I’m beginning to think Republicans in general, and Trump supporters in particular are intellectually incapable of recognizing Trump’s burgeoning fascism until one of his enablers pistol-whips them. In the hope that it’s not too late yet and at least some Republicans are capable of following an intellectual argument, I offer Italian philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco’s defining characteristics of fascism, or as he put it Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt. For the sake of brevity, I include only some of the fourteen features.
Thinking is a form of emasculation.
A Cult of Traditionalism expressed most obviously in the slogan Make America Great Again. Sure it’s a longing for a past that never existed, but it is obviously backward looking not forward looking.
Rejection of Modernism expressed as a distrust scientists and other educated elites as well as an appeal to irrationality.
Action for Action’s sake:
Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation…
Trump has released a series of executive orders that are shockingly inept both intellectually and pragmatically. The Muslim travel ban is paradigmatic. It makes no sense from a practical standpoint since the terrorism we have experienced has never been associated with individuals from the banned countries, but rather from their neighbors who are not banned. Nonetheless, Trump supporters praise it as action even though it is doomed to be entirely ineffective.
Disagreement as treason:
Trump’s fired Assistant Attorney General Sally Yates because she refused to carry out what she viewed as unconstitutional Muslim travel ban. The firing was legal but the language was extraordinary.
The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States…
Yates owes no allegiance to the Justice Department. She owes allegiance to the Consitution.
Trump’s reaction to a Federal judge who halted enforcement of the travel ban is even more outrageous:
The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country is ridiculous and will be overturned.
Trump appears to reject the great system of American jurisprudence designed by the Founding Fathers and based on checks and balances. The Judiciary is charged to serve as a constraint on the action of Congress and the President not to rubber stamp it.
The Demonization of Difference:
…Fascism grows up and seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus … Fascism is racist by definition.
Trump has grounded his Presidency in bigotry and xenophobia.
An Appeal to Social Frustration:
…[O]ne of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.
The slogan Make America Great Again has nothing to do with making America great and everything to do with assuaging the social frustration of white, blue collar workers and returning them to the center of American life.
A Racialist Nationalism:
…[A]t the root of the … Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia. But the plot must also come from the inside …
The Muslims are purportedly threatening America from the outside and Mexicans, African-Americans and liberals of all races are purportedly threatening America from the inside.
A Sense of Humiliation:
…[F]ollowers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies.
The Erosion of Individual Rights:
For … Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter…
Trump and his minions have a new name for this type of propaganda: alternative facts.
Thus, in the face of photographic evidence that Trump’s inauguration was poorly attended, thePress Secretary Sean Spicer could claim with a straight face:
That was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — PERIOD!
As George Orwell himself famously wrote in 1984:
In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it… [T]he logic of their position demanded it… [T]he very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.
For anyone with the wit to see it, Trump’s embrace of these fascist principles is chilling. But many people don’t want to see what is right in front of their faces. As Eco concludes:
…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 Blackshirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple… Our duty is to uncover [fascism] and to point our finger at any of its new instances — every day, in every part of the world…
That’s what I intend to do and so do millions of other true American patriots, those who love our country and its values of freedom and toleration.