I’ve written about Donald Trump a few times in the past and in those posts, I tried to highlight how he clearly was never a conservative and how the Evangelical embrace of him would eventually backfire and probably lead to the largest exodus in years. Now to be honest, I’ve danced around the elephant in the room cautiously while also trying to highlight just how bad it is while at the same time the regret is eating at me a little for not being more forceful. This is because I have a number of relationships with friends and family who are fond or sympathetic to that very same elephant. Perhaps I was worried that something too “loud” might do more harm to those relationships than actually making my point. However, after last week’s coup on the Capitol, that I cannot remain silent anymore and I must speak as direct as possible, Donald Trump is a Ur-Fascist, and the cultish groups he’s catered to as well as the people he has emboldened have not only normalized classical fascism, but legitimized it to the point to where it will remain long after he is gone. This is a blog post I should have written a while ago.
Umberto Eco is an Italian writer, philosopher, and cultural critic who grew up in the 1930s and grew up through Mussolini’s regime. He has direct experience growing up in a fascist state and experienced the Italian civil war first hand. In the 1950s, Eco entered the University of Turin and graduated. He has a large body of work written through the years, but in 1995 he wrote an essay appropriately titled, Ur-Fascism where he outlined what he viewed as 14 distinct properties or characteristics of Ur-Fascism, but first and foremost, what exactly is Ur-Fascism and how does it differentiate from classical understanding of fascism?
Fascism is an extremely complex ideology and there are many definitions of fascism; some people describe it as a type or set of political actions, a political philosophy or a mass movement, but as a term, fascism was first used by Mussolini in 1915 and it was often used to self descriptively until World War 2 when obviously it became an epithet and as a result, its meaning essentially became effervescent and was used against anything the user of it didn’t like. ‘Fascist pig’ was a common insult to cops in the 70s. Even socialist George Orwell who was also an ardent antifascist, who traveled to Spain to fight them in the Spanish civil war, still struggled with nailing down a concise definition of it in his time.
“It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else. Yet underneath all this mess there does lie a kind of buried meaning. To begin with, it is clear that there are very great differences, some of them easy to point out and not easy to explain away, between the régimes called Fascist and those called democratic. Secondly, if ‘Fascist’ means ‘in sympathy with Hitler’, some of the accusations I have listed above are obviously very much more justified than others. Thirdly, even the people who recklessly fling the word ‘Fascist’ in every direction attach at any rate an emotional significance to it. By ‘Fascism’ they mean, roughly speaking, something cruel, unscrupulous, arrogant, obscurantist, anti-liberal and anti-working-class. Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathizers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come. But Fascism is also a political and economic system. Why, then, cannot we have a clear and generally accepted definition of it? Alas! we shall not get one — not yet, anyway. To say why would take too long, but basically it is because it is impossible to define Fascism satisfactorily without making admissions which neither the Fascists themselves, nor the Conservatives, nor Socialists of any colour, are willing to make." - George Orwell, What is Fascism?, Tribune 1944
There have been more concise definitions constructed since, Robert Paxton, a professor emeritus of social science at Columbia University in New York defined fascism as “a form of political practice distinctive to the 20th century that arouses popular enthusiasm by sophisticated propaganda techniques for an anti-liberal, anti-socialist, violently exclusionary, expansionist nationalist agenda.” I don’t disagree, however, looking back at history in an attempt to nail down all the various specific policies that were advocated by fascist regimes in the past such as Italy, one quickly sees not surprisingly, fascists often make promises they never keep.
For example, According to the American Historical Association, Fascists in Italy promised almost every thing to everyone, from extreme radicalism in 1919 to extreme conservatism in 1922. This is why I defer to Umberto Eco’s analysis, other scholars such as Emilio Gentile, Dimitri Kitsikis, Stanley G. Payne, and others and have made similar breakdowns of the far reaching subtle characteristics and elements of fascism as well. Using analogies, one could describe fascism as a cauldron of ideas, or even a statue akin to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Different, even sometimes contradictory elements that can be found elsewhere all coming together make something monstrous.
In my opinion, fascism is the fruit, and Ur-Fascism is the tree and 14 elements that Eco describe are the different roots, reaching out far and deep consuming the nutrients in the ground. All the while this is all being facilitated and maintained by the orange faced caretaker who has been watering the tree and certain enablers have been cheering him on.
1.) The Cult of Tradition
The first element that Eco describes is the cult of Tradition. This can quickly and superficially be seen in “Make America Great Again”, however it is far more complex than just a callback to an earlier era. The fundamental Traditionalist principle is that truth, which includes morality, is both knowable and unchanging and when that is revealed by tradition. With no new learning, no progress or evolution can be made, only further interpretation and refinement.
According to Eco, it’s inherently syncretistic, which is the mixture of seemingly contradictory ideas. For example, many on the far right supporting Trump have no problem proclaiming their faith in Jesus, their love for God, others, and their adherence to being Pro-Life, but at the exact same time have no qualms in using firearms to take a life at a moments notice, or execute someone on death row. There is also this core belief in respecting the flag and don’t even let it touch the ground, for it is as sacred. However, we have no problem making it a suit liner, a bandana, a set of truck nuts or even making their own version of it in black and white with a blue line to warp the meaning of it.
The irony is so thick that the same that enjoy erecting the symbol of their faith everywhere (that is actually an ancient execution device) also commonly endorse execution by the state. Thus, somehow aligning both with the mob calling for the crucifixion and the victim of it at the same time.
Each of the original messages contains a sliver of wisdom, and whenever the messages seem to say different or incompatible things it is only because all are alluding, allegorically, to the same primeval truth. As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning and any attempt at progress is rejected. Truth has been already spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message.
“One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements. The most influential theoretical source of the theories of the new Italian right, Julius Evola, merged the Holy Grail with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, alchemy with the Holy Roman and Germanic Empire. The very fact that the Italian right, in order to show its open-mindedness, recently broadened its syllabus to include works by De Maistre, Guenon, and Gramsci, is a blatant proof of syncretism." - Umberto Eco
2.) The Rejection of Modernism
Hand-in-hand with Traditionalism is the rejection of modernism. Modernism being late 19th and early 20th century movements reflected a desire for the creation of new forms of art, philosophy, and social organization which reflected the newly emerging industrial world, including features such as urbanization, new technologies, and war.
I would argue that in many ways, Donald Trump also rejects modernity as well which is slightly different than modernism. Modernity is the collection of socio-cultural norms and attitudes that arose within the Age of Reason/The Enlightenment in the 17th century and 18th centuries and one of the fundamental ideas within modernity is the idea that history is progress. Pre-modern societies envisaged history in cyclical terms or seasons where the order and operation of everything was static. Essentially we’re living in God’s snow globe exactly how everything is supposed to be. Kings are determined by divine right and there is no need to adjust or change the social order. In fact, the current state of the social order was God’s will and changing it is in a way, violating it.
With modernity came reason, and came empiricism as the primary source of knowledge and with that came secularism. These combined instilled the idea that we can surpass and change and improve upon what came before. Societies, political systems, gender norms and equality, international collaboration. Slaves don’t need to exist, a person’s value isn’t determined by their status or birthplace. Modernity is also the shedding of traditionalist norms, we will choose who to marry, what job to pursue, explore our gender, where to live and how to think. It’s a chaotic variable that continuously differentiates rather then reinforces the societal cohesiveness or national body. This is all a fly in the face of Trumpism.
There are a large amount of people who support Donald Trump, not because of any supposed compelling arguments, but because he’s the “chosen one”. He has the “Elijah mantle” as some faith leaders have attempted to prophesy. There have been movies and documentaries made to place Trump into this divine right narrative which is a very big callback to that Pre-Modern era. Even Robert Jefferess, (pastor of a church of 14,000 people) believes that Trump has a God appointed right to nuke North Korea and murder hundreds of thousands of people.
The most stark examples of Trump’s rejection of modernism is how he regularly interacts with scientific subjects. He has repeatedly and consistently tweeted in bad faith about scientific subjects such as global warming and vaccines. Instead of making an attempt in good faith to understand why scientific consensus changes over time and why, Trump has used his platform to undermine any and all things from the scientific community. Some people have wondered if it’s brazen ignorance or laziness? However, I believe Trump knows what he’s doing. By poisoning the well and removing the scientific community as an authoritative source, Trump is removing that chess piece from the board. Even if there’s extensive data from the scientific community, many of his followers will often ask if you even trust the science now.
3.) The Cult of Action for Action’s Sake
“We’re going to build a wall, we’re going to do to own the libs!” Fascism is spun around primarily violent action rather than thought and in many situations the Trumpist cult will call for actions just for the sake of doing them rather than reflecting on the result that action will have. Oftentimes, spite is a core reason for acting, as a big middle finger to the libs. Intellectual reflection breeds hesitance, hesitance breeds empathy which becomes a barrier to action. This, says Eco, is connected with anti-intellectualism and irrationalism.
4.) Disagreement Is Treason
Anyone who has ever lived or experienced a cult understands what happens not just if you disagree, but if you even ponder an alternative. This is because a syncretistic belief cannot hold up against analytical criticism. Doing so will expose the contradictions embodied in that syncretistic belief. Healthy disagreement in good faith is a good thing, it allows us to grow and challenge ideas that may not be as good as we assumed in the past. It’s an inherent characteristic within modernism and that is a barrier for Trump.
One of the longest running questions I’ve been trying to answer in my life is in regards to the beliefs of some of the false faith leaders I used to avidly follow. Do they deep down know that it’s a farce themselves and work to continuously conceal it? Or are they able to bury the dissonance so much that to them, it is real and I was just riding along in the wake of their belief like a water-skier to a boat.
5.) Fear of Difference
This is one of the starkest and most identifiable characteristics of fascism. Fear of difference and essentially fear of the other. Those are which fascism seeks to exploit and exacerbate, often in the form of racism or an appeal against foreigners and immigrants.
Fascism isn’t an egalitarian threat. For example in The Avengers: Infinity War when Thanos is working toward exterminating half of all of the life in the universe, that is essentially an equal threat to everyone and everyone can identify and unify to stop it. In history, fascism has always existed targeting a smaller subset of group of people. Death squads don’t sweep for everyone, and the government never announces that we’re all going to camps.
It’s not a stark threshold to cross, it’s a slowly shifting gradient that doesn’t even need to boil over into active violence to exist, even passive versions have existed due to the same underlying reasons which can end up having catastrophic effects.
The Irish potato famine is an example of this, The historian Cecil Woodham-Smith wrote in The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845–1849, “as the indisputable fact that huge quantities of food were exported from Ireland to England throughout the period when the people of Ireland were dying of starvation.“ Ireland had enough wheat to actually feed its entire population, but due to economic policies at the time from the the Russell administration in England that wheat and other grains were exported to pay the required rates while millions of Irish starved. (The estimated deaths from the famine are between 1.1 and 1.5 million.)
Assistant Secretary to the Treasury Charles Trevelyan said, the famine was an “effective mechanism for reducing surplus population.” This caused little public outcry at the time, mostly because the British at the time saw the Irish as racially distinct and inferior.
This is the same reason why photos of children sleeping in cages paid for by American tax payers don’t necessarily invoke a strong reaction when presented back to them. The same reason why the whistleblower account of forced sterilizations don’t end up being more than a blip on people’s social media feed because in most situations, the victims don’t look familiar unless one looks like them (“American” that is). The International Justice Resource Center defines forced sterilization as a human rights violation and can constitute an act of genocide. However, if you were to say “awoman” instead of “amen” at the end of a prayer, get ready to feel the full force of the evangelical death star. That’s where their real priorities are.
In yet another confounding contradiction, many of the QAnon supporters who aggressively push the astroturfed #SaveTheChildren hashtag to help trafficked children and victims of sexual predators, share very little concern for the actual children highest at risk, undocumented children without any sort of paper trail in the system or family able to find them, because the government deported them. Lisa Fortuna, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Boston Medical Center said in an interview regarding immigrant children shelters, “If you’re a predator, it’s a gold mine”.
Even though I would never do this, if I just so happened to have a device that could peer into the imagination of QAnon supporters who rail against the demonic Jewish cabal of pedophiles of the elite who drink the blood and rape children, I would bet money that in their head, those children are as white as they are.
Trump has repeatedly swam in this pool of shit. Tweeting fear-based propaganda about how some of these demographics– that the larger population has a inferior view on– will be invading their neighborhoods and changing their way of life. This isn’t new and Trump isn’t the first person to invoke this idea. Redlining has been a thing for almost a hundred years and is based on this core idea, keeping “the others”– less desirable demographics– out and away. Whether it be religiously obscured under the dogmatic “keeping the villages separate” mantra or not, its the same underlying idea.
“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” - U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson
6.) Appeal to a Frustrated Middle-Class
This is a really high level one that before anyone questions, “Appealing to the middle-class is fascist?” No, it’s not, but fascists cannot succeed without specifically pitching their tent and putting almost all of their eggs into the middle-class basket. As of September 2018, though, Pew reported that 52% of American adults were in the middle class. Census estimates in July of 2019 found that 60% of the population identified as White, non Hispanic or Latino. That’s a solid, simplified group to hedge your campaign to.
Eco argues that the middle-class is specifically appealed to with fear-based propaganda that will allude to the economic pressure from the demands and aspirations of lower social groups. The world has changed since Eco wrote his essay in 1995, Some industries are growing while others are waning at the same time the middle-class population is getting older. Coal is a good example of this appeal. Instead of understanding that due to advances in technology that have driven the cost per kilowatt hour of wind and hydro to in some places 1/3rd of the cost in coal there is an insistence to expand and return back blindly. Even fracking is cheaper than coal and in some places up to 50% cheaper.
