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Ur-Fascism by Umberto Eco (1995) (nybooks.com)
235 points by azuajef on July 27, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 173 comments



What an insightful piece. It is interwoven with Eco's experience as a kid in Fascist Italy, but written 50 years later. At the end is a little listicle of typical characteristics of a Fascist movement, with a careful indication that not all will be present.

Being written in 1995, the training set is independent of the test set, and one is thus free to find parallels in the current moment:

"Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action’s sake. Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation."

"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."

"To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country. This is the origin of nationalism."


>"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."

>"To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country. This is the origin of nationalism."

Yep, the birth of fascism, ie. Italian fascism, was a final act of the Italian national independence process which started in the first half of 19th century. The independence from Austrian empire and from Catholic Church - Mussolini in particular finalized the relationships with papal states/Vatican.

Interesting that Mussolini started as Socialist and split with them on very similar grounds as the "bolsheviks"/Lenin split from Socialists in Russia around the same time - push for more forceful action, for unchecked power (dictatorship) - the difference being that in Russia Lenin was pushing for dictatorship of the working class while Mussolini was for dictatorship of the national state. While one may say that whose ideologies are of different colors, structurally they are the same and thus produced similar results - totalitarian states.

As an example, just replace national dimension with the "aristocracy - capitalists - worker class/peasants" dimension in the 2 quotes above and you'll get the socialist/communist principle of the "class war" and that idea that just by being of "working class" makes people intrinsically good and thus gives them moral power and entitles them to [dictatorially] rule and decide the fate of others.


> the difference being that in Russia Lenin was pushing for dictatorship of the working class

Lenin was pushing for a dictatorship of the Bolshevik vanguard, notionally on behalf of the working class -- Leninist vanguardism features what might more accurately be called a dictatorship for the proletariat as opposed to the earlier Marxist dictatorship of the proletariat.


> push for more forceful action, for unchecked power

Is this something like Barack Obama carrying out drone strikes? Or Madeleine Albright approving the starving of 500,000 Iraqi children? Or Hilary Clinton getting a knife stuck up Gaddafi's rectum? Or the invasion of Iran on a pretext?

Or does it have to be something in dim and distant past which we can tut about as it was done by "those other ones"?


All of those are international actions. While the people in other countries impacted by these actions had no direct method to prevent the US government actions, the people making these choices do not have unchecked power.

All of these actions were subject to all the constitutional checks and balances of the US system. Obama's drone strikes is an election issue. Albright's actions were overseen directly and indirectly by Congress. Same with Clinton (or did you not notice the amount of time Congress spent on Benghazi). There's also been judicial review of many of these elements.

There is no real method of international check on power other than a threat of power in return. The UN, NATO, and international diplomacy tries to forge a method to ensure that war is less commonly used, but ultimately, as the invasion in Iraq showed, if the US wants to do something it can do it. Same with Russia choosing to take a chunk of the Ukraine.


None of the contemporary things you mention are examples of unchecked power. The fact that you can mention them in public without fear of being whisked away tonight by secret police illustrates this. Unchecked power does not permit criticism, or admit room for opposition.


That's just because today mentioning them in public doesn't have much (if any) effect.

Back in the day when there were powerful alternative fractions for the power (e.g. socialists, communists in Europe etc), mentioning such staff in public against the established powers brought support to them, and advanced their cause.

Now people know all about them and still elect e.g. Bush Jr. a second term, Obama 2 terms, now Trump etc. It's not like there's any credible threat to anything.

And when there's not, freedom of speech is free, because it's almost worthless.

TL;DR; Modern-day unchecked power can permit criticism just fine: when the waters due to media pollution are so muddle that the signal is lost in the noise, and/or when few people care about it anyway.


I take it you believe that socialism and communism are better than liberalism.


That's orthogonal to what I said, which is that freedom of speech can be easily permitted if speech doesn't really have any consequences, e.g. if there aren't actually any popular movements that speech could stir up.

That's so whether those movements are against some right wing regime or some left wing regime (or generally left/right government establishment).

That said, I do believe that socialism is better than liberalism.

At least the former is an actual form of government, with a legacy and original thinkers going back to centuries, and practiced e.g. in Sweden, Denmark, Switcherland, Canada etc. for half a century or so (and with policies adopted all over the world in some form or another).

The latter is just some abstract doctrines based on protestant ideas that time after time lead to bad results (corporatism, every man for himself, broken social contracts, etc.) where it's overly practiced. Even U.S. itself in fact has been much more socialist than liberal for the most part.

Except if you mean "really existing socialism" a la Eastern Bloc, which where mostly post-war "colonies" of USSR.


>The latter is just some abstract doctrines based on protestant ideas that time after time lead to bad results (corporatism, every man for himself, broken social contracts, etc.) where it's overly practiced. Even U.S. itself in fact has been much more socialist than liberal for the most part.

Boy, I have never heard the US described as more socialist than liberal. Normally it is taken as the model of a liberal country. Could you describe any nation in the world today that is mainly liberal, as you are using the term?


two points

First, the idea that freedom of speech is completely suppressed whenever it has a chance to stir up a popular movement, that is simply nonsense. For instance, the UK Labour party was voted into power after WWII and nationalized much of the economy. You seem to be taking the Marxist position that real change is possible only through the violent overthrow of the government.

Secondly, you seem to be for social democracy, a political philosophy for which I have some positive feelings, and which I wish Americans knew more about. But I think you can be more effective in arguing for it if you avoid labelng it as "socialism." That is because the term has no standard meaning, and different groups have different meanings for it.

In fact, even self-identified socialists can't agree. Social democrats call themselves socialists, but orthodox marxists say it is not socialism, but a form of capitalism. And Soviet communists called themselves socialists, but many social democrats said it wasn't socialism because it wasn't democratic and was for the benefit of a small, powerful elite.

I think it is much better as a persuasion technique to stick with the term social democracy, because everyone agrees on it, and focus on describing how it works, what are its benefits, and so on.


That isn't remotely what the OP said.

edit: - unnecessary 2nd sentence


But coldtea confirmed I was right that he is a socialist.

The reason I was able to correctly infer he is a socialist is he was following a familiar socialist-marxist position. This is that democracy in capitalist countries is a shame, everything that happens is decided in secret by the rich people, who control the media to trick the population to go along. According to this view, true freedom of speech and democracy are possible only under socialism.


Attaching a label to someone is the most significant act in analysis.


Let me add that you seem to be taking the standard marxist position that fascism is capitalism taken to its logical conclusion, so every non-socialist country is fascist or on its way there.


Let me agree with tunap and say that that isn't remotely what coldtea said either.


I inferred it from what he said. But I re-read the comment, and he did say the US is more socialist than liberal (a very strange set of meanings for the two terms), so maybe I am wrong. Perhaps coldtea could say if I was right or wrong.


> None of the contemporary things you mention are examples of unchecked power.

That's easy to say, it's proven by putting a whole lot of war criminals at least on trial. By actually having done that.

> The fact that you can mention them in public without fear of being whisked away tonight by secret police illustrates this.

How so? This just illustrates that you can say this because nobody cares all that much, because it will not do anything. It doesn't put power in check, it's just someone saying something on HN. Power remains unchecked, and the hundreds of thousands or even millions of people who got murdered and the families they left behind continue to get no justice.


I think the rules are that you're allowed to criticize things as long as it makes no actual difference.


> The fact that you can mention them in public without fear of being whisked away tonight by secret police illustrates this.

This is plain wrong historically. The nazists, fascists and the stasi all used more manipulative and less blatant methods than dragging away every dissenter.


If that criticism manifests itself into a real threat perhaps we would see if power is unchecked. Recall Saddam Hussein, our best buddy in the Middle East until he decided to go rogue... and tried to off Papa Bush. An illegal war got rid of him.

PS: No WMDs? Yeah, well, that's what the News said. However, Rummsfeld has the receipts.


It's not unchecked. The Republican congress has had plenty of opportunities to stop it and has declined. The National Defense Authorization Act is passed every year. The 2001 AUMF that authorized the "war on terror" was passed bypartisanly without any sunset provision, nobody of either party has proposed repealing it.


> Lenin was pushing for dictatorship of the working class ... While one may say that whose ideologies are of different colors, structurally they are the same and thus produced similar results - totalitarian states.

Lenin was born into a "totalitarian" state - Czarist Russia. The czarist government murdered his brother, which probably was an impetus for him into anti-czarist politics.


