America has a date with its fascist destiny. It’s baked into the depths of its psyche. It’s flirted with it, considered it, come close it, and on some level, even longs for it. America’s crash course with fascism can be understood by understanding the roots of American culture and mapped by conservativism’s inevitable reaction to irreversible demographic trends.
In the Autumn of 1620, a group of extraordinarily devout Puritans landed on the shores of North America, the first successful wave of European immigrants to establish a nation that would come to dominate the world. Their sacred cause behind such a daring life choice was steeped in zealous biblical literalism.
According to history.com, “They believed the Church of England was too similar to the Roman Catholic Church and should eliminate ceremonies and practices not rooted in the Bible.” In other words, the ultra-conservative pilgrims viewed the already conservative 17th century Church of England as not nearly conservative enough.
In the PBS documentary The Pilgrims, historian Pauline Croft said “It’s worth reminding ourselves that at the time, they were a very, very small group of very extreme people … they are religious nutters who won’t settle for anything except the most literal reading of the Bible. They want to transform a nation-state into something that resembles what they take to be a godly kingdom.”
In the uber-American novel Atlas Shrugged, a group of industrialists no longer agree with the nation’s changing values, so they escape to found a separatist ‘utopia’ more to their liking. This is exactly how America began, but with religious extremists instead. Fundamentalists would continue to pour in, and America’s conservative Protestant tone was set.
When contemplating the pilgrims, think Handmaid’s Tale- a western, Christian version of ISIS. They did, after all, burn innocent women alive at the stake on superstitious charges, remember. It’s to this puritan core of America that Handmaid’s Tale in fact taps into and ominously warns may be in its future.
This medieval psyche that built this country’s foundation was steeped in superstition, millennialism, paranoia, and a repackaged Jewish mythos, with devout protestants the new supremacist ‘chosen people’ who would manifest their destiny upon America- the “promised land.”
And voilà, the WASP Protestant nation that would spawn witch burnings, slavery, native genocide, the Confederacy, Know-Nothings, McCarthyism, megachurches, the Noah’s Ark museum, “The Fellowship” and QAnon was born.
Eventually, America developed a split-psyche. Influxes of intellectuals would produce another, more enlightened strain of American thinking- typified by intellectual, deist thinkers like Thomas Paine, people that influenced separation of church and state, abolition and women’s suffrage. Catholics and non-whites poured in. Blacks gained political representation. Liberalism began as a subculture and then eventually grew into a mainstream culture, to the horror of conservatives.
America, so apt at science, technology, engineering and mathematics, would develop top universities and produce top scientists, working on the secrets of the universe and producing the most advanced technology in the world. What an irony that the nation that spawned people like Edwin Hubble and the discovery of the multi-billion year age of the universe is the same nation where even today, 40% of the population believe the earth is 6,000 years old. What an irony that the nation that first sent someone to the moon is the nation where someone was taken to court for teaching evolution.
This dual-aspect America has led to a bipolar nation and creates an anomaly in the world.
There’s a very close correlation between a nation’s development and its irreligiosity. Usually, more development means better education and modern sensibilities, hence a more secular outlook. Yet a combination of America’s puritan roots with its perfection of hypercapitalism, its vast resources, and its great ambitions led to this wildly skewed outlier where the richest nation in the world sits at the table with secular, developed and rich countries as the only religious one. “God Bless America,” and all that.
This dichotomy strains the US, and indeed was part of the deep psychological undercurrent behind the Civil War itself. The rise of the Nazis in Germany is a dramatic case, but in many ways not original. An ultra-conservative revolution for a society of explicit racial hierarchy already existed as the Confederacy!
Other than being a more decentralized confederation, there is precious little difference between what that nation would have been and what we consider Nazi today, had the south won. The era, technology and symbols are different, but if you peel away the outer layer, what lies beneath the underlying psyche is a similar operating program- we are the chosen people, we have a sacred covenant with this land, we are meant to rule over undesirables in a racial hierarchy, back to the conservatism of our ancestors, defeat the progressives!
Following the Civil War, Confederate leaders were not punished for treason, and reconstruction began a lenient process of re-integration. Of course, losing a physical war doesn’t mean changing your psyche. Jim Crow laws were enacted, the KKK was born, and some of those who burned crosses were the same that held office. To this day, there is a controversy about taking down statues of Confederates, which has enraged many self-proclaimed ‘patriots,’ over a movement that was treasonous to the very nation they claim to be a patriot of(!)- which illustrates their sanctity of their worldview over all else.
