Recently we have been debating the rise of fascism in western countries. Fascism is political ideology that Britannica defines in these terms:
Benito Mussolini, took the name of his party from the Latin word fasces, which referred to a bundle of elm or birch rods (usually containing an ax) used as a symbol of penal authority in ancient Rome. Although fascist parties and movements differed significantly from one another, they had many characteristics in common, including extreme militaristic nationalism, contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism, a belief in natural social hierarchy and the rule of elites
Today we might not call it “fascism” but we might know “fascism” in the form of the “alt-right” or “alternative right”. Unfortunately there is nothing “alternative” about them, it is simply another hate group by another name.
John Le Carré spoke about the rise of fascism a year ago that is epitomized by President Trump’s reference to “fake news”. Others, even Ang Sang Suu Kyi have used the term “fake news” in Burma. This use of President Trump’s reference to “fake news” is typically used to deride and discredit the findings in journalism. This provides the public with an important check and balance to the actions of politicians and keeps politicians accountable for their actions.
The reference to “fake news” typically serves the agenda of the politicians, whether it is President Trump or Ang Sang Suu Kyi. The danger is that they deride and discredit journalism – making journalism the enemy when in fact journalism is an important check and balance. Furthermore, they deride and discredit journalism as a demagogue. Oxford Dictionaries define “demagogue” as:
A political leader who seeks support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational argument.
The use of “fake news” derides and discredits journalism, leaving the truth unclear and creates an atmosphere of fear, doubt, uncertainty. Where disinformation abounds people are unsure what information to trust. Late Night with Seth Meyers has consistently demonstrated that statements made by President Trump are not based on facts but actually represent disinformation.
For a modern society, a disingenuous and dishonest leadership that creates disinformation is a real concern. Honesty is present right from the beginning of the Buddhist path. Honest features #4 in the 10 Virtuous Actions followed by any person at the beginning of their spiritual development. Here is a full list of 10 Virtuous Actions that we expect our leaders to follow at the very least:
1. Protecting the life of people and animals.
2. Only taking what is given and practice generosity.
3. Sex between consenting adults, avoiding any infidelity.
4. Honesty and telling the truth, even when saying nothing is dishonest.
5. Developing harmony and reconciliation.
6. Gentle, pleasant speech.
7. Speaking about what is worthwhile.
8. Contentment in what you have and rejoice in what others have.
9. Wishing happiness for others and cultivate the desire to help others.
10. Developing a positive, authentic outlook.
We are concerned about leaders that seem aligned with fascism, demagogic behaviour, and attempt to deride and discredit journalism through references to “fake news”, particularly where those leader are disingenuous and dishonest that create disinformation.