I have known about Fascism for quite some time. When I opened this book I realized that I did not quite understand what it was, where it came from or its dangers to democratic society. Fortunately, Albright answered all these questions for me including her caution about the implications of Fascism for our future.
She described it as a kind of authoritarian rule including complete control by the leader of a nation, appeal to ultranationalism, and power being centered in the pioneer rather than lying with the citizens. She described Mussolini as taking huge amounts of money from corporations and banks while feigning concern about the working class. He put on a show for people, distributed and marketed personal products under his name, was a fantastic politician but had very little understanding of diplomacy, rejected input from his advisors and watched his own judgment as the only correct one. She described Hitler as answering questions with lies intended to reassure the public, thinking and saying that being a Barbarian was honorable, eliminating civil servants he saw as not true, taking control of the arts and journalism, using mass media (radio in those days) to catch attention of the masses and making persecution of people who could not defend themselves look like federal self defense.
Albright also discussed the nature and exploits of a variety of other Fascist leaning leaders including Chavez, Erdogan, Putin, and the Kim dynasty. Last but not least comes Trump who has showed the majority of the characteristics and antics previously used by Mussolini and Hitler. Trump accepts bullying, autocracy and civil rights violations by autocratic leaders without comment. He seems more comfortable with them than with our allies with whom he tends to pick fights.
Albright sees Fascists and Fascist leaning leaders as invoking”America (or any other country) First” as a method of justifying their inclination to do whatever they please. They feel entitled to do what they want for no valid reason or just make one up with no base. She sees their unpredictability as a personality trait rather than as a strategy to accomplish anything productive.
How can they gain power? Fascist leaders appeal emotionally to people who feel disenfranchised from what they believe is owed them or people who feel fearful of the others, often cultural or political groups differing from theirs. Though this fervor is fanned by social networking, it existed long before computers and spread through personal appearances and using more conventional media.
What can we do? We can learn how to ask pointed questions of those who claim to be acting in our best interest. We also need to reconnect with each other, understand each other’s fears and sense of loss in addition to starting to work together as people and society to deal with these concerns. Once we ask them the right questions, we can elect leaders who will act responsibly.
I highly recommend this book as a means to understand the actual challenges which face us and to help us learn to listen to each other to find mutually acceptable ways of approaching our challenges.