- Fascism wins when “truth” becomes irrelevant.
- MAGA politicians use the tactics of fascists to discredit experts, polarize Americans, and weakened democratic institutions.
- Understanding these fascist tactics is a prerequisite to beating the fascists and preserving our democracy.
A more comprehensive version of this article, with references, is here.
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Unless America rapidly changes course, fascism is coming to the U.S.A..
To be successful, fascists must first:
- control the national narrative
- polarize society into “us” and “them” demographics.
Controlling the National Narrative
In order to control the national narrative, fascists must first dethrone the real “experts,” the scientists, physicians, journalists, educators, lawyers, business leaders, people who have spent their lives studying a subject and trying to uncover “the truth.” Once that is done, they can spread their propaganda.
How We Determine “The Truth”
In Jonathan Rauch’s book The Constitution of Knowledge, he explains that experts who pursue “the truth,” are members of the “reality-based community.” Each member of this community collects and analyzes data for “truthfulness” and then passes their assessment up the hierarchy until it reaches the most senior members of their particular reality-based community, where the data is judged to be true or false, at that moment in time.
This is an iterative process which serially approximates “the truth” with increasing precision and errors are self corrected by the iterative nature of the process.
Unfortunately the process frequently does not result in a definitive conclusion, only our best understanding at that moment in time. The process is also very labor intensive and thus very time consuming.
Propaganda Technique: The Firehose of Falsehoods
Fascists disrupt this truth seeking process using a propaganda technique known as “The Firehose of Falsehoods” in which they issue innumerable partial truths, lies, and conspiracy theories on the given subject. These false statements are issued so frequently that the reality-based community does not have time to assess the veracity of every statement before the next falsehood is injected into the system.
Scientific studies have demonstrated that false statements get distributed through the body politic ten times as fast as truthful statements. As a result, the system more effectively promotes fascist lies over objective truths.
As the public is unable to expeditiously distinguish truths from lies, they ultimately cease to trust the real experts and allow their “reality” to be defined but their tribe and the individual with the biggest megaphone, their leader.
Propaganda Technique: The Big Lie
The fascist also use Hitler’s propaganda technique known as The Big Lie. Here, a fascist makes a statement so preposterous that nobody initially believes it. But as the US Office of Strategic Services found,“… if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.” Recent examples of The Big Lie are “Obama is not an American” “Obama is a Muslim”, and Trump won, which 72%, 43%, and 71% Republicans, respectively believe, today.
Of course, these propaganda techniques will only work if the fascists can repeatedly get their message in front of the eyes and into the ears of their intended audiences. Advertising on social media is particularly effective to accomplish this end. The fascists also work closely with America’s biggest “news” show Fox News to repeatedly rebroadcast the fascists’ lies. Fox News only recently publicly acknowledged that their broadcasts are filled with lies.
The Consequence of Fascist’s Propaganda
American fascists have successfully convinced many Americans to ignore the recommendations of the experts. As a physician, I have seen the consequences of this in my patients and across America.
Red America, whom the fascist convinced to reject the advice of the scientific and medical community, have a lower covid vaccination rate and mask utilization rate than in Blue America. Now a disproportionately large number of Covid deaths occur in Red America.
Polarizing Society into “Us” and “Them”
The second priority of the fascists like President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis is to polarize society into an “us” and “them” demographics.
One of the newer fascist’s targets for polarizing America are American children receiving transgender-affirming medical care.
Gender dysphoria is a very serious medical disease as “82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide.”
As a physician, I can state with confidence that when a medical issue is this serious and complicated, the patient will require a highly individualized treatment plan. These treatment decisions must be left to the persons who have the child’s best interests at heart (parents) and the medical professional.
Yet, fascist politicians and their MAGA supporters, who arrogantly discount the advice of the experts and have chosen to put themselves in the exam room, between the patients and the physicians. Gender-affirming care for transgender care for children is now legally restricted in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah and “… at least 23 other states, local legislatures are considering or have introduced bills that would similarly restrict this kind of medical care for trans youth.” Both Texas and Tennessee legislature have initiated or threatened to conduct child-abuse investigations of parents whose children have received gender-affirming medical care.
When these children are ostracized by the fascist and denied the care they so need, many will die by suicide.
When a democratic society chooses to reject the recommendations of its most qualified experts, people will be less healthy, economic development will be stifled, the educational system will be less effective, and the democracy will slowly whither and then replaced by fascism.
No democracy can survive willful ignorance.
Hayward Zwerling, M.D.
10 March 2023
A long, annotated version of this article is here.
To: MAGA and GOP audience
Watch this video from The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger