Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bumper Stickers

I pass this bumper sticker every day as I walk to work. I've had plenty of time to memorize it and think about it as I walk. It reads:

Fascism: Concentrated private control of wealth, control of information, massive investment/manufacture of arms and military equipment, suppression of labor movements -- Sound familiar??

The trick is a transparent one: Briefly describe a set of situations that paint a twisted but recognizable picture of current events, then attach the description at random to the most alarming historical term you can find. Then present the whole thing backwards, with a colon to suggest this is actually a definition, and attempt to shock your reader into believing your deception is anything but.

Fascism is different things in different places, but it always included some key elements that the above commentary excludes:

Fascism is an authoritarian political ideology (generally tied to a mass movement) that considers individual and other societal interests subordinate to the needs of the state, and seeks to forge a type of national unity, usually based on, but not limited to, ethnic, cultural, or racial attributes. Various scholars attribute different characteristics to fascism, but the following elements are usually seen as its integral parts: nationalism, authoritarianism, militarism, corporatism, collectivism, totalitarianism, anti-communism, racism and opposition to economic and political liberalism.

As for the "concentrated private control of wealth," not only is that not fascism, it's pretty close to the opposite of it. In Germany especially, the "socialism" element of "National Socialism" was crucial, and in all cases, while individual fascist governments may have courted and deferred to private property owners, the presumption was the demands of the state, as a collective expression of the nation, trumped private control of anything.

It would be just as possible to cobble together a bumper sticker out of selected and distorted planks from the Democratic Party platform (gun control, opposition to religious authority, demonization of "predatory" capitalists) and call it fascism, and I would not be surprised if this had been done already.