“What we are living with is pre-fascism”

New Zealand is largely unscathed, so far, but here is a plausible claim that the US at least is at threat of an unfolding progression towards fascism.

To grasp what is going on in the world right now, we need to reflect on two things. One is that we are in a phase of trial runs. The other is that what is being trialled is fascism – a word that should be used carefully but not shirked when it is so clearly on the horizon. Forget “post-fascist” – what we are living with is pre-fascism.

It is easy to dismiss Donald Trump as an ignoramus, not least because he is. But he has an acute understanding of one thing: test marketing. He created himself in the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, where celebrity is manufactured by planting outrageous stories that you can later confirm or deny depending on how they go down. And he recreated himself in reality TV where the storylines can be adjusted according to the ratings. Put something out there, pull it back, adjust, go again.

Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.

Trump’s rise has certainly not been solely on his own merits. He has defied predictions, he has defied common sense. To many he is a blundering buffoon, but he has secured a strong, sizeable minority support base who defend him regardless of what he does.

One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections.

All major elections are ‘rigged’, in that they are dominated by PR machines that are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Even New Zealand elections have become battles of media coverage and promotion of shallow imagery.

Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities.

I don’t know if this is happening more than in the past, or is just more apparent with the advent of social media.

It is a lot easier to portray discord and division, and to accentuate it, than it is to promote tolerance and sensibility.

Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about 40 per cent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your 40 per cent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too. And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.

There’s certainly signs of this in the US in particular, but also in the UK, which is in a political mess that keeps deteriorating.

How much can be attributed to single conspiracy, and how much is just different bunches of blundering political organisations, is difficult to judge.

But when you’ve done all this, there is a crucial next step, usually the trickiest of all. You have to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to the acceptance of acts of extreme cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group. This allows the members of that group to be dehumanised. Once that has been achieved, you can gradually up the ante, working through the stages from breaking windows to extermination.

The ostracising of large groups of people is certainly a common tactic of Trump – Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, North Koreans, Chinese, Canadians, Europeans, Germans, Britons have all been attacked by Trump to different degrees.

Some of these groups are under sustained attack, some attacks are followed by reversals and contradictions.

Is this just Trump’s erratic behaviour, or is it a carefully staged strategy? It could feasibly be both.

It is this next step that is being test-marketed now. It is being done in Italy by the far-right leader and minister for the interior Matteo Salvini. How would it go down if we turn away boatloads of refugees? Let’s do a screening of the rough-cut of registering all the Roma and see what buttons the audience will press. And it has been trialled by Trump: let’s see how my fans feel about crying babies in cages.

Possibly. But is this different politicians in different countries trying similar approaches because it seems to be successful, or is it a coordinated conspiracy?

Some of it is opportunist copy cat campaigning. It is likely that is all we have had here in New Zealand.

But there are some known common denominators. Like Cambridge Analytica, which played what some think was a significant role in the surprise Brexit result, and the shock rise of trump in the US.

There are other factors playing parts as well. It’s hard to see Hillary Clinton’s poor campaign as a deliberate aid to Trump. And it’s hard to see Theresa May’s misjudgement in calling a snap election, and her poor leadership since, as part of a grand plan. These two have helped head their countries into political chaos, but that is likely to be inadvertent assistance.

Back to the fascist conspiracy.

To see, as most commentary has done, the deliberate traumatisation of migrant children as a “mistake” by Trump is culpable naivety. It is a trial run – and the trial has been a huge success. Trump’s claim last week that immigrants “infest” the US is a test-marketing of whether his fans are ready for the next step-up in language, which is of course “vermin”. And the generation of images of toddlers being dragged from their parents is a test of whether those words can be turned into sounds and pictures. It was always an experiment – it ended (but only in part) because the results were in.

This is plausible.

But even if these a examples of deliberate pre-fascism trials, I can’t help thinking that “cock-up, not conspiracy” is never far from politics anywhere.

Again, perhaps there is some of both. Smart campaigners and manipulators will learn from mistakes as well as from deliberate trials.

