Words. Speeches. News conferences. Rallies. Media. Money. And they all point in one direction: violence in service of the fascist leader.


The Hartmann Report
MAR 29, 2024


Fascism doesn’t typically take over countries by military means (WWII’s temporary order notwithstanding); instead, it relies on rhetoric.

Words. Speeches. News conferences. Rallies. Media. Money. And they all point in one direction: violence in service of the fascist leader.

The rhetorical embrace and appreciation of violence is one of the cardinal characteristics of fascism, and a big step was taken this week in a New York City courtroom to push back against the current fascist campaign being waged by Donald Trump against our American form of government.

Noting that Trump’s “statements were threatening, inflammatory, [and] denigrating” Judge Juan Merchan imposed a gag order on the orange fraudster and rapist, forbidding him from further attacks against the court’s staff, the DA’s staff, witnesses, and jurors.

Why? Because all were concerned about becoming the victims of Trump’s fascist army.

Because the judge omitted himself from the list, as its his job to try send bad guys to prison, Trump got slick and attacked the judge’s daughter (who’s also not on the list). Now she’s getting death threats.

This isn’t the first time. Whenever Trump finds himself in trouble, fraud or violence follow, as has already been determined by a court in New York this month and we saw in the pattern of his presidency.

As Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold told Chris Hayes last night about the Trump era since January 6, 2021:

“The threat of violence is part of their new playbook.”

When Trump repeatedly attacked Judge Engoron, who presided over the civil fraud trial that led to his $454 million fine, his fascist fan-boy fans sent envelopes of white powder both to the judge and the prosecutor and phoned in a bomb threat to the judge’s home.

Professor Jennifer Mercieca, author of Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump, notes:

“Donald Trump has a history of refusing to follow the rule of law, he incited an insurrection against the peaceful transferal of power, he claims to want to be a ‘dictator’ if he wins power, and he has released plans to install people into government who are loyal to him instead of the Constitution. These are all signs that he plans an autocratic takeover of the United States.”

Analysts of fascism from Umberto Eco to Hannah Arendt to Timothy Snyder and Ruth Ben-Ghiat generally agree on a core set of characteristics of a fascist movement. It includes:

— A romantic idealization of a fictional past (“Make America Great Again”)
— Clear definition of an enemy within that is not quite human but an “other” (“vermin,” “rats,” “animals,” all phrases Trump has used just in past weeks to describe immigrants and employees of our criminal justice system)
— Vilification of the media (“fake news” or lugenpresse)
— Repeated attacks on minorities and immigrants as a rallying point for followers (shared hatred often binds people together)
— Disparagement of elections and the rule of law (because neither favors the fascist movement)
— Glorification of political violence and martyrdom (the January 6th “patriots” and Ashley Babbitt)
— Hostility to academia and science leading to the elevation of Joe Sixpack’s ability to “do his own research” (simple answers to complex questions or issues)
— Embrace of fundamentalist religion and the moral codes associated with it
— Rejection of the rights of women and members of the queer community as part of the celebration of toxic masculinity
— Constant lies, even about seemingly inconsequential matters (Hannah Arendt noted in 1978: “If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer.”)
— Performative patriotism that replaces the true obligations of citizenship (like voting and staying informed) with jingoistic slogans, logos, and mass events: faux populism
— Collaboration with oligarchs while claiming to celebrate the average person

Donald Trump and his MAGA movement check every single box.

So did the American Confederacy and the Democratic Party it seized in the 1860s. And the American fascist movements of the 1920s and 1930s (albeit, they were much smaller). And the white supremacy movement of the mid-20th century, from the KKK to the White Citizens’ Councils (ditto).

This is not our first encounter with fascism, as I detail in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy. Nor will it be our last: fascism has a long history and an enduring appeal for insecure, angry psychopaths who want to seize political power and the great wealth or opportunity that’re usually associated with it.

The good news is that when fascist movements seize entire countries or territories their rule, at least in the last few centuries, tends to be fleeting. The Confederacy lasted only six years and failed in their attempt to take over our entire country; Hitler held power for a mere 12 years; Mussolini 21 years.

