By Charles L. Rulon
Emeritus, Life & Health Sciences
Long Beach City College
In recent years, the term “Islamo-fascism” has appeared in editorials and op-ed pieces. But what exactly is fascism? In an essay titled “Fascism Anyone?” Dr. Lawrence Britt, a political scientist, identifies social and political agendas common to fascist regimes. I’ve summarized his article below. Heated opinions vary considerably on how “fascist” the United States has become.
1. Powerful Nationalism: Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic slogans, symbols and songs. Flags are seen everywhere.
2. Obsession with National Security over human rights: Fascist governments use fear as the primary tool to control the masses. The government becomes the master, not the servant, of the people. Fear of enemies and the need for security trumps human rights. The public is often willing to fore-go civil liberties in the name of patriotism and believed safety. The police are given more and more power to enforce laws. The long incarceration of possible enemies without Constitutional protections is instituted. Torture becomes approved.
3. Supremacy of the Military: Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, while the domestic agenda is neglected.
4. Rampant Sexism: Governments are male-dominated. Traditional gender roles become more rigid. Opposition to abortion rights is high.
5. Controlled Mass Media: The media becomes increasingly controlled, directly or indirectly, by the government. Censorship increases.
6. Religion and Government Become Intertwined:
A fascist government will often co-op the most powerful religion in its nation as a tool for manipulating public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology become increasingly common from government leaders.
7. Corporate Power is Protected: The industrial and business aristocracies of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial power elite.
8. 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.
9. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption: Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and who use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon for national resources and even treasuries to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
10. Disdain for Intellectuals: Fascist nations tend to promote open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested.
11. Fraudulent Elections: Elections in fascist nations are either a complete sham, or manipulated by smear campaigns against all opposition. Assassinations may even take place.
Fundamentalism is religious fascism; fascism is political fundamentalism
The above list of fascist characteristics will be familiar to students of political science. But this list should also be familiar to students of religion as well, for much of it mirrors the social and political agenda of religious fundamentalisms worldwide. Dr. Britt writes that it is both accurate and helpful for us to understand fundamentalism as religious fascism, and fascism as political fundamentalism. They both come from very primitive parts of our brain that have always been the default setting of our species—amity toward the in-group, enmity toward out-groups, deference to alpha male figures, a powerful identification with territory, and so forth. It is that brutal default setting that civilizations have tried to rise above. But civilization has always been a fragile thing and has to be achieved over and over again.