A Measure of Fascism in America

by Marcus Aurealeus, Facebook Note, August 23, 2015

The word “fascism” is generally used today as a pejorative to attack any idea that a speaker happens to dislike. But this word has a specific meaning and a specific historical context. It refers to an authoritarian, nationalistic system of government and social organization that is usually considered to be far right-wing. Historically, it was most popular in the 1930s, when the regimes of Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco were in their primes. Later examples include Indonesia under Suharto, Bolivia under Banzer, and Chile under Pinochet. In practice, fascism combines the ideas of collectivism, mercantilism, nationalism, (statist) syndicalism, and uniculturalism into a system where business leaders and political rulers work together to create public policies that benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else.
To what extent is the United States of America in 2015 a fascist nation? In order to determine this, a means of measurement is needed. Lawrence Britt has studied fascist regimes and found that there are 14 characteristics which all of them have in common to some degree. Matthew Reece goes further and examines these characteristics and assigns each of them a value on a ten-point scale, with zero being completely absent and 10 being omnipresent. Let us also see how many are trending upward, trending downward, and holding steady. The final score on a 140-point scale will give a useful measure of the degree of fascism in America.
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascists tend to make constant use of patriotic mottoes, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
In America, patriotic mottoes, slogans, symbols, songs, and flags have been part of the culture since the founding of the nation, with the frequency of their use varying from time to time. This reached a fever pitch immediately following the September 11 attacks, and while it has backed off since then, the sense of nationalism in America remains strong, perhaps the strongest of all nations in which the state does not directly force people into such observances.
Score: 8/10, Trend: Steady
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security,  fascists are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
 After 9/11, the Bush regime and their lapdogs in the right-wing media were largely successful in convincing people that torture and indefinite detention of those who were not convicted of crimes was justifiable for national security reasons. The Obama regime has taken some positive steps on these matters, but has murdered far more people with drone strikes than his predecessor. The left-wing media has largely given Obama a pass on this. At home, the War on Drugs has placed many innocent people into prison for decades. While the American people are becoming more opposed to such abuses of power, little real change has occurred.
Score: 8/10, Trend: Slightly Up
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
America has a dark history of this. Over the centuries, Native Americans, Blacks, Mexicans, Irish, Eastern Europeans, Germans, Jews, Japanese, communists, and Muslims have all been perceived as common threats or foes to be contained or eliminated. More than once, the state has been able to engage in wars due to yellow journalism or false flag operations successfully creating a new enemy du jour. With the War on Terrorism, the state has found its holy grail: a war which can be made indefinite against an omnipresent foe which it can never seem to vanquish, not that it would want to.
Score: 10/10, Trend: Steady
4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
The United States has the largest military budget in the world, and spends more money on its military than the next seven nations combined. Despite a stagnant economy and decaying infrastructure, 20 percent of the federal budget is devoted to the military. This is equal to the combined budgets of Medicare and Medicaid, and is nearly as much as the budget for Social Security. To be critical of the military as an institution is considered to be nearly as bad as aiding the enemy by the lapdog media, as is criticizing the glamorization of soldiers and military service. Though a minority is becoming skeptical of this situation, no changes appear to be coming in the near future.
Score: 10/10, Trend: Steady
5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
The United States is one of the least sexist countries in the world. While the number of males in positions of political power outnumber females by about four to one, the United States ranks 94th out of 190 countries in this regard as of June 1, 2015. Over the last few decades, traditional gender roles have become less rigid. Divorce has become easier to obtain, with fault requirements being mostly removed as of 2015. Abortions were made legal nationwide in 1973, and same-sex marriage was made legal nationwide in 2015. A general hostility has developed toward government intervention into the family institution.
Score: 3/10, Trend: Down
6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in wartime, is very common.
While the press in America is not directly controlled by the government, it is indirectly controlled. Government regulation and pro-state media personalities perpetuate a lapdog establishment that echoes government propaganda and eschews authentic investigative journalism. Those who would challenge this status quo by asking uncomfortable questions frequently find themselves victimized by slave-on-slave violence as the privileged establishment seeks to preserve its access to the halls of power and its usefulness in informing the public of government activities. Censorship is common with regard to certain words and topics which are not used or discussed on mainstream programming, especially during wartime, although this is mostly done without direct government involvement. Before and during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the establishment media consistently towed the government line and censored certain images, such as war deaths. As a result, alternative and independent media sources are growing in popularity and trust in the establishment media is at an all-time low, but they have yet to displace the establishment media.
Score: 8/10, Trend: Slightly Down
7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
