Woody Guthrie

Opinion writier Zach Freeman tells about the danger and history of hateful rhetoric in America and why it should be opposed.

The word “Antifa” is often charged with controversy. For some it conjures up the image of a black-clad rioter, a member of an underground communist cadre funded by George Soros to destroy America and everything it stands for. I’ve found the utter lack of Soros-bucks disappointing, myself. The true meaning of Antifa is much more straightforward though: it is just a shortening of the word anti-fascist. Specifically, political movements such as Antifaschistische Aktion, which was established as a united front in Pre-WWII Germany to oppose Hitler and the rise of Nazism, used the name Antifa. Having had to just spell out Antifaschtische, I can see why. Similar anti-fascist movements have fought against totalitarian regimes in Mussolini’s Italy, Franco’s Spain and other countries throughout the world. 

Anti-fascism has a long history of bridging the schisms between countless groups in their efforts to protect themselves and those in the most danger from fascist regimes. But to talk about why anti-fascism is important, one must first understand what fascism is and how to spot it. I think there are few sources that describe its essence as precisely as Lawrence Britt’s, “List of 14 Early Warning Signs of Fascism,” sold in the Holocaust Memorial Museum: 

Fascism, once in full-swing, relies on extreme national or ethnic pride and often makes expelling or targeting minority communities a priority. In practice, facist leaders attempt to rid the country of perceived impurity and unify members of the majority group. This is often based on paranoia that minority groups have already or intend to commit harm or replace the majority. This treatment can typically be applied to ideologies opposing fascism as well.

America’s history with this kind of ideology was often far less removed than what we’re taught in school. Nazism and other brands of fascism were very popular before WWII in America. It was so mainstream that Nazi rallies were held in Madison Square garden as late as 1939. This may be in large part because Nazism incorporates what were once distinctly American ideas. Adolf Hitler himself wrote in “Mein Kampf” that America’s policy of “excluding certain races from naturalization” was an ideal model from which to begin building the foundations of an ethno-state. So for many pre-war Americans, Nazism seemed like a logical progression from the already codified Jim Crow laws, the pervasive concepts of Manifest Destiny and American exceptionalism. 

Fascism in America has been reaching a degree of popularity not seen since the pre-war era. The uptick in blaming many of the country’s griefs, imagined or otherwise, on immigrants, and Muslim and Jewish people combined with a rise in nationalism under the slogan, “America first,” is worrying to say the least. These sentiments echo many classic examples of rhetoric used in fascist regimes, such as the Nazi slogan, “Germany above all.” 

At this point you likely see the connections I’ve made between President Donald Trump and this reinvigoration of fascism in America. Though Trump may be an obvious symptom of this issue, he is not its source. This is something that's been growing for a long time, in the U.S. and abroad. We are at a point in our socio-political climate where many have forgotten the horrific lessons of the 20th century. Even if Trump isn’t re-elected in November, the system and trends that put him in power will still be there.

That is why now more than ever, people have to recognize that we are not immune to fascism and that it can happen here. In fact, it already has. Thankfully, in these uncertain times, people from all walks of life have begun to recognize and oppose the growing threat of fascism in America. People young and old are fighting hard to make sure their voices are heard, including here at Texas A&M, where several protests have taken place in support of Black Lives Matter and to oppose those who promote hateful rhetoric

Good Ags and Americans everywhere need to stay vigilant and informed above all and always be ready to reject and oppose fascist rhetoric wherever they find it. Direct grassroots action, community organization and political education will be the primary tools in preventing the spread of fascist ideas and propaganda.


 

Editor's note: A previous version of this column incorrectly implied that a poster of Lawrence Britt’s “List of 14 Early Warning Signs of Fascism,” was an exhibit in the Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Battalion regrets this error.

(2) comments

Rich Hansen '69

You need to check your information before you embarrass yourself. You state that the "List of 14 Early Warning Signs of Fascism" can be found in the Holocaust Memorial

Museum. That document was not part of an exhibition or display, it was for sale in the gift shop. Your intent was to imply something that was not true. This kind of action, even in an opinion piece, is why many people do not trust and certainly do not respect the media. By the way, Lawrence Britt is a novelist widely known for using rehetoric to equate the modern republican party with fascism. I add that the piece that you cite was done in 2004. I will point you toward an interview done by the

RochesterCityNewspaper.com titled Fascism Anyone for more facts. I am curious why you seem to be supportive of a group that is conducting criminal activities in many cities across the USA. I have a great deal of pride in the USA and have no problem with America First. I oppose socialist/communist policies and the stated objectives of the so called "progressive left". Look at what America has accomplished and continues to do. I will ask you directly, do you support the beliefs and actions of antifa or the stated goals of blacklivesmatter.org. Do yourself a favor and do the research to make sure you know what blacklivesmatter.org is all about.

jmhartzer

Yes the article that was cited did incorrectly state the 14 signs of fascism were hung in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. So that is the fault of the writer for not fact checking the source. However, this mistake does not detract from the overall argument of the article, which you fail to rebuke, that the president has repeatedly engaged in fascist and divisionist behaviors.

I was unable to find the source which you cite, but I must point out that if the current Republican party platform is just to support Trump, and he continues to show fascist tendencies, then it is right to associate the modern Republican party with fascism.

While not every BLM leader has denounced looting, the goal of the organization is been to "call for an end to the systemic racism that allows this culture of corruption to go unchecked and [black] lives to be taken." I think ending systematic racism is something that everyone should get behind, especially someone claiming to share American or Aggie ideals. Every year, black Americans are more likely to be killed by police, more likely to be convicted of crimes, and sentenced to longer periods than white counterparts. Peaceful protests for the past 8 years has led to no significant national change, and so it makes sense that, in the words of MLK, "A riot is the language of the unheard," and our fellow Americans have not been heard since their arrival in 1619.

The America-first policies of the current administration led to a trade war that cost the US 300,000 jobs, $46 billion in tariffs, 15% in exports, and the administration had to use some of that good-old socialism to bail out our own farmers.

I appreciate that you put progressive left in quotations because compared to the rest of the world the progressive left is rather conservative and nowhere near socialism. There are countless countries thriving under Democratic Socialism, and the US would likely see economic benefit to moving in that direction. It is the case that the economy has grown faster under liberal presidents faster that conservative ones.

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