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Thom Hartmann; Lying to the People

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Excerpted from Thom Hartmann's newest book, Screwed; The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class -- And What We Can Do About It

We have a name for government of, by, and for corporations. It's called fascism.

Benito Mussolini, one of the best-known fascists of the twentieth century, claimed to have invented the word. It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: "Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry and claimed credit for it.

In 1938 Mussolini realized his vision of fascism when he dissolved Parliament and replaced it with the Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni-the Chamber of the Fascist Corporations. Corporations were still privately owned, but now instead of having to sneak their money to folks like Tom DeLay and covertly write legislation, they were openly in charge of the government.

Franklin Roosevelt's administration was quite aware of the nature of the fascist government. In early 1944 the New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace (in Wallace's words) "to write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?"

In April 1944, when Vice President Wallace published his answer in the Times, he certainly could point to examples of Americans who had aligned themselves with Mussolini and Hitler. Wallace notes that "American fascists were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after 'the present unpleasantness' ceases." Indeed, several well-known and powerful Americans-including Prescott Bush, George W.'s granddaddy-lost businesses in the 1940s because of charges by Roosevelt that they were doing business with Hitler.

...American fascists-those who would want former CEOs as president, vice president, House majority whip, and Senate majority leader and who would write legislation with corporate interests in mind-don't generally talk to We The People about their real agenda or the harm it does to small businesses and working people. Instead, as Hitler did with the trade union leaders and the Jews, they point to a "them" to pin with blame and distract people from the harms of their economic policies.

In a comment prescient of George W. Bush's suggestion that civilization itself is at risk because of gays, Wallace continued:
The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice.

It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination.
But Wallace believed that even the techniques of distraction and discrimination would not be enough to convince the people to turn their government over to the corporatocracy. Fascists could gain real power only by lying to the people. Unfortunately, Wallace believed it would be easy for fascists to lie because they controlled the media:
The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. . . .

The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.
In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism he saw rising in America, Vice President Wallace added,
They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.
Finally, Wallace said,
The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. . . . Democracy, to crush fascism internally, must . . . develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit.

We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels.
Hiding Behind the Flag
Today we again stand at the same crossroad Roosevelt and Wallace confronted during the Great Depression and World War II. Fascism is again rising in America, this time calling itself "compassionate conservatism."

The cons' behavior today eerily parallels the day in 1936 when Roosevelt said, "In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for."

The cons are passing budgets that give billions to private companies to conduct an illegal war on our behalf while cutting money for food for low-income families. They tell us it is unpatriotic to criticize the government, then want to give corporations free-speech rights to lie about their products to the American people. They defend the President for eavesdropping on Americans without a warrant in violation of half the Bill of Rights, but they don't want Americans to know which lobbyists have influenced their votes.

We can't sit on our hands and hope someone else will do something. If our elected representatives don't wake up and reverse course, we will soon no longer recognize the country our Founders created. It's up to us-to We the People-to sound the alarm.
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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)

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