At least since the First Red Scare following the Russian Revolution and continuing through World War II, the Cold War, and the War on Terrorism, the government has used fear of external enemies as a justification for its activities. National security is considered by many right-wing (and some left-wing) politicians to be the most important role of the state. Though many people believe this has gone too far in the wake of the Snowden leaks, little meaningful change has occurred.
Score: 8/10, Trend: Steady
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
There is a tradition of separation of church and state in America, but this is only true in the sense that there is no official state religion. Atheists, agnostics, and religious skeptics are few and far between in public office. Appeals to the tenets of Christianity, the most common religion in America, are frequently used by politicians to advance their agendas, even when those tenets are diametrically opposed to such agendas. Christian theories of just war play a significant role in American conservatism, and Christian ideas about helping the poor are used by American liberals to argue for government welfare programs. Religiosity among the American people is declining, but these conditions will likely remain stable for another generation or so.
Score: 7/10, Trend: Down
9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
Since soon after the Constitution was ratified, business interests have played a financial role in determining which candidates for office are successful in elections. With the Citizens United decision, this has become more open and somewhat more blatant. Of course, those who invest in political campaigns expect a return on that investment, and research shows that they get it in spades. A political aristocracy has been present throughout much of American history, with many candidates for office being related to prior office holders. The 2016 presidential election is shaping up to be more of the same.
Score: 9/10, Trend: Up
10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
While labor unions have not been eliminated entirely in America, they have been declining in the private sector for quite some time. In 2014, only 6.6 percent of private sector workers were union members, the lowest level since 1932. However, government sector unions are much stronger, with 35.7 percent of government workers belonging to a union in 2014. While national syndicalism is a major part of fascist theory, it has only had minor influence in America in the form of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) labor union.
Score: 6/10, Trend: Slightly Up
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
In America, the government is quite dependent on the intellectual classes to propagandize the people, and is therefore rather accommodating to them, to the point of creating a bubble in higher education that has benefited the intellectual classes at the expense of everyone else during the postwar period. That being said, it is becoming more common for professors and other academics to be attacked for their views. The rise in influence of social justice warriors is causing disdain for free expression to trend upward.
Score: 4/10, Trend: Slightly Up
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forgo civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
While many police accountability activists in America say that “badges don’t grant extra rights,” the fact is that in practice, they do. Police routinely engage in activities that would land an ordinary citizen in prison, and when they are investigated, it is either by an internal review process or a grand jury examination, each of which tend to be highly sympathetic to the police due to conflicts of interest. While there is no national police force with virtually unlimited power, the DEA, FBI, and Secret Service are quite powerful and are getting stronger. After 9/11, many people were willing to overlook police abuses, but this is changing. However, many efforts toward police accountability are being blunted by distractions, such as a focus on racism.
Score: 8/10, Trend: Slightly Up
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
There is a revolving door in Washington, D.C. between being a member of Congress or federal employee and being a lobbyist for special interest groups. These special interest groups bribe politicians and regulators on behalf of wealthy business interests to write laws and regulations that favor their interests at the expense of competing businesses and individual citizens. Many of these laws and regulations work to shield business owners from civil and criminal liability. While it is uncommon for American rulers to steal national treasures, there is a tendency for the government to appropriate natural resources and sell access to them. This shows no signs of improving anytime soon.
Score: 7/10, Trend: Up
14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
While there is no proof that American elections are a complete sham, there are clear cases of manipulation. While smear campaigns tend to be waged by each major political party against the other, assassination of opposition candidates is almost never seriously considered, let alone attempted. That being said, the two major parties have rigged election laws to keep third parties from having any reasonable chance of winning. Over the past few decades, gerrymandering of political district boundaries has been used to create districts which are either reliably Democratic or reliably Republican, with the result being that the fringe elements of each party are able to put people into office. The judiciary was arguably used to manipulate the 2000 presidential election, and courts usually act to control elections by siding against claims of unfairness by minor political parties. With the introduction of top-two primaries in recent years, third party and independent candidates are being excluded further.
Score: 7/10, Trend: Slightly Up
Overall, America gets a score of 103 out of 140, meaning that America is 73.6 percent of the way toward fascism and away from liberty. While the trends on the various characteristics of fascism are moving in different directions, the overall trend is slightly upward, meaning that the score could advance at a rate of one or two points per year.
Now, wake up and examine which country is actually harming you and the rest of us. It’s time to put aside old grudges that date back to the Soviet days, in the same way you forgot the harm done to you in the past, by your now good neighbor, Germany.


