Let’s start with my example from yesterday – the dedicated movement Trumpist. Let’s call him TD. He watches FOX, reads Breitbart, listens to talk radio no his commute, enthusiastically follows The Donald’s Twitter feed.
|How dare you, TJ? How very dare you?! Do not use the Satan image|
from a much under-appreciated but a personal favourite Doctor Who
story of mine from the Russell T Davies era. This is not for you!
Given all this, TD is actually a very virtuous person. He believes that a culture of corruption and kleptocracy has grown around the Democratic Party, and that Donald Trump’s Republicans are the crew to drain the swamp.
The problem is, these are conspiracy theories, propaganda, and extremist lies. They have just enough basis in reality to be believable, or at least plausible, even though it’s become nearly impossible to tell whether the suspicion of corruption or actual corruption came first to justify the investigation.
TD lives in a media ecology in which these ideas about the moneyed progressive left are explored and repeated regularly as if they were true. The ethical centre of his heart isn’t the problem – it’s the input he uses to guide it.
The question becomes how you orient a person to recognize the greater corruption – that Trump’s family and administration is the real kleptocracy. TD’s entire thinking is informed by messaging that constructs a pretty comprehensive understanding of the world. It’s just that they’re based on alternative facts – alternative facts with enough rootedness in real history to be plausible.
|I think I've found my new favourite image of Vladimir|
Putin. Art by Pete Kirill
One article I found in my research helped me situate where such people sit as ideological objects. Timothy Snyder is a historian/philosopher of the culture and politics of eastern Europe and Russia. He wrote about Ivan Ilyin, one of the most innovative and complete fascist political philosophers.
Ilyin was a new name to me, and one I’d like to explore more of. Especially since several of his principles of governance have become explicit policies and approaches of Vladimir Putin’s government.
What stood out to me was Ilyin’s idea of how a fascist leader treats history. I think I’m safe saying that folks with progressive politics have a specific understanding of history. Orienting politics toward justice means identifying, understanding, and healing after old crimes.
So the past is a field for investigation, exploring all the gritty detail of history as you can. You must understand precisely what was done and how if any of us can have a profound enough cultural conversation to overcome our mutual hatreds, break the social/racial castes that make global human civilization so hateful.
But if you don’t want to do any of that awesome shit, then history becomes something else. You don’t have to investigate the real unfolding of history – if anything, you want to obscure, bury, and deny it. Repackage history as a lost golden age that only our fearless leader’s will and power can restore.
An image to illuminate your ideal. A utopia.
• • •
Ilyin’s work seems like the most multidimensional exploration of fascism as a political philosophy – in Snyder’s telling, makes me want to get hold of Snyder’s new book to ground myself in Ilyin’s thought before seeing if I want to engage it in any detail for Utopias.
Maybe a more sustained engagement with Russian fascism is for another project. I’m doing enough with Utopias already. I don’t want to add more and more to it.