Czarist Russia wasn't totalitarian in that it didn't try to become paternalistic Alpha and Omega for its citizens. It was a typical XIX century monarchial state.

On related note, Soviet Communists on a good day murdered more civilians than Czarist Russia did in a decade.


> Thinking is a form of emasculation.

In particular, I've observed that one hallmark of fascistic movements is an obsession with "emasculation" and condemnation of any society or part of society deemed "effeminate".

You can see it in the writings of Julius Evola. While Evola never described himself as a "fascist", it was only because he felt that Mussolini and the Fascist Party didn't go far enough. He was an extreme right-wing nationalist, and it's not uncommon for modern Neo-Nazi groups to quote his writing as if it were scripture. Evola was obsessed with the idea that healthy societies are masculine and degenerate societies are effeminate, and he wrote at length about how he felt that Jewish culture is both degenerate and effeminate.

It's also common in modern far-right white nationalist groups. You'll notice that many such communities describe men they don't like as "betas" and "cucks", and they blame society's problems on women becoming more and more prominent in society (and on feminist men, too, for letting women in; they especially get called "cucks").

And it's not just the white supremacists; I've observed the same obsession with "emasculation" in extremist Asian identity groups, which are typically dominated by unsuccessful Asian men blaming the fact that they can't get laid on a conspiracy of Asian women and white men to emasculate Asian men.


It would seem then, that if these people had an outlet for the self-expression of their masculinity, they wouldn't need to fall into fascist politics.


To go further, it would seem that, in the current social environment, these people aren't successful at expressing their masculinity as much as they wish. And they want to blame somebody else rather than their own ability to function in society as it currently is.

To put it bluntly: They feel like losers, and they think it's their right to feel like winners.

And to bring it back to amyjess's point: An environment that values thinking seems to make them feel like losers.


I highly recommend reading: http://w3.salemstate.edu/~cmauriello/pdfEuropean/Paxton_Five...

Its not particularly long, but is one of the more eye opening things I ever read on the subject


The three items you list -- anti-intellectualism and love of physical action; xenophobia and fear of subversion; national or tribal supremacism -- remind me of the Scotch-Irish, especially the lowland Scotch-Irish who've traded in their dulcimers, moonshine, and family feuds for NASCAR, OxyContin, and Christian Dominionism.

How does one convince a society, especially a very xenophobic society, to abandon characteristics that make it unusually vulnerable to fascism?


You integrate it. You integrate the economy throughout the country so that the economic interests of West Virginians are aligned with Silicon Valley and Manhattan and Alabama. This means decentralization and access to opportunity for all, not a winner-take-all system.

You allow for differences, as well. Cultural differences such as a rural/urban divide should not be exacerbated by smarmy elitism in either direction. You do this not by highlighting differences (extreme PCism or racism/bigotry) but by fostering an attitude among our peoples of love towards their fellow person. That our differences are there, but that they don't ultimately matter.

-----

Obviously our country (and others) have a long way to go with a lot of hard work ahead of us.


To expand upon your last sentence, " That our differences are there, but that they don't ultimately matter." I thik that we can in fact, we can celebrate our differences as they make us unique. However, with regards love towards our fellow person, as you said, the differences shouldn't hinder that.


I think you may have the Scotch-Irish, at least the ones living around Scotland and Ireland wrong. They have never been particularly fascist and I have not noticed them being unusually xenophobic. In the recent Brexit vote it was the English who voted out, not the Scots or Irish.


Presumbly it is the American ones (such as myself) being referred to - separated from their relatives by more than a century and a half https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotch-Irish_Americans


Exactly. For some reason, colonies preserve the cultures that settled them, while their homeland counterparts continue to change. The Scotch-Irish of 300 years ago, who still live in the US today, are profoundly different from the modern Scotch-Irish -- and for some reason have never adapted to an environment of peace and security.

(Possibly because the US is less peaceful and secure... but part of that is perception, and/or a product of people expecting it to be.)


He's referring to the ones who settled in the US Appalachian region in the 1800s.


> Being written in 1995, the training set is independent of the test set

There is an important bias effect in play. OF the books written in the past about the rise of tyranny, not all are brought up equally in discussions. It is easy to observe that people upvote articles that support their ideology and flag articles (concrete example: the recent terror attacks were flagkilled off the front page) that go against it.

The articles that make it though this filter are not independent of the test set.


Well said - that's a point worth making.

But not necessarily a big worry with this particular article - Eco's fame as a novelist and the sheer strength of his prose will tend to bust through filters regardless.


It's pretty trivial to apply these signals to nearly any collectivist social movement.

1. Action for action's sake - Black Lives Matter protests to block highways.

2. Exploit the fear of difference - Those horrible racist uneducated people are nothing like us, we can't let them take the country! This is basic tribalism and it applies to every major social movement.

3. Rewritten: "To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Anti-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be good, moral egalitarians. This is the origin of anti-fascism."

Here I've applied them to Western progressivism, but if you deny the basic assumptions of any collectivist social movement you could apply them. Scientology, communism, socialism, fascism. Switch a few unimportant words and there you are with the same meaningless parallels.

The human mind is a great pattern matching machine but has a problem with false positives.

EDIT: It's important to remember when comparing Trump to old fascists that the people who defeated those fascists enacted Trump's policies. For example, in 1945, immigration policy in all western countries was effectively, "whites only".

So if you're gonna notice parallels between Trump and Hitler, you have to notice even closer parallels between Trump and the people who defeated Hitler. You should also notice the differences: Trump is an isolationist who wants to start wars less than Hillary - a lot like pre-WW2 America.


I agree: "The human mind is a great pattern matching machine but has a problem with false positives."

But, I think you have stripped the context from the quotes you offer, and in so doing, made them applicable to anything.

For instance, regarding point (1), you're stereotyping the BLM protests. Read their website and it's all about intersectionality and inclusion and a bunch of other academic buzzwords. It's not really about protest for protest's sake: specific demands have been given. And it's not anti-intellectual, which is the context you removed from point 1.

You have done a similar thing with the next point. The original point is about fear of intruders from outside the nation

I would agree that there are parallels of certain parts of, say, the anti-globalization protests of the late 1990s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_Seattle_WTO_protests) with this synopsis of fascism. A lot of that was action for action's sake: dress up in black and break store windows.

But take, on the other hand, the OWS protests. It was partly because of the authoritarian tendencies of other protest movements that OWS adopted various egalitarian habits - not addressing crowds with bullhorns, the consensus process, etc. (For more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_Wall_Street#Main_organi...).

In sum, I think you're not being careful about your reasoning, and you are reasoning backward from the answer you want ("a pox on both their houses"). We're not talking about mere groupthink, smug activists, or misguided protesters. We're talking about actual fascism.


> The original point is about fear of intruders from outside the nation

It doesn't have to mean physical intruders though, that certainly wasn't what the Nazis were mainly concerned about.

> We're talking about actual fascism.

Which is, I would argue, on a spectrum. Groupthink isn't really benign IMHO.


Nice attempt, but:

1. I won't speak for BLM, but protesting in a visible way is not action for action's sake.

2. this is just an old joke. No, those who oppose racism don't think racists are an inferior race. Also, they oppose racism, not racists.

3. Anti-fascists lacked many things, but identity was rarely one of them. Anti-fascists were communists, anarchists, catholics, jews, monarchists... I don't think that there ever was such a thing as an "anti-fascist identity" during the relevant years, and even now, I don't know of anybody who identifies themselves purely as anti-fascist without other connotations.


> 1. Action for action's sake - Black Lives Matter protests to block highways.

But that isn't "action for action's sake," it's action that is derived from one particular theory of change. BLM blocks highways because they believe that by doing so they can effectively draw attention to both their issues and their movement. The action is deliberately chosen to advance decided-upon strategic goals, not simply a reflexive flexing of muscle.

Eco also highlights part of "action for action's sake" as a deliberate repudiation of intellectualism, which is an odd thing to say about a movement like BLM which emerged in large part from universities. Intellectuals can find a role to play in BLM that they could never find in a fascist movement.


You're missing the central point of the article, which is that Ur-Fascism is not an ideology or even a set of policies. It's a method of discourse and a political aesthetic.

Every political party and movement has supporters who feel this way. The problem is when they control the party.

