Blueprint for Fascism — Part 2
In this series, we’re looking at fascism’s Biblical roots. Last time, Part 1 distinguished worldview from ideology and began a list of fascism’s defining features. Let’s continue with the list.
Us vs. Them — Racism
Fascism thrives on identifying Us vs. Them. They look, talk, and act differently, follow different customs, traditions, and holidays, listen to different music and express themselves in different art forms. They are usually foreigners, immigrants, women, the LGBTQ crowd, artists, intellectuals, and anybody else who’s not with you and is therefore against you. P eople of a different race are particularly easy to pick out of the not welcome crowd.
“American fascism… is a clear derivative of centuries of supremacy, slavery, and segregation. That old America never went anywhere, it seems — it was just hibernating. And now it’s back with a vengeance, seeking to reinstate something very much like the America it used to be. So where Islamic fascism is theofascism, American fascism is something subtly different: I’d call it proto-fascism.
“That means something like: ‘fascism before fascism’ or ‘the original fascism.’ I say that because the Nazis in fact both admired and studied America’s supremacist institutions — from Jim Crow to slavery to the elimination of personhood — and modeled their own new society after America’s lost one. So if America is reverting back to an older form of social organization, where whites lived above everyone else, where once they literally owned everyone else — who were the first fascists of all, the Nazis…or the Founding Fathers?
“I know that Americans won’t like to hear that. So go ahead and pick holes in it if you can. I have thought about it intently, and I have to concede, as much as I admire America, this logic appears to be immovable to me. Hence, I think what’s emerging in America is proto-fascism — the original variant, when settlers arrived on the shores of a Promised Land — and decided that it belonged only to them as masters and lords, hence everyone else already there was a subhuman, hence they needed slaves to till their fields.” 
Fascism thrives on economic inequality.
“America became the first rich country to collapse to the new wave of fascism. Why? Because it was the most capitalist country in the world. Capitalism implodes into fascism — inevitably. Why? Because capitalism concentrates capital among those who already own it, which starves labour of gains. That causes the middle class to crater, and inequality to spike. In their desperation and fear, the imploded middle begins to punch down, taking from the even more powerless what was promised to them — security, riches, stability, belonging, status. That sequence describes America perfectly, in hard empirical terms: the rich became ultra rich, but because they took more than 100% of the economy’s gains for decades, the middle class imploded. That fresh poverty produced a turn to a demagogue, who blamed everyone weaker for it — immigrants, refugees, foreigners, etcetera. The Trump voter isn’t the poor black — he’s the declining white.
“So the second half of America’s grim, weird collapse I’d describe as implosive fascism. Implosion of the middle, driven by economic stagnation, is a necessary feature of every fascist collapse — but it’s especially true in America.”
Somebody’s got to pay for it, and rich supporters get richer through fascist cronyism. Meanwhile, the economically disadvantaged flock to fascism and support government policies that widen the inequality gap at their own expense. They do so for a lot of bizarre reasons, but from a religious point of view, lifestyles of the rich and famous is their heavenly destiny — Heaven is where they’ve got a mansion waiting.
Fascism’s Dismal Checklist
If we assemble the above together with the identifiers we saw in Part 1, we have guidelines for recognizing fascism.
Fascists prescribe simple fixes for complex problems.
- It’s not an ideology, it’s a method, a system for thinking and doing.
- Fascism feeds on grievances, identifies the enemies responsible, and sets the populace against them.
- They take on the role of national saviors.
- They expand their self-concept to the size of the state itself.
- They subvert, discredit and eliminate societal and governmental institutions that defy or impair them.
- They ascend to power through the ballot box and then undermine democracy from within.
- They systematically eliminate opposition one small step at a time.
- They attack the judiciary and the media.
- They tell lies as the new truth, repeating them incessantly until they become the new truth, the new reality.
- They denigrate science and academia.
- They threaten political competitors and dissenters.
- They foment bigotry and racism;
- ,,,male dominance and misogyny;
- …persecution of the LGBTQ community;
- …stonewalls against immigrants and foreigners;
- They praise autocrats and encourage worldwide drift to authoritarianism.
- Fascism ascends in times of accelerated social and cultural upheaval.
- …in the aftermath of demoralization and defeat;
- …after great recessions and other forms of drastic economic displacement;
- …during times of extreme economic inequality;
- …in the waning stages of an economic miracle,
- …when new artistic and creative forms are displacing the old standbys;
- …when scientific developments offer shocking new perspective on the fabric of life and reality;
- …when democratic institutions are unstable and the notion of “freedom” takes on new meaning;
- …when there is widespread disorder;
- …when a visceral, nostalgic appeal to tradition emerges.
- Fascism promotes the heavy hand of authoritarianism, and a return to law and order.
- Fascists promote extreme militaristic nationalism.
- They use military marches and staged spectacles and rallies to stir up support.
- They lionize the military and police.
