Signs of Looming Fascism: State Media via Fox, Collapse of Legislative Process & More

The post examines many signs pointing to an increase in fascist tendencies in the US, signs that can be ignored at our peril. The post also reviews Sunday’s election in Brazil and its slide toward dictatorship. Brazil coverage includes video from Democracy Now.

1929 2019 The Parallels are Astounding & Terrifying

AlterNet published an article that focused on the analysis of Christoper Browning, a noted Holocaust scholar. While the focus of this article is on the ways in which Mitch McConnell has played a parallel role to that of Hindenberg in the rise of the Nazis in Germany, the article spurred some thinking of my own and the result is frankly terrifying. We may be creeping dangerously close to fascism as the parallels go well beyond McConnell.  First, Browning from AlterNet.

Browning, a specialist in the areas of the Holocaust, Nazi Germany, and world war-era Europe, isn’t arguing that President Donald Trump is a modern Adolf Hitler or that Trumpism is akin to Nazism. But he does argue that certain stress fractures in the society and the international order appear to be re-emerging and that these patterns portend troubling trends for the United States and the rest of the world.”

The one American politician who Browning feels best mirrors the dynamics of Nazi Germany is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican. Browning sees him as becoming “the gravedigger of American democracy,” Browning wrote, a role played for Germany beginning in the 1930s by President Paul von Hindenburg.

Browning goes on to make clear the comparison: “Hindenburg didn’t defend democracy in Germany. Instead, he unleashed emergency powers in 1930 to appoint chancellors to skirt over political divisions in parliament. Eventually, Hitler became chancellor, when Hindenburg erroneously thought he could be controlled.”  McConnell hasn’t appointed anyone, but since the beginning of the Obama administration he organized the GOP to undermine any and all efforts to implement his agenda. He undermined the very functioning of the democratic process, transforming it into an exercise of partisan power plays that created gridlock and reinforced the view that the American government can’t function–precisely Trump’s campaign theme. Now, McConnell shows a similar disregard for democracy and likewise opens up the country to serious risk, Browning explained:

He stoked the hyperpolarization of American politics to make the Obama presidency as dysfunctional and paralyzed as he possibly could. As with parliamentary gridlock in Weimar, congressional gridlock in the US has diminished respect for democratic norms, allowing McConnell to trample them even more. Nowhere is this vicious circle clearer than in the obliteration of traditional precedents concerning judicial appointments. Systematic obstruction of nominations in Obama’s first term provoked Democrats to scrap the filibuster for all but Supreme Court nominations. Then McConnell’s unprecedented blocking of the Merrick Garland nomination required him in turn to scrap the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations in order to complete the “steal” of Antonin Scalia’s seat and confirm Neil Gorsuch. The extreme politicization of the judicial nomination process is once again on display in the current Kavanaugh hearings.”

While Browning focuses upon the role that McConnell plays in this inching toward fascism, it is easy to see other parallels:

  • Scapegoating immigrants and refugees and the stoking of hatred and fear among Americans vulnerable to this message;
  • Fostering fearmongering of all sort from the threats from China, Iran, and North Korea internationally and within our country the mischaracterization of any form of dissent as leftist extremism;
  • Using Fox News as a de facto arm of Trump’s tyranny, providing a non-stop alternative reality news devoid of facts, but when repeated and repeated and repeated achieves a semblance of truth to those who want to believe;
  • While other media present something like the truth and Democracy Now and many blogs and printed media (Yes!, Nation) publish the truth, Trump has suggested that perhaps that should not be allowed ” Trump doubles down, calls it “disgusting” that “the press is able to write whatever they want to write and people should look into it” and he didn’t raise a word of concern when Turkey shut down hundreds of media and arrested 200 journalists; 10/11/17 Media Matters;
  • Essentially eliminating checks and balances to our democracy with the appointment of a league of judges who will affirm anything that furthers the Trump/GOP agenda;
  • Efforts to control the Justice Department and the FBI by Trump and the Executive Branch;
  • Separating the US from the world community with a US First campaign that isolates us from allies and removes us from international agreements.