This is greatly encouraging for the pre-fascist agenda. The blooding process has begun within the democratic world. The muscles that the propaganda machines need for defending the indefensible are being toned up. Millions and millions of Europeans and Americans are learning to think the unthinkable. So what if those black people drown in the sea? So what if those brown toddlers are scarred for life? They have already, in their minds, crossed the boundaries of morality.

They are, like Macbeth, “yet but young in deed”. But the tests will be refined, the results analysed, the methods perfected, the messages sharpened. And then the deeds can follow.

There are some plausible claims in all of this. There is no doubt that there has been increasingly sophisticated use of and manipulation with social media. Both media and increasingly social media play a large part in politics, in elections and in PR.

How else can you explain Trump’s shocking siding with long time arch enemy Russia, and at the expense of trashing his countries own intelligence agencies? Diminishing the credibility of the FBI and other intelligence agencies seems to be an ongoing tactic of Trump’s.

Is Trump a blundering fool, or is he a fascist tool?

Perhaps he is both, unless the buffonery is a part of the plan.

Is fascism a deliberate end goal? Or is it just where powerful people and powerful conspiracies end up – riding roughshod over democracy and decency may just happen t tend towards a state of fascism.

Source – Fintan O’Toole: Trial runs for fascism are in full flow

See another trump trial?: Trump back flips over Russian election meddling

46 Comments

  1. Griff

     /  July 18, 2018

    Trump is explained by Hanlon’s razor.
    Fox, breitbart, American thinker et al is a different beast.

    • Gezza

       /  July 18, 2018

      Hanlon’s razor is an aphorism expressed in various ways, including: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. It suggests a way of eliminating unlikely explanations (“attributions”) for human behavior and its consequences. Statements of this kind are known as philosophical razors.

    • Gezza

       /  July 18, 2018

      • Griff

         /  July 18, 2018

        Probable explanation.
        Trump is an idiot.
        Bannon, Kochtopus etc are responsible for some of his shtick.
        I dont think Trump himself is in control or has any plan beside making himself more famous hence his brand more valuable.

        • Gezza

           /  July 18, 2018

          Yes. We are in agreement there. I look at it on an (unscientific) probability basis. And the overwhelming probability, in my view, is what you just said.

  2. Corky

     /  July 18, 2018

    Hmmm, I took a t bit of stick for posting information showing America has interment camps across the country ready to go at a moments notice. In fact some are manned 24/7 even though they have no detainees.

    However, Fintan O’Toole is a Leftie from what I’ve read. So he of all people should understand what fascism entails. After all, his tribe are the master fascists of our age.

    • Gezza

       /  July 18, 2018

      You took a bit of stick for swallowing Infowars nonsense hook line & sinker.

      • Corky

         /  July 18, 2018

        No, I didn’t. I researched the subject myself. You saw the clip. Are you telling me the clip and those officials interviewed were fakes.?Infowars had nothing to do with it.

        • Gezza

           /  July 18, 2018

          I saw the clip myself. I think it’s very highly likely those officials in were either actors or that the clips were edited or misrepresented & the information or scenes used completely out of their true context. Such as stacks of “plastic coffins”.

          The reason I mention nfowars Corky is because Alex Jones has ranted on for over a decade now about secret government concentration camps or prisons, where every US government of the time – except Trump’s oddly enuf – has had them dotted all over the country by FEMA, which is a fake authoritarian organisation which has had longstanding secret plans dreamed up by the dark forces, deep state, or illuminati, to take over the entire country.

          “They’re gonna come for your guns, folks. I’m tellin ya! That’s what they do. They’re coming for your guns. They’s gonna arrest your whole family. They use chemtrails, and vaccinations, and fluoride. They’re dumbing down your kids with them. They’re dumbing down the entire population with them. They’re gonna take your whole faimily away & lock em up in these camps.”

          Every event that happens, where FEMA has to gear up into action, Jones has been telling the dumbasses who soak up every crazy, conspiracy-soaked rant he gives (he’s making a millionaire’s fortune out of them) that “This is it folks! I told ya! They’re on the move. They’ve already started taking over.They’re already taking people away! Believe me!”

          Usually accompanied by raves about how he’s gonna be prepared for them though. That he’s stocked up with guns & all the survivalist supplies marketed on his website. He’s part of the resistance. He was gonna go down shooting.

