Friday, October 26, 2018

How Mussolini Sealed His Regime

August 12, 1924. An Italian railway worker finds a clue to a prominent socialist minister of parliament’s murder. Giacomo Matteotti, the stirring voice of opposition to Mussolini’s Fascism, is exhumed from a hastily prepared shallow grave. In late summer, the gains the National Fascist Party had made over two years seemed ready to unravel.

As the party gained power, it sought also to separate itself officially from the black-shirted squadristi who roamed in trucks assaulting and murdering various designated undesirables. In an age of ascending eugenics, the social purpose of the blackshirts was variously regarded if not their methods. Fascist power was materially realized through the appointment of Mussolini to the Prime Ministership in 1922 and in April of 1924 through control of the legislature.

For four months from August 1924 to January 1925, Mussolini was in the hot seat. On the one hand, the blackshirts wanted an orgy of violence to cleanse Italy of their designated undesirables. On the other, the opposition, now a minority within the state apparatus because of the Acerbo law, wanted an end to the lawlessness of the blackshirts.

Mussolini sought to appease both sides. On January 3rd 1925, Mussolini delivered a speech to parliament taking responsibility for the blackshirt violence. In promising to resolve it, Mussolini embarked upon a campaign of restricting basic democratic freedoms, and by 1929, liquidating electoral representation altogether.

Government was replaced with the party apparatus which was unified under the capricious vision of Il Duce. Mussolini’s successful maneuvering allowed him to unify a party whose fractures became apparent in the Matteotti crisis. It also allowed him to complete his fascist revolution through reform and repeal of existing law. Elections were replaced with referenda on the party’s leader who won them handsomely with well over 90% of the vote.

In the end, the investigation into the murder of Matteotti and other actions of the blackshirts didn’t matter. Mussolini became the law in order to absolve himself of his transgression of it. When Trump finally accepts responsibility for the escalating violence committed in his name, let's not give him the same opportunity.

Monday, October 22, 2018

HHS Proposes New Policy on Sex Discrimination

The New York Times got its hands on a memo suggesting the Department of Health and Human Services was considering a definition of sex for Title IX purposes to be determined by genetics. Per the Times:

“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”
This is problematic for a number of reasons: What of people who do not conform genetically to this binary conception of sex? What of people who have already undergone sexual reassignment surgery? Do people really face discrimination on the basis of what's on their original birth certificate?

If and when this new policy is put into effect, it will be at least the 3rd department to do so, following the Department of Defense and the Department of Education.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Griffin and Paxton: The Best We Can Do?

The 2016 US presidential election brought into sharp relief the state of fascist studies in the early 21st century. Coming to the fore were British scholars Roger Griffin and Robert O. Paxton. The former's 1991 The Nature of Fascism sets forth a definition of fascism based on ideology. The latter's 2004 The Anatomy of Fascism seeks to jettison ideology, which fascists lie about anyway, and opts for an approach highlighting the actions of fascist movements. Thus, Griffin was able to diagnose Trump as a fascist while Paxton was not. I find both of these definitions of fascism wanting for their own reasons, and I see emerging a new direction built upon their work.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Best Friends for Fascism

Journalist Elizabeth King published a piece in Truthout which very much resembles a piece I wrote for Jewish Currents last year. In it, she makes the case, as I did, that befriending fascists just allows them to have friends in spite of their fascism. Unlike my article, she points to some failed attempts at befriending nazis:

Writer Quinn Norton was briefly hired then let go from a position with The New York Times this year after tweets came to light in which she spoke favorably of a now-notorious American neo-Nazi called “weev” (whose real name is Andrew Auernheimer). Norton had referred to Auernheimer as her “friend.” Auernheimer, who co-runs the Daily Stormer, a website that is massively popular with neo-Nazis, appears on white nationalist podcasts and incessantly calls for genocide against non-white people.

