George Orwell and Aldous Huxley are two of the great figures of the 20th century. Their novels, 1984 and Brave New World focus on authoritarianism. Both draw grim pictures of totalitarian rule but in each book the dictatorship to effect control deploys different techniques. For Orwell it’s straight out force. His dark image is brutal state oppression—“a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” Big Brother is watching your every move. You can be arrested at any time. Endless war is in the background. Whereas, in Huxley’s dystopia, societal control is achieved by more subtle means such as entertaining diversions, staged spectacles and the directed pursuit of manufactured needs and desires. People are infantilized. They are to be concerned with trivia like shopping, celebrity divorces and scandals leaving them with little time or interest to challenge power.
Fascism is being mentioned more and more in the context of U.S. and European elections. It is a term that is bandied about often rather loosely. Orwell wrote that it is understood to be "something not desirable." But it is a complex political and economic synergy that has racism, force and nationalism as its animating matrix. It involves heavy doses of propaganda and media manipulation. Mussolini, in one of his more honest moments said, "Fascism should be more properly called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power." For Americans it is universally associated with despotic regimes in other countries. It can't happen here. Huey Long, the self-styled populist governor of Louisiana, once warned, "If fascism ever comes to America, it will come wrapped in an American flag."
What is fascism? Michael Parenti, author and historian says, “Fascism historically has been used to secure the interests of large capitalist interests against the demands of popular democracy. Then and now, fascism has made irrational mass appeals in order to secure the rational ends of class domination.” Fascism flourishes in times of economic insecurity and cultural backlash. Opportunistic politicians offer up a platter of racism, xenophobia and hyper-nationalism. They stoke fear and resentment using simplistic slogans such as “Drain the Swamp” and “Build the Wall.” In the U.S. today, there is a whiff fascism in the air. Witness the march of white supremacists with torches held high in Charlottesville chanting “Blood and Soil,” an old Nazi slogan and “Jews Will Not Replace Us.” The president called them “very fine people.”
Henry Giroux, prominent public intellectual, is a prolific writer and political commentator. He has written many books including Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education, The Violence of Organized Forgetting, and America at War with Itself. He is a member of Truthout‘s Board of Directors and a regular contributor to the nonprofit, independent online news organization.
Jason Stanley is the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University. He is the author of Knowledge and Practical Interests, Language in Context, Know How and the award-winning How Propaganda Works.
Michael Parenti is one of this country’s foremost independent political analysts. Cornel West calls him, “a towering prophetic voice.” He has taught at major colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad. He is the author of numerous books including the classic Democracy for the Few, Power and the Powerless, The Face of Imperialism, and The Assassination of Julius Caesar.