Shedding light on modern day fascism
The word fascism has lost all meaning for Americans today. It has devolved into a blanket insult term levied by those on the left to deride those on the right. Accordingly, a capitalist who puts profit over people is a “fascist.” Cultural conservatives who are seen as attempting to control other people’s sexuality are “fascists.” TSA agents who take their jobs a little too seriously are “fascists.” Even completely non-political activities, such as cheering a little too hard for your favorite sports team, will earn you the label “fascist.” Through overuse, the term has been rendered impotent. It is now unmoored from its historical reality and has thereby lost its rhetorical effect. Thus, Donald Trump is repeatedly called a (neo)fascist and nobody even bats an eye for the simple reason that the term has no purchase on reality. This is a problem insofar as Donald Trump is, in fact, a fascist and disseminates a dangerous form of nativism that could unravel the tenuous thread that holds our country together.
The dictionary defines fascism as: “an authoritarian right-wing system of government and social organization.” I don’t think such a stock definition is very helpful for most people. Neither is listing all the historical fascist regimes very helpful in deciphering this elusive term (e.g., Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Franco’s Spain, Peron’s Argentina, etc.). Most people do not know the nuts and bolts of these political regimes. They know, perhaps, at best, these were evil men.
The political murkiness of fascism is not the only hindrance, though. The different cultural histories of the fascist regimes also complicate the issue. Fascism has presented itself through many faces, but it also has an identifiable skeletal structure.
The Italian intellectual, Umberto Eco, is probably the best known theorist to bring the various characteristics of fascism into clarity. In his work, “Ur-Fascism” (Eternal Fascism), he lists the “14 ways to distinguish a black shirt.” Eco’s analysis is invaluable for understanding fascism. I would encourage all voters to compare his “14 ways” with the statements being made by Donald Trump on the campaign trail. The congruity between the two, I must admit, is disturbing.
Eco, however, is not the ultimate source for understanding fascism’s face in America. For this we must turn to one of our country’s greatest, and under-appreciated, vice presidents, Henry Wallace. In April of 1944, the New York Times asked Mr. Wallace to pen an article on the possibility of fascism taking root on this side of the Atlantic. Specifically, they asked him to answer the following questions: “What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?”
I will replicate a couple of Mr. Wallace’s more incisive points here. I recommend searching the internet for the complete article – “The Danger of American Fascism” – and heed its warning come this November:
“A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party.”
“Every Jew-baiter, every Catholic hater, is a fascist at heart. The hoodlums who have been desecrating churches, cathedrals and synagogues in some of our larger cities are ripe material for fascist leadership.” [Wallace would no doubt add Muslim hater to this list today]
“Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion.” [Hillary Clinton seems to share this fascist trait with Trump]
“[Fascists can] be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power.” [Trump: “they’re sending their rapists”; Trump’s proposal to “ban all Muslims” and torture terrorists’ family members]
“The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact…They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism.” [A better description of Trump does not exist]
Marshall Solomon — Franklin, N.C.
Citizen journalists have both rights and responsibilities
Your July 28 issue article concerning “Law enforcement sharpen skills” was encouraging and informative. Of particular interest to me was a mention of training to deal with “citizen journalists” and the interaction between photographers and police. I would like to clarify some of the issues and legal rights (and responsibilities) of both parties to this sometimes controversial issue.
In general, anytime a photographer is in a public place they may legally film anything that can be seen with the eyes. Police have no legal authority to demand that filming be stopped or to block or interfere with filming or to demand identification from a photographer. Cameras cannot be legally confiscated or have the contents deleted. If the police have probable cause to believe that your camera content has evidenciary value they must apply to a judge for an order to surrender such content, but that is so rare an occasion that it virtually never happens. For many years police have routinely violated photographers rights to record, including smashing cameras and falsely arresting people to discourage the documenting of police misconduct, but recent Federal court decisions have established the 1st Amendment right of the public to film without harassment in any public space.
But along with rights come responsibilities. Photographers should never move so close to police or other first responders as to interfere with their ability to perform their jobs or cause them alarm for their safety. Those filming police should never shout at or interrupt them as distractions can cause harm or delay needed help. As a rule of thumb, standing 20-30 feet away and quietly filming will allow for gathering content but not cause the police to become alarmed. If in a car stopped by police you are encouraged to film but remember that you should not allow operating a camera to interfere with your legal responsibilities to provide required documents and satisfy the officer that you have nothing in your hands that might be mistaken for a weapon.
Private citizens also give up any expectation of privacy when they venture into the public realm and cannot demand that filming cease. Holding the police accountable is of vital interest to the public and as long as officers conduct themselves professionally and within the limits of the law they have no need to fear photography. Also, the police should realize that some activists for photographers rights will conduct “First Amendment Audits” in which they film in places that they are legally allowed to but that might attract attention from police, such as outside courthouses, police departments and parking lots, etc. If the police attempt to discourage such filming or demand ID then the photographer has the evidence needed to file Federal lawsuits for violation of civil rights. The police simply need to ignore anyone filming them as long as they do not physically interfere with their duties. In depth training is needed so police know the limits of their authority in regards to public photography. The training described in your article is a good first step in that process.
Richard Moore — Sylva, N.C.
The truth will make you free
People who are deceived are not aware of their downfall.
The ones who deceive are not aware of the deception.
“O foolish Galatians who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” Galatians 3:1.
“For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” Galatians 5:6.
“Let no man deceive you with words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” Ephesians 5:6.
“Stand therefore, having your loins gird about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness.” Ephesians 6:14.
“God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” II Thess. 2:13.
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. I Tim. 2:3, 4.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” I John 1:8.
The more truth we have, the more freedom we have.
“And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32.
Floyd Cruse — Franklin, N.C.
N.C. firearm laws discriminatory
I encountered a customer openly carrying a pistol at a local business. I inquired as to the legality of this, and he assured me that this is legal in NC with a concealed carry permit.
I checked the NC Department of Justice website, which states that open carry of a firearm is allowed in 5 places:
1) State owned Rest Areas, Rest Stops, and hunting and fishing reservations,
2) Law Enforcement or Correctional Facility unless posted,
3) While consuming alcohol or while alcohol or controlled substance is in the blood (WHAT?),
4) Establishments where alcoholic beverages are sold but NOT consumed unless posted, and
5) city or county buildings that are not posted.
The one-page overview document called N.C. Regulated Firearms Carry Areas for Private Citizens is dated August 2015. The 47-page explanation is titled North Carolina Firearms Laws, revised December 2015.
Firstly, I sure hope the General Assembly changed the law that allowed carrying guns while consuming alcohol or controlled substances! Secondly, while race restrictions are not written into the law, our society being what it is, I would not try openly carrying a firearm if I weren’t white, as members of the public and law enforcement are likely to over-react. Given this reality, the law seems discriminatory in its effect, though not necessarily its intent.
Finally, while I can agree with the logic of concealed carry in some circumstances, I strongly disagree with civilians openly carrying firearms in public, unless in a designated hunting area during season.
The question is this: do we want to revert to the Wild West mentality? If so, what message does this send to our children?
To me and millions of other Americans, open carry is a form of intimidation, an inherent visible public threat. Given race relations and the state of political division, there is no reason for civilians to openly carry guns in public. Further, it makes the carrier a target for someone who wants to steal their visible gun.
Civilians visibly carrying guns in the streets and businesses makes us all less safe. It’s a recipe for tragedy and heartbreak.
Dan Kowal — Franklin, N.C.