DASCISM Das Book Proposal by Mike Ratner - March 22, 2021
A specter is haunting the modern world: fascism. All around the world people are talking about and identifying fascists. The question I bring to ask is ‘fascism’ the right word in 2021? How fascist was Donald Trump really? Even more emphatically, were ‘Trump followers’ or the rioters at the Capital actually a fascist mob? You get the impression from the mainstream media that fascism is all around us – but is it really back or are we experiencing something else?
In recent years countries across the globe have been smitten with certain kinds of far-right leaders and neo-nationalism; the list includes Russia, Hungry, Poland, India, Turkey, Philippines and it still includes the United States under the sway of Donald Trump along with the takeover leadership of his party.
The threat of fascism as it is called is now a worldwide phenomenon. We have seen it with Brazil’s ‘strongman’ Jair Bolsonaro; the Hungarian authoritarianism of Viktor Orban; the rise of France’s Front National, led by Marie Le Pen; Germany’s Pegida and AfD; and Austria’s Freedom Party.
All have earned disdain where they appear to act ‘fascist’. If that were not enough there is another dimension, with some talking about ‘Islamic fascism’ and frequent comments such as ‘the terrorists are the heirs to fascism’: that last quote from George W. Bush, but it could have been any Western leader of recent times. The right likes to scare the public saying ‘socialism’ is fascism and so it goes.
The task of this book is not to generalize about what is perceived to be fascism or its undertones, however the phenomena taking place as vexing as it is needs to be understood through a new lens of perception: I have chosen the label "Dascism" for this reincarnated form of ultranationalism that we are witnessing including its component mix of variables (ethnic, religious, cultural, etc) analyzing the current moment while making a distinction of Dascism from the old fascist politics. We are living in a new era and while there are important comparisons, there are differences which portend far greater future impacts or disasters to come if we are not careful making this analogy clearly.
DAS SCHISM – the great lie divides is analogous towards defining Dascism and what it represents. Dascism is a few degrees short of fulfilling the true meaning and impacts of fascism however, it does indeed describe a serious dire state of conditions, a mindset precluding extreme behaviors.
My purpose for writing this book is to expand awareness of Dascism vs fascist politics. More to the point, my interest is Dascism is to explain new tactical mental mechanisms aimed to achieve domination of the political discourse on the road to overt power. The book optionally can explore distinctions of Dascism vs fascism that were past determined by particular historical conditions.
Dascism as a new political force does not explicitly lead to a fascist state, but it is very dangerous nonetheless. There are many similar comparisons to be discussed which include shared strategies that include: excorticating that which is perceived, anti-role models fitted against an imagined ideal lost in a 'mystic past', social media as propaganda, anti-intellectualism, law and order as protocol, dismantling public good, dividing the country, etc. Republican politicians are employing these strategies that imply the devious aspects of Dascism with more frequency and greater implicitly.
Dascism while falling short of all out fascism works in its own particular perversive way which it dehumanizes segments of the population, ferments furthering justification of repression, like mass imprisonment and social expulsion to, in the end extreme discontent leading to mass extermination and global catastrophe. This book proposes to explore and explain this while dismantling Dascism!
A growing number of scholars have argued that the political style of Donald Trump resembled that of fascist leaders, beginning with his election campaign in 2016, continuing over the course of his presidency as he appeared to court far-right extremists, and culminating in the January 2021 attack on the United States Capitol. As these events have unfolded, some commentators who had initially resisted applying the label to Trump came out in favor of it, including conservative legal scholar Steven G. Calabresi and conservative commentator Michael Gerson. After the attack on the Capitol, the historian of fascism Robert O. Paxton went so far as to state that Trump is a fascist, despite his earlier objection to using the term in this way. Other historians of fascism such as Roger Griffin, Stanley Payne and Richard J. Evans continue to disagree that fascism is an appropriate term to describe Trump's politics. Indeed, something has changed and its correlation is called Dascism.
Whether one considers a Trump a cheerleader and mobiliser of fascism or rightwing ideology, I feel there is something else sleight of hand, whether you are for or against Trump, by dint of being the President of the USA something had shifted in American politics. The thoughtful Robert Kagan wrote before the 2016 US election: ‘This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and nod to violence) but with a television huckster … and with an entire national political party … falling into line behind him.'
