Election 2016

Noam Chomsky Unveils America's Deplorable History of Playing Footsie With Fascism

"In 1937, the State Department described Hitler as a kind of a moderate."

Photo Credit: Jeremy Danger/Flickr

At the second presidential debates, GOP nominee Donald Trump utttered a horrifing remark never before heard in a televised presidential debate.

"You'd be in jail," Trump told Hillary Clinton as he described what he would do to her, should he become president.

His remarks were widely criticized post-debate, and even Fox News pundits agreed the comments reeked of fascism. 

But while Trump's admiration of dictators is a clear aberration in modern American politics, it also brings back a sentiment deeply rooted in our history, notes lifelong activist Noam Chomsky. 

"[Franklin Delano] Roosevelt himself had a mixed attitude," Chomsky explained in his new series "Reexamining History" when asked about the U.S. government's view of fascism in Germany before the World War II. 

"[FDR] was pretty supportive of Mussolini's fascism," Chomsky continued. "In fact, [FDR] described Mussolini as 'that admirable Italian gentleman,' [although] he later concluded that Mussolini had been misled by his association with Hitler and had been led kind of down the wrong path."

Coincidentally, the rise of Trump eerily parallels American alliances at that time.

"The American business community, the power systems in the United States, were highly supportive of Mussolini," Chomsky explained, and proceeded to describe how Fortune magazine covered the movement in 1934.

"[Fortune] had an issue with the headline, 'The wops are unwopping themselves,'" Chomsky said, noting that, "'Wop' is a kind of derogatory term for Italians and 'the wops are unwopping themselves under Mussolini' [meant they were] becoming part of the civilized world."

Despite criticism of Italy's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, America's feeling toward Italy at the time was predominantly positive. 

"When Hitler took over Germany, the attitude was more mixed [but still] fairly supportive," Chomsky noted.

"In 1937 the State Department described Hitler as a kind of a moderate who was holding off the dangerous forces of the left, meaning of the Bolsheviks, the labor movement... and of the right, namely the extremist Nazis," he explained. "[They believed] Hitler was kind of in the middle and therefore we should kind of support him."

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

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