Fritz Stern, Professor Emeritus of European History at Columbia, has drawn a parallel between the fascism of Hitler's Germany (from which he once fled) and the Christian Right in America. In a New York Times article by Chris Hedges on Stern, Stern speaks of Nazi Germany during a speech at the Leo Baeck Institute:
Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured his success, notably in Protestant areas.
Stern "stops short of calling the Christian right fascist but his decision to draw parallels, especially in the use of propaganda, was controversial," Hedges writes.
John R. MacArthur, author of "Second Front," an examination of wartime propaganda, is quoted as saying:
The comparison between the propagandistic manipulation and uses of Christianity, then and now, is hidden in plain sight. No one will talk about it. No one wants to look at it.
As a result of his experience in Nazi Germany, Hedges reports:
[Stern] wanted to grasp how democracies disintegrate. He wanted to uncover the warning signs other democracies should heed. He wanted to write about the seductiveness of authoritarian movements, which he once described in an essay, "National Socialism as Temptation."
"There was a longing in Europe for fascism before the name was ever invented," he said. "There was a longing for a new authoritarianism with some kind of religious orientation and above all a greater communal belongingness. There are some similarities in the mood then and the mood now, although also significant differences."
He warns of the danger in an open society of "mass manipulation of public opinion, often mixed with mendacity and forms of intimidation." He is a passionate defender of liberalism as "manifested in the spirit of the Enlightenment and the early years of the American republic."
"The radical right and the radical left see liberalism's appeal to reason and tolerance as the denial of their uniform ideology," he said. "Every democracy needs a liberal fundament, a Bill of Rights enshrined in law and spirit, for this alone gives democracy the chance for self-correction and reform. Without it, the survival of democracy is at risk. Every genuine conservative knows this.
Think about the length of time and persistence of effort expended by the Right to make us defensive about the word liberal. Think about how successful this effort has been. It's a perfect example of the virulence of fascist propaganda.