          Hurricane Katrina was it. That was the excuse. That was when they came for everyone & took every freedom loving citizen’s guns away from them, raped their women, killed their children …. All the thousands of federal and state police & military in the country were either in on it or had already been disarmed & taken away first.

          Then the hurricane that hit & flooded New York was it …

          He’s modified some of his more outrageous claims in recent years. I found him great entertainment in the early years when he was so ridiculously outrageous. He’s a bit (a BIT) saner now, not quite so extreme. And his website does (or did) have plenty of true, but conspiracy-slanted, news items on things in the US or overseas like in Europe & the UK that government agencies or individuals or bought lawmakers in Congress do that just stink, by most people’s reckoning.

          But not all the things that Congressional lawmakers do that fit his faux-libertarian gun nut schtick.

          So that’s why Infowars has something to do with it.

        • Griff

           /  July 18, 2018

          FEMA concentration camps
          https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/FEMA_concentration_camps
          FEMA concentration camps (also FEMA death camps and just FEMA camps) exist in the mind of a particularly loopy bunch of conspiracy theorists who believe that mass internment facilities have been built across the continental United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in preparation for a future declaration of martial law (or similar nefarious ends).

          The camps allegedly come complete with barbed wire fences straight out of World War II, boxcars for moving people around, and plastic coffins for burying them. (Why not just burn the corpses Nazi-style? Is FEMA concerned about its greenhouse gas output?)

          While FEMA facilities exist, they usually consist of storage and temporary-housing locations. The number of FEMA facilities is far lower than conspiracists would have you believe, and FEMA itself is a bumbling bureaucratic nightmare. If this is the New World Order, at least it’ll be quite inept at being Orwellian.

        • Corky

           /  July 18, 2018

          Here’s the clip again so people can see if an Oscar should be awarded. I must admit I was wrong to call them internment camps. They are called residential centers….with no people..Lol.

          The lady at 3.50 is a good actress.

  3. Gerrit

     /  July 18, 2018

    Is Goff’s action to prevent free speech a sign of pre-fascist agenda?

    At least one left of centre commentator thinks so.

    http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2018/07/free-speech-denialism-is-fascism-in.html

    So is this pre-fascist agenda coming from the left or right?

    And is Goff a pre-fascist tool by preventing free speech?

    • PartisanZ

       /  July 18, 2018

      I reckon every person has authoritarian tendencies, therefore every political ilk or genre has totalitarian or fascist tendencies … because they’re made up of people …

      If Goff is being authoritarian it is a strong anti-fascist reaction IMHO …

      The pre-fascist threat is definitely from the Right.

      WW2 was fought between three such ‘genres’ … so-called ‘democratic’ Capitalism, Communist totalitarianism and National Socialism or Fascism …

      Theory about Capitalism ‘appropriating’ the mechanisms of the other two will follow …

      • PartisanZ

         /  July 18, 2018

        authoritarian tendencies … along with all our other tendencies …

        • Gezza

           /  July 18, 2018

          I don’t think I have authoritarian tendencies. If we all have authoritarian tendencies, how & when do you think yours manifests itself?

          • PartisanZ

             /  July 18, 2018

            Authoritarian … autocratic … rigid … doctrinaire … disciplinarian … dogmatic … unyielding …

            You’re right Gezza, my apologies … None of these words describe you personally in any way whatsoever, which is, of course, what I was attempting to do …

            • Gezza

               /  July 18, 2018

              I reckon every person has authoritarian tendencies

              No, I didn’t think you were describing me. You said that, & I didn’t think that was true of me – or of by far the majority of people I know, in fact. Hence my very simple question.

              If you are happy & honest enuf to admit that you have this tendency yourself, and that it manifests itself in attitudes like being “Authoritarian … autocratic … rigid … doctrinaire … disciplinarian … dogmatic … unyielding”, then I would agree that I certainly observe some of those characteristics in your posts, but not all of them.

      • Gezza

         /  July 18, 2018

        Let me put it this way, Parti

  4. David

     /  July 18, 2018

    Pre Fascism is a leftist tool, they no platform speakers, if you deviate from their thinking you are shamed as a racist, homophobe, islamophobe etc etc just for expressing an opinion.
    Want a job in the media, TV or film industry well you had better hate the President or you are getting no work. Want to work on campus as a lecturer same rules applies and even if you are have a read of what happened to Brett Weinstein at Evergreen.
    Want Brexit or voted Trump you better keep your head down now who is the fascist.

