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Linda Tirado @KillerMartinis
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Set your clocks, because tonight we have a cultural activity!

The last time we read a book was Bob Woodward’s “Fear.” We’ve also read Comey, Spicer, Ivanka, Hillbilly Elegy etc, and those links are at the top of the included thread:
Tonight we’re reading a book about fascism and talking history and hysteria!

Send drinks to or to Venmo at Linda-Tirado-3

See y’all at 5pm Eastern or so!
Okay! I hope you have your drinks and are settling in!

Usually I am reading books so that you don’t have to, but in this instance we are reading a book because we all should! So if you want to buy the thing, you can do that here:…
Also, my mentions during these things can get confusing, but I’m hoping there’ll be good discussion and people pointing out things I missed and debating various things and linking to stuff this reminds y’all of, where typically I’m just mocking something to death.

Join in!
(Also, and fair warning, I’m going heavy with the block button tonight. Ain’t got time for people “just asking questions” about the fascism.)
So, before we get into this, I wanted to talk about the shift in tone and coverage here.

I don’t think the midterms staved off disaster. I think they created friction. I think disaster has one more check on it now.

The election is over now, and it’s time to talk reality.
I think too that now the midterms are over, and so maybe there’s room for this discussion. Most of this year, people have preferred the maybes and what-ifs of November and the outcome of Mueller’s investigation to discussions of harsher possibilities.

So let’s discuss those now.
From the preface, and the reason I chose this book particularly:

(Since this is dense wording, I’ll be sometimes editing for space in the photo descriptions. I will shorten as needed, but not change the premise.) This book is an attempt to present fascism in a way that takes into account its complexity. It seeks to find out how fascism worked. That is why it focuses more closely on the actions of fascists than on their words, contrary to usual practice. It also spends more time than usual on the allies and accomplices of fascism, and on the ways fascist regimes interacted with the larger societies they sought to transform.
It bears saying too that I’m not highlighting all the useful or interesting information in this book, which you should buy or borrow and read in full. This one I’m reading for my own research and I’m picking out the bits I think particularly relevant or interesting to me or y’all
The introduction is a survey of people who might have seen fascism coming, folk in the 1800s who identified a danger in the new democracies but couldn’t quite specify what it might be.

But I think their concerns are echoed in this recent concern about the Senate’s representation
Essentially, people worried this tyranny of the majority (an argument old as political philosophy if we’re honest) would give rise to some kind of figurehead, a faction or personality, that would use the power they’d amassed for nefarious and damaging purposes.
For precision: Officially, Fascism was born in Milan on March 23, 1919. somewhat more than a hundred persons, including veterans, syndicalists who supported the war, Futurist intellectuals, some reporters, gathered in the Milan Industrial and Commercial Alliance to “declare war against socialism because it has opposed nationalism.” Mussolini called this the Fasci di Combattimento, or “fraternities of combat.”
This is one of the things I want to note: people often talk about how fascists were actually leftists. You hear that echoed in the whole “ but it was called national socialism!” bullshit from Nazi apologists.

And it kind of started that way; it was coalition of the disaffected.
Like, Mussolini was pro-women’s suffrage and wanted to fuck up the holders of wealth at the beginning. He supported the vote at 18, which was insanely radical.

He also liked to talk about his war wounds and was organizing veterans, who were the core of his support.
So when we’re talking “oh damn is this maybe a bad sign,” what we say is this:

Veterans organizing as a union to ensure their benefits and influence on policy are one thing.

Veterans organizing to take armed political action is a thing we maybe want to be aware of especially.
(If you wanted historical parallels you can look into how much the issue of payment mattered to the vets of the early 1900s and then look at today’s story about how some IT glitch has stopped payments on the GI Bill for months now)
Now here’s another thing to look at, which is usually sensationalized and deserves a way more serious look than we usually give it:

For decades, there have been armed hyper-nationalistic bands of ex-cops and service personnel doing “patrols.”

Many of you will know the Minutemen
In any case, back in the day Mussolini was making deals with any disaffected group he could find, which is how he fell in with a group of people who wanted to overturn capitalism and was convinced that a war would provide what libertarians now call “disruption,” a complete shift.
This is, I have always assumed, why centrists get away with their bullshit horseshoe theory: because they can’t understand that actually, not every leftist or radical is a violent syndicalist.
So, this feeling: The novelist Thomas Mann noted in his diary on March 27, 1933, two months after Hitler had become German chancellor, that he had witnessed a revolution of a kind never seen before, “without underly- ing ideas, against ideas, against everything nobler, better, decent, against freedom, truth and justice.” The “common scum” had taken power, “accompanied by vast rejoicing on the part of the masses.”
A quick break while I grab another beer and take a quick call

Y’all do the same and we will come back to how people defined fascism as it was forming and why it’s got us all confused to this day!
OK not so quick, but then one does not rush a friend’s amazing news in times like these. Those things we savor.

Now back to the fascism.
So this is the thing we’ve been trying to define: people keep thinking there’s either some master plan here or no plan at all. But this era is neither of those things. Other observers knew, from the beginning, that something deeper was at stake than the happenstance ascent of thugs, and something more precise than the decay of the old moral order.
Oh hey, look, a decade-old book about fascism talking about how we shouldn’t focus on the authoritarian dictator at the expense of looking at society! The image of the all-powerful dictator personalizes fascism, and creates the false impression that we can understand it by scrutinizing the leader alone. This image is the last triumph of fascist propagandists. It offers an alibi to nations that tolerated fascist leaders, and diverts attention from the institutions who helped him. We need a subtler model that explores the interaction between Leader and Nation
Speaking of the political statements versus the proclivities of leaders in fascist nations: Fascists often cursed faceless cities and materialist secularism, and exalted an agrarian utopia free from the rootlessness, conflict, and immorality of urban life.45 Yet fascist leaders adored their fast cars46 and planes,47 and spread their message by dazzlingly up-to-date techniques of propaganda and stagecraft.
And here is the crux of the argument: fascism is not merely top-down. It isn’t just big splashy apples-to-apples historical comparisons.

