States of the Union

Il Duce the Fascionista: A Tale of Rubber and Glue

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nazi-bezos

One of the primary things I look for in an article, particularly a Bezos Special, is subtext. But periodically, I’ll come across an article that so spectacularly fails at even the semblance of subtlety, that applying a subtext filter seems superfluous. It’s articles like the one below that have destroyed the profession of journalism. And, given that their best efforts at preventing a Trump presidency failed only slightly less than their pretense of professionalism, all that arrogance in believing that the media could sway the hearts and minds of the populace turns out to have been nothing so much as a giant, recycling circle of flatulence (that has a surprisingly nice ring to it; circle of flatulence).

That isn’t really a reason for Trump-supporters to gloat; the future of US elections is bleak.Voting will forever be changed. The Left is using every dirty trick in the books to lure in impressionable voters to replenish its numbers, and the Right is so out of touch that it still can’t grasp how their own candidate won (despite their best efforts to undermine his campaign). If nothing is done about it in the next 4 years, aggressive hacking, collusion, mass-manipulation, strategic lies and propaganda, and state-sanctioned voter fraud will all be commonplace, and on a scale that will make Hillary look like a saint … okay, maybe that was too strong a word. It will make her look like an intern … well, that’s even worse, given her husband’s propensities (besides, he’s not her type). The escalation in underhanded and illegal campaign “strategies” will make Hillary Clinton look like a puppy (complete with stains on the carpet, and your favorite pair of shoes left in tatters).

I should note that I wasn’t always a Trump supporter, and I don’t think he’s perfect by a long shot. I was staunchly opposed to him until, like most voters in the primaries, my candidate slipped by the wayside (Rand Paul, 2024!). But, once Rand was out, I started looking into Trump as a legitimate candidate, and for all his bluster, his policies were solid. He’s what America needs right now, like it or not, so he’s earned my support, but not blindly so. And it disgusts me to see how a man who genuinely wants what’s best for our country, and who has already won the presidency, is treated so abhorrently by the media.

Now that the election is over, you’d think the MSM would eat crow, or cut their losses, but not the King of the Amazon, Jeff Bezos. Come to think of it, not any of them really, even counting the NYT’s shameless call for a return to objectivity, even as they remain subversive. So, really it’s just a call for more subtext.

If I see anything worth translating, I’ll turn on the [subtext filter] for you, but I don’t expect there will be much need for this diatribe. I suppose it might be an opinion piece, or an editorial-style column, but the fact that I can’t tell at a glance further shows the underhanded media tactics. I’ve included my responses in brackets.

Without further ado, How fascist is Donald Trump? There’s actually a formula for that; Grading the billionaire on the 11 attributes of fascism. By John Mcneill, a professor of history at Georgetown, and probably an honorary member of the Hitler Youth, for his work in indoctrinating the young and impressionable. You can read the article here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/10/21/how-fascist-is-donald-trump-theres-actually-a-formula-for-that/

The article:

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“Donald Trump is a fascist” sounds more like a campaign slogan than an analysis of his political program. But it’s true that the GOP nominee doesn’t fit into America’s conventional party categories, and thoughtful people — authors Robert Kagan and Jeffrey Tucker, among others — have hurled the f-word at him.

Fascism was born in Italy during World War I and came to power with the ex-journalist and war veteran Benito Mussolini in 1922. Since the 1950s, dozens of top historians and political scientists have put fascism, especially the Italian and German versions, under the microscope. They’ve come up with a pretty solid agreement on what it is, both as a political ideology and as a political movement, factoring in all the (sometimes contradictory) things its progenitors said as they ascended to power. As a political ideology, fascism has eight main traits. As a political movement, it has three more. So: Just how fascist is Trump? On the fascist meter, we can award him zero to four “Benitos.”

First, the ideological features:

1. Hyper-nationalism. This attribute is not confined to fascism, but it is central to all fascism. Trump regularly promises to put America first and extolls the virtues of ordinary Americans (by which he often seems to mean white Americans). His trade policy qualifies as economic nationalism. By the standards of American politics, he is a hyper-nationalist, but by the standards of historical fascism, he is not in the upper echelon. Two Benitos.

[Jullian Sellars: Now, I’m no professor of history at Georgetown, but I have my master’s in Wikipedia, and even the briefest of searches exposes the blatant lie in Mcneill’s claim.

