Like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s 1964 amorphous description of obscenity (“I know it when I see it”), fascism is a concept much bandied about lately but little understood. It is often invoked to disparage political extremes on the right or left, leaving its true meaning murky. Most people associate fascism with Hitler and Mussolini and they want nothing to do with it.
Of course, the reality is more imprecise in our application of the epithet “fascist.” Is Donald Trump a fascist or just an ill-spoken nationalist?
Here, thanks to an article in Haaretz, a liberal Israeli news organization, by Dan Tamir, author of “Hebrew Fascism in Palestine, 1922-1942,” is a critical analysis of the features of fascism (https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-when-jews-praised-mussolini-and-supported-nazis-meet-israel-s-first-fascists-1.7538589). You can decide if some or all strains of the fascist model have invaded our government:
“... what is fascism? What sets it apart from other right-wing political streams? In 2004, Robert Paxton, in his book “The Anatomy of Fascism” (disclosure: this writer [Tamir] translated that book into Hebrew), listed seven features that collectively might delineate the nature of fascism as an ideology and as a political practice. They are:
“certainty in the supremacy of the group—national, ethnic—over every right of the individual, and the individual’s subordination to the group;
“belief that the group in question is a victim of other groups, as a consequence of which there is justification for every action taken against its enemies (domestic or external, real or imagined);
“fear of harm befalling the group from liberal tendencies or ‘foreign’ influences from outside;
“the need for closer integration of a ‘purer’ national community, whether by agreement or through violence;
“insistence on the group’s right to rule others without any limitations—a right accruing to the group by dint of its singularity or skills;
“a sense of the existence of a severe crisis, not amenable to any traditional solution;
“belief in the need for the authority of a lone and solitary leader, and obedience to that leader based on the conviction that he possesses supernatural insights or capabilities.”
Tamir added an eighth characteristic: “Another trait that some would add is fierce opposition to socialism in all its forms—a characteristic that was especially apparent in the practice of fascist movements active in the second half of the 20th century, even if not in their declared ideology.”
I’m not quite ready to declare Trump a fascist but it is troubling to see features of fascism that may be checked off when reviewing his actions. How many would you check off?