(Note: I originally posted this on my blog in October 2004. Over 27 people commented on it, including Laurence Britt. It is one of the more popular blog posts I’ve made over the years. In the interest of keeping my site cleaned up, I’m converting this post, along with all of the comments, into a page (as opposed to a blog post). People will still be able to read it, but will no longer be able to comment on it.)
So I received this email the other day sending me the following link:
The email basically said I should go check out the link and see what I think about George Bush and his fascist regime. I went to the site and checked it out and I’ll admit it seems convincing. But, considering all of the political propaganda that’s getting passed around these days, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. So, I looked into the alleged source for these points and, not surprisingly, there are problems.
As near as I can tell, the only reference to Dr. Lawrence Britt is in association with these 14 points. And the only reference to the book ‘Fascism Anyone?’ is also in reference to these 14 points. Neither Amazon.com (which really does have almost everything) nor any university library in Ohio has that specific book nor any works by ‘Dr. Lawrence Britt’ (anyone can search ohio’s library system).
As it turns out, Dr. Lawrence Britt is actually just ‘Lawrence Britt,’ a contributor to Free Inquiry, a magazine published by The Council for Secular Humanism. The article is freely available online. But as far as Mr. Britt being a political scientist, there is no reference to this in Free Inquiry. In fact, it says he is writing a novel to be released in 2004. While Lawrence Britt may have come up with these points, I’m hesitant to accept his analysis without the confirmation of actual political scientists. If his 14 points were published in a peer reviewed journal, I’d believe them. As they stand – propaganda!
For all you gung-ho democrats out there that want to claim Republicans are the only spin-meisters, think again. What was that old Biblical phrase, “cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:41-43)
27 Responses to “”Fascism Anyone?” – hoaxes go both ways?”
1. Bryan Betts Says:
November 4th, 2004 at 8:12 am
I don’t think it’s a hoax as such, but it’s certainly an interesting example of how easily you can get people to believe something (“political scientist Dr Lawrence Britt”) by making it sound authoritative and posting it on the Web.Like you, I smelt a rat when the document was forwarded to me, so I Googled first on “Lawrence Britt” and then on “lawrence britt -fascism”. Wake up and smell the propaganda, maybe? Even if it’s propaganda I happen to agree with:
2. Ryan Cragun Says:
November 4th, 2004 at 8:25 am
Excellent point: ‘Wake up and smell the propaganda, even though I want to believe it.’ I don’t particularly care for Bush: Well, if I’m going to be honest, I despise Bush; but if I’m going to claim to follow scientific principles based on empiricism, then I’d best stick to them whether they bolster my position or not.Thanks for the comment.
3. 4MLA1FN Says:
November 5th, 2004 at 11:27 am
i had suspicions also, which is how i ended up one this page. i did the same googles and searches on amazon.as has been said, i think some of these points are valid and their application to the current administration *may* be appropriate. but because of the seriousness of this charge, i would be more persuaded if the identification of these 14points *predated* the current administration. fascism has been around for a long time after all and some true poli-sci must have studied it.
finally, we know that fascism can be defeated by external forces, but has it ever been defeated from the *inside*; e.g., by a (minority) citizenry in opposition.
4. Ryan Says:
November 5th, 2004 at 1:07 pm
You make another good point. In reviewing the ’14 points’ one gets the impression that they are catered very specifically to the Bush Administration rather than to fascism generally. If they have been published before 2000, this wouldn’t be an issue.Your second question is also a great point; I’m not sure fascism can be defeated from within. Then again, how many previous instances of fascism have existed and have they had the opportunity to be overthrown from within? I’m not sure there’s a good answer to this question and I’m certainly not qualified to answer it.
5. Carolyn Says:
November 12th, 2004 at 1:24 am
Puh-leze, people. :” ha unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc. Ex-CUUUSE ME? Did anyone see the word “terrorists” there, as though terrorism were a political leaning, alongside liberalism and socialism? Or perhaps something you’re born into, like a religion or ethnicity? So.. I guess terrorists, while singled out as scapegoats in fascistic societies are welcome members of societies that are more tolerant? Without doing a whole lot of googling, I can say for sure that there is no “Dr.” Lawrence Britt, just as there is no book called “Fascism, Anyone?” This is just a poor piece of writing from a not particularly educated person, printed in a publication of absolutely no credibility or import.
6. Ed Says:
November 12th, 2004 at 10:36 am
I had suspicions also, which is how i ended up one this pageAye. My first thought was: “Who is the Lawrence Britt? And what is he a doctor of?”