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-7-54-01-pm

There’s a good article by Nicholas Farrell (http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/11/absurd-call-trump-fascist/), where he addressed the important differentiation between Nationalism and Patriotism.

“George Orwell, a socialist who hated communism, drew an important distinction between patriotism and nationalism. A patriot is someone who wants to defend his country, its culture and way of life – wrote Orwell – whereas a nationalist is someone who wants to impose his country, culture and way of life. Patriotism is defensive, nationalism offensive.”

America has always been a melting pot. To be a nationalist here, one would have to identify almost exclusively with a particular social group, ethnicity, or demographic population (like, say, black people in the inner cities). It’s what Hitler did in unifying the Germanic-Aryan peoples to the exclusion of their darker-haired countryman. Despite the media’s claims of Trump’s Islamaphobia, his statements about Muslums are not exclusive to the views of America. He’s identified their religious group as a higher risk for terrorism, and has proposed applying additional scrutiny before including them freely in the melting pot, but that doesn’t fit with the definition of Nationalism, or exclusion (or racism, for that matter, given that Islam isn’t a race).

Trump’s call to put America first fails the test for Nationalism as well; putting America first is the job of the American president (which we seem to have forgotten after so long under closet despots).

Lastly, Trump’s trade policies are simply good business, not political philosophy. As Nicholas Farrell points out, Trump more closely fits the definition of Patriotism over Nationalism. That’s right folks, like it or not, America voted a patriot into office, God forbid.

I’m afraid I have to give Professor McNeill four Bezos’ for this insult to his profession.]

2. Militarism. Fascists routinely lionized military institutions and military virtues, and at least rhetorically sought military solutions to political issues. Trump lavishes praise on the troops, as almost all American politicians do these days, and he has proposed (in vague and vulgar terms) a militaristic solution to the problem posed by the Islamic State. He has recommend taking the oil of the Middle East, which presumably would require armed force. But by and large, Trump does not blithely recommend military action and often lambastes his rivals for allegedly incompetent military adventurism. He does not dress his followers in ersatz military garb. Two Benitos.

[Jullian Sellars: Trump lavishes praise on America’s military personnel because he values their commitment to this great nation (he is to be their Commander-in-Chief, so I should hope so). This hardly qualifies him as a Fascist. He may have, at one point, supported US involvement in Iraq, but not for long, and certainly no longer. He is a proponent of non-interventionst policy. His statements about taking oil were in regards to areas we’d already “conquered,” which would have kept that oil out of the hands of terrorist groups (who have made billions off of it), or other nations who didn’t pay such a high price as our soldiers did for their involvement. Far from lauding the idea of “military adventurism,” he all but diffused the senseless conflict with Russia we were barreling head-first into under the helm of President Obama, and at the goading of Secretary Clinton, who’s held an apparent grudge against Vladimir Putin every since her husband caused the sinking of the Kursk back in the 90’s—enough of a grudge that she would have brazenly led us into World War III over Syria.

I’ll see your two Benitos, and raise you two more Bezos’.]

3. Glorification of violence and readiness to use it in politics. Fascists such as Mussolini thought violence could cleanse and redeem a tarnished nation. They encouraged loyal thugs to rough up, and occasionally kill, people whose politics differed from theirs. Trump scores low here. His rallies, according to many reports, have a frisson of menace to them; he has said things that could be interpreted asinvitations to assassination; his followers often speak longingly of violent acts they wish to see committed against others; he has recommended using torture and killing the families of terrorists. But this still leaves him well short of the standard of Mussolini’s blackshirts or Hitler’s brownshirts, who not only called for political violence but resorted to it extensively. One Benito.

[Jullian Sellars: Let’s flip this around. Who is it that’s paid hundreds of millions of dollars to groups that were engineered to incite violence against the police, white oppressors, and Trump supporters in an effort to cause civil unrest and destabilize the nation? In light of this, I give Professor McNeill five Bezos’, and another for the Democratic Party, for good measure.]

4. Fetishization of youth. Fascist movements, even when led by middle-aged men, always extolled the vigor and promise of youth and made special efforts to appeal to young people. Trump, as a septuagenarian, is ill-positioned here. He has no special youth organization to speak of. His most devoted followers are long in the tooth. Zero Benitos.

