So I walk into Safeway the other day and my favorite 50-cent vending machine had been removed! Instead of Homies -- the wonderfully controversial little figurines created by Bay Area artist David Gonzalez that portray various character types from the Latino barrio -- I found in their place a vending machine full of crappy little patriotic trinkets (red, white and blue bracelets, rings and stickers) and another machine full of miniature Disney character bobbleheads.
I immediately called Safeway headquarters and got the stock response: "We changed vendors."
Though the vending switcheroo may seem insignificant to those who don't indulge in such dime store pleasures, I'd bet my bullshit detector that the vending machine switch is a part of the larger corporate fascism that's beginning to trickle down from the Bush administration.
Lest you think I'm being hyperbolic, or conspiratorially picayune, let's take a look at Dr. Lawrence Britt's "14 Defining Characteristics of Fascism," recently published in Free Inquiry and see how the United States is doing on the fascism front:
1. Powerful and continuing nationalism. Well, judging by the dearth of Old Glory bumper stickers and trinket dispensers, I'd say we're well on our way, at least symbolically.
2. Disdain for the recognition of human rights. Does the indefinite detention of illegal immigrants regardless of whether they're suspected of terrorist activity set off any alarms for you.?
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. Who needs ethnic scapegoats when you've got terrorists?
4. Supremacy of the military. Over $400 billion for the military in a busted economy sounds like supremacy to me.
5. Rampant sexism. Can you say United States Air Force Academy?
6. Controlled mass media. (I'll get to this one at the bottom.)
7. Obsession with national security. Duh!
8. Religion and government are intertwined. Evildoers!
9. Corporate power is protected. Allow me to quote Britt, because this is important: "The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite." Eisenhower said it long ago: Beware of the military-industrial complex.
10. Labor power is suppressed. Membership in labor unions has steadily declined since the 1950s when unions comprised more than 30 percent of the total workforce. Unions now comprise roughly 13 percent of the total workforce according to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics.
11. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts. The US government spends a meager $117 million on the arts.
12. Obsession with crime and punishment. There are over 2 million people currently behind bars in the United States.
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Halliburton, the Defense Policy Board. You connect the dots.
14. Fraudulent elections. Two words: Florida.
So, you be the judge: Are we fascists?
Lest you need yet another indicator that we're headed for some spooky historical flashbacks, this week (Tuesday, June 2) the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on whether to loosen the laws restricting media ownership. Though it's by no means a done deal, it's interesting to note that this slackening of media governance is being pushed by FCC Chairman Michael Powell (yes, son of Colin Powell) who, along with several of his cronies, has accepted millions of dollars worth of vacation expenditures from private media interest groups lobbying to get the rules repealed! If the vote goes the way it's expected to, the corporate media oligopoly that already owns huge swaths of our national media may have a veritable carte blanche to own even greater shares of the pie along with television stations, radio stations and newspapers all in the same market (currently prohibited). And that would mean that dumber-than-thou conglomerates like Clear Channel, AOL Time Warner and Viacom have even greater power to force-feed their already captive audiences even bigger fistfuls of propaganda and fluff while limiting access to diverse sources of information.
And so, characteristic No. 6 in Dr. Britt's definition of fascism, "Controlled mass media" would become an even more ominous reality than it is already.
I don't know about you, but I get worried when my Homies start to disappear.
-- For more information about the FCC vote and information about local ownership of the media go to The Center for Public Integrity at