Lazier than Viper
- Nov 27, 2003
- Quebec, Canada
- 2007 BMW Z4 3.0 SI
Took it from DS, at first I was like BS, but heck, you can make some easy and troubling connections. If you're too lazy just read the part with 14 numbers
Living Under Fascism
7 November 2004
First UU Church of Austin
4700 Grover Ave., Austin, TX 78756
512-452-6168 ? www.austinuu.org
SERMON: Living Under Fascism
You may wonder why anyone would try to use the word ?fascism? in a
serious discussion of where America is today. It sounds like cheap
name-calling, or melodramatic allusion to a slew of old war movies. But I am
serious. I don?t mean it as name-calling at all. I mean to persuade you that
the style of governing into which America has slid is most accurately
described as fascism, and that the necessary implications of this fact are
rightly regarded as terrifying. That?s what I am about here. And even if I
don?t persuade you, I hope to raise the level of your thinking about who and
where we are now, to add some nuance and perhaps some useful insights.
The word comes from the Latin word ?Fasces,? denoting a bundle of
sticks tied together. The individual sticks represented citizens, and the
bundle represented the state. The message of this metaphor was that it was
the bundle that was significant, not the individual sticks. If it sounds
un-American, it?s worth knowing that the Roman Fasces appear on the wall
behind the Speaker?s podium in the chamber of the US House of
Still, it?s an unlikely word. When most people hear the word
"fascism" they may think of the racism and anti-Semitism of Mussolini and
Hitler. It is true that the use of force and the scapegoating of fringe
groups are part of every fascism. But there was also an economic dimension
of fascism, known in Europe during the 1920s and '30s as "corporatism,"
which was an essential ingredient of Mussolini?s and Hitler?s tyrannies.
So-called corporatism was adopted in Italy and Germany during the 1930s and
was held up as a model by quite a few intellectuals and policy makers in the
United States and Europe.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago (in ?The Corporation Will Eat Your
Soul?), Fortune magazine ran a cover story on Mussolini in 1934, praising
his fascism for its ability to break worker unions, disempower workers and
transfer huge sums of money to those who controlled the money rather than
those who earned it.
Few Americans are aware of or can recall how so many Americans and
Europeans viewed economic fascism as the wave of the future during the
1930s. Yet reviewing our past may help shed light on our present, and point
the way to a better future. So I want to begin by looking back to the last
time fascism posed a serious threat to America.
In Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel "It Can't Happen Here," a
conservative southern politician is helped to the presidency by a nationally
syndicated radio talk show host. The politician - Buzz Windrip - runs his
campaign on family values, the flag, and patriotism. Windrip and the talk
show host portray advocates of traditional American democracy ? those
concerned with individual rights and freedoms ? as anti-American. That was
69 years ago.
One of the most outspoken American fascists from the 1930s was
economist Lawrence Dennis. In his 1936 book, The Coming American Fascism ? a
coming which he anticipated and cheered ? Dennis declared that defenders of
?18th-century Americanism? were sure to become "the laughing stock of their
own countrymen." The big stumbling block to the development of economic
fascism, Dennis bemoaned, was "liberal norms of law or constitutional
guarantees of private rights."
So it is important for us to recognize that, as an economic
system, fascism was widely accepted in the 1920s and '30s, and nearly
worshiped by some powerful American industrialists. And fascism has always,
and explicitly, been opposed to liberalism of all kinds.
Mussolini, who helped create modern fascism, viewed liberal ideas
as the enemy. "The Fascist conception of life," he wrote, "stresses the
importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his
interests coincide with the State. It is opposed to classical liberalism
[which] denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts
the rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual."
(In 1932 Mussolini wrote, with the help of Giovanni Gentile, an entry for
the Italian Encyclopedia on the definition of fascism. You can read the
whole entry at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/mussoli...i-fascism.html)
Mussolini thought it was unnatural for a government to protect
individual rights: The essence of fascism, he believed, is that government
should be the master, not the servant, of the people.
Still, fascism is a word that is completely foreign to most of us.
We need to know what it is, and how we can know it when we see it.
In an essay coyly titled ?Fascism Anyone?,? Dr. Lawrence Britt, a
political scientist, identifies social and political agendas common to
fascist regimes. His comparisons of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Suharto, and
Pinochet yielded this list of 14 ?identifying characteristics of fascism.?
(The following article is from Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 23, Number 2.
Read it at http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/...britt_23_2.htm) See how
familiar they sound.
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans,
symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are
flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist
regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases
because of ?need.? The people tend to look the other way or even approve of
torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to
eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious
minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
4. Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a
disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is
neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
5. Rampant Sexism
The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively
male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made
more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay
legislation and national policy.
6. Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes the media are directly controlled by the government, but in other
cases, the media are indirectly controlled by government regulation, or
sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war
time, is very common.
7. Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the
nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and
terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of
the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or
9. Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the
ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually
beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
10. Labor Power is Suppressed
Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist
government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher
education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other
academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is
openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to
enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and
even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a
national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and
associates who appoint each other to government positions and use
governmental power and authority to protect their friends from
accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources
and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government
14. Fraudulent Elections
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times
elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination
of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or
political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist
nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control
This list will be familiar to students of political science. But
it should be familiar to students of religion as well, for much of it
mirrors the social and political agenda of religious fundamentalisms
worldwide. It is both accurate and helpful for us to understand
fundamentalism as religious fascism, and fascism as political
fundamentalism. They both come from very primitive parts of us that have
always been the default setting of our species: amity toward our in-group,
enmity toward out-groups, hierarchical deference to alpha male figures, a
powerful identification with our territory, and so forth. It is that brutal
default setting that all civilizations have tried to raise us above, but it
is always a fragile thing, civilization, and has to be achieved over and
over and over again.
But, again, this is not America?s first encounter with fascism.
In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice President Henry
Wallace to, as Wallace noted, ?write a piece answering the following
questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are
Vice President Wallace's answer to those questions was published
in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the
Axis powers of Germany and Japan. See how much you think his statements
apply to our society today.
?The really dangerous American fascist,? Wallace wrote, ?? is the
man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did
in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use
violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a
fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but
how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and
his group more money or more power.?
In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism he saw rising
in America, Wallace added, ?They claim to be super-patriots, but they would
destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free
enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their
final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture
political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the
market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.?
By these standards, a few of today?s weapons for keeping the common people
in eternal subjection include NAFTA, the World Trade Organization,
union-busting, cutting worker benefits while increasing CEO pay, elimination
of worker benefits, security and pensions, rapacious credit card interest,
and outsourcing of jobs ? not to mention the largest prison system in the
The Perfect Storm
Our current descent into fascism came about through a kind of
?Perfect Storm,? a confluence of three unrelated but mutually supportive
schools of thought.
1. The first stream of thought was the imperialistic dream of the
Project for the New American Century. I don?t believe anyone can understand
the past four years without reading the Project for the New American
Century, published in September 2000 and authored by many who have been
prominent players in the Bush administrations, including Cheney, Rumsfield,
Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Donald Kagan to name only a few. This report
saw the fall of Communism as a call for America to become the military
rulers of the world, to establish a new worldwide empire. They spelled out
the military enhancements we would need, then noted, sadly, that these
wonderful plans would take a long time, unless there could be a catastrophic
and catalyzing event like a new Pearl Harbor that would let the leaders turn
America into a military and militarist country. There was no clear interest
in religion in this report, and no clear concern with local economic
2. A second powerful stream must be credited to Pat Robertson and
his Christian Reconstructionists, or Dominionists. Long dismissed by most of
us as a screwball, the Dominionist style of Christianity which he has been
preaching since the early 1980s is now the most powerful religious voice in
the Bush administration.
Katherine Yurica, who transcribed over 1300 pages of interviews
from Pat Robertson?s ?700 Club? shows in the 1980s, has shown how Robertson
and his chosen guests consistently, openly and passionately argued that
America must become a theocracy under the control of Christian Dominionists.
Robertson is on record saying democracy is a terrible form of government
unless it is run by his kind of Christians. He also rails constantly against
taxing the rich, against public education, social programs and welfare ? and
prefers Deuteronomy 28 over the teachings of Jesus. He is clear that women
must remain homebound as obedient servants of men, and that abortions, like
homosexuals, should not be allowed. Robertson has also been clear that other
kinds of Christians, including Episcopalians and Presbyterians, are enemies
of Christ. (The Yurica Report. Search under this name, or for ?Despoiling
America? by Katherine Yurica on the internet.)
3. The third major component of this Perfect Storm has been the
desire of very wealthy Americans and corporate CEOs for a plutocracy that
will favor profits by the very rich and disempowerment of the vast majority
of American workers, the destruction of workers? unions, and the alliance of
government to help achieve these greedy goals. It is a condition some have
called socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor, and which others
recognize as a reincarnation of Social Darwinism. This strain of thought has
been present throughout American history. Seventy years ago, they tried to
finance a military coup to replace Franklin Delano Roosevelt and establish
General Smedley Butler as a fascist dictator in 1934. Fortunately, the
picked a general who really was a patriot; he refused, reported the scheme,
and spoke and wrote about it. As Canadian law professor Joel Bakan wrote in
the book and movie ?The Corporation,? they have now achieved their coup
without firing a shot.
Our plutocrats have had no particular interest in religion. Their
global interests are with an imperialist empire, and their domestic goals
are in undoing all the New Deal reforms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt that
enabled the rise of America?s middle class after WWII.
Another ill wind in this Perfect Storm is more important than its
crudity might suggest: it was President Clinton?s sleazy sex with a young
but eager intern in the White House. This incident, and Clinton?s equally
sleazy lying about it, focused the certainties of conservatives on the fact
that ?liberals? had neither moral compass nor moral concern, and therefore
represented a dangerous threat to the moral fiber of America. While the
effects of this may be hard to quantify, I think they were profound.
These ?storm? components have no necessary connection, and come
from different groups of thinkers, many of whom wouldn?t even like one
another. But together, they form a nearly complete web of command and
control, which has finally gained control of America and, they hope, of the
When all fascisms exhibit the same social and political agendas
(the 14 points listed by Britt), then it is not hard to predict where a new
fascist uprising will lead. And it is not hard. The actions of fascists and
the social and political effects of fascism and fundamentalism are clear and
sobering. Here is some of what?s coming, what will be happening in our
country in the next few years:
* The theft of all social security funds, to be transferred to those who
control money, and the increasing destitution of all those dependent on
social security and social welfare programs.
* Rising numbers of uninsured people in this country that already has the
highest percentage of citizens without health insurance in the developed
* Increased loss of funding for public education combined with increased
support for vouchers, urging Americans to entrust their children?s education
to Christian schools.
* More restrictions on civil liberties as America is turned into the
police state necessary for fascism to work
* Withdrawal of virtually all funding for National Public Radio and the
Public Broadcasting System. At their best, these media sometimes encourage
critical questioning, so they are correctly seen as enemies of the state?s
* The reinstatement of a draft, from which the children of privileged
parents will again be mostly exempt, leaving our poorest children to fight
and die in wars of imperialism and greed that could never benefit them
anyway. (That was my one-sentence Veterans? Day sermon for this year.)
* More imperialistic invasions: of Iran and others, and the construction
of a huge permanent embassy in Iraq.
* More restrictions on speech, under the flag of national security.
* Control of the internet to remove or cripple it as an instrument of
free communication that is exempt from government control. This will be
presented as a necessary anti-terrorist measure.
* Efforts to remove the tax-exempt status of churches like this one, and
to characterize them as anti-American.
* Tighter control of the editorial bias of almost all media, and
demonization of the few media they are unable to control ? the New York
Times, for instance.
* Continued outsourcing of jobs, including more white-collar jobs, to
produce greater profits for those who control the money and direct the
society, while simultaneously reducing America?s workers to a more desperate
and powerless status.
* Moves in the banking industry to make it impossible for an increasing
number of Americans to own their homes. As they did in the 1930s, those who
control the money know that it is to their advantage and profit to keep
others renting rather than owning.
* Criminalization of those who protest, as un-American, with arrests,
detentions and harassment increasing. We already have a higher percentage of
our citizens in prison than any other country in the world. That percentage
* In the near future, it will be illegal or at least dangerous to say the
things I have said here this morning. In the fascist story, these things are
un-American. In the real history of a democratic America, they were seen as
profoundly patriotic, as the kind of critical questions that kept the
American spirit alive ? the kind of questions, incidentally, that our media
were supposed to be pressing.
Can these schemes work? I don?t think so. I think they are
murderous, rapacious and insane. But I don?t know. Maybe they can. Similar
schemes have worked in countries like Chile, where a democracy in which over
90% voted has been reduced to one in which only about 20% vote because they
say, as Americans are learning to say, that it no longer matters who you
In the meantime, is there any hope, or do we just band together
like lemmings and dive off a cliff? Yes, there is always hope, though at
times it is more hidden, as it is now.
As some critics are now saying, and as I have been preaching and
writing for almost twenty years, America?s liberals need to grow beyond
political liberalism, with its often self-absorbed focus on individual
rights to the exclusion of individual responsibilities to the larger
society. Liberals will have to construct a more complete vision with moral
and religious grounding. That does not mean confessional Christianity. It
means the legitimate heir to Christianity. Such a legitimate heir need not
be a religion, though it must have clear moral power, and be able to attract
the minds and hearts of a voting majority of Americans.
And the new liberal vision must be larger than that of the
conservative religious vision that will be appointing judges, writing laws
and bending the cultural norms toward hatred and exclusion for the
foreseeable future. The conservatives deserve a lot of admiration. They have
spent the last thirty years studying American politics, forming their vision
and learning how to gain control in the political system. And it worked;
they have won. Even if liberals can develop a bigger vision, they still have
all that time-consuming work to do. It won?t be fast. It isn?t even clear
that liberals will be willing to do it; they may instead prefer to go down
with the ship they?re used to.
One man who has been tireless in his investigations and critiques
of America?s slide into fascism is Michael C. Ruppert, whose postings
usually read as though he is wound way too tight. But he offers four pieces
of advice about what we can do now, and they seem reality-based enough to
pass on to you. This is America; they?re all about money:
* First, he says you should get out of debt.
* Second is to spend your money and time on things that give you energy
and provide you with useful information.
* Third is to stop spending a penny with major banks, news media and
corporations that feed you lies and leave you angry and exhausted.
* And fourth is to learn how money works and use it like a (political)
weapon ? as he predicts the rest of the world will be doing against us.
That?s advice written this week. Another bit of advice comes from
sixty years ago, from Roosevelt?s Vice President, Henry Wallace. Wallace
said, ?Democracy, to crush fascism internally, must...develop the ability to
keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must
put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and
decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive
government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels.?
Still another way to understand fascism is as a kind of
colonization. A simple definition of ?colonization? is that it takes
people?s stories away, and assigns them supportive roles in stories that
empower others at their expense. When you are taxed to support a government
that uses you as a means to serve the ends of others, you are ? ironically ?
in a state of taxation without representation. That?s where this country
started, and it?s where we are now.
I don?t know the next step. I?m not a political activist; I?m only
a preacher. But whatever you do, whatever we do, I hope that we can remember
some very basic things that I think of as eternally true. One is that the
vast majority of people are good decent people who mean and do as well as
they know how. Very few people are evil, though some are. But we all live in
families where some of our blood relatives support things we hate. I believe
they mean well, and the way to rebuild broken bridges is through greater
understanding, compassion, and a reality-based story that is more inclusive
and empowering for the vast majority of us.
Those who want to live in a reality-based story rather than as
serfs in an ideology designed to transfer power, possibility and hope to a
small ruling elite have much long and hard work to do, individually and
collectively. It will not be either easy or quick.
But we will do it. We will go forward in hope and in courage. Let
us seek that better path, and find the courage to take it ? step, by step,
First UU Church of Austin Sermon