When to Drop the F-Bomb

Fascism has many faces. It shows itself in many forms.

Like a virus, fascism can lurk silently and invisibly before rearing its head and leaving a path of destruction. It’s often overlooked and not taken seriously until too late. Sometimes it’s mistook for Nazism and underestimated when not accompanied by mass genocide.

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini—with the help of his ghostwriter, the philosopher Giovanni Gentile—coined the term and spelled out fascism’s governing principles. Mussolini asserted the “irremediable and fertile and beneficent inequality of men” and rejected democracy as a sham and a fraud. He called for a “full-blown Corporative state” and acted on his intentions. He preached ultranationalism and military aggression, saying “War alone keys up all human energies to their maximum tension and sets the seal of nobility on those peoples who have the courage to face it.”

Following in his footsteps, Mussolini’s many protégés around the world have suppressed individual liberties, imprisoned opponents, broken labor unions and forbade strikes, obsessed over national security, commingled religion and government, controlled mass media, advantaged majority populations and demonized minorities, authorized unlimited police power in the name of public safety and national unity, cultivated rampant cronyism and corruption, and sponsored military adventurism and imperialism.

Fascists have tried to gain a foothold in America before. Telltale signs visible today indicate that politicians acting on fascist impulses have seized power and are gaining substantial ground right here in Wisconsin and across the country. Vote suppression policies and practices are a sign. Election rigging through partisan gerrymandering is a sign. Building border walls is a sign. Tearing down walls of separation between church and state is a sign. Union busting is a sign. Mass incarceration is a sign. Demeaning legitimate journalism as “fake news” and attacking journalists as an “enemy of the people” are signs. Scapegoating immigrants is a sign. Packing courts with judges who bless these actions and rule that money equals speech and corporations have rights under a constitution written for “we the people” is a sign.

Donald Trump is doing these very things, and Mitch McConnell and his minions in Congress are enabling him. Which makes them modern-day merchants of fascism. Scott Walker repeatedly acted on these fascist urges while he was Wisconsin’s governor, and Scott Fitzgerald and Robin Vos and their rubber stamps in the state legislature continue to do so.

In recent days, those Wisconsin lawmakers dictated that in-person voting go forward in the spring election on April 7. On April 6, the U.S. Supreme Court and Wisconsin’s Supreme Court convened remotely—out of fear for their own health and safety during the pandemic—and majorities on both courts sided with the legislators and instructed the state’s citizenry to ignore stay-at-home orders and go out in public to vote.

What federal high court justices John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh and state justices Patience Roggensack, Annette Ziegler, Rebecca Bradley and Brian Hagedorn did that day was crassly hypocritical. As bad as their form was, the substance of their actions was even worse, condoning massive disenfranchisement. They acted in a fundamentally fascist way when they ruled.

Defenders of Mussolini’s apprentices will be quick to dismiss this as name-calling. Guilty as charged. Yes, it absolutely is name-calling. Whenever fascism makes a reappearance, it is critically important to call it by name. When you see it, say it.

Mike McCabe

April 14, 2020