The constant clarion cry heard loudest throughout the eras whenever Republican Presidents come to power are meant to call all good people to their senses, get them to wake up and make them realize that democracy, the ‘true’ rule of law, the values which define our societies, and relative freedoms which bind us together, are under attack, and thus, that we need to act and mobilize now.
Yet, we have to be very careful to use a scattergun style naming the undoubted threats to democracy as ‘fascist’. For a start, this is a certain response to the rise of a particular right-wing threat, and one which has been seen before. Some left-wingers in the UK used to call Margaret Thatcher ‘fascist’; the same is even true of some of the American radical new left and their paranoia at the supposed authoritarianism of “Tricky Dick” Richard Nixon as US President in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Such is the state of US politics where many liberals now look back wistfully to the age of Nixon.
Fascism has been historically an ideology of the radical right. Its rise was aided and colluded with by mainstream conservatives. It never came to power in a healthy democracy, but only in countries where democratic norms and mainstream politics were in severe crisis: Germany and Italy in the inter-war years, Spain as a result of the Spanish civil war, Pinochet’s Chile in the 1970s, etc.
America and the world face an uncertain future, climate change, a rising China, globalization gone awry and the pandemic suggest a new reality that society has yet to come to grips with along with the residue of the post-Trump era, how can we be best prepared for how Dascism will emerge next?
Dascism differs from classical fascism and traditional Abraham Lincoln Republicanism in many ways regarding ideology, free trade, immigration, equality, checks and balances in federal government, and the separation of church and state.
BOOK CHAPTERS (proposed order)
1 Ideologies and themes of Dascism
A Characteristics and consequences
B Similarities and differences to fascism
C The charismatic leader-follower relationship
2 Historical background in America
3 Right-wing authoritarian populism
1.3 The Christian Cult Agenda
4 Democratic Backsliding
5 Government policy changes
6 Dascism an Ideology?
b Non-ideological aspects
7 Methods of persuasion
a. Dascism rhetoric
8 Social psychology
8b Dominance orientation
8c Basis in societal behavior
8d Collective narcissism
9 Media and pillarization
9a Culture industry
9b Profitability of spectacle and outrage
9c Social media, fake news & disinformation
10 Similarities to other political leaders & activists
b Predicted future impact
11 Dascism in other countries
11.a Canada / b Europe / c South America
12 Prevalence and trends
DASCISM Contents/ Sample Paragraph Chapters
CHAPTER BRIEFS (proposed order)
Development of the concept / Distinctions (Not Yet Fascism)
< >CHAPTER ONE: Ideologies and themes of Dascism
Dascism is a new term for devolving political ideology, style of governance, political movement and set of mechanisms for acquiring and keeping power that are associated with neo-politics where leaders excite a core base of followers from which to source their support and authority from. Dascism can be seen as an American political variant forming on the far-right and derives from the national-populist and neo-nationalist sentiment seen in multiple nations worldwide from the late 2010s to the early 2020s. While Dascism is comparable to fascism there are distinctions deserving of using this new term while pointing out that while there are parallels, there are also important dissimilarities. The term can also be applied to conservative-nationalist and national-populist movements in other Western democracies.
A Characteristics and consequences (I will go into the nitty gritty)
B Similarities and differences to fascism
C The charismatic leader-follower relationship
2 Historical background in America – This chapter will explore a perverse sense of community and national pride – Dascism heading towards fascism was found during the 1930s Virgil Effinger led the paramilitary Black Legion, a violent offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan that sought a revolution to establish fascism in the United States. Although responsible for a number of attacks, the Black Legion was very much a peripheral band of militants. More important were the Silver Legion of America, founded in 1933 by William Dudley Pelley, and the German American Bund, which emerged the same year from a number of older groups, including the Friends of New Germany and the Free Society of Teutonia. Both of these groups looked to Nazism for their inspiration. While these groups enjoyed some support, they were largely peripheral. A more prominent leader, Father Charles Coughlin, sparked concern among some on the left at the time. Coughlin, who publicly endorsed fascism, was unable to become involved in active politics because of his status as a priest.
