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Letter to the Editor: Fascisim today

Many people have heard of communism (a political ideology) and socialism (an economic theory). But what is fascism? 

The most prominent fascist that we learned about in our history books was Adolf Hitler, well known for killing over six million people in death camps during World War II. But how did he get the good people in Germany to go along with his radical ideology?

A common tool used to manipulate the population into accepting fascism is that of dividing society into "tribes" of polar opposite beliefs.  Another is to create a common enemy by instilling fear of the created enemy into the population.  For Hitler it was the Jews.  He also spread the false belief that he was the only one who could save Germany from the enemy. 

Rigging elections is another tool used by fascists. The objective is to exaggerate the internal national divisions, thereby raising fear to a level at which enough of the population will willingly accept leadership from the fascist manipulators.

Free people find it quite difficult to give up their liberty and have to be coached to normalize things which they do not usually agree with (such as immoral behavior).  The tools for coaching include instilling a disbelief in truth as it is produced by the legitimate media; a distrust of government institutions, particularly the justice system; the use of false propaganda and spreading of lies that vulnerable subjects will believe.

When successfully implemented, the manipulative strategy arouses the population to a fever pitch.

In Europe in the 1930s, the created enemies were Jews, communists, disabled people and those who did not look white.  It is important to note that Hitler did not win an election by a popular majority—but the Gestapo rounded up anyone who didn’t agree with him.  Hitler also demonized his media and shut them down, convinced the public that the justice system in Germany wasn’t working, and that the people should only trust him.

EJ Dionne, writing recently in the Washington Post, compares what is happening in the world today to what happened in Germany in the 30s and 40s.  He cited History Professor Benjamin Hett’s book, “The Death of Democracy.” Hett suggests that we should heed the warnings that led to the collapse of freedom in Germany.  When you have a president who demonizes certain ethnic groups (Muslims and Hispanics), who tells his constituents that the media is all fake news and that they should believe only him but who has told over 4,000 lies since he was inaugurated, who states at a rally that he wants “his people” to stand at attention when he speaks, who has criticized and obstructed his own justice department and who wants to build a wall to keep people out, you should take notice. 

I am not comparing Trump to Hitler, only to the fascist tactics.

Our representatives in Congress are overlooking what is happening today because they are getting what they want—tax cuts for the wealthy, cuts in safety net programs such as social security, Medicare and Medicaid and the slashing of regulations.  But are these things worth losing our Democracy?  I don’t think so. Vote—don’t let this happen in our country.


Bette Holland