The bad news is that when fascist movements do seize absolute power in a nation, they do incredible damage, recovery from which often requires generations. They typically are only dislodged by war, with the loss in that war finally puncturing the bubble of invincibility and the aura of strongman infallibility in which their leaders have wrapped themselves.

Preventing a fascist takeover is not particularly complex, and there are encouraging signs that America is beginning to move in this direction. It involves a few simple steps:

— Recognize and call out the fascists and their movement as fascists

With Trump and his fascist MAGA movement, this is happening with greater and greater frequency. Yesterday, for example, the Financial Times’ highly worldwide-respected columnist Martin Wolf published an article titled Fascism has Changed, but it is Not Dead.

“[W]hat we are now seeing,” Wolf writes, “is not just authoritarianism. It is authoritarianism with fascistic characteristics.” He concludes his op-ed with: “History does not repeat itself. But it rhymes. It is rhyming now. Do not be complacent. It is dangerous to take a ride on fascism.”

For a top columnist in one of the world’s senior financial publications to call a candidate for US president and his movement fascists would have been unthinkable at any other time in modern American history. And it’s happening with greater and greater frequency across all aspects of American media.

— Debunk and ridicule extremism while ostracizing fascists from “polite company”

Increasingly, Trump’s fascist movement and those aligned with it are becoming caricatures of themselves. Book-banners and disruptors of public education are reaching the end of their fad-like existence. Moms for Liberty is a sad joke founded by some of the country’s more bizarre examples of hypocrisy; the former head of the RNC was fired from NBC for her participation in Trump’s fascist attempt to overthrow our government; and CPAC has shriveled into a hardcore rump (pun intended) faction of the conservative movement.

Political cartoonists lampoon Trump followers as toothless rubes and obese, gun-obsessed men; so many women are rejecting Republicans as dating partners that both sociologists and media have noticed; and the GOP is looking at a possible bloodbath (to use Trump’s favorite term) this November, regardless of how many billions in dark money their billionaires throw into the races. We saw the first indicator of that this week in Alabama.

— Support democratic institutions and politicians who promote democracy

The media landscape of America has become centralized, with a handful of massive and mostly conservative corporations and billionaires owning the majority of our newspapers, radio and TV stations, and online publications.

Nonetheless, there are many great online publications beating the drum for democracy, and many allow subscriptions or donations. My list includes Raw Story, Alternet, Daily Kos, Common Dreams, Salon, Talking Points Memo, The New Republic, Mother Jones, The Nation, The Guardian, Democratic Underground, Jacobin, OpEdNews, Slate, Truthout, LA Progressive, Counterpunch, Crooks and Liars, and Free Speech TV. In addition, there are dozens of worthwhile publications that share this Substack platform with Hartmann Report: you can find my recommendations here. And I’m live daily on SirusXM Channel 127 (Progress) and on Free Speech TV, as are many of my progressive colleagues. Read, use, listen, share, and support them.

There are also multiple organizations dedicated to promoting democracy and democratic values in America. They range from your local Democratic Party to Indivisible, Progressive Democrats of America, Move to Amend, MoveOn.org, Roots Action, Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), EMILY’s List, Run for Something, NextGen America, Advancement Project, League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Other democratic institutions we should be supporting by joining, donating, or participating in their governance include public schools, libraries, city councils, county government groups, etc. When MAGA fascists show up to disrupt these institutions and intimidate their members, we should be there to defend them.

President Biden, speaking last fall at an event honoring John McCain, laid it on the line and challenged all of us:

“As I’ve said before, we’re at an inflection point in our history — one of those moments that only happens once every few generations. Where the decisions we make today will determine the course of this country — and the world — for decades to come.

“So, you, me, and every American who is committed to preserving our democracy carry a special responsibility. We have to stand up for America’s values embodied in our Declaration of Independence because we know MAGA extremists have already proven they won’t. We have to stand up for our Constitution and the institutions of democracy because MAGA extremists have made clear they won’t.

“History is watching. The world is watching. Most important, our children and grandchildren are watching.”

Tag, we’re it!

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