It’s all the tiny stories we’re ignoring because they don’t involve palace intrigue. A problem with conventional images of fascism is they focus on moments of high drama in the fascist itinerary and omit everyday experience and complicity of ordinary people in the establishment and functioning of fascist regimes. Fascists could never attain power without the assent of elites—heads of state, party leaders, high officials—many of whom felt a fastidious distaste for the crudities of fascist militants.
For example, the State Department.

Do you know how many marginalized groups of people have found themselves with passport trouble in the last years? It’s a lot. There’s news about it all the time. Just it’s never enough people at once to make major headlines, and so we miss it.
And here in handy succinct fashion is my entire argument for why actually, it’s not a great thing that the only major opposition party in the US pretty much runs on “vote for us: we’re not THOSE assholes!” while accepting a whole lot of harmful premises about how politics works Making such choices meant accepting an apparent lesser evil or averting the eyes from some excesses that seemed not too damaging in the short term, even acceptable piecemeal, but which cumulatively added up to monstrous end results.
And for those whose knee-jerk reaction is to tell me I’m simply buying propaganda or misremembering, here is this from January!

Speaking of DACA do you know how that turned out for those people?

Or the latest on how many families are separated?

Have you followed the story of the ban on travel from certain countries?

How many of the outrageous things from just this year are still on your radar? If we can understand the failure of the judicial system or religious or civilian authorities or citizens to put any brakes on Hitler in November 1938, we have begun to understand the wider circles of individual and institutional acquiescence within which a militant minority was able to free itself sufficiently from constraints to be able to carry out genocide in a heretofore sophisticated and civilized country.
You know all those journalists who’ve been asking themselves how to cover Trump? Or all their critics who’ve been pointing out that you can’t just cover what this dude or his sycophants say like it has merit?

Yeah. Fascism, by contrast, was a new invention created afresh for the era of mass politics. It sought to appeal mainly to the emotions by the use of ritual, carefully stage-managed ceremonies, and intensely charged rhetoric. The role programs and doctrine play in it is, on closer inspec- tion, fundamentally unlike the role they play in conservatism, liberal- ism, and socialism.
“The truth was whatever permitted the new fascist man (and woman) to dominate others, and whatever made the chosen people triumph.”

So that’s that defined clearly as well. That’s the thing that’s so infuriating about all this coverage; we don’t need to ask what’s happening.
This book articulates clearly: there isn’t such a thing as fascism exactly. There’s just a lot of things that, when put together, give you a certain kind of racist despotic dystopia where there are no facts and common people cheer brutality and the military is on parade.
Read this

And then go back and read the wondering coverage of the Trump rallies from just after the election Fascism’s deliberate replacement of reasoned debate with immediate sensual experience transformed politics, as the exiled German cultural critic Walter Benjamin was the first to point out, into aesthetics. And the ultimate fascist aesthetic experience, Benjamin warned in 1936, was war.
I hope y’all are drinking ‘cause this is already rough

But: sound familiar?

“Fascism’s radical instrumentalization of truth explains why fascists never bothered to write any casuistical literature when they changed their program, as they did often and without compunction.”
I’m like 90% sure I’ve read this thinkpiece at least ten times As for beleaguered middle-class liberals themselves, fearful of a rising Left, lacking the secret of mass appeal, facing the unpalatable choices offered them by the twentieth century, they have sometimes been as ready as conservatives to cooperate with fascists.
Some definitions: “liberal” is to be understood in the classical sense rather than the modern US sense.

Which basically means think of “liberals” in this book as people who mostly held on to ideas that were progressive a century before but loved the whole free market concept
For these purposes think of “conservative” as pretty much Mitt Romney: inclined towards deregulation, pretty sure society should be founded on the old families and religion in any case, unlikely to think the government is obligated to much at all.
“The fascisms we have known have come into power with the help of frightened ex-liberals and opportunist technocrats and ex-conservatives, and governed in more or less awkward tandem with them.”

Which is a nice way of summing up how we came into 2016 really.
And to close out the first chapter, we have this to consider:

“fascism, far from static, was a succession of processes and choices: seeking a following, forming alliances, bidding for power, then exercising it.”
So. Before we get into the next bit, stop and think about the fact that this author is strenuously NOT getting into the “what is fascism” debate and still is producing whole paragraphs that accurately describe the state of things today.

And the book was written years ago.
The second chapter is a lot of history which can be best summed up as: post World War One Europe was in a bit of a shambles and in most nations, factions formed on left and right to deal with that fallout.

As I said, it’s worth reading the book, I’m into the bare highlights here
So this is I think the closest to my own worries: I don’t think it’s fascism exactly, I just think we’ve laid the table for that kind of fuckery and invited it over for dinner. Culturally, the war discredited optimistic and progressive views of the future, and cast doubt upon liberal assumptions about natural human harmony. Socially, it spawned armies of restless veterans looking for ways to express their anger without heed for old-fashioned law or morality. Politically, it generated economic and social strains that exceeded the capacity of institutions to resolve.
Millennials killed everything At the end of the war, Europeans were torn between an old world that could not be revived and a new world about which they disagreed bitterly. As war economies were dismantled too quickly, wartime inflation spun out of control, making a mockery of the bourgeois virtues of thrift and sav- ings. A population that had come to expect public solutions to economic problems was thrown into uncertainty.
Reasons rich people killed off the draft #28349238293:

“Those who had survived the trenches could not forgive those who had sent them there.”
OK so this is what, Newt Gingrich discovering Cspan

Rush Limbaugh discovering the AM dial

The Tea Party, generally?

