A friend of mine on Facebook, definitely not in my camp but a very intelligent person nonetheless (!), asked his friends for assistance:
Question: what are the advantages of characterizing the Trump administration as fascist?
I’m not asking here if this description is true. I’m wondering about its practical uses and benefits.
Many of the answers ignored my friend’s stricture about whether or not the description were true. I tried not to. But I still did not quite follow his guidelines either. For my answer characterized the utility of the word as extremely limited.
My response was as follows:
Using the term, especially when shouting down people who are engaged in peaceable assembly and normal free speech activities, makes you look insane. Against Trump it just seems gratuitous. We have reason to fear tyranny from him (as with his predecessors, if more so), but not all tyrants are fascists.
More importantly, it is worth remembering that, by calling Trump a fascist, you are insinuating that his supporters are fascists (fascism was a popular movement, if not quite populist). And since most of his followers are simply not fascist, their reaction is to dismiss you as an unhinged zealot.
Is that what you want? It certainly exacerbates the gulf between camps. When I argue against Trump with his supporters, I do not go there. But then, I am trying to convince them of something, not make myself feel good.
I’ve used the f-word, too. It makes me feel so righteous!
The full-war verbal arsenal we deploy when we fire the f-word yields quite a thrill. I know. And there are fascists in this world, and they deserve to be called by the name. So, sometimes use the word.
But when we have little evidence of fascism, and use it anyway, it does not really accomplish much but score brownie points with our tribe, while utterly alienating most people not in our tribe.
Those who use the word often, and especially indiscriminately, are not merely engaged in what we now call “virtue signaling.” They are engaged in open cultural warfare with those whom they disagree.
Unless your interlocutor whom you have dubbed “fascist” self-designates as such, you have used a word that he (or she) will likely regard as a fighting word, and you should expect full retaliation, of whatever kind that may take.
And at that point, dialogue enters a quite different realm. People are no longer arguing matters of fact and logic and perspective; no one “follows the argument wherever it leads” in such situations. Political philosophy becomes a distant dream of a forgotten time.
Now, in many situations, were I called a fascist, I would probably laugh in the name-caller’s face. The idea is ridiculous. And my opponent — enemy, really — can only be one of two things: a ridiculous boob, an idiot, a moron; or a liar, a fiend, a very knave.
So, of course, after being called a fascist, one really should be looking for and securing a weapon. For, though when you (dear reader) use the term you are mostly harmless, your opponent may be quite dangerous, and you have a right to defend yourself. Look around for pens, chairs, vases — anything to strike back at the person. Or hold up as shield.
People who throw around mad charges in high moral dudgeon should not be merely brushed off. They present a high probability of grave danger, and should be regarded as potential threats. The fact that the “anti-fascists” of antifa and BAMN are now engaging in open violence on the streets indicates how dangerous such people can be. Prepare yourself for total warfare at the personal level.
And accept the likelihood that a mass, citizen-participating civil war is in the offing, not beyond the horizon, like it used to seem, just a few years ago.
However, if you are a fascist, why should you mind being called one? Well, most people who lob the term around are in warfare mode, so even if the charge sticks, caveats, still.
But why would you be a fascist? Fascism is collectivist corporatism, and corporatism is what we have now. Fascism is just more of what we have now. Why would you want more?
Less, please. Less corporatism; less statism; fewer regulations; an end to group-based law and culture; more competition in politics; and calm down on the war lust, please.
And one way to do the latter might be to stop throwing the f-word about so easily.