The earliest roots of Dascism in the United States predate the rise of 1930s fascism in Europe and can be found as the authoritarianism traced to the Jacksonian era according to scholars Walter Russell Mead, Peter Katzenstein and Edwin Kent Morris. Eric Rauchway wrote: "… Nativism and white supremacy—has deep roots in American history. But Trump himself put it to new and malignant purpose."
Andrew Jackson's followers felt he was one of the people, enthusiastically supporting his defiance of politically correct norms of the nineteenth century and even constitutional law when they stood in the way of public policy popular among his followers. Jackson ignored the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Worcester v. Georgia and initiated the forced Cherokee removal from their treaty protected lands to benefit white locals at the cost of between 2,000 and 6,000 dead Cherokee men, women, and children. Notwithstanding such cases of Jacksonian inhumanity, Mead's view is that Jacksonianism provides the historical precedent explaining the movement of followers of Trump, marrying grass-roots disdain for elites, deep suspicion of overseas entanglements, and obsession with American power and sovereignty, acknowledging that it has often been a xenophobic, "whites only" political movement.
3 Right-wing authoritarian populism - In 1966, Republican Senator Thomas Kuchel said of the Conservative movement, "A fanatical neo-fascist political cult in the GOP, driven by a strange mixture of corrosive hatred and sickening fear, who are recklessly determined to either control our party, or destroy it." This chapter will look at the growth of fanatical fringe groups and growing popularity online by reviewing research and opinions such as Michelle Goldberg, an opinion columnist for The New York Times who compares the rise of Trump to classical fascist themes. [note 3] The "mobilizing vision" of fascism is of "the national community rising phoenix-like after a period of encroaching decadence which all but destroyed it", which "sounds a lot like MAGA" (Make America Great Again) according to Goldberg. Similarly, like the Trump movement, fascism sees a "need for authority by natural chiefs (always male), culminating in a national chieftain who alone is capable of incarnating the group's historical destiny." They believe in "the superiority of the leader's instincts over abstract and universal reason". Conservative columnist George Will also holds similar ideas noting that like fascism, Trump expressed "a mood masquerading as a doctrine". National unity is based "on shared domestic dreads"—for fascists the "Jews", for Trump the media ("enemies of the people"), "elites" and "globalists". Solutions come not from tedious "incrementalism and conciliation", but from the leader ("only I can fix it") unfettered by procedure. This chapter will describe how Dascism enthralls its political base as it is kept entertained with mass rallies, but inevitably the strongman develops a contempt for those he leads. [note 4] Both D/F are based on machismo, and in the case of Trump, "appeals to those in thrall to country-music manliness: 'We're truck-driving, beer-drinking, big-chested Americans too freedom-loving to let any itsy-bitsy virus make us wear masks.’ More on this soon
3a The Christian Cult Agenda - Theologian Michael Horton believes there is a confluence of three trends that have come together, namely Christian Americanism (American Exceptionalism), end-times conspiracy and the prosperity gospel, with Christian Americanism being the narrative that God specially called the United States into being as an extraordinary if not miraculous providence and end-times conspiracy referring to the world's annihilation (figurative or literal) due to some conspiracy of nefarious groups and globalist powers threatening American sovereignty. In this chapter, I want to deeply explore this. (Could be a follow-up book of its own)
4 Democratic Backsliding also known as autocratization and de-democratization, is a gradual decline in the quality of democracy and represents the opposite of democratization, so this chapter will discuss how Dascism plays into states losing their democratic qualities, devolving into an autocracy or authoritarian regime. Democratic decline is caused by the state-led weakening of political institutions that sustain the democratic system, such as the peaceful transition of power or electoral systems. Although these political elements are assumed to lead to the onset of backsliding, other essential components of democracy such as infringement of individual rights and the freedom of expression question the health, efficiency and sustainability of democratic systems over time. According to Suzanne Mettler and Robert C. Lieberman, four characteristics have typically provided the conditions for democratic backsliding (alone or in combination): Political polarization, racism and nativism, economic inequality, and excessive executive power. Stephen Haggard and Robert Kaufmann highlight three key causes of backsliding: "the pernicious effects of polarization; realignments of party systems that enable elected autocrats to gain legislative power; and the incremental nature of derogations, which divides oppositions and keeps them off balance."
