This is, understandably, a touchy subject. However, it is also one that recent events have shown should have been addressed more widely some time ago. Donald Trump may have brought the situation to a head, but our problem with white supremacy and the conditions that lead to fascism has a much longer history. If you think about this in strictly binary terms, the USA is not a fascist state. On the other hand, to think more broadly about it, where can we mark the point that fascism starts? This seems worth thinking about in light of us entering what some have described as our own “Weimar period.”
To begin with, let’s establish what is meant here when I say “fascism.” This isn’t necessarily a simple thing to define, although it has been described in simple terms as “capitalism in decay” and “the peak of imperialism.” Umberto Eco’s essay on Ur-Fascism is widely regarded as an excellent resource on this topic. While it is more of a description of attributes than a definition, Lawrence Britt’s list of “The 14 Characteristics of Fascism” is also a good quick reference, and will work for the purposes of this article.
Journalist and YouTube personality Beau of the Fifth Column has an interesting video, called “Let’s talk about blending systems of government,” in which he addresses a viewer question asking him if there is an equivalent to Social Democracy “on the other side.” To paraphrase Beau’s breakdown of the question: if Social Democracy is “socialism lite,” is there an equivalent “fascism lite” on the right? He goes through the list of 14 characteristics mentioned above, and one by one, examines what might happen if one were to “lighten up” each item on the list a bit. You might be surprised at how well the picture that emerges describes the system in the US. If you take issue with that premise, I implore you to go watch the video, and consider it for yourself.
I won’t go through the whole list here, but I will point out that the US is home to the world’s greatest surveillance state, and that was true even before Trump. I will also point out that there have been warnings of white supremacists infiltrating law enforcement for some time now, and the investigations of the recent storming of the Capitol, however you choose to characterize it, show how deep that really goes. People have also been warning of our descent into a police state for years, and as if to prove their point, the police answered the recent protests against their brutality with more brutality.
It also seems worth noting that we already have laws that address things like the events in D.C. on Jan. 6, and the answer to these problems is not more authoritarian overreach like the PATRIOT Act. That will only lead to more abuse of power and things like the FBI creating fake terror plots to entrap “terrorists” who actually turn out to be no such thing. It should also be noted that regardless of how you feel about those who suggest these laws, tools like this can be used by anyone in power. In terms of prevention, it should also be noted that the severity of punishment has been found to have “little constant independent or additive effect” in deterrence of crimes.
So, what’s to be done? If we examine the stories of former neo-nazis, we often find that a common thread between them is a troubled past. I’m not suggesting that we need to feel sorry for current neo-nazis, or that there is any one simple answer to fighting fascism. However, all things considered, it does seem to suggest that it might be better to improve conditions here, and thus prevent some of the things that lead people down that path, than to become more authoritarian.