Prof Sees Fascism Creeping In U.S.


Harry Droz photoThe genocide of racial, sexual and religious minorities may not currently be underway in this country, but the fascist politics and rhetoric that always precede such atrocities have already taken root.

So argues Yale University philosophy professor Jason Stanley in his new book, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us And Them, a study of the historic signs of fascist politics and their current manifestations in contemporary political movements in Hungary, Poland, Myanmar, and the United States.

On a recent episode of WNHH Radio’s “Kica’s Corner” program with host Kica Matos, Stanley identified the ten theoretical and strategic pillars of fascist politics. He then pointed out one by one how those telltale signs are visible in the politics of President Donald Trump as well as in other nationalist authoritarian leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler.

“The current moment is very personal to me,” Stanley said as he described some of the motivation behind writing this book.

Both of his parents fled the Holocaust as fascist politics and its lethal anti-Semitism spread across Germany and Poland in the 1930s and 1940s.

His mother’s 15 aunts, uncles and cousins were all killed by the German Wehrmacht in the first few months of Hitler’s invasion of eastern Poland in 1941. She survived the war in a Siberian labor camp before emigrating to the United States under the sponsorship of the family of New York U.S. Sen.  Chuck Schumer’s wife, Iris Weinshall.

His father’s mother, Ilse Stanley, was an actress from Berlin who managed to save over 400 Jews who had been imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen experimental concentration camp before she too managed to emigrate to the United States.

But How Fascism Works is not the story of his own family’s encounters with and chance survival of past fascist governments. Instead, as Stanley described it, the book is, like the recent work of his colleague Yale historian Timothy Snyder, a Rosetta Stone for identifying the hallmarks of fascist politics, and for understanding how best to resist said politics before it turns a previously democratic government into a genocidal, one-party state.

The 10 Characteristics Of Fascist Politics

“All fascist movements are based on hypernationalism,” Stanley said. He said that hypernationalism may be racially, ethnically, or religiously based, and that it is always patriarchal and always anti-gay. The end goal of fascist politics, he said, is for an authoritarian leader or party to seize power and maintain power for as long as possible by altering reality to fit their warped vision of the world.

Stanley identified ten characteristics that define fascist political movements. “I observe all ten pillars in the United States today,” he said.

1. A mythic past. “Fascism always promises to return us to a mythic past,” Stanley said. For Hitler, that meant returning to the past of the Holy Roman Empire, when Germans ruled over non-Germans; for Mussolini, that meant the Roman Empire itself.

This past is a place where the patriarchy rules supreme, where in-group men are warriors and in-group women are mothers and wives. This past is mythic, Stanley said: it is fake. It never really was, except in the words of fascist politicians.

2. Propaganda. Stanley said fascist politicians always revert to anti-corruption campaigns, even when they themselves are transparently corrupt. He said the Nazis were among the most corrupt regimes in history, plundering the wealth and property of European Jews, and yet still waged a merciless propaganda campaign that promised to rid the continent of corruption supposedly introduced by Jews.

Trump branded Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” and promised to “drain the swamp,” despite his long history of underhanded business and political dealings. Vladimir Putin, the same time that he is reviving mid-20th century Russian fascist thinker Ivan Ilyin, consistently lambasts the European Union as fascist.

3. Anti-intellectualism. “The enemy of fascism is equality,” Stanley said. He said universities are continually attacked by fascist politicians as hotbeds of cultural and political Marxism. He said these politicians uphold a mythical “common man” as always knowing what is right, and deride women and racial and sexual minorities who seek basic equality as in fact seeking political and cultural domination.

4. Hierarchy. As opposed to liberal democracies, which are based on freedom and equality, fascism enshrines a dominant group’s traditions as the unequivocal rule.

5. Victimhood. Throughout fascist politics, the dominant group always portrays itself as victims. Stanley said the Nazis said they were the victims of the minority Jews. He said that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán held an international conference on the persecution of Jews in October 2017, during which he declared that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world.

6. Unreality. Fascist politicians rely on conspiracy theories instead of facts to justify their calls for power. “When ‘Birtherism’ came,” Stanley said, “everyone should have been terrified.”

7. Law and order. The fascist politician promises a regime of law and order not to punish actual criminals, but to criminalize “out groups” like racial, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities. “Right now,” Stanley said, “we’re seeing criminality being written into immigration status” in the United States. He said fascist politicians thrive on launching purportedly specific attacks against certain segments of a population, like “criminal” immigrants or Jews, and then broadening that definition to include the entire group.

8. Sexual anxiety. Stanley said the fascist politician always foments panic around the threat of rape perpetrated by out-group men against in-group women. “The particular threat is rape,” he said, “and then you create fear among people by talking about rape, and then you try to attack people’s diminished sense of traditional manlihood by fomenting fear about sexuality.”

