Ignorance. Fear. Greed. Selfishness. In that order, those are the reasons that explain the phenomena of creeping fascism. And this of course applies to the nascent fascism in the United States today.
The vast majority of the population in every society strives to be safe, to have a "normal" life, to count on certain basic things like employment, family ties, entertainment, friendship. So people go about their daily lives influenced by what they see around them. Which shops they use to buy things, who they talk to, the house of worship they attend, or not, a gathering, a party, a funeral, a baby shower, etc.
The conditions that lead to creeping fascism and its eventual establishment are pretty much invisible for a very large segment of the population (until its too late). For those who are unaware of it, their sin is mainly ignorance, so they are less culpable. If you happen to be in this category, read no further in order to avoid becoming fully aware of it, because when you do, and decide to do nothing, then the level of culpability goes up...
The biggest threat to the establishment of fascism is an educated populace with a collective high intellect. One of the tell-tale signs of creeping fascism is the rise of anti-intellectualism, such as the one we have in the U.S. today.
The sure way to prevent the populace from developing their collective intellect is by discouraging people engaging in deep thinking and analysis about the world around them, their government and its institutions, and issues related to power, income disparity, etc.
The best way to do this is to create a situation where people are made to work at a subsistence level (hand-to-mouth, paycheck-to-paycheck), to put up roadblocks to attaining a proper education, and to bombard people with, as in Roman times, "bread-and-circuses," which in today's environment happens with the bombardment of the human mind with an incredibly effective propaganda machine in the form of the corporate-owned U.S. media. So that explains (in a way) all the reality shows, and the fantasy of an obscure and unknown person making it big by winning in American Idol, or any of the other reality shows...
In the ignorance category we can also include the religious Right, the nationalists, and the racists.
Another classic way is by manipulating the population with fear. Michael Moore and other contemporary thinkers have touched on this issue extensively.
When it comes to the middle class, you have a combination of factors, including ignorance and fear (to a greater extent), and selfishness (to a lesser extent).
The Middle Class
So the first priority of the middle class is to keep what they have, and possibly keep up with the Joneses. That explains why when fascism and oppression creeps in, the middle class remains mainly dormant and docile through most of the process. Usually during the first stages of fascism, it affects certain maligned groups such as the poor (the most maligned and defenseless group), and certain minority groups, such as its happening with the current detention of tens of thousands of alleged illegal immigrants into for-profit detention camps.
It's almost as if the nascent "baby" fascist state needs this practice with those minority groups in order to perfect the system, so it can then consolidate their power. As its happening in today in the United States.
And now we move to my favorite group: The establishment. Here we find the politicians, business people, the leaders of most liberal and progressive groups, and unions.
At this stage the acquiescence to creeping fascism is mainly the result of pure greed and selfishness. It's akin to willful blindness.
At this stage the afflicted has the intellectual capacity to understand what's going on, but chooses to do nothing (or to do minimalist, non-rock-the-boat ineffectual stuff) out of pure short-term self interest.
Like the middle class, they are more interested in keeping what they have, and possibly having more, in cushy jobs and positions, in grants and money from donors, corporations, employers, in being connected to the power structure, and benefiting from it.
If you ever wonder about the dismal lack of leadership from most of the top ranks in unions, and liberal and progressive organizations, that's your answer. So wonder no more.
At this level, these so-called leaders share more culpability and responsibility for allowing fascism to creep in because at an intellectual level they know it's happening, but they are choosing to look the other way for purely greedy and selfish reasons.
In moments like this the type of leader you need is someone who is totally, one hundred percent driven by duty, by love of humanity, by the concept of justice, and not by self interest or greed. A good contemporary example is the anti-corruption campaign of activist Anna Hazare who is single-handedly bringing the entire Indian government to its knees with the force of his conviction.
There are leaders (in wait) like that in the U.S., but the manipulation and influence of the corporate-owned media is so total, that at this point its almost impossible for them to get any traction. They are vilified, ridiculed, demonized, attacked, spied on, etc.
Those leaders will emerge once there is a significant number of people who are able to break through the mental shackles imposed by the nascent fascist regime.
There are signs that a large enough number of people are "waking up" from their stupor and realizing what's happening, as exemplified by the upcoming massive protests in Wall Street on September 17th, and Washington, D.C. on October 6th, and many other organized protests across the country.
If you read this far, you can't claim ignorance any more. Do something. If not now, when?