I can’t say enough that all this has been coming - and all our leaders have helped to build this - for ages now. Decades. Well before 1914 newly stylish antiliberal values, more aggressive nationalism and racism, and a new aesthetic of instinct and violence began to furnish an intellectual-cultural humus in which fascism could germinate.
“New forms of anxiety appeared with the twentieth century, to which fascism soon promised remedies. Looking for fears, indeed, may be a more fruitful research strategy than a literal-minded quest for thinkers who ‘created’ fascism.”
This is why we worry when we hear the government moving against ANY marginalized group: history repeats itself as an echo, not a map. Fascists need a demonized enemy against which to mobilize followers, but Each culture specifies the national enemy. In Germany the foreign the unclean and the subversive often mingled in a single diabolized image of the Jew, Gypsies and Slavs were also targeted. American fascists diabolized blacks and sometimes Catholics as well as Jews. Italian Fascists diabolized their South Slav neighbors
On fascism’s opponents: “Concrete choices and actions were necessary before fascism could come into being, exploit that weakness, and occupy those spaces.”

So, you know, there’s that we sometimes point out too.
My God if I’d had this quote two years ago:

“Even scholars who specialize in the quest for fascism’s intellectual and cultural origins, such as George Mosse, declare that the establishment of a “mood” is more important than “the search for some individual precursors.”
IDK how it’s been for anyone else who’s been using the fascism word since before the election, but for me it’s just been endless fuckers from all sides demanding that I have some kind of proof for my assertions

And I’m like “my dudes it’s more a gut thing.”

Because it is. Damn.
Like the whole point of talking about the risk of fascism is so that you then can stop smoothing its path

It’s not a diagnostic assessment
The next part of the chapter is hard to screencap, as it’s a weaving together of a lot of granular history from various nations in the post-war shuffle.

But one point he makes clearly is that fascism needed mass communication to develop. It needed direct propaganda.
Plus this. Headdesk.

“Elected representatives struggled to find the necessary minimum of common ground to make difficult policy choices.“
And this. *goes for another beer*

“Assumptions about the adequacy of a self-regulating market, even if believable in the long run, seemed laughably inadequate in the face of immediate national and international economic dislocations.”
Man imagine what a shitshow we’d have on our hands if we continued this worrying trend for like a century and a half instead of realizing maybe after Coughlin or McCarthy at least that said trend was a worry For all these reasons, the economic crisis of the 1880s, as the first major depression to occur in the era of mass politics, rewarded dema- goguery. Henceforth a decline in the standard of living would translate quickly into electoral defeats for incumbents and victories for political outsiders ready to appeal with summary slogans to angry voters.
I actually am running out for beer ‘cause it ain’t getting warmer out there by the hour. Back in a few, and feel free to chip in on this tab on Venmo at linda-tirado-3 or at

Maybe pour another for yourself for the rest of this chapter as well.
See because here’s why:

“It may be that the earliest phenomenon that can be functionally related to fascism is American: the Ku Klux Klan.”
I just need a Constitutional amendment that anyone writing about politics or the economy from 2015-present has to read and really inhabit this paragraph, and that afterwards if they write this bullshit ever again, they have to get a job in retail. It was soon noticed that fascist parties were largely middle class, to the point where fascism was perceived as the very embodiment of lower-middle-class resentments. But, after all, all political parties are largely middle class. On closer inspection, fascism turned out to appeal to upper-class members and voters as well.
The author makes a strong case that fascists had trouble recruiting in the working classes because they had strong socialist traditions, but I think that’s historical specificity.

The parallel seems to be civic engagement generally; people already involved are hard to recruit.
Scream this on street corners:

“To conclude that Nazism or other forms of fascism are forms of mental disturbance is doubly dangerous: it offers an alibi to the multitude of “normal” fascists, and it ill prepares us to recognize the utter normality of authentic fascism.”
You know what the best predictor of mass murder is? Domestic violence. Dude that doesn’t beat up women is way less likely to go on a shooting spree.

Not all violence is borne of disorder. There’s a lot of plain violent assholes in the world.

When they organize, we should worry.
And with this, we close out the second chapter!

I think that’s it for me tonight, I’ll pick this back up tomorrow. But sit and think on some of this, and consider how much of it rings uncomfortably prescient and what that means. To understand fascism whole, we need to spend as much energy on the later forms as on the beginnings. The adaptations and transformations that mark the path followed by some fascisms from movement to party to regime to final paroxysm will occupy much of the rest of this book.
Okay people, we are back and reading this book about fascism! Last night, we left off with a lot of fairly disturbing examples from history and the conclusion that fascism is more a melange of horrible things than a specific ideology.
Worth considering in the age of social media, which people really do forget hasn’t existed for long:

“Between the two world wars, almost every nation on earth, and certainly all those with mass politics, generated some intellectual current or activist movement akin to fascism.”
If we are asking why this moment is the time we see a rise in violent nationalism worldwide, stands to reason that an explosion in mass communication might have been a needed precursor in this century same as the last.
A thing that always astounds me is that established intellectuals cannot see the world around them.

In the unimaginably long ago, there was this thing called the Freedom Caucus. Or the Tea Party. Or the Young Guns. Or the Brethren. Or the Christian Coalition. Or the 700 Club. Or The early ragtag outsiders thus transformed themselves into serious politi- cal forces capable of competing on equal terms with longer-established parties or movements. Their success influenced entire political systems, giving them a more intense and aggressive tone and legitimating open expressions of extreme nationalism, Left-baiting, and racism.
Hey remember when the fascists were dapper and honing their rhetoric in major papers and on major campuses?

“Becoming a successful participant in electoral or pressure-group politics forced young fascist movements to focus their words and actions more precisely.”
“It turned out in practice that fascists’ anticapitalism was highly selective.”

I am shocked by this. I don’t know about you people. But I am.
“Becoming a successful contender in the political arena required more than clarifying priorities and knitting alliances. It meant offering a new political style that would attract voters who had concluded that ‘politics’ had become dirty and futile.”
“Posing as an ‘antipolitics’ was often effective with people whose main political motivation was scorn for politics.”

So this is a good time to go back and look at all the coverage of Trump voters from late 2016 through mid 2017 or so, in light of this and the previous quote.
I talked to a *lot* of Trump voters. I did a feature series on some of them for Elle.

