I hate using words like “fascist” or “Nazi,” because in 99.999% of the cases it’s just a ridiculous, or even offensive, comparison to what really happened in Nazi Germany or in fascist countries like Mussolini’s Italy. However, I’m using the word “fascist” now because I don’t know how else to describe Donald Trump’s latest extremist lunacy and bigotry.
Yahoo News asked Trump whether his push for increased surveillance of American Muslims could include warrantless searches. He suggested he would consider a series of drastic measures.
“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,” Trump said. “And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”
Yahoo News asked Trump whether this level of tracking might require registering Muslims in a database or giving them a form of special identification that noted their religion. He wouldn’t rule it out.
“We’re going to have to — we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump said when presented with the idea. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”
Reaction to this has been harsh, including Yes, Donald Trump is a fascist. (The New Republic); Donald Trump Would Support Registry for Muslim-Americans; A Literal Fascist Now Leading GOP Polls (Jezebel); Trump Calls for Special Muslim ID and Faith Database (Bearing Drift), etc. My reaction is to go back to Umberto Eco’s 1995 essay in the New York Review of Books on what he calls “Ur-Fascism.” What Eco prsenets is a “list of features that are typical of what I would like to call Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism,” that “cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism,”but that “it is enough that one of them be present to
allow fascism to coagulate around it.” Here they are, and as you read the list, keep in mind many of the things Donald Trump (and to an extent Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and other 2016 Republican presidential candidates) have said in recent months.
1. “The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition…As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning. Truth has been already
spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message.” (Right, and according to Trump, all he needs to do is snap his fingers and bring us all back to that mythological time prior to when America stopped being “great.”)
2. “Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism.” (Science denial is rampant in the 2016 Republican presidential field, certainly with Trump.)
3. “Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action’s sake.” (Listen to Trump’s speeches, they’re extremely short on specifics or actual plans, extremely long on taking action — even if the specified action would be extremely harmful, dangerous, crazy, whatever.)
4. “No syncretistic faith can withstand analytical criticism… For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.” (If you don’t agree with Trump, you’re in idiot, probably a Communist, etc.)
5. “Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks for 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 UrFascism is racist by definition.” (Xenophobia – immigrant bashing, Muslim bashing, etc. – is rampant in the rhetoric of Trump and other 2016 Republican presidential contenders.)
6. “Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustration. That is why one 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.” (No question that a lot of people are frustrated right now, for economic and other reasons. The problem is that they’re often pointing their fingers at the wrong causes for their distress, and demagogues like Trump are stoking that.)
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. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.” (Again, that’s Trump to a “T,” including his hyper-militarism, the answer to everything being to kill it, deport it, bomb the crap out of it, etc.)
8. “The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies.” (In this case, I wouldn’t say “wealth” as much as “force,” such as in the case of ISIS.)
9. “For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.” (Not sure if this one fits exactly, but I haven’t thought it through fully. Your thoughts?)
10. “Ur-Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs to the best people of the world, the members of the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party.” (Yep, that’s Trump, American Exceptionalism and breast-thumping ultra-nationalism to the nth degree. Because WE ARE THE GREATEST…well, that is, when he makes us “great again!” Heh.)
11. “The Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.” (Not sure Trump’s “impatient to die,” but he certainly seems eager to send other people to fight and die.)
12. ” 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 machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). Since even sex is a difficult game to play, the UrFascist hero tends to play with weapons – doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise.” (Definitely note the strong streaks of homophobia and misogyny in the right-wing “base.” Also note their extreme discomfort with other sexual identities, such as transgenderism, as well as with men not being tough or macho enough (e.g., Trump’s criticisms of “JEB” Bush as “low energy.”). And of course, they loooove their guns, the bigger and badder the better!)
13. “For Ur-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.” (Yep, that’s Trump.)
14. ” Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. Newspeak was invented by Orwell, in 1984, as the official language of Ingsoc, English Socialism. But elements of Ur-Fascism are common to different forms of dictatorship. All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. ” (Listen to Trump speak; he sounds like he has about a 3rd-grade vocabulary. Bunch of utter garbage, no complex or critical reasoning in evidence, definite “Newspeak” tendencies.)
So…looks like Trump partly or fully meets all 14 of Umberto Eco’s criteria for the “Ur-Fascist.” I could probably do the same thing for Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and others in the 2016 Republican field. Yet somehow, to political reporters like Chris Cillizza, the Republicans are a normal U.S. political party, with “both sides” false equivalency to “the left?” I swear, if Cillizza and his ilk were reporters in the 1930s, it would all be about whether Mussolini, Hitler and all had a “strong” debate performance, were “up” or “down” in the polls, were raising a lot of money, blah blah blah.