Hey, Kids! Time to play a fun and revealing new game we’re calling, “You Might Be a Fascist!” Follow along and respond. If you’re not careful, you may learn something about yourself before we’re done (!).
Here we go. Complete this statement with candor: When Hillary Clinton conceded the election on Nov. 9, 2016, did you think her speech and the tone of that speech…
- Displayed respect for our country’s centuries-old traditions re. the peaceful, orderly succession of power?
- Stood in contrast to the concession speech her opponent would not commit to making had the tables been turned (“I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win.”)?
- Didn’t impress me one way or another?
- Revealed her to be weak?
If you answered 4, you MIGHT be a fascist!
Here’s another one: When then president-elect Trump claimed on Twitter that, contrary to all demonstrable evidence, he actually won the popular vote because millions of people voted illegally for his opponent, your gut reaction was:
- Authoritarians typically exaggerate their popular support to increase the perception of their legitimacy, for the deeper objective is to weaken democratic institutions that invariably limit their power.
- Actively eroding confidence in voting and elections (to say nothing of representative bodies and establishment media) gives would-be authoritarians a freer hand to wield power.
- Hell yeah! And that bitch was clearly behind all that voter fraud — and the child sex ring, plus all those murders. Lock her up before she kills again.
That’s right, if you answered 3, you’re almost certainly a fascist. (You’re getting really good at this! To think that only 15 months ago, you fancied yourself a mere Libertarian!)
Let’s try another one: Using the word ‘fascist’ to describe right-wing authoritarians is a tricky business today because…
- Folks believe there are fascists on both the left and right.
- All fascists are authoritarians but not all authoritarians are fascists.
- The left has unwittingly weakened the impact of words like ‘fascist’ and ‘Nazi’ through decades of comedic and politically hyperbolic usage.
- All of the above.
Bingo! The answer is 4. The right wing, especially today, is quick to denude the charge of fascism by turning it around and using it to describe left-wing radicals. Sorry, right-wingers: Fascism is something specific to your end of the political spectrum. There are surely left-wing, bad-acting authoritarians who use things like coerced collectivism to destroy the state and dismantle elements of plural power — see Pol Pot. But the term “fascism” simply doesn’t apply to them, which leads quite neatly to our next quiz item:
Complete this sentence: Fascism is a 20th century phenomenon invented by…
- The Germans.
- The Italians.
- The Koch Brothers.
If you answered 1 or 2, you’re only part right. While the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterparte, or NAZI Party for short) first emerged in 1920, as a sort of das reboot of the German Workers’ Party, Benito Mussolini’s National Fascist Party (Partito Nazionale Fascista, or PNF) was the first to put fascism into large-scale political practice. The PNF was founded in 1921; only a year later Mussolini was prime minister (I know, right? Fascism moves super fast!). Mussolini claims to have invented the word “fascism” but self-aggrandizing B.S. is a longstanding hallmark of right-wing authoritarian practitioners. It was actually his longtime ghostwriter and wingman, Giovanni Gentile, who coined the term and he defined it this way: “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
If you answered 3, you’re only part wrong. As Gentile notes, corporatism and fascism are closely linked. Because let’s get real: When you remove government influence, other powerful entities in the culture and marketplace naturally fill the void — and those entities are invariably corporations, which are far more rich, powerful and global today than they ever were in the 1930s. The American Heritage Dictionary defines fascism as: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.” In other words, fascism is corporate government – a merger of corporate and right-wing authoritarian forces, where, in the absence of the rule of law, strongmen dictate and everywhere else “the markets” work their unerring magic without all the fuss of government regulation (or the pesky will/participation of labor). David Koch is a longtime “Libertarian” (he ran for vice president on a Libertarian ticket in 1980) whose father just happened to do a lot of business with Nazi Germany (the firm built oil refineries there and elsewhere). Of course, this doesn’t mean that all Libertarians are fascists in sheep’s clothing. Not knowingly anyway.
Here’s one that plumbs the depths of voter psychology — but don’t be frightened. Thinking isn’t just for elites. It can be really fun! Dr. Stanley Feldman is an increasingly important figure today on account of…
- His research revealing strong, longstanding authoritarian strains in the American body politic.
- His co-executive producer credits alongside film impresario and new Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
- His doctorate, which qualifies him as the personal embodiment of “globalism”, i.e “intellectual, international Jewry.”
The correct answer is 1, but what practical use are right and wrong in The New Dawn?! As an act of nostalgia, let me factually explain that Feldman is a doctor of political scientist whose research strongly suggests that authoritarianism has long been a salient if somewhat hidden factor in American politics — in ways that have nothing to do with overt fascist language or dogma. Feldman did prove this dynamic could be reliably measured in voters by detaching nominal fascism from obvious political preferences and contexts. How did he do this? By asking subjects these four innocuous questions:
- Which do you think is more important for a child to have: independence or respect for elders?
- Which do you think is more important for a child to have: obedience or self-reliance?
- Which do you think is more important for a child to have: to be considerate or to be well-behaved?
- Which do you think is more important for a child to have: curiosity or good manners?
In the context of a political discussion, or an obviously political survey, subjects would never answer these questions truthfully. (I know, right? People don’t generally want to be pegged as a fascist, or an authoritarian — especially fascists and authoritarians!) Outside this context, however, their honest answers proved extremely reliable in identifying people who fit the authoritarian profile and support authoritarians electorally. Such subjects further revealed themselves to be voters who prize order and conformity; who vilify immigrants, fellow citizens who are recent immigrants, and others “outgroups” that for various reasons do not conform; who possess strong values but, crucially, also advocate for the imposition of those values on others. Thanks to Feldman, what we today identify as right-wing populism or white working-class populism lines up quite neatly with how authoritarianism is both caused and expressed. The article linked directly above relates another important point: Authoritarians are unusually susceptible to messaging about the ways outsiders and social changes threaten America. Talk about dogwhistles! This is why, among this particular group of voters, Trump was helped, not hindered, by calling Mexicans “rapists” — or by lying about Muslims dancing in the streets of Jersey City on 9/11. With this language, Feldman teaches us, Trump isn’t just spouting hateful nonsense. He is sending signals to his authoritarian supporters that he won’t let “political correctness” hold him back from attacking the outgroups authoritarian voters fear.
One more before we go, and this one’s for all you newly minted history wonks out there. Finish this sentence: The 2016 presidential election has shown the Electoral College to be…
- Completely ineffective in performing its stated function, which, according to Alexander Hamilton (Federalist Papers, no. 68), was to prevent a largely uneducated population from electing dangerous demagogues (men he described as having “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity”).
- The only mechanism that, since 1988, has enabled a Republican or otherwise nominally conservative candidate to claim the presidency, having lost the popular vote.
- Fucking genius! And we should revive the 3/5ths clause, too, because despite closing more than 1,000 polling places across the south (and Wisconsin) in wake of the Shelby County v. Holder decision (weakening Article 5 of the Voting Rights Act), there are still WAY too many progeny of slaves voting in our elections.
If you answered 3, you might be a fascist AND a racist — which, because you know your history, are often the same thing!
Great job, kids. That’s all the time we have for today. Be sure to join us next time for “You Might be a Fascist” and remember that authoritarians lie and publicly contradict themselves not necessarily to fool anyone, or to stake out a political position, but rather to deflect attention from things they don’t want the public at large to dwell upon — and to prove they are unconstrained by democratic norms or any concepts of truth, which they view as nothing more than checks on their power. #ItsHappeningHere