History Shows The Descent To Authoritarianism Happens Slowly … Then Very Quickly

An out-of-focus, rain and sleet-soaked, twisted half-mast flag tightly wrapped around a Walmart flag pole in the middle of a dark winter night is emblematic of the New Year in Trump’s America.


The extent of the brutality exceeds the imagination of people until it is too late.

By Mark L. Taylor
The Commoner Call (1/3/18)

On a recent broadcast of Grit TV’s Laura Flanders Show (12/18) Pulitzer Prize-winning author Chris Hedges spoke about his recent book “America: The Farewell Tour”. Drawing from over 20 years of foreign reporting for the New York Times in places as diverse as Central America, the Balkans, the First Gulf War and throughout the Middle East, Hedges — an Arabic speaker — brings much-needed light to what is happening now in the United States. He sees troubling comparisons to other recently crumbled governments and — absent massive resistance from the population — finds we are well on the way to devastating social, political and environmental upheaval.

The descent into authoritarianism is usually quick, especially — as we see on weekly basis — as society’s institutions are decayed and grown corrupt and hopelessly muddled and irrelevant. While we may have a little bit of cushion left on that mark, it is neither adequate or assured over the long run.

“Having covered disintegrating societies,” Hedges says there are predictable steps. “Number one, it happens very quickly; and number two, is often beyond the imagination of most of the populace until it is already in place.”


The Trump and Bernie Sanders campaigns both, in their own ways, proved that neither party provided an adequate response to the problems plaguing American citizens. The corporate right wing has their fascist party. The opposition has nothing comparable.

As in all disintegrating  societies from ancient Rome to the present, Hedges notes, the signs of collapse are predictably evidenced in such “self-destructive pathologies” as rising suicide rates, addictions, criminal and political gangs, gambling, sexual perversion and exploitation accompanied by a return to rigid patriarchy and the rise in right wing extremism. As the bonds of social connection are snapped by economic stress and dislocation, Hedges explains, societies predictably turn to personal and collective acts of “self-annihilation”, such as we see daily in our communities with the spreading rates of opiate addiction, suicide and other modern American ‘diseases of despair’.

Vomited up — Trump is not the problem

Democratic Party talking points aside, Hedges stresses that Trump is not the problem. Instead, Trump was “vomited up” as a natural tumor of our corrupt corporate capitalism and the bipartisan neoliberal economic policies that have enriched a tiny slice of corporate freeloaders while eviscerating all those outside their Wall Street circle. We saw — and see — how such conditions have vomited up other such leaders from Hitler in 1930’s Germany on up through the reign of terror of Radovan “The Butcher” Karadzic in Yugoslavia in the 1990’s and the gang of various right-wing thugs who have now emerged to lead countries as diverse as Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Philippines, and are leading vigorous nationalist movements in France, Italy, Spain and others.

Hedges rightly notes we have come to the point we are with Trump and a radicalized fascist GOP because the Democratic party, going back to the neoliberal policies of Bill Clinton and lobbed forward by Barack Obama — have been “deeply complicit” in the corporate-coddling agenda.

The biggest threat we face is that without a vigorous, truly progressive counter narrative to address the challenges of what Hedges believes is an inevitable economic crisis, a political vacuum will be filled by the fascist right. As a natural outgrowth of unconstrained capitalist greed, fascism is simply the radical expression of capitalism run amok and is turned to as the only way to bring order out of the inevitable chaos of capitalist corruption and collapse. That’s what happened in German, Italy and Spain in World War II and what occurred recently in Brazil with the election of former military officer and out-of-the-closet fascist Jair Bolsonaro, who took office on New Years Day.

“We have yet to coalesce around another vision.” Hedges warns.

This is the challenge — and opportunity — of  an opposition movement, whether that is a reformist effort within the ranks of the democratic party or a third option. Without such an alternative voice and pathway, the road to fascism is paved by dithering liberal neglect and half-ass compromise.

The only option left

At this late moment, Hedges says the only option left is the kind of “acts of sustained, mass civil disobedience” seen at the 2017 Dakota Access pipeline protest in North Dakota. Or, perhaps what we have seen across France in the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) protest movement, which is about much, much more than proposed fuel tax hikes.

“That’s all we have left,” Hedges says. “The democratic party is not going to save us, especially as they continue to take Wall Street money and refuse to confront the social inequality that is at the root of our problem.”

The Trump and Bernie Sanders campaigns both, in their own ways, proved that neither party provided an adequate response to the problems plaguing American citizens. The corporate right wing has their fascist party. The opposition has nothing comparable.

You can watch the 15-minute interview with Hedges to get a fuller understanding of his message then get a different view of artistic and comedic resistance with a follow-on interview with Reverend Billy and his collaborator Savitri D who have taken their anti-consumerism comedy international.

Link to 27-Minute Video

(Commoner Call photo by Mark L. Taylor, 2019. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )