THE word fascist is being thrown about quite a bit recently, especially in the context of Donald Trump in the wake of his lies and bigotry. Until fairly recently I hadn’t really given much thought to the meaning of the word. I mean, we all know what we’re talking about when we’re talking about fascist governments, or at least we should have a pretty good idea, right? (If you don’t, remember that Wikipedia is your friend. Off you go. See you in a minute.)
The trouble comes when we use the word fascist to describe an individual. What does it mean in that context? Until recently I have to admit that I didn’t really know. So I did a little research—and you know something? Most of the definitions I found were far too abstract and didn’t really explain it in any useful way.
Then I came across a really interesting article (which I should have bookmarked, because I’ve lost it) that explained it nicely. Here’s the gist:
First, you have to persuade people that things used to be good, but now they’re bad. You can lie your arse off about it, too, or at least exaggerate and cherry-pick facts that support your position. When most people think about the past, there’s a natural tendency to remember the good bits and forget the bad, so that helps. Conversely, the present is filled with fears you can play on, and you can gloss over the good stuff easily, or lie, or just plain ignore it. Easy. And you can guarantee that you’ll be telling a bunch of people just what they want to hear, and that means Hey! Instant followers! The ones intelligent enough to know you’re spouting shit will walk away, but you don’t want them around causing trouble, anyway.
Next, find someone to blame for taking away the good times and leaving everyone with the bad, sucky present. Again, easy. Just pick a minority, and off you go.
Then, tell your followers that all that’s needed to sweep away the bad times and bring back the good is to sweep away the minority you blamed.
Last but not least, promote someone, probably yourself, who promises to do the job as leader of your new movement. If this person is charismatic and a good talker, so much the better. Et voila, you’re a fascist.
Hitler managed it pretty well in his time; the German economy was in a bad way because of the cost of war reparations, and all Hitler had to do was blame the jews and promise to fix things, and it was just what the German people wanted to hear.
More recently, the whole Hugo Awards/Sad Puppies thing, in which Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day) was accused of being a fascist. How does that stack up? Well, we have the good-old-days/sucky-present thing, in that the puppies said real sci-fi is written by white hetero guys and is all about good ol’ white hetero males using ray guns and spaceships to save helpless, inferior gals, just the way it used to be in the golden age of sci-fi (i.e. any time before about 1980, I guess). And they got their panties in a wad over the fact that modern sci-fi isn’t just about the tech, but often casts women (gasp!), and people of colour (shock!), and LGBT people (horror!), as major characters in stories that tell us something about the real world, written in some cases by non-white, non-male, non-hetero people. Oh, they don’t like that. Who to blame? Well, the feminists and the gays and the women, of course. And so along comes Vox Day, saying he’ll teach everyone a lesson by sabotaging the Hugos, and then we can go back to sci-fi that looks like it was written in the 1940s. Does that make him a fascist? Going by the definitions as given above, I’d say yes, it sure does.
Last example: Donald Trump. Good times/bad times? His campaign slogans certainly try to make it look that way; Make America Great Again as a campaign slogan implies that times were good and can be again, and just the title of his book Crippled America implies that things are bad today. Who to blame? In Trump’s case, just about every group he can mention—Mexicans, Syrians, muslims, the list goes on. And who’s going to save us from all this, if not The Mighty Trump himself? So in my book, that makes Trump a fascist. Absolutely, positively, no question about it.
Until next time . . .