Quick hit today: What does “fascism” generally provoke in the modern mind?
Torchlight parades? Nazi salutes? Donald Trump? Nope. What people think of more than anything else is this:
Thanks, Slate. We get it.
Military jackboots, that’s what people think of. Lots of them, marching in perfect formation. Tough and mean, yes, but also orderly. Regimented. Disciplined to a t.
It’s why “Nazi” can also be a synonym for “martinet,” like with the Soup Nazi.
Which is complete rubbish.
The reason why people immediately think of the goosestepping Soldaten is, of course, the Wehrmacht. But here’s the thing: The Nazis weren’t the ones who made the German army disciplined. Rather, the Fuehrer inherited this famous militarism from the Prussians, from Bismark and the Kaiser, and the General Staff which had persisted despite the defeat of WWI — without which, Hitler would have been no more or less an important historical figure than Franco.
Prussia was just one small state out of many in Germany, with few resources and not much culture or science to draw from. Instead, the Iron Chancellor forged his path by organizing and drilling one of the most ordered and cohesive armies of all time. And with this army — or the threat of it — Bismark was able to subdue one state after another until, finally, in 1871, long after other European states had been unified, he created almost through sheer willpower the German federal state. It wasn’t long before the Kaiser tried his hand at using this fearsome army to extend Germany’s borders still further and, had he not faced a two-front war, probably would have won. (That the Germans of the Great War were able to beat the Russians before finally losing to the Western Allies was impressive enough.)
The fascist Italians had no glorious modern military past like this to draw from. Neither did the Japanese, in fact, other than their Navy, leading to both nations getting completely outclassed on land. The point is, those jackboots marching in perfect rhythm should be a symbol of Prussia, not the Third Reich.
Fascism is above all else virulently nationalist, so its appearance must therefore change from country to country. But in no country, certainly not in America, does it spring specifically from the military. Instead, it represents a deeply irrational reaction to modern culture and the Enlightenment, one that the fascist wishes to claw asunder to bring about some mythical past utopia based on “blood and soil,” where the men of the tribe are forever victorious over the foreigner, the woman and, always, the Jew.
Note here a typical specimen of American fascist propaganda (larger version here). Pay particular note to the weird term “cultural marxism” — anyone using this term without irony is pretty much guaranteed to be a fascist. The term means some nebulous conspiracy of the Others forever out to keep down the only people the American fascist cares about: “White, Heterosexual, working class Males.”
Also, we can dismiss the lazy equating of “fascist” with “conservative.” True conservatives — whom the fascists dismiss as “TruCons” or “GOPe” — believe in things like small government, the Constitution, strong military, religion, opposition to abortion, and capitalism. None of these ideas get your typical white nationalist out of bed in the morning. They are defined not by what they support but what they hate. And they mistrust capitalism and other conservative ideals almost as much as socialists do.
And note the lack of mention of the military in that screed above. This is typical. You hardly ever hear the U.S. military discussed by Richard Spencer, Stormfront or the Daily Stormer either — and if you do, they are usually described as an evil, federal occupying power that the white supremacists fight, as in the Turner Diaries.
Can we put the military jackboot thing to bed yet?
Donald Trump’s most enthusiastic voters are not conservative and are not particularly militaristic or well-disciplined. I hereby recommend we reject the popular image of fascism and replace it with this gentleman instead:
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