Despite all this, Norton found it appropriate to maintain a friendship with Auernheimer. “I have been friends with various neo-nazis in my time, yes” Norton tweeted when asked about her relationship with Auernheimer in 2014. “I have never agreed with them, and I’ve been clear on that.”

This latter statement in particular exemplifies a sort of “holier-than-thou” position that fascist-adjacent people sometimes deploy in order to skirt accountability for their relationships. In attempting to show that she, a good person, can be friends with a Nazi and still be good herself, Norton is also attempting to show that she is above the peskiness of partisan biases: the ultimate tolerant liberal.

However, other tweets where Norton used the n-word also recirculated amid the public outcry that accompanied her hiring at the Times, as did a 2013 Medium post where she called Nazi leader John Rabe her “personal patron saint of moral complexity.” Rabe was a leading figure in Nazi Germany, and also helped thousands of Chinese people avoid being killed during the Holocaust. That is, there are at least two Nazis about which Quinn has kind things to say. Still, Norton also claimed on Twitter in February amid all this backlash that on the rare occasions she still speaks to Auernheimer, she brings up “the racism” and attempts to address it with him.

Even if Auernheimer were open to leaving the Nazi movement, and even if Norton were herself a staunch anti-racist, it’s not only a matter of disagreeing “with the racism” when it comes to helping fascists change their ways. Indeed, if Norton had hoped to somehow neutralize Auernheimer’s hate or make the world safer via a friendship with Auernheimer, she failed spectacularly. Auernheimer is still a prominent player in the fascist scene and shows no sign of giving up on the movement any time soon.

This is in no small part because it’s actually quite difficult to deradicalize a neo-Nazi, and the process has to start with a genuine desire or need to change on the part of the fascist.
Feels vindicating.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

On Supermen: Fascism and Vigilantism

Been thinking a bit about this snippet of an article I wrote for Public Seminar last summer:

What we see then in the use of “violence” is really a distinction between who gets to lay a claim to legitimate public coercion. The police are expected to use extraordinary measures to prevent any social disruption — from physical altercations to feeding the homeless in a public park. Doing so as a lay citizen, even through the consent of a larger community body, is seen as an ex ante violation of a higher natural law (even if not a violation of the actual law) of the distribution of legitimate physical coercion.

Transgression of this principle provides the basis for most superhero franchises. These characters, by virtue of centering the rationale for their righteous vigilantism, occupy a liminal space between guardian of the peace and social menace. Such a moral system is only sustainable through the artifice of the story’s narrator who ultimately wants readers to see the hero as good and thus constructs conflict resolution to support that. In reality, this moral system is where we locate fascist ideologies.

Fascist ideologies are like superheroism in that they take self-righteousness to be equivalent to general righteousness so long as vigilantism proves successful. More successful is the vigilante whose success accords him a loyal following. Unlike most superhero stories, real-life humans are prone to error without a sufficient social basis to check their hypotheses. This is evident in the proliferation of peer-review in academic literature; executive boards in corporate and non-profit enterprises; and of course the deliberative form of government that has become increasingly the norm since the eighteenth century.
Perhaps there is a little fascist in all of us. That voice that would make everything as it should be if not for societal strictures. That sense of moral indignation that one is prepared to do what society needs but does not want.

This is the locus of fascism. The executive sweeping away the degeneracy without sentiment. Disconnected from society as a true elite he grants no special favors. He perceives the social moral matrix and applies it ruthlessly, transgressing against that same moral matrix to do so.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Nazi in Hiding Disavows Nazis in Public

After a brief honeymoon of solidarity between The Daily Stormer's Andrew Anglin and Richard Spencer's wing of the alt-right, it seems that Anglin is once again a negative nancy. Today Anglin published a blog post entitled "Official Daily Stormer Position: Don't Go to 'Unite the Right 2' - We Disavow" which self-explanatory as the title is, the reasoning is revealing.

Anglin give three major reasons: the doxxing is dangerous, the numbers are embarrassing, and the violence is off-putting. Rather than attempting to gather in public, Anglin advocates a retreat to the internet and underground organizing.