The Supposed "Early Warning Signs of Fascism" Debunked

Well, it appears leftists can’t seem to get enough of throwing around disinformation about “fascism” ever since Donald Trump got elected.  I’ll be the first to admit that the alt-right and the small remnant of white nationalists are not doing themselves any favors online by constantly stirring shit up in an attempt to troll the social justice crowd, but nonetheless the left has never gotten fascism correct.

I’ve already written repeatedly about the socialist origins of fascism, so I’m not going to repeat that here.  Instead let’s take a look at this particular piece of disinformation above that has been making the rounds.

First, you may have seen this poster floating around which is purported to have been spotted at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.  Why this would be in a gift shop is beyond my comprehension, so I shot an email to the Museum gift shop to inquire if the Tweet by this Sarah Rose (@RaRaVibes) character was legitimate.  They claim they no longer sell it but proposed an alternative poster that had more to do with the actual holocaust instead.  That makes more sense at least.

But the question remains, are these the true Early Warning Signs of Fascism?

As the Tumblr post admitted, this list originated from a 2003 Secularist Humanist Op-Ed article titled Fascism Anyone? by a “Dr. Laurence Britt, political scientist/scholar”. Now, I did not read the original article because it is hidden behind a paywall (and I’m not paying to read pure garbage) but these particular points above and on the poster are said to have come directly from therein.  Of course, Daily Kos and other leftwing rags have subsequently reposted them without giving credit to the original author or even completely misattributing the points to other writers or even Italian fascists themselves. 

The original article was actually supposed to be a sharp criticism at the time at...gasp...the new Republican administration, namely that of George W. Bush (I guess times haven’t changed that much).  And here is the real kicker, it turns out that Laurence Britt is neither a doctorate in political science nor a scholar or any kind.  In fact, he was a former corporate executive turned history buff.  He has notably had one fictional book published in 1998 according to research tracked down by the blog The Right Stuff.  And that is fine if this person wants to assert this as a professed history and fascist enthusiast, but at the end of the day it is still just his partisan opinion...and a terribly convenient one at that as I will explain.

Needless to say, these differ from the popularly referenced “14 General Properties of Fascist Ideology” from Umberto Eco’s essayEternal Fascism as well as the 10 elements of fascism proposed by Italian historian Emilio Gentile, who had likened fascism and other totalitarian ideologies like communism to a political religion.  There are numerous other proposals that are a lot closer to the actual tenants of fascism as Mussolini and Giovanni Gentile proposed and what Hitler later emulated.  If you want to get a real taste of what Italian fascism was, read the Manifesto of the Fascist Intellectuals or the Doctrine of Fascism straight from the horse’s mouth.

If you ask me, most of these talking points are just the same narrative the left is continuously espousing regarding their obsession with identity politics.  If you make a claim and add just the right amount of ambiguity to your definition, you can easily make any accusation about your political opponent that you choose. It is a form of a strawman fallacy.  But let’s take a deeper look into each of these claims, shall we?

