Fascism is authoritarian political ideology that promotes nationalism and glorifies the state. It is a totalitarian in orientation, meaning that those benefiting from the system work to exclude any challenges to state hegemony. Generally state leaders prefer a single-party state, but nascent fascism can exist in a two-party state, as in the United States with one party attempting to dominate politically in order to bring to the fore the essentialist views of its leaders. Today this force is the Republican Party, now infiltrated by Tea Party radicals. Those views stress past values, nationalist spirit and strong cultural unity. Neo-fascists tend to exclude ideas and changes that they see as threatening their cherished value system. They want a solidified nation that fights degeneration and decadence as defined by them. They seek a rebirth of and a return to traditional values. In the modern context it is politically incorrect to openly espouse an ideal of racial purity, so neo-fascists stress the need for cultural unity based on ancestry and past values as idealized in their exclusionist ideology. Nonetheless, in the United States this idealized viewpoint has overtones of racism and tends to focus around Christianity as the source of needed values. For instance, one slogan of the Tea Party is “Regular Folks United – The Bully Pulpit for Regular Folks.” Irregulars need not apply.

     In fascism a strong leader is sought to exemplify and promote this singular collective identity. This leader and his cohort are committed to maintain national strength and are willing to wage war and create systems of national security, such as the Patriot Act, to keep the nation unified and powerful. Opposition to the state and its idealized values is defined as heretical. Militarism is defined as being essential to maintaining the nation’s power and the military industrial complex becomes sacrosanct in the pursuit of national defense.

     In present-day America such neo-fascist ideas are combatively percolating in national politics and are exemplified in the rhetoric of such radical figures as Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Ron Paul, Rush Limbaugh and Michele Bachmann.  Neo-fascist rhetoric is being propagated during a time when global capitalism is creating a gaping chasm between the super rich and the masses of humanity, ecological degradation and widespread violence. Furthermore, global capitalism is advancing at a time when, according to Oxfam, by 2050, the global population is forecast to rise by one-third to more than 9 billion, while demand for food will rise even higher – by 70 percent – as more prosperous economies demand more calories and crop production continues to fall relative to population. The British charity projects that prices of staple foods could more than double in the next 20 years, pushing millions of people deeper into poverty. The effects of a combination of population growth and the growing numbers of unemployed and impoverished people in the world is creating international crises, most recently in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen; but the emergency is global and we face a crisis of humanity. The world is a powder keg and the fuse is burning.

     Fascists use this time of great upheavals and uncertainties as their raison d'etre to return to an imagined world where such problems did not exist. Uneducated people are prone to heed their simplistic slogans and ideas.


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Comment by Eugene L. Mendonsa on July 25, 2011 at 4:47pm

Edward Said called it Orientalism, but in my writings I have called it Otherism, which John McCreary rightly notes “The appeal of the authoritarian is always the same: "We will save you from THEM!" Where "them" refers to the threatening other.”  The fallacy of Otherism is that we are all connected in the human family, but, alas, that is a very intellectual way of looking at things and, unfortunately, the lack of education in this world leads many of our fellows to see the world in ways that lead them an US vs. THEM view.

 

Comment by John McCreery on June 30, 2011 at 4:59pm

Might be useful, in an anthropological way, to broaden the discussion by taking a look at Amy Chua's World on Fire. Authoritarian governments typically win support by presenting themselves as the champions of the "good" people against irrational, evil others who threaten their position. Chua is particularly concerned with third-world countries where economically successful ethnic minorities turn to authoritarian governments to defend them against locals portrayed as lazy, ignorant, savage, etc. But to me her argument points to a larger conversation that includes, for example, petit bourgeoise support for facist regimes in pre-WWII Europe and the Tea Party conservatives in today's USA. The appeal of the authoritarian is always the same: "We will save you from THEM!" Where "them" refers to the threatening other.  The problem is, of course, that populist movements on behalf of democratic reform frequently mirror the "conservative" authoritarians on the other side. Both thrive on demonization of the other. 

That demonization may seem irrational and/or evil to intelligent, progressive intellectuals like us. But critique alone will not defuse it.

Comment by Alexander Lee on June 30, 2011 at 6:13am
One of the 'hidden' horrors of democracy is fascism.  I think it's also important to point out that what's intrinsically oppressive about fascism is that it promotes the power of the state to structure the 'freedom' of what is nominally an unbiased market place... of course it is biased, but that's the role the state has taken today.

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