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Thursday, July 2, 2020

But Is It Fascism?

Johnson and Trump at the G7 meeting in Biarritz, 2019.
White House photo via Wikipedia.

George Monbiot compares the politics of Trump and Johnson to historical fascism in an opinion piece for the GuardianExcerpt:
Is the resurgence of fascism a real prospect, on either side of the Atlantic?

Fascism is a slippery, protean thing. As an ideology, it’s almost impossible to pin down: it has always been opportunistic and confused. It is easier to define as a political method. While its stated aims may vary wildly, the means by which it has sought to grab and build power are broadly consistent. But I think it’s fair to say that though the new politics have some strong similarities to fascism, they are not the same thing. They will develop in different ways and go by different names.

Trump’s politics and Johnson’s have some characteristics that were peculiar to fascism, such as their constant excitation and mobilisation of their base through polarisation, their culture wars, their promiscuous lying, their fabrication of enemies and their rhetoric of betrayal. But there are crucial differences. Far from valorising and courting young people, they appeal mostly to older voters. Neither relies on paramilitary terror, though Trump now tweets support for armed activists occupying state buildings and threatening peaceful protesters. It is not hard to see some American militias mutating into paramilitary enforcers if he wins a second term, or, for that matter, if he loses. Fortunately, we can see no such thing developing in the UK. Neither government seems interested in using warfare as a political tool.

Trump and Johnson preach scarcely regulated individualism: almost the opposite of the fascist doctrine of total subordination to the state. (Though in reality, both have sought to curtail the freedoms of outgroups.) Last century’s fascism thrived on economic collapse and mass unemployment. We are nowhere near the conditions of the Great Depression, though both countries now face a major slump in which millions could lose their jobs and homes.

Not all the differences are reassuring. Micro-targeting on social media, peer-to-peer texting and now the possibility of deepfake videos allow today’s politicians to confuse and misdirect people, to bombard us with lies and conspiracy theories, to destroy trust and create alternative realities more quickly and effectively than any tools 20th-century dictators had at their disposal. In the EU referendum campaign, in the 2016 US election, and in the campaign that brought Jair Bolsonaro to power in Brazil, we see the roots of a new form of political indoctrination and authoritarianism, without clear precedents.

It is hard to predict how this might evolve. It’s unlikely to lead to thousands of helmeted stormtroopers assembling in public squares, not least because the new technologies render such crude methods unnecessary in gaining social control. As Trump seeks re-election, and Johnson prepares us for a likely no deal, we can expect them to use these tools in ways that dictators could only have dreamed of. Their manipulations will expose longstanding failures in our political systems that successive governments have done nothing to address.

Though it has characteristics in common, this isn’t fascism. It is something else, something we have not yet named. But we should fear it and resist it as if it were.

What I Say: I get Monbiot's point. But nevertheless, beware of an October Surprise - a suddenly trumped-up war, or the Washington equivalent of the Reichstag fire.


Frank said...

Every day he commits a new atrocity so that we cannot sustain outrage at one criminal act while being blown away by the next. The daily assaults are like nuclear explosions except that instead of destroying us physically, they just numb us or deafen us or blind us to the vast extent of the damage already done over the past 3.5 years. We are, unfortunately, getting used to atrocities committed by the imPOTUS and his accomplices. When he declares the election illegitimate and the results a hoax his people and a whole lot of apathetic folks will cheer and the rest of us will be had. I am so disgusted with all of it.

Russ Manley said...

Of course he will scream that the election was rigged, and do his damndest to tie up the results in Congress or the Supreme Court, and if possible delay his departure indefinitely.

Meanwhile, I would bet dollars to doughnuts that Trumpist tools or Putin's henchmen are working even now to rig the election results in the big states to give Trump a "legitimate" victory.

We're living in a fucking nightmare, and I just fear the worst is still to come. Makes me want to throw up.

I hope Team Biden has some strong, smart, savvy players who can turn it around when they come on the field. Or else we're sunk.

Michael said...

I, too, pray that the Biden team can stay one step ahead of the crap that Trump and his goonies will pull. I am really worried about the future of our country.

Russ Manley said...

As all good-hearted, right-thinking, undeluded people should be.

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