    • AlienWeka

       /  July 18, 2018

      Fascism is just the northern extreme of the political compass, the alternative extreme of full blown communism. It belongs neither to the left or right. We have lived smack bang in the middle of the two for a few generations now, and it seems that proponents of both extremes are pushing their agendas. Its probable that the rise in pre fascism is due in large part to the strong socialist bent the world has been living under for the past few years. The only question that remains is how hard are the fascist ideologues going to push?

      • Griff

         /  July 18, 2018

      • PartisanZ

         /  July 18, 2018

        @AlienWeka – ” … the rise in pre-fascism is due in large part to the strong socialist bent the world has been living under for the past few years.”

        It’s such a tempting ‘systems justification’ diversion-theory … seems easy to just swallow whole … but suddenly, nex minit, arghh, it sticks in the craw …

        Coz, like, yeah, I can see the United States going full-blown socialist any day now under Trump …

        Nazi fascism and Soviet totalitarian communism had much more in common than they were ever different … Ruled by a military-political elite with a central, command, capital-dependent industrialized (or industrializing) economy … essentially a bureaucratically run form of capitalism, with or without private companies …

        These aren’t socialism – for the good of the common people – any more than today’s U.S. pre-fascism or fledgling fascism (or trial fascism) is …

        The Trump model is Military-Industrial Corporate Capitalist Elitist Fascism.

  5. Alloytoo

     /  July 18, 2018

    When are the left going to realize that Hillary lost the election to Trump because he was the other name on the ballet paper.

  6. Gerrit

     /  July 18, 2018

    This posting got me thinking (yep it happens sometimes) about the difference between fascism and communism.

    Scrolled through this discussion (especially the comments) for some background.

    https://www.quora.com/Whats-the-difference-between-communism-and-fascism

    Perhaps Goff is not pre-fascist but pre-communism?

    Either way we are not best served by a system as deprived as fascism or communism.

    It would seem the social democrat system is under fire from both the left and the right.

    The first victim is free speech as both fascists and communists have to quell free thought and as such is a common objective towards ultimate victory.

    • PartisanZ

       /  July 18, 2018

      Another alternative, IMHO, is that anywhere at all on the Left – Right spectrum is more-or-less entirely the lackey of corporate capitalist elites and that “free speech” simply doesn’t matter any more to those elites or their governments-on-behalf – who do their masters bidding not the voters – whatever hue of corporate capitalism those governments may display …?

      The social democratic system isn’t “under fire” at all, its simply one stop on the same railroad line … or in other words … long gone …

  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  July 18, 2018

    How else can you explain Trump’s shocking siding with long time arch enemy Russia, and at the expense of trashing his countries own intelligence agencies?

    Quite straightforwardly I would have thought. Trump sees himself at war with the Democrat supporting intel agencies that are trying to take him out. He also sees no point in attacking Putin personally while trying to make progress on the world’s trigger issues. How hard is that to understand?

    • Gezza

       /  July 18, 2018

      It’s very easy to understand. It’s a common excuse constantly used by Trumpophiles to explain all of his endless brain farts & chaotic, egotistical style of handling issues.

      I’m not completely convinced they’re wrong – but I’m still far from convinced they’re right.

      It’s the same approach he’s taken to his businesses, & although he often manages to come of them – at the expense of screwing all the employees, clients, & others who got involved in them – many have been failures. And those blindly trusting souls who got sucked in & believed his crazy, ego-driven bs hype, who took the hit, disasters.

      • Gezza

         /  July 18, 2018

        *edit
        It’s the same approach he’s taken to his businesses, & although he often manages to come of them personally unscathed & even richer – at the expense of screwing all the employees, clients, & others who got involved in them – many have been failures. And, for those blindly trusting souls who got sucked in & believed his crazy, ego-driven bs hype, & who took the hit, disasters.

        • Gezza

           /  July 18, 2018

          Bugger.
          * come out of them …

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  July 18, 2018

            And you blame Trump for mis-speaking?

