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In the run-up to the 2020 election, there are words being bandied about that perpetuate misconceptions — and sometimes outright disinformation. Ark Valley Voice is beginning what will be a periodic series called “Election Year Words and Meanings”.

The original meaning of words can be lost in history. Whether intentional or unintentional, by sheer campaign use, falsehoods can be planted about words, innuendos turned into facts, and absurdities can masquerade as truth. With much of America talking across each other, there has been a concerted, almost unprecedented, effort made by one political party to frame false moral equivalences.

In a volatile election year, words may be more important than ever. We need to see them for what they are, or risk becoming the proverbial frog in hot water, realizing – too late– what trouble he’s in.

By the early 1930s, millions of German people swooned over Adolf Hitler, who promised them what they wanted to hear. Image courtesy of

Exploring the word “fascism” is both history and cautionary tale; as exhibited by the links underlying historical fact below.

According to Wikipedia, “fascism is a form of far-right, authoritarian, ultra-nationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, as well as strong regimentation of society and of the economy. It came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe.”

Authoritarianism means rule by force and not by law.

Police confront news media during recent protests, in this image by the

Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party grew in the mid-1920s. His private army of Brown Shirts terrorized the country and foreign nationals, who ran afoul of his ambitions.

Hitler was elected just once – when his party took the majority in the German democratic parliament in 1932. In Jan. 1933 he gained an appointment as chancellor of Germany. By March 1933, his government had dictatorial control of Germany and he became dictator for life.

What happened next is documented in a first-person account by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist William Shirer, outlined in his book “The Nightmare years. 1930 to 1940.”

In only a few short years, Hitler abolished unions, advancing those who became party members, restricting free speech only to those who supported his agenda, vilifying protests abolished the freedom to assembly, attacking, and shutting down the media.

He attacked and shuttered community institutions, claiming they were against nationalist ideals, vilifying those who disagreed with him.

He encouraged his loyal followers to turn in their neighbors, report their parents or their children as disloyal Germans. In Hitler’s world loyalty belonged to him and his party. Those deemed unnecessary or disloyal were often simply “disappeared”. That task fell to his fanatically loyal SS storm troopers.

Science required to create Hitler’s war machine he accepted. Other scientific evidence – for instance, science that refuted his white Aryan nation assertion – was discredited and defunded.

A crowd of peaceful protestors at Civic Center Park, Denver CO. Courtesy photo.

Hitler shut down the media except for a state-controlled version that spouted his propaganda. He fired boards of schools and other institutions which did not endorse his theology.

He seized the businesses, and property of those who pointed out the slide into authoritarianism, and removed those from official positions who disagreed with him.

He and his supporters practiced willful withholding of protections; not just refusing to come to the aid of citizens being attacked, but perpetrating violence and prejudices. He began to strip many German-born people of their citizenship.

Those who objected, were detained; usually stripped of their rights and declared “enemies of the people:

Hitler required youth to join his Hitler Youth movement, indoctrinating children to become faithful soldiers to advance his agenda. He promoted white purity tests and set up work camps as early versions of the concentration death camps. His followers fell over themselves being worthy of his warped view of the world.

Throughout these years he built a war machine, bullying his neighbors into conceding economic advantage, territory — even entire countries —  to feed the authoritarian obsession.

A mesmerizing speaker, with a fanatical ranting oratory style, Hitler practiced an extreme form of “victim–nationalism”. His appeal relied on victimhood; blaming others for the ills, real or imagined, that he said were holding back the German chosen people from their rightful glorious position as a superior Aryan race meant to rule the world.

Little known is this ugly truth; the majority of the German people came to be star-struck. They packed stadiums with hundreds of thousands of fanatical followers – screaming and chanting, women fainting when he came near them. These Germans were smart people. Most were educated people. Droves came to believe everything he said because they wanted to.

“Black Lives Matter-II” @clairedeve on F Street in Salida. Merrell Bergin photo

Nothing was ever his fault, or the fault of his followers; there were too many others to blame. As part of that victimhood– Hitler established a program restricting the liberty and right to life of minority groups, Jews, the disabled, artists and writers. Any Christians who dared disagree with his nationalistic agenda was marginalized of their property, their liberties, and their lives. Adherence to party ideals was required, and unquestioned devotion to the fuehrer worshipped as “Heil Hitler.”;  a greeting required after 1926.

Little-known is the fact that German captains of industry and big business supported Hitler’s rise to power. They were afraid of the socialist agenda of the Communist Soviet Union, worried about the growing influence of unions in their factories, and sought a leader who indicated that he would protect their interests.

By the time our parents and grandparents entered World War II, fascism had spread across the continent of Europe, threatening the rest of the world. They knew exactly what they were going to war against: to defeat fascist authoritarianism.

Fascism was everything that democracy is not. Repeat: Fascism is everything that democracy is not.

As reported in earlier Ark Valley Voice stories on militant white supremacists groups, armed right-wing militia groups are growing.

Jason Stanley, the author of five books, including “How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them,” cautions: “[Facism]’s a use of an institution for a particular brand of politics. That shouldn’t happen in a democratic society.”

Stanley is Yale University’s Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy. He adds that President Donald Trump’s typical campaign messaging, targeting immigrants and the left, peddles in fascist ideals. “Trump “is unquestionably doing that. He’s using fascist tactics to win elections,” asserts Stanley. He says President Trump isn’t an enigma, rather an outgrowth of the contemporary Republican party.

“Trump is a symptom and not a cause,” said Stanley. “You can’t have a political party in a democracy that values loyalty to a party over loyalty to a two-party system.”

Featured image:  Armed militia members at the Michigan State Capital. Image courtesy of Unsplash.