The Right Wing’s Mixed (Up) Messaging On Fascism

You probably are well aware that right-wingers display no overwhelming need to be consistent in their positions. They’re big champions of “states’ rights” — except when they want the Supreme Court to halt a state’s count of presidential ballots because they’re afraid they’ll lose. They think a Democratic president should not appoint a Supreme Court justice within a year of an election, but a Republican president should ram one through mere days before an election. They regard mask mandates and “gun control” as government overreach, but are just dandy with paying bounty hunters to rat on reproductive decisions they don’t approve of. They “back the blue” no matter what they do — unless they defend the Capitol from an insurrectionist mob, in which case they’re the scum of the earth. And so on. And on and on and on. Naturally, this inconsistency extends to the right-wing stance (if there could be said to be one) on fascism.

This is succinctly summed up by the Former Guy’s comments after the Charlottesville incident. First, he said that there were “fine people” on “both sides”. Then he followed this with an insistence that he didn’t mean to include Nazis. But there’s no doubt that he did, since Nazis were one of the “sides” he referred to. And even though he’s never been the sharpest tool in the shed, he’s savvy enough about manipulating the public to know that if he offered two contradictory statements, people could zero in on whichever one they preferred. And that’s exactly what happened. Many right-wing apologists discarded the first and quoted the second to insist that it was just “fake news” when the media accurately reported that he’d praised Nazis. His cultists even claimed that he’d said immediately, in the same sentence, that he didn’t intend “fine people” to refer to Nazis; in truth, he reluctantly made that claim several days later, after much prodding from his handlers.

Sometimes, the wingers simply try to downplay the threat of fascism — and you immediately wonder just why anyone would want to do that.

This statement by Douglas Murray is cited by our old friends at the right-wing (and borderline fascist) propaganda organ PragerU. While Murray’s statement is accurate if you think only in terms of numbers, it’s deceptive to suggest that’s the whole story. Having more fascists is certainly worse than having fewer, but the real problem with fascists at present is not their numbers but their power and influence. Fascists have never relied on being in a majority to do their dirty deeds; on the contrary, American fascists are dangerous largely because they have become so adept at entrenching minority rule. (See gerrymandering, vote suppression, court stacking and bullying of school boards, among other things.)

But if you insist on just looking at the numbers, then yes, absolutely, there are more people accused of being fascists than there are actual fascists. The f-word has become the default insult many people instinctively lob toward people they don’t like. Wingers have frequently declared that trying to save people’s lives during a deadly pandemic is exactly the same as rounding up people and putting them in concentration camps to be beaten, starved, tortured and slaughtered.

The truth is that vaccine “mandates” have existed as long as vaccines. Even George Washington ordered troops to be inoculated against smallpox. Mask mandates? They’ve also been around for quite a while. During the flu pandemic of 1918, anti-maskers (or “mask slackers”, as they were called then) were actually arrested for endangering public health. But now, all of a sudden, the reactionaries are proclaiming such precautionary measures to be a dire threat to “liberty”. There’s a reason they’re doing this, and it has nothing to do with defending liberty. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: trying to supplant medical (and other fields of) knowledge with ideology. That’s a cornerstone of propaganda — telling people that everyone else is lying to you except yourself. And it’s a gateway drug to fascism.

The fascist penchant for white supremacy prompts fascist sympathizers to howl at the moon over Critical Race Theory — even though few if any of them have the foggiest notion what the term means. Their urge to control the educational system prompts them to interfere when they suspect that CRT is being taught in schools. Their fondness for bullying and strong-arming means that they try to intimidate school boards with bluster and threats of violence. And their tendency to indulge in victim mentality and projection prompts them to declare that they are being persecuted when law enforcement takes those threats seriously.

They are big cheerleaders for “law and order”, even to the point of trying to enforce (their own skewed concept of) the law with riots and “militias”. But when the authorities try to hold them accountable for breaking the law, they spread the absurd claim that “parents” are being labeled as “terrorists” merely for “speaking out”. (These, mind you, are the same folks who cheered when 45 officially declared Antifa a terrorist organization — even though it is neither terrorist nor an organization.) When officials do exactly what they are supposed to do, the wingers decry it as … fascism.

Most of the right-wingers who use the label have no clue what fascism really means. Or else they do know, and they’re deliberately creating a “boy who cried wolf” atmosphere, so that when someone calls out real fascism, then someone else will say, “oh, you just use that word for anything you don’t agree with”. I’ve heard this so often that I’ve come of with a time-saving definition that I can toss right back at someone to show that I do, indeed, know bloody well what fascism is. Feel free to borrow it. Here it is:

Fascism is an extreme right-wing system of one-party rule that relies on corporatism, dogmatism, militarism and populism, emphasizing an intense nationalism in the guise of patriotism. It is often further characterized by an endorsement of violence and intimidation; hatred of left-wingers and liberals; disdain for academics and intellectuals; interference in and subversion of elections; attacks on and efforts to control the media; aggressive foreign policy; scapegoating of foreigners and minorities; and a draconian system of criminal justice and police presence.

Right-wingers vehemently champion literally all of these features — though usually, of course, without acknowledging that they are related to fascism. There may be additional characteristics as well — misogyny is often a factor, for instance. Note that while this definition is my own words, I didn’t just pull it out of my butt, or worse, off cable TV. It’s based on the writings of historians and political scientists who’ve actually researched fascism professionally. You can find a very similar (though less concise) description, for instance, at Encyclopedia Britannica. (Not to mention Wikipedia.)

But when right-wingers define fascism, insofar as they even bother to define it at all, they don’t turn to experts in the field. They turn instead to their own stable of revisionist dogmatic hacks — e.g., Ben Shapiro, Dinesh D’Souza, Jonah Goldberg, Tucker Carlson, James O’Keefe — whom they regard as experts merely by dint of their possessing strong beliefs and opinions. And they have been trying to convince people that fascism is actually a left-wing rather than a right-wing movement. Goldberg and D’Souza even authored laughable revisionist books promoting this myth: Goldberg’s with the oxymoronic (and just moronic) title Liberal Fascism (right-wingers, depending on their purposes, will conflate liberalism with leftism, or note that they’re two different things), D’Souza’s with the cluelessly ironic title The Big Lie. These people have even been smearing Antifa (short for anti-fascist, lest we forget) and declaring that they are actually fascist. You know how it is: up is down, wrong is right, less is more, ignorance is wisdom, slavery is freedom.

At the same time, they equate leftists with communists and socialists — apparently not realizing that both are antithetical to fascism. Just to cover all the bases, the wingers sometimes take a more general approach and warn about “left-wing authoritarianism” — apparently unaware that there’s no such thing; authoritarianism is, by definition, contrary to left-wing values.

But wait. Time out. Soft awhile. These people are claiming that (A) fascism isn’t really such a threat, and (B) fascism is really a leftist thing. Therefore, they must mean to suggest that (C) leftists are no threat. Right?

Don’t bet your swastika on it. Right-wing media constantly spews the narrative that leftists dominate the media and the schools and the courts and every other corner of society, “indoctrinating” the public and trying to turn everyone into woke, gender-neutral, tree-hugging vegetarians. The very profitable right-wing propaganda industry is entirely founded on the premise that leftists are evil, and a grave danger to mom, the flag and apple pie. Even though they are really fascists. Who are not such a threat. Don’t worry, it all adds up somehow in the kind of math they teach at Prager “University”. The bulk of its 5-minute Youtube “courses” are divided among trying to convince you that the tenets of fascism are not so bad; trying to convince you that leftists are the real fascists; and trying to convince you that leftists are pure evil.

While the vast majority of reactionaries among the unwashed masses simply repeat this kind of nonsense without giving any thought to what they are actually saying, those at the top of the food chain know exactly what they are doing. The Dennis Pragers and Tucker Carlsons and Sean Hannitys and Rush Limbaughs (Satan eternally torment his lack of a soul) know very well that inconsistency and self-contradiction are not liabilities at all in the propaganda game. They are, on the contrary, valuable tools that help create confusion among their fans. And when the public is confused, it is all the more prone to blindly follow these figures perceived to be authoritative voices of reason. Classic fascism, all the way.

4 comments

  1. I’ve been banned from a certain Trumpist’s site recently, despite our having a long history of commenting at each other’s blogs.

    “Prager U” is his go-to source of information and opinion. It is his gospel, of course.

    Ever since he drank the Big Lie koolade, he’s been self-radicalizing to the extreme. He finally had enough of my requests for evidence showing the election was stolen. (Oh, me of little faith.)

    After years of facing accusations of being “Marxist, Leftist, Socialist,”, etc, and everything but progressive, he’s now all aboard the “Leftists are fascists” train.

    He grew weary of my sharing facts, and my appeals to reason, of course. That made me a “hater”.

    I think what really snapped his girdle was my insisting on noting Trump praised the 1/6 terrorists AFTER their failed coup. It did not compute.

    He was utterly incapable of disagreeing, or even recognizing the statement. So he had to ban me for my “hate”.

    I believe there are only two things to understand about cults like the American far Right.

    The radical Right cult has two operating “principles”.

    1. The Doctrine of Flexible Morality and Ethics. “It’s OK if you are Republican.”
    “Anything and everything. An identical action is evil if a Democrat does it, but noble if a Republican does it.”
    (If not for double standards, they’d have none.)

    2. “The Doctrine of Flexible Reality”.*
    “Everything is as we say, contradictions included, and everyone else is lying.”
    (Established and expanded upon by their propagandists over the decades, and employed every day across their cult. They were now ready for Trump, their cult leader of infallible words and deeds.)

    * (Corollaries) “There is no such thing as a Doctrine of Flexible Morality and Ethics. There is no such thing as a Doctrine of Flexible Reality. Unless we say there is.”

    I can’t think of anything these “principles” can’t cover in their deranged and delusional cult bubble.

    Ignorance is strength. 2+2=5, comrade.

    • Good comments. I recommend reading the book Cultish by Amanda Montell, if you haven’t already. I’ve just discovered it and found it to be quite relevant to the MAGA cult (which it mentions a time or two).

      • Thanks. It’s on the list.

        Yes. Language is the tool of control, especially emotionally charged language. People are far more easily manipulated by appeals to emotion, than by appeals to reason.

        That’s the foundation of the Right’s media complex.

        Republican consultant Frank Luntz is one of the dark masters of the levers of language. “80 percent of our life is emotion, and only 20 percent is intellect. I am much more interested in how you feel than how you think.”

        And that’s how global warming transformed into “climate change”, and estate and inheritance taxes became “death taxes”.

        They’ve learned they can get away with unilateral definitions of terms. Communism, socialism, and fascism mean whatever they want them to mean.

        Misleading slogans and lies are effectively spread before the plodding debunking sees light of day.

        Their language against the press has metastasized from “Liberal media” to “Fake News” to “Enemy of the people” in four years.

        Alas, the wily path of evil is too often easier than the measured course of the good.

        Justice is warping and democracy is in peril. We can do only so much from the gallery, but we can still vote, and avidly promote our cause for an actual democratic republic.

        But, hey, apart from all that, I’m relatively happy and content, as the country circles the drain.

      • Yes, at my age, I may not live to see the worst of it if things keep heading where they’re headed. But my son may see some serious shit hit the fan if something isn’t done to stop it.

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