The common thread - through the old-guard pearl-wearing GOP women to the militants who staged an armed standoff with the feds in Oregon - was the sense that something in politics was broken.
It’s the same sense I feel on the left, because newsflash everything is fucked and people on both sides are seeing that.

That sense that you have built on sand and the tide is coming? That’s where fascism finds a niche.
Everything doesn’t have to get to some kind of historically horrific place to be pretty fascist:

“Comparison acquires some bite at this point: only some societies experienced so severe a breakdown of existing systems that citizens began to look to outsiders for salvation.”
So this is something else to discuss: how many people have been warning us about the dog whistles? And for how long? Fascist violence carried a well-calculated set of coded messages: that only the fascists were tough enough to save the nation from antinational terror- ists. An essential step in the fascist march to acceptance and power was to persuade law-and-order conservatives and members of the middle class to tolerate fascist violence as a harsh necessity in the face of Left provocation.
I was far from first to call this, but here’s a thing I wrote in October of 2016. And if *I* got it, then how many warnings did we ignore , and more importantly how many are we currently ignoring?…
Not ten minutes ago I tweeted a link to a story about how we’re putting up barbed wire to deter asylum seekers.

So here’s this next sentence then:

“Fascists encouraged a distinction between members of the nation who merited protection and outsiders who deserved rough handling.”
So here’s where I lose a lot of folk who have been following this thread thinking “this chick gets it” because tbh I’m from the rurals and what city folk don’t know about raising crops might literally kill them soon.

I 100% believe city folk don’t give a fuck about the rurals.
Which is to say that by virtue of my upbringing, I am entirely prepared to believe that people who live in anything like density would be happy to kill us all off except for the food.

So this tracks. At the end of the 1920s, they lost faith in the capacity of traditional parties and of the national government to help them. The Weimar Republic was triply damned in their eyes: dominated by distant Prussia, by sinful and decadent Berlin, and by “reds” who thought only of cheap food for urban workers.
To translate, I mean to say that fascism breeds in misunderstandings, and I’m from a place where we’re real used to hearing that we shouldn’t have power or autonomy, and also that we have by virtue of the Senate too much power and autonomy.
Okay we are back! We left off with fascism needing to breed an us vs. them and largely finding opportunity exploiting rural and urban divides!

(For those following along, we are in Chapter Three of Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism, which you should buy for yourself!)
So. Before we further, I want you to do some research for your own edification: go look at elections returns.

Not at the red state/blue state level, but really delve into the data. How many people vote at various income levels? Who voted, demographically speaking, and for whom?
For example, the average Trump voter is uneducated but reasonably affluent.

Did that hold true for the GOP vote in 2018? Did increased turnout explain the white suburban lady vote or did they really flip?

What narratives have you been given and how true are they? Look that up.
Much of the chapter is historical detail, but here’s something:

“This suggests fascist interlopers cannot easily break into a political system that is functioning tolerably well. Only when the state and existing institutions fail badly do they open opportunities for newcomers.
Heartening maybe?

“Degrelle’s rapid rise and equally rapid decline reveals how hard it is for a fascist leader to keep the bubble intact after managing to assemble a heterogeneous protest vote. Rapid flows of the vote into a new catch-all party could be a two-way current.”

”The feverish swelling of the party could be followed by an equally rapid collapse if it did not establish itself as capable of representing some important interests and gratifying ambitious career politicians. One big vote was not enough to root a fascist party.” 2/2
“Fascist movements appeared so widely in the early twentieth century that we cannot learn much about their nature from the mere fact of their foundation. But they grew at different rates and succeeded to different degrees.” 1/2
“A comparative look at their successes and failures suggests that the major differences lay not only in the movements themselves but also, and significantly, in the opportunities offered.” 2/2

This book states and restates the obvious: there needs to be certain circumstances.
So this chapter has been, broadly, a history of fascist beginnings in the post world-war-one era. Not all movements coalesced; Vichy France and England’s fascists were examples of movements that existed but never rooted, or at least never fruited exactly.
“The role of intellectuals was crucial at three points already suggested: in discrediting previous liberal regimes; creating new poles outside the Left around which anger and protest (until recently a monopoly of the Left) could be mobilized; making fascist violence respectable.”
“One of the preconditions was a faltering liberal order. Fascisms grew from back rooms to public arena most easily where the existing government functioned badly, or not at all. One of the commonplaces of discussions of fascism is that it thrived upon the crisis of liberalism.”
So this last thing is worth dwelling on, because I know I have a ton of followers who can’t quite understand why I distrust the Democrats or sometimes say things that sound like both sides.

I haven’t worried that the parties were the same exactly?

It’s been the faltering.
I can appreciate how we got here, and that some actors were worse than others, and still worry about the fact that the opposition doesn’t seem terribly effective.

I worry that they’re making the wrong compromises and letting the wrong things slide.
In other words, I’m not sure it matters that one meant well or felt constrained, if the end result is fascism.

I would argue that the gathering or holding of power alone isn’t an affirmative defense to enabling, even if you meant to gain enough power to unseat evil.
I also think that this is a lot of my frustration with a certain wing of my friends on the left; I’m not talking better or worse this instant, because that’s obvious. I’m talking three years from now. I don’t think that makes me unpragmatic in the way folk assume.
I really need people to go get this from a library if they can’t buy it. There’s no way for me to pull top lines without skipping so much good information

But also because the author is so determinedly scientific about this. For example:
“One needs to interject a warning at this point against inevitability. Identifying the crisis of liberal regimes as crucial to the success of fascism suggests that some kind of environmental determinism is at work.” 1/2
”If the setting is conducive, according to this way of thinking, one gets fascism. I prefer to leave space for national differences and for human choices in our explanation.” 2/2

There’s such temptation to define one’s topic, and fascism is best left undefined, and he does that.
“A typology of crises that could give fascism an opening is not enough. An equally important consideration is the capacity of liberal and democratic regimes to respond to these crises.”