[Jullian Sellars: Again, let’s turn this around, who is it that’s seeking to replenish their voter base with the youth, indoctrinated through the Department of Education policies, liberal colleges and universities, radical protests, and “pop” campaigning with the likes of Jay Z, Beyonce, Katy Perry, and Madonna? I’m honestly surprised we haven’t seen the official formation of the “Hitlary Youth” by now. Five Bezos’.]

5. Fetishization of masculinity. Fascists trumpeted what they saw as masculine virtues and supported male authority within family and society, urging women to confine their sphere to home and children (the more of which the better). Trump shares much of this outlook, lauding his own stamina and accusing his femalerival, Hillary Clinton, of lacking it. He mocks men whom he deems deficient in virility. But whereas Mussolini liked to hold up his own mother, devoted to home and hearth, as the feminine ideal, Trump’s vision of the proper woman seems to be a supermodel, more in line with Hugh Hefner’s ideology than Mussolini’s. Nonetheless, on swaggering machismo he gets full marks. Four Benitos.

[Jullian Sellars: I’m pretty sure this has digressed from an article about fascism, but I’ll bite. Trump can be boorish, there’s no doubt, but fetishistic? Really? Two words of contradiction; Kellyanne Conway. Three Bezos’.]

6. Leader cult. Fascists always looked to a leader who was bold, decisive, manly, uncompromising and cruel when necessary — because the parlous state of the nation required such qualities. Mussolini and Hitler, both veterans of World War I, drew their models of leadership from army officers and worked hard to polish their images as dauntless rulers beholden to no one. They encouraged their followers to idolize them as Il Duce and der Führer. They claimed special insight into the will of the people. Trump, although not a war veteran, fully embraces the cult of the leader. He offers his business experience as evidence of his decisive leadership and is very testy when his business acumen is doubted. He also claims to channel the common man, enjoying a connection all other politicians lack. Four Benitos.

[Jullian Sellars: People are literally rioting for Hillary, and hash-tagging #stillwithher. “Stronger Together” sounds like the trappings of a cult to me. Come to think of it, it sounds awfully Fascist. Fascists used a symbol of an axe, wrapped with sticks, which symbolized, you guessed it, strength in unity.

fascism1

Also, the tears from Hillary’s supporters when she conceded could have refilled Lake Mead (which might have dissuaded California from talks of secession). Cult, just sayin’. Five Bezos’.]

7. Lost-golden-age syndrome. Italian and German fascism shared a strong commitment to the notion of national rebirth. Mussolini and Hitler encouraged their supporters to believe in lost (or stolen) greatness, in a glorious past. That could be long ago, as with the Roman Empire, which Mussolini liked to invoke, or only a couple of decades prior, as with the German Reich that was, according to Hitler, “stabbed in the back” in 1918. Trump makes this appeal to a golden age the centerpiece of his campaign, assuring audiences that only he can “make America great again.” Four Benitos.

[Jullian Sellars: Okay, I’ll give you this one. But is it a bad thing? Unless you operate under the delusion that the last eight years were the golden age, it’s not too difficult to see that America has fallen in prominence as we’ve slipped into globalism. Who wouldn’t long for the respect America commanded post World War II? One Bezos.]

8. Self-definition by opposition. Fascists defined themselves as the bulwark against various evils and menaces to the nation. Those included communism, routine democratic politics, the traditional conservatism of industrial and agrarian elites (although both Mussolini and Hitler eventually made peace with these elites), and, especially in the German case, foreigners and minorities. Communism is no longer an issue for American politics. But Trump constantly rails against politics as usual, against political correctness, against elites of all kinds (including, curiously, business elites), and he has made a habit of vilifying minorities. He does not advocate their annihilation, as Hitler did. Three Benitos.

[Jullian Sellars: Communism is no longer an issue for American politics because we’ve been toadying up to China. And Trump is anything but defined by the opposition. He does however, stand as a stark contrast to the bevy of elites, globalists, political insiders, and pretty much anyone who threatens America with corruption and ulterior motives. So maybe it’s more accurate to say that it’s not how he defined himself, but how the opposition defined him. Two Bezos’.]