The frustration of coal miners should be understood and not dismissed. There are towns and entire regions who are dependent on it as an industry and the dismissive nature of some politicians naturally cause them to cleave to one of the only persons speaking to those frustrations, honest or not. Some politicians are just daft by assuming that every coal miner can master boolean logic and learn to code. But despite the amount of angry tweets about coal Trump makes, the slide downward continues. Empathize for a moment and understand that one can easily view their vote for Trump as one for survival. This is why Trump said a while ago that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and wouldn’t lose any votes, he’d lose some, but he’s not completely wrong here.
7.) Obsession with a Plot
Have you ever wondered why people believe in a flat Earth theory? It’s not because the science is compelling (it’s not). I learned about the curvature of the earth by watching ships drop below the horizon when I was in 3rd grade. But flat Earthers have this toxic obsession with it, have you ever wondered why? The funny thing about flat Earth theory is that if the Earth was actually flat, that would be the least intriguing part of everything.
It’s because if the Earth is actually flat, it’s definitive proof that ‘They’ are lying to you. By ‘They’ I mean illuminati, deep state, Jewish cabal, Hollywood, pick your boogieman. Whoever ‘They’ are, ‘They’ are the ones who have been influencing everything, all the maps, all the science all over the world. Flat Earth theory isn’t really about the Earth, it’s actually about ‘Them‘. Flat Earth theory is the welcome mat to the fascist conspiracy theory mad house, QAnon.
Do you have a group of passionate followers and want to weaponize them? All you have to do is raise the stakes, spread some fear, and eventually the ends in; taking back our country from satanic pedophiles who collectively drink the blood of children will easily justify the means of violence.
Where flat Earth theory is more actually about ‘Them‘, QAnon is more about the action or response. What needs to be done, who can fix this, how can we all contribute? The way Trump is portrayed within Q circles often places him as the mastermind, the authoritative strong man who is needed to clean up the deep state. No one else can do it either, Trump is the only one, but mix in some religious elements and he’s chosen to do it. It’s quite regular to see QAnon supporters support Martial law and many even consider it a necessary for Trump to finally drain the swamp of the deep state. Make no mistake, the cult of personality and the strongman authoritative nature combined with all of these other elements is a big spoonful of sugar to help the authoritative derailing of democracy go down.
Conspiracy theories are a foundational element in radicalizing a group of people to accept a fascist movement. In 1947 there was a short film released by the U.S. government titled Don’t Be a Sucker that was literally intended to combat these dangerous and xenophobic themes. It is well documented how the Nazis took these same elements and combined them with anti-semitic imagery to dehumanize Jews like rats and vermin that controlled the German press who needed to be eradicated from our society.
In his 1995 essay, Eco actually cites Pat Robertson‘s book The New World Order as a prominent current example of a plot obsession that combines all of these various ideas into a syncretic package of new age gobbledygook that resembles all of the elements of QAnon. Damn, he was calling out fascism like people buying bitcoins when they were worth pennies.
I could write an entire blogpost on just flat Earth theory and QAnon, but I believe that Dan Olsen at Folding Ideas has created the most definitive breakdown of it. I normally despise when people drop an hour YouTube video, but this video is so well executed that if you know any of your friends or family are toying with QAnon or flat Earth ideas or conspiracies, I cannot recommend this enough.
“The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory, is that conspiracy theorists believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is actually chaotic. The truth is that it is not The Iluminati, or The Jewish Banking Conspiracy, or the Gray Alien Theory. The truth is far more frightening, Nobody is in control. The world is rudderless." - Alan Moore
8.) The Enemy is Both Too Strong and Too Weak
Somehow Joe Biden is so old and withered away that Kamala Harris is going to immediately invoke the 25th while at the same time he’s strong enough where he is going to execute a hostile takeover of everything and implement communism and take your guns. He’s brain dead and cannot even give a speech without a teleprompter, yet is somehow the mastermind of this liberal takeover. These divisive dichotomies rhetorically cast their enemies as both too strong, while simultaneously being too weak. This is because both can be utilized in their own way as a motivator for followers. The power of enemies is exaggerated to instill a sense of grievance and humiliation while at the same time trying to highlight their feebleness in order to convince their followers how easy it is to overwhelm them if we all came together.
