An excerpt from Brendan O’Neill’s essay, Bolsonaro is not a fascist, on the danger of branding everyone a fascist; something rather than genuinely foreboding, becoming a sign of intellectual laziness.
Mussolini’s Prediction of the future in the Last Days of his “Italian Social Republic” (1945)
The term fascism cannot be saved, or resuscitated. To suggest otherwise, explained Brendan O’Neill is unwise, as the term is dead, transformed into a mere insult. Yet, even when a journalist believes they have gotten a great title and article ahead of them, tirelessly drawing connections between Donald Trump and either Hitler or Mussolini, they may refer to some other writer to credit their argument. Many journalists have tried, and mustered the supporting evidences of comparisons to no end. The seeds of fascism, we are told was planted in Italy! A once easy-going, generous people became belligerent and bullying when the airs of fascism fumed a raging perspiration across the nation!
R.J.B. Bosworth wrote in his 2005 book “Mussolini’s Italy,” “Border fascism,” an obsession with borders and keeping the population pure, was always a “key strain in the fascist melody,” as was “allowing the nation to stand tall again,” H.D.S. Greenway tells us in Seeds of fascism sprout anew in Trump’s America. All is needed, Bosworth says, is a charismatic leader. Even charisma brings nostalgia of Mussolini. What is this obsession with Mussolini?
Before that we are told, in Robert O. Paxton’s 2004 book, “The Anatomy of Fascism,” fascism did not die with the end of World War II. Its seeds were planted “within all democratic countries, not excluding the United States.” According to Paxton, fascism was a “form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood.” Fascism he claims, “was an affair of the gut more than of the brain.” Really? So, Mussolini’s The Doctrine of Fascism, Gentile’s The Philosophic Basis of Fascism and The General Theory of the Spirit and Palmieri’s The Philosophy of Fascism are just founded on “gut emotion.” How does that poor explanation help us understand ideological (or actual) Fascists, when or if it actually manifests, if it’s being overused to associate negativity and scorn on a bunch of rabid militias, neck-beard trolls, LARPERS, and Neo-Confederates, who could care less about Fascism?
What does any of it have to do with Giovanni Gentile, or in the actual History of Italian-American Fascism: of Count Ignazio Thaon di Revel and Dino Bigongiari’s efforts; of Ugo V. D’Annunzio, Joseph Santi, Domenico Trombetta, Salvatore Caridi, William Dudley Pelley and others? Speaking of gut-emotion, what of democracy then, and the democratic masses — the dangers of the “democratic Will (emotion) of the People,” as irrationally displayed in our country? Devastated masses, turning to crayons and color-books to sooth their defeat. The standing typical generic view of fascism, exacerbates our present conundrum. It is why we cannot seem to understand the spreading critiques of the liberal tradition, in our condescending treatment of the agitation of peoples. The habit in this time-period of short-coding everything (buzzwords and pseudo-woke politics) is dumbing-down our political discourse.
Brendan O’Neill on Fascism
“It is probably futile now to argue for the proper use of the word fascism. To rail against the transformation of ‘fascist’ into a casual insult. To insist that fascism doesn’t mean ‘evil’ or ‘illiberal’ or even ‘demagogic’, but rather has a more specific meaning, and a more profound one.
The f-word has been destroyed through overuse, its original sense and power diluted by a million op-eds branding unpleasant politicians ‘fascists’ and by radical marchers hollering ‘fascist scum’ at anyone who irritates them: President Donald Trump, UKIP leader Nigel Farage, the cops. On the right, too, the accusation of fascism has become a Tourette’s-style cry. It’s the left who are the real fascists, they say. Ugly alt-right barbs like ‘feminazi’ and ‘eco-fascist’ confirm that right-wingers are now as likely to scream ‘fascist’ as they are to have it screamed at them.
The wise thing to do would be to accept that the term fascist is beyond repair. It’s a dead word. It now means bastard. It’s an emotional insult, expressing a sense of powerlessness on the part of the person making it, whose belief that he faces a fascist threat grows in direct proportion to his own inability to make sense of political developments. The insult of ‘fascist’ speaks far more to the insulter’s own sensation of impotence than it does to the insulted’s actual power, or ideology, or ambition.
And yet, let’s have one more try. Let’s make a likely forlorn stab at saying what fascism is. Not to be pedantic, but to differentiate between historic periods; to clarify what happened back then as a way of illustrating that it simply is not happening today. For fascism does not exist now, no matter how much they say it does.
Perhaps the most irritating thing about the ‘Trump is fascism’ argument is how hackneyed it is. This yelling of the f-word at politicians we don’t like has been happening for years. It was said about Nixon, Reagan, Thatcher. For decades, both liberals and leftists have been flinging the word about. In 1969, the American Trotskyist George Lavan Weissman said ‘liberals and even most of those who consider themselves Marxists are guilty of using the word fascist very loosely’. They use it as ‘an epithet… against right-wing figures who they particularly despise’, he said. George Orwell noted a similar overuse, and misuse, of the word as far back as 1944, when fascism most certainly did exist. He called on leftists and others to use the word with ‘circumspection’.
Weissman and Orwell would be horrified by the fascist mania of 2017. There is no circumspection. Orwell was worried that the word would lose its ‘last vestige of meaning’ if people insisted on applying it to everyone they disagreed with – and that has happened. The word is now used with an ahistoricism and thoughtlessness that are genuinely alarming. And among the upper echelons of society, not merely by scruffy protesters or online blowhards. The Archbishop of Canterbury says Trump is part of the ‘fascist tradition’. Prince Charles has warned darkly of a return of the atmosphere of the 1930s, and we all know what that means. ‘Yes, Donald Trump is a fascist’, says New Republic, a magazine that once considered itself a voice of reason among the paranoid style of American political life. But everyone’s paranoid now. Everyone now sees fascists.”
Fascism in U.S. Political Discourse