Categories
alpha males alt-right anti-Semitism antifeminism irony alert literal nazis men who should not ever be with women ever misogyny racism rape culture recommended reading trump

Donald Trump ticks all 14 boxes in Umberto Eco’s list of what makes a fascist a fascist

Donald Trump: The very model of a modern Ur Fascist?
Donald Trump: The very model of a modern Ur Fascist?

One of the most perceptive analyses of Trump and his followers was written more than two decades ago. I’m talking, of course, of Umberto Eco’s oft-discussed essay on what he calls Ur Fascism or Eternal Fascism, his attempt to set forth the central features that define Fascism. I reread it today for the umpteenth time, and was struck again by its eerie prescience.

Though it contains precisely zero references to Trump — who at the time was just a real estate mogul with a penchant for boasts and bankruptcy — Eco’s 14-point checklist describing what makes a fascist a fascist applies to Trump and Trumpism in so many ways it’s scary.

Let’s go through the list, shall we? The bold parts are Eco’s categories; the rest is my commentary.

The cult of tradition: Trump frequently harks back to what he sees as a former golden age for America. His slogan, after all, is Make America Great Again.

The rejection of modernism: Trump has famously said that he thinks “a lot of modern art is a con.” In the final days of his campaign a number of his most fervent followers convinced themselves that Hillary was a literal devil worshiper because her campaign chair John Podesta was once invited to a so-called “Spirit Cooking” dinner held by performance artist Marina Abramovic. Many of Trump’s fans seem to actually believe that her artistic performances are in fact Satanic rituals.

The cult of action for action’s sake: Trump is a whirligig of pointless action who repeatedly declared that Hillary was unfit for president because sometimes she took a day or two off from campaign events, and was even known to go to sleep from time to time.

Disagreement is treason: Trump has repeatedly called the press “corrupt” for not accepting his version of reality. During his rallies he regularly led what Orwell might have called “two-minute hates” against journalists covering his campaign. Trump’s fans ultimately began chanting “lügenpresse” at journalists; the term, German for “lying press,” was originally made popular by, yes, literal Nazis in literal Hitler’s Germany.

Fear of difference: Do I even need to cite examples here? Trump’s campaign, which began with a bizarre attack on Mexican immigrants, was largely based around Trump’s weaponization of this primal fear.

The appeal to a frustrated middle class: Again, do I even need to bother with examples? Trump’s whole campaign centered around his attempts to convince white middle-class Americans that they had more to fear from poor people of color than from wealthy tax-avoiders and serial-bankruptcy-declarers like him.

The obsession with a plot, possibly an international one: Trump, like many of his followers, is both a proud nationalist and a conspiracy theorist. He kicked off his political career alleging that Obama wasn’t born in America; last week he declared that the anti-Trump protests that have sprung up all over the country in the wake of his electoral college victory are the work of “professional protestors, incited by the media.” Trump’s fans on the alt-right blame everything on a cabal of Jewish globalists, a charge Trump himself echoed in the final ad for his campaign.

The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies: You might have thought that Trump, in many ways the poster boy for ostentatious wealth, would have had a hard time pretending that Hillary and her supporters were the privileged ones. But Trump was somehow able to convince his fans he was a sort of “billionaire Robin Hood,” as Trump admirer Piers Morgan put it, while portraying Hillary as “a career politician who has repeatedly fleeced her positions of power to make millions of dollars for herself and her husband, and who carried with her a permanent smug sense of entitlement to be America’s first female president.”

Life is permanent warfare: Trump is someone who will go to war against a former beauty queen on Twitter at 3 AM. He’s always fighting someone. His advisors and surrogates also live in a constant state of war — from ideological scrapper Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart boss who Trump just picked as chief White House chief strategist, to spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, known to wear a literal necklace of bullets during her media appearances. Meanwhile, Trump’s alt-right fans — particularly those who learned virtually everything they know about politics from 4chan and Gamergate — are happy to serve tirelessly in Trump’s unofficial meme army.

Popular elitism: Given Trump’s penchant for superlatives, is it any shock to find his fans declaring themselves “the best supporters?” 

