The ‘F’ Word

The term ‘fascist’ is thrown around so nonchalantly today that the word itself is beginning to bear next to no meaning. Its overusage dilutes the term to the point where anyone on the authoritarian spectrum could be by our definition, a fascist. When one imagines fascism, we conjure images of Mussolini, Franco, Hitler. We imagine the bald-headed, brainless Neo-Nazi thugs that demand Shariah Law be abolished in Britain – despite it having never been imposed. We imagine the horrors of Nazism and the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

25324750153_d17bb8e164_k

Credit: Gage Skidmore @ Flickr

Some may say the fascists of today do not wear brown shirts, they wear crisp suits, ties embellished with American or British flag pins, they cast their votes out of anger and they read Breitbart or watch Fox News.I have my own views of the political right, continually we witness the deregulation of social services & the financial sector, policies regarding personal choice that are deeply detrimental to women’s health, and populism that ultimately breeds division and petty nationalistic viewpoints. His policies bear all the signs of fascism, however to brand an entire demographic as fascist, or sympathetic toward this ideology, is equally as damaging and divisive.

With Donald Trump’s first two weeks as POTUS, he has followed through on many of his absurd campaign promises. The pinnacle of this being the immigration ban that affects the citizens of multiple Middle-Eastern nations. Lets be honest with ourselves, this is a blanket ban applying purely to Muslims, enacted under the auspices of ‘keeping America safe’ – It is not. It is purely an act of symbolic gesturing, made in a petty effort to ensure the great ignorant masses of the US and the West that Trump is doing something, anything, to prevent hypothetical and unlikely bloodshed on our streets.

The reality is this however, nations such as Iraq, Iran, Somalia, all have radical groups & individuals, they all have their issues – Ironically, many stem from US imperialist meddling. But if one were to truly tackle the issue of Islamic Extremism, hateful ideology and the threat to supposed Western values, then Trump would have included Saudi Arabia on this list. He has not, and I am sure you are aware as to why he hasn’t included a nation that still mutilates criminals, beheads apostates and prevents women from accessing the basic human rights and dignities that we all enjoy.

Trump is displaying inherently fascist tendencies thus far in his time as POTUS, we can all agree on such. Plans to introduce a weekly ‘list’ of crimes committed by immigrants bears harrowing similarities to tactics employed by Nazi Germany. Breeding fear of the unknown, the different coloured men, those whose prayers differ from ours, it’s all there, in plain sight. His ludicrous wall is nothing more than an effort to prevent the influx of Latin American immigration, in an attempt to limit cultural and societal integration, and perhaps in the long-term, restrict his political rivals from a share of a vital voter demographic.

The White House press team are ever striving to control the flow of valid, factual information. Throwing out ‘counter facts’ to stifle the press’ ability to report, and in their following, we see the perfect weapon to delegitimise the press. Droves of mindless social media users, frighteningly uninformed and brainwashed to 1930s standards, who cry ‘fake news’ as often as leftists cry fascist or thereabouts.

Opponents of the Trump presidency are too quick to cry ‘fascist’ in my opinion however, and their doing so but merely fuels the fire that burns through the Trumps followers. During the election campaign cries of racism and bigotry merely solidified Trump’s voter base and encouraged an ‘Us versus Them’ mentality. People (somehow) voted for Trump for these reasons, and will likely continue to support him for carrying out his campaign promises. Make your voices heard, organise and resist, but more importantly, remember to engage with the opposition and encourage debate. Change their minds and allow them to see the madness unfolding, utilise the free press and factual information. Do not bombard the airwaves with insults as relentlessly as they do.

For the purpose of objectivity, one need look no further than Obama administration for the hallmarks of fascist behaviour.

Under Obama mass surveillance was established and even so much as accepted, those who outed these blatant infringements upon civil rights were ostracized, imprisoned or continue to be hunted by the US Government. Execution of US citizens without due-process or trial was seen as the norm through Drone strikes (See: Anwar Al-Alwaki for more) and thousands of civilians have been needlessly killed in Pakistan and other Middle-Eastern countries, all under the auspices of maintaining American security.

