The experience of 20th century fascism is not something that should be lightly trudged up when irresponsible writers, or anyone for that matter, wants to announce the startling fact that Donald Trump is not a good man, or, so far, a good President. Although, if you listen to a specific cleavage within the protests against Trump and some of the media, you wouldn’t be able to tell that the world is still constituted by 6 continents, that Donald Trump is not actually looking for Lebensraum, and that Australia is not, in fact, on the warpath against the US.
The postmodern culture that started in the 1970s has slowly debilitated the long tradition of thinking before you act and has left us with garbage music, skinny jeans, and a burdensome guilt – one born of the fact that the echo boomers of the 80s and 90s never really had a cultural struggle of their own. And the easiest way to deal with guilt, as we all know, is to pretend it doesn’t exist. But it niggles away at us. As we eat our Chipotle and guzzle down our Starbucks, we know something isn’t quite right. But we lie to ourselves anyway, by inventing bogeymen and feigning valiance. We are still fighting the big bad; we have just as much to offer as our parents and grandparents. And what might that be, exactly? Well, guess who’s back? Just the biggest and the baddest! We’re fighting the Nazis! (again, fancy that!) Sure, they call themselves the “alt-right”, but we know who they really are! And so let’s indulge whatever fantasy our Instagram filters and twitter followers find most instructive: “should I go with Communist red or anti-fascist black today? I sure do look cute with my Che beret, don’t I? And how exactly am I supposed to fit my sign into this selfie? #notmypresident #theresistance”
The resistance to Donald Trump looks less of a movement than the noble struggle found in Les Miserables and more like the parody found in South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut. Unfortunately, a large portion of the Women’s marches that bring up genuine grievances about Abortion Rights, minimum wage etc. contain a bloc of childish parades that are not fighting real persecution at all – no matter how much Madonna Guevara may wish – they are only fighting their collective fantasies – or delusions, call them what you will – of what they would do faced with fascism’s return.
To tell the far-left to be sensible, or to calm down, or that Amy Schumer just isn’t funny is to commit a grave sin. For our far-Left peers: every bad policy is a goose step on the relatively short march to fascism, every bombastic quote hides a psychotic blood-lust, every Amy Schumer joke kills, and everyone who thinks differently to you actively wishes to do you harm. That’s why the hysteria of a subsection of the Women’s March and the wider ‘resistance’ to Trump is not just embarrassing anymore, it’s dangerous. A group of them now feel emboldened by cliché about a return to fascism and have resorted to assaulting, rioting, and otherwise uncivilly disrupting alt-right speeches at campuses and treating President Trump – dare I say it – unfairly! The only good criticism comes from what is happening in reality, not from indulging over how heroic I can pretend to be in a dark world my friends and I have contrived whole cloth.
The alt-right is not, for the most part, Nazis. Contrary to public ignorance, Milo Yiannopoulos, whose appearance at UC Berkeley sparked a riot, is a fame-hungry troll who makes broad statements about feminism and spouts emotional drivel lamenting Islam (which is lamentable, just not in the way Milo makes it seem). He played a large role in mobilising young voters for Trump and a product of (and innovator in) outrage culture. He is not a fascist. He is not a racist, misogynist (for the most part), or a homophobe, and is not guilty in any respect of the dozens of easily refuted invective against him.
Rather, Milo is a very easy target for people who wish to rely on facts, evidence, and rational discourse to solve problems. But our virtuous postmodern pioneers in ‘antifascism’, political correctness, and socialism look upon enlightenment values as anathema. They think themselves above challenge and that is why we don’t we see Milo in debates and why baying crowds of both nonviolent and violent protesters choose to shut him up rather than engage and debunk his stupidity. And a good number of people find that attitude condescending. Those are the potential Milo fans. And when faced with violence or unfiltered whingeing, they are converted – for this, friends, is how you polarise people. If the left really believe that inter-sectionality is a good face on contemporary feminism, that Islam is not a producer of savagery and intolerance, that European values should not be universal values, and that Milo is in fact a fascist, then affirm that opinion in a public forum in a sensible fashion where you can prove yourself right.
Instead, mealey-mouthed journalists choose to weasel around the subject and yield to confirmation bias. James Bloodworth, for example, thinks some ideas from those that he deems fascist (irony acknowledged) shouldn’t be open for discussion, “Granting fascists the right to participate in the democratic ‘marketplace of ideas’ is the equivalent of giving a tumour jurisdiction over a part of your body.” No it isn’t though, is it, Jim? Some of us view the ‘marketplace of ideas’ itself as an agent to dispel toxic ideas as well as to propagate them. Sure, some people will lock onto fascism, racism, etc. and wish to do others harm, but that is the risk we take to think for ourselves. Democracy, like free speech, is not a panacea, look at Trump! – But would you dare scoff at the right to vote because some would choose to align with him? The modern far-left push a disturbing mistrust of the unwashed masses (or do you prefer ignorant multitudes?) in order to deny the right of smart, charismatic – and wrong – ‘alt-right’ speakers to share ideas, why? Because, to quote a Few Good Men, “You Can’t Handle The Truth!” or at least their version of it.
I thought it was a bizarre affliction of the far-right that saw a return to tyranny in our time. Alex Jones would spout off about President Obama reconstituting some version of an Orwellian nightmare for hours a day – cameras the size of grains of sand in your house, watching your family sleep, bisphenol in your plastic bottles turn you gay etc. But it’s not just the right who are wrong. When Kellyanne Conway – who I rather enjoy – announced the Trump administration operated on “alternative facts”, the sale of Orwell’s 1984 rapidly increased. I shook my head and sniggered at both Kellyanne and Orwell’s new fans: If you are looking for a masterful, omniscient, technocratic government who knows what you’re going to have for dinner tomorrow before you do, who will wipe your entire nation’s history, and will brainwash your family into state worship, then the Trump administration, I’m afraid to say, is not the one for you. The Trump team have been fumbling along since day one. The truth is they have no idea how to run a government. That is enough for a disastrous 4 years. We do not need to embrace a pillow, hug the nearest immigrant, or storm the capital. The end is not nigh!
Trump’s rhetoric, even in light of his most recent comments casting doubt on judicial independence – alleging courts are increasingly “political” and should take responsibility if there is a terror attack (if they reject Trump’s ban), are statements based on ignorance and pugnacity, not malice or evil. And I think it should go without saying there is a real difference between Mussolini or Hitler or Franco versus President Trump. The former were not merely sociopathic murderers, they were manipulative, technocratic strongmen whose machinations were based entirely on self-interest, who the intelligence to pursue those ends, and whose personality cults were religious in nature. I cannot see the same level of sophistication in or dedication to the Trump team. And those are key positions – Rex Tillerson, General Mattis, General Robert Kelly, SCOTUS, even congress – will not let such a slide into authoritarianism occur. Given Bannon (yes, the reaper himself) and Stephen Miller, who both seem to be in Trump’s inner circle and making policy decisions, the fight to rid the White House of incompetence and personalistic agendas will not be easy, but we shouldn’t make it more difficult by inflating their significance. Frankly, it shouldn’t provide us with solace that the President is a bombastic idiot rather than a criminal mastermind, but if you want to look at the world seriously and really want the United States to succeed, I do not think scaring people into committing acts of violence, such as what we have seen, is the best way to go about it.
Trump is a maverick, yes, and he is also an idiot, an idiot who can be put in check by two branches of government. And Milo is a sassy, played-out, occasionally entertaining contrarian who the left have made a superstar because they try to shut him down. The fascism comparison is simply not there and if it is, then it’s the reflection in the mirror that reveals it: punch a nazi, lose an argument. Look: Hitler was responsible for killing over 2000 people per day on average between the years 1933 an 1945, and those figures are from gas chambers alone. Trump’s team can barely implement their own policies without a newsworthy mishap or twelve. And even if fascism were to mount a threat to the US, I do not think it can be defeated by preening regressive twenty-somethings looking for a punch-up. Donald Trump, whilst you can make a plausible but reductive argument about his first drone strike, looks set to kill only America’s reputation, not its people.
Fascism is not coming to American shores. Take a chill pill, or, as I would advise, swallow an oxy or three, they’re pretty good.
Mitchell is a blogger currently studying Politics and International Relations at the University of Bath