The Sign Value of “Fascism”
In the disorienting haze of buzzing mass media static in the Current Year, it’s vitally important to understand the subtext of transmissions bearing the title “fascism”. “Fascism” and its henchmen “racism”, “white supremacy”, “white nationalism” and “racism” hold enormous significance to various publications owned by faceless multinational corporations. It’s been 74 years since authoritarian nationalist […]
In the disorienting haze of buzzing mass media static in the Current Year, it’s vitally important to understand the subtext of transmissions bearing the title “fascism”. “Fascism” and its henchmen “racism”, “white supremacy”, “white nationalism” and “racism” hold enormous significance to various publications owned by faceless multinational corporations. It’s been 74 years since authoritarian nationalist regimes with a fixation on imperial power were permanently incinerated by the fires of World War II. History firmly closed the chapter on this particular model for civilizations, just as it would eventually consign Communism to the same dustbin. The real life instances of fascism were dependent on a specific set of cultural, technological, and historical conditions which have long since passed, so why is there a current buzz about a dead relic?
There’s two reasons:
Daddy please save us
In this post-modern Current Year Hellscape of hyper-reality, mass media, and widespread loss of meaning, “fascism” is increasingly yearned for as the harsh antidote. The nostalgia, the evocation, the idea of authoritarianism is perceived by some as a bitter medicine preferable to the current nausea of living in a land of confusion.
For the right, this fondness for paternal authority is consciously expressed. They want a “return” to an older, more traditional social arrangement, not Literal Hitler, but some kind of respectable father figure. The far-right take this much further and some have a rough idea of what fascism is and a few quite earnestly claim to be “fascists”, although this kind of self-labeling is almost certainly done to be provocative in most contexts. The unironic fascists are exhibiting a historical anachronism in the same way as someone claiming to be a “monarchist” or “feudalist” does.
The left has an ugly, twisted affection for fascism on an unconscious level. When a “social justice warrior” acts out with a theatrical public melt-down, it almost seems to be a cry for attention, a plea for a father figure to please spank them. There probably has never been such an obvious case of “daddy issues” in the history of Western civilization in the most literal sense. (See divorce rates/single parent household data) Leftwing “journalists” are preoccupied with scouring the globe for any trace of someone dangerous, someone with a bullying streak, someone to reinject meaning back into their empty, bleak lives. Given the twin epidemics of depression and anxiety, one could compare this to a human immune system without the benefit of the self-modulation that arises from fighting off contagions.
Fascists are a lightning rod
On a conscious level, the Paper Tiger of fascism is used to martial a coalition of the fringes into focusing their destructive energies on an external threat. This dynamic is exceedingly common in history; all the yammering about Nazis and dehumanizing right-wingers is just a form of leftist tribalism. It’s an extremely crucial component of modern leftism precisely because of how schismatic, individualistic and mentally unstable their tribal members are. If there isn’t some deadly existential threat swinging over them like a swastika shaped Sword of Damocles, the collection of cross-dimensional inter-sectional social justice warriors with heads full of half-remembered versions of Critical Theory will set their teeth on each other instead of clueless Trump supporters. Outgroup Derogation is the necessary corollary of cohesive ingroup favoritism; this phenomena exists on both sides of the political spectrum.
In the case of the modern left, the boogeyman they’ve chosen to denigrate is imaginary on a comedic level, but this charade must go on because of a combination of daddy issues and intentional scapegoating. In that sense, the left could be called “the real fascists” in terms of how lopsided the power dynamics actually are. The academic, psychology, media and technology professions are all solidly in the hands of committed leftists, giving them a tremendous amount of leverage over the purported “Nazis” and rendering this farce all the more ridiculous. A real irony here is that the hysteria over the fake threat of fascism has done more to encourage people to drape themselves in the symbology of it to be edgy than just leaving the subject alone. Internet provocateurs understand these power relations and intentionally hijack these mono-dominant structures to turn things like OK signs and clowns into overtly racist dog-whistles. They do it by piggy-backing this messaging off the left’s own hyper-active immune system.
Is fascism really coming back?
I don’t think so. I think contextually, “fascism” today is pretty much like “satanism” in the 1980s or the witch hysteria of the 1600s. There is a large reservoir of disaffected young white males that is potentially volatile, but the idea they will mobilize into a fascistic populist uprising is very much at odds with the transformation of civilization into new paradigms that essentially would preclude a repeat of the 1930s. Political action along former models is impossible, there is no equivalent to a Nazi party rising into power nor would the reigning political establishment tolerate the genesis of such a movement. Conflict now happens along a 4th generational model far more unpredictable and chaotic than previous forms of violent political struggle. As such, while the social substrate is flammable, I’m convinced igniting it would produce something new and alien to our prior experiences, a unique product of our current historical period. “Fascism” is just a spook to keep the left-wing united and provide controversial symbolism for edgy internet posters.
…it is naive to conclude that the evocation of fascism signals a current renewal of fascism…”