A lot of ink has been spilt on the issue of whether Trump is a fascist, mainly for two reasons. First, there are those who complain that everything is fascist. That’s nothing new. Frankly, it is better than being so far left that nothing is fascist. I’d rather have some false positive reports than not being vigilant and missing those few true positives – especially on something as crucial as electing dictators. I see no reason to move the overton window to a less cautious precipice, especially during election season.
Secondly, there are those who insist he is not a fascist tout court, for reasons as bland as ruling out fascism in a democracy ex hypothesi. That’s a noxiously invalid argument. Again, listening to the experts:
“Fascism can appear wherever democracy is sufficiently implanted to have aroused disillusion” – Robert Paxton
“Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes” – Umberto Eco
We are at the point where groups like the Harvard Republicans admit that Trump’s “flirtations in fascism are unparalleled in the history of our democracy”. That means this has gone beyond simple partisanship.
Let’s compare Trump to fascism directly. Umberto Eco wrote of several points of identification common to all fascists. He calls this Ur-Fascism. It has the following:
1. Cult of tradition
“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things…my primary consultant is myself” – Donald Trump
“I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.” – Donald Trump
2. Rejection of modernism
“The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.” – Umberto Eco
“All we need to do is start believing in ourselves and in our country again.” – Donald Trump
“I don’t hire a lot of number-crunchers, and I don’t trust fancy marketing surveys. I do my own surveys and draw my own conclusions.” – Donald Trump
“I don’t believe the polls anymore. I don’t believe them.” – Donald Trump
3. Cult of action for action’s sake
“Thinking is a form of emasculation…Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism” – Umberto Eco
“All of the people telling you that you can’t have the country you want, are the same people telling you that I wouldn’t be standing here tonight.”- Donald Trump
4. No syncretistic faith can withstand analytical criticism
5. The first appeal of a fascist … is an appeal against the intruders
“[She] was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting. One more child to sacrifice on the order, and on the altar, of open borders” – Donald Trump
6. One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class
“I pledge to never sign any trade agreement that hurts our workers, or that diminishes our freedom and independence” – Donald Trump
7. At the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged.
“I will tell you the plain facts that have been edited out of your nightly news and your morning newspaper” – Donald Trump
“The corporate media in our country is no longer involved in journalism. They are political special interest no different than any lobbyist or other financial entity with a total political agenda and the agenda is not for you, it’s for themselves…For them, it’s a war and for them, nothing at all is out of bounds.” – Donald Trump
“Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!” – Donald Trump
8. By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.
“[Fascists hold] the belief that one’s group is a victim, a sentiment which justifies any action against the group’s enemies, internal as well as external.” – Robert Paxton
“It’s time to deliver a victory for the American people” – Donald Trump
9. Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare.
“[Fascists believe in] the beauty of violence and of will, when they are devoted to the group’s success in a Darwinian struggle.” – Robert Paxton
“I have no patience for injustice, no tolerance for government incompetence, no sympathy for leaders who fail their citizens.” – Donald Trump
10. Every citizen belongs to the best people of the world, the members of the party are the best among the citizens.
“America is a nation of believers, dreamers, and strivers that is being led by a group of censors, critics, and cynics.” – Donald Trump
11. Cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death
“I would bomb the shit out of [ISIS]. I would just bomb those suckers, and that’s right, I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up ever single inch, there would be nothing left. And you know what, you’ll get Exxon to come in there, and in two months, you ever see these guys? How good they are, the great oil companies, they’ll rebuild it brand new… And I’ll take the oil.” – Donald Trump
“Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters. This is the origin of the machismo, which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.” – Umberto Eco
13. The People is conceived as…a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will
“[Fascist movements] culminat[e] in a national chieftain who alone is capable of incarnating the group’s destiny.” – Robert Paxton
“Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it” – Donald Trump
14. Use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.
To Be Continued…