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Oct 29, 2016 8:04 AM

Thank you for an excellent article. And the comments. A couple of points came up whilst reading: Re: Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution. I think this is a zone where times have changed from then to now, requiring a different definition of sexism perhaps. But first let’s keep the core premise: ‘the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution,’ and also that we are looking at America today. As you go on to point out, America is only 3/10 sexist in terms of the male-dominated type of social orders prevalent back then. But I think it fair to say that in many ways there is a statist-type treatment… Read more »

Oct 28, 2016 2:42 PM

I’m not big on the political definition of what does and does not constitute Fascism – but when a nation sets itself up as ‘exceptional’ and ‘indespensable’ – yet in reality it tolerates the medical kidnap of its aboriginal people for profit – what am I to call that?

Oct 28, 2016 9:28 AM

Reichstagsbrandt – 9/11
Ermächtigungsgesetz – Patriot Act
Konzentrationslager – Guantanamo
Gestapo – NSA/HomeLand-Stasi
Der Jude – Islam
Weltherrschaft – PNAC/Yinon/Heartland
since the USA is the teacher of Hitler and as seen in UA and the Levante, the US using always Extremist as tool for power, u can say the Master of Facism define this kind of leadership in a new quality and dimension.The term for has to be invented jet.
gruss aus ostdeutschland

Oct 27, 2016 7:56 PM

I think it’s a terrible mistake to imagine that a modern version of fascism will resemble classic European fascism, especially in how it looks, the overt militarsim and the strong, charismatic leader. Today’s fascism is a lot more subtle and intelligent and the leader could well be a woman. The core of fascism is the embrace between the state and business. A process that increases and grows, replacing old-style liberal capitalism, with something else… militarised capitalism with a economic and social structure that resembles a form of neo-fuedalism.

Oct 27, 2016 9:37 PM
Reply to  michaelk

I agree and was hoping that this article would start a discussion about what really constitutes fascism today and which of the salient features it shares with the classic European version of the first half of the 20th century.

Oct 27, 2016 4:01 PM

Agreed, America may not yet be overtly Fascist; but covertly – the ruling globalist elite has always been Fascist. The American Fascist state may not yet be complete – but incrementally – it is a work in progress. Sound paranoid? A quick look at post war American history might indicate otherwise. The so called deep events (the big three assasinations; Watergate; the Reagan October Surpise; Iran-Contra; 9/11) reveal a remarkable consistency in personel and planning. The authority on this is Prof. Peter Dale Scott – I recommend reading “The Road To 9/11” before dismissing as ridiculous the notion of a “government within a government” in waiting. It is important to note that whoever the next POTUS is; so long as they unconstitutionally and undemocratically prolong the 9/11 State of Emergency – martial law; the militarisation of the police; unlimited warrantless detention etc are just two signatures away (POTUS and Attorney… Read more »

Oct 27, 2016 1:18 PM

Things here in France are proceeding in the same direction and at an alarming pace, witness this morning’s announcement of a €250 million award to the police for armour, vehicles and further militarisation – mostly because France joined the war on a noun. France’s foreign policy imperatives are exclusively dictated by arms sales, particularly to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other GCC countries. Any semblance there was of a difference, even of emphasis, between French and US objectives has evaporated. Next year’s election looks like being a fight to be the the candidate of the neoliberal, pro US camp, be they nominally socialist or right republican, against the supposed “real” fascist candidate. Even some of my friends are saying “things are different now, we have to get behind the police because we’re at war!” We don’t have the alternative of a decent candidate like Jill Stein. The lovable cheese-eating surrender… Read more »