5 Government policy changes - In terms of foreign policy this chapter can explore the sense of Trump's "America First", unilateralism as a preferred approach to a multilateral policy and enabling an ‘egoic’ national interest are particularly emphasized in Dascism, especially in the context of economic treaties and alliance obligations. Perhaps because it was beyond Trump’s comprehension of international relations or lack of a real agenda, he instead showed a disdain towards traditional American allies such as Canada as well as transatlantic partners NATO and the European Union. Conversely, Trump openly displayed admiring sympathy for autocratic rulers, especially for this pal and enabler Russian president Vladimir Putin, whom Trump often praised even before taking office, (refs) and during the 2018 Russia–United States summit. The "America First" foreign policy includes promises by Trump to end American involvement in foreign wars, notably in the Middle East, while also issuing tighter foreign policy through sanctions against Iran, among other countries.
Dascist Economic Policy (DEP) is very homeland oriented and "promises new jobs and more domestic investment". Trump's hard line against America’s trading partners led to a tense situation in 2018 with mutually imposed punitive tariffs between the United States on the one hand and the European Union and China on the other. Dascism attempts to secure the support of a core political base with a policy that strongly emphasizes nationalism and criticism of globalization. Reference the book Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America suggested that Trump "Radicalized economics" to his base of white working to middle class voters by the promoting the idea that "undeserving [minority] groups are getting ahead while their group is being left behind."
6 Dascism an Ideology? A 2020 study, which used World Values Survey data, found that cultural conservatism was the ideological group most open to authoritarian governance within Western democracies suggesting right rearing. Within English-speaking Western democracies, "protection-based" attitudes combining cultural conservatism and leftist economic attitudes were the strongest predictor of support for authoritarian modes of governance. This chapter will examine ideology engineering and lasting messaging impacts.
In the Routledge Handbook of Global Populism (2019), multiple co-authors note that recent populist leaders are actually pragmatic and opportunistic regarding themes, ideas and beliefs that strongly resonate with their followers. Exit polling data from the 2020 US presidential election suggests despite actually losing, the Trump campaign was successful at mobilizing the majority of "white disenfranchised", the lower- to working-class European-Americans who are experiencing growing social inequality and who often have stated opposition to the American political establishment. Ideologically, Dascism has a right-wing populist accent.
6b Non-ideological aspects Dascism in the US started its development predominantly during Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. It denotes a populist political method that suggests nationalistic answers to political, economic, and social problems. These inclinations are refracted into such policy preferences as immigration restrictionism, trade protectionism, reluctance to enter into foreign entanglements, and opposition to entitlement reform. As a political method, populism is not driven by any particular ideology. Former National Security Advisor and former close Trump advisor John Bolton alleges this to be true about Trump, emphasizing that "[t]he man does not have a philosophy. And people can try and draw lines between the dots of his decisions. They will fail." Olivier Jutel writing for the Routledge Handbook of Global Populism (2019) claims, "What Donald Trump reveals is that the various iterations of right-wing American populism have less to do with a programmatic social conservatism or libertarian economics than with enjoyment."
7 Methods of persuasion – In this chapter, I will interview sociologists and political scientists who have noted emotional themes in today’s rhetoric such as Hoschild whose fundamental perspective described Trump "speeches—evoking dominance, bravado, clarity, national pride, and personal uplift—inspire an emotional transformation," deeply resonating with their "emotional self-interest". In this chapter I will argue that comprehending the emotional self-interests of voters explains the paradox of the success of such politicians raised by Thomas Frank's book What's the Matter with Kansas?, an anomaly which has motivated immersive research into the emotional dynamics of the Tea Party movement which I believe has mutated into Dascism. I will argue that it is wrong for progressives to assume that well educated individuals have mainly been persuaded by political rhetoric to vote against their rational self-interest through appeals to the "bad angels" of their nature:[note 11] their greed, selfishness, racial intolerance, homophobia, and desire to get out of paying taxes that go to the unfortunate."
I will present some of my own theories motivating narrative of false “I.D” I describe as “Internal Dialogue”, a disassociated social contract narrative that appears to be widely shared within raving rightwing media and found growing in other countries as well.