Even if his assertions are all true, I’d be reluctant to accept them as a valid definition of fascism. I won’t go into that now though. But thanks for the further info.
7. mark Says:
November 13th, 2004 at 4:17 am
Ryan, I respect your initiative to research where the information came from. But the fact that we’re talking about politics and you’re quoting scriptures is very scary to me. This being one of the biggest problems with Bush and the Republicans. How long do we have to continue to ignore history and see how the combination of government and religion only leads to horrible things? Seriously, enough is enough.
8. Ryan Says:
November 13th, 2004 at 9:05 am
Just because it’s “scripture” doesn’t mean it can’t have a good message (link removed). In this case, the argument I am making using scripture is that liberals are often accusing conservatives of all sorts of conspiracies (e.g., there were accusations that ‘Rather-gate’ was a Karl Rove conspiracy). I felt the scripture – regardless of the fact that I don’t believe it to be an accurate account of the life of an alleged Jesus – to be quite fitting in this instance. If liberals are going to run around making accusations about conspiracies and calling conservatives on the other baseless accusations they make (e.g., that liberals have no morals), they should first be certain that they aren’t also making baseless accusations. That was the point of my quoting the scripture; it summarized everything I just said. Perhaps I needed to make that clearer.Also, in case you didn’t happen to explore the rest of my site and may have missed it, I maintain a page called secular homilies (link removed). it basically points out all of the problems with religion using weekly ‘secular homilies’. My use of scripture here was simply to quote a well-known source that was making a good point. If I knew of a quote by Bertrand Russell or Karl Marx or William James that made the same point, I most certainly would have used that.
9. Binky Says:
January 3rd, 2005 at 11:15 pm
Actually, it’s “Laurence Britt”, not “Dr. Lawrence Britt” – both at amazon.com, and at http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/britt_23_2.htm
10. Ryan Cragun Says:
January 4th, 2005 at 9:53 am
I did check on Mr. Laurence Britt at Amazon.com. It turns out he has published a novel called ‘June, 2004′. While I’m still hesitant to consider this a qualification for drawing up a list of characteristics of fascism, at least someone has found the guy:
11. DA Says:
February 3rd, 2006 at 8:53 am
12. Lizard Says:
February 3rd, 2006 at 3:01 pm
I think if you check the transcripts of the Nuremburg trials out, with particular emphasis on Goering’s testimony, will pretty much bear out what Mr. Britt is trying to say. However, if this is distasteful to you you can always continue to listen to the strident mewling and puking of the likes of Limbaugh, Hennedy, and Boortz. In which case you all deserve what you get.
13. ryan Says:
February 3rd, 2006 at 8:06 pm
I think you’re missing the point, Lizard. I agree that Bush and his chronies are asses! I also think they are slowly working toward a capitalist oligarchy. I see similarities between the Bush Administration’s policies and fascism – but the point of my post and many of the comments was to investigate “Dr. Laurence Britt”. Turns out he’s not a doctor. He’s a fiction writer and retired business person. Certainly he has some good insights, but I like to know who is making such comparisons as that plays a role in how much credence I give to them.
14. Jack Says:
February 7th, 2006 at 1:57 am
Ryan, you asked for a quote from Bertrand Russell. Here’s one that might do.”The next step in a fascist government is the combination under an energetic leader of a number of men who possess more than the average share of leisure, brutality, and stupidity. The next step is to fascinate fools and muzzle the intelligent, by emotional excitement on the one hand and terrorism on the other.”
I Googled Lawrence Britt and found precious little. HOWEVER, I don’t have to have an expert tell me that 2 plus 2 equals 4. I didn’t question my grammar school teacher and ask her to name a more reliable source than herself when she told me that little bit of information. What is fascinating (a good word considering) is that this guy Britt, whoever he is, has certainly done his homework. He just didn’t come up with those fab 14 on the box of some breakfast cereal. I lived in Cuba during the revolution, then in Franco’s Spain and have visited several other locations (Iran, Afganistan, Argentina and Chile) and I can tell you from what I have seen first hand that what this Britt gujy says is true. He certainly can’t be accused of being “a fascinated fool” like B. Russell mentioned in his quote abovve. Yes, I can be found at amazon.com. I’m a published writer and produced playwright and screenwriter-and an overseas combat vetran. So, let me tell you from where I stand at age 74 and where I am seeing my country headed, I think this Britt person is doing all of us a favor-if we;ll just accept that 2 and 2 equals 4. We’ve got to stop being such “fascinated fools”. I can safely say that in all fascist countries I’ve either lived in or visited, they all got that way via a populace of “fascinated fools”.