As a political movement, fascism displayed three further important traits:
9. Mass mobilization and mass party. Both Mussolini and Hitler rode to power on tidal waves of support that were organized into new political parties. A new party might fit Trump better, but he has not created one. Instead he has made a venerable one, the Grand Old Party, into his vehicle. He likes to refer to his following as a movement, and since the GOP convention in July has rarely tried to brand himself as a Republican. Many in his party loathe him. Two Benitos.

[Jullian Sellars: Trump has a voter base that defies party lines, for various reasons all the way down the “the lesser of two evils.” He’s drawn more Independent support than any other Republican candidate would have, but not under the banner of Republicanism. Hillary on the other hand, all but branded their voters as belonging to one family, the party of humanity, if you will. Three Bezos’.

10. Hierarchical party structure and tendency to purge the disloyal. Fascist movements, like revolutions, ate their children. Anyone who displayed only tepid loyalty to the leader or who showed the potential to outshine the leader risked being purged or killed. So did followers who outlived their usefulness. Trump’s campaign shares this tendency toward purges, but the Republican Party under his leadership does not. And violence plays no role. One Benito.

[Jullian Sellars: The appointment of Reince Priebus to Chief of Staff alone disproves this notion (not that it shouldn’t, or won’t eventually happen). Trump stood against such staggering insider opposition, that he risks being stone-walled, undermined, or outright swallowed if he doesn’t follow through with his plan to drain the swamp in DC. I’ll give it one Bezos.]

11. Theatricality. In style and rhetoric, fascism was highly theatrical. Film and audio of Mussolini and Hitler make them seem like clownish buffoons, with their exaggerated gestures, their salutes, their overheated speeches full of absolutes and superlatives. Their rallies evolved into elaborate collective rituals for loyalists. Trump does not strut across stages like a Mussolini, and Nazi-style torchlit parades are out, but his rhetoric fits the fascist style well. He constantly calls things and people the worst or the best ever. His rallies feature repetitive chants. Even his studied frown of disapproval recalls a classic Mussolini pose. Three Benitos.

[Jullian Sellars: I haven’t seen the pageantry of parades in goose-step yet, and I could draw attention to the oppositions tendency towards flashy concerts to increase piteous turnout, but I’ll admit, Trump is a showman. One Bezos.]

Add all this up, and you get 26 out of a possible 44 Benitos. In the fascist derby, Trump is a loser. Even Spain’s Francisco Franco and Portugal’s António de Oliveira Salazar might score higher. While there is a strong family resemblance, and with some features an uncanny likeness, Trump doesn’t fit the profile so well on those points where the use of violence is required. Projecting an air of menace at rallies, uttering ambiguous calls for assassinations, tacitly endorsing the roughing-up of protesters, urging the killing of terrorists’ families and whatever else Trump does — while shocking by the standards of American politics — fall far short of the genuinely murderous violence endorsed and unleashed by authentic fascists.
In a more nuanced approach, we might weight the various traits of fascism differently, but it’s not obvious how best to do so. Hyper-nationalism, for example, is more consequential than the youth fetish and perhaps ought to be taken more seriously. But it is also less distinctively fascist, being common to many types of political regimes. A longer list, too, might add refinement and complexity. But Trump does not do nuance. A crude, quick and flippant assessment is what he deserves. He is semi-fascist: more fascist than any successful American politician yet, and the most dangerous threat to pluralist democracy in this country in more than a century, but — thank our stars — an amateurish imitation of the real thing.

[Jullian Sellars: And you, professor McNeill, have earned your candidate 33 out of a possible 44 Bezos’. While I credit you with not outright calling Trump a full-fledged fascist, semi-fascist is too kind for Hillary. The list of grievances, crimes, collusions, and atrocities (right up to laughing on national television about the brutal death of a sovereign ruler) is daunting. And how can he be a threat to pluralist democracy, when the last three presidencies have consolidated all of the real power into the executive branch, and planted shills in the other branches to prevent proper checks and balances? Trump is not a fascist, or a demagogue, or an authoritarian, or a dictator, and the more time the media draws attention to the accusation, the less likely people are to see those frightening, and very real, tendencies in our current administration, and his designated predecessor. It’s all gas lighting, and a shameful magic trick at that. In fact, you just earned yourself another Bezos.

 

For God and Liberty,

Jullian Sellars

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