Everybody is educated to become a hero: Declaring that “I alone can fix it,” Trump famously presented himself as the one true savior of American society. This makes voting for him, or wearing a Make America Great Again hat, itself a kind of heroism.

Machismo: The constant sexual boasting (including his casual admissions of sexual assault); the relentless misogyny; the schoolyard threats of violence  — does anyone doubt that Trump wants the world to see him as the ultimate “alpha male?”

And then there’s that whole Wrestlemania thing.

Against “rotten” parliamentary governments: Trump clearly has very little comprehension of how government works, seeming to think that the president has or should have almost unlimited power. We’ll just have to see what happens the first time a legislative body stands in the way of his political desires.

Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak: Trump’s fans have invented a whole weird lingo of their own, calling themselves “nimble navigators” and/or “cenntipedes” and flooding the web with Pepe memes. Trump hasn’t adopted any of this lingo for himself, but he does speak his own, distinctively Trumpian, version of American English — big league! Trump’s speeches are collections of slogans and platitudes; he regularly reduces his opponents to single insulting adjectives — “lyin’ Ted,” “little Marco,” “crooked Hillary.” Trumpspeak, like Newspeak, is an impoverished language filled with thought-stopping cliches.

So there we have it.

Trump basically ticks every one of Eco’s fourteen points. And of course many of his supporters are Hitler-worshipping, Jew-hating, Holocaust-advocating white supremacists. All Trump seems to be missing, Fascism-wise, is an armband.

If you haven’t read Eco’s essay, go read it now. If you have read it, go read it again.

H/T — Thanks to Skiriki, who pointed out some of Trump’s similarities to Eco’s Eternal Fascist in the comments here yesterday.

EDIT: Added more on Trumpspeak.

247 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dalillama
5 years ago

@Axe
That’s not a dreary chill. This is a dreary autumn chill:
comment image

sparkalipoo
sparkalipoo
5 years ago

@Moocow

Is it not known that the man who pushed the other man down the stairs has aspergers? Because if the person posting that youtube channel didn’t know he had aspergers, labeling him as someone with aspergers is messed up because it plays into some really negative stereotypes about autistic people

HawkAtreides, on the floor again with a head full of rain
HawkAtreides, on the floor again with a head full of rain
5 years ago

@sparkalipoo

The “proof” for the ID of the man is a Twitter account claiming to know the assailant. Given the use of Asperger’s and other autism-spectrum conditions as insults by the alt-right and their penchant for blaming every bad act on false flag operations by the Left, I’m less than convinced.

Kat
Kat
5 years ago

Never have I seen so many “upvotes” for conversations about commas!

It’s heartening.

opposablethumbs
opposablethumbs
5 years ago

@belladonna

I recently wrote a couple of articles on such fascinating matters as the present and past subjunctive in English and on prefixes and particles.

::glow of admiration::
@scildfreja

Linguistics and artificial intelligence are closer than you might think. A huge part of modern AI is in natural language processing, and, well. The way our brains uh, do … language … is almost a direct analogue to how we just straight-up think about things.

::swoons::
(I do translations a fair bit of the time – often tedious in the extreme, but occasionally quite satisfying).

Personally I find that reading you all here is one of the few things that mitigates my inclination to despair in the face of the current political fuck-ups.

Skiriki
Skiriki
5 years ago

*lifts a hand* Do people still need my hot take of the situation with Trump and fascism and shit, or did Scildfreja Unnýðnes do a sufficient job in it? Askin’, ’cause I got a lot to do, and writing it (plus sourcing it with not-video linkage) is going to take some time, maybe couple of days?

(I, for one, think that our Fluttershy did a splendid job.)

Belladonna "Toxic Hag"
Belladonna "Toxic Hag"
5 years ago

@Moocow
Thank you for doing the dreary legwork on the “video proof” and letting us know!