BLM certainly emphasizes action for its own sake, but they don't run the Democratic party. Likewise, individual liberals might speak to a fear of "horrible racist uneducated people are nothing like us," but if you watched the DNC the message is one of unity: reach out to those people, don't drive them away.

You can dispute and justify all you want, but there's a reason that apolitical historians are coming out to point out current fascist threat.


Your points are valid, but that kind misses the major thrust of the argument... which is that facism isn't based on a shared set of common principles or political thought, facism is in the authors opinion not linked to specific beliefs...

as for trump being a facist, i think the primary reason he wouldnt be a facist is he doesnt really seem to have any strong interest in athoratarian centralized power... in fact if anything unless kaisich is actually just flat out lying, he is pretty open about wanting to minimize his day to day control and be more of a symbol for the movement... thats extremely un-facist


Actually, the Kasich offer makes his fascist tendencies clearer to me. Trump is not interested in actually governing or implementing policies, he's interested in having a massive adoring audience.

Like historical fascists, he doesn't care what policies get him that power and adoration. He'd be happy running an isolationist government, but just as happy militantly dropping nuclear bombs in the Middle East.

The one consistent in Trump's political "career" is a worship of power. He's obsessed with winners and losers, and if you're winning he likes you. If you criticize him, he hates you and will try to destroy you, whether it's legal or not. I don't think he could, as president, tolerate a free press.


Another article was posted in one of these threads about phases or stages of fascism. Authoritarian/dictatorial regimes are one of them. The nationalism, xenophobism, and other traits of the Trump campaign have fascist elements. That doesn't mean he would be a fascist leader but it paves the way for it down the road.


It's pretty trivial to apply these signals to nearly any collectivist social movement.

It's certainly trivial when you cherry-pick three phrases out of a 5000+ word essay.


Along similar lines let me recommend a couple of Adam Gopnik pieces on Trump and fascism:

http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/going-there-with...

http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/being-honest-abo...

This in particular echoes Eco:

The arguments about whether [Trump] meets every point in some static fascism matrix show a misunderstanding of what that ideology involves. It is the essence of fascism to have no single fixed form—an attenuated form of nationalism in its basic nature, it naturally takes on the colors and practices of each nation it infects. In Italy, it is bombastic and neoclassical in form; in Spain, Catholic and religious; in Germany, violent and romantic. It took forms still crazier and more feverishly sinister, if one can imagine, in Romania, whereas under Oswald Mosley, in England, its manner was predictably paternalistic and aristocratic. It is no surprise that the American face of fascism would take on the forms of celebrity television and the casino greeter’s come-on, since that is as much our symbolic scene as nostalgic re-creations of Roman splendors once were Italy’s.

What all forms of fascism have in common is the glorification of the nation, and the exaggeration of its humiliations, with violence promised to its enemies, at home and abroad; the worship of power wherever it appears and whoever holds it; contempt for the rule of law and for reason; unashamed employment of repeated lies as a rhetorical strategy; and a promise of vengeance for those who feel themselves disempowered by history.


> What all forms of fascism have in common is the glorification of the nation, and the exaggeration of its humiliations, with violence promised to its enemies, at home and abroad; the worship of power wherever it appears and whoever holds it; contempt for the rule of law and for reason; unashamed employment of repeated lies as a rhetorical strategy; and a promise of vengeance for those who feel themselves disempowered by history.

What is the difference between this, and North Korean or Soviet Communism? Is there a difference?


There's actually a pretty good argument that North Korea is a lot closer [1] to early-20th-century fascism than to Communism.

Soviet ideology tended not to glorify the nation as such but rather a class; tended to glorify underdogs as long as they were fighting capitalists; and tended to be very ashamed of lies and very insistent on the internal consistency and intellectual credibility of its propaganda. "Promise of vengeance", I agree, is pretty generically associated with any revolutionary movement.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jy1iudsIKa8; the book is quite good.


Yeah I was thinking N Korea is probably the closest modern example to Nazi style fascism. They've got the unswerving loyalty to the dictator for the military good of the country thing going on. Not very good at building autobahns and industrialising though.


Soviet Communism, while also a totalitarian system (and thus sharing those features that fascism has not as unique to fascism, but as common to all totalitarianisms) differed in some key ways from that list; notably, while it certainly did not erase pre-existing Russian national pride, embraced internationalism and global class-identity as opposed to glorification of the nation.


> certainly did not erase pre-existing Russian national pride

It did. Crushing pre-existing Russian national pride was central to Soviet dogma, they called it "великодержавный шовинизм".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korenizatsiya#Against_Great-Ru...


> Crushing pre-existing Russian national pride was central to Soviet dogma

Dogma and reality often differed quite a bit in the Soviet Union; I would say that the evidence is that the USSR did not actually crush pre-existing Russian national pride, although they managed to temporarily transfer the outward expression of that pride into what was, at least superficially, expression of pride in the Soviet State rather than the Russian nation. This still, though -- despite the internationalist orientation of the Leninist ideology -- retained a substantial nationalist tinge, even if oriented around a new and somewhat broader national identity.


I have to wonder whether Eco's approach is flawed in its systematizing.

It is a noble flaw in every intellectual to categorize, dissect and flay their prey. Then produce a general theory from the evidence scattered before him. Hayek used to bitch about it.

However another view could be the gaps that exist between Fascism and Communism are to be explained by historical circumstances, geography and the prevailing orthodoxies of the day rather than a grand theory of Anarchism, Capitalism, Communism or any other -ism.

Those could just be the retroactively generated cover stories. We like coherent stories to hang our ideas on. Notice for instance how World War II has gradually resolved in the public's mind as something like a historical fiction, involving 'good guys' and 'bad guys'. I am not a relativist but I find it frightening that 'good guys' has a flexible enough range to include Joesph Stalin.

Apart from the problem of treating a World War like a Cowboy Western, much less attention is paid today to the interaction between the extreme leftists (Bolsheviks and anarchists) and the extreme right (Nazis) in the lead up to World War II.

For instance I was very surprised to understand in the BBC documentary "The Nazis, a warning from history" (an excellent documentary) the degree to which the activities of the Bolsheviks influenced the rise of the Nazis. The hate directed towards the Jews is incomprehensible unless you grasp the fact that nearly every Bolshevik bomber was Jewish. My school textbook neglected to mention this and popular culture also uses racial hate as a deus ex machina of a backstory. It is a given, but never elaborated on.

This only finally clicked with me when I saw interviews with German POWs who were constantly harping on protecting civilization from the Bolsheviks. To them everything they did was justified in light of that. They weren't Nazis and they didn't appear to especially hate Jews. Still, they were part of the machine.

This means to me, that hate is a short term impulse and the actual destruction of minorities within Germany was in fact a clinical decision, fully rationalized and accepted by the public. The newspapers might have ranted but the public weren't composed mostly of bigots. They were composed of people who eventually just stopped caring because their way of life was under threat. The threat to a minority isn't necessarily hate, but a kind of widely shared exhaustion and apathy.

I fear those who complain we've forgotten our history, have actually forgotten our history for an absurd simplification about irrational hate. I feel like the mainstream interpretation of history is actually now the politically incorrect one.


The Soviet Union was opposed to nationalism and racism, at least nominally. International solidarity and all that. They made a big deal out of (the very real) US racism and oppression in their propaganda.

North Korea is so far out that it's hard to compare it to anything else.


>North Korea is so far out that it's hard to compare it to anything else.

not really. Whenever i read/see things about NK it is just like a trip back up the memory lane to my childhood in USSR in the 197x/198x.


Obviously someone like me who didn't experience what you did wouldn't know, but I read about things like NK executing people with anti-aircraft guns or having them torn apart alive by trained dogs and I feel like there is a difference.

Though intellectually inhumanity is inhumanity whatever the form it takes.


It would be the height of insanity to not read this piece and be wary of the combination of ideologies that can lead to fascism, and to draw parallels to modern times. I can't comment much on the individual points because I've never lived in a fascist country, but they do seem to lead to a combined ideology that would further the reaching powers of an aspiring fascist.

As an American, however, I can't help but think that the increasingly bold steps that our government is taking towards authoritarianism is making this piece all the more relevant: both parties are guilty of increasing the strength and powers of the government, as well as unnecessarily using the might of the military for nebulous gains. No longer do political candidates debate individual issues; instead, they appeal to a persona that the populous wants to see. Some might simply call it "entertainment", not "politics." This is an unnerving trend.

