point of being in Afghanistan?) A color-coded security check has been implemented and over-used. Reports abound about the unsafe conditions of trains and chemical plants. TV shows like 24 are shown that revolved around terrorism. Silly security measures are taken at airports, such as a ban on certain objects and not others.
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. The current President makes mention of religion and religious issues more than others. Faith-Based initiatives are put in motion. The President interferes in legislation on the behalf of religious issues. Non-Christians grow weary of persecution and seek to remove religious symbols from government. Social issues and debate hinge on religious doctrine.
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. Environmental protections are lifted in the interest of helping corporations. There are ax-protections for the wealthy. Corporate leaders are prosecuted and sometimes convicted but serve light sentences, certainly not befitting their crime. The President and Vice-President have obvious it’s with large corporations and favor them in the bidding process for government jobs.
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. Teacher’s unions in some states are non-existent, a Wal-Mart closed its doors because an employee tried to unionize. Working-class people are shown little respect and are often the most burdened with taxes, health care costs, tuition charges, and gas prices.
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 and letters is openly attacked. Censorship has arisen in the media. Intelligent people are attacked for disagreeing with the government. In fact, some officials state in no uncertain terms that the arguments of people who disagree aren’t valid because, “they just don’t like us.” Teachers are mistreated, education funding is cut, and arts programs are almost non-existent. The importance of discussion and debate are minimalized.
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. The Department of Homeland Security has almost unlimited power. For the rest, see #3.
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. President Bush has surrounded himself with people who agree. Those that changed their minds between administrations are fired, publicly humiliated, and discredited.
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. We don’t know the full extent of this yet, and maybe we never will, but elections in Florida the first time around were obviously fraudulent. Only President Bush knows what happened with Ohio this time. Groups supporting the President put out advertisements shredding competitors, even if what is said is incorrect.