The Faces of Fascism
Crucially, however, not all fascism is identical. Because it’s nationalistic in nature, fascism will necessarily be an expression of the conservative elements of each nation’s unique psyche, circumstances, and history. Every country has its own brand of Fascism as a result. The fascism that America marches towards will rhyme with, but not necessarily repeat the rise of the Third Reich.
German Nazism played to the theme of ‘blood and soil,’ glorifying Germany’s Teutonic roots, the people’s tie to their ancestral homeland, and even pagan mysticism. America’s fascism then is not German Nazism, even if American neo-Nazis are beguiled by its aesthetic.
American WASPs are not ancestrally tied to the American land the way indigenous natives are. Rather, they are destined to be this land’s owners by divine providence- promised Zion by the Creator. They do not have an origin going back aeons to mythologize, their origin is the Mayflower. Hence, Handmaid’s Tale is the logical conclusion of American fascism.
Can it Happen Here?
That was the theme of the book “It Can’t Happen Here” by Upton Sinclair, a novel written in 1936 about a hypothetical fascist demagogue who takes over the U.S. on a fear campaign of returning the nation to its patriotic values. In it, he send his stormtroopers aptly called “Minutemen” to quell resistance- a direct reference to Hitler’s Brownshirts who were active at the time. This taps exactly into the “same but different” aspects of fascism from country to country. American fascist paramilitaries won’t be a parody of Hitlerian Brownshirts, they will instead don the garb of Americana.
Hence, the famous quote often attributed to Sinclair:
But this is just fiction. The Business Plot was real.
The Business Plot
According to Wikipedia:
The Business Plot “was an alleged political conspiracy in 1933 in the United States. Retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler asserted that wealthy businessmen were plotting to create a fascist veterans’ organization with Butler as its leader and use it in a coup d’état to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt.”
Smedley Butler, the most popular figure among veterans at the time, was, according to him, approached by wealthy business interests who had hatched a plan to overthrow the Roosevelt administration and wanted him to lead the troops to Washington. Rather than follow along, he blew the whistle.
Interestingly, Prescott Bush, the patriarch of the Bush political family, was even revealed by records in the national archive to have been a conspirator in this plot, and was a key liaison between the group and the German government.
Separately, according to Wikipedia: “Veterans of Foreign Wars commander James E. Van Zandt stated to the press, “Less than two months” after Gen. Butler warned him, “he had been approached by ‘agents of Wall Street’ to lead a Fascist dictatorship in the United States under the guise of a ‘Veterans Organization”
So fickle are the tides of history. What if they had approached someone that decided to go forward with it? This just happened to get leaked, but what plots like this were hatched or failed yet never known to the public? What plots like this could yet be attempted?
The Nazi Rally at Madison Square Garden
In February of 1939, American Nazis organized a rally in Madison Square Garden, attended by 20,000 supporters. It was organized to show support for Hitler’s regime and to stoke a similar political outcome in the U.S. Of course, this rally was an American-style Nazi rally- and so was marketed as a “Pro American Rally”
In further fascistically stoking themes of American nationalism, the event displayed a large depiction of George Washington front and center of stage, surrounded by swastikas.
The New Face
For a time, the idea of a fascist America seemed more and more to slip into obscurity- Fascism was defeated in 1945, and the world supposedly moved on. Sure, there’ve been neo-Nazis in the U.S., but for the most part, they have more or less been considered an anomalous fringe- dangerous, but a fringe nonetheless. Usually, these were seen just as disaffected youth looking for meaning-thugs, gang members, and prisoners- a thorn in the side of public decency, but surely no threat to the fabric of the Republic.
This cartoonishly brute, youthful, and thuggish image of American fascism is, in reality, a misleading distraction to the true American fascism that looms- in cigar-smoke filled offices, in the minds and discourse of well-read, well-dressed tattoo-less gentlemen. It’s in the subtle dog whistles of entire swath’s of the population, in the dehumanization of its enemies, in the conspiratorial machinations of the corporate state.
The poor, prison-bound thug caricatures has evolved into a more organized, more mainstream front. “Alt-right” and “Western Chauvinism” have rebranded older, more direct language of Nazism and supremacy. The Proud Boys more and more resemble an organized paramilitary, and crucially, they are more emboldened for the first time in generations because they have their man to embolden them- Donald Trump. They are “standing by”…until they aren’t.
Charlottesville 2017 gave us a glimpse.
