Archives for category: Fascism

 

During the protests in Hong Kong, demonstrators carried placards of Timothy Snyder’s lessons about losing democracy.

 

On Tyranny: the Road to Unfreedom

Timothy Snyder – Yale University – Nov 15, 2016.

Americans 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. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

3. Recall professional ethics.
When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of- law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.

6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed.
Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Learn about sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

10. Practice corporeal politics.
Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

13. Hinder the one-party state.
The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a
historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

15. Establish a private life.
Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

The Washington Post FactChecker Glenn Kessler and his team announced today that Trump had passed a total of 10,000 lies. That is a record, even for him! And he still has another 20 months to go in his term!

It took President Trump 601 days to top 5,000 false and misleading claims in The Fact Checker’s database, an average of eight claims a day.

But on April 26, just 226 days later, the president crossed the 10,000 mark — an average of nearly 23 claims a day in this seven-month period, which included the many rallies he held before the midterm elections, the partial government shutdown over his promised border wall and the release of the special counsel’s report on Russian interference in the presidential election.

This milestone appeared unlikely when The Fact Checker first started this project during his first 100 days. In the first 100 days, Trump averaged less than five claims a day, which would have added up to about 7,000 claims in a four-year presidential term. But the tsunami of untruths just keeps looming larger and larger.

It seems that the longer he is in the White House, the easier it is to say whatever he wants, without bothering to discern whether it has any factual basis.

Also, he has gotten rid of anyone who restrained his impulse to lie or distort the facts, like General Kelly.

About one-fifth of the president’s claims are about immigration issues, a percentage that has grown since the government shutdown over funding for his promised border wall. In fact, his most repeated claim — 160 times — is that his border wall is being built. Congress balked at funding the concrete wall he envisioned, and so he has tried to pitch bollard fencing and repairs of existing barriers as “a wall.”

Trump’s penchant for repeating false claims is demonstrated by the fact that The Fact Checker database has recorded nearly 300 instances when the president has repeated a variation of the same claim at least three times. He also now has earned 21 “Bottomless Pinocchios,” claims that have earned Three or Four Pinocchios and which have been repeated at least 20 times.

About a fifth of his lies are told at his campaign rallies, where he gets up without a speech and riffs on whatever crosses his mind, whatever makes him angry, free associates about his enemies and critics and alleged accomplishments.

When the president of the United States lies wantonly and when he calls the press “the enemy of the people,” you can see we are on a downward trajectory in which there are no truths and no objective facts, whom do you believe? George Orwell wrote about this phenomenon.

Orwell wrote in his essay, “Looking Back on the Spanish War”:

I know it is the fashion to say that most of recorded history is lies anyway. I am willing to believe that history is for the most part inaccurate and biased, but what is peculiar to our own age is the abandonment of the idea that history could be truthfully written. In the past, people deliberately lied, or they unconsciously colored what they wrote, or they struggled after the truth, well knowing that they must make many mistakes; but in each case they believed that “the facts” existed and were more or less discoverable. And in practice there was always a considerable body of fact which would have been agreed to by almost anyone. If you look up the history of the last war in, for instance, the Encyclopedia Britannica, you will find that a respectable amount of the material is drawn from German sources. A British and a German historian would disagree deeply on many things, even on fundamentals, but there would still be a body of, as it were, neutral fact on which neither would seriously challenge the other. It is just this common basis of agreement with its implication that human beings are all one species of animal, that totalitarianism destroys. Nazi theory indeed specifically denies that such a thing as “the truth” exists. There is, for instance, no such thing as “Science”. There is only “German Science,” “Jewish Science,” etc. The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, “It never happened” — well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five — well two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs — and after our experiences of the last few years that is not such a frivolous statement.

The man who was arrested for the slaughter in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh had a verified social media account on Gab, a favorite platform for followers of the Alt-Right whose views are not allowed on Twitter and Facebook.

Reading about Gab on Wikipedia sent me to an entry called “Fourteen Words.

Reading that entry made me feel that I had fallen into a rabbit-hole of fascism.

Fourteen Words, 14, or 14/88, is a reference to slogans coined by white supremacist David Lane,[1] a founding member of the terrorist organization The Order.[2] The terms were coined while he was serving a 190-year sentence in federal prison for his role in violating the civil rights of Jewish talk show host Alan Berg, who was murdered in June 1984.[3] The slogans were publicized through now-defunct 14 Word Press, founded in 1995 by Lane’s wife to disseminate her husband’s writings.[4][5]

Lane also used the phrasing in other pamphlets including the “14 points” of his White Genocide Manifesto and further in his 88 Precepts essay, stressing his support for racial and ethnic religions, opposition to universal religions (such as Christianity), his opposition to miscegenation, his anti-Americanism,[5] and support for racial separatism.[2][6][7] Many of his concepts, ideology and values, particularly the Fourteen Words slogan, are either inspired by or derived from Adolf Hitler’s autobiographical book Mein Kampf.[8]

The terms were later adopted by white supremacists[2] and neo-Nazis,[2] white nationalists and identitarians, members of the far-right and alt-right, the most widely used variation being:

We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.[9][10][11][12]

Another less commonly used variation is:

Because the beauty of the White Aryan woman must not perish from the earth.[13]

It is sometimes combined with 88, as in “14/88” or “1488” with the 8s representing the eighth letter of the alphabet (H), with “HH” standing for “Heil Hitler,”[12] or simply as a reference to Lane’s 88 Precepts,[14] which when combined with “14” refer to Lane’s white supremacist neo-Pagan religion, Wotanism.[15]

In 2018, although dismissed by the US government as a coincidence,[16] the Trump administration’s United States Department of Homeland Security were accused of referencing both “88” in a document,[17] and the Fourteen Words by creating a similar fourteen-worded title,[18] starting with the same first three words (“We must secure”), in relation to illegal immigration and border control:

We Must Secure The Border And Build The Wall To Make America Safe Again.[19]

The slogan has been used in acts of white supremacist terrorism and violence.[2] It was central to the symbolism of 2008’s Barack Obama assassination plot,[20] which intended to kill 88 African Americans, including future President Barack Obama (at that time the Democratic Party nominee), 14 of whom were to be beheaded.[21][22] Skinhead Curtis Allgier notably tattooed the words on to his body after his murder of corrections officer Stephen Anderson,[23] and Dylan Roof’s race war-inspired Charleston church shooting was influenced by the slogan.