George Orwell once pointed out that fascism, in contemporary usage, no longer held any meaning beyond “thing I do not like.” He published that essay in 1944. Matters have not improved much since.
To clarify for the record: Fascism was a European movement of the 1920s and 1930s, particularly in Italy, in part in Spain. The National Socialist German Worker’s Party indulged in similar motifs, but the ideology of Mein Kampf was too steeped in Wagnerian blood myth to be suitable for export. It is typically classified as a right wing phenomenon, though these labels get a bit screwy – they were in many ways Social Democratic parties, with extensive public programs and significant control over major industries. Mussolini corporatized the economy, organizing the industries into cartels that were not quite centrally planned, but very much centrally organized (the American New Dealers admired Mussolini’s program, and initiatives like the National Recovery Act were modeled on the Italian example). This movement gained a reputation as being “right wing” not because of any principle of laissez faire, but because it appealed to nationalist sentiments, setting itself against the internationalism of the Communists.
And of course, as the old line goes, the dark night of fascism is always descending on America. Never more so than now, what with the spray-tanned hippo as president and his cabal of Putinite advisors. That the current administration is a screwball comedy does not make the prophets of doom less foolish, and characters like Sheriff David Clarke or Steve Bannon, while thugs, have yet to put on their jackboots. None of Rachel Maddow’s friends are in camps, as of this writing.
And yet we have the rise of the “Antifa.” Someone once remarked that you can tell the quality of the writer based on how he names his characters: Tolkien is always showing off too much, Dickens’ choices are flavorful but British, George Lucas is a travesty. As names go, “Antifa” lies somewhere between a Soviet propaganda initiative and a cough medicine.
They proclaim, loudly, their joy in “punching Nazis.” They proclaimed this in more or less the same tone Brad Pitt once romanticized killing such. One can be sympathetic to the killing of actual Nazis – particularly if they’re about to turn the handle on the showers. But to say our ethics here can be situational is not to say we may define our terms with infinite elasticity. And it does not take deep examination to discern our Antifa brethren adhere to Orwell’s definition of their opponent.
If you asked these idiot children whether they consider Trump’s policies comparable to Mussolini’s corporatization of the Italian economy, they will say yes, because they assume “corporatization” means the lowering of Exxon’s tax rate and their knowledge of Mussolini rarely extends beyond his poor taste in hats. I am not inclined to wax nostalgic for earlier generations. Tom Hayden thought some things through, but if one performed a man-on-the-street interview at a New Left rally in 1968, I suspect many participants would fail to articulate an idea more complex than “LBJ kills babies.” Yet our present interlocutors espause ignorance as a virtue to a new and dispiriting extent, such that provocateurs like Milo Yiannopoulos are to be run off campus, and a scholar like Charles Murray, arriving to give a presentation that cannot be reasonably described as anything but moderate, is shouted down as if he were reciting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
This is not a fight against authoritarianism. This is a cultural revolution. Or it would be, if the bandana’d clowns represented more than a squeaky wheel whose noise overbears the plurality of students who are willing to engage with ideas (and the majority of them who are more concerned with whether Kroger will card them next time they try and buy a case of beer). One therefore can at least take solace in the fact that moron-dom is a permanent but not predominant feature of the species, and that the nincompoops hold power only in the penumbras of the sociology departments. These hermetically sealed ideas don’t last terribly long when exposed to the oxygen of the real world.
Mussolini’s thugs were known as the Blackshirts. Survey the footage of recent clashes, and take note of which side is dressed in monochrome.