It isn’t just power though, sometimes decadence and finances are utilized insults as well, for example Biden can be attacked for renting out a large expensive mansion in D.C. which is highlighted as a sign of his corrupt nature, yet Trump has a $100 Million dollar apartment lined in gold and marble and that’s a sign that he’s just a great business man.
9.) Pacifism is Trafficking with the Enemy
This sort of movement and operation doesn’t need diplomacy, “just bomb the shit out of them” as Trump would say. Trump originally ran on the promise of “stopping endless wars” which might have been one of the only bullet points of his campaign that I agreed with, but after 4 years you can see this is another one of those smokescreen stances with no basis in reality.
After 4 years, Trump has actually come closer to starting new wars with North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran than to ending any of the wars he inherited from Obama. Trump has dropped more bombs and missiles than George W. Bush or Barack Obama did in their first terms, and there are still roughly as many US bases and troops overseas as when he was elected.
This is because, according to Eco, “Life is Permanent Warfare” – there must always be an enemy to fight. How else can you prove to everyone how strong you are? You can see the stark nature of his rhetoric when it comes to North Korea. North Korea has nuclear weapons and everyone, including Rex Tillerson know that we want to approach this cautiously, not just for the sake of the American people, but also for the North Koreans. Trump doesn’t respect this because in his opinion the hesitance makes us look weak. Rex makes an attempt to negotiate and trump tweets, “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”
10.) Contempt for the Weak
Remember when Trump wanted to have a parade and insisted on having no wounded veterans, because “nobody wants to see amputees”? Trump has been reported calling the war dead ‘suckers’, and a cemetery filled with American soldiers in France being ‘filled with losers’. Trump has an almost childlike, simpleton view of strength and weakness that’s just contaminated with his insecurity that flows right into his contempt for the weak.
John McCain was captured and according to Trump, that makes him a loser. In 2015, when he mocked New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski at a rally by spastically flailing his arms everywhere people quickly pointed out the similarities between Trump’s hand gesture and Kovaleski’s disability. Immediately people were on the defense and tried to highlight that Kovaleski wasn’t spastic, his arm is actually permanently seized in that shape. It’s well established that Chorea, Athetosis, and Hemiballismus are conditions that can occur to people suffering from a disorder, but they are perceived as being exclusive to intellectual disabilities (formerly mental retardation). I remember in junior high, when “retard” was thrown around sometimes, it often followed “durr durr durr” with the same gesture. Even Ann Coulter came to Trump’s defense with the argument that he wasn’t mocking Kovaleski, he was just doing the “standard retard“, because Trump does that for a number of different people as well which somehow is supposed to be more acceptable? It will never cease to amaze me how Trump’s campaign lasted beyond that and Howard Dean essentially murdered his in 2004 with a cringey scream on stage.
11.) Everybody is Educated to Become a Hero
In classical literature, heroes are very rare, typically they’re protagonist of the story being told or as in ancient Greek mythology, having a divine ancestry and superhuman powers. Part of what made a hero this alluring concept was the exclusive nature about it and how much above and beyond the norm a specific person went. If everyone is a hero and it is the norm, then no one is and according to Eco, this is present within Ur-Fascist ideology. By reducing hero and heroic down to be synonymous with courageousness, strength, and admired we all can be considered heroes in this cult if we among those that act.
Ernest Becker wrote in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, that human civilization is essentially an elaborate symbolic defense mechanism against the knowledge of our own mortality. Becker explains that a basic duality exists within the human experience between the physical world that we interact with and the symbolic nature of how we perceive things. Through that duality, humans yearn to transcend the dilemma of our impending morality through heroism and end up cheating death, by focusing our attention on that symbolic self. In the end, we all understand deep down that there is no way of ever doing so. It’s like turning the light off in the basement and you run up the stairs to escape the darkness.
This is where the cult of heroes turns into the cult of death. The Ur-Fascist hero according to Eco subconsciously craves death, it is an event that proves their heroism and a heroes death is the best door out of this realm when compared to dying slowly in bed like an old coward filled with regret. Mix in a little Christian theology and you’ll have treasures in heaven. It shouldn’t be surprising then that Viva la Muerte (in English it should be translated as “Long Live Death!”) was used as a motto by fascists in Spain in the 1930s.
This manifests everywhere there are dangers and risks and naturally those risks are purposefully underestimated and in almost every situation specifically ignored. Some of this can be attributed to obsession with the plot. I’ve read too many news articles this year of some stubborn Trump supporter rejecting COVID as a risk only to express regret as a final sentiment before the virus takes them. I’ve seen some even encourage even more brazen ignorance like a speaker at a Pro-Trump rally actively encouraged people to mingle and create a mass spreader event. According to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, even grandma and grandpa can be heroes by dying for the economy. There are no bronze statues of a hospital patient in denial on a ventilator in any town square, I can assure you that killing yourselves to “own the libs” is not a heroic death.
Machismo is originally defined as a pride in masculinity, often perceived as a display of power, often coupled with a minimal sense of responsibility and disregard of consequences. However, over time it has become a self-parody of insecure fragile men. It’s this almost cartoonish insecurity in men who struggle with proving themselves within the sexual plane. It’s the neckbearded insecure men open carrying rifles in a chipotle. It’s the guy driving the jacked up Dodge Ram with smoke stacks, rolling coal as he hauls ass through the suburbs announcing his presence wherever he goes and leaving a cloud in his wake. It’s the guys who wear Sons of Anarchy vests in public with skull rings and chains that might as well be the equivalent to wearing a Jedi outfit in public. It’s the guys who buys a military uniform at the army surplus store and walks around the mall with a bunch of chest candy making people think they’re a war hero. It’s the presidential candidate spending time trying to convince everyone at a presidental debate on national television that he has a large penis. It’s a toxic, Potemkin form of traditional masculinity. It’s the reason continuous rallies of rants are needed to constantly goad the ego. It doesn’t even matter if it kills an estimated 700 people as a superspreader event.
Market forces within our capitalist sphere have paid attention and attempted to cater to this trend. It’s why my shampoo bottle has camo print or my Gillette Razor has a steel diamond pattern on the box. It’s why when a makeup concealer is released and marketed for men, it has to be called War Paint instead. Take any product ad, “For Men” on the package with racing stripes or camo and change the font to look more badass. Now a man will be comfortable in buying it.
In 2019, Nate Powell drew a graphic essay, “About Face“ describing how the normalization of this over time combined with pop culture’s romance of dark power, vigilantism, and rampant militarization of not just the police, but also suburban life in general flows downhill to eventual fascism.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University wrote in her 2020 book, Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present that Machismo is a “strategy of political legitimization and a central component of authoritarian rule.” Strongman regimes put forward a reactionary model of masculinity that starts with the misogynistic monsters at the top. Mussolini was a sex addict who created a “state-assisted machine” to have intercourse with thousands of women. Qaddafi used the state security to kidnap sexual slaves, some as young as 14. This is in line with Trump’s style of masculinity, telling 14 year olds on multiple occasions they’ll be dating him in a few years, grabbing other women by the pussy, taking when he ever so desires and boiling over in a rage when he’s denied.
I’ve heard some disgusting shit in my life, but I’ve never heard anyone so casually discuss their infant daughter’s potential breast size in a TV interview before. I understand gaffes and mis-speaking, but people will often show you their true selves without realizing it if you look closely.
“You have to treat ’em like shit.” - Donald J. Trump, referring to women in conversation, New York Magazine, Nov 9, 1992
13.) Selective Populism
Ur-fascists view the population monolithically, and then often speak as if they are the arbiter or interpreter of the popular will even though they actually dictate it. Trump often will make claims on behalf of “The People” like how the media is the enemy, but not just the enemy, but the enemy of “The People” (normally it’s in all caps on twitter though). After losing his election in November, 2020, Trump often made claims how the “will of the people” was upended or is being derailed. Make no mistake about this, this is selective populism and this is a tool intended to de-legitimize democratic institutions.
No population is ever completely unanimous and in an country of immigrants, America is no different. Trump, however, is clearly only campaigning for a selected white chunk of that population. Of course if asked and referenced, he will often cite how no one has done more for , but this ends up being just enough for plausible deniability. Throw in one or two events with a bunch of black people and you have enough photos to last an entire campaign. Add in a few bad faith grifters and you’re set.
The purpose of language is to describe reality and newspeak is an attempt to reduce the replace the authority of that language and promote an impoverished vocabulary in order to limit critical reasoning. Many will often decry things like political correctness(PC) as an example of newspeak, but they are actually mistaken. Turning the phrase into a pejorative, an insult, is actually a more accurate example of newspeak. “Oh that’s PC, oh that’s just wokeness”, is often thrown around when someone is just dismissive and attempts to avoid engaging with an argument.
Political correctness has a definition, it’s a term used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society. One can easily have a constructive discussion about political correctness, it’s applicability, cisgender, racial equity, or any other woke term, these are complex terms that have distinct definitions that have application, but again, sweeping them all under the rug under a simplistic label to reduce that complex thought is far more Orwellian than the open mic comic upset people don’t like rape jokes anymore. If Newspeak was to excise complex words, in order to reduce complex thought, the antidote to Newspeak is complexity, with words and phrases meaning more distinct and precise things.
As much as I love George Carlin’s bit about how words like “shell shock” turned into “post-traumatic stress disorder”, just ask yourself what sounds more complex and accurate to the actual condition? Carlin even uses the word “stress” in his original description of what shell shock is. Carlin eventually suggests that the reason so many soldiers in Vietnam were forgotten about was because we started using softer language, but I would argue that ignoring the troops has been a constant within the American military war machine since the beginning. Even after the white hot patriotism that was fanned during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, still led to very little treatment offered to the men and women who’ve served to this day. If you join the military today, statistically you have a higher probability of killing yourself than dying in combat. The reason why the Vietnam vets specifically were treated poorly was due to a very complex combination of cultural and economic issues at the time related to the length of the war, the unnecessary nature of it, it’s eventual failure, and when atrocities like Mỹ Lai massacre came to light it was hard to separate the optics that with those who served. According to Carlin, no, it’s because of soft words and nothing else.
Trump really loves two specific terms that are examples of newspeak that are intentionally targeted to two entities that coincidentally are also threats to him and stand between him and an expansion of his power and they are ‘Deep State’, and ‘Fake News’.
The ‘Deep State’ was originally coined in Turkey in the 1990s, but some trace the etymology of it back to ancient Rome. In Turkey, there was an event where the military colluded with drug traffickers and hitmen against Kurdish insurgents at the time. Trump has co-opted the term and has used it to generally describe a shadowy nexus of different people across different agencies within the government (states and federal) who oppose him, not because of any constitutional oath they have taken, but because they have been corrupted by the enemy’s agenda and hate America. They hate America so much that they will oppose Deep state is a recurring character in the plot that is obsessed about in point #7.
‘Deep State’ as newspeak is also intended to also serve as a self fulfilling prophesy, if someone deep down understands that the walls are closing in or they have skeletons in their closet that could eventually catch up with them, or even the regularly walk the line of legality in how they operate. An arrest or an investigation or impeachment is just evidence that it’s true. Did you hear that Trump is being investigated by the District Court of the Southern District of New York? That’s just the deep state. Did you hear that Trump was actually overheard discussing a pardon for himself and his kids? Well yeah, the deep state is after him so he has to.
This is not to deny that corruption exists, I mean we’re talking about the CIA, FBI and other law enforcement entities here, but advocating for transparency, investigating alleged corruption is far different than with how Trump monolithically uses the term to undermine the entirety of the Department of Justice. Despite pushing out senior defense officials at the pentagon and installing loyalists, despite installing loyalists in the heads of all of the various departments within the executive branch, despite a mass exodus of previously served lawyers at the Department of Justice, the deep state still exists, it has to for his purposes.
Where ‘Deep State’ is used as a propagandistic term to shield from justice, ‘Fake News’ is utilized as a shield from accountability. There’s a reason Trump ends press conferences and flees whenever he is challenged. In May 2018, Trump tweeted a fascinating tweet that is essentially an accidental disclosure into to how it works.
“The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy, all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?" - Donald Trump Tweet, May 9th, 2018
Trump isn’t calling the news fake because of points a,b, and c being wrong. He’s simply calling it fake because it’s negative to him. Spin and bias are real things and there are various different other elements at play within the media. You have foreign state sponsored propaganda, mis-attribution due to being overly hasteful in reporting, bad sources, sensationalism due to the competitive nature of our news organizations in the capitalist market. Sometimes fake news is thrown at articles simply because of the chosen phrasing used to describe a very real thing is too soft or too inflammatory. Most reputable news organizations do follow up with a retraction when it calls for it, but that normally is often viewed less than the original report. That is part of this difficulty in disseminating through information and determining what is true and what isn’t. That is very different, than grouping the entire negativity of the fourth estate under the label of ‘Fake News’. You can see how ‘Fake News’ is newspeak in how it is regularly used by followers.
How many times have you ever posted something on Facebook and some angry boomer replied, “FAKE NEWS” with no other references or citations to back up their claim. Even prodding them asking for clarification doesn’t work. It’s practically a drive by statement, like a brick quickly thrown out the passenger window, smashing a window pane as the gas pedal is pressed to quickly escape the situation. I literally posted a video of the fascist mob at the capitol dragging and eventually beating a police officer on January 6th all within clear view. I was presented with this brainbuster of a response:
‘Fake News’ might as well be ‘It’s got what plants crave’, which is a brilliant satirical version of newspeak depicted in 2006’s Idiocracy by applying value to a fluid simply because it has more of something like electrolytes.