7a. Dascism rhetoric achieves group cohesiveness among loyal followers by exploiting a crowd phenomenon Emile Durkheim called "collective effervescence", "a state of emotional excitation felt by those who join with others they take to be fellow members of a moral or biological tribe ... to affirm their unity and, united, they feel secure and respected."
Rhetorically, I will show how Dascism diatribe employs absolutist framings and coax threat narratives characterized by a rejection of the political establishment. The absolutist rhetoric emphasizes non-negotiable boundaries and moral outrage at their supposed violation. [see note 12] The rhetorical pattern within a Trump rally is common for authoritarian movements. First, elicit a sense of depression, humiliation and victimhood. Second, separate the world into two opposing groups: a relentlessly demonized set of others versus those who have the power and will to overcome them. This involves vividly identifying the enemy supposedly causing the current state of affairs and then promoting paranoid conspiracy theories to inflame fear and anger. After cycling these first two patterns through the populace, the final message aims to produce a cathartic release of pent-up mob energy, with a promise that salvation is at hand because there is a powerful leader who will deliver the nation back to its former glory. Dascism relies on theatrical devices to market his messages, including animated gestures, pantomiming and facial expressions. (We will study photos from CPAC, 2019) This three-part pattern was first identified in 1932 by Roger Money-Kyrle and later published in his Psychology of Propaganda. A constant barrage of sensationalistic rhetoric serves to rivet media attention while achieving multiple political objectives, not the least of which is that it serves to obscure actions such as profound neoliberal deregulation. One study gives the example that significant environmental deregulation occurred, but escaped much media attention, during the first year of the Trump administration due to its concurrent use of spectacular racist rhetoric. Accordingly, this serves political objectives of Dascism by dehumanizing its core targets, eroding democratic norms, and consolidating power by emotionally connecting with and inflaming resentments among the base of followers, but most importantly this chapter will show how Dascism works to distract media attention from deregulatory policymaking by igniting intense media coverage of the distractions, precisely due to their radically transgressive nature.
8 Social psychology research into extremist movements, such as that of Bob Altemeyer, Thomas F. Pettigrew, and Karen Stenner can be viewed as primarily being driven by the psychological predispositions of its followers. While no claim is made that these factors provide a complete explanation of Dascism, this chapter will include other social research showing that important political and historical factors (to be reviewed elsewhere in the book) are involved. In a non-academic book which Altemeyer co-authored with John Dean entitled Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers, Altemeyer describes research which demonstrates that Trump followers have a distinguishing preference for strongly hierarchical and ethnocentric social orders that favor their in-group.[note 13] Despite disparate and inconsistent beliefs and ideologies, a coalition of such followers can become cohesive and broad in part because each individual "compartmentalizes" their thoughts and they are free to define their sense of the threatened tribal in-group in their own terms, whether it is predominantly related to their cultural or religious views (e.g. the mystery of evangelical support for Trump), nationalism (e.g. the Make America Great Again slogan), or their race (maintaining a white majority). Dascism is employed a variety of dominance imagery in flags, clothing and a mock gallows on January 6, 2021 when violent Trump rioters attempted to overturn the 2020 election, temporarily succeeding in preventing Congress from certifying that Trump was the loser. Altemeyer, MacWilliams, Feldman, Choma, Hancock, Van Assche and Pettigrew claim that instead of directly attempting to measure such ideological, racial or policy views, supporters of such movements can be reliably predicted by using two social psychology scales (singly or in combination), namely right-wing authoritarian (RWA) measures which were developed in the 1980s by Altemeyer and other authoritarian personality researchers,[note 14] and the social dominance orientation (SDO) scale developed in the 1990s by social dominance theorists. In May 2019, Monmouth University Polling Institute conducted a study in collaboration with Altemeyer in order to empirically test the hypothesis using the SDO and RWA measures. This chapter can explore research that finds how social dominance orientation and affinity for authoritarian leadership are indeed highly correlated with the recent evolution and rise of Dascism
8b Dominance orientation (coming soon)
8c Basis in societal behavior (coming soon)
8d Collective narcissism or "Group narcissism" is described in a 1973 book entitled The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness by psychologist Erich Fromm. In the 1990s, Pierre Bourdieu wrote of a sort of collective narcissism affecting intellectual groups, inclining them to turn a complacent gaze on themselves. Noting how people's desire to see their own groups as better than other groups can lead to intergroup bias is significant for explaining Dascism, in fact, Henri Tajfel approached the same phenomena in the seventies and eighties, so as to create social identity theory, which argues that people's motivation to obtain positive self-esteem from their group memberships is one driving-force behind in-group bias. The term "collective narcissism" was highlighted anew by researcher Agnieszka Golec de Zavala who created the Collective Narcissism Scale and developed research on intergroup and political consequences of collective narcissism. People who score high on the Collective Narcissists Scale agree that their group's importance and worth are not sufficiently recognized by others and that their group deserves special treatment. They insist that their group must obtain special recognition and respect. I could use this scale and do surveys among these groups.