Were our federal government less powerful overall: financially, legally, etc., pieces like this would be less pertinent due to the "spreading out" of power that Italy nor Germany never had.


Here's a novel thought:

At least some of the points Eco mentioned do not require an authoritarian government to implement. For example, selective populism and racism were alive and well in the South prior to the 60's, and happily administered in a democratic system. It took, yes, a powerful government to break it up.

Removing all power from the government transforms a nation into a state of nature that empowers such fascist and elitist groups to suppress marginalized groups in the same way an authoritarian government would. This is why many neo-fascists and alt-righters pay lip-service to libertarian (or classically liberal) ideals and the two groups often overlap in practice, because a truly stateless nation would allow the "weak" to be dominated by the "naturally strong", ie., this or that better poised group.

Counter-intuitively, a state is required to maintain individual liberty, I think.

PS: To be fair, I think most people who are libertarian do not want the state of nature. For example, libertarians, AFAIK, want a government that protects property rights for example. Yes, I think if one considers Snowden's revelations, these developments don't enable the state's protection of individual liberty arguably. As we've seen, they haven't been very effective while instead are very compromising of individuals' rights.

It comes down to details, but blanket removal of all power the state just places power in the hands of the de-facto elites. It's a delicate balance we have to strike and yes debate.


"Counter-intuitively, a state is required to maintain individual liberty, I think."

Why is this counterintuitive to so many people? This was one of the prime reasonings by almost all Enlightenment-era thinkers for the reason for a government, including it being beautifully laid out in the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

The key line is "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men".


It's like people forget how govt. evolved, just completely ignore feudalism, monarchism, tribalism etc. The reason we have democratic govt. is as a reaction to systems like that - creating an entity more powerful than all single groups but accountable to all (in theory). Of course, it turns out power always finds a way to concentrate, but that's just life, and why it's so important to have a strong and critical civil society as a bulwark against the concentration of power.


To expand on your point, calling Mississippi circa 1950 "democratic" is, while not technically wrong, extremely misleading. Systematically denying the less privileged half the population access to the vote, both by legal means and by extralegal coercion up to and including murder, does not generally lead to what we now consider to be democratically elected governments.

The "tyranny of the majority" can be as harsh as the tyranny of any single strongman, but it's important to note how closely that process is tied to systematically de-legitimizing other voices and perspectives.


There's the important question of what the state does, rather than just how much state you have in absolute terms of people employed or percent of GDP. Most of the world's "big governments" have fairly small deep security states (little surveillance, no secret police, no arrests without evidence, etc.), while the world's premier "small government" society has the world's most massive security state.

This is not a coincidence! The more social hierarchy you wish to maintain with your state, the more violence your state must wield. When you want to eliminate systematized violence, on the other hand, you come to understand that you need to actively combat social hierarchies and inequality.


>"This is why many neo-fascists and alt-righters pay lip-service to libertarian (or classically liberal) ideals"

In my experience, they don't. They viciously mock libertarians as pathetic effeminate cucks who insincerely argue for classic liberal values because they lack the spine to stand up for what they truly believe in.

I think this is mostly projection, because they are mostly former libertarians.


unnecessarily using the might of the military for nebulous gains

I would say those actions were 'half-hearted' due to the risk of angering the public.

But if we're going to use the military, I would like it to be in a decisive and overwhelming manner with a well defined objective.

To do that, we must be willing to accept casualty.

If we aren't willing to commit to our goal, whatever that may be, with all the necessary resources, why are we fighting there?

Let just stay home.


With "stay home" plan, the only thing "decisive and ovewhelming" is going to be the enemy's strike., when it's too late.

Today politics are global, requiring constant control and supervision. From East Chinese Sea, to the Baltic Sea, each side is constantly probing the boundaries. Once a weakness in the global enforcement is spotted, another Crimea or Burma or North Korea or Syria flares up.

Global military policy fights fires at the source, when still small, not waiting for the fire to become an inferno, letting itself in into backyard without knocking.


The problem is the manner in which we (the US) have chosen to fight those fires. Attack two nations, at once, without sufficient troops for such action, without a solid plan for how to remove ourselves, killing and dislocating millions of civilians. Followed by attacks on civilian populations while attempting to target specific individuals or small groups, resulting in casualties like wedding parties.

Those fires have become an inferno for the western world in ISIS (recently) and Al Qaeda (the last 20-30 years) precisely because of the way that a large portion of the world's population has been disenfranchised and discarded by the West.


The comment that you commented on didn't say that we should stay home from all wars; he/she said that the government should be decisive about when and where to attack. The final sentence, that we should just stay home, was referring to the wars which the United States chose poorly to become involved in, and which have been drawn out beyond a "decisive and overwhelming" attack.


Global military policy fights fires at the source, when still small, not waiting for the fire to become an inferno, letting itself in into backyard without knocking.

I don't advocate the nonsense that we should all stay at home and do nothing. That's not my position.

But if the American people are unwilling to live with the idea of servicemen dying in some foreign war in the East China Sea or the Baltic, maybe we should take a good look at ourselves and decide how much agony we should endure.


I think the "stay home" comment was more about not actively deploying forces. Home can just as easily be forward deployed base. There's a huge difference between what American forces in Korea and Japan are doing than the forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, South Yemen, and the rest of the Greater Middle East.


Yeah, that's a good point: if force absolutely needs to be done, let it be swift and to the point. Drawing out a foreign war, and then griping about casualties, is no way to keep the peace. Let alone the unknown intentions of said war.


War doesn't work like that any more. "The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea." - Mao Zedong. The enemy today is distributed amongst people you don't want to kill. Nobody stands up a big army in one place any more, unless they have absolute air superiority. The last one to try was Saddam Hussein.

The Roman Empire had a solution to this. If a province became too rebellious, they went in with the legions and killed everybody. Today this is considered overkill.

Eco points out that the resistance movement was more of a political exercise in keeping opposition alive than a military success. That was also true of the French Resistance. The efforts of the French Resistance before D-Day didn't accomplish much. They were supported by the Allies primarily so that they could do some key attacks on D-Day to confuse the situation and maintain the deception that the attack was at Calais. The most important function of the Resistance was that they provided the core of the French government once it was back in power. "The Third Republic has never ceased to exist" - de Gaulle.


> The Roman Empire had a solution to this. If a province became too rebellious, they went in with the legions and killed everybody. Today this is considered overkill.

Bingo. Then they mustered out the veteran legionaries there on the now-mostly-depopulated land, simultaneously exporting their own restive, landless population, and installing both a colony of Roman culture, and a permanent garrison.


I was thinking more about the insurgency the Americans had to fight more than invasion.

The answer is still the same, have clear objectives, devote the necessary resource and expertise, and accept casualty in the pursuit of those goal.

If we are unwilling to do those kind of things, then we have no business in waging a counterinsurgency.


The usual buzzwords don't help. Read "Nation Building is an Oxymoron", from Parameters.[1]

[1] http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/parameters/is...


great comment, sir. I'm one of those geeks who is into history as much as computer science so I get a particular pleasure in stumbling across contributions like this here on HN.

on a related note, that's a huge factor in why I'd vote Hillary over Trump. I don't think Hillary is a perfect person or candidate, but when I compare to Trump, well, the latter pushes too many of my "disaster-in-the-making" buttons. I increasingly try to think of the next 5 years, the next 20, the kind of world that's better for children, grandchildren, etc. And a big factor in informing that, for me, is to look back on history, whether recent or ancient.


Fair point. Surely my solution would not work against such an enemy, since there is no "head" to attack swiftly.


> both parties are guilty of increasing the strength and powers of the government

Worse: Increasing the strength and powers of the chief executive, at the expense of Congress.


I guess there's a 'not' in the wrong place?


I don't see any misplaced words. Care to explain?


"to not read this piece and be wary" is more clearly written as "to read this piece and not be wary"

I think most readers subconsciously eliminated the nonsense interpretation.


That tripped me up too. Though the author's intention was clearly "to not (read this piece and be wary)", it's easily misread as "to (not read this piece) and be wary".


OK, so this was obviously brought up because of the parallels with Trump, but while reading I noticed another group that strongly aligns with these principles: ISIS. I've mostly thought of them as a regressive, extremist theocracy, but they really do match up with every one of these points. You have the cult of tradition and rejection of modernism, action for action's sake, a fear of difference, obsession with violence, and most especially the cult of heroism (martyrdom).

