Charlottesville, Unite the Right Rally
Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally, August 12, 2017. Photo credit: Rodney Dunning / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The belated recognition of white supremacists as a national security threat highlights historic fears of how a nation succumbs to fascism.

The Department of Homeland Security has finally added white supremacists to its list of terrorist threats. Kevin McAleenan, the former acting secretary of Homeland Security, told the Brookings Institution that “the continued menace of racially based violent extremism, particularly violent white supremacy, is an abhorrent affront to the nation.” 

And, he said, the recent mass shootings have “galvanized the Department of Homeland Security to expand its counterterrorism mission focus beyond terrorists operating abroad, to include those radicalized to violence within our borders by violent extremists of any ideology.”

The shooting at a Walmart in El Paso seems to have hit DHS too close to home. Six of the victims were family members of DHS employees.  And McAleenan added, “The majority of our El Paso team … is Hispanic.” (There are nearly 4,000 DHS employees based in El Paso.)

The New York Times noted, “The department’s new public stance is a break with the skepticism that has been rooted within the federal government for years and that [President Donald] Trump has openly expressed — most prominently, after the fatal white supremacist march in Charlottesville.”

Federal law enforcement authorities have privately said they worry that “Trump’s style could inspire violence-prone individuals to attack  minorities or others they perceive to be against the president’s agenda.”

After conducting a nationwide review, ABC News has identified at least 36 criminal cases from August 19, 2015, to August 3, 2019, “where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.” That figure would have been bigger, but many cases were excluded because charges were never filed, perpetrators were never identified, or the attackers were fatally shot. The link to Trump is captured in court documents and police statements, under the penalty of perjury or contempt. 

Trolling for Assassins

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an international Jewish nongovernmental organization, reported that right-wing extremists killed more people last year than in any year since 1995. There were 50 deaths, 11 in the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. 

The economist-columnist Paul Krugman recently wrote

… anyone Jewish has to be completely ignorant of history not to know that when bigotry runs free, we’re always next in line for persecution. 

In fact, the ingredients for an American pogrom are already in place. The El Paso shooting suspect, like many right-wing terrorists, is a believer in “replacement theory” — the claim that immigration is part of a vast conspiracy to replace whites with people of color. And who’s behind that conspiracy? You know who: “Jews will not replace us,” declared the torch-carrying marchers in Charlottesville.

Below is a collection of quotes on fascism and the racist mind-set that often feeds it. Included are observations by astute commentators, reflections penned by the victims of fascism, and even analyses by avowed fascists,  Indeed, no matter how historic these quotes, they have a startlingly contemporary feel. 

WhoWhatWhy Introduction by Milicent Cranor

Arthur Szyk, Valhalla

Arthur Szyk’s caricature of Wotan’s palace, Valhalla, as a German beer hall, 1942. Photo credit: Artur Szyk / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Dark Perspectives

I’m afraid, based on my own experience, that fascism will come to America in the name of national security. (Jim Garrison)

Fascism will come at the hands of perfectly authentic Americans. (John T. Flynn)

Fascism is capitalism plus murder. (Upton Sinclair)

Fascism is capitalism in decay. (Rajani Palme Dutt)

Fascism is the stage reached after communism has proved an illusion, and it has proved as much an illusion in Russia as in pre-Hitler Germany. (Peter Drucker)

A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. (Henry A. Wallace)

The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. (Henry A. Wallace)

Charlottesville, Unite the Right Rally

Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally, August 12, 2017. Photo credit: Rodney Dunning / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it. (Hannah Arendt)

Nationalism is an infantile thing. It is the measles of mankind. (Albert Einstein)

We are the United States of Amnesia, which is encouraged by a media that has no desire to tell us the truth about anything, serving their corporate masters who have other plans to dominate us. (Gore Vidal)

The advertising men made it clear that there were two ways of looking at ideas in a war against fascism. Those of us who were working on the project believed ideas were to be fought for; the advertising men believed they were to be sold. The audience, those at home in wartime, were not ‘citizens’ or ‘people.’ They were ‘customers.’ (Muriel Rukeyser)

Diplomacy means all the wicked devices of the Old World, spheres of influence, balances of power, secret treaties, triple alliances, and, during the interim period, appeasement of Fascism. (Barbara Tuchman)

Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. Rejection of human solidarity, obtuse and cynical indifference to the suffering of others, abdication of the intellect and of moral sense to the principle of authority, and above all, at the root of everything, a sweeping tide of cowardice, a colossal cowardice which masks itself as warring virtue, love of country and faith in an idea. (Primo Levi)

Everybody must know, or remember, that Hitler and Mussolini, when they spoke in public, were believed, applauded, admired, adored like gods. They were “charismatic leaders”; they possessed a secret power of seduction that did not proceed from the credibility or the soundness of the things they said, but from the suggestive way in which they said them. And we must remember that their faithful followers, among them the diligent executors of inhuman orders, were not born torturers, were not (with a few exceptions) monsters: they were ordinary men. Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous; more dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions. (Primo Levi)

