23 votes

Our Increasingly Fascist Public Discourse

10 comments

  1. [2]
    AlastrionaCatskill Link
    That article mentions many fears and examples of why language is a key point in fascism. May I also point out that "Polarization" is the sixth of the ten stages of genocide listed by the Genocide...

    That article mentions many fears and examples of why language is a key point in fascism. May I also point out that "Polarization" is the sixth of the ten stages of genocide listed by the Genocide Watch.

    It's extremely concerning, as a student of history, to see the footsteps that several countries are following. Most places will call me a lunatic for pointing out how the MAGA hats of today are a similar nationalistic tone that the old 'German Firm' stickers were.

    This passage comes from the book "They Thought They Were Free", written by Milton Mayer in 1955.

    ...Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don't want to act, or even talk, alone; you don't want to 'go out of your way to make trouble.' Why not?-Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty. Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, 'everyone' is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there would be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, 'It's not so bad' or 'You're seeing things' or 'You're an alarmist.'

    And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can't prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don't know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have....

    But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That's the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked-if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in '43 had come immediately after the 'German Firm' stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in '33. But of course this isn't the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

    And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying 'Jewish swine,' collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in-your nation, your people-is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way."

    EDIT: I suppose I should append that people call me an alarmist because President Trump isn't murdering the Jews now, and that he has Jewish friends. That's not the point. As the passage says, Hitler would have been instantly killed if he sent the Jews to the camps the second he became Fuhrer. It's a process, and it's alarming.

    16 votes
    1. Wackles Link Parent
      That excerpt from the book is so eerie. It's so relatable to the political situations that are arising today in the United States and in some parts of Europe. As a European myself, it's something...

      That excerpt from the book is so eerie. It's so relatable to the political situations that are arising today in the United States and in some parts of Europe. As a European myself, it's something that I've begun to see in eastern European countries that have far-right politicians in power (Poland and Hungary) and also amongst the supporters of the far-right in the western part of the continent. The discourse, the policies, the language, it all gets more and more aggressive and radical, but it's gradual. It doesn't come all at once, but it builds itself slowly, whether it be against Jews, Muslims, refugees, Africans, etc. it's all the same.

      In Poland, it's frightening since the ruling party (PiS) uses the media to distort the truth and spread as much vitriol as possible against the left to their followers, something that contributed to the murder of Pawel Adamowicz, the mayor of Gdanks who was very progressive and loved by the people of the city. Just a year before his murder, a far-right group issued a political death certificate against Adamowicz, citing 'liberalism, multiculturalism and idiocy' as the cause of death.

      9 votes
  2. patience_limited Link
    I'll use this space to plug Project Syndicate as a news source. It's global, represents a range of viewpoints, and is entirely worth the subscription. I haven't linked from it much so as to...

    I'll use this space to plug Project Syndicate as a news source.

    It's global, represents a range of viewpoints, and is entirely worth the subscription. I haven't linked from it much so as to respect a paywall that's actually hiding necessary reporting and analysis.

    5 votes
  3. [7]
    onyxleopard (edited ) Link
    I guess I don’t buy the premise that fascists are winning some sort of linguistic battle. I don’t think there’s any logic to the metaphor of a 'battle'. All political groups use language to...

    I guess I don’t buy the premise that fascists are winning some sort of linguistic battle. I don’t think there’s any logic to the metaphor of a 'battle'. All political groups use language to promote their ideas, and all political groups will attempt to ascribe negative connotations to their opponents. In fact, the invocation of a 'battle' or 'war' in terms of political discourse is problematic in itself. It implies that the goal of political ambition is submission or even annihilation of your opponents. That, itself, I think is ideologically fascist, and I reject it.

    If you fall prey to using neologisms such as "alt-right" in the way that the group who invented it desires, you are granting that group a power over discourse that they don’t really possess unless you grant it to them. In U.S. politics, this happens often. E.g., with the Affordable Care Act, Republicans rebranded it as Obamacare. However, inventing new names for things in clever ways is not really "linguistic legerdemain" unless you don’t have any critical thinking skills. If you do subscribe to the metaphor of a linguistic 'battle' or 'war', then the simple way to win that battle/war is to refuse entry of the opposition's neologisms into your lexicon. Simply refer to the ACA as the "ACA". Call the "alt-right" by its original name: "white nationalists". I would characterize all this as marketing gimmicks or branding, and I really don’t think it’s as serious as 'linguistic war'—but then again, I don’t believe in linguistic war to begin with.

    3 votes
    1. [5]
      gyrozeppeli Link Parent
      How things are named (and thus framed) are crucial to how they are perceived by other people. White nationalist is a standalone term, with no affiliation. The term alt-right explicitly reframes it...

