What Is A Fascist Anyway?
Let's ask Wikipedia what a fascist is. It says:
Fascism is a far-right, authoritarian, ultranationalist political ideology and movement, characterized by a dictatorial leader, centralized autocracy, militarism, forcible suppression of opposition, belief in a natural social hierarchy, subordination of individual interests for the perceived good of the nation and race, and strong regimentation of society and the economy. ... Fascism rejects assertions that violence is inherently bad and views imperialism, political violence and war as means to national rejuvenation. Fascists often advocate for the establishment of a totalitarian one-party state, and for a dirigiste economy, with the principal goal of achieving autarky (national economic self-sufficiency) through protectionist and economic interventionist policies
That's a pretty clear definition. I don't see any mainstream Western politicians of the Right anywhere close to that definition. The only thing that you see among mainstream conservatives that even approaches this is the claim that globalist economics has been bad for the interests of the nation-state, and the assertion that political leaders ought to favor their own people's interests more than those of trans-national interests. You also see advocacy for the subordination of individual interests for the common good, but anyone who isn't a libertarian believes in that; the question is where you draw the line. For example, the Left believes that the interests of white and Asian individuals should be sacrificed for the greater good, which (in the Left's view) entails advancing other racial minorities through institutional promotion. The Right draws its lines in a different place. Putting a concept of the common good above individual interests is not necessarily fascism, but ordinary politics.
We are accustomed to hearing people on the Left accuse people on the Right of "fascism" every day. Former bartender AOC went on TV the other day to accuse conservatives of, yep, fascism. For the Left, there is never a bad time to call someone on the Right a fascist. The term is all but meaningless in US political discourse. While AOC bleats about the fascist threat, almost all the political violence in this country is carried out by far-left extremists called Antifa.
But will it always be? I saw on Twitter today a link to this 2018 essay by Costin Alamariu, about the prospect of Jair Bolsonaro becoming president of Brazil. As you know, Bolsonaro was elected that year, but yesterday was turned out of office by voters in a narrow election. Still, this part of the Alamariu essay is quite relevant today:
Bolsonaro, with his associations to the military and his implicit nostalgia for the time of military rule, therefore represents one thing to the Brazilian elite and their counterparts abroad, but a very different thing to the Brazilian working and middle classes. To the former, his program appears to be an irrational pastiche of the worst and most retrograde ideas. He seems a monster out of nightmares: he is a social conservative, opposes feminism and gay rights, he praises the military and the police but advocates for free gun ownership, he is pro-business but the big banks and financial institutions hate him, and so on. A recent article in Foreign Affairs is a good example of cosmopolitan elite alarm at his policy positions, dismissed as “extreme rhetoric.” But in Brazil, Bolsonaro’s main positions are seen as responding to immediate, urgent, and concrete problems faced by the middle class.
Bolsonaro’s social conservatism is motivated by similar protective and practical concerns. It is misunderstood and feared by leftists who believe it is connected to an “evangelical resurgence” and motivated by theology. But this isn’t why most Brazilians support his statements against feminism, gay rights, and “immorality.” The image foreigners have of Brazil and Brazilians as pleasure-loving and laid-back is accurate. But this doesn’t mean that working Brazilians with families want to have their children enticed, entrapped, or corrupted by foreign sex tourists with purchasing power far above that of locals during a crisis. They despise the ubiquity of prostitution, the intrusive, aggressive turn that gay rights activism has taken, and especially of drugs and drug culture. Most of all, they despise and are harmed by the effect these have on criminality in general—Trump’s controversial proposal for the death penalty for drug traffickers was applauded with enthusiasm by many in Brazil, who look forward to Bolsonaro doing the same. Beyond a certain point, which is yet unknown in American discourse, the problem of “social conservatism” becomes inseparable from the problem of law and order. Beyond this point, private deviance from social and moral norms spills over to become a problem of public social order. Brazil has long passed this point. [Emphasis mine -- RD] Concerns about vulgarity in Brazil are real and immediate, and not, as among many establishment American conservatives, a matter of affect or a matter of class identity-performance.
