Sunday, 29 July 2018

America Is Not Experiencing A "Trial Run" For Fascism.

Is Trump A Demagogue? Yes. Is He A Fascist? No. The defining ideological objective of fascism is the wholesale substitution of the rights of the “national community” for the rights of the individual. Or, as Mussolini put it: “Everything within the state; nothing against the state; nothing outside the state.” Anybody who knows anything about Americans – especially conservative Americans – also knows that Mussolini’s dictum runs counter to everything they believe in.

A FLURRY OF SOCIAL MEDIA interest has greeted a recent op-ed column by Irish Times journalist, Fintan O’Toole, on the subject of fascism. The article, entitled “Trial runs for fascism are in full flow”, was published on 26 June, but has been “liked” and “shared” innumerable times since then. Its most grateful recipients appear to be those young, self-styled “progressives” who find it next-to-impossible to distinguish the rhetorical provocations of media-savvy conservative activists from the all-too-real fists and boots of genuine fascists.

This confusion is not in any way dispelled by O’Toole’s think-piece, which seems to imply the existence of some vast Fascist International masterminding the steady advance of fascist regimes across the Western World with diabolical precision.

The most oft-quoted passage of his article is certainly chilling:

“Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.”

Compelling prose – not least because it contains a grain of truth. Testing the public’s stomach for brutality and injustice is, indeed, part-and-parcel of the fascist story. What O’Toole fails to appreciate, however, is that such testing occurs only after fascism has come to power – not before.

There are numerous examples of both the Italian and German fascist regimes of the 1920s and 30s tempering their policies in the face of public outrage; or, alternatively, intensifying their repression in the face of public indifference. But, these examples all took place in the period subsequent to Benito Mussolini’s and Adolf Hitler’s seizure of power.

O’Toole’s article reverses the historical sequencing of fascist repression. Why?

The answer would appear to lie in his completely understandable rage at the images of young children being separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border by officers of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency of the US Department of Homeland Security. Though heart-wrenching, these images and the actions they recorded, cannot be represented as evidence that the American electorate is being “groomed” by some shadowy fascist cabal.

Because, for that to be true, President Barack Obama would have to be a member-in-good-standing of this evil fascist brotherhood. It was, after all, under President Obama that ICE began to acquire its now thoroughly fearsome reputation for detaining and deporting undocumented Central American migrants. President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy may have intensified ICE’s hard-line stance, but it did not invent it.

O’Toole’s intense dislike of President Donald Trump lies at the heart of his slipshod history. So keen is he to paint the Trump Administration as an incipient fascist regime that he is wilfully blind to the mountainous pile of evidence confirming it as anything but.

Trump’s Republican Party, for example, does not seek the support of the American people for a programme which calls openly and without equivocation for the abrogation of the US Constitution and the elimination of American democracy. If it did, then O’Toole’s suggestion that the USA is being groomed for a fascist takeover would be more persuasive. Fortunately, it doesn’t.

The defining ideological objective of fascism is the wholesale substitution of the rights of the “national community” for the rights of the individual. Or, as Mussolini put it: “Everything within the state; nothing against the state; nothing outside the state.” Anybody who knows anything about Americans – especially conservative Americans – also knows that Mussolini’s dictum runs counter to everything they believe in.

America under Trump is no more teetering on the brink of fascism than it was when 30,000 robed Ku-Klux-Klansmen marched up Pennsylvania Avenue during the presidency of Calvin Coolidge. Racism, nativism, antisemitism and populist demagoguery have been an integral feature of American electoral politics since the early decades of the nineteenth century. Within the memory of people still alive today, American Blacks have been dragged from their jail cells and lynched in front of admiring crowds. The struggle between the better and the evil angels of the American soul is as old as America itself – and yet, the republic still stands.

Fintan O’Toole needs to read his history books more carefully.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 27 July 2018.

12 comments:

Shane McDowall said...

Donald Trump is worse than a fascist, he is a malignant narcissist.

Nick J said...

Thank God for your clear mind Chris. I personally don't like Trump but at no moment have I agreed with assertions of fascism, election rigging / collusion, Russians etc.

To be fair Trump appears to be opposed by the real radical authoritarians who don't like the idea he could drain their self serving swamp. They are an unholy alliance of the deeply authoritarian "security state", the Washington bureaucrats, the Liberal media / Democratic party nexus, the military industrial complex, and very tragically the impressionable youth who believe any post modernist victim based narrative.

These people should logically be at each others throats, it's a tribute to the anti Trump hysteria and narrative that they are not. What is more disturbing is the anti democratic nonsense of throwing tantrums because their side lost. That is a very personal authoritarian stance, the denial of democracy unless you win.

When I have stated that Trump and his electorate deserve more respect than calling them a basket of deplorables I run into the we hate Trump / you love him. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I despise is the failure to suck it up, work out why those people voted for Trump and come up with a better narrative.

As a warning I can only see extreme reactionary repressive politics coming out of that unholy alliance, it threatens the republic far more than a populist real estate magnate turned TV show star / Tweeter.

Anonymous said...

