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The new Fascism.

In a ruling in April, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld rules that will require privately owned companies, when involved in federal litigation, to produce "electronically stored information" as part of the discovery process, when evidence is shared by both sides before a trial. This seems innocuous and possibly even reasonable, but it is, in fact, another instance of Fascism being inserted into America through the back door.

Because no company, especially if large, can predict when or if it might find itself in a federal court, every company, as a result of this rule, will start carefully tracking, reading, and archiving electronic communications of all kinds that are generated by employees, with frightful effect. According to the Associated Press: "Under the new rules, an information technology employee who routinely copies over a backup computer tape could be committing the equivalent of 'virtual shredding,' said Alvin E Lindsay, a partner at Hogan & Hartson LLP and expert on technology and litigation." Consequently, employers, who already are forced to serve as federal tax collectors (think withholding) are now to be forced to become de facto domestic spies as well.

This brings up the unpleasant subject of Fascism. Since World War II, the left has had an unhealthy propensity to fling the term at any person or organization it doesn't like. As a result, the term has not only lost its meaning, but its use in political discourse has become a sign of mental deficiency on the part of those who employ it. This has created conditions in which actual Fascism can begin to grow without anyone having either the knowledge required or the courage to point it out. If we are to avoid truly ugly political outcomes, it is time to jettison incoherent discourse on the subject, and approach the term with some degree of honesty in order to point it out where it exists and prevent it from growing.

The new rule forcing employers to spy on employees is a good place to begin. Historian Stanley Payne, a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, described historical Fascism in detail during his career, pointing out that it contains a number of elements, among them the goal of creating a "kind of regulated, multiclass, integrated national economic structure" that is nominally in private hands but is increasingly operated at the behest of government. In this sense, rules that force businesses to track employee communications are essentially Fascist in nature.

What else characterizes Fascism? According to Professor Payne, it is anticommunist, antiliberal and anticonservative; it has "the goal of empire or a radical change in the nation's relationship with other powers"; it espouses an "idealist, voluntarist creed, normally involving the attempt to realize a new form of modern, self-determined, secular culture"; and it has a "specific tendency toward an authoritarian, charismatic, personal style of command, whether or not the command is to some degree initially elective." Sounds eerily familiar in post-9/11 America, doesn't it?
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Title Annotation:Inside Track
Publication:The New American
Date:Dec 25, 2006
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