That was 2018. Here we are now, two years after the Summer Of Floyd, with crime statistics skyrocketing. Moreover, now ordinary parents have to worry about their minor children (especially their daughters) concluding that they are the opposite sex, and need to take cross-sex hormones and have surgery to "fix" their bodies -- and that social institutions, including schools, the medical establishment, and even the law, will conspire against parents who object. I still find it hard to believe that most American parents haven't yet absorbed the meaning of this for their own families. The media, including social media, has access to the hearts and minds of your children, and are trying to convince them to change their sex -- and the once-trustworthy institutions of civil society are on the side of these vandals.
We are either at the point, or close to it, in America discourse in which "social conservatism" has to do with the defense of basic law and order on the streets, and defending the order of society's most important institution, the family, from ghouls who want to sexually mutilate children, and sideline parents trying to defend their kid. I have to believe that most American parents, liberal and conservative both, do not want their children "enticed, entrapped, or corrupted" by these groomers in positions of authority. What does "fascism" mean when by simply trying to defend your family from street thugs, mob violence, or from those who would prey on the vulnerabilities of your children, you are condemned as a far-right fanatic?
I don't know enough about Brazil to have an informed opinion about Bolsonaro's governance. One thing I appreciate about Alamariu's essay is how he explained to English-speaking readers why so many ordinary Brazilians -- not the kind that Western journalists are inclined to consult -- supported Bolsonaro. As regular readers know, I saw the same thing happen in Hungary regarding Viktor Orban. So many Western journalists and analysts simply cannot understand why Orban is popular, so they rack it up to fascism and anti-Semitism. In fact, if you talk to ordinary Hungarians, many of them have big problems with Orban's government, but they trust him, and it, more than they do the Left. How many Americans, for example, know that the main left-wing leader in Hungary is a former Communist Party youth leader? How many Americans know that there is immense resentment among lots of Hungarians for the former Communist apparatchiks who not only never had to answer for their complicity with the dictatorship, but also used their connections to get ahead in the post-communist Eurocracy? The people who vote for Orban are often the people who believe they were shafted by the Communists and their successors. Whenever you read stories about the Hungarians and the Poles purging the judiciary, keep in mind that many of the judges these governments want to get rid of are holdovers from the Communist era, appointed by the dictatorship.
My point is simply that living abroad has taught me that the American media and elite class understands the complexity of the rest of the world even less than it understands the complexity within its own country, which ain't much. I was watching some US media coverage over the weekend online, and saw Democratic frustration that most American voters don't care about January 6 and abortion rights, at least not as much as they care about crime and inflation. Bad Americans! Bad!
My further point is that we can expect lots more screaming-meemie-ness about "fascism" as conservative politicians arise in the US to say "enough!" to the social disorder emanating from liberal policies and a progressive ethos. To these people, saying "no" to whatever they want is fascism -- this, even as their kind shut down free speech in every institution they control. To these people, failing to affirm whatever they want is bigotry. I was talking over the weekend with a foreigner who just moved to Budapest, and told him that one thing he will discover here is that you are free to do and to say whatever you want. You can see rainbow flags here, and gay couples walking hand in hand. You have tolerance here, and that is a good thing. What you don't see is the frog-marched celebration of All Things Rainbow. Here in Hungary, for the time being at least, they practice tolerance for gays within a framework of privileging the traditional family, and traditional sex roles. Hungary is basically where most of America was on this question twenty-five years ago. Was America "fascist" then?
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For a lot of ordinary people, what the liberal and progressive establishment condemns as "fascism" is just plain law and order. Film studios are wholly captured by the ideological Left today, but any one with the courage and vision to remake Dirty Harry today would make a fortune. And would deserve to.