February 6, 2005

the worst that can happen

Bitch, Ph.D.'s post about fearing American fascism echoes a lot of my own fears. The word fascist has been so diluted that Michael Ignatieff of the NYT recently said that the people who are disrupting elections in Iraq are fascists. They're not. Fascism is a particular political ideology. The left has been pretty free with the cries of "fascist!", and in some ways we're now paying the price. Because this isn't fascism, right here. Bush is not a fascist, at least not publically. But his ideology does echo fascism in significant ways.

Fundamentally, fascism is an ideology of the nation. It has no founding texts, really, but back when it was a respectable political ideology it had ties to the futurists. Fascism reveres the nation, but only as an idealized history full of cultural signifiers like traditional dress and food, heroic ancestors, and, of course, traditional family structure. The futurism shows up in the cult of violence and progress. There's an incredible passage in The Futurist Manifesto: "We will glorify war�the world�s only hygiene�militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman."1 That's the cult of violence, right there, and the rest of it is much the same. For the fascists, war offered a proving ground, a place to find meaning. It also engaged the whole state apparatus and provided a useful symbiosis between corporate and social; and it made people stay in their social roles. While fascism was once a respectable political ideology, the seeds of its downfall were within itself: it is necessarily violent, repressive, and exploitative of national tradition.

The summary of traits at Bitch, Ph.D., is right on. David Neiwert of Orcinus has a lot more about the creep of fascism in this country; he also argues that gays are the new Jews, which seems terrifyingly plausible.

An American fascism would look different from Mussolini's Italy, Hitler's Germany, Franco's Spain. But it would share those basic traits. I think a lot about the worst that could happen, and what I would have to do in that situation. What we would all have to do. It wouldn't be pretty.

1. F.T. Marinetti, reprinted at http://www.unknown.nu/futurism/manifesto.html. I was shocked that I found it online. Considering it's The Futurist Manifesto, maybe I shouldn't be.

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