The New Fascism

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A man stands in front of the entrance sign to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, U.S., on Wednesday.
A man stands in front of the entrance sign to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, U.S., on Wednesday.Credit: CARLOS BARRIA/ REUTERS

What is the new fascism? Like every social phenomenon, fascism spreads and takes a certain shape. What is customarily ascribed to parts of the extreme right becomes a characteristic of those liberal haters of the old fascism who cling with a blind awe to the notion of the nation-state, and in its name seek to “rein in” and essentially eviscerate the great existential revolution in which we are living. The writer and philosopher Umberto Eco outlined the common features of fascism. They can serve as a useful prism for observing the current reality:

The cult of tradition: the nation-state as the sole vehicle for coping with the world’s challenges. The state as the source of authority and morality, as God. The cult of tradition is the cult of the state.

The rejection of modernism: dismissal of the great import of the technological revolution for survival and consciousness today. To the new fascists, technological progress, like the attitude toward modernism in the previous century, becomes the root of society’s ills.

The cult of action for action’s sake: the lust for aggressive, “magical” regulation, right now, without thinking about the social and existential implications, without understanding the conceptual meaning of the revolution and without seeing the slippery slope that leads to totalitarianism.

Disagreement is treason: Just try to write something against the lust for regulation and the emasculation of the technological revolution and see the reactions.

Fear of difference: There is almost complete correlation between the longings for regulation and for “reining in” the technology revolution, and those who are repelled by the – mostly genuine and honest – discourse about identities and differences that it brings up and brings into sharper focus (while they are certain that they are being conjured out of thin air). They alone are “the people.”

Appeal to social frustration: The new fascism addresses the most frustrated social class today – those whose power and status, which feed on the old order, is crumbling. That says the blame lies with technology. And that the solution is regulation. Bear in mind, above all, this is a struggle for power.

The obsession with a plot: The demonization of the tech giants today is identical to the conspiratorial demonization of the Communists in the early 20th century – they’re corrupting the youth, undermining society’s foundations, planning to take over the world (just a partial list).

The enemy is both strong and weak: On the one hand, the tech giants are menacing the whole world; on the other hand, they could easily be subjected to regulation and all would be solved.

The eternal struggle: “Facebook is just the appetizer,” as was written here (October 15), and this is the start of an endless fight against the revolution that is changing and disrupting the ways of the world. Next in line: cryptocurrency, the creator economy, banking, insurance, direct capital market trading, academia, and on and on.

Contempt for the weak: The way that the technology revolution empowers the weak in nearly every field, and the voice it gives to social revolutions, are of no real interest to the new fascists when they issue calls to “dismantle Facebook” and “rein in” the entire revolution. For they know what is best for “the people.”

Selective populism: treating the corrupt political system as the ultimate representative of the public interest. As if public trust in the system is not already at rock-bottom, and as if “the state” is not in a deep conflict of interest vis-à-vis the revolution that is undermining its foundations (by empowering the public).

NewSpeak: The pathos-filled use of terms like democracy, privacy, capitalism, etc. without asking what their meaning and fulfillment is today – in the mirror of the tech revolution and the dramatically changing world – prevents complex, critical and revolutionary thinking.

I deliberately did not discuss Eco’s approach to heroism and violence. For now it is best to pay attention to the roots of the seething phenomenon. With all of its problems, Facebook is, at most, a trigger. The old order fighting for its life is a basic feature during times of “how” and is no different from the church or the nobility’s struggle in the face of their disintegration. It is critical to recognize this. This is the root of the struggle for our freedom, which has been written about here again and again, and from which nearly every major social question today derives. See: the climate crisis.

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