Nice piece, Chris. TheteTishe much Trump derangement Syndrome ( and virtue signalling :) ) about! Trump is a very bad president ( and man) but he's not a fascist. Of course to many 'facsist' simply means 'someone who's politics I disagree with'.
Incidentally, if the US economy and Korean policy had done so well under Obama, he'd be hailed as the Meddiah - or even more than he already was.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"What I despise is the failure to suck it up, work out why those people voted for Trump and come up with a better narrative."
On the contrary, in the US it's somewhat of an obsession. These are just 3 of the articles I have in my favourites.


https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/donald-trumps-voters-are-just-selfish-youd-suspect

https://www.alternet.org/white-fear-elected-trump-political-scientist-diana-mutz-explains-status-threat-hypothesis

https://www.voterstudygroup.org/publications/2016-elections/the-five-types-trump-voters

"drain their self serving swamp"

You obviously didn't listen to his speech. Neither did most of his supporters. He promised to drain the "Goldman Sachs swamp". Which he hasn't done – on the contrary he's drained it right into the White House. Most of his supporters somehow heard this as "liberal swamp". Which just goes to show how deplorable they are – at least at listening. And I think this makes your idea about radical authoritarians suspect as well. Trump is backed by people who despise democracy, particularly the super rich, like the Koch brothers. Still, show me the evidence and I may well change my mind. There is precious little in your post.

Nick J said...

Well done GS, your links clearly demonstrate that the Liberal Left of the USA just don't have an alternative narrative. The first quite literally demonized Trump voters, the latter two try and analyze them in an uncomplimentary manner. No votes there coming back so far. And remember I called for a narrative to win votes, not a critique with visceral contempt for voters.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The links might be the sites that have an agenda, but the research is that this is based on certainly isn't. I would have thought you might have seen through that somehow.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Guerilla Surgeon:

Lighting a fire in the middle of someone else's living room is a poor way of teaching people about the dangers of naked flames.

Bowalley Road will not publish Nugent's genuine hate speech - not even for educational purposes.

Take a chill-pill G.S.

Anonymous said...

Small problem. While US conservatives idolise "limited government", they are quite willing to throw that belief under the bus - or indeed any other principle under the bus. Do people really think that the likes of Trump or Roy Moore represent "family values?" Of course not. You are dealing with people who vote Republican because they think the Democrats are literally Satanic.

(Vice versa, of course. I agree with the general sentiment that Trump is not a fascist. Not least because America tends to do these things differently - the KKK and George Wallace were uniquely American phenomena).

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Chris. So now there is "genuine hate speech" and presumably non-genuine hate speech? I fail to follow your logic here. But as I have consistently said, no one owes you a platform. So that much I can understand.

John Hurley said...

GS
" published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, psychologist Ryne Sherman describes a "prototypical Trump supporter" as someone with "little interest in supporting social welfare programs," a "strong desire for power," a "strong desire to make money," various "concerns about personal and financial safety" and a "preference for strictly adhering to social conventions (i.e., order, structure, and following the chain of command)."
,,,
That sounds like the Chinese. They believe in the family as ten times more efficient at dispensing social welfare as the state [except they aren't much interested in government]
......
The evidence that racism, sexism and nativism motivated Trump's voters is overwhelming.
=================================
I have to ask myself why I'm interested in evolutionary psychology and why it matters that various populations have differences in average IQ (or why it doesn't). The reason is I think that I feel a need to see myself as unique and belonging to an ethny within a distinct territory. The left would have us as all the same: that way they can mix us up and move us around. It rather feels as though we go to school and are randomly assigned to a family for the night (and over and over). People get home sick.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"I have to ask myself why I'm interested in evolutionary psychology and why it matters that various populations have differences in average IQ "
I can't see much connection between this and the first part of your post – which if I understand it properly I agree with, but I will address the evolutionary psychology. But I would wonder as well, because I'm never quite sure if evolutionary biology is pseudoscience, or real science that hasn't quite worked out what it is supposed to be yet. Funnily enough, mainstream evolutionary psychology posits that we are "all the same" a Stone Age mind in a modern world. But much of the French stuff which you seem attracted to, and some of the mainstream stuff is pretty much untestable and therefore not science.

What I do know is that it allows some people to be racist, and claim they aren't.
There are in fact few and I suspect no biological differences that cause differences in average IQ between groups. In fact it's very difficult genetically to pin down exactly what a "group" is which is one of the reasons why it doesn't work with regard to IQ. The whole thing has been debunked by mathematicians and statisticians, educationalists, anthropologists, and just about everyone with a modicum of sense.

" The left would have us as all the same"
Nonsense. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." :)

John Hurley said...

Just how reliable is suburban liberalism?

In affluent, largely white Massachusetts communities like Wellesley, Southborough and Dedham, Hillary Clinton crushed Donald Trump by margins ranging from 23 to 50 percentage points.

These and other townships surrounding Boston epitomize the gains the Democratic Party has made nationwide in liberal, well-educated suburbs.

Ryan Enos, a political scientist at Harvard, published a book last year, “The Space Between Us,” suggesting that the ideological commitment of liberals in these and other similar communities may waver, or fail entirely, when their white homogeneity is threatened.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/14/opinion/trump-racism-liberals-suburbs.html