Fascists Hate When You Call Them Fascists
No, Biden should not apologize for calling the MAGA ideology "semi-fascist." If anything, he needs to hammer home that point again and again.
“What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death knell of extreme MAGA philosophy,” President Joe Biden told a group of Democratic supporters last week. “It’s not just Trump, it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the - I’m going to say something, it’s like semi-fascism.”
Upon hearing this, Republicans everywhere donned their finest pearls for clutching and readied their fainting couches. “H-h-how could Joe Biden say we’re ‘semi-fascist!?!?!?’”
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Yawn. All this performative outrage is boring and repetitive. Fox News and the rest of right-wing media freaked out in June 2020 when Biden dared to say that “there are probably anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the people out there that are just not very good people, but that’s not who we are. The vast majority of the people are decent, and we have to appeal to them and we have to unite people — bring them together. Bring them together.” And they freaked out just like they did in April 2020 when Biden replied to a question of whether or not he would be able to win over Trump’s base by saying, “His base? Probably not.” And they freaked out just like they did in January 2020 when Biden proposed a job training program to make the transition away from fossil fuels easier for people who work in those industries over a multi-year span.
In each of those cases (and a few others), Fox commentators and others on the right decried Biden’s comments as his “‘deplorables’ moment,” a reference to Hillary Clinton’s widely-misrepresented comment that while half of Trump’s supporters could probably be categorized into a “basket of deplorables,” which she defined as people who are racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. (Conveniently left out of the “deplorables” narrative by its tellers is that Clinton’s point was that it would be bad to write off all Trump supporters as racists, sexists, homophobes, etc. Somehow, Trump supporters heard that and rather than think, “Good, she’s differentiating between me, someone who supports Trump for a normal reason, and that of white nationalists,” they all seemed to decide that they must be in the “deplorable” half. groan.)
So now, naturally, we’re back to this same cycle of self-victimization and right-wing whining about being accurately described.
In March 2021, I wrote a piece for Media Matters about the social science underpinning the need for people on the right to so constantly cast themselves as victims. For all the complaints that people on the left are “snowflakes” or that they rely on “identity politics”-based complaints, the right actually does this a whole lot more, and for good reason: it helps them politically. (I won’t bore you with the details, but click on the Media Matters link at the beginning of this paragraph for more info on that if you’re interested.)
At the time, Biden had upset Republicans by saying that it was “Neanderthal thinking” on part of GOP governors to suddenly drop all COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Fresh off of being extremely and performatively offended by the people who control Dr. Seuss’s estate taking a few lesser-known books… and before that, they were all extremely and performatively offended by Hasbro’s plans to create a Potato Head brand (under which Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, among other characters, would be sold; though, the right misread the press release and decided that this meant that “Mr. Potato Head is being made gender-neutral!”)… and before that, they were all extremely and performatively offended by Disney adding 10-second disclaimers to the beginnings of a handful of episodes of The Muppet Show (rather than take controversial past episodes out when making the show available for streaming for the first time ever, Disney put a little note explaining that the show was a product of its time)… they latched right on to the “Neanderthal thinking” line.
Republicans simply cannot stop smearing people on the left, but god forbid someone accurately describe the movement they belong to.
Remember when Donald Trump tweeted “So sad to see that New York City and State are falling apart. All they want to do is investigate to make me hate them even more than I should.”? I assure you, had a Democrat said that about a red state, that would have ended their political career. The very next day, Trump called San Francisco “a decaying city.” Or how about the time Trump gave a speech in Chicago just to talk about how horrible Chicago was, going so far as to say that the city was "embarrassing” to the country and falsely claiming that “Afghanistan is a safe place by comparison.” (FYI: Chicago’s murder rate was the 16th highest in 2018, behind a whole lot of cities in deep red states.) Or how about when Trump claimed that Democrats were “vicious, horrible people” who “want crime” and “chaos.”
And it’s not just Trump. It’s Trumpism. It’s conservativism. It’s fascism.
The way Republicans talk about “real Americans in the heartland” (Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), 2019) or mock Californians as obsessed with “tofu and silicon and dyed hair” (Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), 2018), shows that they do not actually see people on the left as people worthy of the same rights and same basic human dignity.
Just a couple of weeks ago, right-wing commentator Charlie Kirk falsely accused Democrats of planning to imprison dissidents, bizarrely accuses anyone to the left of Mitt Romney of being a “Marxist,” and pulled a straight-up play from the antisemitic propaganda playbook of the 1930s by arguing that trans people existing was somehow the cause of inflation. And yet, here Charlie was, throwing a little tantrum on Fox News last night about the “semi-fascist” comment:
Also on that panel was proponent of white nationalism Stephen Miller and right-wing commentator Kurt Schlichter. Now, as they all whine about being told that they support a fascist ideology, I want to point you to something that Schlichter tweeted out just last year:
Here it is, written out:
For too long red state conservatives have offered to live and let live with blue state liberals but the blues are evangelical Marxists who cannot allow us to provide a counter example of freedom. So, no more. We must, by any means necessary, force them to be like us. No quarter. No compromise.
Ban [critical race theory], Marxism and anti-American misinformation. Nationalize big tech and academia and mandate conservatism as their operational ideology. Ban leftist media and entertainment from spreading misinformation.
Penalize barren, non-familial lifestyles through taxes and disqualification from political participation. Establish property and military service qualifications for voting. Increase America’s carbon footprint. Ban masks. Dismantle unions.
Use the law to ensure blue submission. Imprison dissenters. Force them to act against their deepest beliefs to keep their jobs. End all social programs and deport all illegals. Outlaw crime again.
Seems kind of harsh. But hey, isn’t this the flip side of what they want to do to us? So I’m unclear why they would object that it’s wrong. They started it.
“We must, by any means necessary, force [blue state liberals] to be like us”? “No quarter”? “Ban” a whole bunch of ideas and “mandate conservatism” as the “operational ideology” in tech and academia? “Ban leftist media and entertainment”? “Penalize barren, non-familial lifestyles”? “Use the law to ensure blue submission” and “imprison dissenters”?
That’s fascist. He tries to wink and nod his way out of it at the end by clinging to a tried and true right-wing trope: “They started it.” No, you utter lunatic, “they” did not. And no, this is not “the flip side of what ‘they’ want to do to us.” It’s all utter nonsense, but it’s totally in line with what Republicans are running on.
There are Republicans who are openly running on a Christian nationalist platform, which is to say that they’d like to force the country to live according to their own religious views under penalty of law. Republican-controlled states are trying to make existing in their states as an LGBTQ person damn near impossible, and as we’ve seen in the wake of the Dobbs decision, simply do not believe in bodily autonomy. Here’s a Republican House candidate saying that “if we were to implement and legislate all of our conservative values onto people, there will be people that will suffer.” And he doesn’t seem to have a problem with this.
Why? Because this is a fascist movement.
If anything, “semi-fascist” was being too polite.
Let’s look back at Umberto Eco’s 1995 essay on fascism. In it, he explained why “fascism” became a bit of an all-purpose term.
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