I wonder if this is just coincidence, or if the recent explosion of Islamic extremism is a new variation on Fascism.


I think this is a very fair comparison. One important way that I think people miss is their demographic similarity. Fascism was largely a movement of young people, especially men. This is true of ISIS.

To be clear, I don't think how you deal with ISIS is the same as Nazi Germany because they are also quite different in practical and ideological terms.

It's worth considering that ISIS is at least nominally a globalist, not nationalist movement– they have a vision of umma/Islamic community that means to include all races. This is not true of the Third Reich.


ISIS has two faces: the globalist terrorist group that organizes out suicide bombings and shootings all over the world, and the sectarian militia group which conquers and holds territory. The nation-state component is very much like Nazi Germany: it's going around conquering its neighbors, persecuting minorities, and there is active resistance from those they have conquered.

Though, as a nation-state ISIS is rather weak; most of its perceived strength comes from the global terrorist attacks. I wonder what would have become of the Nazis if they hadn't taken control of Germany, or if they failed to amass enough military power to invade other nations. Perhaps they would have switched to guerrilla-style tactics and terrorist attacks?


Is ISIS actually globalist? As far as I know, they don't openly incorporate Muslims from other cultures.

I think they're more imperialist than globalist: they must cast their reach wide to liberate the oppressed Muslims of other nations.


>I wonder if this is just coincidence, or if the recent explosion of Islamic extremism is a new variation on Fascism.

Several authors have studied the connection and found that the earliest Islamists (as we currently know them) actually cited the European fascists openly and approvingly, being contemporaries!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terror_and_Liberalism

http://eustonmanifesto.org/the-euston-manifesto/



At least for me, the most novel item in here, the one thing that makes the whole article invaluable, was the 14th point on Eco's list: the use of Newspeak and simplified language. I had never heard of this, but it's not surprising; it's internally consistent with the rest of what I know about Naziism and Fascism in general. It also reminds me of "Kids Against Trump", founded by a 9-year-old who could understand every word in Trump's speeches and was, accordingly, thoroughly creeped out. (http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/07/why-are...)

Of course, Trump isn't likely to murder dissidents, and he has no desire for us-against-the-world unwinnable wars of conquest; likewise, I don't see a timeline in which Marine Le Pen revives Napoleon's ambitions, so the current alt-right moment has its advantages over historical fascism. (Alt-right-ness in general seems to be about staying home and hating/expelling foreigners, rather than looking for glory outside one's borders.) But these are unsettled times, all the same, and if you'd told me in the 1990s what I'd be seeing in the 2010s, I would never have believed you...


Keep in mind, wrt Trump and conquest, he thinks we (the US) should break international law and claim oil (and other resources) from the countries that we've already invaded. And he still wants to take the war to ISIS. Even if it's not a war of conquest, it's still a war outside our borders and a major talking point of his campaign and his disparagement of Clinton and the Democratic Party (their apparent refusal to reference ISIS in particular and Islamic terrorism in general).


"Of course, Trump isn't likely to murder dissidents..."

He has expressed great enthusiasm for locking up dissident journalists and committing war crimes against those he considers enemies, and boasted he could murder someone in the street and remain incredibly popular.

So, no, he hasn't quite outright expressed a willingness to murder dissidents, but seems to get a little closer to this line every day.


Perhaps more to the point, he's specifically said it was a problem that there weren't "consequences" to protesting any more, lamenting that "nobody wants to hurt eachother any more", and that "In the good old days, this doesn't happen because they used to treat them very, very rough, and when they protested once, they would not do it again so easily", blaming the present tolerance for protest on the fact that "we've become weak".


The hating foreigners and feeling constantly maligned can easily transition into "Are we going take being disrespected like that? Hell no! Let's go punch them in the face!" and the tanks start rolling.

If there's one bright side to Western Europe's 30+ years of low military spending, they don't have many tanks to send. Of course that's easily fixed as well.


Newspeak is so old news. Try Cognitive Infiltration for size: http://www.salon.com/2010/01/15/sunstein_2/


What are some examples of Trumpian Newspeak?


Trump gave birth to the words "low energy" to describe Jeb Bush and his followers really like to use the term.

Also, not specifically Trump, but alt-righters tend to use these words a lot:

* cuck

* cultural marxism

* cultural enrichment (sarcastically)

* religion of peace (sarcastically)

* traitor/treason

* rapefugee

* SJW (social justice warrior)

It just dawned on me that every single word I associate with the far right are used by them to describe their enemies.


...and the diluting of words like "war" by using it in "war on drugs" and so on. Describing acts of aggression as "defense", twisting the meaning of "security" and "freedom".


I remember this essay being widely cited a few years ago in Russia, as being more and more relevant to the recent changes in our politics.

Now it is becoming more and more relevant to the rest of the world.

Russia: pioneering the world's social change since 1917.


That's a really interesting and overlooked point. If correct (that is, if populist/proto-fascistic tendencies in modern Russia exist and have something in common with their equivalents in the West), it almost seems to overturn the commonly accepted theory that the rise of dangerous populism in everywhere is mostly due to economic stagnation -- since by comparison, Russia have done quite well in the past decade up until the drop of oil prices.


I've read this years before, but reading it now I can't help to feel it very relevant to current state of Polish (and probably not only Polish) democracy.

There is minority, but growing "cultural Catholics" that don't particulary care about the dekalog, anticonception and all that, but will leash on you for "LGBT propaganda", demand that Catholic symbols are prominent everywhere, and Islam/whatever other symbols are removed.

They consider the current pope "too leftist" because he quotes Jesus on refuges. They "are not antisemitist, but these damn Jews control Poland". It's connected with Polish nationalism, EU-scepticism, and outright racism sometimes, and for a few years already it's "cool" to be a nationalist in 15-25 age group.

They are also persuaded nationalism is the default state, in each country, and it's only the leftist media conspiracy that covers that up.

And these people are actively encouraged by current conservative government (probably with their noses held, but what that changes?) because they are the obvious demographics that can help them against the main centro-liberal opposition parties.

Their propaganda is anti-intellectual, refers to "common sense" against scientific theories, ignores all subtle distinctions and paints very "we vs them" world, calls everybody disagreeing with them "traitors", and sees a conspiracy of Soros and leftist behind everything.

It's very sad to see how bad political luck and cynism can undo so much progress in so short time.


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Well, in my country there were 2 terrorist acts since 50s, both by young political extremists. One by right-wing Catholic (well, I'm not sure he's Catholic, but I'm sure he's not Muslim), and the other by 2 most probably atheistic left-wing extremists.

And Poles had a lot experience with political terrorism when we were under occupation. Even our 1920s-30s leader Piłsudski was a terrorist once.

So yes, terrorism isn't about religion, it's just correlated with one (and not even that strongly, usually - the current wave of terrorism doesn't even have the highest victim count in the last 50 years in Europe).


Yeah, Poles got free pass in the world of globalization - most of the upsides without much downsides. Not even sure what's left for nationalists to rant about.


> Not even sure what's left for nationalists to rant about.

"We're poor compared to Germans therefore betrayal". They're 20 sth, so they don't remember what real poor looks like.


But they have virtually no muslim migrants, no legalized prostitution, etc, etc...

Are they nationalists or hedonists after all?


> no legalized prostitution

Actually it's legal if you do it by yourself. And it's even untaxed. I don't understand why :)

It's only illegal if someone gets a cut. And anyway I don't think Polish nationalists are against prostitution in general.

From what I understand they gather support basing on "Polish industry was sold, we were betrayed to EU, banks and foreign corporations buy out everything, leftists and gays want to destroy our culture, and flood us with Muslims".


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Please comment civilly and substantively or not at all. These comments have taken the thread in a predictably low-quality direction, and Hacker News is not the place for this. We ban accounts that repeatedly violate the guidelines in this way.



How?


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I'd love to hear a coherent explanation of how homosexuals are trying to "destroy their culture" and "flood them with Muslims."

The vast majority of homosexuals I know have no interest in anything besides being accepted as gay. They don't want to change your culture, they don't even want to force you to embrace them.

And the link with Muslims is especially surprising. Some of the most anti-Muslim people I know are gay precisely because of that religion's draconian and regressive stances on it.

Of course, if your goal is to persuade people that there is a vast conspiracy of everyone else (leftists, gays, minorities) to invade you then the rhetoric makes a lot more sense. Naturally, it's straight out of the fascist playbook.


