NY Times, MSNBC journalist warns fascism could come to US if coronavirus shutdowns wreck economy

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A new Great Depression triggered by coronavirus shutdowns could lead to "fascism" in the United States, a New York Times columnist and MSNBC contributor warned Friday night.

"If the Great Depression is what gave us the rise of fascism and a certain chancellor in Germany, what is the next Great Depression going to do to our politics?" Bret Stephens wondered during an appearance on "Real Time with Bill Maher," alluding to the rise of Adolph Hitler.

Stephens pointed to the economic devastation the U.S. has faced in recent weeks and the "staggering" total of 30 million people filing for unemployment benefits.

He also noted there was "no end of blame that can be assigned" to the Trump administration for its handling of the outbreak, and urged others to "think ahead."

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"We were already moving in a populist and neo-authoritarian direction [when] the economy was relatively good," Stephens continued. "What happens when you have tens of millions of people who are out of work and desperate -- not just economically but politically?

"So people have to start thinking about the balance of risk. ... If you balance it in one way, people are going to suffer and people are going to die and that's almost certainly true. But there are risks to simply holding our breath forever and not hurting ourselves"

Stephens then compared the current "strategy" to combat the coronavirus to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

"We're trying to destroy the village in order to save it," Stephens told Maher, "and I don't remember that ending very well."

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In March, Stephens declared the coronavirus outbreak was President Trump's "Chernobyl," referring to the 1986 nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union.

“When coronavirus broke out in China, people said this is China’s Chernobyl. It’s actually Donald Trump’s Chernobyl because there are some things you can’t lie and spin your way through -- above all, something like a virus. This is out of control – just as the Soviet government couldn’t lie its way through atomic particles going through the air in Ukraine 35 years ago," Stephens said on MSNBC.