            • Gezza

               /  July 18, 2018

              No. That was poor proof-reading on my part. I’m a shocker at it on the FiP because of its onscreen keyboard & other slow-action characteristics.

              I don’t blame Trump for ‘mis-speaking. It’s what he does. He’s not particularly ariculate & has a limited vocabulary.

              I blame him for lying when he lies though. And for fake news when he pushes it out there. And for being a whiny crybaby & a bully at the same time when he does it. Is all, as the yanks say.

            • Gezza

               /  July 18, 2018

              *articulate (& here’s the missing ‘ from the end of mis-speaking).
              Sorry, I’m eating bacon & a poached egg with grated cheese on toast at the same time as I’m typing.

  8. Zedd

     /  July 18, 2018

    I once heard that, the NAZI party did not end in 1945.. it just moved to America. The often stated news was that many went to Sth America, but the CIA was setup by ex-SS/Gestapo (Col. von Galen ?) & many of the current ‘ruling class’ have german names too; Drumpf, Bush, Rumsfeld.. just waiting for the right time to rise again. It is interesting that Mr T is now demonising their traditional Allies, spec: Europe & supporting the ‘old enemy’; Russia

    Old saying about retaining POWER; Create a Crisis & then offer ‘the only solution’.. WAR ?

    .. but you cant fool ALL the people all the time.. I think he has forgotten this ?? :/

    • Zedd

       /  July 18, 2018

      oops ‘godwin alert’ ? :/

    • Grimm

       /  July 18, 2018

      “I once heard that”

      That’s a good enough reason to get down to Countdown and stock up on tinfoil.

    • Gezza

       /  July 18, 2018

      No. It wasn’t set up by Gehlen. But he was instrumental in the US intelligence services & was given a free ride because he brought with him all the Nazi Secret Service information & networks for espionage they had on the Russians. He was a German Russian intelligence specialist.

      • David

         /  July 18, 2018

        ” because he brought with him all the Nazi Secret Service information & networks for espionage they had on the Russians.”

        Odd decision given the Nazi’s intelligence work outside Germany was a complete and utter failure.

        • Gezza

           /  July 18, 2018

          Not really. His contacts & knowledge & files were relevant to the Soviet intelligence apparatus, specifically, in East Germany.

          • Gezza

             /  July 18, 2018

            It’s interesting for me that Zedd should bring him up in this discussion because most people know nothing about him, but I bought & read a book about him when I was 15.

            • Gezza

               /  July 18, 2018

              I also read a big 1.5″- thick book of my tuakana’s on the Soviet Intellgence Services around the same time. It had a bright red cover & gold lettering. I think it’s title was simply: The KGB

              I thought it would be about their activities in say the UK & USA but it was extensive on its history & activities – and a real surprise to learn that among other countries they’d had active agents in NZ who’d been caught & expelled.

            • Zedd

               /  July 18, 2018

              I saw a doco. on TV a while ago.. about ‘Nazis in USA’ inc. rockets/missiles (V1 & V2.. von Braun) & atomic weapons research etc.

              my memory may be a little ‘vague’ on some detail ?

            • Gezza

               /  July 18, 2018

              Oh absolutely the space programme, Zedd.

              Von Braun got a free ride after the war when he was shipped off to America with all his files, blueprints & I think some engineers. Thousands of deported forced workers from conquered countries & Jewish concentration camp slaves worked in the V2 component factories in appalling conditions.

              Without Werner Von Braun the US space program would have taken ages to catch up with the Russians. His work on the V2 was so useful & relevant to rocketry generally that he was central to the Apollo moon landing program.

              Not the US nuclear weapons though. German Jewish, & possibly other German, nuclear scientists who fled the Nazis WERE involved though.

  9. Patzcuaro

     /  July 18, 2018

    This came out today.

    http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/

    A large segment of the US voters have reservations about the fairness of elections in the US. The reservation is stronger amongst Independents and Democrats than Republicans.

    The politization of the electoral process and judiciary in the US doesn’t lead one to have confidence that this is going to change.

  1. Trump back flips over Russian election meddling | Your NZ
  2. “What we are living with is pre-fascism” — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition