Sunday, March 20, 2016

At Flashbak: It CAN Happen Here (Four Time Artists/Authors Warned Us About Fascism)

This week at Flashbak, I wrote an article called “It Can Happen Here,” which looks at four occasions in which American authors and artists attempted to warn the population about the dangers of fascism.

In particular, I gazed at It Can’t Happen Here (1935), A Face in the Crowd (1957), Shadow on the Land (1968) and V (1983).

“To define it simply, fascism is a brand of authoritarianism in which a dictator and his government control all aspects of the citizenry, widely squelching disagreement and opposing points-of-view. Fascism exploits, primarily, feelings of nationalism.

A fascist state pursues imperialist policies as a means of encouraging unity and patriotism among its people. In other words, in a fascist state, the enemy is a foreign nation, or a class of people who are outside the “elite” citizen status. One key idea of fascism is the promotion of a certain class of “superior people” over “inferior” elements. As a rule, fascism is extremely dismissive of pluralism, multi-culturalism, and diversity.  

To accomplish its goals, a fascist government emphasizes direct action and the positive benefits of violence. The weak must be purged, and the strong promoted. Also, a fascist state relies on propaganda to control its people, and this propaganda is basically a three-headed hydra.

First, such propaganda relies on the idea or legend of a re-birth or restoration, a State emerging from a time in which it was weak and diffident. But now it is powerful.

Secondly, a fascist state feeds on deep feelings of nationalism or patriotism to foster unity, as noted above. It helps to galvanize the people if they believe an enemy is knocking at the gates. 

And finally, a fascist state relies on romantic symbolism -- often stressing the heroic, righteous decisions of larger-than-life historical or national figures. 

This symbolism is utilized to promote ideas not merely of unity, but of masculinity and youth. Since war is a major factor in fascist philosophies, it makes sense that men and particularly young men -- soldiers -- are held as significant individuals. Women are important only so far as they can make babies, and thus create future soldiers.

Because of fascism’s terrifying rise in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s and the cost in lives to stop its global march, it remains the ultimate nightmare for many artists and filmmakers. Given the right set of circumstances, and the right demagogue our democracies can be replaced by authoritarian strong men like Mussolini or Hitler. 

In the twentieth century, the anti-fascist work of art has popped up several times to remind the American citizenry the importance of vigilance. 

Below are four notable examples…”

Please continue reading at Flashbak.


  1. Heightened nationalism, xenophobia, a group of people perceived as superior, taking back your country and returning to a mythical past of perceived greatness...sounds familiar. Absolutely chilling to read this in the context of current events.

    Definitely going to check out that "Shadow on the Land".

  2. Wow a really interesting article. I'm familiar with "V" of course, but I've never heard of the other two. Thanks for sharing!