Gerry ChidiacIt’s very odd to hear pundits on the far-right calling an FBI raid on Donald Trump’s private compound evidence of a “police state.” Usually, people on the left make such accusations toward agents of public order in the United States.

What’s happening to the world?

We no longer understand the difference between leadership and manipulation. Leadership is based on principles like wisdom, fairness, respect and love. We’ve had some amazing leaders over the centuries. We may not agree with them on every issue, but their integrity is always unquestionable, even when they make mistakes.

Manipulation seeks to control. Period. The policies of a manipulator often seem contradictory because they’re not based on any principle other than doing what’s expedient to gain or maintain power.

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The word ‘fascist’ is often used to describe the actions of a leader with whom we disagree. The danger with doing so is that it trivializes the word when we don’t use it accurately.

In essence, fascism is the antithesis of leadership. The word comes from the Latin term’ fasces,’ meaning ’a bundle of sticks.’ The idea is that when sticks are tied tightly together, they form a weapon that can be used to instil fear in one’s enemies.

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Fascist ideologies vary greatly around the world, but they all involve fear, unquestioning loyalty, intimidation, hatred of targeted minorities, a propensity to violence, and manipulation of democratic structures to gain and maintain power. They’re often populist movements but rarely receive enough support to gain an elected majority, thus the need to find ways to undermine the democratic process. They often use fallacies to discredit those who don’t think the way that they do and will offer oversimplified explanations to complex problems.

Industrialists who lack principle often fall prone to fascist movements. We often forget that Adolf Hitler would have had much more difficulty getting his movement into the mainstream of German politics without the support of industrialists; numerous corporations that benefited financially from Nazism continue to exist.

Because of the chameleonlike nature of fascism, it can pollute almost any ideology. Today Christian fascist movements are quite prevalent, while other fascists espouse agnosticism. They tend to be far-right political movements but, like the Nazis, may even have the word ‘socialist’ in their name.

There’s a growing fear of fascism in the United States, and rightly so. There was an armed assault on American Congress in 2021 and a significant minority of the American population doesn’t think that was a problem. Right-wing groups are gerrymandering political constituencies and changing voting laws so they can control the government without the support of most voters, not to mention their blatant manipulation of the American judicial system.

If the United States doesn’t act now, the world could lose a powerful, albeit imperfect, source of political stability. This would create a dangerous power vacuum on the international stage. It’s time for the international community and the mainstream media to end their silence on this issue.

The U.S. was on the edge of fascism almost 100 years ago, with the prevalence of groups like the Ku Klux Klan, rampant anti-Semitism, and support for Nazism common among industrialists and oligarchs. What saved America, and possibly the world, was the humanism of the New Deal, with its investments in the well-being of the common citizen.

As the great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber wrote, “One gains power over the nightmare by calling it by its real name.” What’s happening in the United States is fascism. We know where it will lead if it’s not stopped, and we know how to respond.

Now we just need to act before it’s too late.

Gerry Chidiac specializes in languages, genocide studies and works with at-risk students. He is the recipient of an award from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for excellence in teaching about the Holocaust.

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