      However, inventing new names for things in clever ways is not really "linguistic legerdemain" unless you don’t have any critical thinking skills.

      How things are named (and thus framed) are crucial to how they are perceived by other people. White nationalist is a standalone term, with no affiliation. The term alt-right explicitly reframes it to not only an issue of white nationalism but also an issue within the rightwing spectrum. It is an apt, and correct term, hence why so many people use it.

      Anyway, reframing things is hardly a result of lacking "critical thinking skills".

      I don’t believe in linguistic war to begin with

      You're focusing entirely too much on the 'war' aspect. Obviously, it's not a literal war or battle going on. A linguistic split is more or less happening, and one might refer to it as a 'battle' since eventually one side will 'win'–that is, win out in terms of what terms become commonly used! See the top comment about 'German Firm' stickers.

      6 votes
      1. [2]
        onyxleopard Link Parent
        I should clarify, I think, because it is obvious to me, but maybe not obvious to you, that I reject the term "alt-right" because 'alternative' is an antonym to 'mainstream', and by setting up that...

        The term alt-right explicitly reframes it to not only an issue of white nationalism but also an issue within the rightwing spectrum.

        I should clarify, I think, because it is obvious to me, but maybe not obvious to you, that I reject the term "alt-right" because 'alternative' is an antonym to 'mainstream', and by setting up that dichotomy, it separates "white nationalism" from the "mainstream-right". I don’t believe this is true—the mainstream right, as of late, has been openly courting white nationalists, and even electing them to public offices. So, my rejection of "alt-right" is not out of hand because of who coined the phrase. It is because I think the terminology itself is the opposite of apt and it is politically helpful to the political right.

        5 votes
        1. gyrozeppeli Link Parent
          That's fair, and something I hadn't really thought of.

          That's fair, and something I hadn't really thought of.

          2 votes
      2. [2]
        onyxleopard Link Parent
        That is the claim that fascists would like everyone to believe, but I don’t buy it. I don’t see any utility in adding "alt-right" to my lexicon—"white nationalists" already fills that niche/is...

        The term alt-right explicitly reframes it to not only an issue of white nationalism but also an issue within the rightwing spectrum. It is an apt, and correct term, hence why so many people use it.

        That is the claim that fascists would like everyone to believe, but I don’t buy it. I don’t see any utility in adding "alt-right" to my lexicon—"white nationalists" already fills that niche/is already sufficiently apt.

        Anyway, reframing things is hardly a result of lacking "critical thinking skills".

        It absolutely is. If you don’t think about the words that you employ (word choice ought to be a conscious choice on your part, assuming you are an autonomous individual), you are letting others think for you.

        You're focusing entirely too much on the 'war' aspect.

        How am I focusing too much? That is literally the premise of the article.

        A linguistic split is more or less happening, and one might refer to it as a 'battle' since eventually one side will 'win'–that is, win out in terms of what terms become commonly used!

        Lexical usage is not that simple and framing it in terms of a 'battle', again, is problematic in itself. There are linguistic minorities all around in the world, just as there are political minorities. If you don’t want your political (or linguistic) group to become a minority, or to dwindle into obscurity, simply continue to speak in the language that you know. I feel like I’m stating the obvious, but, you can affect the statistical usage of language by, you know, using words. And, I would argue, you should think about which words you use. If you are willing to mindlessly adopt the parlance of fascists and simultaneously bemoan the state of public discourse, don’t blame the fascists! Blame yourself!

        1. gyrozeppeli Link Parent
          Then we're in complete agreement on that. Some people refer to this as a battle.

          feel like I’m stating the obvious, but, you can affect the statistical usage of language by, you know, using words. And, I would argue, you should think about which words you use.

          Then we're in complete agreement on that. Some people refer to this as a battle.

          1 vote
    2. TheInvaderZim Link Parent
      I do subscribe to said premise. Basically, it's easy to communicate a convenient lie, but harder to talk about an inconvenient truth, and fascism lies. That's all it does. In the irrepairable...

      I do subscribe to said premise. Basically, it's easy to communicate a convenient lie, but harder to talk about an inconvenient truth, and fascism lies. That's all it does. In the irrepairable damage that facebook posts and tweets have done to our democracy, it's become readily apparent that the battle has been lost by the design of the war.

      Trump himself exemplifies this with the Trump Twitter Show. Almost everything the guy posts is purposefully ambiguous or a lie, and he does it as the president of the United States - but that doesn't matter, because it's what the people he's attracted WANT to believe. Thus, it becomes a won battle - you can rant about Trump being a disgusting liar all you want, but you can't fundamentally force someone's mind to change when they see that, and choose to believe what they want anyway.

      4 votes