Wednesday, 20 January 2016
Donald Trump and fascism
In a 1944 essay, George Orwell criticized the rhetorical use of "fascism" by commentators on politics and current events, which he described as being ubiquitous to the point of meaninglessness. In his observation it was applied to ideologies and subjects not limited to: "farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley's broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, [and] dogs." As this made the definition of fascism so subjective, Orwell advised that it be used "with a certain amount of circumspection" if not at all by those aiming to engage in insightful journalism or political analysis.
A circumspect reference or comparison to fascism would be one referring to fascism in historical context and considering how this would operate in the present day. Donald Trump can be accurately described as a fascist by using this method in the context of the mass movement surrounding his 2016 presidential campaign in the United States. Trump propagates an ideology and platform containing economic and political populism, cultural chauvinism and aggressive militarism, combining disillusionment with political elites with scapegoating of ethnic and religious minorities. He frames the "politically correct" outrage at his bigotry as an asset, using it to constantly and increasingly normalize far-right extremism in the political discourse he presides over his cunning and calculating manipulation of the mass media. This is fascism by definition.
Mussolini described fascism as the merger of state and corporate power. Fascism advocates a regimented and hierarchical society based on elitism and dictatorship; ironically it thrives on the same inequality it condemns in its propaganda. The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn of Greece, part political party and part violent street gang, became the third party of the country decimated by EU-imposed austerity by rallying to support poverty-stricken communities while blaming migrants along with corrupt establishment politicians and austerity-imposing technocrats for the country's ills.
Budding il Duce Trump is a member of the economic 0.1 percent, yet is bizarrely able to use his wealth to populist advantage. He touts his ability to self-finance his political campaign as evidence that he is secured against the vested interests of the lobbyists and corporations whose systemic bribery of representatives dominates the American political system, which drives disillusion with mainstream politics. Trump admits that he has been easily able to make politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, do his bidding for cash. As have the bankers and hedgefunders whose systemic greed and mismanagement resulted in the Great Recession that has caused hardship for working class Americans who have flocked to Trump's campaign. But unlike Bernie Sanders, who addresses the root causes of inequality, Trump focuses on ethnic minorities as the main culprits of national decay.
An admirer of the authoritarian Vladimir Putin, who like Trump has links to corruption and Mafia criminality, Trump is open to authoritarian control of the internet, ironically invoking the Chinese state that he views as a major adversary. He also insists that the world would be better off with Saddam Hussein and Mummar Gaddafi in power - as the "stability" provided by these criminal strongmen, in Trump's eyes, overrides fleeting concepts like human rights and democracy.
And Trump has pledged to be a war criminal like these dictators if he becomes president, promising to indiscriminately kill civilians in Middle East countries for even being related to ISIL militants, in a military policy of aggression and mass punishment that he would make official. These war crimes victims are equally as dehumanized as the Muslims he advocates barring from the United States, with those remaining on the homeland potentially being monitored and placed on a mass database by a Trump administration.
Trump's Islamophobia is the most obviously fascist and extremist component of his political crusade. Like with Nazism and Jewry, he makes no effort to distinguish between Islamic extremists and Muslims as a whole, which he collectively paints as a darkly sinister element of the American and global population which poses a grave threat to the United States and the West.
Take Trump sharing this fan-made image on Twitter as a case in point:
This "I do not support Islam" slogan embodies an unequivocal message from Trump: that he has no reservations about mongering hatred against Muslims as a whole and equating them, by collective association with terrorism, as the enemy within.
Trump has shrugged off hate crimes and attacks against ethnic minorities as enthusiasm for his cause, and has embraced avowedly racist white nationalists endorsing his campaign. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, far-right and white nationalists extremism poses a greater domestic security threat to the U.S. than Islamic fundamentalism. Trump can be described as a de facto figurehead of these militant and extremist movements.
We may derive amusement from the spectacle of Trump, but history teaches us the consequences of having an offhand attitudes towards fascism. The violence and hate will only continue to accelerate as long as Trump is left to his devices unchallenged.