While spending some rather unpleasant months writing about fascists as fictional characters in a new mystery novel, American Fascism, it was necessary to get inside their heads, to imagine how people with their understanding of the world might react to certain events.
The book ends when Donald Trump is no longer president, but the threat to democracy remains real.
Informed by the research that went into the novel, I’ve come up with a quick fascism worry checklist. Consider this penance for trying to write believable (and therefore somewhat sympathetic) extreme right-wing characters. It is based on a definition of fascism by historian Robert Paxton as well as the experience of living with some very worrying people inhabiting my imagination and real life.
In Paxton’s definition:
“Fascism is a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist-militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”
10. The loyalty of the police in defending all people, democracy and the rule of law is in question, at least in part because the far right has significant support inside their ranks. True or false?
9. A popular political party pushes the idea that a “successful” strong man, often a billionaire, is needed to lead the nation against its enemies, foreign and domestic. True or false?
8. This country glorifies the military. Everyone is expected to react with an unquestioning patriotism no matter what it does. True or false?
7. Those who profit from waging war have created powerful lobby groups. Their self-interest is to define rivals as enemies who must be “defended” against, justifying ever-increased spending. True or false?
6. While external “enemies” are used to promote militarism, internal minority groups have become targets of hate campaigns to warrant paramilitary militias who are supposedly “defending” the nation and its values. True or false?
5. Specialists who have been trained in the “art” of propaganda targeting other country’s affairs and in overthrowing “unfriendly” governments are available for hire by domestic politicians. True or false?
4. A mass movement to oppose “socialism” can be easily mobilized by the wealthy to defend their “property” against increased taxes or efforts to reduce inequality and provide better social services. True or false?
3. Verifiable, objective truth is ignored by growing numbers of people. Instead, they believe “Big Lies” or conspiracy theories, which are becoming more common. True or false?
2. A political movement has been created in which loyalty to a leader above all else is the critical test of party membership. True or false?
1. Many “important” people, especially the wealthy, plus those in the military and police, no longer trust democracy or believe in elections and are willing to manipulate results to get their way. True or false?
If you answered “true” to four or less questions, you live in an ordinary, but likely severely unequal, 21st-century capitalist country.
If you answered “true” to five and up to seven questions, be worried about the potential for fascism in your country.
If you answered “true” to eight or more questions, good luck. And seriously consider joining with other activists in the antifa movement.
Gary Engler is a Canadian writer, a former journalist at the Vancouver Sun and B.C. Media Union elected representative.
Image credit: Fibonacci Blue/Wikimedia Commons