@Kat
I’m always up for conversation about commas. I’m kind of persnickety about them in my work, but there’s always disagreement (or artistic license). There are people in my field who think a clause introduced by “because” should always have a comma in front of it, but I sometimes think a because clause is too essential to the meaning of the sentence to warrant such treatment. 🙂

@opposablethumbs

I do translations a fair bit of the time – often tedious in the extreme, but occasionally quite satisfying

Admiration returned! I think translation is endlessly fascinating. Maybe tedious (if you say so), but fascinating! Le Ton Beau de Marot is my favorite book I’ve never finished. I’m not on board with the crowd who thinks a different language completely changes the way people are able to think of things. But I definitely do believe it may color the way people conceptualize some things. Even something as simple as the fact that when I was speaking French every day, I started to think of my hair as being “my hairs.” It may not be some world-changing difference, and I can’t totally describe it, but it just kind of changed the way I felt about my hair (or hairs) when it was a plural noun instead of a collective one.

@Skiriki
I would totally be interested in seeing your non-video sources! But I am not going to selfishly ask you to do that work. Our troll seems to have either been banned or to have shut up, for now. So, you know, if you happen to really want to . . . 😉

Moocow
Moocow
5 years ago

@sparkalipoo

Yeah. There was no evidence to suggest it. Asshole youtuber as just using “asbergers” as an insult. Asshole youtuber can go fuck themselves.

@Belladona

You’re welcome!

http://media.tumblr.com/5b6f7533a269fc8714591efa5c822256/tumblr_inline_mvgpmxPpt11s6pfvo.gif

opposablethumbs
opposablethumbs
5 years ago

Hey, @Belladonna 🙂
On the (very rare) occasions I get to do something with interesting content or that presents interesting challenges, then yes! Bring on the dancing horses! Mostly I’m just a donkey trudging round and round in a mill, though :-s

Ariblester
5 years ago

I’d actually be open to someone arguing in good faith about how exactly Lee Kuan Yew, who I understand was an authoritarian and a traditionalist, but also an intellectual technocrat, ‘ticks all the boxes’ of Ur-Facism.

Belladonna "Toxic Hag"
Belladonna "Toxic Hag"
5 years ago

@opposablethumbs

On the (very rare) occasions I get to do something with interesting content or that presents interesting challenges, then yes! Bring on the dancing horses! Mostly I’m just a donkey trudging round and round in a mill, though :-s

I’m going to take a wild guess that as a technical writer, I have possibly had the dubious pleasure of producing the type of scintillating content to which you are referring. Here’s to trudging! 😉

opposablethumbs
opposablethumbs
5 years ago

@Belladonna, I’m not sure but I think that’s definitely possible! 🙂

::raises Nice-Cup-of-Tea in traditional Brit-type toast::

Alan Robertshaw
5 years ago

@ opposablethumbs

A proper nice cup of tea?

opposablethumbs
opposablethumbs
5 years ago

@Alan, I’ll have you know that all my tea is both highly improper and licitly come by. Not a tea-leaf in sight, in fact 😉

Jaygee
Jaygee
5 years ago

@Scildfreja Unnýðnes you often make a lot of very good points, and I do also appreciate that you leave a peaceful way for trolls to retreat (a pity they don’t often take ad of that), so would you be all right with me sharing some of your words? I particularly liked

As I’ve said in a few places now – when progressives win, they celebrate by marrying, drinking, and partying. When conservatives win, they celebrate by harassing, vandalizing and assaulting.

Thanks for your sensitive and in-depth responses to everyone.

Scildfreja Unnýðnes
Scildfreja Unnýðnes
5 years ago

aw, @Jaygee, you’re a sweetie, thank you <3 Of course you can share! I'm deeply flattered

@Dreemr, Mish, you’re makin me blush over here :3
comment image

ospalh
ospalh
5 years ago

An update:
The German Spiegel went through the list.
They got 8 of 14.
On ⒋, “disagreement is treason”, i agree with this list, ⭕, not them, but especially on ⒒, “everybody is educated to become a hero”, I agree with them, ❌, not this version. That one is about literal death cults. I don’t see typical Trump supporters being willing to die for Trump. No “The flag is (worth) more than death”.
Details:
(⭕=Yes, ❌=No, ?=Unknown so far)
⒈❌
⒉?
⒊⭕
⒋❌
⒌⭕
⒍⭕
⒎⭕
⒏⭕
⒐❌
⒑❌
⒒❌
⒓⭕
(⒔⭕)
⒕⭕
(I couldn’t find ⒔ in their list. The ⭕ is implied from the sums, but fits IMO.)

ospalh
ospalh
5 years ago

P.S.:
Don’t really know what the issue with ⒔ was exactly. Could read their ⭕ with another browser, but not with Firefox.

