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If asked what manner of beast fascism is, most people would answer, without hesitation, "fascism is an ideology." The fascist leaders themselves never stopped saying that they were prophets of an idea, unlike the materialist liberals and socialists.
Fascism, by contrast, was a new invention created afresh for the era of mass politics. It sought to appeal mainly to the emotions by the use of ritual, carefully stage-managed ceremonies, and intensely charged rhetoric. The role programs and doctrine play in it is, on closer inspection, fundamentally unlike the role they play in conservatism, liberalism, and socialism. Fascism does not rest explicitly upon an elaborated philosophical system, but rather upon popular feelings about master races, their unjust lot, and their rightful predominance over inferior peoples. It has not been given intellectual underpinnings by any system builder, like Marx, or by any major critical intelligence, like Mill, Burke, or Tocqueville.
In a way utterly unlike the classical "isms," the rightness of fascism does not depend on the truth of any of the propositions advanced in its name. Fascism is "true" insofar as it helps fulfill the destiny of a chosen race or people or blood, locked with other peoples in a Darwinian struggle, and not in the light of some abstract and universal reason. The first fascists were entirely frank about this.
We [Fascists] don't think ideology is a problem that is resolved in such a way that truth is seated on a throne. But, in that case, does fighting for an ideology mean fighting for mere appearance? No doubt, unless one considers it according to its unique and efficacious psychological-historical value. The truth of an ideology lies in its capacity to set in motion our capacity for ideals and action. Its truth is absolute insofar as, living within us, it suffices to exhaust those capacities.The truth was whatever permitted the fascist man (and woman) to dominate others, and whatever made the chosen people triumph.
Fascism rested not upon the truth of its doctrine but upon the leader's mystical union with the historic destiny of his people, a notion related to romanticist ideas of national historic flowering and of individual artistic or spiritual genius, though fascism otherwise denied romanticism's exaltation of unfettered personal creativity. The fascist leader wanted to bring his people into a higher realm of politics that they would experience sensually: the warmth of belonging to a new race now fully aware of its identity, historic destiny, and power; the excitement of participating in a vast collective enterprise; the gratification of submerging oneself in a wave of shared feelings, and of sacrificing one's petty concerns for the group's good; and the dull thrill of domination. Fascism's deliberate replacement of reasoned debate with immediate sensual experience transformed politics, as the exiled German cultural critic Walter Benjamin was first to point out, into aesthetics. And the ultimate fascist aesthetic experience, Benjamin warned in 1936, was war.
Fascist leaders made no secret of having no programs. Mussolini exulted in that absence. "The Fasci di Combattimento," Mussolini wrote in the "Postulates of the Fascist Program" of May 1920, "... do not feel tied to any particular doctrinal form." A few months before he became prime minister of Italy, he replied truculently to a critic who demanded to know what his program was: "The democrats of Il Mondo want to know our program? It is to break the bones of the democrats of Il Mondo. And the sooner the better." "The fist," asserted a fascist militant in 1920, "is the synthesis of our theory." Mussolini liked to declare that he himself was the definition of Fascism. The will and leadership of a Duce was what a modern people needed, not a doctrine. Only in 1932, after he had been in power for ten years, and when he wanted to "normalize" his regime, did Mussolini expound Fascist doctrine, in an article (partly ghostwritten by the philosopher Giovanni Gentile) for the new Enciclopedia Italiana. Power came first, then doctrine. Hannah Arendt observed that Mussolini "was probably the first party leader who consciously rejected a formal program and replaced it with inspired leadership and action alone."
“I’m excited to see him blow the place up. He stands on his own, so he can throw the middle finger up.”
In interviews on Wednesday, again and again, voters in Kenosha said that they had gotten behind Donald Trump. Often, they had not cast a vote for a Republican presidential nominee before. More often, they said that the past eight years had gone well for them — although, tellingly, the city had been better in the times they dimly remembered.
“It was just that ‘Make America Great Again’ turned out to be genius,” said Karen Kempinen, 67, a retired teacher. “That resonated. They didn’t need to think any further than those words.”