  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - elements of both the right and left have strong ties to nationalism.  The left is always pushing for more and more power to the federal government to strengthen the union from the federal government down to the individual.  The idea of “putting America first” is applied by many modern American politicians from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump.  I am not condoning nationalism by any means, seeing as I am a minarchist who believes in federalism, but I am acknowledging it is bridges almost all ideologies.
  2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - first off, the right believes in natural inalienable rights; not human rights, and that is not a bad thing.  That said, they also believe in civil liberties like many on the left.  Trying to claim that by not adopting the term human rights somehow makes you a fascist really has zero weight.  This most likely was a direct jab at the Bush administration’s limited use of enhanced interrogations, which I still believe does not constitute torture.
  3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - This applies more to the left than the right, especially ever since Trump was elected. The left is constantly claiming that Republicans are going to “put blacks back in chains”, or “take away women’s reproductive rights”, or “put homosexuals in detention camps.”  All ironically things that the Democrat Party and other socialist regimes have a rich history of doing. Nonetheless, this was also yet another direct jab at Bush’s “War on Terror” undoubtedly.  You may start to see how these points are framed to really spotlight what the author was trying to sell his audience.
  4. Supremacy of the Military - Supporting our soldiers who sacrifice their lives for our liberties and who return back from wars broken is hardly “military supremacy.”  And let us not forget it is those loudest on the left who are begging for the military to overthrow the government - you know, to “stop the fascists.”  In fact, the reason the military was so popular in historic totalitarian regimes was precisely because it was a means to overthrow the current regime or for the regime to stay in power.  And Germany and Italy built up their military’s purposely in order to fulfill their goals to expand their respective country’s power and resources - spazio vitale (vital space) and lebensraum (living space).
  5. Rampant Sexism - This one was clearly just another plea for identity politics.  While many countries that have had some form of totalitarian governments, be it fascism or communism, have had a form of machismo due to their native culture, this author tries to lump all particular political opposition into some kind of generalized form of male chauvinism that is intended to further divide the population into sectarian interest groups as opposed to unifying them as a people.  This is clearly a classic technique by the left in their game of identity politics.  This is the same thing they warn fascists do in their #3 point above.
  6. Controlled Mass Media - I enjoy how they put in the disclaimer “sometimes” in the description because it is no secret that the media is run by those on the left and have been the loudest mouthpiece for liberal politicians and administrations for a very long time now.
  7. Obsession with National Security - Although I firmly believe national security is one of the few limited things the federal government should be responsible for, it is the left who actually placate to fear as a motivational driver for more government than the right.  They use fear as a constant justification for more regulation and control over not only business but also your personal lives.  The governments of Mussolini and Hitler also used fear not only in their imperialistic conquests but also in their domestic control over the country’s economy. That is a trait of the left.
  8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - this one is fairly true of historically fascist regimes; however, organized religions were seen as a competitive force to the state’s supremacy, ideology, and goals in these fascist countries so they either tried to control them, remove them outright, or replace them with their own state-run religion.  Communist regimes also conveniently had this same approach, making this more of an institution of statist control than particularly that of fascism.
  9. Corporate Power is Protected - this is a common fallacy of history revisionists.  The truth of the matter is that Hitler never got into power through vested corporate interests.  He constantly demogagued against corporate capitalism in fact.  And when he came into power, the Nazis controlled the businesses in order to fulfill the needs of the state. Mussolini similarly placated Italian business owners by spouting free market rhetoric, but only as a means to solidify his place in power. In the end, the Fascist Party controlled the corporations with an iron fist. Corporatism is often confused with free market enterprise because of the term corporate but in the end it was more closely related to progressive redistributionism as individuals still owned the means of production and distribution but ultimately the proceeds were regulated and confiscated for the state’s needs.  (I am curious however, how the original author would have viewed the Pinochet Chilean Miracle in this “fascist” regard though.)
  10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Again, this is conveniently ignoring historic fact. Although both Hitler and Mussolini both were opposed to organized labor in regards to its tendency to adopt Marxist indoctrination, they still believed in labor unions.  They simply wanted to control the unions themselves though.  So, they each formed their own state-run unions in each of their respective countries which doled out a whole bunch of worker benefits that the workers would have probably never earned through typical collective bargaining.  Positive rights are the devil’s plaything after all, so be careful what you ask for because you might just get it by the most nefarious of means.
  11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts  - I see zero evidence of this. This sounds like a standard leftist defense of the intellectuals in academia who are notoriously leftists themselves.  Furthermore, Hitler was a huge fan of classic arts and music, although he was vocally opposed to modern art.  After all, he tried to get into a fine arts school for crying out loud.  And Futurismo was a popular artistic movement in Italy that many fascists highly embraced and even Mussolini funded Italian artists and at one particular art exhibition he proclaimed, “I declare that it is far from my idea to encourage anything like a state art. Art belongs to the domain of the individual. The state has only one duty: not to undermine art, to provide humane conditions for artists, to encourage them from the artistic and national point of view.”  Whoops.
  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - actually this goes for all forms of totalitarian regimes.  Communist countries and even third-world dictatorships operate under the same premise of a police state.  And just in case you did not know, the US is the furthest thing from an actual police state.
  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - this also applies to just about every form of political government known to man.  The spoils system or patronage has been a constant issue with totalitarian and democratic alike throughout time.  Is Donald Trump guilty of this?  Of course, but so was Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and so on.
  14. Fraudulent Elections - This is quite true...again, for all authoritarian regimes.  Kim Jong-un doesn’t win 100% of the vote by accident.  When you have complete control of the elections, you can do whatever you want with them and call it democratic after the fact.  Here’s the thing - the right has long been a proponent of fair elections and trying to curb electoral fraud.  It is the left which has repeatedly been found to be not only engaging in voter fraud but also advocating for liberalizing it further to make it more prone to be abused.  Also, just to be perfectly clear, the election of Donald Trump was not fraudulent.  He fairly won by our same Electoral College system that has determined each of our Presidential elections ever since George Washington came into office.  Trying to pin this to him is intellectually dishonest.

So, there you have it.  While some of these points could be applied to fascist regimes, they are not necessarily isolated only to examples of fascism.  Therefore, they are a poor indicator of any possible present or future fascist dictator crouching in the weeds ready to pounce upon an unaware populace.  In fact, not only are these not good indicators of possible fascism they really do not encapsulate the ideological or economic tenants of actual fascists. 

If you take away anything from what I have just written, it is hopefully that you will not be gullible enough to believe everything you see like this online which uses vague definitions in order to fool you into believing that [x] person is really a fascist in the context to which it is presented.