15. ryan Says:
February 7th, 2006 at 8:58 am
Hey Jack,Thank you for your comments and for the Bertrand Russell quote. I agree, it is much better than a pithy scriptural reference (especially when I don’t hold scripture up as anything special – actually, as even worthwhile). And, don’t get me wrong, I’ve always thought that Britt’s thoughts on fascism were on target. There are, however, two problems – and they both remain. First, he wrote that after the Bush Administration came into power. If he had written that before, it would be more compelling because then it could not be accused of being tailored toward the current administration and the connections would be all the more astonishing. Second, even though you tried to argue that credentials don’t mean anything, in reality they do. Your own example illustrates that. There is a reason you didn’t question your teacher – she was in a position of authority and had the credentials. I still think we should question authorities (that’s how science gets done), but it adds credibility to someone’s ideas if we know they are trained in that area.
Again, let me reiterate, I think Britt is on track. But then, I’m not trained as a political scientist and I’m not an expert. I look toward experts for that information. In my amateurish understanding of politics, I think Britt is right. But I want confirmation from authoritative sources.
16. Paul Says:
February 7th, 2006 at 12:46 pm
Ryan, all -I think you need to do a bit more digging on Britt. It’s “Laurence,” not “Lawrence.” Cached link on Google is:
The last place you might expect to find a progressive would be the executive offices at Allied Chemical, Mobil, or Xerox Corp. But, throughout a business career that spanned four decades, Laurence Britt never stopped challenging the status quo. And at the age of 64, he has become a leading voice on the left.
Britt, who held positions at all of the above companies, traces his interest in history back to his boyhood in suburban Philadelphia. His politics were clarified during his years studying business at Northwestern University in the early 1960s.
There’s a nice interview here, too.
Here are sources for Britt’s contentions:
17. ryan Says:
February 7th, 2006 at 1:41 pm
Hey Paul,Thanks for your input. The name thing has been mentioned in previous comments. I just didn’t see the utility in changing my original blog entry.
No sense reiterating my comments to Jack, so you’re welcome to look at those about my hesitations in just accepting anything Mr. (not Dr.) Britt has to say.
I am interested in why there is such interest in this blog entry as of the last few weeks though. Have people been getting emails containing the fascism list in their inboxes? If you look at the dates on the comments, the first half are from just after I made the original post at the end of 2004 – then nothing for a year. And now, suddenly, a bunch of people. Weird.
18. Paul Says:
February 12th, 2006 at 10:48 am Ryan-
Thanks- I scanned through the comments too quickly. Should take more of my own medicine.I agree that Britt makes all kinds of sense, and one really doesn’t have to have an advanced degree in political science to make the compelling case that I think he does. But the “Dr.” claim, or attribution, definitely detracts from the message. I note that the Rochestser City News article doesn’t seem to make any mention of a “Dr.” claim – my guess would be that someone made an assumption when reading the initial article (or the book), and that that error got propagated by people reproducing the “14 points” while taking the “Dr.” claim on faith. I’m surprised, though, that Britt appears unaware of the fairly widespread distribution of his “points,” and doesn’t correct the false attribution.
My thought on the renewed interest is that the Administration is moving more and more outrageously toward fascism, as the Abramoff scandal and the domestic spying revelations attest. Perhaps in reaction to this, people are recalling some 14 points of fascism thing that emerged a year or more back, looking it up again, and finding it even more relevant. A co-worker of mine reminded me of them, anyway, and that’s where my renewed interest came from.
Oh, and harking back to the beginning of the discussion-I don’t think it’s a problem that the 14 points came out after, rather than before, this Administrations’s seizure of power-it wasn’t nearly as relevant before, and wouldn’t as strongly prompt anyone, Britt included, to speculate and make comparisons.
19. Bob Says:
May 13th, 2006 at 7:14 pm
I have been a registered Republican for 26 years – all my voting life. I voted for George W. Bush twice. I have never voted for a Democrat, and don’t plan on it. I have never before voted for a third party, either. But I sure as hell will vote for whoever stands against the things the CIA, NSA, and FBI are doing these days.I recently encountered the Britt quote on Slashdot. I tracked it back to the original article by way of this page, and found the comments here informative. Scepticism about Lawrence Britt may be warranted – I have no idea who he is. But the article itself, which can be found here: http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=britt_23_2 include a reference section, which I intend to follow up on. I expect I will find many of Britt’s points among his references.
