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April 16, 2018

Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler stand together on an reviewing stand during Mussolini's official visit in Munich in 1937. Photo: public domain

CLICK TO ENLARGE: Dust cover to Madeleine Albright’s new book.

Chronicle news & opinion

By James A. Carter

(NATIONAL) – Madeleine Albright, a former UN Ambassador from the US who later served as America's sixty-fourth Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001, has written a powerful, timely and troubling book called Fascism: A Warning.   

It ranks up there in the required reading slot for every US. citizen and indeed every citizen of every other democracy who labors under the false assumption that fascism as a world power and threat is dead and that it cannot take hold of their own fragile democracies today, tomorrow or next year.

In so many ways Albright’s book is far more important than the media-explosive tome that is on everyone’s mind at the moment: former FBI Director James Comey’s memoir “A Higher Loyalty,” that came out last week.

Albright, now a distinguished professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University knows something first hand about fascism.

Her family fled from fascism not once but twice; first from Hitler in Czechoslovakia (occupied by Nazi Germany from 1938 to 1945) and then following World War Two after returning to Czechoslovakia from England, her family fled again when the communists were taking over that country (it fell under Soviet domination from 1948 to 1989) and came to America.

And so when Albright writes, “Some may view this book and its title as alarmist. Good. We should be awake to the assault on democratic values that has gathered strength in many countries abroad and is dividing America at home,” we all better damn well listen.

The drip method: how fascists come to power

Albright says one of the reasons she wrote the book is to point out to people that fascists don't usually take over a country in one dramatic revolutionary surge it’s more like small drips from a faucet that seem unimportant at the time.

As Albright said during an interview last week on the national radio show Fresh Air that originates in Philadelphia at WHYY radio, “So many of the things that have happened, and happened in Czechoslovakia were steps that came as the result of ethnic issues with the German minority but mostly steps that seemed not so terrible that there couldn't be a deal made...that’s what’s so worrisome is that fascism came one step at a time and then in many ways goes unnoticed until it’s too late.”

Danni Miller, an Amazon reviewer of the book takes that thought a bit further by mentioning this quote from Italy's most famous fascist leader Benito Mussolini: "If you pluck a chicken one feather at a time, people don't notice.”

That is,” says Miller “if you slowly attack and eventually erode the pillars that define a democracy (e.g., rule of law, free press) people won't notice; until it's too late.”

That bears repeating: they won’t notice until it’s too late. That is the slick, effective play that fascists make. Communists do big dramatic revolutions, says Albright. Fascists do drip-drip-drip until all of a sudden one day your town is under water and you’re swimming for dear life.

Does anything sound familiar there?

Sound like anything you might have noticed in say, oh...America of late? Hungary? Turkey? Poland? Venezuela? The Philippines perhaps, where the leader of that country, “Thinks it’s terrific to kill drug dealers and talks about all the things he has accomplished in that particular way,” notes Albright.

How about sections of Europe perhaps where some far-right wing politicians are fanning “the fear factor” of those damned immigrants who are to blame for everything? Have you noticed that in Germany there’s all of a sudden a very far right political party “that is now in the parliament,” notes Albright?

As Albright noted on Fresh Air, the drip-drip method is a very good way of, “Undermining democracy and the democratic institutions that are the basis of democracy or criticizing the press or thinking that there are those that are “enemies of the people” and are the cause of distress or bad economic situations and...it kind of works on the fear factor rather than the hope factor.”

Have you noticed anyone in America of late making a concerted effort to undermine democratic institutions in this country? To flaunt the rule of law? To name and blame scapegoats for all of America’s problems?

These are the tools, says Albright that fascists employ in going about their work.

And what of Donald Trump? There is a chapter in the book dedicated to Trump. But she does not refer to Trump as a fascist. Here is what she does say about President Donald Trump:

I definitely don't call him a fascist. I say that he’s the most anti-democratic leader that I have studied in American history and that what he’s doing is in some ways systematically undermining some of the institutions that have made this country great.”

Drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip.



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