America has to face a fact. The genie can’t go back into the bottle. Trump, the great disrupter, did something pretty extraordinary in political terms, he stirred a frenzy, inspired his base, emboldened them, gained an incredible degree of loyalty, and pushed the discourse to new extremes. To the psychological descendants of the extremist puritans, the hyper-conservative, paranoid, superstitious sort, they’ve gotten a taste for the hard stuff, and it was exhilarating. Can you imagine bland, establishment Republicans like Jeb Bush stirring a movement on the Right now? Snore.
The Social Media Accelerator
As the hit Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma showed us, social media was intentionally designed to rile us up to the greatest possible extent because that increases engagement. As a result, AI algorithms assess how our minds work by our online activity, figuring out what makes us fearful and angry, and then spitting back increasingly polarizing and extreme content, which serves to reinforce biases and diminish alternatives.
The negative results on our happiness and relationships notwithstanding, the larger societal destabilization comes in the form of the new phenomenon of “alternative facts.” It’s one thing for different people to receive the same facts and then debate their differing stances on this shared reality. It’s entirely another to operate from an entirely different set of “facts.”
The danger is twofold- first, it facilitated the rise of more and more lies and falsehoods, which were circulated in echo-chambers, creating a false sense of “proof”- skyrocketing the proliferation and appeal of false and dangerous conspiracy theories, which drown out and undermine the true conspiracies for which there are actual evidence but end up discredited by their delusional counterparts. The rabbit holes got deeper and deeper, and next thing you know, the shape of the earth is up for debate again and Tom Hanks drinks adrenochrome from kidnapped children. Psyches have devolved back to the medieval.
Second, having different, increasingly polarizing groups of people share less and less of the same basic facts of reality is a dangerous path to decreasing empathy, because it can make “good people do bad things.” If the other guy is on a team that is out to enslave you and steal your children and drink their blood, then the path towards their dehumanization is well underway.
The prerequisite to any publicly sanctioned genocide is first the total dehumanization of the other. Democrats disagreeing on tax rates call for a debate, but Satan-worshipping pedophiles warrant nothing less than a sacred crusade of life and death.
Outright superstitious and absurd conspiracy theories about the total dehumanization of the enemy is nothing less than a tinderbox. Considering how off the rails the conspiracy world has gone in just the last few years, one could imagine ever deranged ideas gaining traction, stirring enough of a frenzy, that, like the lone vigilante who surely thought he was a holy warrior when he shot up that pizza parlor, will inspire ever more vigilantes and militias to commit ever ghastly atrocities in the name of goodness.
The Weapons Tinderbox
More than any other nation in the world, America is a nation of guns. Everyone knows this, but the degree to which this is true is likely larger than most Americans think. For context, there are 120 guns per 100 people. Not only is it the only nation in the world where there are more guns than civilians, but the 2nd place country- Falkland Islands, has 62 guns per 100 people, nearly half.
For many Americans, the idea and the process of gun ownership goes much deeper than the mere practical need to hunt or defend one’s home. There is a deep seated reverence, a mythos bordering on the mystically transcendent of the gun’s symbolic expression of liberty and self determination. The gun is the rite of passage to manhood, to freedom, and even to being a ‘true American.’
This is born from the idea that that the 2nd Amendment enshrines citizens with the right and duty to stockpile firearms in anticipation against a tyrannical state. Surrounded by vast oceans, a significantly weaker country to the south and an amicable ally to the north, and dominating the world with its empire, the U.S. is for the foreseeable future immune from any foreign invasion for which a citizen militia would be called to defend. The deep-seated purpose of this stockpile, beyond the hunting and home protection is explicitly to use them against the American state for a future showdown.
Out of all the types of American psyches, which falls under this anti-state militia category? It’s not the progressives. Conservative Christians, Qanons and far-right conspiracy theorists are by far and away those with the guns, and the gun mentality to train in militias and psychologically prepare themselves for the coming showdown. It is those who, against Satanic pedophiles, in the name of God, for the love of liberty, they may soon embark on their sacred crusade.
But with their guy at the head of state, they were satiated. It was the left that hated what the state was doing. As long as things were going their way, there would be no reason to rise against the state they support. And even if they weren’t, blame could be passed along to the deep state, anyways.
If there were a perceived coup against them, however…
Trump explicitly refused to admit that he would accept defeat during the campaign, and as predicted, this is exactly what happened. Whatever happened in reality is irrelevant, Trump himself said it was a fraud, and the pied piper’s followers went along. The implications of this are extraordinarily dangerous.
First, the entire edifice of democracy simply depends on the acceptance of election results and the issue of fair elections. Without this acceptance, there is no perceived legitimacy, and without this, something has to give. The perception that our elections are rigged by deep state conspirators undermines the entire system and this will in due course motivate counteraction.
