Patriarchy and Ur-Fascism on Holocaust Memorial Day
It’s Holocaust Memorial Day January 27, 2017, and all the people who smugly derided anyone pointing out that the coming to power of the far-right in the west would be curtailed by ‘checks and balances’ are a fair bit quieter now.
On the day the Prime Minister Nobody Elected goes to fawn over the American advocate for torture, were not hearing so much from those (same) people who chided us against using the word ‘fascist’.
On this day, President Trump has ordered his new administration to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by immigrants. The President’s sweeping new executive order includes a paragraph mandating the Secretary for Homeland Security to “make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens” in the US.
As we’ve said before: “These people’s language isn’t coarse, it’s fascist.”
In understanding this it’s worth returning to Umberto Eco’s Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism – in which he identifies fourteen features of fascist ideology which are constant across time. Here’s three that jump out:
“To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country. This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged.”
“Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak.”
“Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters. This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). Since even sex is a difficult game to play, the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons—doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise.”
All of these features heavily in Trump’s language and actions. But this last observation on the misogyny of fascism is key.
As Suzanne Morre writes (“Patriarchy is the sea in which Trump and his sharks gather”):
“Patriarchy is not some men-only affair. Many women play a role in sustaining it. The far right, by the way, is not afraid of using this word. It claims it as the basis for all that is good in western civilisation. The elevation of Trump is absolutely patriarchal fundamentalism. He has swept up a lot of the Christian vote because of it. The adulation of Putin is the worship of another white power based on patriarchal rule: unapologetically anti-women, anti-gay, anti-black and anti-Muslim. It is obsessed with displays of masculinity to the point of fascist camp. The right promises the restoration of a time when men were men and women were sanctified mothers or whores. Such authoritarianism may be delivered by both men and women. As the American author and feminist bell hooks says, patriarchy has no gender. It is not situated only within the individual – which is why screaming “Sexist!” at someone only gets you so far. Were the women who voted for Trump furthering patriarchy? Yes, obviously. They may believe it can protect them. The dismantling of this power cannot possibly come from those who won’t name it and spend the entire time shoring it up, largely reaping its benefits: that is, much of the liberal establishment. By assuming the culture war had been won, the myths of impartiality and neutrality have allowed far–right voices to go unchallenged. Patriarchal power asserts itself through cultural as well as economic resentment. And that is everywhere. The oft-repeated sentiment that feminism is itself an extreme movement is evidence of how liberalism bows down to authoritarianism.”
On this day it’s been revealed that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard met this month with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, more here – and this week has seen the newly elected President threaten to send the army into American cities ‘convulsed’ with crime.
All of this is the calculated normalisation of the abnormal. It is the repeat language to normalise the violence of authoritarianism. It may come across as the random moronic out of control spams of narcissism, but it is the controlled and channelled process of the gleeful unbridled proto-fascist.
If the Women’s March represents a potential vast part to the resistance to all of this – other contradictions abound, one is the enthusiastic backing of the state of Israel in terrifyingly new aggressive foreign policy that is about to be unleashed, alongside the blatant anti-semitism of some of Trump’s core team.
I have no idea how this resolves itself – the contradictions of the far-right seem to be able to be glossed-over in the march towards endless power-grabbing.
Hyper-nationalism, hyper-machismo, overt racism, a language of, and deification of violence, and a hatred of the weak whilst masquerading as populist, all are present and correct in the man that Theresa May is visiting on our behalf today. Her speech was instantly described as ‘desperate and slavish’).
Unexpected alliances, real-life solidarity and collaboration are going to be key to resisting the politics that is being celebrated and sanctified by ‘our’ leaders today.
The liberal voices that stood back and assured us that Trump would ‘not be as bad as he appeared on the campaign trail’, or that ‘Brexit would never really happen’ or that Scotland would ‘have its place in discussions’, all are part of a continuum of nonsense and denial, a sort of belief in moderation when none is visible, an outdated belief in a system and a culture that doesn’t exist any more. These are the stenographers that are just repeating a sort of folk-memory of a Britain or America that has been swept away.
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