Umberto Eco's 14 Features of Eternal Fascism
(ideas from a person who lived through the first example)
This is based on a longer piece written about fascism written by one of my favorite authors of all time, Umberto Eco, for the New York Review of Books in 1995. It started being quite topical in the months leading up to Donald Trump's election in 2016, but I think it is equally thought-provoking to consider all the items on the list that do not apply to Trumpian, Alt-Right insanity.
In fact, some of the below features contradict themselves! This is in part because fascism does have regional and philosophical variants, but it's also because of the Fascistic trait to bend reality to its will through the phenomenon of "Doublespeak" that Orwell describes so horrifically 1984. This is one of the reasons why it's never a good idea to let a fascist sympathizer get you into an argument about whether a movement or a person, e.g. our former president, is or is not a fascist. It's in the very nature of the beast that it can be both the thing and not the thing at the same time!
Here’s an abbreviated version of Eco’s list:
1. The cult of tradition. “One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements.”
2. The rejection of modernism. “The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.”
3. The cult of action for action’s sake. “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.”
4. Disagreement is treason. “The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.”
5. Fear of difference. “The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.”
6. Appeal to social frustration. “One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.”
7. The obsession with a plot. “The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.”
8. The humiliation by the wealth and force of their enemies. “By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”
9. Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. “For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.”
10. Contempt for the weak. “Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology.”
11. Everybody is educated to become a hero. “In Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death.”
12. Machismo and weaponry. “Machismo implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”
13. Selective populism. “There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.”
14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. “All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”
Are there any traits that you think Eco did not mention? And how can we apply this list and its warnings to the modern landscape of eco-fascists who may want to sneak anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner sentiments into climate change activism?