Comparisons to Hitler are always unwarranted—except when they are warranted.
The movement from democracy to fascism requires a series of institutional transformations that involve a corresponding psychological transformation. “Only connect,” said E.M. Forster, knowing that connection is the only valid apprehension.
Here are some stations along that movement that together constitute the requirements for a fascist political order:
(1) The destruction of fact through an attack on responsible media as purveyors of “fake news.” Fox Americana.
(2) Contempt for reason through a reduction of public discourse to the crudest forms of rhetorical incitement.
(3) Rejection of science and dismissal of all scientific findings that do not support entrenched power. (Denial of climate change and the dismantling of the EPA.)
(4) Contempt for the rule of law. Transformation of the legal system through the appointment of lackeys committed to extreme right-wing causes and agendas. (Kavanaugh, Barr; circuit court of appeals appointments such as Ron Willett, Chad Readler, James Ho, Neomi Rao, Stuart Duncan and Amy Barrett.)
(5) The Holy Trinity of fascism: racism, sexism, xenophobia. All this normalized through the creation of a state of emergency focused on inciting hysteria about enemies within: immigrants, Muslims, Blacks, Feminists, etc.… (On which see the poem “First They Came” by Pastor Martin Niemoller.)
(6) The evisceration of government departments and agencies: failure to fill empty positions; the appointed Heads committed to the destruction of the departments and agencies they will run.
(7) Presidential leadership replaced by mass rallies devoted to the creation of a collective psyche ruled by hate, fear and an aggrieved sense of victimhood. The purpose of the rallies—an incitement to violence against all who are labeled enemies.
(8) Corporatism in economic and taxation policy. The holding of political office as a money-making activity serving special interests of the wealthy ruling class.
The events outlined above describe Trump’s Amerika, 2016-2019. They also allude to events in Germany, 1931-1938. Trump is way ahead of schedule.
Fascism may be defined as a substitution of the conditions of force for the principles of discourse. It is Orwell’s boot applied to all situations.
And that is not all. The fascist order depends for its maintenance on a fascism of the heart. That condition achieves its psychotic realization in the psyche of the Leader. In what ways?
(1) Projection and denial. Donald Trump is the one politician who never lies. Every tweet and word that comes out of his mouth derives from the need to deny and evacuate what is diseased within by ascribing it to the opponents. He is, thus, for example, the rodent-infested slum landlord in the shithole cities of his inner world.
(2) Destruction unbound. The need for destructive deeds in a celebration of cruelty and humiliation—especially brought upon helpless victims (immigrants, children, women). Trump, the encopretic leader.
(3) Narcissistic grandiosity wedded to a desire for omnipotence with a resulting inability to submit any of one’s opinions to correction by experience.
(4) A perverted sexuality requiring the subjection of others to acts of humiliation and dehumanization. Freedom is the power to turn others into objects subjected to contempt and dismissal.
(5) An inner world of emptiness and malignant envy, always gnawing away, requiring acts of aggression that can never be satisfied but must, perforce, seek new, better, larger objects on which to vent itself.
(6) That is a portrait of the Leader’s psyche and, at the same time, an image for the aggrieved mass of followers, whose identification with it delivers them from their fears into a rebarbative brute bully mentality craving orgiastic release in acts of rage and terror.
- How could such a person appeal to so many good, upstanding fundamentalist Christians? An answer: no great mystery here, since the fundamentalist religious psyche is grounded in the same basic psychology.
- How could such a person continue to command the allegiance of so many upstanding Republican voters and politicians? To appropriate Santayana, those who do not understand the past are condemned to take the next step. Thus, from Nixon to Reagan to Trump there is a logical progression in the racism that has for decades been the primary purpose of the Republi-KLAN Fascist Party. Trump simply lays bare what was previously communicated through code words.
To invoke Hitler and Nazism—surely that goes to far? Where is Trump’s Auschwitz? For, after all, is that not the real function of the Thou shalt not invoke Nazism command: to protect the passivity of those who feel no resistance is warranted, since “this too shall pass”? However, mass murder takes many forms, including crimes against the future. No wonder science is anathema. The climate crisis is a battle between those who want to save the planet and those committed to ecocide. And ecocide is genocide. Trump has now replaced the Kochs as the prime agent in the advancement of ecocide. His actions assure a cataclysmic future for the planet and its inhabitants, ensuring by the same token his eventual enshrinement in the Hall of Mass Murderers.
So, what is to be done? I remember wondering what my parents would have done had they lived as good Germans during the Nazi years. This is now a question that we must all ask of ourselves. Trump demands of us a historical decision that has the status of a Kantian moral imperative. Our existence is defined by our responsibility to the future. To put such an imperative in a succinct way: Act so that your every action would bring about the eradication of fascism by whatever means necessary.