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The Fasc-O-Meter®

By Michael J. Smith on Sunday September 3, 2006 07:02 PM

Back when we were undergraduates, quite a few years ago, my colleague J. S. Paine and I constructed the first prototype of the Fasc-O-Meter®. This is an instrument that measures the Fascist quotient of any social phenomenon and gives you a figure-of-merit between zero and 100. The instrument is calibrated so that 100 equals the Fascist quotient of the Nuremberg Nazi Parteitag of 1934, immortalized in Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph Of The Will.

Here are some sample Fasc-O-Meter readings:

  • George W. Bush pretending to fly a jet fighter to an aircraft carrier, and addressing the troops while wearing a flight suit with a packed crotch -- 65
  • Air Force One -- 35
  • The Nike "Just Do It" ads from the '80s -- 38
  • Swearing in elite troops by torchlight on Masada -- 67
  • The Giuliani mayoral administration in New York -- 45
  • The Bloomberg mayoral administration in New York -- 45*
  • The US Air Force -- 50
  • The US Army -- 25**
  • The Whitney Museum building -- 37
  • Searchlights shining straight up, as decorative or architectural elements -- 80
  • The slogan "New Frontier" -- 55
  • Racial or ethnic privilege embodied explicitly in law -- 85
  • The movie "Top Gun" -- no reading available; the instrument unfortunately blew a fuse while the measurement was being taken.
The underlying theoretical insight embodied in the Fasc-O-MeterĀ® is that Fascism is a continuum, not an either/or. To put it a different way: for the past eighty years or so, Fascism has been floating around in the global environment, like DDT or plutonium. The question to ask in any particular case is not whether Fascism is present or not, but what is the concentration? Think of the Fasc-O-Meter® as a political-cultural Geiger counter, warning you just how Fascioactive a particular politician, or cultural trend, or foreign policy is. (It's a logarithmic scale, of course, like the decibel scale, and for similar reasons.)

Now of course I anticipate your next question. "Smith," you're going to say, "we all know that Fascism has many dimensions. Fascism has an aesthetic, an ideology, a praxis, a social basis. Fascism is often (but not always) associated with racial theories of history, with eugenics (or sociobiology, as it is now known), even with individual characterology and its sources -- for example, an obsession with cleanliness and dirtiness. How can your instrument possibly merge all these various elements into a single metric?"

Dear interlocutor, that is a very good question, and I am glad you asked it. You are quite right that Fascism is a multidimensional entity. There is, in fact, a professional version of the Fasc-O-Meter®, the Fasc-O-Meter Pro®***, which displays a vector of values, representing the exact position of the measured entity in N-dimensional Fascospace. The consumer version of the Fasc-O-Meter® internally derives a similar vector (though with a smaller set of metrics) but then, for ease of use, reduces these to a scalar value; you can think of this value as the length of the vector, measured from the origin. Details of the implementation are, of course, proprietary.

JSP and I have continued over the years to refine and improve the instrument, and are now looking for investors to help make this laboratory breakthrough a commercial success. We believe that the sky's the limit on this one. Consider only the benefit to Left discourse: those endless debates about whether Israel is more or less Fascist than Serbia will be a thing of the past. Just point the Fasc-O-Meter®, press the big brown button, and lo! There's your answer, as objective and authoritative as a fever thermometer or an IQ test.

Individuals interested in a ground-floor opportunity to back a sure winner should contact the author privately. Serious inquiries only, please.

* Illustrates the value-add of the Fasc-O-Meter Pro® (see below). The Giuliani administration scores higher on aesthetic Fascism, Bloomberg on the drab practicalities.

** The Army's score would be 3, if it weren't for those ridiculous berets.

*** Available to the trade only.

Comments (17)


This is brilliant. I take it that Cheney and Rumsfeld would score in the high nineties, both on the aesthetic (facial and vocal) and policy scales. Bush, Pat Robertson and General Boykin would score perfects 100s on personal characteristics, such as paranoid, hallucinatory thinking. And, Michael, you left out the all-time winning fascist slogan --Patriot Act!

BTW, how would you rate the NFL, compared to the Yankees?

js paine:

not to be confused with al goldstein's
peter meter good only in one dimension


But do you have a version that runs on a Mac? Do you have an OpenBSD version?
Why don't you release this under the GNU license?
Oh the Howwoar

J. Alva Scruggs:

Just one minute here. You may have a proprietary lock on the hardware, but I want to know who else worked on the algorithms. I also notice only one reference to the economic aspects. What's the point of a padded crotch if there's no looting, eh?


Among sports, running and rock-climbing score very high; everything else is pretty much down in the single digits.


JAS -- The problem with Fascism's economic aspects is that it's very hard to distinguish Fascist looting from the normal corporate background radiation. Research continues.

J. Alva Scruggs:

I feel cheated. Here I was ready to sink the Scruggs family fortune into production of the Fasc-O-Meter and it's still in beta.


Hey, JAS, it's all relative. Microsoft Windows isn't even ready for beta, and look how well Bill has done out of it.

Ralph Nader is a Yankee fan. That pretty much shoves them off the scale, in terms of overall fascism. It doesn't make sense to me, but then again, my Dad was a Red Sox fan. Yet he never lived anywhere near Boston and never wanted to. The universe is just random and perverse that way. There's no getting around it.


Ms X -- If any baseball team would be expected to get the Fasc-O-Meter going, it would be the Yankees. But baseball just never scores very high. I think it's something about the demeanor of baseball players.

Hmmm...If Top Gun broke the meter, I wonder what would Red Dawn do to it.

For what must be the first time since I discovered this weblog, I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Smith. As a former Brooklynite now living in a Boston suburb (and who didn't give a rat's ass about baseball in my previous outer-borough existence), I think that if there's any sports team that recaptures the Nuremberg spirit of ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer! it must be the Red Sox.

I now care about baseball only to the extent that it is a feverish and fond dream that a group radically committed to returning the Dodgers to Brooklyn flies a plane into Fenway Park during a Sox/Yankee game, thus eliminating both awful teams.


You're right, Michael. There's nothing remotely fascist about a beer-bellied relief pitcher strolling off the mound after getting no-one out in the eighth-inning. And I suppose the NFL is just too obvious to comment on -- pure synchronized beastliness.
But wait -- what about the label "appeaser"? or Munich? Arent those some of the top fascist slime words, now back in use?

js paine:

fascism by the way is not
bin laden's game or the prez of iran or the hexzzy wezzys either

meter fails to rise
when all is wrapped
in traditional religious garb

this was all
cleared up 65-70 years ago

as an atomic notion
clerico fascism
was mis begotten

now a clerico -fascist axis
thats sensible
but the fascist part
has no dogmatic theology
no ties to an established church
nor any supernatural creed
even its race cults etc
barely reach
beyond ritual mumbo jumbo

and for effectiveness
the more jumbo the mumbo the better

no opus dei may be fascist
clerical fascists
a clique of fascist
5th columizing the romish church
ie not faith ful to its god but
to race state z
or volk nation y


bobw -- Demagoguery is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. Alan -- we tried an early version of the instrument on Red Dawn. The risibility quotient was so high that it drowned out all the other signals. Some nonlinearity in the transducer, we thought, with consequent interband aliasing and crosstalk.

Risibility quotient? Oh, you mean Charlie Sheen! Yeah, his acting will do that.


Yes, but don't forget that the Yankees (used to?) chain their customers in their seats, preventing them from trying to leave while "God Bless America" plays during the seventh inning stretch.

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