Who are fascists?

The right-wing noise-makers who turned last year’s health care town hall meetings into screaming matches loved to wave posters depicting President Obama with a Hitler mustache. Their successors, this year’s Tea Party protesters, have gone so far as to evoke the Nazis’ Dachau concentration camp in describing the end result of health care reform.

Egging them on, of course, are the pundits and talking heads on Fox News and its imitators. Ann Coulter, the syndicated columnist who thinks history has falsely vilified 1950s anti-communist demagogue Joe McCarthy, has equated Obama’s book Dreams From My Father with Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Right-wing radio kingpin Rush Limbaugh has likened Obama supporters to “brown shirts” and the president’s health care logo to the Nazi swastika.

Huey Long would enjoy the irony. After all, Coulter, Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and the newest darling of the ultra-conservative camp, television and radio commentator Glenn Beck, are in some ways the modern-day equivalents of Father Charles Coughlin, the Depression-era “radio priest” who railed against Jews, international bankers, and Franklin D. Roosevelt to a national audience.

. . .

Mississippi and the South have always been fertile soil for those with fascistic impulses. Mississippi even had its Gestapo-like agencies – first, the anti-labor union “Missisisippi Bureau of Investigation” that my colleague Bill Minor exposed to the world way back in 1947, and then its successor, the segregationist Mississippi Sovereignty Commission. Both were state-run spy agencies that cracked down on dissidents.

Klan membership is on the rise again in Mississippi, which now ranks just behind Iowa and even with Louisiana in Klan activity. Nationwide, the number of extremist anti-government groups has jumped 244 percent in the past year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. People are hurting in today’s economy, and many are eager to lash out against the nearest scapegoat, whether it’s the government, immigrants, or liberals.

Corporations get a free ride from Tea Partyers, town hall screamers and Glenn Beck.

Joe Atkins
University of Mississippi (state sponsored) Journalism Department