We are already hearing Trump and his minions issue warnings that China is tinkering with our democratic processes in the hopes of undermining Trump. The table is being set for claims of a rigged election when the Democrats take firm control of the House and a possible loss of the White House in 2020.

All of this is frightening and should provoke all of us to ramp up our voices and our activism, starting with working to ensure the Democrats retake the House and possibly the Senate. Click here to review the AlterNet article citing Browning’s historical perspective.

Brazil and Jaol Bosonaro, the New Trump & Another Country Waltzing with Fascism

You can see similar trends toward far right authoritarianism in Turkey, Israel, Great Britain, Italy, and in the US. In South America, Brazil just held an election on Sunday, but calling it a democratic election is not even remotely the case. With Brazil the fourth largest democracy in the world, this is a big issue. Why was this election not democratic? Well, the wildly popular Worker’s Party candidate (and elected Presidente) was jailed on trumped up charges and his successor, Dilma Rousseff, was also forcefully removed from office.  The right wing extremist behind it all makes Trump look moderate and dreams fondly of the dictatorship of Pinochet. I worked from three sources for this report, one from Truthout, another from the Guardian and the third a Democracy Now video interview with Glenn Greenwald that is provided at the bottom of the post.

By way of background, Lula de Silva was elected Presidente in 2002 and was re-elected in 2008.  Known throughout Brazil simply as Lula, President Lula stood up to capitalist forces and fought for social and economic justice. But trumped up fraud charges led to his arrest and sentencing to 12 years in prison. Even from prison, Lula remains the most popular political figure in Brazil today and possibly ever. When forcefully removed from office, he was replaced by his chief of staff Rouseff Dilma. Dilma maintained Lula’s commitment to progressive reform and over the 12 years of their combined presidency enormous advances were achieved.

As reported in TruthOut:

By 2014, under the presidencies of Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, poverty had been reduced by 55 percent and extreme poverty by 65 percent, and unemployment hit a record low of 4.9 percent. Some of these gains were lost when the economy then went into a deep recession that year, and the right took advantage of that downturn to seize what it could not win at the ballot box in four consecutive elections. The far right judicial system under the controls of the oligarchy impeached Dilma and removed her from office without even accusing her of an actual crime; and then Judge Moro sent Lula to prison for a “bribe” he never accepted, in a “trial” without material evidence. The US government sent experts from its Justice Department to “help” with investigations, and quietly showed support for the removal of Dilma.

And so, once again we find democratically elected social justice heroes making significant progress for the people of Brazil, fraudulently undermined and now imprisoned because he (Lula) and then she (Dilma) refused to cow to neo-liberal corporatists.  And the fate of Brazil’s democracy is at stake, as Jair Bolsonaro is hellbent upon usurping all of this progress and installing him first as president and then dictator.

From the Guardian:

Bolsonaro – who has been described as “the most misogynistic, hateful elected official in the democratic world” and possibly the most repulsive politician on earth – is not known as a fan of the ballot-box. Since the Pinochet-praising former paratrooper entered politics three decades ago, he has repeatedly called for a return to the kind of military rule Brazil endured until 1985. “I am in favour of a dictatorship,” he boasted during the first of seven terms as a congressman.”

The election was held on Sunday and 46% of the vote went to Bolsonaro while 28% went to the Worker’s Party candidate Fernando Haddad (who ran in place of Lula and Dilma). While not an insurmountable advantage–the other candidates with lower totals are unlikely to support Bolsonaro– the election is but three weeks away and the media, purchased by the oligarchs are more venomous than Fox and solidly behind Bolsonaro. Stay tuned.

From Democracy Now! A Compelling Report on Brazil, Bolsonaro and the prospects for preserving democracy in Brazil.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Election, Political Reform & National Politics

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8 replies

  1. We’ve been on this path for a long time. See this link. I’ve been wearing the t-shirt for 20 years.

  2. Too many people are still in Denial. They think it can’t happen here. Some of us have seen it creeping in for years. People think our state is safe, a blue state, but we have already seen how little factual information is out there, and how truncated our local news media is. Our local politicians are in the most denial of all. As long as the comfortable and entitled, are not inconvenienced, at the beginning a lot of it is deniable. It really should be a little terrifying and it is for a lot of us. We are all being Gas Lighted by the lack of transparency, and every time we get glimpse, of how they are undermining basic knowledge, there is a quick counter narrative, distraction, or misinformation campaign.

  3. There are many governments that have used a particular authoritarian/anti-democratic playbook to maintain and consolidate power:

    1. Identify an “enemy of the people” who is responsible for the problems of the country. This enemy can be identified in terms of race, political ideology, social status, country of origin, religion or as another country (or group of countries).
    2. Gain power by portraying one’s group as the only true opponent to “the enemy”.
    3. Consolidate control of all institutions (courts, police, military, media, enterprises, electoral institutions) by packing the leadership of these institutions with people chosen primarily for their loyalty is to the group in power rather than their competence for the position.
    4. Eliminate opposition power bases by marginalization and persecution, justifying this by claiming that those in opposition are enemies of the people.

    The problem with tagging this playbook as “fascist” is that fascism is usually considered a right-wing ideology. The authoritarian playbook has actually been used by groups with all manner of political ideologies beyond those that are usually associated with fascism (e.g. Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Franco’s Spain and various South American military dictatorships). In fact, quite a few left-wing governments have used the same authoritarian playbook:

    -Pan-Arabism under Nasser in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya
    -Ba’athism in Syria, Jordan and Iraq
    -PLO in Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan
    -African-Nationalism under Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Nyerere in Tanzania

    -Bolsheviks in Russian revolution
    -Cuba under Castro
    -North Korea under the Kim dynasty
    -Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh

    -China under Mao
    -Cambodia under Pol Pot

    -Argentina under Peronism
    -Venezuela under Chavez/Maduro

    Beyond these are many examples of other ideological constructs that have used the same authoritarian playbook, such as some state-capitalist countries (e.g. modern China and Russia) or Islamist (e.g. Turkey under Erdogan, modern Iran) that certainly display authoritarian elements, but to refer to them as “fascist” would stretch the term to the point that it merely becomes a meaningless epitaph.

    • Thanks for spelling out all those regimes, William. It is all depressingly familiar.

    • However we are not dealing with ‘left wing” fascism here. Any kind of power structure can become authoritarian, including ones with religious, or ideological authoritarian regimes. The right wing has been using these examples for years to slam any left appearing discussion. These examples are trotted out to suppress discussion, and paint any kind of left labeled activity as leading to fascism. We can hear the same nonsense direct from right wing think tanks on the propaganda networks nightly, this stuff is stacked and amplified on Google,and Facebook too.

      Here in the US, the problem were are discussing is Right Wing Authoritarianism, leading to fascism. A considerable amount of our national resources have been invested in fighting, undermining or exploiting these regimes. This typically leads to more extreme and fascistic regimes, as we can see from the Arab Spring. The last time I looked the US was in charge of the largest military in the world, and was the most powerful nation on earth. We have spent billions on installing dictators, embargoes, sanctions, military actions, espionage, and propaganda, attacking these nations. In many they went from moderate to extreme.
      In virtually every country on that list we can look at the history of western intervention, and capitalist exploitation leading to more extreme regimes.

  4. My long-time friend, Dr Margaret Keck, an expert on Brazil wrote “A bad week for the earth. For those following Brazilian elections, it is important to know that Bolsonaro is not just racist, misogynist, etc., he is staggeringly awful on the environment. Wants to abolish Ministry of Environment, end environmental licenses, abolish protected area status, open up Amazon to unlimited development, shrink or abolish indigenous reserves… Goodbye carbon sinks.”

    Put that together with the new IPCC report and the US supreme court battle, and…

    I’m feeling pretty bleak at the moment.

    • Keep your chin. Thanks for being in the game, Meg. As Rev Barber said last, the darkness can be a tomb or a womb. Take a look at the resources menu on the Retake website, look for Video Inventory….open it and one of the first videos is from Valarie Kaur. Best 6 minutes on youtube. It will life your spirits.

  5. It goes way beyond Fox! Perhaps someone should do a survey of local media, and what they are leaving out, or distorting.. There is a lot of deceptive or misleading news around. I started asking, where did they get that idea years ago, and started looking at different people’s sources of information. It is kind of terrifying.

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