So let’s talk about this, then.
If fascism cannot exist in the face of a working system, cannot thrive absent a robust opposition

Then what the fuck have we been doing exactly in the last two years? Trump’s tax returns are back in the news.

The ones that every other candidate much less elected has released.
Is it arguable that if we have not properly resisted fascism we must have been inadequately prepared? Or did we ignore it?

More importantly: how do we undercut these trends? Can you starve fascism once it’s begun, or do you have to hope it just sputters out?
Like, sure, Mueller might throw down indictments tomorrow.

But if he doesn’t? If they don’t stick? If the seating of Kavanaugh and the replacement of Sessions was enough to cover the right asses?
What if, in the 21st century US incarnation, fascism is what happens while we all wait for the *ahem* FBI and Justice Department to act impeccably?

I mean, y’all heard that during the Hillary thing, Comey was using gmail for official business, yeah?

Rule of law?
I want to talk about this too:

“The exhaustion of older political options, now apparently incapable of offering satisfying expression to all the postwar feelings, is an important part of the story.”

Now. I am a country-ass Millennial.

Let’s talk “satisfying expression.”
I have never found a major party politics that came even close to my own. I picked my team ‘cause I was given a binary option and I chose the “meh” team instead of the “burn it with fire” team.

This is a workable polity, I guess, on paper, and also this has got us to here.
Do you know what I want? Younger political opinions.

That’s not me not valuing experience or performing ageism; that’s me saying that I am among a very specific five years of human development where I had the internet and adolescence show up at the same time with insistence.
Better or worse my generation is prone to extremism because the mainstream has utterly ignored us and what we know that people older than us never could.

For example, I guarantee you someone a decade my senior would never have befriended one of their trolls out of respect.
There’s some asshole on this here website that frankly is just a troll. I did some digging and I know enough about this person to know they’re not a threat. I did the digging because they’re a fucking troll.

But I kinda respect the skill and dedication. It’s not belligerent.
It’s in my Twitter bio. I don’t tolerate subpar trolls.

But damn do I appreciate and understand sockpuppets and the value that a smart person can bring to the public square playing court jester.

Now tell me that is a thing people who didn’t grow up online get like I do.
Or you know, I’d love to hear from people who’ve grown up knowing that our grandkids or possibly kids would live in a violently heating climate.

That’s not something anyone older than me has considered. I know that because they didn’t do fuck-all about it when they had power.
Or maybe I want to hear the Vietnam generation talking honestly to those of us who came of age during this endless war.

In 2012-2013, my combat vet ran into a VA “glitch” that didn’t pay out his GI bill.

It’s 2018, and a headline today is “Glitch results in GI Bill nonpayment”
Where does fascism breed? A whole generation wasted on profit and bullshit and the pride of generations who need to keep their mythology.

I just don’t buy that my generation ain’t got commonalities with that post-war generation.

Post-WW1. Not the New Dealers.
“Liberals too, as we’ve seen, had their solution: return to the doctrine of the omnipotent market. Unregulated markets functioned so badly in economies distorted by war making and revolutionary pressures, even liberals wanted regulation—but not enough to satisfy their followers.
Okay we are back!

We left off talking about how easy it is to recruit disaffected groups or individuals, and how easy it is to make people feel disaffected with some decently effective propaganda
“Fascism has historically been a phenomenon of weak or failed liberal states and belated or damaged capitalist systems rather than triumphant ones. The assertion that fascism stems from a crisis of liberalism might well be amended to specify crises in weak or failed liberalisms.”
Speaking of the Nazis and communists in the early stages:

“Polarization was in the interest of both.”

Now this hits the heart of another of my gut-level discomforts because polarization is in so many people’s interests right now.
We mention campaign finance reform and disapprove of dark money, but we’re just beginning to grapple with the impact of unregulated campaign cash which can explicitly not mention candidates.

There’s billions being poured into polarization campaigns instead.
There’s a whole industry employing a lot of Americans that is dedicated entirely to sustaining itself by selling mostly discord and fear.

I’m not talking media or politics proper even. I’m talking the PACs and nonprofits and policy shops with scary mailers.
When you bring the media or the political parties into the equation, well.

Polarization is good for everyone there too.
So here’s the upshot: you need a divided and distrustful populace, a weak and/or incapable government, mass communication and a few people willing to make deals with their devils in order to gain power.

Everything is fine, I’m not getting another drink, why do you ask? As we will see in the next chapter, it took the decisions of powerful individuals to open the gates to fascism. That was the final essential pre- condition of successful fascism: decision-makers ready to share power with fascist challengers.
So the fourth chapter is a lot of detail of Mussolini’s rise, and the short version of this retelling is that the dude had a ton of hugely risky plays but the stars aligned and his opponents destroyed each other, which left him a path to power.
“Mussolini had correctly surmised that the king and the army would not make the hard choice to resist his Blackshirts by force. It was not Fascism’s force that decided the issue, but the conservatives’ unwillingness to risk their force against his.”
This next bit is about Hitler’s rise to power and this recap is reminding me why I tell people “at least it’s not Weimar yet” when folk from overseas ask me how things are here these days.

Also I don’t know about you but this seems like a familiar opposition strategy IDK why leaders, however, deterred by strong legalitarian convictions, advancing age,11 the futility of the strike weapon during mass unemployment, and perhaps legitimate fears that action by the Left might perversely throw even more middle-class Ger- mans into the arms of the Nazis, limited their response to a futile lawsuit
“Both Mussolini and Hitler were invited to take office as head of government by a head of state in the legitimate exercise of his official functions, on the advice of civilian and military counselors.”

