The term "soft fascism" has been coined to describe the United States under the presidency of George W. Bush, to distinguish it from the "hard fascism" of Germany and Italy under Hitler and Mussolini. "Hard fascism" produced a super-patriotic, flag-waving citizenry and an autocratic system in which reason was denounced as treason and war against external "enemies" became a perpetual way of life.
In the U.S. form of "soft fascism," the swastika has been replaced by the symbol of the almighty dollar. But, much like Nazi Germany, the U.S. displays extreme nationalism with an omnipresent display of flags and the singing of the national anthem at every public event. Its politicians and preachers proudly proclaim the U.S. to be the world's No. 1 nation, with the God-given right to deploy its vast military might to destroy the terrorists and protect its citizens.
The U.S. has flaunted its power by violating international law, the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Convention, and the entire complex of nuclear weapons control regimes. The U.S. Patriot Act threatens virtually the entire range of constitutional rights, including the freedoms of speech, assembly, and press.
In effect, the U.S. has abandoned all the established rules of democratic practice. There is virtually a total invasion of privacy, using clandestine methods. In fact, Bush has admitted to discarding "the principles of law and rules of evidence" that traditionally characterized the U.S. system of justice (William Safire, New York Times, Nov. 15, 2001).
The Bush administration, like Germany under Hitler, has also legitimized the widespread use of torture. Bush formally withdrew from the UN's International Criminal Court on May 6, 2002. He also brushed aside the U.S. War Crimes Act of 1996, which forbids the torture of prisoners. Torture has been normalized. Abu Ghraib has become the norm. (See William Pfaff's "What We've Lost: George W. Bush and the Price of Torture," Harper's, Nov., 2005, pp. 50-86). The growing similarity to the fascist states of Italy and Germany is inescapable.
Yet the U.S. continues to be generally recognized as a democratic state. Why? Because millions of Americans - including many eloquent and prominent dissenters-are vocally opposed to the Bush regime. This is the essence of "soft" vs. "hard" fascism: Internal dissent is not being brutally and openly suppressed. But the national and international policies of the Bush administration continue to be actuated by an extreme right-wing ideology that remains in control regardless of whether his popularity in the polls goes up or down.
The U.S. does not have to use the blunt instruments of fascism-mass arrests, death camps, etc.-to command the blind obedience of its citizens. The frenzy of national pride that has been whipped up by the maintenance of a permanent "war on terror" creates a social cohesion at the mercy of the Bushites, as does the compliance of the American mass media in serving as a willing propaganda outlet for the Bush administration. …