- They bully, abuse, threaten, intimidate, promote hostility, and encourage their followers to do likewise.
- They belittle traditional heroes and societal role models of leadership.
- They glamorize national history in ways that support their cause, and ignore national embarrassments, failures, weaknesses.
- They adopt religious narratives and forge religious allegiances.
- They equate national identity with divine purpose and chosen status.
- They express contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism.
- They endorse a natural social hierarchy that prizes social and economic elites.
- They purport to support the vanishing and lost middle class, but only to the extent the middle class is willing to subordinate self-interest to the good of the nation.
But of course fascism doesn’t run off a checklist. (“Let’s see, how are we doing on bigotry today?”) The list entries are embedded in fascist culture. They are socially normative. They serve as measures of allegiance and duty. They create a narrative of how life works, is and ought to be, and maintain practices that support individual and collective compliance with that narrative.
Fascism’s Religious Narrative
Fascism’s narrative is as follows:
- A utopian past when life was better and people were better off;
- A fall from grace — a turning away instigated by the evil Them;
- An awakened nostalgic and righteous yearning to restore lost utopia;
- The need for a beneficent intervention — salvation — to get back to the good life;
- The arrival on the scene of a savior, whose charisma commands a following;
- The emergence of the congregation of the faithful — a chosen population of aggrieved victims transformed into the superior Us;
- War and final judgment meted out on Them.
- The Golden Age of the victorious.
The Biblical narrative is everywhere in Western culture — from Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Yankee Stadium to the Capitol Building. And it explains fascism’s religious ties and obsession with holy war.
“Old fascism didn’t abhor ‘religion’ as much as we imagine. It was a deeply mystical exercise, steeped in its own mythology of sacred blood and divine…. A homeland of the pure, strong, and faithful. Cleansed of the weak and impure — who are dirty, filthy subhumans.
“A militant message broadcast by armies of demagogues…. Jihadis who took up the call. And destabilized society after society. By bombing and shooting up places where civilized and decent values were being enacted: hospitals, schools, festivals. Minorities targeted, jailed, imprisoned, hunted, eliminated. New institutions built — justice systems, law enforcement agencies, whole new kinds of morality police. Society finally reshaped in the image of the perfect and the pure and the strong.”
“Islamic fascism we might say is something like theo-fascism. It is explicitly ‘religious’ — and faith trumps nationhood. It isn’t mere ‘nationalism’ — its goal is something like a new caliphate, in the extreme, or at least a federation of united Islamic states, proudly clean and faithful.
Mussolini — Fascism Christened
Mussolini gave “fascism” its name, which he took from an ancient Roman symbol.
“Fascism [is a] political ideology and mass movement that dominated many parts of central, southern, and eastern Europe between 1919 and 1945 and that also had adherents in western Europe, the United States, South Africa, Japan, Latin America, and the Middle East.
“Europe’s first fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, took the name of his party from the Latin word , which referred to a bundle of elm or birch rods (usually containing an ax) used as a symbol of penal authority in ancient Rome.
“Although fascist parties and movements differed significantly from one another, they had many characteristics in common, including extreme militaristic nationalism, contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism, a belief in natural social hierarchy and the rule of elites, and the desire to create a Volksgemeinschaft (German: ‘people’s community’), in which individual interests would be subordinated to the good of the nation.”
Mussolini’s “Clerical Fascism” and Trump’s Christian Right Fascism
Fascism seizes power by degrading legitimate government and spurring the electorate to rally in patriotic mob scenes, celebrating their own political disempowerment. And then get God on your side. Mussolini rose to power 100 years ago on the strength of “clerical fascism.” “Clerical” referred to Roman Catholic clergy whose interests were propounded by the Italian People’s Party, which later split over whether the church should overtly support fascism. Fascist Italy recognized Catholicism as its state religion. Mussolini’s defining rally was his March on Rome. A hundred years after Mussolini, Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and the Christian Right have followed the same historical blueprint.
Violence and “the Unthinkable”
What happens when fascism makes its move? As we saw last time, worldview resides with the most basic human impulses — where life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Fascism therefore asserts itself with crassness and brutality.
“What tends to happen is violence. Of a spectacular kind. War, atrocity, barbarity. Genocide. The unthinkable…. [T]here is only room for one master race, one Promised Land, one fatherland, one people who are the strongest and purest.”
Violence? Check. Think of the Proud Boys. Think of Trump’s SS troops attaching citizens on city streets.
The unthinkable? Check. Thinks of Trump and the Republicans blatant all-out assault on the defining right of democracy — the citizens’ right to vote — everything from calling votes (only those against Trump) fraudulent to appeals for suspending the Constitution and imposing martial law.
And it all begins with a Biblical worldview.
The Fascist Bible
When I say “Bible,” I mean the Christian Bible. The first part is the “Old Testament” — God’s original deal with ancient Israel. The second part is the “New Testament” — God’s new deal that includes the “Gentiles” — the non-Jews. The second part is Jesus and post-Jesus, but since he was a Jew and it was mostly written by Jews, there’s a lot of carryover. Muslims and Jews buy into the parts of the Old Testament that include Abraham, so they and Christianity are called the “Abrahamic” religions. Therefore “Abrahamic worldview” could be substituted for “Biblical worldview.” It’s the same God in all three.
Extreme nationalism lies at the heart of fascism. It is also the essence of Abrahamic religion. God choses a nation to be His. That nation becomes Us, which makeseverybodyelse Them. God provides detailed laws through his representatives — prophets, priests, and kings — for how We are supposed to behave. Conformity is the lowest compliance standard; loyalty and zealotry are preferred. Nonconformity, disloyalty, disrespect, doubt, dissent are crushed. One of the worst things God’s favored nationcan do is act like Them — take up foreign customs, marry internationally, etc. The Old Testament is therefore several hundred pages of rewind and repeat re: how it goes for both Us and Them, and often it’s hard to tell who’s got the worst deal.
The Totalitarian God
Abrahamic religion imposes a hierarchical structure with God at the top. God enjoys absolute sovereignty and is not accountable to anyone for anything. God’s word is Truth, His will supreme, His power absolute. Totalitarianism is authority without accountability, therefore God is a totalitarian ruler. Plus, because God is… well, God… He is in charge of not just his own nation, but all nations. All national sovereignty derives from Him. On this point, the New Testament section of the Christian Bible restates and summarizes Old Testament political worldview:
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” Romans 13:1–5
National sovereignty that derives from God is similarly unaccountable. Accordingly, “the divine right of kings” protected English monarchs with its declaration that “the king can do no wrong,” and the concept was imported into the Colonies as “sovereign immunity,” which protects federal and state officials. The divine right of kings and sovereign immunity, like God’s rule, are therefore ultimately totalitarian. Which means that a fascist in power is God’s man and can do no wrong unless God intervenes.
Biblically-based national sovereignty answers the question I began Part 1 of this series with: how is it that the Christian Right can support Trump? The answer is that Trump is God’s man in the same way that Mussolini was God’s man. They are because the Bible says they are. They carry on the succession of divinely-appointed national leaders all the way back to the Old Testament kings.
Farfetched? Fantastical? We need only listen to the rationale given by one of Trump’s Men -former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in his defense of the Trump Administration’s family separation policy, to learn that the Christian Right doesn’t find this farfetched or fantastical in the slightest. Instead, it is a validation of legitimacy.
“If you cross the border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. If you smuggle an illegal alien across the border, then we’ll prosecute you,,,, If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally. It’s not our fault that somebody does that.
“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent, fair application of law is in itself a good and moral thing and that protects the weak, it protects the lawful. Our policies that can result in short-term separation of families are not unusual or unjustified.”
Sessions invoked the Bible to substantiate the United States’ God-derived national sovereignty. The authority of God and the Bible is totalitarian, beyond accountability. Since the United States derives its national sovereignty from God and the Bible, it enjoys the same totalitarian authority, above any law other than its own. Its laws are good and moral by definition, and its government and government officials are free from fault because its laws say they are.
- “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul.”
- “God has ordained the government for his purposes.”
- “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves.”
- “Consistent, fair application of law is in itself a good and moral thing and that protects the weak, it protects the lawful.”
- “It’s not our fault that somebody does that.”
Sessions’ case justifies national xenophobic indifference to the plight of the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse. the homeless, and tempest-tossed. Instead, the United States government is free to terrorize them at the border. The same concept applies to America’s national history of legal slavery and normative racism, as well as its institutionalized homophobia and misogyny.
In sum, the Bible narrative — the story of God’s relationship with his people — illustrates the dynamics of fascist government. And the Bible’s God is a prototype of a fascist leader.
We’ll look further into these things next time.
 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)
 For a breakdown on how the CIA categorizes dictatorial forms of government, see Totalitarianism, Authoritarianism, and Fascism — What Is the Difference? ThoughtCo. (June 5, 2020).
 Wikipedia — Sovereign Immunity. See also Wikipedia — Sovereign Immunity in the United States. McCann, Miles, “State Sovereign Immunity,” National Association of Attorneys General, NAGTRI Journal Volume 2, Number 4. Although the article is technically about state — vs. federal — sovereign immunity, the quoted text applies to both. See also the following quote from this monograph from the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton, a New York based firm with a reputation for its commitment to diversity” “At its core, the doctrine of sovereign immunity stands for the proposition that the government cannot be sued without its consent — that is, ‘the King can do no wrong.’ Sovereign immunity is simple in concept but nuanced in application.”. Pugh, George W., “Historical Approach to the Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity,” Louisiana Law Review Volume 13, Number 3 (March 1953).. Citations omitted.
 The Story Behind the Poem on the Statue of Liberty, The Atlantic (Jan. 15, 2018)
Originally published at http://iconoclast.blog on December 31, 2020.