Oct 28, 2016 12:42 PM

The seeming frontrunner in the French presidential election stakes, the conservative former prime minister (1995-97) Alain Juppé, is nominally a Gaullist, i.e. should be in favour of an independent foreign policy. However, even Juppé is spouting the same warmongering drivel about Syria as all the other candidates, and will not take France back out of NATO if he’s elected. Juppé, by the way, was foreign minister from 1993 to 1995 when Edouard Balladur was François Mitterrand’s prime minister under a power-sharing arrangement (the Socialists had been practically wiped out in the 1993 general elections). France’s role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which took place under the noses of French troops, has never been satisfactorily explained, and Juppé gets very stroppy whenever the genocide is referred to. The French presidential election is scheduled for May 2017. If Hillary or Donald hasn’t started WWIII by then, expect France to continue brown-nosing whichever… Read more »

Oct 27, 2016 12:04 PM

One of the principal differences right-wing dictatorships and genuine fascism is that one is counter-revolution from above, and this includes military dictatorships which are a feature of Latin American, middle-eastern and far-eastern regimes, and genuine fascism which is counter-revolution from below. In both Germany and Italy fascism was a political, economic and cultural mass movement. Mass movements which engaged in electoral politics but also had their military wing. In Germany, Nazi strategy pivoted on both Parliamentary and extra-parliamentary activities. Both of which were essential to its functioning and eventual victory. The Sturmabeitilung (Storm Troopers or SA) were mostly veterans of the trenches of WW1 and provided the military street fighters for Hitler, as did the Italian Squadristi who functioned in the same manner for Mussolini. The SA had its own leadership under the demonic figure of Ernst Rohm and its programme of National Socialism which included expropriation of Jewish finance… Read more »

Oct 27, 2016 2:33 PM
Reply to  Frank

This is interesting and I think I’d need a bit more of it to know whether or not I agreed. It may be that your description fits the Nazis better than the Italian experience, but it’s hard for me to accept “the marriage of corporations and the state” as counter-revolutionary from below unless I redefine my sense of the word “below”. Also, depending on which sort of revolution we’re talking about, there’s nothing more counter-revolutionary than business-as-usual bourgeois class movements anyway, so it seems a fairly dubious distinction. I’d also argue the US indeed has its own version of the squadristi as our militarized police become effectively paramilitary forces defending the de-democratized rights-suppressed status quo against dissent. But fascism may be the wrong word here nonetheless, and if it does nothing but spawn debates that detract from apprehending whatever-the-phenomenon-should-be-called then I’d happily avoid it. I like Sheldon Wolin’s use of… Read more »

Oct 27, 2016 11:56 AM

This is useful, thanks. I’d suggest a modification of Point 11 about higher education and intellectuals. The question might better be phrased not as the extent to which the sector suffers open generalized abuse but rather the extent to which it is co-opted, and dissident opinions marginalized or silenced. By that measure, I think the score skews significantly more towards the fascist end of the spectrum. It’s similar to the point about the media. A crude fascism owns the media outright and demonizes intellectuals. A sophisticated fascism establishes the appearance of a free press while ensuring by various means that it self-censors and stays on the reservation. Likewise a sophisticated fascism embraces nominal academic freedom and higher education but uses an expansive arsenal of both obvious and subtle rewards and punishments to ensure the “right” values are promoted by and large. Obviously, part of the sophistication here is in allowing… Read more »

Oct 27, 2016 10:10 AM

Reblogged this on EU: Ramshackle Empire.

Oct 27, 2016 9:26 AM

Hi Vaska,
I wanted to post a comment on this article about fascism and wanted to include a photo – but the ‘copy-paste’ method doesn’t work.
How do I insert a pic into the comment?