Scildfreja Unnýðnes
Scildfreja Unnýðnes
5 years ago

@ospalh,

Thanks for pointing out that article on Der Spiegel! I really don’t agree with it, though, in a few ways.

First, it’s really sort of tone deaf about a number of the prevalent issues in the united states. For example, it claims that there’s no sense of “mass elitism” for those inside the party as those without of it. I’m pretty sure that an average talk with a Trump supporter is enough to upset that notion. As for #11 and the “literal” death cults, I take the worship of the military and the rampant militarism to be a more than adequate for that category. Also, note their line:

Eco did not provide guidelines for interpreting the results. But he did write: “It is enough for one of them to be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.”

The article reads like an outsider from the society, looking in and going “what the heck is going on?” There’s a sense of disbelief, a sense that beneath the outrageous rhetoric there has to be some sort or countervailing measure going on. They allude to it right in the article – they say with shock that “that would mean half of the american voters voted for fascism!” Which – well, yeah. That could happen. Given that that’s 18% of the actual population, that could certainly happen.

It’s a good article, and a good analysis, but it’s not going to convince me that this isn’t fascism. Fascism in the 21st century is certainly going to have a different shape than it did in the 20th, and we need to acknowledge that.

Dalillama, Effort Chicken
Dalillama, Effort Chicken
5 years ago

@Ospalh
Mr. Kurbjuweit has clearly never actually lived in the U.S., let alone grown up here. Nor has he been paying much attention to Trump and his associates, it would appear.

Should we die for Trump’s glory and the immortal destiny of the United States? If this question is ever asked of American students, then they will, without a doubt, be living under fascism.

American students have been told about the virtues of dying for the immortal destiny of the United States for as long as there’s been a United States. What a lot of people don’t want to admit is that U.S. culture had strong measures of a lot of these traits already, long before Trump came on the scene.

thus far there haven’t been any significant signs of religious or philosophical underpinnings to his movement. So that criterion, at least, does not apply.

So you haven’t noticed all the bleating about Jesus, and being born again, and anointed by various assbag televangelists, at all? You haven’t been paying attention to his main fucking slogan, ‘Make America Great Again“, which is what if not hearkening back to a mythical golden age when all was right in the world?

Feature four for Eco is an entirely closed worldview that considers any disagreement to be “treason”. That kind of worldview to which all must submit is not currently detectable in Trump.

What the hell planet is this guy living on? He talked about arresting Clinton, he wants to lock up journalists who don’t kiss his ass enough. And, of course, so, so many of his followers, well; just listen them for thirty seconds and you’ll find out what kinds of things they think are treasonous.

Feature No. 2 is the “rejection of modernism,” of capitalism, but also of Enlightenment and the Age of Reason — the “Spirit of 1789,” Eco wrote, in reference to the French Revolution. Trump is himself a capitalist, but politically he has shown a strong tendency towards the irrational and intemperate. No determination is yet possible on this point.

He’s a goldbug for chrissakes, pay the fuck attention.

As for point 10, Eco says that Ur-Fascism reflects what he calls a “mass elitism.” Those who are members of the movement, the party or the nation look down on everyone else. Surely some of Trump’s white supporters disdain African Americans, but the feeling of indignity is still greater than the idea of superiority.

Bullshit. This guy has no fucking clue how racist Yanks in general are, let alone Trumpists.

weirwoodtreehugger: communist bonobo

You don’t even have to vocally disagree with Trump to be treasonous. Just existing as an immigrant or a Muslim is enough. In the eyes of many of his supporters, existing as anything other than a white cishet male is treasonously disagreeable.

Rhuu
Rhuu
5 years ago

Scildfreja said:

Fascism in the 21st century is certainly going to have a different shape than it did in the 20th, and we need to acknowledge that.

QFT.

1 8 9 10
%d bloggers like this: