In the past four years, observers of the United States have harbored intense fears that the Trump administration was essentially, or at least substantially, fascist. It’s a loaded and often misunderstood term, and now that we’re on the verge of being able to speak of the Trump administration in the past tense, I find myself returning to the question of how we might determine the extent to which we have seen fascist mentalities, ideologies, practices, and policies flourish in the U.S. in recent years.
For the purposes of my teaching about the Holocaust, religion, global ethics, and human rights, here are some basic working definitions that I employ, based on my teaching and research. (I am most familiar with the fascist regime of Nazi Germany and the perpetrators of genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.)
Fascism is a political worldview, style, mood, and orientation of right-wing nationalism, manifesting itself in a spirit of hypermasculine aggression & domination. It entails:
The dehumanization and targeting of anyone categorized as “soft” or “weak” by this hypermasculine “logic“: women, children, LGBTQIA+ / sexual minorities, the disabled, the elderly and sick.
Obsession with the racial & ethnic (and often religious) purity of the nation-state, resulting in the hatred and targeting of racial / ethnic / religious minorities and immigrants, the embrace of eugenics (“good genes”) & the notion that “demography is destiny” (in its European and U.S. manifestations, fascism is linked directly with ideologies of white supremacy and a “clash of civilizations”)
Obsession with the strength & dominance of the nation-state, resulting in aggressive militarization and the employment of (largely unaccountable) security forces and paramilitary groups to chill opposition and dissent
Obsession with the strength & dominance of the regime itself, resulting in the systematic targeting of truth-tellers & rivals: journalists, trade unionists, intellectuals, multiculturalists, diplomats, and supporters of the rule of law, democracy, & human rights
I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts about this little primer / introductory guide to fascism as a teaching tool for students who are just beginning to study and detect fascist impulses and expressions that are strong, and resurgent, worldwide.