Classic Fascism versus "Friendly"
Dissidents have begun to use the "F-word"
in regards to the Bush Administration's rush into militarism abroad
and flagrant attacks on civil liberties at home. Justified comparisons
are being made between the fog of official lies surrounding the
9/11 "terrorist" attacks and the Nazi's infamous 1933
burning of the Reichstag. A hidden danger in this response to
the current offenses, however, is the tendency to downplay the
much more subtle but insidious advances towards tyranny that the
US system has been making for years.
In his provocative 1980 book Friendly
Fascism, Betram Gross argued that fascism in the US could come
about not through the obvious heavy-handed demagogery and violence
of the classic early 20th-century fascist states, but instead
through an exceedingly gradual, velvet-glove approach which preserves
the outer appearances of freedom and democratic institutions.
Although his analysis does not touch on all of the aspects of
criminal and covert government that we must contend with, many
of his predictions have turned out to be quite prophetic over
the past two decades.
The Bush Administration has shown traits
of both overt "classic fascism" and modern "friendly
fascism." It would be a mistake to focus only on the more
aggressive and blunt moves that have been made by this administration
at the expense of obscuring the continuing "friendly fascism"
trend in America, which was already a very strong presence in
the Clinton era and before. It would also be great mistake to
see the current root dangers of tyranny as emerging solely from
the hot-blooded political fringes, or from fanatical grassroots
extremists, when the real abiding danger is from the seemingly
respectable corporate center.
The following comparative chart, from
Gross' Friendly Fascism, illustrates the difficulty of tossing
around the term "fascism" in our current political environment
without first dealing with some of the baggage attached to it:
CLASSIC FASCISM: A tight Government-Big
Business oligarchy with charismatic dictator or figurehead, and
expansionist, scapegoating, and nationalistic ideologies.
FRIENDLY FASCISM: An integrated Big business-Big
Government power structure with new technocratic ideologies and
more advanced arts of ruling and fooling the public.
CLASSIC FASCISM: Liquidation or minimalization
of multiparty conflict and open subversion, with little use of
democratic machinery and human rights.
FRIENDLY FASCISM: Subtle subversion, through
manipulative use and control of democratic machinery, parties,
and human rights.
CLASSIC FASCISM: Negative sanctions through
ruthless, widespread, and high-cost terror; direct action against
FRIENDLY FASCISM: Direct terror applie
through low-level violence and professionalized, low-cost escalation,
with indirect terror through ethnic conflicts, multiple scapegoats,
and organized disorder.
CLASSIC FASCISM: Ceaseless propaganda,
backed up by spies and informers, to consolidate elite support
and mobilize masses.
FRIENDLY FASCISM: Informational offensives
backed by high-technology monitoring, to manage minds of elites
and immobilize masses.
CLASSIC FASCISM: Widespread benefits through
more jobs, stabilized prices, domestic spoils, foreign booty,
and upward mobility for the most faithful.
FRIENDLY FASCISM: Rationed rewards of
power and money for elites, extended professionalism, accelerated
consumerism for some, and social services, conditional on the
recipients' good behavior.
CLASSIC FASCISM: Anxiety relief through
participatory spectacles, mass action, and genuine bloodletting.
FRIENDLY FASCISM: More varied relief through
sex, drugs, madness, and cults, as well as alcolholism, gambling,
sports, and ultraviolent drama. *
CLASSIC FASCISM: Internal viability based
on sustained, frantic, and eventually self-destructive expansion.
FRIENDLY FASCISM: Internal viability based
on careful expansion, system-strengthening reforms, multilevel
co-optation, and mass apathy.
[excerpted from Friendly Fascism, p. 170]
* comment: add psychopharmaceuticals.
from the introduction to Friendly Fascism,
by Bertram Gross
In this present, many highly intelligent
people look with but one eye and see only one part of the emergine
Leviathan. From the right, we are warned against the danger of
state capitalism or state socialism, in which Big Business is
dominated by Big Government. From the left, we hear that the future
danger (or present reality) is monopoly capitalism, with finance
captialists dominating the state. I am prepared to offer a cheer
and a half for each view; together, they make enough sense for
a full three cheers. Big Business and Big Government have been
learning how to live in bed together, and despite arguments between
them, enjoy the cohabitation. Who may be on top at any particular
moment is a minor matter-and in any case can be determined
only by those with privileged access to a well-positioned
I am afraid of those who proclaim that
it can't happen here... Anyone looking for black shirts, mass
parties, or men on horseback will miss the telltale clues of
creeping fascism ... In America, it would be supermodern
and multi-ethnic -- as Americcan as Madison Avenue, executive
luncheons, credit cards, and apple pie. It would be fascism
with a smile.