Fascism is Not an Idea to Be Debated, It’s a Set of Actions to Fight

Literary Hub: ALEKSANDAR HEMON ON THE PROBLEM WITH CIVILITY

"...Witness Stephen Miller and Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance for illegal immigration” policy. Fascism’s central idea, appearing in a small repertoire of familiar guises, is that there are classes of human beings who deserve diminishment and destruction because they’re for some reason (genetic, cultural, whatever) inherently inferior to “us.” Every fucking fascist, Bannon included, strives to enact that idea, even if he (and it is usually a he—fascism is a masculine ideology, and therefore inherently misogynist) bittercoats it in a discourse of victimization and national self-defense. You know: they are contaminating our nation/race; they are destroying our culture; wemust do something about them or perish. At the end of such an ideological trajectory is always genocide, as it was the case in Bosnia.

The effects and consequences of fascism, however, are not equally distributed along that trajectory. Its ideas are enacted first and foremost upon the bodies and lives of the people whose presence within “our” national domain is prohibitive. In Bannon/Trump’s case, that domain is nativist and white. Presently, their ideas are inflicted upon people of color and immigrants, who do not experience them as ideas but as violence. The practice of fascism supersedes its ideas, which is why people affected and diminished by it are not all that interested in a marketplace of ideas in which fascists have prime purchasing power.

The error in Bannon’s headlining The New Yorker Festival would not have been in giving him a platform to spew his hateful rhetoric, for he was as likely to convert anyone as he himself was to be shown the light in conversation with Remnick. The catastrophic error would’ve been in allowing him to divorce his ideas from the fascist practices in which they’re actualized with brutality. If he is at all relevant, it is not as a thinker, but as a (former) executive who has worked to build the Trumpist edifice of power that cages children and is dismantling mechanisms of democracy.

We must never forget, of course, that The New Yorker has steadily and relentlessly probed Trumpist malfeasance, publishing substantial, unimpeachable stories about the administration’s unmaking of America. In his memo, in fact, Remnick insisted that his intention was to question unflinchingly these Bannonite practices. Nonetheless, sharing the marquee with Zadie Smith or Haruki Murakami, Bannon the Fascist would’ve been allowed to appear in the guise of an Idea Man.

To engage properly with Bannon and his ilk, the white nationalists and supremacists presently populating and energizing the American government, they must be identified as what they are: fascists. Much of American media and press on this side of the Fox News darkness does not dare to call out a fascist. That is partly out of knee-jerk complicity with the culture of leadership and celebrity worship. But I believe that it is also a matter of unbearable fear that the shape of American society, and the practices it has long depended on to maintain some semblance of democracy, are being destroyed, and no one quite knows what to do about it, save hoping to be saved by Mueller and/or impeachment.

If Bannon were to be called as he is, a fascist, the marketplace of ideas would have to confront the fact that the American government is being rapidly radicalized, that things unimaginable might be around the corner, and that there are many tempting paths to complicity of full collaboration. The idea that we’re all in this together and that we must keep talking is dangerous, just as my commitment to friendship was, because we might find ourselves wasting time and anger on a fundamentally unbalanced dialogue, where one side is armed with ideas, and the other is armed with weapons.

It is frightening to think we could be entering the civil war mode, wherein none of the differences and disagreements can be hashed out in discussion. It is quite possible that there is no resolution to the present situation until one side is thoroughly destroyed as an ideological power and political entity. If that is the case, the inescapable struggle requires that anti-fascist forces clearly identify the enemy and commit to defeating them, whoever they are, whatever it takes. The time of conversations with fascists is over, even if they might be your best friend from high school."

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