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2019

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Now days are dragon-ridden, the nightmare

Rides upon sleep: a drunken soldiery

Can leave the mother, murdered at her door,

To crawl in her own blood, and go scot-free;

The night can sweat with terror as before

We pieced our thoughts into philosophy,

And planned to bring the world under a rule,

Who are but weasels fighting in a hole.

Yeats, 1919

The surreal absurdity of the present political moment is captured in this statement from President Trump, about the pipe bombs sent to George Soros, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack and Michelle Obama, John Brennan, and Maxine Waters (and possibly others):

“Acts or threats of political violence have no place in the United States.”

Trump has repeatedly invited his supporters to beat up protesters at his rallies. Initially, he implied that the protesters brought this on themselves by disrupting the rallies. But now he’s endorsing violence against people who simply ask questions. Last year in Montana, Greg Gianforte, a Republican candidate for Congress, assaulted a reporter, Ben Jacobs, who was asking the candidate about health care. Gianforte “grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands,” “slammed him into the ground,” and “began punching” him, according to a Fox News correspondent who witnessed the attack.

The sheriff’s office announced that Gianforte would be charged with assault. Nevertheless, the next day, Montanans elected him to Congress. Two weeks later, Public Policy Polling asked a national sample of registered voters: “Do you think it is appropriate or inappropriate for Republican politicians to body slam members of the media?” Most people said no. But Republicans were closely divided.

Last Thursday, at a political rally in Montana, Trump mimicked and praised Gianforte’s assault on Jacobs. “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of—he’s my guy,” said Trump. The crowd roared its approval.

The glorification of violence is a prime feature of what Umberto Eco called Ur-Fascism:

Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action’s sake. Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism, from Goering’s alleged statement (“When I hear talk of culture I reach for my gun”) to the frequent use of such expressions as “degenerate intellectuals,” “eggheads,” “effete snobs,” “universities are a nest of reds.” . . .

For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle. Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. This, however, brings about an Armageddon complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there must be a final battle, after which the movement will have control of the world. But such a “final solution” implies a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the principle of permanent war. No fascist leader has ever succeeded in solving this predicament.

Eco emphasizes that there is nothing intellectually coherent about fascism, or rather the various versions of fascism that arise in different social contexts.  Rather, fascism is a collection of often contradictory and conflicting attitudes and impulses, that nevertheless maintains a kind of family resemblance across those contexts.  (The entire essay is essential reading).

It’s sometimes claimed that Trump is too undisciplined, too ignorant, too incurious, too essentially stupid to be a fascist, or lead a fascist movement.  This is like saying the Pacific is too wet to be an ocean.  Fascism celebrates these very qualities, as essential to preserving the masculine strength of the Nation against the effete decadence of the outsiders who would undermine it.

On a tangential note, the New York Times has removed the bizarre final paragraph in their story on the bomb sent to the Clintons. It read:

Facing significant debts from the legal troubles that dogged Bill Clinton’s presidency, the Clintons were able to buy the house after their chief fundraiser, Terry McAuliffe, personally secured a loan.

This is a nice example of the hack gap at work. Some Clinton-hating reporter cluttered up a big breaking news story with this totally irrelevant detail, and some editor decided to let it pass, probably because, somewhere in the back of the editor’s mind the thought was rolling around that it would be a form of “liberal media bias” to take it out.

Of course no Republican would be treated the same way, because the “liberal media” bend over backwards to placate an increasingly fascist mob that hates their guts — with considerable justice, if for all the wrong reasons.

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