Saturday, November 12, 2005


In his article today [see online pages 3 & 4], Alan Ramsey refers to a sermon delivered to the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, Texas, by Rev. Dr. Davidson Loehr, who argues that the modern USA is "Living Under Fascism":
I mean to persuade you that the style of governing into which America has slid is most accurately described as fascism, and that the necessary implications of this fact are rightly regarded as terrifying. [...] fascism is a word that is completely foreign to most of us. We need to know what it is, and how we can know it when we see it.
The sermon draws on ideas from an article by Laurence W. Britt, "Fascism Anyone?", who analysed seven fascist or protofascist regimes, proposing "fourteen common threads that link them in recognizable patterns of national behavior and abuse of power."

Some of those threads might sound familiar to Australians:

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights: Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.

3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause: The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice - relentless propaganda and disinformation - were usually effective.

6. A controlled mass media: The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite.

7. Obsession with national security: [The actions of a national security apparatus] were justified under the rubric of protecting "national security," and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.

According to Davidson Loehr (my emphasis):
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 us that have always been the default setting of our species: amity toward our in-group, enmity toward out-groups, hierarchical deference to alpha male figures, a powerful identification with our territory, and so forth. It is that brutal default setting that all civilizations have tried to raise us above, but it is always a fragile thing, civilization, and has to be achieved over and over and over again.
He suggests that despair would be wrong:
I hope that we can remember some very basic things that I think of as eternally true. One is that the vast majority of people are good decent people who mean and do as well as they know how. Very few people are evil, though some are. [...] the way to rebuild broken bridges is through greater understanding, compassion, and a reality-based story that is more inclusive and empowering for the vast majority of us.
Prepare yourself, though:
Those who want to live in a reality-based story rather than as serfs in an ideology designed to transfer power, possibility and hope to a small ruling elite have much long and hard work to do, individually and collectively. It will not be either easy or quick.