The warning here is that laws can be changed once someone has gained office.
“Both these appointments were made, it must be added at once, under conditions of extreme crisis, which the fascists had abetted.”
So, if Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake stopped playing footsie with them they wouldn’t have power

Noted. the fascist route to power has always needed cooperation with conservative elites, the strength of a fascist movement is only one variable in the achievement of power. Fascists had numbers to offer to conservatives caught in crisis. Equally important was conservative elites’ willingness to work with fascism; a reciprocal flexibility on the fascist leaders’ part; and the urgency of the crisis that induced cooperation.
“It is therefore essential to examine the accomplices who helped at crucial points. To watch only the fascist leader during his arrival in power is to fall under the spell of the “Führer myth” and the “Duce myth” in a way that would have given those men immense satisfaction.”
I kind of want to cross stitch that previous on a pillow and also I think that would be a very weird thing to own or give someone. So now I’m torn.
Here’s another discussion we’re having a lot lately:

“In particular, conservative leaders had to decide whether to try to coopt fascism or force it back to the margins. One crucial decision was whether the police and the courts would compel the fascists to obey the law.”
Brett Kavanaugh likes beer, I’m sure the judicial system is fine
“Another form of complicity was the gift of respectability. We have seen how Giolitti helped make Mussolini respectable by including him in his electoral coalition in May 1921.”

So. In this iteration, who’s been trying to make all this feel normal or respectable? From day one?
Who encouraged this gilded cantaloupe to run, who introduced him to the right pollsters and strategists? Who made calls saying “I know you’ll laugh but hear me out on this guy” or convinced Evangelicals to sit down and be humiliated?

Who legitimized this dude?
Here is a salient point.

Even with all the paths laid and paved to encourage its growth, fascism needs people to decide to choose it.
I’m never not going to love the sheer hypocrisy of the far right wing loving Milo is all I’m saying. The fascists offered fresh young faces to a public weary of an aging establishment that had made a mess of things. The two youngest parties in Italy and Germany were the communists and the fascists. Both nations longed for new leaders, and fascists offered conservatives a fountain of youth and deeper commitment in an era when conservatives feared dissolution of the social bond.
Donald Trump, RNC speech: “I am the only one who can save you”

This expert, in his book on fascism: “Another seductive fascist offer was a way to overcome the climate of disorder that the fascists themselves had helped cause.”
More seriously though this is why a lot of folks are just never going to be comfortable with arguments of pragmatism in a polarized two-party environment in which one party is pretty fucking fascist.
Put another way, I don’t trust people to fix disorder that they’ve been happy to cause if the short-term impacts of said disorder worked in their favor.

If you’re willing to play in the fascist toolbox IDK you have the strongest case when you tell me it’s you or the fascists.

“A central ingredient in the conservatives’ calculation was that the Austrian corporal and the greenhorn Italian would not have the faintest idea what to do with high office. They would be incapable of governing without the cultivated conservative leaders’ savoir faire.”
IOW rich people kept thinking that only rich people were capable of understanding rich people shit

Which is always the fatal flaw of the wealthy. Seems like every generation they repurchase that whole merit thing (whatever the age defines merit as) and they don’t guard.
Only, gentlemen’s rules only work when you’re dealing entirely in the world of people who adhere to them.

Bring in a street brawler, they’ll win every time while the room sputters “but you can’t DO that!” and other such hand-wringing pablum
“Completing their grasp on the state by transforming office into unlimited personal authority: that was the real “seizure of power.” It was a different story from gaining office; its main plotline was massive illegal action by the fascist leaders.”
Okay people we are back! Last night we were talking about the conditions and early days of fascist movements.

Basically, people already in power have to decide to share with any nascent movement.
At basically every stage in both Germany and Italy, fascists were handed compromise votes and coalition bids.

It’s hard to explain to Americans generally how that’s apples to our system’s oranges. So a microlength explanation of how parliamentary systems work:
First thing, there aren’t regular elections, which is to say elections don’t come like clockwork on a calendar date. They have to be called by leadership.

Second thing, they have more parties, which means any particular ideology needs fewer people backing it.
So for example in Australia right now, the Prime Minister (I mean the most recently current one, they’ve had I think three in the past couple years) is being forced to govern with far-right parties in order to form a majority government. And those parties are assholes.
It’s basically like if the Tea Party had been an actual party and the GOP had been forced to bargain with them to retain control of a chamber instead of just get bills passed, perhaps?

Point is, you make nice with two minor parties in a coalition they can force major parties.
So we read about “and then they called an election” from the States and that sounds way less run-of-the-mill than it is.

We also sometimes read about legal takeovers of major parties and don’t understand how incremental those steps really were in that other system.
All of that is to clarify this sentence:

“Once again, several paths were open to them. They chose not to press their doubts over Mussolini to the point of active steps to remove him, however, fearful that this would open the way to renewed chaos or to a government of the Left.”
That chaos was certainly partially the violence that dude barely controlled.

But part of it was political chaos and the jockeying that came with parliamentary politics.
So. What about the fascists themselves? Let’s see!

“Junior partnerships within authoritarian regimes proved disastrous for fascist movements. Playing second fiddle fit badly with fascists’ extravagant claims to transform their peoples and redirect history.”
Now, @EmilyGorcenski and @socialistdogmom could tell you better than I can, but we’ve seen this happening in our dapper young fascists in the last few years. They’ve been splintering for purity.

Oh, and also here’s a good memory:
Last I heard most of the fascist folk we read glowing profiles of two years ago are broke, crying or in jail, or some combination thereof.

Let us rejoice at the small things.

But as this book makes clear, more fascisms fail than succeed. So let’s continue!
Here’s the thing: fascism came to America and failed in a lot of small ways. It does not then follow that other fascisms didn’t show up in that same time range, or that some of them have not yet failed spectacularly

(Here’s Chris Cantwell crying anyway)
So here’s where we have to start considering things:

We didn’t actually have a well-entrenched conservative regime in 2016. We had one that had just undergone a civil war that wasn’t quite settled yet.

