Unlike Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Tamas Pataki, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges is not an atheist. In fact, his credentials on the matter of religion happen to be impeccable. The son of a Presbyterian minister, Hedges obtained a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard before becoming a foreign correspondent. He’s a believer who feels compelled to speak up against the rising tide of Christian fundamentalism in the US. In fact, for Hedges, silence on this issue is equivalent to moral failure.
With American Fascists, Hedges doesn’t attempt to show that belief in God is misguided. Rather, he explores the ways religious fundamentalists are changing the social and political landscape of America. Using techniques that eerily resemble the rise of fascism in Europe before World War II, a few “religious utopians are slowly dismantling democratic institutions to establish a religious tyranny”. These self-proclaimed prophets offer to lead Americans to a mythical paradise, first demanding total submission and the abandonment of all critical thought. Hedges points to the democratic tradition of tolerating personal freedoms as a force that plays straight into their hands.
A journalist of the highest standard, Hedges offers illuminating investigations, profiles, interviews, and coverage of recent events to support his claims, making for a convincing and highly-readable call to action.
In spite of the polemical title, American Fascists presents an even-handed look at how Christian fundamentalism is changing the US. It’s a reminder of the dangers liberal, democratic societies face when they “tolerate the intolerant”. Sadly for all, the picture Hedges paints of a Christian America looks alarmingly like Osama bin Laden’s model of pan-Islamism.
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, Chris Hedges, Vintage.
Review first published in The Courier-Mail in 2008.
The whole concept of this book is utter hogwash. Such fundamentalists have always existed and are a minority. This is a ruse to disguise the fact that liberalism is really taking over America at the countries detriment. Anyone who is worth half their salt in social studies should know that FASCISM is a left-side reality because it involves more government and more controls on peoples lives. If you want to recognize fascism in America, look at every single instance of liberal government action. You must understand the poilitical spectrum to recognize when you are being had. The far right is anarchy and the far left is fascism or any form of total governmental control. Limited government is the true “middle”, but Liberalism has convinced the body politic that “middle” is something far more left that the founding fathers ever desired. Any Christian movement to control peoples lives is minor and not of significant impact to this country. This is an angry liberal talking. What a monumental waste of ones time and life.
Thanks for your comment. It’s always a good thing to continue debate. I live in Australia (although I am a US citizen), and when I was asked to review this book for the newspaper, I expected it to be wildly polemical. It wasn’t. I don’t agree with everthing Hedges writes, but he is fair and balanced. Don’t take my word though. It’s worth looking at the source.
PS The view from outside America is that the country is indeed governed by Christian right elements. Most of the rest of the developed world gets along quite well offering health, welfare, educational and social services to the entire populace that, in America, would be seen as ‘communism’. I’d like to see more Americans curious and concerned about how things in America look from the outside. There might be less extremism from both sides of the political spectrum.