Deflection by projection
Part 2 of "the right’s definition of fascism is wrong”
As promised, here is the conclusion to my Wednesday post on the right wing’s historically illiterate definition of fascism, offered as the regular weekend edition for paid subscribers. Get full access here:
So as we’ve seen, the definition of fascism promoted by Glenn Greenwald and other Tucker Carlson regulars — that “fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power” — is a) based on a fake Mussolini quote and b) derived from a hilarious misunderstanding of the word “corporatism.” It’s as if they’d heard about Mussolini’s 1923 commendation by the Vatican’s College of Cardinals and thought the Duce had gotten praised by a flock of Ivy League birds. (“An alarming and despicable alliance between the forces of left-liberal statist repression and woke avian censors ensconced in their elite campus trees …”)
Yet this still leaves a few matters unsettled. For one, did I mean to imply that corporate interests as we understand the word had — or have — their hands clean when it comes to fascism? (I did not.) And why, exactly, is the current crop of online reactionaries so intent on getting this so wrong, so loudly, so often?
The answer to the second one is the simplest. It’s the right’s favorite rhetorical game: deflection by projection. There are plenty of well-supported definitions of fascism out there. Nearly all emphasize — in addition to the cult of an authoritarian leader and a fetish for violence — fascism’s intrinsic opposition to both Marxism and liberal democracy. Thus, its most basic dictionary definition, in this case from the Oxford dictionaries: “Fascism. n. 1. an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.”
This has been deeply inconvenient for the U.S. right since at least the 1940s, when right-wing Americans who admired and aligned themselves with Adolf Hitler and/or Benito Mussolini — a group that included major industrialists like Henry Ford and celebrity activists like Charles Lindbergh and his allies on the America First Committee — were simultaneously humiliated and discredited by the destruction of the fascist armies and the revelation of the Holocaust.
But the right wing’s flirtation with fascists and fascism did not end with V-E Day. As the historian David Walsh has written, stalwart conservatives including William F. Buckley Jr. maintained deep, lifelong affection for the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, a totalitarian whom Hitler had helped remain in power through the indiscriminate bombing of Spanish civilians and who turned around and slaughtered his countrymen in his own system of concentration camps. For decades after, American conservatives saw in Franco a “committed anticommunist,” “a strongman who properly disciplined labor in his country and brought the trade unions to heel,” and a “committed defender of Western Christendom.”
Buckley’s National Review was, similarly, openly allied with the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, before and after his CIA-backed 1973 overthrow of Chilean democracy (which was, of