Harry Bliss’s “City Living” - Françoise Mouly talks to the illustrator Harry Bliss about “City Living,” his cover for the June 25, 2018, issue of The New Yorker.
26 minutes ago
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.”
[Ivanka Trump] Over the years, on too many occasions to count, I saw my father tear stories out of the newspaper about people whom he had never met, who were facing some injustice or hardship.
He’d write a note to his assistant, in a signature black felt tip pen, and request that the person be found and invited to Trump Tower to meet with him. He would talk to them and then draw upon his extensive network to find them a job or get them a break. And they would leave his office, as people so often do after having been with Donald Trump, feeling that life could be great again.
As the writer Corrado Alvaro observed in 1934, much of the extraordinary appeal of Mussolini to the masses lay in a widespread view that he was in some sense omniscient and could intervene to rectify their wrongs in accordance with an 'old ideal of justice'. And even when he was not aware of a specific grievance, it was commonly felt that he would act to remedy it just as soon as it came to his attention. Mussolini assiduously played up to such beliefs. The editor of il Popolo d'Italia recalled how the Duce telephoned him on one occasion after reading in a newspaper of a mother who was living with triplets, seven other children and a sick husband in a single room, telling him to send someone to the poor woman 'immediately' ('because we must not lose time with the usual bureaucratic headaches') with a gift of 3,000 lire in his name. In reporting the charitable gesture in il Popolo d' Italia the next day, the editor was told to emphasise how Mussolini had spotted the story tucked away in a corner of 'one of the many newspapers that he reads and notwithstanding the huge burden of work that he was saddled with'.
In his 1928 book Mussolini da vicino ('Mussolini close up') the well-known writer Paolo Orano described coming across the Duce surrounded by papers, and being asked for his opinion about an author who had just written to request assistance. Orano confirmed that the man in question had indeed had a hard life and was weighed down with debts, and Mussolini promptly declared that he needed to be 'saved' and wrote out a cheque for 10,000 lire...
Many of those who appealed to the Duce for financial or other help did so from a belief that he occupied a position of absolute power and also from a sense that he would view supplicants with the kindness of a father and the charity of a man blessed by God. [...]
After being received in Rome, a letter would normally be forwarded by the Segreteria Particolare to the local prefect, who would check up on the supplicant's political and moral credentials, make sure that genuine hardship was involved, and ascertain if any assistance had already been given. If he advised that the case had merit, then an appropriate sum might be awarded ("The Duce has deigned to concede to you...'). [...]
The precise sums in question are hard to ascertain, but each year tens of millions of lire were available for the Duce's own personal distribution from the secret funds of ministries, the police, the Bank of Italy and various other sources. [...]
The impact of Mussolini's personal beneficence on individuals or communities was often considerable, not least because a sense of impovershment might be bound up closely with ideas of inveterate neglect by the state. The files of the Segreteria Particolare are full of letters from grateful recipients eager to capitalise on the feeling of having been singled out with a further communication with the Duce.
As so often it was the Duce's extraordinary omniscience as much as his generosity that was deemed to be remarkable:
... You, DUCE, though beset by the most pressing work, have seen and have thought even of us. We feel so proud of his gaze, more than if the eyes of all the world had been fixed on us. [Fascist Voices, pages 241-243]