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It's literally a quote from your comment:

> "Gays and leftists" definitely want to "destroy their culture" and "flood them with Muslims".

To be clear, I wasn't specifically responding to your comment though. You weren't the first person to come up with the notion that liberals/gays/muslims are coming for your culture and the people promoting that certainly do care about "rhetorical" effect. You're just listening to them.

It seems like you'd prefer to use "fascism" as a term which simply applies to anything you disagree with. I suggest you read the article.


> If we would hold a poll, "should Poland accept whole lot of refugees from Middle East?", what response would you expect from "gays and leftists"? I would suspect they'll be at least 60% pro "Poles should definitely accept as much refugees as humanely possible".

Aaaand, in my book, that counts as "wanting to flood smbd with Muslims".

There's just notion that it's a respectable thing to want, and fighting it is not respectable. Even talking about this is frowned upon as you can see.


> I would suspect they'll be at least 60% pro "Poles should definitely accept as much refugees as humanely possible".

You would be wrong. I don't think you can find 5% to support such position.

"Should Poland accept some refuges" - for that most probably, but still I don't think difference between sexual orientations is that significant. It's mostly about political views.


> I don't think you can find 5% to support such position.

Why then this position is only thing we hear from liberal camp? Didn't hear them trying to solve the hard problem of "when deciding what to do with refugees, who is to let in and what to do with rejects".

It's not about sexual orientation, but public sexual orientation seems to correlate heavily with political views.


> terrorism doesn't have a religion

Given the facts of the numbers of people killed in the UK since the end of WW2 by terrorism, what would you say the religion of terrorism was?

(yes of course this is a trick question)


It had a nationality, did not it?


Much of the IRA were British nationals, or dual British-Irish.


I know people are inclined to read this in terms of Trump, so let me just remind people of this: Berlusconi entered the political arena in Italy in 1994, so this piece, from 1995, might have been very likely inspired by a somewhat similar situation.

EDIT: not in the sense that B. was an evil fascist, but in the more important sense of "Freedom and liberation are an unending task"


Agree. '90s Italy was in a state of turmoil: the economy was tanking, public finances were in disarray, the Balkans were exploding producing waves of refugees, old political parties were dying... in the newly-empty ideological landscape, Berlusconi saw an opening and took it. Rivers of ink were spent analysing that phenomenon, under the fear that we were witnessing a new Mussolini. In the end he never went full-fascist, his movement self-deflated under the weight of its own contradictions, and he buried his head in sexual escapades.

The experience of living my formative years under Berlusconi makes me optimistic on Trump. "The Donald" does not control the media landscape to the degree that Berlusconi did (or could have done); his conflicts of interest are minor; his platform is much more confusing and badly put together; and even most of his own footsoldiers don't take him too seriously, which is why he had to get a fundie for VP. Silvio was in a much better position, with more fanatical followers and widespread support from the establishment, and stil achieved very little, because the country stubbornly refused to bow to his demands. I expect Americans will similarly drag their feet. You can't dig a moat if people won't pick up their shovels.


I tend to agree on Trump, as someone who has been studying him and the campaign closely.

In the final analysis, if he were to be elected, I think he would be a fairly typical Republican president, and one that seriously toned down the GOP's cultural conservatism.

From looking at his history and my take on his personality, if he were to take office he would want to 'win' at the job.

I think that for him 'winning' at president would be measured by economic metrics and his approval numbers.

I went into the cycle outraged at the fascistic overtones of his campaign, and fearful. Now I think it was mostly showmanship and an effort to win the votes of the rubes in the GOP base.

I think he would approach the job as being CEO of America, and focus on economic growth and negotiating better 'deals' for the country.

He will quickly find that the ISIS problem is intractable, and that he has seriously overpromised on that front. The situation is going to escalate no matter who takes office. There is no sizable cohort in America working on de-escalating tensions with the Islamic world, no peace movement to be found.

The West has a serious empathy deficit in regards to the Middle East. It just can't see past the religious identity of the terrorists, and see it as essentially a desperate and weak revenge effort by people that feel transgressed against and humiliated. This blind spot means more aerial killer robots, and more pissed off people on the other end of those hellfires.

Both Trump and Hillary will inevitably play right into the hands of the extremists, and the diabolical ISIS plan of eliminating the grey zone will no doubt work, as Europe's social cohesion is on the brink and repression against the Muslim population will no doubt increase due to these grotesque asymmetric terror attacks. This is a very sad state of affairs for liberalism, and the chance for peace in our time.

Tragically, it's going to be counterproductive military action from the West, and insane, lunatic barbarism from the Islamic side in response.

The current phase of this conflict really kicked off when I was just 17, on 9/11/2001, it heated up during my 20's and got seriously out of control around when I turned 30.

Lately I've been pondering the fact that I've never been the victim of a terror attack, and I've never fought in a conflict overseas. My entire interface with the horror show has strictly been through the media, and just the images and knowledge has effected me very negatively. I could have just avoided the news and lived in safe and tranquil ignorance. Instead I've endured this impotent worry, a feeling of something terrible happening to people all around the world that I could do nothing to save.

I'm now resigned to this stupid conflict continuing for my entire life.


I think you've described an optimistic scenario for a Trump presidency, but there are also worst case scenarios.

By far the biggest problem is that his personality cannot tolerate losing or insult. I don't think he would accept "losing" to ISIS and would possibly escalate things to obscene levels—he seems to be a big fan of nuclear weapons.

Domestically, he is entirely intolerant of criticism. He's made it abundantly clear that he would like to make criticizing him illegal and openly encourages his supporters to beat up protestors. Keeping free speech alive will require a vigorous defense of separation of powers, and even then I'd be concerned about his supporters taking things into their own hands.


> and one that seriously toned down the GOP's cultural conservatism.

That's not going to happen. The GOP's 2016 platform is its most anti-LGBT platform ever, and it's going to gain traction because a GOP president isn't going to do anything to block the GOP's legislative agenda. Even if Trump doesn't personally do anything to advance the GOP's anti-LGBT agenda, the fact that he won't even try to stop it will cause untold damage to our rights. He's not going to veto his own party's bills.

Also, remember that some of the most important advances to LGBT rights in the last few years have been the result of Obama using Title IX and the EEOC to fight discrimination. Trump isn't going to continue that.


I wasn't aware of the GOP's platform this year, and now that I've looked into it I see what you mean.

My take from watching the RNC was what seemed to me to be a new found inclusiveness of the GOP, with Peter Thiel's prominent speaking spot, and several speakers including Trump himself vowing to include and defend LGBTQ Americans.

I took it as the strength of the civil rights movement and it's victories over the last eight years. Just from watching the convention I took away that the LGBTQ movement has won, and even the historically adversarial GOP seemed to have to concede.

It seemed that the GOP had changed, but from the party platform it seems that the producers of the RNC and the rank and file power base of the GOP are at odds.


I feel you regarding the last half of your comment: the historical cul-de-sac of the post-9/11 years.

But I am appalled by your blithe assessment of Trump's possible first term. I think you are failing to appreciate how easy it is for the right person to whip up resentment. It has happened elsewhere. We are not immune. The downside could be huge.

From an Adam Gopnik piece, referred to upthread:

"Those who think that the underlying institutions of American government are immunized against it fail to understand history. In every historical situation where a leader of Trump’s kind comes to power, normal safeguards collapse. Ours are older and therefore stronger? Watching the rapid collapse of the Republican Party is not an encouraging rehearsal. Donald Trump has a chance to seize power."


Call it optimism, and a faith in modern American democracy and a reassurance from the amount of pushback Trump is getting from his exclusionary statements.


It's interesting to see Trump being mentioned here (I'm not american, so I read the article from a very distinct perspective and background). Eco lists 14 features of Ur-Fascism. Do you find more than one in the Trump Campaign?


All of the features are pretty vague and certainly up for debate, but here's my shot at the potential links to the Trump campaign:

1. Cult of tradition. This, I think, has the weakest link to Trump; obviously the "Make America Great Again" slogan speaks to nostalgia, but I do think Eco here is talking about a particular kind of primordial, ancient tradition that is present in European fascism. America doesn't really have the sense of a people dating back thousands of years, so we avoid it.

2. Rejection of modernism. Again, Eco is speaking here to some specific aspects of the Enlightenment vs pre-modern ways of thought, but I do think there is a connection here to Trump's focus on a manufacturing/manual labor-based middle class vs. a service sector, educated economy. He "loves the uneducated" and "wonders why we don't make anything anymore"; the modern world is too abstract and irrelevant a place.

