When Fascism Rises, Media Complacency is Key.

My thoughts on the publishing of Tom Cotton’s deeply authoritarian essay in The New York Times.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Stéphan Valentin on Unsplash

While historians might spend their entire careers studying the rise of Adolph Hitler, Nazi Germany, and the various factors that allowed fascism’s successful takeover in the years leading up to World War Two, I’m sure virtually all would agree that the media plays no small role. As the Holocaust Encyclopedia points out:

“Once they succeeded in ending democracy and turning Germany into a one-party dictatorship, the Nazis orchestrated a massive propaganda campaign to win the loyalty and cooperation of Germans. The Nazi Propaganda Ministry, directed by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, took control of all forms of communication in Germany: newspapers, magazines, books, public meetings, and rallies, art, music, movies, and radio.”

Here in the United States, for far too long a naive, deeply engrained assumption has existed that such a rise could never happen here. The very notion that our democracy and constitution could succumb to such brutal horrors and fall in to the clutches of such devastating authoritarianism has been far beyond what I would argue the majority of people honestly deemed possible. But fast forward to the year 2016, and Donald Trump somehow managed to pull the thinly guised veil away from what’s left of American democracy and how quickly it is able to deteriorate, at least in part.

Even still, it feels as though for many, Donald Trump alone is the threat. The virus as opposed to a mere symptom, or the bug as opposed to the feature. With liberals spending the last three and a half years ardently declaring that Donald Trump will throw America in to the depths of fascism, it seems that we’ve forgotten he is the mere tip of the iceberg when it comes to the American right, and the neoliberal aesthetic masquerading as resistance. Just recently however, The New York Times with the words of Senator Tom Cotton reminded us that as the nation stands on the precipice of descending even deeper in to fascism, removing Donald Trump in all likelihood won’t be enough to pull us back from the edge.

In his Times Op-ed, Senator Cotton writes:

“…One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers.”

Amazing, isn’t it, how quickly they are willing to rise to crush civil unrest, while at this very moment over 100,000 people have died alone drowning in their own fluids and 40 million people are unemployed because of our lawmakers failing to take the necessary action in the midst of a global pandemic?

Personally, I find Tom Cotton to be a far more frightening indicator of the future of American democracy than Donald Trump ever will be, and the reason as to why ultimately lies, at least for the most part, with the media.

For far too many among the media, deeply entrenched within the circles of the Washington elite that this Senator happens to be a part of, — while they might not agree with it, as the editor pointed out amidst the backlash — Tom Cotton’s fascism is palatable. What is Tom Cotton, except a more polished, better spoken, and intelligent version of the man currently occupying the White House? What does it say about the state of American media when they publish his brazen, disturbing call for an overwhelming show of force against our citizens and call it in essence a strong difference of opinion that the public can now prepare to stand up against? As fascism continues to fester, the media is already serving its purpose for the transition as it continues to help shift the discourse further and further in the right.

One of the most upsetting aspect of this disgustingly authoritarian piece being published is of course the timing. After days of peaceful protestors being met with force, even being surrounded and yes, tortured with tear gas, I frankly find it fascinating that one of the largest Newspapers in the nation deemed it appropriate to publish a call for even more aggressive action. But the media here in the United States has more often than not served as a protector of the status quo, more interested in access than challenging the powers that be.

Lauren is a writer & leftist with analysis on topics related to politics & policy. She can be reached at LaurenMartinchek@gmail.com or Twitter @xlauren_mx

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store