9 Media and pillarization – much to explore here
9a Culture industry- I am excited to expound on this chapter with much to write about. Peter E. Gordon, Alex Ross, sociologist David L. Andrews and Harvard political theorist David Lebow look on Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer's concept of the "culture industry" as useful for comprehending recent events. [note 17] As Ross explains the concept, the culture industry replicates "fascist methods of mass hypnosis ... blurring the line between reality and fiction," claiming, "Trump is as much a pop-culture phenomenon as he is a political one." Gordon observes that these purveyors of popular culture are not just leveraging outrage, but are turning politics into a more commercially lucrative product, a "polarized, standardized reflection of opinion into forms of humor and theatricalized outrage within narrow niche markets ... within which one swoons to one's preferred slogan and already knows what one knows. Name just about any political position and what sociologists call pillarization—or what the Frankfurt School called "ticket" thinking—will predict, almost without fail, a full suite of opinions.[note 18] Trumpism is from Lebow's perspective, more of a result of this process than a cause, In the intervening years since Adorno's work, Lebow believes the culture industry has evolved into a politicizing culture market "based increasingly on the internet, constituting a self-referential hyperreality shorn from any reality of referants ... sensationalism and insulation intensify intolerance of dissonance and magnify hostility against alternative hyperrealities. In a self-reinforcing logic of escalation, intolerance and hostility further encourage sensationalism and the retreat into insularity."
Using Gordon's view, Dascism by itself, one could argue, is just another name for the culture industry, where the performance of undoing repression serves as a means for carrying on precisely as before. From this viewpoint, the susceptibility to psychological manipulation of individuals with social dominance inclinations is not at the center of Dascism, but is instead the "culture industry" which exploits these and other susceptibilities by using mechanisms that condition people to think in standardized ways. The burgeoning culture industry respects no political boundaries as it develops these markets with Gordon emphasizing "This is true on the left as well as the right, and it is especially noteworthy once we countenance what passes for political discourse today. Instead of a public sphere, we have what Jürgen Habermas long ago called the refeudalization of society." (I recently emailed Habermas about my work)
9b Profitability of spectacle and outrage
9c Social media, fake news & disinformation
10 Similarities to other political leaders and activists
10.b Predicted future impact
11 Dascism in other countries / a Canada / b Europe / c South America
12 Prevalence and trends - A study by the Varieties of Democracy Project (V-Dem) of the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg, which contains more than eighteen-million data points relevant to democracy, measuring 350 highly specific indicators across 174 countries as of the end of 2016, found that the number of democracies in the world modestly declined from 100 in 2011 to 97 in 2017; some countries moved toward democracy, while other countries moved away from democracy. V-Dem's 2019 Annual Democracy Report found that the trend of autocratization continued, while "24 countries are now severely affected by what is established as a 'third wave of autocratization'" including "populous countries such as Brazil, Bangladesh and the United States, as well as several Eastern European countries" (specifically Bulgaria and Serbia). The report found that an increasing proportion of the world population lived in countries undergoing what I would describe as Dascism (2.3 billion in 2018). The report found that while the majority of countries were democracies, the number of liberal democracies declined to 39 by 2018 (down from 44 a decade earlier). The research group Freedom House, in reports in 2017 and 2019, identified democratic backsliding in a variety of regions across the world. Freedom House's 2019 Freedom in the World report, show Democracy in Retreat, showed freedom of expression declining each year over the preceding 13 years, with sharper drops since 2012.
- End Points
Please let me know if this important distinction from fascism and research work interests you. - Mike