How fascism crept into America

tags: election 2016, fascism, Trump

Knute Berger is Mossback, Crosscut's chief Northwest native. He also writes the monthly Gray Matters column for Seattle magazine and is a weekly Friday guest on Weekday on KUOW-FM (94.9). His newest book is Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes On Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice, published by Sasquatch Books. You can e-mail him at or follow him on twitter @KnuteBerger.

Since the presidential election Nov. 8, there has been much discussion of the “f” word, as President-elect Donald Trump and some of his advisors and supporters have drawn scrutiny for their “fascist” leanings. Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, is a well-known white nationalist. Members of the so-called “alt-right” gave the Nazi salute after a meeting in Washington, D.C. The Klu Klux Klan planned a Trump victory parade.

The parallels between Trump and Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini get stronger with each news cycle. Internment of Muslims, taking citizenship away from flag burners, claims of rigged elections, intimidating journalists, prosecuting political opponents — it’s an endless stream of ideas that flows easily from a totalitarian mindset.

We have faced some of this before. For much of the last year, I have been researching stories about the far right in the Pacific Northwest during the 1930s and early 1940s. And while our current circumstances are fluid, and unique, there are lessons we can learn from a time when we had to deal with fascism both here and abroad.

For starters, we can learn how to recognize it. The last time fascism came knocking, some Americans tried to ignore it. Others were clueless. Much of the mainstream media of the time spent the ‘30s “normalizing” the so-called New Germany. But a few people made a difference by paying attention and pushing back. These were often people with the most to lose.

Early in the Nazi regime, mainstream Americans did not see Hitler as a particular threat. Newspapers regularly excused or dismissed Hitler’s excesses and rhetoric regarding Jews. The Seattle Times, for example, proclaimed in 1933 that organized anti-Semitism did not exist in Germany, and never would. The Times was not alone. ...

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