Charlottesville, Unite the Right Rally

Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally, August 12, 2017. Photo credit: Rodney Dunning / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Fascism is like a hydra — you can cut off its head in the Germany of the ’30s and ’40s, but it’ll still turn up on your back doorstep in a slightly altered guise. (Alan Moore)

You begin to realize that hypocrisy is not a terrible thing when you see what overt fascism is compared to sort of covert, you know, communal politics which the Congress has never been shy of indulging in. (Arundhati Roy)

Those of us who went through the war and tried to write about it became the messenger. We have given the message, and nothing has changed. (Elie Wiesel)

Then for the first time we became aware that our language lacks words to express this offence, the demolition of a man. In a moment, with almost prophetic intuition, the reality was revealed to us: we had reached the bottom. It is not possible to sink lower than this; no human condition is more miserable than this, nor could it conceivably be so. Nothing belongs to us anymore; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listen, they will not understand. They will even take away our name: and if we want to keep it, we will have to find ourselves the strength to do so, to manage somehow so that behind the name something of us, of us as we were, still remains. (Primo Levi)

As painful and embarrassing as it may be, the fact remains that we are confronted with a human structure that has been shaped by thousands of years of mechanistic civilization and is expressed in social helplessness and an intense desire for a führer. (Wilhelm Reich)

Charlottesville, Unite the Right Rally

Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally, August 12, 2017. Photo credit: Rodney Dunning / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Fascism goes back to our infancy and childhood, where we were always told how to live. We were told, Yes, you may do this; no, you may not do that. So the secret of fascism is that it has this appeal to people whose later lives are not satisfactory. (Norman Mailer) 

The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living. Both lessons hit home. Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing. (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

Hitler’s dictatorship was the first dictatorship of an industrial state in this age of modern technology, a dictatorship which employed to perfection the instruments of technology to dominate its own people. … By means of such instruments of technology as the radio and public-address systems, eighty million persons could be made subject to the will of one individual. Telephone, teletype, and radio made it possible to transmit the commands of the highest levels directly to the lowest organs where because of their high authority they were executed uncritically. Thus many offices and squads received their evil commands in this direct manner. The instruments of technology made it possible to maintain a close watch over all citizens and to keep criminal operations shrouded in a high degree of secrecy. To the outsider this state apparatus may look like the seemingly wild tangle of cables in a telephone exchange; but like such an exchange it could be directed by a single will.  (Albert Speer) (Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production for Nazi Germany, and Adolf Hitler’s chief architect.)

As I see it today, Hitler and Goebbels were in fact molded by the mob itself, guided by its yearnings and its daydreams. Of course, Goebbels and Hitler knew how to penetrate through to the instincts of their audiences; but in the deeper sense they derived their whole existence from these audiences. Certainly the masses roared to the beat set by Hitler’s and Goebbels’s baton; yet they were not the true conductors. The mob determined the theme. To compensate for misery, insecurity, unemployment, and hopelessness, this anonymous assemblage wallowed for hours at a time in obsessions, savagery and license. The personal unhappiness caused by the breakdown of the economy was replaced by a frenzy that demanded victims. By lashing out at their opponents and vilifying the Jews, they gave expression and direction to fierce primal passions. (Albert Speer)

What Charlie Chaplin Witnessed

It was strange to listen to slick young Nazis along Fifth Avenue haranguing small gatherings from little mahogany pulpits. One spiel went as follows: “The philosophy of Hitler is a profound and thoughtful study of this industrial age, in which there is little room for the middleman or Jew.”

A woman interrupted. “What kind of talk is that!” she exclaimed. “This is America. Where do you think you are?” 

The young man, an obsequious, good-looking type, smiled blandly. “I’m in the United States and I happen to be an American citizen,” he said smoothly.

“Well,” she said, “I’m an American citizen, and a Jew, and if I were a man I’d knock your block off!”

One or two endorsed the lady’s threat, but most of them stood apathetically silent. A policeman standing by quieted the woman. I came away astonished, hardly believing my ears. (Charlie Chaplin)

Lighter Takes

It simply doesn’t get easier than disavowing Nazis. It’s as much of a presidential gimme as pardoning a fucking turkey. It is almost impossible to screw it up, but that’s exactly what happened. So there is clearly no point in waiting for leadership from our president at moments like this because it is just not coming … incredibly, in a country where previous presidents have actually had to defeat Nazis, we now have one who cannot even be bothered to condemn them. (John Oliver reacting to President Donald Trump’s response to the August 12, 2017, white- nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA)

I don’t think everybody who likes [Donald Trump] is a Nazi, but everybody who is a Nazi sure does seem to like him. (Jon Stewart)

The US President’s Thoughts

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. (President Donald Trump, on the August 12, 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA) 

We Are Ripe for Fascism

If you found this article stimulating, you may enjoy our other collections of quotations on the following topics: skepticism, lying, secrets, power, elections and taxes.

(We posted this same collection of quotes on August 30, 2018.)

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Hitler (Arthur Szyk / Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 4.0).


  • Milicent Cranor

    Milicent Cranor is a senior editor at WhoWhatWhy. She has worked as a creative editor at E.P. Dutton, a comedy ghostwriter, and editor of consequential legal and scientific documents. She has also co-authored numerous peer-reviewed articles for medical journals.

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