September 21, 2004
|MAUREEN FARRELL ARCHIVES|
When Fascism Comes to America
by Maureen Farrell
I. When Fascism Comes to America, It Will Be Embraced by FOX News
"The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public. . ."– Former Vice President Henry A. Wallace, the New York Times, April 9, 1944
"Fox is not objective. Fox is a Republican propaganda machine." – Roger Ebert
In 1944, Henry A. Wallace, one of three Vice Presidents to serve under Franklin D. Roosevelt, assessed the threat of fascism in America and predicted that the time might come when the media was in collusion with the ruling power. "American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information. . . ," he wrote.
Decades later, during the first Gulf War, the media dutifully regurgitated propaganda while those in power did, in fact, "use the news to deceive the public." But the public remained so fully gullible that by the time the Bush Cartel's "Operation Iraqi Freedom" hit TV screens, the "deliberate poisoners of public information" didn't even have to break a sweat to fool us twice.
And although those who relied on FOX News were found to be the most misinformed, it wasn't until a series of FOX e-mails was leaked to the press that anyone grasped how "purposeful" the intent to mold opinion actually was.
"[Bush’s] political courage and tactical cunning are worth noting in our reporting through the day," FOX News chief John Moody e-mailed staffers on June 3, 2003, in one of many instances where reporters were instructed to glowingly praise G.W. Bush as Fearless Leader Extraordinaire.
"The President goes to Charlotte to talk about job training. Buoyed by the 300K job figure last week, he can boast his policies are working," Moody wrote on April 4, 2004.
The Democratic presidential candidate, however, was not granted the same "fair and balanced" courtesy. Though Moody instructed FOX staffers give each candidate equal time, the pro-Bush/anti-Kerry bias was obvious. "John Kerry may wish he'd taken off his microphone before trashing the GOP," Moody e-mailed staffers on March 12, 2004. ". . . his coarse description of his opponents has cast a lurid glow over the campaign."
"Kerry, starting to feel the heat for his flip-flop voting record, is in West Virginia," Moody explained four days later, as if reciting GOP talking points.
Meanwhile, well before the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth became a household name (Thanks largely to FOX and other cable outlets), Murdoch's minions began picking at Kerry’s military record. "Ribbons or medals? Which did John Kerry throw away after he returned from Vietnam. This may become an issue for him today. His perceived disrespect for the military could be more damaging to the candidate than questions about his actions in uniform," Moody wrote on April 26, 2004.
(Ironically, one day later, long before the Swift Boaters made their perfectly-timed dent in Kerry’s approval ratings, Moody decided, in a rare but inexplicable moment of fairness, "Let's not overdo the appearances by Kerry's swiftboat mate John O'Neil. While his appearances so far have been OK, he represents one side of the 30 year recollections of what Kerry did, or didn't do, in uniform. Other people have different recollections.")
In Jan. 2004, Laurence W. Britt identified 14 basic characteristics of fascist regimes and while the list is disquieting for obvious reasons, oddly enough, many also pertain to Moody's memos. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism? Check. Avid Militarism? Check. Disdain for the importance of human rights? Triple check.
Other Moody musings include:
Can you imagine if any of the "liberal" organizations were discovered to have such blatant bias? ("I've never heard of any other network nor any other legitimate news organization doing that," Walter Cronkite said of the memos.) Is FOX News an example of the government/media collaboration Wallace warned of?
"The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact," Wallace wrote.
"They distort, you decide," the Village Voice opined.
II. When Fascism Comes to America, American Fascists Will Get Richer
"Most American fascists are enthusiastically supporting the war effort. They are doing this even in those cases where they hope to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends. . .[They] do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after 'the present unpleasantness' ceases." -- Vice President Henry A. Wallace, the New York Times, April 9, 1944
"Bush-Nazi Dealings Continued Until 1951." – The New Hampshire Gazette, Nov.7, 2003
In 1942, the New York Tribune featured a front page story entitled "Hitler's Angel has $3 million in US bank," referring to Nazi industrialist Fritz Thyssen and his ties to Union Banking Corporation. Later that year, Union Bank official Prescott Bush was charged with "Running Nazi front groups in the United States."
Chances are, however, when Vice President Wallace railed against those profiting from alliances with the Germans, few comprehended the role these "American fascists" would play in U.S. politics. "After the seizures in late 1942 of five U.S. enterprises he managed on behalf of Nazi industrialist Fritz Thyssen, Prescott Bush, the grandfather of President George W. Bush, failed to divest himself of more than a dozen ‘enemy national’ relationships that continued until as late as 1951, newly-discovered U.S. government documents reveal," the New Hampshire Gazette explained. "Furthermore, the records show that Bush and his colleagues routinely attempted to conceal their activities from government investigators."
But the family’s war profiteering did not begin and end with soon-to-be Senator Prescott Bush. In his book American Dynasty, former Nixon strategist Kevin Phillips reported that dynasty founders Samuel Prescott Bush and George H. Walker were both "present at the emergence of what became the U.S. military-industrial complex," in which the Bush family has been enmeshed ever since.
In a January, 2004 Los Angeles Times editorial, Phillips spelled out why this matters. "Between now and the November election, it's crucial that Americans come to understand how four generations of the current president's family have embroiled the United States in the Middle East through CIA connections, arms shipments, rogue banks, inherited war policies and personal financial links," he wrote.
Meanwhile, author Dan Briody exposed one of the more blatant examples of impropriety. "George Bush Sr. is working for this company [the Carlyle Group] that is the 11th largest defense contractor in the country at the same time his son is in office waging war," he said on NPR. "It is clearly a conflict of interest. And conflicts of interest lead to potential corruption."
