Here's what it really means for the Republican Party to embrace fascism

President Donald J. Trump arrives in the House chamber and is greeted by members of Congress prior to delivering his State of the Union address Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

I got a response from a concerned reader and citizen yesterday that I'd like to discuss today. It was in reaction to Tuesday's piece about Alan Wolfe, the political scientist and sociologist who seemed to predict, in 2004, the Republicans' turn toward fascism. He wrote in an obscure supplement to an obscure journal only niche readers saw, but reading this 17-year-old essay is like reading a profile of the Republican Party in 2021.

In my piece, I said the pundit corps still seems to hesitate using the word "fascism" even after all we've seen. I said that's probably because it calls to mind images of gas chambers. It doesn't take genocide to make a fascist, though. As Wolfe made so clear, all it takes is a totalizing worldview in which everyone in the out-group is the enemy.

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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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