LAST week, two major political events left me laughing in horrified disbelief while simultaneously quaking in my shoes.

The first was the narrowing polls in the race to the White House; the other, the outraged reaction by elements of the UK press to the Brexit High Court judgment. Suddenly, the world seems even more menacing than ever before.

The word ‘fascism’ is not a term to be used lightly. In 1930s Europe, it was associated with Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany and Franco’s Spain. In recent years, it’s become synonymous with thuggish extreme right wing groups such as the BNP and their European counterparts.

Consequently, we see only stereotypes. Fascists wear Doc Martens, sport swastika tattoos and shave their heads. Politicians in suits and ties don’t quite fit the mould.

But fascism can take different forms. Eoin O’Duffy, who founded the fascist Blueshirt movement, in Ireland in the 1930s, had been Chief Commissioner of the Irish Free State Police Force for more than a decade. Oswald Mosley, who founded the British Union of Fascists – the Blackshirts – had served as a Labour MP and government minister.

Fascism thrives on disillusionment and desperation. It offers simplistic short-term solutions to economic stagnation. It thrives in an atmosphere where people use phrases such as, “We need a strong leader to sort the country out”. It tends to take root when people feel out of control of an ever-changing and increasingly frightening world.

ACCORDING to Robert Kagan, writing in the Washington Post, Donald Trump offers “an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence”.

Trump’s incoherent, rambling and ill-educated utterances are tolerated by his party because he has unleashed the passions of the masses. They say nothing in the hope that if Trump is elected they will be rewarded with power and so will be able to constrain him.

But the mass movement around Trump lies at his feet alone – which will afford Trump, if elected, unprecedented power to do all the things he’s said he wants to do.

His pledges have included jailing his principal opponent, deporting at least five million people, mainly Hispanics and Muslims, and building a wall across the Mexican border. He explicitly promotes torture, declaring his intent to “bring back a helluva lot worse than waterboarding”.

He has deployed what are effectively armed militias to monitor polling stations. He hints that he may close down CNN and other media outlets. He threatens to investigate judges whose decisions he disapproves of.

Even if loses the election, Donald Trump will remain a dangerous man. He says he will move immediately to impeach Hillary Clinton and vows to mobilise his movement to drive the Democrats out of power. As Kagan warns, “This is how fascism comes to America”.

American fascism won’t appear in jackboots and black shirts. It will be outwardly respectable. It won’t come from the fringes of the KKK, but from the heart of mainstream politics. It won’t crudely demolish the existing legal and democratic institutions, but take control of them, and use them to crush dissent.

And it takes no great leap of the imagination to envisage Donald Trump becoming the figurehead of a movement that walks, talks, and sounds like fascism with an American accent.

On this side of the Atlantic, the Daily Mail, named and shamed the so-called Enemies of the People who treacherously upheld the sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament.

Now we know for sure the Daily Mail’s endless lamenting over the erosion of sovereignty by the EU was just hot air. Who knew that, all along, they were more in tune with Scotland’s constitutional tradition of the sovereignty of the people?

But that’s not their game. If people in England were about to seize power from big business and set about creating a democratic constitution that formally placed sovereignty in the hands of the people, the Daily Mail would be screaming blue murder.

NO, their game is trying to channel the passions of the masses in the direction of an extreme right wing, nationalistic and authoritarian Britain, made great again by expelling ‘foreigners’, conscripting ‘scroungers’ and banning strikes.

The Daily Mail has form when it comes to supporting fascism. Its owner in the 1930s, Lord Rothermere, was a fan of Adolf Hitler and Oswald Mosley. Of course, the current chair of the company – Jonathan Harmsworth, the 4th Viscount Rothermere – cannot be blamed for the sins of his great grandfather. But it’s chilling just how easily the newspaper reverted to an anti-democratic stance in response to a judicial decision it did not like. Just like Donald Trump.

From 2012 to 2014 the Yes movement debated competing visions of an independent Scotland ranging from Nordic-style social democracy to a Scottish socialist republic. But, for now at least, we’re locked into a union which seems to be racing to the right, driven by a vision of selfish isolationism.

The Scottish referendum sparked incredible progressive creativity. But it also unearthed a latent seam of rampant, jingoistic, intolerant British nationalism. And Brexit provided a train for them to board, adding carriages aplenty. That includes a minority in Scotland. The Daily Mail sells plenty of copies here too.

It is not hyperbole to say that we are living in times where fascism might come knocking at our door. In many ways, it is fascinating. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling like a shocked bystander.

Hopefully we will persuade a majority in Scotland to get the hell out of the UK before things get even worse. But independence alone won’t keep the wolf at the border.

It’s time to talk openly about the incipient fascism creeping in on us. Then we need to work out how we’re going to resist it.

Vonny Moyes: Don't be taken in by the scaremongering about kids and technology