I am also familiar with life under totalitarian regimes. Members of my familiy that escaped those regimes always had a distrust of government. I can tell you that, compared with the tools the Stasi used in East Germany, the U.S. government has some very very dangerous powers. Restraining the power of government is more urgent now. There will likely be no bloodless revolution as there was in much of Eastern Europe if the U.S. goes full-blown authoritarian. The next time freedom ends, it probably ends forever.
20. ryan Says:
May 14th, 2006 at 9:21 am
Well, I’m glad to see that others are seeing the dangers in the moves the Bush Administration is making. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point, but if it does, you may be right:
21. Richard Gillette Says:
May 17th, 2006 at 1:01 pm
For those who are pondering the interest in Britt’s fourteen points of fascism I recommend the following reading:
which links to interesting and troubling information regarding the ongoing, illegal domestic surveillance program.
22. George Says:
May 24th, 2006 at 10:25 pm
I heard many years ago (too many, details if requested) that the Reds and the US weremoving closer together. But if ya think that they’ll stop when they meet in the middle, you have another thought coming!Looks like we have passed that mid-point.
23. Doug Hill Says:
July 24th, 2006 at 5:47 pm
In his article, Britt never defines fascism, never expains what makes the regimes he cites fascist, never gives any examples of any of his “fourteen common threads”, making his article a real piece of pseudoscholarship. You can read my more detailed comments on my blog at:
24. Laurence Britt Says:
September 21st, 2006 at 9:41 pm Dear Ryan,
I’ve read this thread with interest. For your information I never made a claim that I was a “Dr.” Someone on the internet made that ASSUMPTION when they passed on the artice. I am a retired bsunessman with a life long interst in history and current events. I have a personal book collection on these subjects of over 3000 volumes. I’ve contributed chapters to three books, written another, and am working on a second. I’ve written aproximately 25 magazine and newespaper articles on political and econmic affairs. I spent about 200 hours researching the fascism article building on a lifetime interst in the subject. My novel, “June , 2004″ was written in 1997 and published in 1998. It was a fictional treatment of a future of fascism in America, which has turned out quite predictive of actual events since it was published.Regards, Larry Britt
25. ryan Says:
September 22nd, 2006 at 4:08 pm
Hi Larry,I’m glad you finally stopped by. Thanks for the clarifications. I have a couple of quick questions for you if you happen to catch my response:
Did you draw up the 14 points before the Bush Administration came into office in 2000?
Are they covered in your book, “June, 2004″? (I haven’t read the book so I don’t know?
Like I said above, I do think your points are on target – and yes, the Bush Administration’s push toward fewer civil liberties scares the hell out of me. I apologize if anything I said above was offensive. I hope it is clear that my intent was simply to question the authoritativeness of what was, when I first saw it at least, a questionable set of assertions about fascism. I appreciate your interest in this matter and wish you well in fighting the good fight. We need more people raising awareness about the problems with this administration and its scary policies.
Thanks again for posting. It’s kind of an ego boost to have the author finally find my site ;)
All the best,
26. Laurence Britt Says:
September 22nd, 2006 at 8:33 pm Hi Ryan,
To answer your questions. I did the research for the fascism article during the run up to the invasion of Iraq, in late 2002 and early 2003. My novel “June, 2004″ was not a listing of characteristics of fascism but a fictional account of the near future that has been rather prophetic. Instaed of 9/11 there was an economic collapse, instead of invading Iraq, we invaded Cuba, where there was a continuing insurgency, instead of a Patriot Act there was a Preservation of American Values Act, the religious right had great power with a corrupt adminsitartion, the media was compromised and not doing their job, illegal surveilance was everywhere, elections were fixed, the courts packed. In other words, something like we are experiencing. One difference was that the fictional president was smart, charismatic and ruthless, not ingnorant and living in a bubble. Today’s reality is that those pulling the strings behind the president are the ruthless ones.
I’m currently working on a book project with the help of my New York literary agent. We have developed a 100 page book proposal that is being circulated with several publishers. The proposal is to create a fully documented book that will elaborate in detail the comparisons of presnt day trends in America to the historical fascist experience. We’ll see how it goes.Regards,
27. ryan Says:
September 23rd, 2006 at 6:28 am
Cool. I may have to pick that book up – it sounds very interesting. I wish you the best with your new project and will keep my eyes open for it when it comes out.Thanks again for the clarifications.