9. Sodom and Gomorrah. Fascist politicians always locate virtue in the countryside and in small towns, and never in cities with their mixtures of people, races, “decadence” and permissiveness.

10. Arbeit macht frei. Fascist politicians identify out groups as lazy, attack welfare systems and labor organizers, and promote the idea that the group on top is hard working, the groups on the bottom are lazy and drains on the state and should be forced to work, ideally for free.

Stanley said these traits are not necessarily new to American history by way of the Trump administration. This country is founded on fascist policy put in practice as applied to Native Americans and African slaves, he said. After all, Hitler greatly admired the U.S.’s Immigration Act of 1924, which specifically excluded immigrants based on race and nationality of origin.

But that doesn’t make the Trump presidency’s politics, rhetoric, and policies any less alarming, he said.

“History tells us that, when a group is treated horrifically, it’s always preceded by the ways that immigrants are currently being discussed,” he said. Even though Trump does not yet denounce democratic processes like free and open elections, his administration does detain migrants and separate children from their families; it does openly denounce the media and intellectuals at “enemies of the state;” and it does unabashedly support authoritarian rulers throughout the world.

The only adequate resistance, Stanley said, is to defend institutions like objective journalism and even the FBI as established protectors of truth, justice and equality.

“The ordinary citizen has to stand up and loudly confront people who engage in this sort of fascist rhetoric and not be afraid,” he said. “Those millions of acts of individual bravery, if we can stitch together, will save us.”

“Democracy is not a voting system,” he continued. “Democracy is a set of values of equal respect and liberty. And you cannot have equal respect and liberty survive in fascist moments.”

Click on the audio player below to listen to the full interview.


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posted by: OhHum on July 10, 2018  2:31pm

And when socialists need a demon to blame for all that is wrong with the world they point to the other side and call them fascists. Please, for those of us that have been on this planet longer than three decades we’ve heard it all before, and our republic, democracy, and capitalism have maintained. Fascism may sell books to people that want to be frightened by the boogieman, but it’s a no sell anywhere else. In any even,t Mothman will get you first. Boo!!

posted by: FeelingBlue on July 10, 2018  6:18pm

Very “mature,” complacent, biz-as-usual reaction to this invaluable essay. “Boo” indeed. This administration is relying on the kind of reaction you express to further the misogynistic, racist, suprematist (read white male, older) agenda it espouses. This is not your Grandfather’s fascism but a tech-savvy, twitter-driven (for false intimacy and immediacy) group that relies on comfort, complacency and ignorance to establish itself. This is not a “Boo” or “Boo-Hoo” moment, this is an opportunity for rational, balanced, focused, civil thought and action to reestablish itself as the diminished, true United States as it should be. Eschew being snarky.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on July 10, 2018  6:54pm

posted by: OhHum on July 10, 2018 2:31pm

our republic, democracy, and capitalism have maintained.

Maintained by Billionaires who control the vast majority of the world’s wealth, Fact. 67 billionaires already own half the world’s assets By 2100 we’ll have 11 trillionaires, While American worker income has stagnated for a generation.

posted by: EastRocker on July 10, 2018  7:13pm

He is not alone. Holocaust survivors have also been speaking out. Historians who specialize in early 20th century fascism, too. The president has said he wants to be installed for life. He has called the media, the “enemy of the people.” He has asked why we can’t jail journalists. He has created immigration orders based on religious belief. He has already started to stack the courts with people who want to overturn rulings gerrymandering, voting rights, women’s rights, and LBGT rights. He has just nominated a someone who believes the president is above the law, for the the SCOTUS.

I’m really not sure how much louder the alarm bells have to ring. After all, the GOP has made it pretty clear that they want to roll overturn Obergefell, Roe, and roll back the 1965 Voting Rights and 1964 civil rights acts.

posted by: BHaven on July 10, 2018  8:36pm

I cant tell if you have been here for more than 7 or 8 decades but if you had you might remember that fascism was a real threat. The United States was not solidly against it either. There was a big Nazi movement here Nazis holding massive rallies in MSG. A lot the same circumstances that lead up to these events seem to be happening again.

And the fact that even the NHI radio has been promoting and allowing these toxic ideas to exist on the air is an example of just how insidious fascism really is.

posted by: ClassActionToo on July 10, 2018  11:02pm

Socialism has been steadily creeping through America for many tears now. An election of any Republican president is the country’s way of saying - “Slow down!” It’s not Fascism. it’s a correction.

posted by: redman on July 11, 2018  6:07am

The country has been moving toward communism for the last 50 years and any attempt to slow that down is called fascism. This so called professor no doubt sleeps with the communist manifesto at his bedside.

