I’ve noted in the past a number of disturbing parallels within the American right-wing and the fascist movements of the 1930s, but it feels vindicating to finally have someone with a pedigree in sociology beyond a Bachelor’s degree confirm what I’ve said. According to retired sociologist Brian Fogarty, the author of Fascism: Why Not Here?, a number of tell-tale signs indicating the fascism of yesterday are in the United States of today — and that another terrorist attack is all it’ll take to push our country into full-blown Nazi Germany.
The White Male Ignoramus Vote
While speaking with Ed Brayton, author of the blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars, sociologist Brian Fogarty addressed the similarities between Donald Trump, the Republicans in general, Weimar Germany, and modern American.
Fascism, as both note, isn’t about politics directly. Fascism is about the movement; it’s not an outgrowth of a regime that’s already in place, but, rather, one that “arises from below.” One of the “hallmarks,” according to Fogarty, is the “discrediting” of the government:
That said, the first telltale sign is a discrediting of the government–not simply of the administration, but of the institutions of government itself. This is only exacerbated by bad government in the form of extreme partisanship, wastefulness, gridlock, and the like.
He also noted that the “decline of reason” is another hallmark, and, “[w]hen people are able to make irrational, self-contradictory, and clearly baseless claims and get away with them, we’re in trouble. Anything can be true and anything can be possible.”
The Planned Parenthood videos are an example of this, but they’re just one: global warming, evolutionary biology, microbiology, political theory, civics, economics, plate tectonics, chemistry, history, the social safety net, social security, theology, freedom — the whole of society, and our entire body of knowledge as a species, comes under fire by the Irrational Right Wing when it doesn’t fit within their paradigm of reality.
The last hallmark is “scapegoating,” something we’ve seen in spades lately:
And I think scapegoating on a large scale is a third warning. Although we always seem to have some real or imagined threat to keep us behaving ourselves–the Cold War, the War on Drugs, gangs and crime waves–sometimes one of these threats carries us away into flights of hysteria, and the Islamic Terrorist is today’s bogeyman.
According to Fogarty, “American exceptionalism” played a big role in this, as well, since it combines the nativism and xenophobia necessary for fascism to develop. He calls out the teleological national narrative that the United States is “destined” to lead all the nations, and that “destiny” justifies us bombing hospitals in other parts of the world:
The Germans had the same sense of exceptionalism, because they only achieved nationhood in 1871, by combining the dozens of German principalities and duchies into the nation we know as Germany under the Kaiser. They had a name for this sense: Sonderweg–the “special way”–and they thought it justified their belief that they should lead the community of nations.
This, combined with fear and violence, are what forms the underlying psychology for fascism to take root, according to Fogarty, but people “don’t turn their fear into violence by themselves.” Fogarty noted, “they need the pooled emotional resources of others” and “the promise of being part of something larger — something so important that one’s own interests or even one’s own life is less important than this goal . . . is what makes it possible.” That is “what makes people abandon all reason and leap into violence or oppression.”
Fogarty also observed during the interview that the concept of the nation as a unifying identity is weakening, but that religion is just as much as a driving force as ever, but religion is just one form unifying identity:
I think religion is simply one form of group identity that can galvanize people into action. Such identity can come from race. It can be tribal membership. It can be gender or class. But religion is more powerful than the others because it comes with already-worked-out tenets of belief and rituals, which bind members together.
So what can be done? Well, our presidential system is an “equilibrium-seeking” one that balances out the extremes, and that our diversity is a strength against the monoculture fascists. Ultimately, however, it’s up to the Republicans to handle the monster they created. They still have a chance to correct the course, but whether they can, depends on “if the Republicans have enough real statesmen” to throw Trump into the dumpster — along with a third of their party:
Of course, this will leave an embittered 1/3 of their party out in the cold to threaten everybody’s re-election in the midterm. But I think it’s possible for the party to change its tone and actually recapture the white male ignoramus vote by 2018 if they work at it.
The interview doesn’t end on a positive note. Fogarty closes by saying that we are more than likely one terrorist attack away from being flung off the edge — and that there will be more homegrown terrorists in the future.
Feature image IYON Original