In my last blog post, I tried to highlight how Trump is now in a position now where he would be the main profiteer of any violence from the left or the right and after losing the election in November, and losing all of his baseless lawsuits in court, he has no cards left to play but violence. I cannot imagine what would the future like if he actually had a certified election win in November. My father and I bicker about these things and his response was that 99% of conservatives aren’t like those insurrectionists in the capital. That still leaves about 700,000 people, many of whom are gun owners which if compared would make it the 5th largest military force in the world combined with majority support of the Republican party.
Some people want to try and step outside of the situation and commit bothsideism/whataboutism and compare the coup last week with the BLM protests last year. There is this allure of appearing wise by standing in the middle to call out both sides as the same as if it gives you some credence, but the problem is it’s actually very stupid, it’s because it causes you to ignore the contexts of each specific situation, the motivations, the asks, and it leads you to view everything in all their differences as the very same thing. It’s a rejection of complex thought very similar to newspeak. Hey look the house is on fire, but what about this different situation that happened a while ago? It’s a rejection of engaging with the current situation at hand and its a large reason why we’re here.
Trump’s history of violent rhetoric has always been just within the boundaries of plausible deniability which allow people to believe that he’s not actually inciting violence since he’s not as explicit or he follows up with a half asked statement for peace. After losing an election, when someone continues to use rhetoric like “we need to take our country back” after losing an election one must ask how? That’s normally accomplished through the election itself, but right now, after losing one that has then been certified and many states performed audits, what is there to do? The crowd is armed and suddenly is directed to march on the capitol, and do what, sing Kumbaya? Don Jr calls out congress and states that, ‘We’re coming for you.’ to do what? forcefully state your opinion? Trump’s own lawyer has called for ‘trial by combat’ and it shouldn’t be surprising when you hear the rhetoric of his supporters calling for heads on pikes. Make no mistake, the combination of everything together absolutely is incitement. The FBI literally cites in one of their criminal complaints against an insurrectionist is a social media post where they cite a misleading trump tweet as the reason why they’re there.
Some people won’t ever think Trump is calling for violence unless he explicitly calls for the deaths of his opponents. One time, I had a Trump supporter tell me they would only believe Trump was racist if he created a U.S Department of Lynching or something similarly absurd. The definition is set so extremely strict to keep Trump, someone they support for possibly other reasons excluded from it.
Imagine if this was 1930 and we didn’t have a video camera in virtually everyone’s hand? Imagine if we didn’t have this digital repository of information where we have previously documented the identities of many of these neo-nazis. Imagine if we didn’t have cell phones allowing for instantaneous communication to call for backup to the Capitol. Imagine if we had to depend on hearing about this event from some high ranking members of congress who pushed a Reichstag fire esque false narrative of the perpetrators. Imagine if we were informed about this event in the newspaper the next day. Insurrectionists armed with firearms and zip-ties were only one hallway away from the leaders of the legislative branch, we are lucky that the execution of this coup was so disorganized and incompetent or else it probably would have actually succeeded. And given the response of lawmakers downplaying any impeachment reaction, citing division, they are essentially saying it’s ok to try again. You do not, and should not, unite with people who almost just had you killed.
I’ve been stumped over the last few years as to why so many American Christians were comfortable throwing their support completely behind a person like Donald Trump, but in the end it’s actually far simpler than I thought. Obviously there are many Christians who don’t support everything Trump is, but the important parts, the abortion, the supreme court are important enough that they can easily excuse the rest. This allows them to simplify their beliefs and still allow them to bury any dissonance with newspeak or whataboutism. If they ever struggle with their conscious, they can just close their eyes and imagine an aborted fetus laying on a table. Part of it is fear, part of it is greed for political power, but through that toxic mix, they have thrown support behind a man they thought they understood. Even if you mean well and you only support him for what you believe are godly reasons, you’re still supporting that person as if you supported him because you actually like his machismo pussy grabbing personality. Imagine someone saying they only supported Hitler because he had a cool mustache. My father has been a conservative since the 80s and I was one from the 90s-2015. He said he had never seen election losses like this one and I agreed, but this isn’t traditional conservatism, this is fascism and this is the fruit that has been growing for almost the last decade and make no mistake, Trump has been the one watering it. January 6th was the snap of grabbing one off of the tree and it perhaps wasn’t ripe as much as Trump intended, but nonetheless, all of this fruit was always intended to eventually be picked. Trump should absolutely be impeached and barred from holding public office ever again, but even if we throw him out of the garden, there’s still all this fruit still hanging on the tree.