15254244777_151a43e87a_z

Credit: Stephen Melkisethian @ Flickr

The closure of Guantanamo Bay was promised during an arduous election campaign, it was not, and continued the summary torture of prisoners, many of whom had received no legitimate trial or due process. Finally, let us not forget that Obama utilised the executive order, at times with such haste, that it rendered government pointless.

Are these not the actions of an inherently fascist regime? Abandoning the judicial processes of the state and preemptively attacking without concern for civilian casualties or the political consequences? 1930s German acted in a similar fashion, annexing states under the guise of liberating German minority demographics without a moments thought for the diplomatic ramifications, the indefinite imprisonment and torture of political prisoners, the introduction of secretive, clandestine surveillance measures. These are all comparative and all fascist in nature.

6675134081_77522ccc09_b

Credit: Medill Dc @ Flickr

Barack Obama was known as the ‘Deportee in Chief’ and under his government, the levels of deportation were nine times that of the decade previous to his government. Obama also introduced a temporary travel ban for Iraqis. By my recollection, there was no such level of rage, no mass organisation of protests, no Twitter campaigns or popular online petitions. Did we not see this at the time, or did we simply ignore it for the sake of having a government that acted on behalf of many?

This is not intended to be a tit for tat, they did this, they did that post. But for the sake of maintaining some sanity I felt it was worth pointing out that under successive governments we have seen increasingly fascist tendencies. American’s supported the Patriot Act a decade before this, and the British public followed suit, we have allowed successive administrations to lay the inevitable groundwork for the dissolution of democracy and we here in the UK have done so the same. Laying the blame for this culture of division and rash policy making at the feet of one man is as absurd as it is forgetful – This is all on us.

Allowing individuals such as Trump to even be considered as candidates, through outdated voting methods and democratic structures, also on us. Wholesale reform is required and I am not the man to suggest how, but it is obvious that the way to achieve this is to use your vote to elect those who will truly represent the people, not corporate stooges and yes men.

If people took the time to engage and involve themselves in politics before it arrived at this point, and if governments were continually held to account, rather than the selective ire that we see once every so often, then governments would act purely on the consensus of their voters and ludicrous travel bans would not be in place. Perhaps if western imperialism and world policing were halted then we would not see the failed states that supposedly threaten us, if we simply educated our working classes, offered them the chances in life they have been promised and stopped belittling them, then they wouldn’t follow demagogues and liars who claim to represent them.

Keep protesting, it is heartening to see such unity and it is what the left does best, but try and remember you allowed this before, and probably will again.

 

 

Image Credits: Stephen Melkisethian (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode)

Gage Skidmore (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode)

Medill DC (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode)

Why Do You Care?

There seems to be a culture of questioning why one should care about issues far from their doorstep. Social media brings out the worst of this, “Why do you care?” “What difference will this make?” “Focus on your own issues”. Are we restricted to caring about one issue at a time? If that were the case, would anything change?

In the weeks running up to Donald Trump’s inauguration, there have been protests around the world, and today Edinburgh, Scotland, has seen a protest involving dozens of people in the city centre. The public response to news articles covering this varies from support, to indignation, and some go so far as to question why, say, a Scottish student would protest the inauguration of the new US President? The answer is quite simple; We are all in this together.

I would say that focusing on every issue imaginable would be equally as stifling to progress as focusing on one at a time. However to ignore the realities that will be affecting other human beings, purely because they’re living in another country, is ridiculous and shows a complete lack of empathy, compassion, and interest in the lives of others. Furthermore, showing an interest in American politics and society does not equate to a lack of interest in the ills that affect those in other nations, or their own, it merely proves that our world and societies are interconnected, vibrant and strong.

Stop chastising people for caring, it is your right to protest regardless of where the issue takes place, or whom it involves.

