Anders Breivik's July 22 Oslo rampage highlighted a problem far greater than him, a topic three previous articles discussed, stopping short of what this article addresses. More on how Europe is affected below.
In America, hardline anti-government groups like the Sovereign Citizen movement highlight how far right America's shifted since the 1980s. Their adherents (Sovereigns) believe they alone should decide what laws to obey or ignore, not elected officials, judges, juries or law enforcement bodies.
They also oppose paying taxes, promote racial hate, attract white supremacists, and resort to violence to assert their will. In addition, they subscribe to other extremist views, advocating a subculture run exclusively by their rules. Without central leadership, it's impossible to know their size, though it's believed to be many thousands.
America's Militia movement is also politically significant, paramilitaries against government restricting their rights, especially to bear arms. It represents an outgrowth of independent survivalist, anti-tax, and other right-wing Patriot movement subculture groups, believing government is hostile to their sovereignty.
More recently, America's Tea Party phenomenon represents political Washington's sharp right turn. A previous article discussed them, accessed through the following link:
Stressing fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free market fundamentalism, demagogic extremists aroused millions of working Americans to support policies against their own interests, thinking they're doing the right thing because their minds have been manipulated to believe it.
Funded by extremist right-wing groups, as well as billionaires like David and Charles Koch, the movement gained national recognition in media-hyped mid-2009 congressional town hall protests against Obamacare, banker and other bailouts, fiscal excesses, and bogus claims about Obama's social agenda. In fact, he's rock-hard conservative without one.
Then in February 2010, its Nashville, TN national convention increased its prominence, highlighting an agenda to shift America further right on the pretext of popular opposition to big government and fiscal irresponsibility.
As a result, hardline extremists mostly attracted middle income Americans facing lost jobs, homes, and economic uncertainty at a time they should have shifted left, not right. Instead of blaming big government, a groundswell for addressing popular needs should be demanded.
It didn't. Demagogues took advantage and aroused millions, aided by daily Fox News support and its lunatic fringe hosts. Among them, Glenn Beck (now gone), Bill O'Reilly, and others rage against big government, hyping an extremist agenda. Maliciously, they spread fear effectively enough to attract growing numbers of adherents, largely mindless that their best interests are compromised, not helped.
Media power manipulation, of course, is essential, whether against big government, alleged terrorists, or anything diverging from right-wing politics, easily able to morph into something more sinister.
In his 2003 article titled, "Fascism Anyone?" political scientist Laurence W. Britt discussed its 14 common elements, saying:
"These basic characteristics are more prevalent and intense in some regimes than in others, but they all share some level of similarity."
In 2003 America, decades earlier and today, it's present, worrisome, and growing, post-9/11 and earlier. More on that below.
Elements of Police State Fascism
(1) "Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism," including display flags, lapel pins, and other patriotic nationalist expressions, rallying people for a common cause.
(2) "Disdain for the importance of human rights" and civil liberties, believing they hinder ruling elitist power.
(3) "Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause," shifting blame for failures, "channel(ling) frustration in controlled directions," and vilifying targeted groups for political advantage.
(4) "The supremacy of the military/avid militarism," allocating a disproportionate share of national wealth and resources for it.
(5) "Rampant sexism," viewing women as second-class citizens.
(6) "A controlled mass media," in public or private hands, promoting power elite policies.
(7) "Obsession with national security," using it as an instrument of belligerence and oppression.
(8) "Religion and ruling elite tied together," portraying themselves as militant defenders of the nation's dominant religion at the expense of one or more others, deemed inferior or threatening.
(9) "Power of corporations defended," for economic power, military production, and social control.
(10) "Power of labor suppressed or eliminated," leaving political and corporate dominance unchallenged.
(11) "Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts," because they represent intellectual and academic freedom, subversive to national security and political control.
(12) "Obsession with crime and punishment," handling them by draconian criminal justice measures and practices.
(13) "Rampant cronyism and corruption," power elites enriching themselves at the expense of others less fortunate.
(14) "Fraudulent elections," manipulated for desired results by disenfranchising opposition voters or simply rigging the process.
All these characteristics describe America, a democracy in name only, run by powerful elitists for their own interests at the expense of all others.
Huey Long once said fascism will arrive "wrapped in an American flag." In his book "Friendly Fascism," Hunter College Professor Bertram Gross called Ronald Reagan its prototype ruler, distinguishing 1980s America from classic models in Germany, Italy and Japan.
He described a slow, powerful "drift toward greater concentration of power and wealth in a repressive Big Business-Big Government," Big Brother alliance. It leads "toward a new and subtly manipulative form of corporatist serfdom," its friendly face turning dark as hardline policies are revealed - Machiavellian harshness exploiting others for wealth and power.
Today's Duopoly-Run America
On issues mattering most, little distinguishes Republicans from Democrats. Supporting militarism, permanent wars, corporate dominance, and police state harshness, they represent wealth and power interests at the expense of public needs and rights.
As a result, more than ever, American democracy is bogus under a police state apparatus, sacrificing human rights and civil liberties for national security, wealth, power, and control. Examples include:
(1) An array of pre and post-9/11 anti-terrorist measures.
(2) Decades of illegal surveillance of individuals and activist groups, more virulent and sophisticated than ever under Obama. He's wicked, morally compromised, duplicitous, corrupt and lawless.
Notably, he usurped unchecked surveillance powers, including warrantless wiretapping, accessing personal records, monitoring financial transactions, and tracking emails, Internet and cell phone use to gather secret evidence for prosecutions.
As a result, more than ever under his leadership, America's a repressive Big Brother society, targeting anyone lawlessly for unchallenged rule.
(3) A war on free expression, dissent, and constitutional freedoms, using the courts to enforce repression. It's especially true since the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Penalty Act. It eased surveillance restrictions, as well as enacting draconian death penalty and habeas-stripping provisions. Its passage smoothed the way for the 2001 Patriot Act and other repressive measures that followed.
Alone, in fact, the Patriot Act erodes four Bill of Rights freedoms, including:
-- Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments due process rights by permitting indefinite detentions;
-- First Amendment freedom of association; and
-- Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and more.
In November 2002, the Bush administration's Homeland Security Act (HSA) combined formerly separate government agencies into a more sweeping authoritarian apparatus. Thereafter, it's been used repressively.
Obama's uses it like Bush, usurping unprecedented power for total control, sacrificing freedoms for national security.
As a result, America enforces police state harshness. Merriam-Webster defines it as:
"a political unit characterized by repressive governmental control of political, economic, and social life usually by an arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially secret police in place of regular operation of administration and judicial organs of the government according to publicly known legal procedures."
America has in place constitutional/statute laws, administrative and legal procedures, yet skirts them routinely and willfully to assert control.
It's a short leap to tyrannical rule. Whether or not announced, its iron fist leaves no doubt about unfriendly American fascism.
Right Turn in Europe
Anders Breivik's rampage signifies a far greater problem than him, symptomatic of growing European ideological extremism, transcending a single atrocity.
Xenophobia is one of its expressions, Merriam-Webster defining it as "fear(ing) and hat(ing) strangers or foreigners or anything strange or foreign." During hard times, large numbers of people are affected, though few commit violence.
In America, Tea Party protests reflect it, supporting far to the right of center policies, railing against big government, mindless about flourishing state socialism, yet wanting to take back the country and restore its ill-defined honor.
Throughout Europe, nearly all countries have parties wanting foreigners evicted, returning them to their "rightful citizens," whatever that means, given how many have had roots elsewhere at other times.
Moreover, fascist parties notably once had leftist leaders who turned right. Mussolini, in fact, invented the word "fascism," practicing it destructively with his Axis partners. Today's model is more subtle, but just as dangerous, eroding democracy and social justice for unchallenged power.
As a result, socially democratic rule virtually disappeared. Neoliberalism replaced it, notably in Nordic countries. Right-wing parties rule them, except Norway, run by a Labour/Socialist Left/Centre Party coalition, its so-called red-green alternative.
Challenging it is Norway's Progress Party - conservative, xenophobic, and hard-line. Perhaps Breivik's rampage warned Labour to shift right, tone down its Israeli criticism, think twice about supporting an independent Palestine, and remain committed to NATO's global imperialism.
Sweden's right turn got some observers to ask about European social democracy's future. Is it quiescent or lost? Last September, its Social Democrats lost badly, its worst showing since 1914. Its right-wing Alliance prevailed. A far right anti-immigrant party won seats for the first time.
It matters because Sweden's virtuous middle straddled capitalist and communist extremes. Now, however, for the first time in over 80 years, it's over. It no longer represents social democratic values. If lost in Sweden, Norway, and other Nordic countries, can they exist anywhere? Is tyranny over the horizon?
Notably since the 1990s, Social Democrats systematically undermined former policies, losing popular support as a result. After its electoral loss, Svenska Dagbladet (a daily newspaper) said Sweden's political landscape changed fundamentally under "a center-right government without a majority, a crashed social democracy, and a kingmaker party with roots in the far right."
Rising ethno-nationalist/anti-multiculturalism throughout Europe resides there, in Denmark and Norway. Is fascism a short leap ahead? Nazism arose from hard times. They demand change that can include more than planned, including radical right turns, intolerance, totalitarianism, and global wars, creating upheaval and unfit to live in societies.
It threatens Europe, America, and everywhere conditions exist to transform liberal democracies to tyranny. It destroyed Weimar Germany and shifted Great Society America to right-wing/hardline rule, perhaps headed toward full-blown fascism.
Famed journalist George Seldes (1890 - 1995) saw it flourish in the 1930s, worrying it could derail New Deal America. In his 1934 book titled, "Iron, Blood and Profits," he discussed a "world-wide munitions racket," citing WW I militarists and weapons makers in Europe and America.
"Merchants of death" he called them, promoting "imperialism (and) colonization - by means of war....the healthfulness of their business depend(ing) on slaughter. The more wars," the greater their riches.
His 1943 book titled, "Facts and Fascism" returned to the theme, explaining "Fascism on the Home Front" in Part One, called "The Big Money and Big Profits in Fascism."
In Parts Two and Three, he discussed "Native Fascist Forces" in industry and his day's media. They were a shadow of today's in influence and reach, cheerleading for wars and corporate extremism, elements one step from fascism, in more or less intense forms.
In his 1935 novel titled, "It Can't Happen Here," Sinclair Lewis feared its emergence in hard times, led by a charismatic, self-styled reformer/populist champion.
Con men like Bush and Obama exploit conditions to enact police state laws, crack down on dissent, wage imperial wars, homeland ones on scapegoats, and serve powerful interests at the expense of others.
September 11 accelerated extremism in America. Breivik's rampage may notch it up in Europe. Fascist seeds there already took hold. Maybe now they'll grow and flourish. That prospect should arouse popular resistance against what no one should tolerate anywhere.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.