Back in 2017 the Washington Monthly posted an article explaining that in the US Holocaust Museum, a poster can be found which tells you what signs you should be aware of, if you’re worried your country might be slipping into fascism.
The poster in question, it transpires, was sold in their gift shop (yes, Holocaust Museums have gift shops!) and it looked like this:
The internet is full of articles and memes listing the warning signs of fascism, (the above is a very popular one), should you care to search for them. However the one mentioned above struck me because of it’s location in a Holocaust Museum. No such place would entertain such a list if it didn’t agree with it. This in itself lends credibility to it.
Laurence W. Britt first wrote about the common signs of fascism in April 2003, after researching seven fascists regimes. Looking through the list of warning signs can prove both enlightening and horrifying.
So I want to take a look through the list of ‘fascism warnings’ from a British perspective and see if we have anything to worry about here on our islands. Here we go.
- Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
Verdict: YES. Since 2016, the UK Nationalist agenda has exploded. It is typical for fascists to repeat patriotic slogans and memes, fly the national flag at every opportunity, use the symbol of their nation as a reason or excuse for inexcusable action, and condemn those who don’t unconditionally worship their nation. This behaviour can be seen in abundance here in the UK, with Brexit having rocket boosted he Nationalist message and emboldened the government to fall back on nationalist rhetoric to get out of tricky situations. For example Boris Johnson telling us to use “good old fashioned British common sense” to deal with a pandemic.
- Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
Verdict: YES. The UK’s Conservative agenda has swung strongly against the rights of minorities, with clear examples including, in no particualr order: (i) The Windrush scandal, (ii) Refugees being turned away, (iii) Disability benefits scandal, (iv) Rejection of the European Court of Human Rights. A chief player in the disdain for human rights is Priti Patel.
- Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
Verdict: YES. The government started blaming, and encouraging people to blame, immigrants for all of their woes. The Brexit debate is widely acknowledged to have been ultimately about immigration for many supporters of leaving the EU. I personally have spoken to people who literally expected all the foreigners to leave our shores the next morning after Brexit was ‘done’. The state sucessfully identified foreigners as a common scapegoat for people to rally against.
- Supremacy of the Military
Verdict: NO. This is one part of the British fascist project which is failing miserably. Our military is only great when combined with allied forces of NATO, a partnership under strain now that Britain has isolated itself. Free trade with neighbouring countries is a key reason for allyship, and that free trade is now gone.
- Rampant Sexism
Verdict: YES. For this one must look to the leadership. Prime Minister Borish Johnson as a proud womaniser, having embarked on various affairs (one during his wife’s cancer treatment). He has been married twice and fathered an undisclosed number of children. Now let’s put his behaviour aside and look at the institution of Parliament. Theresa May, in her term as Prime Minister, negotiated a withdrawal agreement with the EU. Parliament rejected it. Johnson resigned his post because he disliked the deal. Then, Johnson, as Prime Minister, negotiated an undeniably worse deal, and Parliament approved it en mass. Was that because he’s a man? More examples of rampant sexism can be seen in those who support, from afar, Donald Trump, excusing or even applauding his self-confessed sexual assaults and exploits. By supporting a sexist, you are a sexist.
- Controlled Mass Media
Verdict: YES. Although Johnson has not mastered the art of social media like his fallen friend Mr. Trump, he has stoked up division and hatred to match his nationalist agenda. The right wing press fall neatly inline behind him however a strong left and centre press remains able to counter. He has also told his party activists to Openly lie and weaponise fake news. It is perhaps the televisual media that is the key battleground though, with the BBC becoming noticably gentler in its criticisms of Tory Government lately, while welcoming the likes of Nigel Farage to its studios. Whether any of this is due to the government ‘controlling the media’ is perhaps an argument for another day but one cannot ignore the lack of accountability that has become evident. Looking back at the 2019 general election, for example, senior Conservatives includng the PM, refused to appear on tougher shows, or more left wing ones, preferring to sidestep criticism rather than face it. In one memorable moment, Channel 4 News replaced Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage with blocks of ice, after they declined to appear in a critical debate.
- Obsession with National Security
Verdict: YES. The government uses fear of outsiders as a unifying tool on a regular basis. Strangely though, they have been unable to use it against a microbial enemy (the Covid-19 virus), leaving borders open and being decidedly lax on travel restrictions.
- Religion and Government are Intertwined
Verdict: NO. It has not come to that yet. The Church and Parliament have a closely intertwined history but this is not evident in modern times. When either one comments on the other, it is seen as inappropriate and widely condemend. This is perhaps a little odd, considering the patchwork of religions in the United Kingdom and the tensions that occasionally rise up between them. One might say there is an intertwining of government and religion in Northern Ireland / Ireland but that’s about it.
- Corporate Power is Protected
Verdict: YES. This is an easy one. Look at the big companies who are not chased for tax, then compare to the individuals or small businesses whose taxes are ruthlessly pursued. The government does not want to upset those who donate or have other indirect interest in their party.
- Labor Power is Suppressed
Verdict: YES. Tories hate workers’ unions and workers’ rights. An organised union of thousands of workers is a real threat to a fascist regime, because in such great numbers they can defy or overturn a dogmatic law. The UK faces a real threat of workers’ rights being thrown out because of Brexit. That is one of the facist goals. The country however has strong socialist presences and powerful unions which cannot be underestimated. The only question is whether the Labour party will use them to hold back the right wing tide, or sacrifice them to avoid trouble.
- Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Verdict: YES. Another easy one. Two easy examples. Science; a historically cooperative area between UK/EU countries, has been scuppered by new barriers and reduced funding, making it harder to research collaboratively. And then musicians, unable to tour and perform freely anywhere in the EU without all kinds of special permissions and costs.
- Obsession with Crime and Punishment
Verdict: SOON. Fascist governments embolden the police, slowly but surely, with limitless powers. A crisis such as a war or a pandemic might be used as an initial excuse for this. But once the powers are in place it is hard to remove them. The sad part is, rather than rebel, people tend to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism… Until one day, enough is enough. Fascist nations often have all-powerful police forces with unlimited power. Now to be clear, I’m not saying anyone should break the law or resist the police, ever! But the police can be misused by fascist regimes as a tool to make people step in line.
- Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Verdict: YES. There are many examples of the Tory Government awarding lucrative contracts to their buddies and family members, and notable cases of misbehaving MP’s being excused from law breaking while others are punished.
- Fraudulent Elections
Verdict: YES. Or at least, a fraudulent referrendum in 2016. The result was allowed to stand because of a legal loophole, that referrendums are technically ‘advisory’ and therefore don’t break any laws. One could also argue that the 2019 general election was fraudulent, or at least dishonest, because absolutely none of the government’s manifesto pledges have been actioned or even come close to being actioned.
So that’s an overall score of 11 out of 14 on the warning signs of fascism in the UK.
The UK scores 11 out of 14 on the warning signs of fascism. On that basis, depending on interpretation, one could say the UK government is 78.5% fascist currently.