The Fake News Debacle

The ‘Fake News’ debacle is not one to be taken lightly. Although many social media users are capable of identifying legitimate news sources, it seems the lines are becoming increasingly blurred on what is considered news. Furthermore, the use of this phrase is allowing the public, and governments to ignore issues or deny wrongdoing.

The Pizza Gate affair – the details of which I will not delve into – has shown the influence that social media has upon the spread of information , factual or false. In light of this, Mark Zuckerberg has assured us that Facebook will begin introducing precautionary measures to filter out falsified news stories, this is a good start. Twitter is following suit.

The situation is very, very dangerous. If a fake news article is read and subsequently shared by thousands of people online, then the risk of damage to character is very real, as well as merely proliferating¬†an ever-growing culture of misinformation in the ‘post-truth’ society we find ourselves in.

7272362564_cf2c1bc53f_z

The political left and right should be united in their attempts to clamp down on slanderous material. However, like with virtually every other issue, they are growing further apart. Each side profit from having the public misinformed on the activities of their rivals, no doubt. However is this really the society we wish to live in? One that rejects legitimate news reporting for mere conjecture?

In 2016 we witnessed a so called ‘rejection’ of conventional news sources, the dreaded and dastardly Main Stream Media. The menace that has allegedly plagued the people’s of the western world for decades, and promotes the far more feared ‘PC’ society – One where people simply can’t spout racial or religious hatred (Ridiculous, right?). Trump supporters and Brexiteers alike share the common idea that the MSM cannot be trusted, and instead place their undying devotion in the hands of the demagogues they follow, relying on their leaders to inform them and rejecting objectivity entirely.

Whilst browsing social media on Saturday, I happened across several articles posted by The Guardian and Independent. The response to these articles was astounding, with several individuals accusing the publications of posting ‘fake news’ – using the term in the form of a hashtag. These were genuine news articles, not garbage. Actual pieces focusing on current issues and upcoming events, one of which was the arranged women’s march in Washington DC (Article can be found here)

Upon scrolling through the fake news hashtag, it seems this was plastered all over posts by news organisations and individuals. A common theme was that these were pieces critical of Donald Trump or the alt-right. Now the issue of impartiality in news coverage is an entirely different conversation, and I do not have the time, nor the statistics to look into air time, number of negative articles etc, so I’ll avoid it.

t2

However to me it appears that many on the right of the political spectrum are using this tag as a means to de-legitimize genuine news articles and stifle discussion. After all, why have an in-depth debate on an issue when you can simply ignore your opponents or write them off as the pawns of a political conspiracy? It almost appears to be encouraged by the PEOTUS as well. Upon hearing of claims that a dossier contained information pertaining to Russia’s involvement with Trump – and the dangers of this – he took to social media to castigate those who had published the information, deeming it to be fake news, and claiming that Buzzfeed was a fake news organisation.

This is a highly volatile situation we face, if this document leak was false (there are claims and counter claims), then it is the responsibility of the media to acknowledge this, and any publication of it is wrong. However, on a fundamental level, if information critical of government can be suppressed through making this claim, then we linger dangerously close to the edge of a society found only in the works of George Orwell.

I tried engaging with one user and asked him why he had deemed this to be fake news, but was met with the response of “Coming from the side that cries racist”.

Now there is no denying that many on the political right are met with unjustified claims of xenophobia or racism, and that is equally as deplorable and counter-productive to debate as what we discuss, but this gave me a terrifying glimpse into the world of online discussion. A future in which one side screams, and the other refuses to acknowledge that the scream itself was legitimate.

If we continue down this path, then press freedom, accountability of government, and civilised debate will become things of the past. This cannot be allowed to happen, but what is the solution? Can we truly expect society as a whole to be equally well informed? People will believe what they want to believe, I suppose it’s up to the rest of us to not go insane dealing with the madness many spout.

Featured Image Credit (Original): Freepress.net [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/]