Day in day out, the American people are bathed in a constant stream of facts along with an equal or greater amount of falsehoods. This is just the sort of setting likely to cause citizens to continuously shift their focus from one thing to another. It is an environment that tends to obscure the big picture. If you find yourself fascinated by Donald Trump’s Twitter account or the minutia of whether his children will have a security clearance, it’s just possible you are missing the big picture. Don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. Perhaps the most significant event of the twentieth century, was when the world missed the biggest picture in the history of the world, which was the rise of Fascism in Europe. Before the forces of fascism were rolled back in 1945, over 60 million lives were lost in World War II, making that the greatest catastrophe of all times, surpassing the former record holder The Black Death by over 35 million souls. And, the world did not see it coming until it was too late.
If the development of fascism in our lifetime has not risen to the top of the list of things that keep you awake at night, don’t be too tough on yourself. Those driving this movement don’t want you to know about their plan. In fact, they do everything in their power to convince you to the contrary. Don’t take my word for this. I have no special expertise on fascism, but Henry Wallace was an expert on the topic. He was Franklin Roosevelt’s vice-president during WWII. When you have time, you may want to read his essay penned in 1944, when the world was focused on this evil like a laser beam, even though the first laser beam would not be invented for another sixteen years. In The Danger of American Fascism, Wallace warns:
The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust of both Britain and Russia (China). They claim to be super–patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.
Later in the essay, he explains:
Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion.
A common theme in his essay is the fact that fascists do not represent themselves as the plague that they are. To hear a fascist speak, one would be tempted to think that they are super-patriots. Nothing can be further from the truth. Since their words disguise their true intentions, it is useful to examine them from another perspective. Anyone familiar with Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code will recognize the discipline of semiotics. It is a branch of The Study of The Making of Meaning. Also included in that same branch of knowledge is linguistics. Instead of language, semiotics is focused on signs, symbols, allegory and metaphor. It encompasses all those contextual clues we use every day to differentiate what a person says, from what they mean. It has allowed Dan Brown to solve any number of mysteries and it permits one to recognize latent fascism despite any obfuscation on the part of its proponents. Luckily, Dan Brown is not the world’s only semiotician.
In 1995, Umberto Eco, an eminent semiotician in his own right, examined the hallmarks of fascist ideology in his essay Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt. In our current era when the label of fascism is so pejorative that it is especially shunned even by its practitioners, Eco’s approach to understanding the phenomena is especially useful. In his essay, which is an excerpt from a larger work “Ur-Fascism“, Eco outlines 14 features typical to fascism. Importantly, he explains, “These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.”
The chart which follows show Eco’s 14 Features in one column and one or more quotes or examples from the Trump campaign in a corresponding column.
|1||Cult of tradition – When all truth has already been revealed by Tradition, no new learning can occur, only further interpretation and refinement.||Originalist interpretation of the Constitution.
Creationist: In July, fully 78% of white evangelical voters say they would vote for Trump if the election were held today, including about a third who “strongly” back his campaign.
|2||Rejection of modernism||“Make America Great Again”|
|3||“The Cult of Action for Action’s Sake”, which dictates that action is of value and should be taken without intellectual reflection.||“Bomb the hell out of them”
He said in a series of interviews that he does not need to read extensively because he reaches the right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability.”
|4||Disagreement is tantamount to treason||“Lock her up”|
|5||Seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference||“Build that wall”
“Ban all Muslims”
|6||Appeal to a Frustrated Middle-Class||Performed best among white males without a college education|
|7||Intense nationalism and obsession with plots||“Mexico is not sending us their best… ‘They’re bringing drugs, crime and are rapists.
‘China is manipulating their currency”
|8||Followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies.||“We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country”
“We’ve seen this firsthand in the WikiLeaks documents in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors,”
|9||The view of life as permanent warfare, thus, pacifism is trafficking with the enemy|
|10||Contempt for the weak|
|11||Everybody is educated to become a hero||“We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take. . . . I would do whatever I can for my country.” (Dan Bowman, a Trump supporter from Cincinnati)|
|12||Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters, and is expressed in misogyny, homophobia||“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, … Blood coming out of her wherever.”
From a Trump T-Shirt “Trump that Bitch.”
|13||Selective populism, which expresses itself in opposition to “rotten” representative democracy.||“Drain the swamp”|
|14||Newspeak, a type of group-speak, which in the past has been characterized by impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax.||“Make America Great Again”
“It’s huge”, “really really huge”
In 1940 there we roughly 2.3 billion people in the world. Today there are over 7 billion. Assuming a comparable rate of fatalities as in WWII, a global war against fascism could easily involve the death of more than 180 million people… until one accounts for the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The largest nuclear weapon used in any war until now had a yield of 20 kilotons of TNT. The total energy of all explosives used in World War Two (including the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs) is estimated to have been three megatons of TNT. A single B53 the most powerful nuclear bomb ever in the USA nuclear arsenal had a yield of 9 mega tons. Tsar Bomba, the most powerful bomb ever developed by the Soviet Union had a yield of 50 megatons. Currently, the total global nuclear arsenal is about 30,000 nuclear warheads with a destructive capacity of 7,000 megatons. In any future war, it is, therefore, safe to forecast a substantially higher casualty rate than the last time the world faces global enslavement.
From a big picture point of view, this is already a concerning situation for Americans. It becomes even more so when you consider how the rest of the world may react in the face of our recent decision to hand over the nuclear codes to Donald Trump.