So how unfavorable was that terrain? In general, well-entrenched conservative regimes of all sorts have provided unfavorable terrain for fascism to reach power. Either they have repressed what they regarded as fomenters of disorder, or they have preempted fascism’s issues and following for themselves. If conservatives could rule alone, they did.
We’re gonna get back to that but first, a paragraph about one of my favorite political names/insulting political words:

“Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegian fascist leader whose name furnished the very word for a puppet government, actually had little authority in occupied Norway.”
“Although Quisling’s Nasjonal Samling (NS) had barely surpassed 2 percent of the popular vote in the 1930s, he seized the opportunity of the German invasion and the withdrawal of the king and parliament from Oslo to declare his party in power.”
“Although the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg supported him, more responsible German officials knew he aroused only loathing in Norway, and after only six days Hitler agreed to set him aside.”

This has been your quick aside into linguistic insult that makes the infamous immortal
“Occupation fascisms are interesting...but it is doubtful that we can call them authentic fascisms, if only because they are not free to pursue national grandeur and expansionism.”
This is nuance that causes confusion, because to call something inauthentic isn’t to call it untrue.

If I have a Barbie doll and a knockoff Barbie doll, I’m still looking at a doll that would have back problems if it were an actual woman with those measurement.
But we’re shifting the kaleidoscope and looking again

“Comparison suggests that fascist success in reaching power varies less with the brilliance of fascist intellectuals and the qualities of fascist chiefs than with the depth of crisis and the desperation of potential allies.”
Now here’s another parallel: a new lack of deference in politics from the voters to the old guard. Or at least a percieved one: I mean come on, ladies are voting their pills in and whatnot and the gays can get married amirite, clearly the voters are uncontrollable... that violent option amounts to giving the street and the working class and the enlightened intelligentsia back to the Left, and requires rule by overt force. German and Italian conservatives wanted to harness the fascists’ power in public opinion, in the street, and in the nationalist and antisocialist sectors of the middle and working classes to their own leadership.
Here we come to a break because I am moving this operation to where the beer is, so feel free to chip in on this bar tab!

Also if anyone’s got questions about the book so far, or wants a clarification on something I left out, this is a good part of the text for that.
There were no questions! So we’re back where we left off, which is asking about why some fascism succeeds and others don’t
Anyway hope you’re drinking: ‪“We are not required to believe that fascist movements can only come to power in an exact replay of the scenario of Mussolini and Hitler. All that is required to fit our model is polarization, deadlock, mass mobilization against internal and external enemies, and complicity by existing elites.“‬
If you have had a friend who had for years been fairly mainstream suddenly start seeming paranoid, it’s because one needs not be a scholar of fascism to feel it creeping nearer.

Sometimes you can’t articulate what’s too obvious for words.
And I’m talking people who maybe opposed the war and voted Obama and would of course donate ten bucks to an abortion clinic up until sometime between 2015-present, when they started talking about fascism or kakistocracy, resisting what they’d previously have called compromise
I don’t mean people who’ve just figured out that oh shit, these people are kind of fashy and latched onto it with the zeal of a convert (though it’s nice to see that our best and brightest have begun to ken that something might be amiss)
It has been the breeding grounds of fascism we have been trying to warn about, the very real risk of it taking hold should we ignore the opening we were making for it.

I would venture that many of the people who’ve told me they feel helpless also felt lost, not knowing the story
Yesterday, my kindergartner who’s got a mild but *potentially* lethal bronchial thing played a funny trick and hid from the whole house. Didn’t come out when we all called for five minutes.

I ran around in moderately panicked circles, checking the places I knew to look for her.
Five minutes became ten and I went fully panicked.

There wasn’t anything for me to do because I didn’t know where to look. There was no point tearing the clothes out of the closet or the cabinet doors from their hinges. So I went paralyzed until I could figure out what the fuck.
I think that feeling is the closest thing I know to the feeling of realizing that things are about to change and that it’s entirely likely they take a decidedly fascist direction, but not having command enough of the history to argue that point to experts or “experts.”
(The kid is impossibly small and thinks pranks are high comedy and so was comfortably in a basket under my bed watching cartoons. I did not then kill her when she was found.)
So let’s unpack a few things here

Firstly “deadlock”
Then “including”
Then “separate”
One of the reasons I am not taken seriously on issues like these is that I have absolutely no formal background in this at all. Like all my areas of expertise, whether I am noted as an expert or not, my education has been mostly made of what I’ve seen or read.
But my background is peculiar, so I sometimes catch patterns that most people wouldn’t.

For example, no serious observer would say that DC ain’t been deadlocked for a while now. But when did that start? Who started it, if anyone did, or is this Hatfield and McCoys?
I ask that a lot, and depending on people’s particular age demographic I usually hear “Reagan” or “Clinton” or “Bush, redux”

I argue that it’s direct mail, as pioneered by celebrity pastors and congregations. Here’s a fun fact: Evangelicals used to largely support abortion.
(Nobody *approved* of course, but it wasn’t considered a defining issue and in 1970 when the head of the Southern Baptist Convention said a person came into being at birth they’d have laughed at you if you’d told them Ohio would have a fetus “testify” on the state house floor.)
Anyway my theory has long been that it was the 80s where the deadlock started, but it wasn’t in politics directly. It was in the political awakening of the right-wing churches.

I don’t think I could overemphasize what it meant to today’s political calculus.
Point is Ralph Reed read Saul Alinsky and realized that he could extract untold sums from people who wanted to go to heaven if only he started making them feel connected — nay, obligated to be connected — to politics.

It’s not the only starting point, but it’s the one I point to
But where did it begin, and perhaps more importantly, when should we have been unable to ignore it?
Next, that “including.” The system had been unable to contend with the problems facing it - including the fascism that happened *after* the system started to fail.

So what was going on before the fascism then? Can *that* be blamed on one particular part of society?
I may or may not be back on this tonight. I’ll definitely be back in the morning, because I am fascinated by this book and this is how we are spending our Sunday!
And we are back! As always, if you’re loving this reading, feel free to support my work at or if you prefer a one-off, or on Venmo at LInda-Tirado-3, and you’ve my thanks!

Now let’s carry on with the fascism.
We left off talking about the failures in the system, including the failure to adequately address fascism.

