Review of How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them by Jason Stanley
Language creates, destroys, and maintains but not always in the fashion in which it was intended. When even well-intentioned people repeat a word or phrase too often, or use it in trivial or decontextualized ways, they create ironic and often portentous conditions. As with the stories of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” or “Chicken Little,” overuse or benign abuse of language nudges us to maintain complacent inertia when in fact the sky is truly falling.
So it is with the world “fascism.” When we refer to a tough teacher or a micro-manager as “fascist” and when we repeat the idea ad nauseam, we both exaggerate the exigencies of normal life and tragically, inure ourselves to actual fascism growing in our midst.
Jason Stanley reminds us that we are in fact slouching towards fascism as we normalize the invidious rhetoric of racism, misogyny, otherization, false-victimhood, and Orwellian turns of phrase. Carrying the enormous emotional baggage associated with his own parents’ struggles as refugees and victims of Nazism coupled with the logic of a learned philosopher, Stanley has produced a clear, readable, and important treatise on fascism and how it grows and ultimately engorges itself on normalized lies.
In fact, Stanley organizes the book in 10 chapters, each with illustrates a key pillar of fascist strategy. These chapters are:
1. The Mythic Past
7. Law and Order
8. Sexual Anxiety
9. Sodom and Gomorrah
10. Arbeit Macht Frei
Fascism movements are alike in that they invoke these 10 categories to create a state of mind in which people are primed and softened in a way that makes their acceptance of fascism appear natural. Stanley intelligently offers examples: the US under Trump, India under Modi, Hungary under Orban, and others to show that the methodologies employed cross boundaries; he invokes Hitler and Mussolini as well and shows that the language employed by today’s fascists is structurally similar to that of these famous and genocidal fascists of the mid-twentieth century.
Important to the argument is that tendencies towards fascism are not restricted to the canonical Right wing. Liberals too often invoke mythical pasts and redacted histories, find code-language and dog whistles to refer to minorities, and go out of their way to lionize the Armed Forces and police. Further, they also indulge in anti-intellectualism, replacing partially-formed thoughts and self-serving instincts for scientific facts and real data.
The point is clear. It can happen to anyone. It can happen here. It is happening here. Fascism is a multi-pronged onslaught that, like a tidal wave, can roll low until it becomes and unstoppable force that destroys anything decent in its path.
Romi Mahajan in an Author, Marketer, Investor, and Activist
Originally published in Medium
Courtesy: Counter Current