3. Cult of action. Uh, absolutely. It's honestly hard to find a place in Trump's rhetoric where this doesn't appear. Universities are filled with effete snobs, and thinking is a form of emasculation; Trump will take action, won't listen to the so-called experts, will consult his gut, etc.

4. Disagreement is treason. Again, definitely. Trump's said repeatedly that he attacks anyone who attacks him ten times over, be they other politicians or members of the media, and promises to inflict harsh penalties on members of the press who criticize him.

5. Fear of difference. America is under attack by Muslims, Mexicans, and China, all of whom are broad categories to be feared and met with strength.

6. Appeal to a frustrated middle class. Trump's base of support are those who have seen other groups make greater strides in recent years, the white, largely (at least nominally) Christian, less-educated manufacturing class. They're definitely suffering feelings of humiliation, in part warranted, that Trump's tapping in to; he is against the free trade agreements blamed for their job loss and the social mores that have propped up other races, genders, and identities.

7. Obsession with plot. At its most obvious, there's Trump's famous view of global warming as a Chinese conspiracy to hurt manufacturing, and his perception that Obama is not born in America, and may be cooperating with terrorists ("if he's so smart, something else is happening.") Still, I'd call this debatable; Trump certainly doesn't have the obsession with conspiracy of the Nazis (although who did?) and the particular place of the Jews is different in a modern American cultural context. Not that people who are obsessed with Jewish plots aren't big Trump supporters, of course.

8. Shifting rhetoric; opponents are both humiliatingly strong and too weak. I think this is again reflected in his rhetoric on Obama; he's a weak President who isn't respected, but also a dictator trying to control your lives. This also isn't as strong, though.

9. Life is struggle. Not always a big theme in the campaign so far, but lots of Trump statements from books and interviews say, pretty directly, that he believes life is a constant struggle and you always need to be the strongest and the best. He hasn't taken this to the warmongering lengths that traditional fascists do, though; it's more of a philosophical theme than a declaration of actual war. Again, we're in a very different geopolitical context to that of early fascists, and all-out war is harder to sell.

10. Popular elitism. Hard to say. A component of fascist societies, rather than a particular trait of the leader, and we don't know what Trump's America will look like, and how much of that will have to do with Trump.

11. Cult of heroism and death. Not really. We're going to win and keep on winning. (A boot against a human face--forever!)

12. Machismo. Yup. Disdain for women and need for strength and dominance. Well-attested.

13. Selective populism. Absolutely. Trump is the voice of the people, in his own words, and derives his legitimacy from having been elected through a pretty bizarre process. Trump supporters are the real Americans, his enemies are not a part of the populace he wants to lead. "The emotional response of a small group of people" has been selected. "Wherever a politician casts doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer represents the Voice of the People, we can smell Ur-Fascism."

14. Newspeak. Debatable, as fun as it is to link Trump's simple vocabulary to simple ideas. I'm less in the Sapir-Whorf camp than Orwell; I think Trump's use of simple sentences is more a reflection of a simple worldview than cause. But, I suppose it is hard to debate him when he has such vague positions, and those vague positions are established with the use of basic language. We're going to win. How? We're going to do it right, that's how!

I'm at work right now (oops) so this is poorly sourced and mainly based on memory. I definitely think you can apply these categories in lots of ways, depending on your political bias, and as much as I adore Eco, he shouldn't be taken as the final word on fascism and politics in general. That said... there's a lot of fascism in Trump.


> This, I think, has the weakest link to Trump; obviously the "Make America Great Again" slogan speaks to nostalgia, but I do think Eco here is talking about a particular kind of primordial, ancient tradition that is present in European fascism. America doesn't really have the sense of a people dating back thousands of years, so we avoid it.

I disagree. As other posters pointed out Fascism infects with it's own unique flavor of the host country. In the US, post ww2 was an idilic time (not really, but there's so much rockwell imagery). It's post slavery and genocide. It ends with landing on the moon.

The mythic version of the post war boom is appealing. High paying jobs. A house with a white picket fence. A new car every few years. Everyone lives in a small town and knows their neighbors. Kids go fishing with grandpa. it's a fantasy, it avoids so many deep problems, but it's easy to see the appeal.

I would expect trump to knock off "morning in america" [1] for his positive ads. (if he winds up having positive ads).

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EU-IBF8nwSY


> I would expect trump to knock off "morning in america" [1] for his positive ads. (if he winds up having positive ads).

I agree with the rest of your post, but the feel of "Morning in America" doesn't jibe with Trump's "Make America Great Again" spiel. "Morning in America" was Reagan's re-election campaign ad. It was saying "see what Reagan did for America in his first term; let's vote for four more years of it!". In other words, it's a form of "America is Already Great, Let's Keep It That Way".


>High paying jobs. A house with a white picket fence. A new car every few years. Everyone lives in a small town and knows their neighbors. Kids go fishing with grandpa. it's a fantasy

...can you tell us a little bit more about how you see the fantasy part? Is that something you think is unobtainable for most people? And the reason is automation, or globalism, or climate change, or X. (I'm just curious to get another/urban/foreign perspective, since my kids just got back from two weeks of fishing with Grandpa, but we don't have a picket fence).


When my mother was a little girl, she traveled with her grandmother across the country, probably 1958 or so. They stopped at a gas station. My mother went in the "wrong" bathroom. It created an awkward situation.

The post ww2 boom had some wonderful effects. There were, and still are some ugly aspects to that time that are easy to gloss over. IIRC, it wasn't legally possible to rape a spouse. The Cuyahoga River was so polluted it would catch on fire, the largest in 1952.

There were some very ugly parts to that time. if you weren't a white man with a good job, i think it was pretty rough. The nostalgic view tends to wash away those ugly parts.

edit

This is probably a harsher reply than was warrented by your question, but... it's easy to be misty eyed about that time. I wasn't around, but i think it sucked for a lot of people.


Ah, I misunderstood what you said, and the fantasy part is the overlooking of historical problems. Any thoughts on the white picket fence as an aspiration nowadays?


I'd hope people do what they like. You want it, go for it! But if you really want a little apartment with a cat and stacks of books, go for that. I think there's was a pressure to get married, buy a house and start having kids, at least through the 80's. There's nothing wrong with that, and it makes lots of people happy. I could do that, but i don't want the commute.


"Life is struggle. Not always a big theme in the campaign so far..."

Doesn't this tie directly into his obsession with "winning"?

Also, an entire article on this topic:

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/03/2016-donald-t...


Few object to fascism when it was _their_ fascism. When you use it as a catch-all euphemism for evil, sure it sounds bad. But more often than not, fascism is a trope held up to make otherwise totalitarian ideas seem moderate.

I have no love for people who identify as fascists, as to me they are just morbid personalities fixated on a nostalgia for ugliness. Same type of people who like slasher/torture films.

But, some alt-right'ists (trigger warning) have put some recent thought into the topic: http://www.jack-donovan.com/axis/2013/03/anarcho-fascism/

It is fairly well considered. These days, Eco is an old hack doomed to the museum/prison of being a national treasure. He has become too precious to edit, and his books are mainly didactic posturing for middle brow book clubs. His criticisms provide a kind of hall of mirrors for people who already believe in them, and don't provide actual illumination.


The article compares the term "fascism" to the term "game" in that it names a family of things that may not share any given trait.

If I say the stock market is a game, I have some hope people will understand I'm saying there are winners or losers. If I say commenting on HN is a game I have some hope people will understand I'm saying it's more for amusement than for any other purpose.

With the term "fascism" I have no such hope. Nobody understands if I say "Trump is fascist" or "Hillary is fascist" unless we're already thinking along the same lines, in which case I'm not communicating anything new.

My conclusion is that "fascism" is not a useful term for discussion.


> Nobody understands if I say "Drumpf is fascist" or "Hillary is fascist" unless we're already thinking along the same lines, in which case I'm not communicating anything new.

I think you're right when it comes to Internet commenting, but it's possible.

I've personally convinced a few people to support Johnson instead of Trump by pointing out the distinctively fascist elements of his campaign. Thinking people are entirely polarized and unwilling to listen to respectful points just enhances polarization.


Speaking of modernism, this encyclical from 1907 has very interesting things to say about the subject. Interpreting fascism's relation to modernism in this light, and interpreting Eco's essay in this light, are fascinating.

http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-x/en/encyclicals/documents...


