Donald Trump and Eternal (Ur) Fascism.
Rush Limbaugh gave us “Feminazis”, and others even talk about “Food Fascists,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz, at the Faith and Freedom Caucus in Iowa, recently opined that “liberal fascists” have somehow hung targets on the backs of Christians. Now, we have Donald Trump being called a fascist by a bunch of folks.
Given all this, one is forced to recall George Orwell’s commentary on fascism. He argues “fascist” and “fascism” are labels that have been horribly, and inappropriately, over-used. He also argues that most of us would accept the word “bully” as a fair definition of a fascist, as the term is now used. Orwell’s observations ring true for the modern use of the sobriquet. It is, therefore, incumbent on anyone who wishes to use such emotionally-laden terms in sensible discourse to accept his sage advice “to use the word with a certain amount of circumspection and not, as is usually done, degrade it to the level of a swearword.”
The commitment to use the term, fascism, in a meaningful way leads one almost immediately to Umberto Eco’s essay on Ur Fascism. Eco grew up in fascist Italy, so he benefits from both an intellectual and a personal understanding of fascism. Even for Eco, fascism is a difficult concept to grasp and define. He saw eternal fascism as … “a collage of different philosophical and political ideas, a beehive of contradictions.” Despite this confusion, Eco is firm in his belief that:
“I think it is possible to outline a list of features that are typical of what I would like to call Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.
Let’s take a look at Eco’s work and see just how close The Donald comes to fitting the bill.
Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Black Shirt
- Cult of tradition – His campaign slogan is “Make America Great Again.” (Enough said.)
- Rejection of modernism. (Irrationalism) — He will build a wall, and it will end the immigration problem. He will deport 11 million people, some of them American citizens. Add to this his bald statements that he will solve the problem of ___________ (fill in the blank) with ________ (fill in the blank with a general statement unsupported by any details or facts).
- Action for the sake of action — He will build a wall (and everyone knows it won’t work), but it is at least “doing something.”
- Disagreement is treason — Dissenters deserve to get “roughed up” like black protester. Guys who beat a homeless Hispanic man were just “passionate” Trump supporters.
- Fear of the different — First it was Mexicans, and then it was Muslims. Now he has re-tweeted horrible, fabricated, racist crime statistics.
- Derives from individual or social frustration — Trump’s support is highest among (frustrated) white males.
- Followers must feel humiliated — He makes the claims and continually reiterates it claim that everybody treats us like “losers.”
- Obsession with a plot and a lack of clear social identity — Supporters believe that their identity as Americans is being lost. Politicians who are allowing it are either stupid or possibly involved in some nefarious plot.
- Life is permanent warfare and pacifism is trafficking with the enemy — He says we are at war, Waterboarding is okay to get information. In fact, they deserve to be waterboarded because of what they have done, even if they have no information.
- Contempt for the weak — Delights in making fun of disabled person, overweight person, women who doesn’t look like a supermodel.
- Everyone is educated to become a hero. Heroic death is worshiped –– Here is a one major deviation because Trump doesn’t ask for his supporters to do anything but worship him and hate others.
- Machismo culture and playing with guns become ersatz phallic exercise — Everybody else is weak and a loser. He is the strong one. And, he says the tragedy in Paris happened in a country with strong gun control, indicating it would have been different if victims had easy access to firearms like in USA.
- Populism where will of the people as identified by leaders, against rotten government — Everyone in government is stupid. Trump knows what people want and how to get it for them from anyone (e.g., Putin).
- Newspeak development of new, twisted vocabulary — It seems that we already have enough of a twisted national vocabulary that Trump doesn’t need to invent any new phrases. Besides, creativity is not one of his strengths.
So, The Donald seems to go 12 for 14 on the Eco’s fascism list. So, the best things we can say is that he is only 86 percent fascist.
We would do well to remember Eco’s last comments in his discussion of Eternal (UR) Fascism.
“We must keep alert, so that the sense of these words will not be forgotten again. Ur- Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier, for us, if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Black Shirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple. Ur- Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. …..
Whether we buy his (Roosevelt’s) final comment is more questionable.
“Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances – every day, in every part of the world. Franklin Roosevelt’s words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling:
“I venture the challenging statement that if American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land.””
In the largest sense, that is undoubtedly true. But, we aren’t dealing here with a nation in dire financial straits with skyrocketing inflation and unemployment. Instead, we are living in a time of change that unsettles some people so much that they wish to find their “knight in shining armor” who will whisk them away to some better place. That is a more difficult issue.
[See my earlier post TRUMP, CARSON, AND CRUZ??? for an in-depth discussion of the dynamics of Trump’s support]