The other day I used the word “fascist” and, midspeech, I confessed that did not know precisely what the word meant. Turing to Wikipedia’s definitions of fascism, most of my questions were not answered. However, I was struck by Wikipedia’s summary of Umberto Eco’s Ur-Fascism [The New York Review of Books, 1995]. Eco’s “properties of fascist ideology” are easily mapped to the Trump candidacy and elements of his populist appeal. Heavily abridged from that Wikipedia entry, consider these five of Eco’s fourteen characteristics of fascism:
- Fear of Difference: Fascism seeks to exploit and exacerbate differences, often in the form of racism or an appeal against foreigners and immigrants.
- Appeal to a Frustrated Middle Class: Fascism fears economic pressure from the demands and aspirations of lower social groups.
- Obsession with Conspiracy: Fascism hypes enemy threat and fears of disloyalty and sabotage from marginalized groups living within the society.
- Concern over Elites: Fascism plays up the power of certain disfavored elites to encourage in their followers a sense of grievance and humiliation.
- Machismo: Fascism includes, among other attitutes toward sexuality, a disdain for women.
- Newspeak: Fascism employs and promotes an impoverished vocabulary that limits critical reasoning.
Admittedly, Bernie Sanders (my first choice) also appealed to a frustrated middle class. And I concede that my concern about the elite financial class (that influenced my support of Sanders) mirrors the concern that many Trump supporters express regarding the elite political class. But I am troubled that the rally of the Trump phenomenon can be heard in Wikipedia’s account of Eco’s general properties of fascism.