Fascism is all too often relegated to the history books.
The word conjures up a period in which civilized societies treated democracy with contempt, engaged in acts of systemic violence, practised extermination and elimination, supported an "apocalyptic populism," suppressed dissent, promoted a hyper-nationalism, displayed contempt for women, embraced militarism as an absolute ideal and insisted on obedience to a self-proclaimed prophet.
But the seeds that produced such fascist horrors have once again sprung to life, returning in new social and political forms.
Today, a culture of fear dominates American society, one marked by massive inequities in wealth and power that not only uphold structures of domination, but also view differences as threats, compassion as weakness and shared responsibilities --if not the common good itself -- as pathology.
Fascist thought is on the rise all over the world, but its most blatant and dangerous manifestation has emerged in the Trump administration.
Fear and the ethos of mass consumerism --coupled with widespread insecurity and ignorance --now drive people into a malignant notion of security, self-inflicted cynicism and into the arms of demagogues like Trump. For too many Americans, critical thinking and hope have given way to emotional bonding and the revival of the discourse of ultra-nationalism and bigotry.
Trump is not Hitler in that he has not created concentration camps, shut down the critical media or rounded up dissidents; moreover, the United States at the current historical moment is not the Weimar Republic.
But in the Trump era, remnants of fascism exist in different shapes and forms and include a celebration of the cult of the leader, systemic racism, the embrace of a toxic macho-populism and state support for ultra-nationalism, racism and the threat of violence against critics.
All of these elements are evident in Trump's rhetoric and policy initiatives.
Trump's corporate brand of neoliberal fascism is highly visible in right-wing policies that favour deregulation, corporate power and the interests of the ultra-rich.
Instead of draining the corporate swamp, Trump has embraced the merging of corporate and political power, and in doing so has turned the state into a battering ram designed to serve the most powerful and wealthiest members of society.
Trump's mode of fascism is a unique product of our times, our commercial culture, and a corporate controlled media, all of which saps the foundations of a viable democracy.
American culture is advertising-saturated and celebrity-based, and has permitted a rich self-promoter to abandon any pretense of civility, accountability or integrity in order to hype, scam and market his way to power.
Call it Fascism, American-Style. It's returned in the shadow of neoliberalism, with its celebration of the market as the template for governing all of society and its concentration of economic and political power in relatively few hands.
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