UPDATED: Our Nation Needs a Stronger Imagination on Fascism


In the cycle of my reading, I’m back to Sherlock Holmes, specifically Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s collection of short stories, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  In “The Five Orange Pips,” the long arm of the KKK reaches out to claim the lives of one of its former members and his immediate family.  Here’s a line that might very well blow the minds of Millennials and younger Americans if they still read old books.  Holmes’s client is describing the circumstances of his uncle Elias, who had spent most of his adult life becoming wealthy in Florida:

He had made a very considerable fortune in the States, and his reason for leaving them was his aversion to the negroes, and his dislike of the Republican policy in extending the franchise to them.

Faced which the aforementioned blown mind, the liberal Democrat would conclude that the Republican Party had changed.  I’d argue that it’s closer to the truth that people whose primary motivation is the forced conformance of others to their belief system have changed their tactics and (to some small degree) their targets, but not so much their political party, namely the Democrats.

But party affiliation is a complicating side matter to my actual reason for posting.  The Internet has exploded with activists across the country trying to destroy a family-owned Indiana pizza shop for having the poor sense to tell a local TV news reporter that, although they’re happy to serve homosexuals in their shop, they would have to decline an offer to cater a same-sex wedding ceremony.

At least a couple of people in my Twitter feed are having difficulty with my suggestion that we’re literally seeing the rise of fascism in America with this (and other) incidents.  But it’s absolutely clear.  Start with this encyclopedia description, and then consider the following points, which I’ve made politically neutral:

  • An ideological president is implementing policy in unconstitutional ways — for example, doing by executive order things that ought to require legislation. His rhetoric has been stunningly exclusionary and dismissive, including a suggestion, after a drubbing in the midterm election, that he intends to act on behalf of the masses who did not vote, for whom he presumes to speak.  He’s also taken a surprisingly active role in stoking racial and culture-war flames by offering comment on select hyper-local issues.
  • The national media, both news and entertainment, can no longer even be argued to be politically neutral, but rather aligns almost entirely with the president’s party and, more important, his ideology.  It has spent years, now, whipsawing from one of these local controversies to the other while at the same time downplaying real controversies surrounding the behavior of the president and his political allies.
  • Although their nature varies by controversy, mob-like activists are rioting, disrupting people’s daily lives by various means, and using the Internet to harass and attempt to destroy anybody who comes into the spotlight of that week’s narrative to make examples of them, whether an individual, a business, a politician, or whomever.

There are many, many details that could be added, but the point is this: Fascism is not a series of specific political beliefs; it’s a method and philosophy of organization and action.

Even if you disagree with the above list as I’d put names to it, wouldn’t you agree that somebody who takes that view is correctly describing fascism?


UPDATE (4/1/15 8:35 p.m.):

Earlier, today, I made a few mild attempts to contact the reporter who “broke” the story about the pizza parlor but received no response.  Scott Ott got the details, though, and it’s even worse than I thought it might be.  I’d thought maybe the reporter had sent out a general call for feedback and the restaurant owners had responded, but the supposedly damning video that has fascist zealots intent on ruining the business of a family of whom they’d never heard and whom they’d have never patronized anyway came when the reporter walked into the business and asked a regular small-town resident for an extemporaneous comment.  The station then played the story up for every ounce of ad revenue it could get.

So what do folks think?  Is that responsible journalism?

  • Warrington Faust

    Facism. An interesting example is Cuba’s Batista. He was “legitimately” elected President (Cuban democracy was only about 20 years old, euro-Cubans were not entirely comfortable with it) in1940. He served one term. He ran again in 1952 and was losing, so he supplied a coup and named himself President for Life/Dictator. It was, of course, repressive. What resistance there was came from the left wing, Castro and company. Should we expect a right wing uprising? Should we expect a “Che” Reagan?

    Sherlock’s birthday is coming right up. You might want to join the Speckled Band in Boston for the celebration. Persian slippers, trichanopoly cigars, “papers” offered, etc.

  • Monique Chartier

    “fascist zealots intent on ruining …”

    I normally dislike the use of terms such as “fascist” in the context of American politics and advocacy efforts. In this case, however, it applies. These people are acting like a fascist mob.

    • Warrington Faust


      It seems to me to that “Fascist” is a term, indicating disapproval, which has no specific meaning but is only defined in broad outline. If I understand correctly, it does require that the leader has dictatorial powers. Depending on the observer’s location on the political spectrum this may be seen as “restoring order” or “suppression of opposing opinion”. I think the term has to be accepted as a “negative” with the exact meaning depending on whose ox is being gored. Not to mention that the term is inextricably linked with the Nazis, who are approved by no one (at least not by that name).

      • Mike678

        Actually, Mussolini was a Fascist, Hitler a National Socialist. The confusion began in WWII when the US combined the two to “fight fascism”–which was then defined as everything evil–mass murder, genocide, and so forth. Now many people use it to describe behaviors they don’t like from people they disagree with–they see it more a methodology than an ideology. Reference McGregor’s “Marxism, Fascism and Totalitarianism.”
        McGregor states that Fascism is associated with nationalism, voluntarism, and elitism. IMHO, if fascism is viewed more as a methodology than an ideology (Justin’s point), it’s easy to see how one could see the hateful methods used by progressives to force compliance with their views described as fascist.

  • Warrington Faust

    “Fascism” try thisone. Drudge has a story tha DHS is seeking access to license plates nationwide ” seeking bids from companies that already gather the data to say how much they would charge to grant access to law enforcement”. Wait just a minute, go to your DMV office with a plate number and tell them you want to know who owns it. You will find that the info is protected by very strict privacy laws (I know how that happened, but it would ruin the story). There are exceptions to the privacy rule, but I am hardpressed to know how “companies” qualify for those exemptions. Why does DHS need that info? They claim they are not building a database