Opinion |

When Fascism Dawns in America, You'll Know It

'I'm gonna tell you something – these [women's] protests are out of control,' right-wing consultant Frank Luntz told Fox News. 'I never thought that this would be America, I never thought this would happen in this country.'

Bradley Burston
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Giant chicken sculpture resembling U.S. President Donald Trump adorns a shopping mall in Shanxi, China, in photo taken on December 24, 2016.
Giant chicken sculpture resembling U.S. President Donald Trump adorns a shopping mall in Shanxi, China, in photo taken on December 24, 2016.Credit: STR/AFP
Bradley Burston

When fascism dawns in America, you'll know.

If you love America, this will be the last thing you'll want to admit to yourself. Deep down, though, you'll know.

This is America, 2017. It won't be jackboots or armbands or sound trucks in the streets that alert you. Not at first.

At first, you'll know it every time you open social media or cable news.

At first it will be the sudden emergence of The Leader, the Alpha, and what he chooses as his first victim: the truth.

The essence of fascism is not overwhelming force. The essence of fascism is a regime which decides what the truth is, and a public which has come, whether exuberantly or grudgingly, to accept it.

Not the whole public, by any means. Not even a majority. But he will address them as The People. His meaning: a cohesive group which sees The Leader as someone for whom even the American presidency, the most powerful office on earth, represents a step down, beneath him.

Somehow, The Leader will have to accept, at least for now,  the modest safety belts on Air Force One, a definite sacrifice from the 24 carat gold plating on the belts aboard his private jet.

You'll know The Leader when he emerges. No matter how ridiculous he looks, sounds, or acts, he is the Alpha. There is none else. And he has you where he wants you. Wherever you are. Whoever you are.

You'll know when there are only two options left: Either you're one of the People, or you're the Enemy. There is nowhere else to go.

When fascism is dawning in the land of the free, you'll know. The signs are all there. Authoritarianism? Check. Kitsch-laden ultra-nationalism? Check. Hyper-political fundamentalism as a new state religion? Check. Militaristic xenophobia? Check. Demonization of minorities and the press? Check. Strong support by the mega-wealthy? Check. Vicious anti-liberalism? Check. Remaking the educational system? Check. A cult of personality? Check and Check.

Fundamentally, you will know The Leader by the way he treats women.

You'll know that fascism is dawning because The Leader is neither republican nor democratic in outlook. He is aggressively imperial. Fascism, after all, is seldom satisfied with mere monarchy. Its aim is empire. And, just as our Leader here satisfies nostalgic, ancient or generational cravings for a King, America's new Leader satisfies the cravings for an Emperor.

Just take a look at the two-page spread in today's Israel Hayom newspaper. On one side, Trump and Netanyahu in the new president's garish Hafez Assad Baroque Trump Tower throne room, the banner headline reading "WE HAVE SHARED VALUES."

For The Leader, nothing succeeds like excess. After all, the more capricious, gilt-blinding, infantile, and outrageous The Leader is, the more clearly he's in the process of assuming the mantle of Emperor.

You'll know it by reading about him in the newspaper  owned by his patron Sheldon Adelson:

"A brave new world will rise like the dawn emerging in all its glory from the darkness that is disappearing in these very moments." 

On Friday, just hours after being sworn in, one of the first acts of The Leader "by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States' was to officially proclaim January 20, 2017, the day of his inauguration, "as National Day of Patriotic Devotion."

The next day, millions of women, supported by men and children, took to streets across the country and the planet to collectively announce that the emperor was a whole new form of naked.

The Leader and his court knew just how to respond.

Conservative political consultant Frank Luntz told Fox News on Sunday that the women's protests were a "violent action" aimed at intimidating the Trump administration. "I think that they want to prove that they can be as loud and as obnoxious and in your face as possible."

"I'm gonna tell you something – these protests are out of control. The language is out of control. There are eight, nine, 10-year-olds watching this. They read these horrible words from these signs."

For his part, The Leader responded to the protests by convening a phalanx of white male onlookers in order to sign an anti-abortion executive order which could have far reaching implications for the reproductive health of woman around the world.

Luntz, one of whose former students and a co-worker on the Republican Party's 1994 takeover of the House of Representatives was Benjamin Netanyahu's current ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer, said a woman protester had yelled "You fascist' at him, swore and threw red confetti glitter at his face.

"I never thought that this would be America," Luntz said. "I never thought this would happen in this country."

Neither did anyone else.

Except, maybe, The Leader.

When fascism dawns in America, it will be time for The Leader's Enemies to do what all Enemies who love America need to do: Show up. Make noise. Run for office. Vote.

Frank Luntz knows how all this works. "The average American assumes that being 'Orwellian' is a negative, that being 'Orwellian' means that you mislead,"

Luntz told National Public Radio's Terry Gross in 2007.

"If you read 'On Language,' to be Orwellian is to speak with absolute clarity, to be succinct, to explain what the event is, to talk about what triggers something happening, and to do so without any sort of pejorative whatsoever."  

There's a tendency, among us Enemies, to recoil from the words of The Leader. The words that turn Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness to Lies, License, and the Pursuit of Minorities.

But maybe it's time, paradoxically, to begin to study The Leaders words, take them to heart, and go out and act accordingly.

Especially where it comes to the language of the order he issued declaring the day of his inauguration a national holiday.

It's as apt a warning of incipient fascism as we're likely to see:

"There is no freedom where the people do not believe in it; no law where the people do not follow it; and no peace where the people do not pray for it."