The 15th Characteristic of Fascism

The bizarre conflation taking place between terrorism and illegal aliens

By Roberto Rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: October 17, 2006

The 15th Characteristic of Fascism

By now, many people are familiar with various analyses that describe the common characteristics of fascism. One that has received much attention is Lawrence Britt's 2004 article that lists fourteen defining characteristics of fascism. All the analyses are based primarily on examinations of 20th century fascist regimes and are meant as a warning regarding the Bush-Cheney administration.

Most of the analyses were written before the recent NY Times expose on warrantless spying and before the president acknowledged the existence of a secret CIA prison system abroad and before his recent signing of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, also known as the "torture bill." With its signing, however, critics now agree that the president's grab for unchecked power beyond his assertion of his right to permanent worldwide war has plunged the nation onto this path, faster than "anyone could have ever anticipated." Of course, his supporters think that broaching the topic is ridiculous, if not treasonous.
That said, there's an applicable 15th characteristic: the demonization and criminalization of so-called illegal aliens. Before expounding upon this, a little bit about the other 14.
The others generally include: enforced patriotism, hyper nationalism, disdain for human rights, control of the mass media, the creation of laws designed to enrich corporations and exempt them from labor, health & environmental standards, rampant sexism, the promotion of religious fundamentalism, the creation of a fear-based society plus a
fixation with national security and law & order and attempts at achieving worldwide military supremacy. Fascist regimes typically also have an inordinate disdain for intellectuals and the arts, are completely corrupt, including fraudulent elections and are obsessed with seeking out enemies and scapegoats. (google: 14 characteristics of fascism)

In regards to the 15th characteristic, it is beyond the traditional fear of foreigners. The very category of "illegal aliens" is couched within a hyper legalistic environment of exclusion. Citizens belong, have rights and are protected under the Constitution. Non-citizens in this case, illegal aliens are treated as a subhuman population. As societies become obsessed with national security, the issue of Who is a citizen? and, Who is a citizen in good standing? is debated. Invariably, "legal" aliens also begin to lose rights. In time, movements arise to further limit citizenship such as the one to
overturn the 14th amendment; that which guarantees birthright citizenship. All this translates into the fear and hate of brown people, which in this country also translates into primarily Mexicans and Central Americans. (These limitations already include the
disenfranchisement of large sectors of the population, particularly prisoners or ex-prisoners of color).

This 15th characteristic is not particular to the United States as the fear of "brown hordes" is also nowadays a feature of many "democratic" European countries. Neither is it unique for politicians to whip up a frenzy, pitting people of color and/or the poor and even the middle class against the scourge of "illegal aliens."

An analysis of this nation's periodic movements against Mexicans shows us that this hatred precedes 911. Yet, since that day of infamy, a bizarre conflation has taken place between "terrorism and "illegal aliens." Since 911, Arabs and adherents of Islam have become America's latest suspect population, nowadays unrepentantly and routinely subjected to "racial profiling." In regards to Mexicans, they're beyond 911 scapegoats; they have historically been viewed as unwanted, suspect, illegitimate, illegal and nowadays, associated with terrorism, this, despite a zero association between the two. With 911
as a smokescreen, that rabid hatred has once again been unleashed and legitimized in the form of repressive legislation. They have also become political pi??atas, particularly in this November's elections. Add to this the upsurge in Minutemen vigilantism, draconian
immigration raids, further border militarization and all this has created a climate that condones treating brown peoples as enemies of the state.

Hyper-obsessed anti-immigrant scoundrel politicians aided by the likes of CNN's Lou Dobbs & comic Jay Leno -- claim their motives are not racial, yet their dehumanizing and nightly jabs are directed not at all "illegal aliens," just the brown ones the ones purportedly coming in from Mexico. Proof is in the dragnet and discriminatory
immigration raids and walls/fences that target Mexicans and the U.S./Mexico border. Ignored is the fact that almost half of all "illegal aliens" don't sneak into the country, but overstay their visasǪ and that a workable solution can be arrived at without the
vitriol. And then there's the Official English movement. What precisely does having an official language have to do with "the rule of law" or fighting "terrorism?" Nada. Is it racially motivated? Simon que si. And incidentally, most of these anti-immigrants can be found on the website that monitors hate groups by the reputable Southern Poverty Law Center.

The irony in all this is the fact that the vast majority of so-called illegal aliens are actually indigenous peoples part of thousands-of-years old cultures on this very continent. What is also a fact is that being treated as subhuman is how Indigenous peoples have been treated since Columbus arrived here more than 500 years ago.

As calls rise to throw the Republicans out of office let's hope that we not simply replace them with other scoundrels. The objective should be to also overturn those dehumanizing policies or those 15 characteristics -- that now virtually define this nation.

(c) Column of the Americas

About Roberto Rodriguez:
Rodriguez can be reached at or 608-238-3161

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