The question is prompted by a commenter here in reference to an article from 1995 by Umberto Eco, titled Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt.
Before addressing the titular question, I caution the reader and myself of the pitfalls of diagnosis. Presented a list of class characteristics (such as those of a fascist) and a list of personal characteristics (such as observed behavior of birthers) is is very easy to fall victim to confirmation bias – finding matching characteristics significant and non-matching characteristics insignificant. In fact, there is the larger question of whether birthers themselves are similar enough to be categorized.
I think it is fair to characterize birthers as nationalists. This is exhibited in their interpretation of the phrase “natural born citizen” to demand both jus soli and jus sanguinis as a requirement for presidential eligibility (Blut und Boden in Nazi parlance). Birthers are also frequently tied to anti-immigrant activism. One birther cites Senator Cowan’s speech about the 14th Amendment raising the specter of California being overrun by Chinese, as part of an argument to deny citizenship too the children of aliens.
Another characteristic of birthers is disdain for recognized expertise, whether it be judicial or scientific. This is most evident in the demonization of federal judges and the rise of crank volunteer imaging experts. Cort Wrotnowski’s diatribe against New Hampshire Secretary of State Gardner reminds me of Eco’s remark: “In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.”
While America is what it is today partially because of its diversity and tolerance of diversity, some birthers (and it is not clear to me just how many) are clearly racist, with along with nationalism mentioned preceding, fits birther rhetoric.
Eco’s comment, “Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak,” was particularly insightful to me. On the one hand birthers believe that Obama is cowering in the White House and forced to use an inept document forger to make his long-form birth certificate for fear of exposure, while that the same time the entire Congress, large portions of the Federal Judiciary, the Media and the State of Hawaii are scared stiff of Obama to the point of being willing to lie and cover up for him.
Finally, the most telling statement from Umberto Eco against birthers is this:
Because of its qualitative populism, Ur-Fascism must be against "rotten" parliamentary governments. Wherever a politician casts doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer represents the Voice of the People, we can smell Ur-Fascism.
Compare that with this from the Obama Ballot Challenge web site: “… the political ruling class has failed to uphold the law regarding Obama’s usurpation” and the frequent use of the phase “we the people” birthers use to describe themselves.
So are birthers fascists? All I can say is that they seem to share some of the same motivations.