In trying to understand the political scene and the recurring references to fascism, I’ve been struggling to find mental markers for the formal definitions of what seem to be composite stances.
(Wikipedia) “Fascists believe that liberal democracy is obsolete, and they regard the complete mobilization of society under a totalitarian one-party state as necessary to prepare a nation for armed conflict and to respond effectively to economic difficulties. Such a state is led by a strong leader—such as a dictator and a martial government composed of the members of the governing fascist party—to forge national unity and maintain a stable and orderly society. Fascism rejects assertions that violence is automatically negative in nature, and views political violence, war, and imperialism as means that can achieve national rejuvenation. Fascists advocate a mixed economy, with the principal goal of achieving autarky through protectionist and interventionist economic policies.”
Mussolini was the representative dictator of Fascism in WWII. In the end, he and his mistress were killed and hung by their heels over the public streets. Some people say that Fascism was a reaction to the chaos and humiliation of WWI, which led to an obsession with order and control. The trains MUST run on time. Italy has always been a peninsula of vengeance and competition. But it’s not so easy to pin down fascism.
Dimitrov, a communist opposed to fascism, said it was ” an open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, the most chauvinistic, the most imperialistic elements of the financial capital... Fascism is neither the government beyond classes nor the government of the petty bourgeois or the lumpen-proletariat over the financial capital. Fascism is the government of the financial capital itself. It is an organized massacre of the working class and the revolutionary slice of peasantry and intelligentsia. Fascism in its foreign policy is the most brutal kind of chauvinism, which cultivates zoological hatred against other peoples.”
This fits with the growing understanding that PROFIT is the third political force in the US, cutting across our two party idea of liberal/conservative. (I like that phrase “zoological hatred.”) And that fits with the notion that nations no longer are big or strong enough to govern in a world that is run by international corporations so powerful they cannot be located for taxation or regulation, with governing individuals who are a cabal of greed, also so powerful that they are invisible. Bannon believes that he (and his father) suffers from this cabal even as he tries to embody it. It fits with the idea that 1% of the world’s capitalists control everything, an idea acted out in so much of our media, both journalistic interpretation and fictional thrillers. There are graphs and statistics.
Nazism is nationalistic, “usually characterized as a form of fascism that incorporates scientific racism and antisemitism.” It was specifically German and responded to the idea that some people (us — mostly German in origin) are better than anyone else genetically and scientifically. Americans are vulnerable to this idea because of their love of technology and craving for superiority. “The majority of scholars identify Nazism in practice as a form of far-right politics. Far-right themes in Nazism include the argument that superior people have a right to dominate over other people and purge society of supposed inferior elements.” It’s at the heart of Empire and because most people associate it so thoroughly with WWII, it is heavily military with uniforms, helmets, flags, walls. Breakaway militias.
Hollywood people, who include many Jewish people, are particularly and naturally prone to make their villains seem like Nazis. Take “Star Wars,” in which one super-villain, Darth Vader, is a kind of Uber-Nazi, representing Evil, not in the old Christian trope of a red imp with tail and horns, but rather as a half-machine with the voice, ironically, of an African, a giant black man. This is quite Freudian, all about fathers and sons. Both Trump and Bannon seem controlled by their veneration for their fathers, akin to George W. going to war with the wrong country because “they tried to kill my dad.”
In the later sequels, possibly more sophisticated and less psychoanalytical, the evil and corrupting figure is the Emperor Palpatine, a hooded figure, an Iago, with a near-East sort of vibe. He wants power, control — much more of a fascist than nazi figure, desiring to be invisible, to let others take the risks and to rule by scheming. Bannon, who in the past has enjoyed a kind of hooded, dark presence, is closer to this idea of villainy, but Putin fits even better. Which leaves my silly central casting idea looking for a role for Trump. I nominate Jabba the Hutt, an inert blob who dominates by grimacing and issuing orders. Sort of an Oriental potentate.
So could Elizabeth Warren be a kind of Princess Leia? Hmmm. Doesn’t have the right hair. No one fits Luke Skywalker, much less Han Solo. Or maybe a lot of people do, but we don’t know them.
Competing with the idea of the military representing power is that of the Holy Roman Church, more than any other version of Christianity (and there are MANY versions!) There is a little overlap in all these categories. Bannon has a role in the super-conservative, reactionary, power-valuing institutional sub-category represented by the American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is fond of wearing a scarlet cape that is ten feet long, requiring a tender like a bridal attendant.
Bannon himself usually looks as though he’s been on a tough pilgrimage or retreat. He seems to style himself like the media’s beloved but rumpled detectives and journalists, but he’s no Wallander nor Columbo.
To deal with ideas about craving for supernatural superiority and alliance with a Father/God who is the power-monger of the Old Testament instead of Jesus the inspiration of the New Testament (the deep support of Pope Francis), we need to go to a different sci-fi inspiration: “Star Trek,” which is far more humanistic at the same time that it recognizes forces and concepts far more cosmic and multi-dimensional space/time. It’s not about money and corporations. At the same time that it acknowledged the power of logic and science with the character of Spock, there was always a dimension of compassion in Kirk and an appreciation of human variety in the crew. Even sympathy with strange aliens. Villains like Khan were usually fascistic more than Nazi, but the Borg could be any of the half-machine corporation instruments, trans-national.
This kind of play with roles is popular in our culture, partly because we share them so widely through television or movies. But also because it helps to manage in all the confusion. (Garrison Keillor claims his new religion is “Confusionism.” It helps to put faces on ideas and it helps to laugh.
A sudden turn to the Arab trope? Risky.