From the Honest History vault: Whether a country is fascist is a matter of checking gauges, not ticking boxes

There have been suggestions that President Trump is or has become a fascist and that the United States itself is becoming a fascist state. As the 45th President himself says, ‘Maybe, maybe not’.

But in assessing the state of play, it is important to do it sensibly. It is not a matter of ticking a box marked ‘fascist’ on the basis of certain events or behaviours, such as waving a bible in front of a church or turning police onto peaceful protesters.

Some time ago, we posted a link to this 2014 piece by one Paul Cannon, a poet and Anglican priest. Cannon riffs off earlier work by Umberto Eco and Lawrence Britt and uses Britt’s 14 characteristics of fascism (nationalism, disdain for human rights, scapegoatism, supremacy of the military, obsession with national security, and so on). He comes to some conclusions about how many of the boxes with these labels Australia in 2014 ticked.

The more sophisticated way to use such lists, though, is to ask ‘how much of this characteristic do we – or they, the US – have now, ‘how much can we/they stand?’ and ‘who is cranking up the gauge carrying that label?’ Of course, the drawback with using gauges is somewhat akin to the frog in the boiling water: the gauges might get to danger point without us noticing.

Read Cannon’s piece and see what you think. There are other bits and pieces on the Honest History site about fascism. Just use our Search engine.

David Stephens

3 June 2020

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