Oct 27, 2016 7:36 AM

Henry Giroux provides an excellent commentary about the development of modern fascism in a neoliberal environment. He notes Trump’s casual racism and the rapidly growing neo-fascist movements across Europe built upon racist drivers. But he points also to the “Appalling lack of historical consciousness in contemporary American culture…a deliberate political weapon used by the powerful to keep people passive and blind to the truth.” “Civic death and disposability are the new signposts or a society in which historical memory is diminished and ethical evaluations become derided as figments of liberal past.” This deterioration of public awareness of what constitutes a democratic process has many factors: — The “idiocy of celebrity and popular culture” and the dumbing down of American schools. (And the mind numbing political placebo of a nation plugged into its I-pads and mobile phones, falsely believing that it is “plugged into” a democracy.) — The aggressive prosecution of… Read more »

Oct 27, 2016 7:12 AM

Peter Lee has some excellent ideas about fascism, and our current candidates: “In my opinion, Trump’s an old-fashioned white American nativist, which is pretty much indistinguishable from old-fashioned racist when considering the subjugation of native Americans and African-Americans and Asian immigrants… Tagging him as ‘fascist’ allows his critics to put an alien, non-American gloss on a set of attitudes and policies that have been mainstreamed in American politics for at least 150 years.” He contrasts this with Hillary Clinton’s political strategy of (1) identity politics (race/gender) acting as a distraction from (2) her neoliberal alignment: “In my view, a key tell is Clinton’s enduring and grotesque loyalty to her family’s charitable foundation, an operation that in my opinion has no place on the resume of a public servant, as a font of prestige, conduit for influence, and model for billionaire-backed global engagement. By placing the focus of the campaign on… Read more »

Kathleen Lowrey
Kathleen Lowrey
Oct 27, 2016 4:44 PM
Reply to  damien

That really was a very good article. Thanks for the link.

Oct 27, 2016 6:59 AM

Peter Lee has some excellent ideas about fascism and racism, and our current electoral candidates: “In my opinion, Trump’s an old-fashioned white American nativist, which is pretty much indistinguishable from old-fashioned racist when considering the subjugation of native Americans and African-Americans and Asian immigrants, but requires that touch of “nativist” nuance when considering indigenous bigotry against Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants and citizens.Tagging him as ‘fascist’ allows his critics to put an alien, non-American gloss on a set of attitudes and policies that have been mainstreamed in American politics for at least 150 years.” He contrasts this with Hillary Clinton’s political strategy of (1) identity politics (race/gender) acting as a distraction from (2) her neoliberal alignment: “In my view, a key tell is Clinton’s enduring and grotesque loyalty to her family’s charitable foundation, an operation that in my opinion has no place on the resume of a public servant, as… Read more »

Oct 27, 2016 3:38 AM

All it takes is an aware citizenship with enough intelligence to put two and two together to get four. Currently the US is missing this important and necessary requirement. I’m not sure it will ever acquire it!

Oct 27, 2016 5:02 AM
Reply to  archie1954

Hitler borrowed from socialism in order to undermine individual, constitutional rights. Conveniently, the interest of the state suddenly coincided with those of big businesses. So Hitler co-opted socialism to subordinate the worker to the state (big business). Appropriating elements of socialism is what made Hitler attractive to big business if you think about it. It de-fanged socialism. The U.S. corporations had been battling the Workers of The World and repressing unions for decades. Now they had found a man who talked of ‘fascis’ – or unity – subordinated to the state. That is why Henry Ford, Rockefeller and his Standard Oil, IBM, Dupont, GE, GM and others did more than sign contracts with Hitler’s Germany but actively supported and – in some cases – financed him. There is another useful definition. We used to have rights from just being born: the land of my birth. Citizenship. A shared ownership of… Read more »

Oct 27, 2016 12:31 PM
Reply to  MoneyCircus

LO STATO CORPORATO. The Corporate State . written by Benito Mussolini post WW1. Is the modern manual of fascism. It literally mean what the title is. If one would read this book today one would find striking similarities to every western political, economic and social system. Reflect and look around. Look at the militarization of all western police forces. Look at the way most of the public services in the western countries have been finacialised from health care , education and essential services . Look at the problems the USA has with just delivering potable water to their citizenry. Last but not least look at the state of our political and economic systems littered with cronyism and graft at all levels. WAKE UP FOR THE ELITE R PREPARING FOR ONE BIG BANG IE THE US ESTABLISHMENT STILL TALKING ABOUT FIRST STRIKE NUCLEAR WAR. MAD INSANE AND LUDICROUS THIS DAY IN… Read more »