By Robert A. Vella
“The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.” – Timothy Snyder, ON TYRANNY
Timothy Snyder is Housum Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1997, where he was a British Marshall Scholar. He has held fellowships in Paris, Vienna, and Warsaw, and an Academy Scholarship at Harvard.
Last night, an MSNBC news host finally stated the obvious about President Trump (see: Mehdi Hasan: It’s time we use the F-word: fascism). The acknowledgement was long overdue. Journalists, especially those who work for mainstream news organizations, have been reluctant to do so from fear of being criticized as hyperbolic or partisan and possible disciplinary action from corporate superiors. This hesitancy is reinforced due to the nature of fascist takeovers of democracy. Historically, it transpires slowly and methodically. Democratic institutions and laws are typically undermined incrementally and systematically through direct infiltration and indirect propaganda campaigns until they become meaningless and powerless. Then, when the time is right, presumptive dictators seize their opportunity with great haste.
For example, Adolf Hitler‘s rise to power began in 1921 when he was appointed leader of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). Twelve years later, in 1933, he was appointed Chancellor of Germany after parliamentary elections failed to produce a ruling majority. Hitler moved quickly to destroy the weakened Weimar Republic, and it took another six years before he started World War II by invading Poland in 1939.
The lesson to be learned from that history is to recognize the dangers of fascism, and all forms of authoritarianism, before it’s too late.
So, what exactly are these forms? What differentiates fascism from the others? Here are six key terms and their definitions:
- Authoritarianism: the enforcement or advocacy of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom.
- Autocracy: a system of government by one person with absolute power.
- Totalitarianism: a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state.
- Fascism: an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.
- Corporatism: the control of a state or organization by large interest groups.
- Communism: a political theory derived from Karl Marx, advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.
To summarize, authoritarianism is the opposite of democracy, autocracy is authoritarian government under a single ruler (e.g. a dictator), totalitarianism is authoritarian government under a single ruling organization (e.g. one political party), fascism is authoritarian government favoring right-wing ideology which merges state and corporate power (i.e. corporatism), and communism is typically authoritarian government favoring left-wing ideology which places economic activity under state control.
The right-left political spectrum dichotomy here is crucial to understanding the various forms of authoritarianism. Donald Trump is, by definition and by his actions, a fascist. However, we must also realize that authoritarianism – whether it is right-wing or left-wing – is equally dangerous to democracy and civilized society. The viciousness of archenemies Hitler and Joseph Stalin during WWII is the prime example. Furthermore, we must recognize that the allure of authoritarian power is an irresistible magnet for the very worst kinds of individuals be they megalomaniacs like Hitler and Trump or Machiavellians like Stalin and Vladimir Putin.
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton
Here’s today’s news:
(Reuters) – Almost 40 countries have reported record single-day increases in coronavirus infections over the past week, around double the number that did so the previous week, according to a Reuters tally showing a pick-up in the pandemic in every region of the world.
The rate of cases has been increasing not only in countries like the United States, Brazil and India, which have dominated global headlines with large outbreaks, but in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Bolivia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Uzbekistan and Israel, among others.
Many countries, especially those where officials eased earlier social distancing lockdowns, are experiencing a second peak more than a month after recording their first.
Sweden avoided a full lockdown, instead introducing some rules intended to keep people working while protecting the vulnerable and the hospital system.
But its deaths soared, its expected “herd immunity” outcome failed, and other countries are limiting the movement of people from Sweden when opening borders.
Now, some Swedes are beginning to question the strategy, and other countries are managing eased lockdowns without a second wave.
But Sweden says it is playing the long game, and its economy has suffered less than its neighbors.
As a result, some experts say judgement over whether the strategy was right must wait. But Sweden is now left with a high death toll and worries about future outbreaks.
The country’s top counterintelligence official says that multiple foreign adversaries are actively targeting the November election in a variety of ways, from launching influence campaigns in social and traditional media, to targeting election infrastructure, to attempting to compromise the private communications of political officials.
“At this time, we’re primarily concerned with China, Russia and Iran, although other nation-states and non-state actors could also do harm to our electoral process,” Bill Evanina, National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) Director, said in a statement Friday. “Our insights and judgments will evolve as the election season progresses.”
NCSC is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which coordinates the activities of the country’s 17 intelligence agencies.
In a joint statement of their own Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California and Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner of Virginia criticized Evanina, saying he did “not go nearly far enough in arming the American people with the knowledge they need about how foreign powers are seeking to influence our political process.”
“A far more concrete and specific statement needs to be made to the American people, consistent with the need to protect sources and methods. We can trust the American people with knowing what to do with the information they receive and making those decisions for themselves. But they cannot do so if they are kept in the dark about what our adversaries are doing, and how they are doing it,” the statement said.
Democrats claimed that Evanina’s warning “gives a false sense of equivalence to the actions of foreign adversaries by listing three countries of unequal intent, motivation and capability together.”
“The statement, moreover, fails to fully delineate the goal, nature, scope and capacity to influence our election, information the American people must have as we go into November. To say without more, for example, that Russia seeks to ‘denigrate what it sees as an anti-Russia “establishment” in America’ is so generic as to be almost meaningless. The statement omits much on a subject of immense importance,” they added.
Despite warnings about Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the upcoming election from members of the intelligence community and Congress, the White House continues to dismiss questions about whether Trump has raised the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin directly.
PHOENIX — The U.S. government said Friday that it’s putting all new DACA applications in a “pending” bucket while officials decide whether to again try to end the program, meaning none have been accepted into the program for young immigrants even though the Supreme Court ruled last month that it was improperly ended.
The latest came during a telephonic federal court hearing in Maryland by U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm, who last week ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program must be restored to its original form, before President Donald Trump attempted to end it in September 2017.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Jimmy Tosh, who runs a multi-million dollar hog and grain farm in Tennessee, is a lifelong Republican. He is pro-gun, supports lower taxes and agrees with most of Republican President Donald Trump’s agenda.
He is also spending his money to help defeat Trump in November’s election.
“I agree with 80% of the things he does; I just cannot stand a liar,” Tosh, 70, said of Trump.
Tosh is one of a growing number of wealthy conservative Americans who say Trump is a threat to democracy and the long-term health of the Republican Party. They are actively supporting his Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 vote, former Vice President Joe Biden.
U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman said the state lacked standing to sue on behalf of protesters because of the lawsuit was a “highly unusual one with a particular set of rules.”
The state sued on behalf of its residents and was seeking a restraining order not for injuries that had already happened but to prevent injuries by federal agents in the future. That combination makes the standard for granting such a motion very narrow, and Oregon did not prove it had standing in the case, Mosman wrote.
Legal experts who reviewed the case before the ruling warned that he could reject it on those grounds. A lawsuit from an individual who alleged federal agents violated their freedom of speech or rights against unconstitutional search and seizure would have a much higher chance of success, Michael Dorf, a professor of constitutional law at Cornell University, said ahead of the ruling.
“The federal government acted in violation of those individuals’ rights and probably acted in violation of the Constitution in the sense of exercising powers that are reserved to the states, but just because the federal government acts in ways that overstep its authority doesn’t mean the state has an injury,” he said.