Second, to believe that there is an egregious conspiracy amounting to a coup against you, as Trump and his followers do, is to be stoked to act “in self defense.”
So now, we have the perfect storm of a wildly radicalized right wing who believes their enemies are forces of Satan, who are heavily armed for what in their minds is an upcoming showdown against tyranny, and who have now been led into a narrative that these Satanic tyrants are outright engaging in coups against them. This is a highly motivating situation that could cause offensive attacks in the name of defending liberty.
Ironically, Trump’s “fake election” narrative is a false flag!
Conservatives Lost the Culture War
Yet, in spite of all this, there is a simpler, even mathematical reason why America has a Fascist destiny.
Conservative culture was once mainstream and status quo. Traditional roles were expected of people, races were kept separate, women couldn’t vote, religiosity was common, creative content was heavily censored for decency, and homosexuality was forbidden.
In this conservative world from which we emerged, the liberal mentality was subversive. Jazz listening bohemians and beatniks were in the underground scene. In public, you had to tow the conservative line or get ostracized and censored. Then, rock and roll, hippies, new ageism, and drugs exploded in popularity. During the heyday of the 60’s renaissance, however, this new subversive liberalism, though growing, was still a minority counter-culture.
Decades on, cultural conservatism started to wane, and cultural liberalism started to grow. TV shows started showing more inclusion and racy subjects, decency laws relaxed, interracial marriages increased, marijuana began to be legalized, then gay marriage and atheism began to rise. Eventually, kids were born into 3rd generation hippy families. It was no longer cool or subversive to be liberal- it was normal.
Liberalism relentlessly went from an underground, to a subculture, to a competing culture, and all the while, conservatism continued to lose more and more ground. Then, sometime in the 2010’s, liberalism won the culture war. Even Obama, who was once a liberal poster boy, had an official stance against gay marriage during his 2008 campaign, a stance that would be unthinkable for a Democrat today- illustrating just how complete the liberal victory has been during the 2010's.
The difference between “winning” and “won” is stark. This is the context in which cancel culture, sensitivity training, racial and gender quotas, safe spaces, new pronouns, and all the other newly arrived things that drive conservatives crazy came to be. Whereas before, a writer could get cancelled for interracial or homosexual content, today, a hint of not supporting these will ruin careers. Liberalism isn’t just an option, it’s enforced. This means the tables have turned, and it’s now the conservatives who feel like they are an oppressed counterculture.
The Demography Dilemma
In 1965, the U.S. signed the Hart-Cellar Act, which ended country of origin quotas for immigrants. Prior to this, Europeans took higher priority than non-Europeans, with north and western Europeans taking priority over southern and eastern Europeans. As a result, the U.S. became racially non-discriminatory in its immigration policy. Little by little, the ratio of whites declined, and according to the U.S. census data, whites are now on a trajectory to become a minority by 2045.
America is becoming browner and more liberal by the year. This trend is not a cyclical one that has the potential to ebb and flow- barring extreme circumstances, this trend is demographically irreversible.
Either Democracy or Conservatism
Whether Trump supporters were consciously aware of it or tapping into subconscious fear, when they say “Make America Great Again,” this is what they are actually talking about. This is what “taking our country back” actually means, whether they can articulate it or not. They see a world that is increasingly slipping away from them, increasingly demonizing them and increasingly becoming more morally degenerate. It is run by atheists, communists, smut peddlers, and pedophiles, and it is unacceptable.
Putting all of this together, is the final piece of the puzzle as to why a fascist uprising is inevitable in the United States- we are crossing a critical threshold at which conservatism is mutually exclusive with Democracy.
There is demographically a mathematically certain point where conservatives will simply not be able to win any more elections, because they will be outnumbered. Democracy requires a majority vote to win power. Therefore conservatives will eventually be incapable of wielding political power by democratic means.
So then, will the gun toting warriors of God whimper quietly into the night?
It really comes down to this.
At some point, when conservatism and Democracy are mutually exclusive, conservatives will have to make a choice: Conservatism or Democracy? Remember, it can’t be both.
This is the point at which the Rubicon will be crossed, and the coup against democracy in name of “God and Country” will begin.
The deeply seated puritan mentality, the Confederate legacy, the highly armed right wing, the polarization and radicalization of the internet, the right historical conditions provided by Trump, the loss of the culture war and the inevitable demographic decline are setting the United States up for a Handmaid’s Tale-like counterreaction.
The intellectual, diverse, scientific, progressive and forward thinking America has a showdown in its midst. The wheels of history will turn, and our destiny will be determined by the outcome.