Also this interesting note about "games" and irrationality and how they relate to Eco:

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-real-umberto-ec...


fourteen defining features for fascism; i think that's a lot, some of them are framed very broadly, and i don't quite see how they all interconnect.

I wonder why it does not include 'readiness to suppress your political opponent', i would have thought that this is the defining feature of fascism; you can be all of the fourteen features, but as long as you don't smack your political opponents you are not a real fascist.


I think that's covered by point 4, dissent is treason.


you still need to be prepared to actively punish the traitors; for instance any religion would view non believers in their congregation as some form of traitors, but not all religions would be ready to burn them at the stake or do anything about it.


Anyone else remember this (very beautifully written and interesting) piece being rolled out during previous elections?

Interesting that Clinton is stumping with the Bushes (the previous boogeymen) now: https://www.yahoo.com/news/hillary-clinton-invokes-unlikely-...


> Interesting that Clinton is stumping with the Bushes (the previous boogeymen) now: https://www.yahoo.com/news/hillary-clinton-invokes-unlikely-....

She's not stumping with the Bushes, and that article doesn't indicate that she is.


For a slightly different perspective from Mussolini:

http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/mussolini-fascism.asp

https://archive.org/details/MyAutobiography

Primary sources are important, they give you details and textures that are smoothed over in a retelling or distillation.

My personal opinion, since this story has basically become about whether or not Trump represents an American Fascist movement, is that crying fascism all the time is very much a 'boy who cried wolf' scenario. I don't think Trump is a fascist per se. Moreover, considering that fascism was a term adopted by the left to describe the heretical forms of syndicalism, socialism, etc that split from Leninism in the early to mid 20th century and was used for the POUM[1] as readily as Hitler's SS[2] I submit that the term in fact means nothing. Fascism has no central character because it's a bogeyman of self described antifas who want to import European style street brawl politics[3] into the United States.

Instead of trying to conceptualize and denounce Trump in terms of the past, I think it would be more effective to point out the concrete dangers he represents to domestic and foreign policy with his actual stated politics, or his hypocrisy, or any of the other many traits you can go after with him.[4]

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homage_to_catalonia

[2]: They are after all the National Socialists. Though by the time Hitler was appointed Chancellor the actual 'socialist' wing of the party had been purged to win over the minds of wealthy donors.

[3]: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-neo-nazi-event-s...

[4]: For example, compare this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOJrYxHQO-E&nohtml5=False) Ted Cruz ad to John Kaisch's invoking Godwin. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_isVZN65Ss&nohtml5=False)



Yes. Which is why where my post originally said 'invented' I changed to 'adopted'. (In all probability you read the version which said 'adopted', since I made that change soon after I wrote it.)


I wish the article had some more historical treatment of fascism. It starts with nazi germany and WWII, but fascism started earlier in Germany, going back at least as far as the "Pan-German League" (1891-1939), who essentially laid the ideological foundation on which almost all modern rightists build their theories.

EDIT: Make my point clearer.


I think the author was less interested in describing the ideology from a historical perspective, and more interested in pointing out warning signs that could signal an ideological movement is trending towards fascism.

His point is that a future rise of fascism might not look like the path from the Pan-German League to the Nazis, but it will have some ideological hallmarks that we can detect.


Right. This is comparative rather than historical - looking at a few fascist movements in recent times and distilling a common core.


i guess we're supposed to wax angry about trump here ...


Mods, can we get a (1995) on here?


Sure, but the ideas described are largely timeless.


I think it is important to understand that this was in 1995 looking forward, as opposed to trying to create things that describe the current situation and cherry picking details to fit the narrative. I have often expressed the opinion that Donald Trump's campaign, and his vision for the country, is reflective of a fascist ideology. That is hard for someone to hear who doesn't consider themselves a fascist but supports Trump because it challenges them to see that both statements that they hold to be true, can not be true. To sway their feeling of cognitive dissonance they attack the facts and assert bias and cherry picking.

Umberto Eco knows nothing of Trump's campaign as he writes, so he cannot be cherry picking his facts out of the current affairs. That is why I consider it important to know this was written in 1995.


>That is hard for someone to hear who doesn't consider themselves a fascist but supports Trump because it challenges them to see that both statements that they hold to be true, can not be true. To sway their feeling of cognitive dissonance they attack the facts and assert bias and cherry picking.

I wonder what people's thoughts are about a "crying wolf" type of phenomena developing? What if people just started shrugging their shoulders, and saying if I support Trump and that's fascist, then I'm a fascist, oh well? Kind of like "racism" as a term is starting to lose its sting. People just say, "I thought everyone was racist", and "I thought there is no such thing as race (so therefore you can't be a racist)".


I wonder what people's thoughts are about a "crying wolf" type of phenomena developing? What if people just started shrugging their shoulders, and saying if I support Trump and that's fascist, then I'm a fascist, oh well? Kind of like "racism" as a term is starting to lose its sting. People just say, "I thought everyone was racist", and "I thought there is no such thing as race (so therefore you can't be a racist)".

I definitely believe this is happening. The Left is overplaying their hand because their targeted adversary is doing reasonably (and unexpectedly) well. So they are deploying out the big words like "racist" and "sexist" and now, "fascist".

And lots of American voters are reading his platform and policies and thinking, "hmm, that policy seems like common sense - does that mean that (1) the Left is in error in labeling Trump a fascist or (2) I, myself, am a fascist and maybe fascism is not really that bad?"

Ultimately, a single word is too reductive to apply to a candidate and his policies. But lots of voters are too lazy to read or listen to full sentences and paragraphs, so we are locked into these simplifications.


> But lots of voters are too lazy to read or listen to full sentences and paragraphs, so we are locked into these simplifications.

I would say you could take it for granted that a large majority of people are like that most of the time. And I think it's very likely that this phenomenon was consciously and cynically exploited, and therefore facilitated the lowering of standards and the rise of bullshit in American politics in the last 20 years or so.


Actually, what we have now in the US is full blown fascism, which technically means the government and corporations together in a "fasces," a bundle of sticks.

Calls for caution in the face of the madness of our current immigration and essentially open borders, and for taking radical Islamism seriously, don't amount to anything like fascism.


Wikipedia has different definitions (example below). I don’t know where you get your definition from. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism

“a genus of political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultranationalism”


http://marxism.halkcephesi.net/Antonio%20Gramsci/1924/11/dem...

"[F]ascism and democracy are two aspects of a single reality, two different forms of a single activity: the activity which the bourgeois class carries out to halt the proletarian class on its path[.]"


Yeah, well, I'll actually believe Wikipedia over Gramsci on the question of what Fascism is...


Yeah, no point straining yourself by reading an analysis by someone who was actually around at the time and locked up by the fascists for opposing them. After all, you have your part to play in maintaining the hegemony.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Gramsci#Imprisonment_a...


Yeah, but Gramsci is not an unbiased observer. He's going to have a very ideologically biased view of many things, fascism among them.


Oh, I agree 100%. I read the previous comment as "that article is too old". But yes, it's precisely how old it is that makes it relevant now.


Oh, it was more along the lines of "Okay, and we're slowly getting to the Trump bit...?" before I myself realized that the article was of legal drinking age in the US. So closer to your and ChuckMcM's thinking, though it didn't come across in my comment requesting the year be added.


(1995)


[flagged]


It's not easy to see how the article could "compare modern progressive SJW viewpoints" because it was written in 1995, before that derisive term was invented.

But yes, it is quite possible that discussion here will be tired sloganeering.

To keep that from happening, we have to engage with the piece itself.


Disagreeing with an article is no reason to flag it. Although you aren't disagreeing even, just saying "it sounds like SJW (??) so I don't like it and no one else should".


That's the level of stupidity we're at.


If you use the word 'trigger' or 'sjw' unironically, you spend way too much time in the alt-right cesspool of reddit.


I wonder if Americans fighting in the Spanish War in the 1930s would fall under the class Social Justice Warrior..

edit: and if there are social justice warriors, are the people who beleaguer them social anarchists?


[flagged]


Perhaps; maybe, perhaps, you only find people where you look for them - a sampling bias. Perhaps the opinions don't adapt that much to the arena?

Dissent for dissent's sake like action for action's sake?


It's interesting that we're talking about both Trump and SJWs... The political spectrum is a circle.




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