I was recently challenged by a neo-nazi in the forums as to whether I have actually read any fascist literature. How else, they claimed, could I pretend to know what a fascist is? Any leftist analysis of fascism would be fundamentally "unfair", if not inaccurate, was the "logic" in their statement.
To that I say "What a load of of festering horseshit." Am I supposed to believe in the "good intentions" and "honesty" of of men whose tools of trade are demagogy and hatred? Is there some grand revelation to be found in the words of bloviating sociopaths? Am I supposed to stem the tide of revulsion I feel just to empathize with monsters? Will that get me closer to "the truth"?
Nonsense. There is no merit in that worldview, and I will not entertain such notions for the sake of "understanding" it. This is classic false-equivalency: this idea that all opinions or worldviews have equal merit. I find it exceedingly ironic that the right has adopted such a classically leftist, post-modernist, position.
It gets even more curious when you consider the post-factual narrative adopted by the right in recent years. Such nihilism is fundamentally at odds with the right's narrative that it holds a monopoly on absolute moral "rightness". This goes beyond hypocrisy. These are, however, the only tools available for them to deal with the massive cognitive-dissonance of their stated positions and actual behavior - the vast gulf between words and actions.
And so it is, that instead I should turn to the words and ideas of the great philosopher, writer, and semiotician Umberto Eco, who grew up in Mussolini's Italy. He watched the rise of a fascist dictator first-hand, and being a gifted mind, was able to analyze that movement in ways that others could not, in ways that the fascists themselves were completely blind to.
It has been with increasing alarm that I have noted this resurgence of fascist ideology in recent years throughout the west, but it should be noted that my usage of the term "fascist" is really a shorthand, because we're not dealing with the same fascism that arose in the last century. More properly, what we're dealing with is what Eco called "Ur-Fascism", and it comprises the following features (per Eco):
"The Cult of Tradition", characterized by cultural syncretism, even at the risk of internal contradiction. When all truth has already been revealed by Tradition, no new learning can occur, only further interpretation and refinement.
"The Rejection of modernism", which views the rationalistic development of Western culture since the Enlightenment as a descent into depravity. Eco distinguishes this from a rejection of superficial technological advancement, as many fascist regimes cite their industrial potency as proof of the vitality of their system.
"The Cult of Action for Action's Sake", which dictates that action is of value in itself, and should be taken without intellectual reflection. This, says Eco, is connected with anti-intellectualism and irrationalism, and often manifests in attacks on modern culture and science.
"Disagreement Is Treason" – Fascism devalues intellectual discourse and critical reasoning as barriers to action, as well as out of fear that such analysis will expose the contradictions embodied in a syncretistic faith.
"Fear of Difference", which fascism seeks to exploit and exacerbate, often in the form of racism or an appeal against foreigners and immigrants.
"Appeal to a Frustrated Middle Class", fearing economic pressure from the demands and aspirations of lower social groups.
"Obsession with a Plot" and the hyping-up of an enemy threat. This often combines an appeal to xenophobia with a fear of disloyalty and sabotage from marginalized groups living within the society (such as the German elite's 'fear' of the 1930s Jewish populace's businesses and well-doings; see also anti-Semitism). Eco also cites Pat Robertson's book The New World Order as a prominent example of a plot obsession.
Fascist societies rhetorically cast their enemies as "at the same time too strong and too weak." On the one hand, fascists play up the power of certain disfavored elites to encourage in their followers a sense of grievance and humiliation. On the other hand, fascist leaders point to the decadence of those elites as proof of their ultimate feebleness in the face of an overwhelming popular will.
"Pacifism is Trafficking with the Enemy" because "Life is Permanent Warfare" – there must always be an enemy to fight. Both fascist Germany under Hitler and Italy under Mussolini worked first to organize and clean up their respective countries and then build the war machines that they later intended to and did use, despite Germany being under restrictions of the Versailles treaty to NOT build a military force. This principle leads to a fundamental contradiction within fascism: the incompatibility of ultimate triumph with perpetual war.
"Contempt for the Weak", which is uncomfortably married to a chauvinistic popular elitism, in which every member of society is superior to outsiders by virtue of belonging to the in-group. Eco sees in these attitudes the root of a deep tension in the fundamentally hierarchical structure of fascist polities, as they encourage leaders to despise their underlings, up to the ultimate Leader who holds the whole country in contempt for having allowed him to overtake it by force.
"Everybody is Educated to Become a Hero", which leads to the embrace of a cult of death. As Eco observes, "[t]he Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death."
"Machismo", which sublimates the difficult work of permanent war and heroism into the sexual sphere. Fascists thus hold "both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality."
"Selective Populism" – The People, conceived monolithically, have a Common Will, distinct from and superior to the viewpoint of any individual. As no mass of people can ever be truly unanimous, the Leader holds himself out as the interpreter of the popular will (though truly he dictates it). Fascists use this concept to delegitimize democratic institutions they accuse of "no longer represent[ing] the Voice of the People."
"Newspeak" – Fascism employs and promotes an impoverished vocabulary in order to limit critical reasoning.
Remind you of anyone?
And as if this is not enough, consider that Cheeto Benito retweeted Mussolini quotes posted to a fake twitter account created by writer Ashley Feinberg specifically for the sake of trolling him: gawker.com/how-we-fooled-donal…
We live in strange times, indeed, but let us not equivocate when it comes to these matters. Call it what it is. Know your enemy. And as an anarchist, my enemy is fascism - in whatever form it takes. Just because it wears and ill-fitting suit and a too-long power-tie and sports the most luxurious weave ever invented (see gawker.com/is-donald-trump-s-h…
), just because it makes a fool of itself and a laughing stock of our nation, doesn't make it any less a fascist. Don't be fooled.
I promise to be more fun next time.
[Any bootlickers will be blocked and their comments hidden - I do not suffer fools, at all.]