So what does that look like in our context? I’d argue it looks like the reaction to 9/11, the management of these endless wars, the banking fuckery that is still allowed
Add worsening natural disasters, austerity measures and budget cuts, voter suppression, crumbling infrastructure, a fossil fuel economy, patently ridiculous university tuition, the fourth estate utterly disregarding their duty to inform the populace in favor of higher profits?
I’m from the kind of places where there ain’t been any good changes in decades. Things just crumble and rot and nobody does anything because the cops didn’t give enough tickets last month to fund the repairs. There aren’t plans to “renew” those places; they will simply die.
People making near the federal minimum wage can’t just up and move; even out where land is cheap and costs low you need at least that small paycheck to live. So you just sit there, dreaming of that magic job that might someday land in your lap and get you back to hope.
It’s *possible* of course, people do it all the time. But it’s possible like “just go to college if you want a stable career” is possible for that minimum wage worker. A lot depends on sheer blind luck, before you ever get to effort or capital expenditure.
So let’s separate racism and authoritarianism for just a second, as they are separate things (which I think far too many people conflate because “economic anxiety lol” is fewer words than “authoritarianism and racism are obviously correlated though not synonymous”)
The person who’s seeing no hope and no cause to think there might be any - not just for them personally, but their entire region; all the land and people they know and live amongst - is likely to believe any asshole who sells them a monorail.

Because it’s *hope.*
The impulse to authoritarianism is the same impulse that drives people to fundamentalist religious belief: they need to know there’s a plan and someone that isn’t them is in charge of it. They want instructions, not responsibility.

They want a fucking monorail guy.
The racism comes in when we consider what people are willing to do or overlook to get that monorail or eternal salvation or whatever.

But I think there are far fewer people drawn to the racism itself than there are to the authoritarian rule that promises to fix everything.
And then “separate.” The failure of the state is somewhat separate from the rise of fascism.

It’s symbiotic, though. Something has to step into the breach, and once it does it becomes a hostile partnership.

For example, the horse-trading in Congress with the very rule of law.
This was before the dawning of time in political years, but back in the Bush years there was a lot of Congressional fuckery that set the stage for this current crisis. People on both sides (yes, I know, hush) set precedents that were then exploited by the opposition next session.
(One could argue that it started well before, and possibly it did, but the way we did business generally changed post-9/11 and I think that’s as reasonable a place to begin as any)
Thing is, nobody fought this. Sure, the parties resisted when it would hurt them, but they didn’t stop to think past the short term concerns of politics. Nobody was looking at the long term.

Some will say to look at budgets and policy proposals to rebut this.
But we’re not talking about five-year plans to get to 4% GDP. We’re talking about the tone, the establishment of DC as a place one goes to support one’s party instead of get the business of the people done.

Congressional approval bottomed out at 9% in 2013. It’s 21% now.
And *because* it’s about brinksmanship, the parties need each other as foils. Ain’t nearly as much money nor free airtime in passing a solid ag bill as there is in screaming something entirely obvious in disgusted tones about the other guy.
Look at how much love Jeff Flake gets for speaking strongly against Trump while he quietly votes for pretty much anything Trump wants

The parties need him now, because they’ve brought him into this little dance.
And here we have the explanation for the GOP’s embrace of Trump. In case anyone wondered. e functions of mature fascism became even clearer: in immediate terms, its role was to break a logjam in national politics by a solution that excluded socialists. In a longer term, it was to enlist mass support behind national, social defense, to unify, regenerate and rejuvenate, “moralize,” and purify the nation that many saw as weak, decadent, and unclean.
Paxton talks about what Italy or Germany could have done besides fascism, and the fact that party leaders in both countries preferred their bitter feuds to any compromise that might have staved fascism off.

They saw the danger in each other, and it blinded them to anything else.
This is why it’s nearly impossible to explain what’s happening to people who don’t see what’s happening. Because there’s not one thing to point at, and anyway they voted under some kind of duress - to gain leverage, or because the Leader asked, or re-election, or or or In each case, it helps to see that political elites make choices that might not be their first preferences. They proceed, from choice to choice, along a path of narrowing options. At each fork in the road, they choose the antisocialist solution.<br />
It works better to see the fascist seizure of power as a process: alliances are formed, choices made, alternatives closed off.
And with this terrifying tidbit, we close chapter 4!

“Crises of the political and economic system made a space available to fascism, but it was the unfortunate choices by a few powerful Establishment leaders that actually put the fascists into that space.”
Ten minute warning, folks! Grab your beer and settle in!
Chapter Five, people!
“No dictator rules by himself. He must obtain the cooperation, or at least the acquiescence, of the decisive agencies of rule—the military, the police, the judiciary, senior civil servants—and of powerful social and economic forces.”
“We have never known an ideologically pure fascist regime. Indeed, the thing hardly seems possible. Each generation of scholars of fascism has noted that the regimes rested upon some kind of pact or alliance between the fascist party and powerful conservative forces.”
If that don’t sound familiar
“Traditional elites try to retain strategic positions; the parties want to fill them with new men or bypass the conservative power bases with “parallel structures”; the leaders resist challenges from both elites and party zealots.”
“Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski, the founding scholars of the “totalitarian” model, coined the term “islands of separateness” to describe elements of civil society that survive within a totalitarian dictatorship.”
“Such islands of separateness as Catholic parishes—however little inclined they might be to oppose the regime fundamentally, beyond objecting to specific actions—could possess sufficient organizational resiliency and emotional loyalty to withstand party infiltration.”
“One does not have to accept the totalitarian model integrally to find the islands of separateness metaphor useful.”
the Nazi Party gradually overcame most of the islands of separateness within the German state and society in a process called euphemistically by party propagandists Gleichschaltung: coordination, or leveling. A common oversimplification makes this process seem both inevitable and unilinear. Well-rooted economic and social associations could not be swept away so casually, however, even in Nazi Germany.
Look, everybody, good news! There’s good news in this book!
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