posted by: JDoe on July 11, 2018  7:12am

Sounds likely a timely exploration of neo-fascism. Every point made is applicable to Trump and his clown-car illegitimate “presidency”. Trump’s flailing assault on a free press is yet another characteristic of fascist dictators. Trump is clearly controlled by Putin as EVERY thing he has done thus far benefits Russia and only Russia. His supporters are haters and fools blinded by bigotry, misogyny and nativism and are captive to simplistic emotional propaganda as their orange idol transfers the public’s wealth into the hands of billionaires. This charlatan is dividing America and dismantling everything the U.S. has built since WW2 while his pusillanimous knuckle-dragging fanatics cheer him on. Ain’t no cure for stupid.

posted by: NHPLEB on July 11, 2018  7:26am

There are some ugly comments made in the article and by commenters here and it is very disturbing.
This man is mixing ideas to come up with fear-mongering exaggerations.  Being from Yale,  he certainly knows the benefits of keeping the working/middle/lower classes at each others’ throats and there’s nothing like fear to accomplish that.  To love and be proud of your country is not fascistic,  though it is an element of fascism.  Fear of the newcomers is universal to humans and , in itself, is not fascistic.  Rape culture in societies dominated by men is pretty universal and , in itself, not fascistic. There ARE people on welfare who are lazy but the majority are certainly not!

This article will certainly appeal to those who are fearful and want to hate and strike out and silence those who think differently—— stifling dissent and conversation:  now THAT’S FASCISTIC and AUTHORITARIAN!!!

posted by: robn on July 11, 2018  7:47am

Fascism is when a minority with financial self interest captures a government. It’s happenned in the US from the corporate side down but also from the labor side up as we can see in Illinois and Connecticut where public sector unions have captured the legislatures and are receiving pay and benefits way beyond the private market, asphyxiating those states.

posted by: JDoe on July 11, 2018  8:16am

@AMDC - Can you explain specifically what “fear-mongering exaggerations” were made in the article? Please refer only
to the points asserted not irrelevant ad hominem attacks about where the author went to school.

posted by: NHPLEB on July 11, 2018  8:38am

@Callisto—  the examples I gave are the exaggerations I refer to.  Thanks for reading them but could you reread?
Also-  Prof Stanley WORKS for Yale; he may or may not have attended (IDK).  Mine was not an attack ad hominem on him.  I question his politics/views, being that he works for a liberal in name but not in reality institution. You think he is going to take a position against his bosses?

But of course,  let’s keep fighting amongst ourselves,  while our real masters sit back and continue to get rich in their wars and financial manipulations and exploitation of all working people.

posted by: JDoe on July 11, 2018  11:03am

I reread it. Still don’t see a case for exaggeration but hey maybe I’m missing something. How does pointing out (with historical evidence) Trump’s clearly fascistic behavior ”stifle dissent and conversation”? How is the author of a work that interrogates the highest levels of power “authoritarian”? Huh??? Genuine disagreement is not fighting - it’s democracy. If anything POTUS has sought to stifle dissent and conversation more than anyone with his insertion into the NFL anthem debate, mocking of protesters and the “me-too” and BLM movements, withering attacks on the constitutionally sanctioned free press and his clear alliance to government television (Fox). He is the great divider and second only to his deaf dumb and blind Republican Congress in cynicism and cupidity.

posted by: OhHum on July 11, 2018  6:03pm

Let’s take a quick look at some of the “Fascist” (or what the Left considered Fascist) Presidents of the past 60 years. There was LBJ: We were marching in the streets screaming about that “Fascist regime” that destroyed Viet Nam, killed thousands, and lied to the American people to get us into the war in the first place.Not to be forgotten the beating of protesters everywhere He’s celebrated today for having supported the Civil Rights Act. Richard Nixon: An obvious “Fascist”, for continuing the War in Viet Nam and of course there was Kent State. Oops, Watergate. He’s celebrated for .opening relations with China. Ronald Reagan: Nobody liked this racist, misogynist, homophobic, union busting, “Fascist”. However he is credited with ending the Cold War. George Bush: This “Fascist” started the war in Iraq with a lie regarding WMD’s, Many credit him with bringing down the WTC, (ridiculous as it is, but aren’t we discussing the ridiculous) The USA was not going to survive any of these “Fascists”. Of course we have all the other Presidents not mentioned that were “Horrific” for other crimes and misdemeanors not discussed, but as critically disdained. So stop running around with your heads on fire. Cool down the rhetoric. For those who enjoy running into walls. Have a great six years.

posted by: Patricia Kane on July 12, 2018  7:25pm

@robn: when workers’ wages have been flat for 50+ years, while consumer debt has risen to offset the lost income, why disparage government for paying better than the private sector when the private sector is spending its profits on CEOs who earn 1000+ times the wage of the average worker?
Why aren’t you calling out the stingy capitalists for depriving labor of its fair share.
How do you think this issue around income inequality developed?

posted by: robn on July 12, 2018  8:53pm


1) because governments are immobile and susceptible to capture by motivated entities like state and municipal unions.

2) Because a prevailing wage is a prevailing wage and it’s unfair for one tiny segment of the economy to hold taxpayers captive.