Fascism comes wrapped in the flag

From Everything Shii Knows, the only reliable source

This website is an archive. It ran from 2006-2010. Virtually everything on here is outdated or inaccurate.

In 1999 someone paraphrased a quote on USENET. But who was he quoting?

If fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag, waving the cross, and preaching free markets (trans. economic imperialism.)
????, via rshelton, 1999

This mysterious individual said something like it as early as 1948. Who was this masked man?

"When fascism comes to the United States it will be wrapped in the American flag and will claim the name of 100-percent Americanism ... "
????, via The New Republic, 16 February 1948


Huey Long

Once upon a time there was a much-quoted saying attributed to Huey Long, a famous populist politican from Louisiana. You can find it on Google Books and JSTOR and the like.

"When Fascism comes to America, it will (be in the name of/come under the guise of/be called) anti-Fascism!"
Attributed to Huey Long in 1935 by various writers in 1938-1943

This is not the statement we're looking for; we want a warning against fascism disguised as patriotism. In any case, there has never been any source for Huey Long saying this, but a Communist did say it:

It is a peculiarity of the development of American fascism that at the present stage it comes forward principally in the guise of an opposition to fascism, which it accuses of being an "un-American" trend imported from abroad.
Georgi Dimitrov, Seventh World Congress of the Communist International, 1935

According to the Snopes message boards, there is a faint possibility that Long said this, or perhaps meant something like this. However, by the late 1940s it had transmogrified into an entirely different statement which Long probably would have shied away from.

Huey Long is said to have remarked that if fascism came to America, it would be on a program of "Americanism."
Army Information-Education Program of World War II, David James Lippert, 1947
"If Fascism came to America it would be on a program of Americanism."
Not Huey Long, via A Quarter-century of Un-Americana, 1963

By 1971 there was an utter innovation going on.

...an astute Southern politician said thirty years ago that when fascism came to the United States it would come "wrapped in the American flag."
Not Huey Long, via Robert Lefcourt, Law Against the People, 1971

In 2002 we had this attribution:

"If fascism ever comes to America, it will come wrapped in an American flag."
Not Huey Long, via David Weintraub, 2002
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in an American flag"
Not Huey Long, via Idaho Observer:, January 2004

In December 2005 Huey makes a last stand with a grand innovation by one Harold Bloom:

"Of course we will have fascism in America but we will call it democracy!"
Not Huey Long, via Harold Bloom, The Guardian, December 17, 2005

But Mr. Long is shortly subsumed by Mr. Lewis.

Sinclair Lewis

In September 1935 the New York Times interviewed Sinclair Lewis (pg. 17, Sep. 1), and he declined to give them any political aphorisms, stubbornly ignoring their questions and telling them to read his book instead. But the Huey Long quote was tied up with Sinclair Lewis as early as 1942.

If fascism comes to America, it will, as Huey Long said, be called a defense against fascism. Now Sinclair Lewis in It Can't Happen Here tackles the problem of America's future...
Joseph E. Baker, "Proviniciality", College English 1.6, March 1940

In 1971 a writer named Harrison Evans Salisbury attempted to summarize Sinclair Lewis' book It Can't Happen Here.

It was said, I think, by Dr. Johnson that "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." This may well be true. Sinclair Lewis aptly predicted in It Can't Happen Here that if fascism came to America it would come wrapped in the flag and whistling "The Star Spangled Banner."
Harrison Evans Salisbury, The Many Americans Shall be One, 1971

His rephrasing, apparently, was quite popular.

Some three decades ago, Sinclair Lewis, in "IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE," warned that not only CAN fascism happen, but when it does it will come wrapped in the American flag and the trappings of patriotism.
Francis M. Watson, Jr., "The Attempt to Steal the Bicentennial", 1976

In January 2005, suddenly the Huey Long quote above is conflated with Salisbury and "rshelton", incorrectly rephrased as a quote of Lewis. Whence the cross-waving? It's not really clear.

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
Not Sinclair Lewis, via Thant Tessman, January 22, 2005
also via armedwithinfo, January 22, 2005
March 2005: otterside, Agitprop, childofillusion; April 2005: Reilly357
May 2005: Mike Finnigan of Crooks and Liars, according to floridablues
May 2005: Thomas Cleaver, according to Keith R. Wright

Although I can find no earlier references to this fancy wording, quotes from between March and June seem to point to this phrase having entered the vague and blobby collective consciousness of the liberal netroots sometime earlier.

The American Taliban is here, wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. Woe are we.
drSooz, comments of http://www.alternet.org/rights/22000/ , 20 May 2005
Only in the comic books do the bad-guys choose costumes that advertise their evil. In this world bad people are more likely to appear wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.
The Radical Centrist, 1 June 2005
to paraphrase somebody, "when fascism comes to america, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
dennis, comments of http://frjakestopstheworld.blogspot.com/ , 10 June 2005

By 2006 the misquote is all over the Internet. In 2007 Ron Paul says it, and I don't blame him-- it's such a widespread misquote that even today Wikipedia and Wikiquote list it as real.

Why did neither of these people actually say this?

If it's such a nice quote, why didn't either of these people step up and just blurt it out? Well, Huey Long was shot dead, but recall that Sinclair Lewis declined to say anything like this to the New York Times. I believe this is because this saying is overly vague.

Who actually said it?

Professor Halford E. Luccock of Yale Divinity School.

New York Times article from September 12, 1938, page 15:


Obviously neither Lewis nor Long said this, since otherwise this would have been pointed out in the article. Rather, the sentiment must have been appropriated by period writers and later attributed directly to Long and Lewis. As for the flowery flag-and-cross rendering of this sermon, I am still searching for its origins; but the Lewis attribution suggests that it is part of the general muck.

Don't mind me, it was nothing. All in a day's work here at Everything Shii Knows. :)

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