Citing Dwight D. Eisenhower's prescient parting shot, Briody also explained: "The best way to explain the Carlyle Group is to use a euphemism that Dwight Eisenhower employed back in the 1960s, when he was leaving office. He warned the country of something called the military/industrial complex and that is probably the best way to describe what the Carlyle Group does." (Eisenhower also warned that "The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist" and that "We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes").
"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, " Wallace wrote. "Essentially. . . four generations of Bushes corrupted U.S. foreign policy through international business ventures that benefited the family," Mother Jones explained.
The full weight of Eisenhower's warning has never been more fully appreciated.
III When Fascism Comes to America, We Will Have Been Warned
"[American fascists] use every opportunity to impugn democracy. . . They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.." -- Former Vice President Henry A. Wallace, the New York Times, April 9, 1944
"From the very way in which this administration was brought into office -- by fiat of a stacked Supreme Court. . . through just about every policy pursued since then, Bush and his minions have demonstrated a deep and alarming contempt for this country's constitution and its freedoms." -- Geov Parrish, Jan. 29, 2002
Describing American fascists who "are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so," FDR's Vice President added, " but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead." Decades later, G.W. Bush's Vice President would become the poster boy for similar shadiness. While serving as Halliburton's CEO, Dick Cheney conducted $73 million worth of business with "worse-than-Hitler" Saddam Hussein, helping him rebuild the oil fields destroyed during the first Gulf War -- back when Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense.
And while Benito Mussolini said that "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power," the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary extended the definition to include the kind of snarling seething "patriotism" we've experienced since Sept. 11, 2001.
Defining fascism as "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism," American Heritage appeared to be forecasting our current political climate. How bad has this belligerence been? In case you've forgotten:
* "Once the war against Saddam begins, we expect every American to support our military, and if they can't do that, to shut up. Americans, and indeed our allies, who actively work against our military once the war is underway will be considered enemies of the state by me. Just fair warning to you, Barbra Streisand, and others who see the world as you do." -- Bill O'Reilly, The O'Reilly Factor (2/26/03)
* "We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important -- and sensitive -- time in our nation's history helps undermine the U. S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As a result, we have decided to cancel the April 26-27 programs in Cooperstown commemorating the 15th anniversary of Bull Durham." -- -- National Baseball Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey to Tim Robbins. (4/11/03)
* "I think the world today, at least the US and to some extent Britain now, is experiencing this kind of Big Brother thing. . . It's not what we thought we were gonna be doing, a lot of the people's civil rights have been compromised, and we don't know what's going on. If I keep speaking my mind, will I be deported? I'm not very happy with the state of things. Music is being banned, and we have people in control of the radio stations who are the same people in control of the concert halls. They're also tied into the [US] administration and are sponsoring pro-war rallies. It's not good.. . . " -- Neil Young, The Guardian (5/22/03)
* "Contrary to the belief of so many plainly silly conservatives, it is entirely possible to love this country and be disgusted with its political leadership. . . and if one regards the Constitution as one of the greatest political documents ever created, as I do, it is in fact a duty to criticize the Bush administration. . . Most Americans, however, do not pause to consider such things, especially in a moment of national hysteria, and the hate mail and death threats began to pour in. . . I was astounded, though perhaps not surprised, at how many outraged Americans reminded me how much blood was spilled to defend our freedoms and then in the next sentence denied me one of those freedoms. It is a constant source of wonder to me how frequently Americans speak of the need to defend freedom, often with war, while at the same time being so quick to surrender that freedom in the interests of security, cheap gasoline or whatever." -- Richard M. Berthold (who earned instant infamy for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time). History News Network (11/25/02)
* "The unmistakable odor of 'patriotic correctness' turned news organizations red, white and blue. Soon there would flags flying in the graphics and in the sets and lapels of anchor people. As the government moved to war mode, most of the media returned their focus to Washington, marching in step in a stunning display of conformity and deference. Australian-born media tycoon Rupert Murdoch showed his true American patriotism by declaring that it was important that the world learned to "respect" America's war in Iraq. Mr. Murdoch gave several interviews in the run up to the attack on Iraq expounding his pro-war beliefs. All of his newspapers backed the war, and his newscasts pumped their coverage full with patriotic music and computer animation." -- Danny Schechter, Intervention Magazine (9/11/03)
And that's just for starters.
Recently, the St. Petersburg Times joined others who've sensed a faint whiff of fascism in the American air. "The 'man on horseback' mentality, the belief that a leader's strength is more important than where it leads them, defines a population that is vulnerable to dictatorship," Martin Dyckman wrote. "But let no one believe that it couldn't happen here, as has happened so often elsewhere."
Which brings us back to Sinclair Lewis. "Where in all history has there ever been a people so ripe for a dictatorship as ours!," he wrote in It Can't Happen Here.
Many of us remember watching the Vietnam War in our living rooms. We can tell you exactly where we were when John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy were shot. We recall what we were doing (driving our father's Ford LTD without his permission) when we first heard that Nixon resigned. We remember Watergate and the Iranian hostage crisis and Iran/Contra, too. And while some things, like the My Lai massacre and "four dead in Ohio" left an indelible mark, we always felt that the country, regardless how troubled and torn, would be fine.
But something is different now.
And while it's difficult to define, it has something to do with those whose "lust for money or power" make them "ruthless" in their "use of deceit or violence to attain [their] ends." It also has to do with fear and nationalism and a shift within the American public, for which we have the "deliberate poisoners of public information" to thank.
But most of all, it it has to do with the sense that, yes, it can happen here. And, like never before in most of our lives, the time seems tragically "ripe."
Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.
© Copyright 2004, Maureen Farrell