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July 01, 2006

Some things never go out of style, I guess

(Posted by John)

Totally random note here:  Via Wikipedia, I see that the French Parliament's coat of arms still includes the fasces.  This is kind of suprising to me, given that the fasces (an axe-like weapon with a bundle of rods as a handle) was the symbol behind (and the derivation of the word) Fascism.

Now, admittedly the French have a longer claim to the fasces than Mussolini, but still.  You don't see too many (non-evil) people proudly waving the swastika.  Makes you wonder why some icons persist without having their reputation tarnished, while some are condemned to the ash-heap.

Additional creepiness:  The Knights of Columbus, the group responsible for adding the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, also use the fasces in their seal.  And that, I think, I'm going to leave at that.

July 1, 2006 | Permalink


The french . . .

Anyway, this nonsense of graphic bias is truly annoying, especially among the well educated folks like yourself.

You can find the fasces on the back of a USA dime and on the floor of the House too. So what?

When folks I talk with, online or in person, start speaking of anything “Fascist” I ask them if they have issues with “hammer and sickleism”. Frequently, these folks are advocating some National Socialist issue anyway and label it as “fair” as if to inoculate it from discussion.

As far as the swastika goes, it was an honorable symbol before the National Socialists gave it a bad association, but it is nothing bust a silly association. Curse the people who did bad things, their jewelry is irrelevant.

My personal bias is that I am mostly a Database Analyst at work, because pattern recognition is easy for me and part of that is excluding the irrelevant. I like to view politics without that, but, unfortunately, my brain picks this stuff out and I jump in with a comment.

BTW, reading your journal after discovering it the other day, I thought I had been reading it a few years ago, but I had you mistaken with another. Still like it and I hope you do not mind my browsing.

Posted by: Guy Montag | Jul 2, 2006 12:05:41 AM

grammar alert: "Somethings" should be "Some things"

Posted by: jr | Jul 2, 2006 12:14:56 AM

grammar alert? No, TWD alert. I just finished watching the NASCAR race and consuming large glasses of beer.

Will skip the . . .

Posted by: Guy Montag | Jul 2, 2006 12:24:54 AM

Another TWD alert! I thought jr was commenting about me!

Posted by: Guy Montag | Jul 2, 2006 12:26:55 AM

As far as I know the swastika is still a good luck symbol in India. Of course it faces the other way. The Nazi's did a mirror image of it.

Posted by: Gar W. Lipoow | Jul 2, 2006 1:29:14 AM

As another commenter noted, the fasces was previously on the U.S. dime. This persisted even through World War II, and was only removed when the coin was redesigned to honor Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1946.

You can see a photo of the old Winged Liberty Head ("Mercury") dime at this site:


The fasces is a symbol of strength through unity that dates back to ancient Rome. Why is it not considered evil today, like the equally ancient swastika? Perhaps because Mussolini did not plumb the same depths of evil that Hitler did. Going out and conquering other nations was nothing new; engaging in industrial-scale mass murder of civilians was.

Posted by: Firebug | Jul 2, 2006 1:59:19 AM

Now, admittedly the French have a longer claim to the fasces than Mussolini, but still. You don't see too many (non-evil) people proudly waving the swastika. Makes you wonder why some icons persist without having their reputation tarnished, while some are condemned to the ash-heap.

(Banging head on wall: why don't they teach classical history any more?)

Those fasces represented the legitimate authority of the magistrate particularly in the Roman Republic. The French (together with our own Founding Fathers) were directly inspired by this republican model that lasted 500 years!

You can find the symbol in a number of places here in the U.S. as well -- including a particularly prominent set adorning the Podium in the U.S. Congress:

It's hard to imagine dumping this symbol of republicanism with a small 'r' due to some Italian jerk of the 20th Century or because of some completely inadquate Wiki Article.

Posted by: leo | Jul 2, 2006 4:50:28 AM

Symbols are fairly interesting. Before World War II, the Pledge of Allegience was said with one's hand extended (as in Heil Hitler) instead of with one's hand over one's heart. I have a history book somewhere with a picture of black schoolchildren giving the Pledge in the old form.

Posted by: Anthony | Jul 2, 2006 5:19:56 AM

I would think that the reason that the fasces didn't get the same stigma attached to it is that it was already filled with symbolism before Mussolini used it, and he used in entirely consistently with that symbolism. Therefore, before Mussolini... fasces = symbol of power of the state. After Mussolini, fasces = symbol of power of the state.

The swastika, by contrast, was an obscure symbol in Europe and the U.S. (and probably most places other than India) and the Nazis used it inconsistently with whatever symbolic value it already contained. So, essentially, they were creating a new symbol from scratch. Before Hitler... swastika = good luck, if you had any knowledge about it at all. After Hitler, swastika = Nazi. If Mussolini used the fasces to represent, say, laser light shows at Pink Floyd concerts, it would probably not be on many coats of arms any more (other than Roger Waters').

Posted by: collin | Jul 2, 2006 11:21:32 AM

Thanks for the history lessons.

Am I missing the point or Isn't it obvious that the Swastika, a comparatively simple emblem, became a condemed symbol because of its simplicity and the way it exploded on the world stage, only to disappear (mostly) as soon as the tyrant was defeated? Of course much could also be said about its relatively recent appearance and the striking manner it was used. Oh and then the massive use it was put to is no doubt part of the issue as is the technology of photography.

Posted by: Fr33d0m | Jul 2, 2006 11:23:38 AM

Surely the author isn't advocating revisionist history!

Posted by: almostboiledfrog | Jul 2, 2006 12:19:52 PM

IIRC the swastika was a 'sun' symbol.
The fasces is a ceremonial mace, and is also being currently used to open 'business' in the US Congress.

Posted by: Mike | Jul 2, 2006 12:20:58 PM

Um, the swastika is all over Asia. Derived from its Indian usage, it's now associated with Buddhism. You can find it adorning temples and Buddhist iconography in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Tibet, etc.

There was a case a few years ago, at the height of the Pokemon craze, when an American Jewish boy got a Japanese import card which had swastikas in the background, and his mother lobbied Bandai to remove the card from production. Which they did, even though it was never meant for an American audience. However, as you point out, Americans think only "evil people" use swastikas, and completely fail to realize there are hundreds of millions who don't automatically associate it with National Socialism or the Holocaust.

Posted by: Respectful Dissent | Jul 2, 2006 11:38:26 PM

The fasces express a fundamental social/political principle: the power of social unity. It's like the law of gravity--no more true for the right than the left.

Posted by: BroD | Jul 3, 2006 7:50:29 AM


Posted by: Fred Jones | Jul 3, 2006 8:52:39 AM

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