A revised definition of fascism

Education

There is a new blog post entitled, “‘Private benefit’ versus ‘public good.’

Bill Schackner, “Petitions couldn’t save a popular Pennsylvania state university music professor’s job, so his wife is speaking out,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 4, 2021, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2021/06/04/State-System-of-Higher-Education-Greenstein-APSCUF-faculty-union-jobs-teaching-Pennsylvania-colleges/stories/202106040078


Donald Trump

David A. Graham, “This Isn’t Normal, Either,” Atlantic, June 5, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/06/isnt-normal-either/619102/

Max Boot, “Too many people are still underestimating the Trump threat,” Washington Post, June 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/06/07/too-many-people-are-still-underestimating-trump/


Evictions

Federal aid intended to prevent evictions is being snarled by red tape, in some cases disqualifying tenants who should be eligible, and by bureaucratic delays as overwhelmed agencies fail to keep up with a flood of applications. The eviction moratorium expires at the end of June.[1] I have seen nothing further on the status of court cases challenging the ban imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; three federal judges had overturned it and three had upheld it.[2]

Will Parker, “Logjams Are Keeping Much of $47 Billion in Federal Aid From Renters,” Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/logjams-are-keeping-much-of-47-billion-in-federal-aid-from-renters-11623070800


Fascism

It’s probably been a few months now since I learned Umberto Eco had also worked on defining fascism. His definition[3] is rather different from Laurence Britt’s[4] and so I have now attempted to synthesize the two in updating an old blog post entitled, “A simple definition of fascism. Eco offers some seriously fascinating insight. Distilling it and combining it into a “simple” definition is not easy and I’ll probably be thinking about this some more. For now:

Fascism is an incoherent and strongly authoritarian ideology that seeks to institutionalize structural and physical violence against some or many “others,” both external and internal, who are simultaneously seen as inferior, humiliating, and threatening. This conflict is “heroic,” culminating in death against a foe who must be invincible because peace is weakness, but also vincible because the enemy is disdained. Fascism equates peace, even that imposed by the victor, with weakness and inferiority. An equation of weakness with inferiority extends even to lower-ranking members of the fascist movement itself. Fascism’s frustrations may be expressed through toxic masculinity.

Due to its incoherence, fascism can tolerate no challenge, whether intellectual or in any way deliberative. It is emphatically foundational; in tautological form, fascists are “right” simply and solely because they are “right.”

Fascism seeks to increase its own public support through the exploitation of violence and bigotry, where the latter may take several forms including the intolerance for dissent, nationalism, scapegoating, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. To the extent that it succeeds, it acts as a self-reinforcing feedback as public support enables further and more extreme violence.[5]


Allegheny County

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, Jr., has supposedly rescinded[6] the ban on plea deals with Milton Raiford, a defense attorney who had complained of systemic discrimination in the criminal (in)justice systems around Pittsburgh generally and specifically within the district attorney’s office, leading to numerous calls for Zappala’s resignation.[7] The D.A. has also issued new guidance on handling discrimination claims.[8]

[Milton] Raiford called [Stephen] Zappala’s weekend memo “garbage,” adding, “I think it’s stonewalling the fact he violated my constitutional rights and the rights of my clients. The mule’s out of the barn, and he’s trying to protect himself. It changes absolutely nothing.”

Raiford added: “He has never apologized to me.”

Fordham University Law Professor Bruce Green, an expert in prosecutorial ethics who followed this issue, said he does not read the new policy to rescind the earlier one against Raiford.

“It’s a new and different policy, reminding prosecutors to make charging and plea bargaining decisions based on evidence,” Green said. “It’s somewhat pointless, since the theory of structural racism is that it is baked into the process, not that individual prosecutors are consciously making racist decisions. It also ignores learnings about unconscious bias. And, so, it shows a certain obtuseness about the earlier criticism of the office.”

Green said the instruction for defense attorneys to report accusations of discrimination seems pointless.

“Not many defense lawyers will risk the prosecutors’ enmity by making these accusations, especially not after witnessing the office’s vindictiveness, and given that the accusations certainly won’t do individual clients any good,” he said.

David A. Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who studies race in the criminal justice system, said the policy outlined by Zappala in Sunday’s memo ought to already be in place.

“That should already be happening,” Harris said. “‘If you have a problem, come to us.’ That’s not a new policy. That’s got to be the case all the time.”

Harris said the response from Zappala misses the point of what Raiford was initially trying to express.

“It was less about a particular plea offer, though that may have been included, and more about the system and the actions of the DA’s office as a whole.”

Examining individual claims of discrimination in a single case will not reveal if there is racial impact or systemic racial choices being made, Harris said.

“You can’t really tell if you have a systemic process if you don’t look at the run of the entire system,” he said. “A person could say a white person would get a better deal, but how would you go about proving that? It would be very difficult.”

[9]

There are an awful lot of Black folks in Allegheny County. I don’t keep a count but I think they’re probably a majority of my passengers as an Uber and Lyft driver. It’s more than a little frightening to think about what they face.

Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala updates policy on how prosecutors should deal with discrimination claims; rescinds policy against Raiford,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 7, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-updates-policy-on-how-prosecutors-should-deal-with-discrimination-claims/


Jeff Bezos

The man who fancies himself a Jean-Luc Picard,[10] but who treats his workers abysmally,[11] is shooting himself off into space for a brief trip after stepping down as chief executive officer of Amazon.[12]

Derrick Bryson Taylor and Kenneth Chang, “Jeff Bezos Will Fly Aboard Blue Origin’s First Human Trip to Space,” New York Times, June 7, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/07/business/jeff-bezos-space.html


  1. [1]Will Parker, “Logjams Are Keeping Much of $47 Billion in Federal Aid From Renters,” Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/logjams-are-keeping-much-of-47-billion-in-federal-aid-from-renters-11623070800; Kyle Swenson, “The eviction moratorium is about to end. Rent relief hasn’t arrived. These renters decided to take action,” Washington Post, June 5, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/06/05/prince-georges-rent-strike-eviction/
  2. [2]Kyle Swenson, “Federal judge vacates CDC’s nationwide eviction moratorium,” Washington Post, May 5, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/05/05/federal-judge-vacates-cdcs-nationwide-eviction-moratorium/
  3. [3]Umberto Eco, “Ur-Fascism,” New York Review of Books, June 22, 1995, https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1995/06/22/ur-fascism/
  4. [4]Laurence W. Britt, “Fascism Anyone?” Free Inquiry 23, no. 2. (Spring 2003), https://secularhumanism.org/2003/03/fascism-anyone/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “A simple definition of fascism,” Not Housebroken, June 9, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/06/a-simple-definition-of-fascism/
  6. [6]Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala updates policy on how prosecutors should deal with discrimination claims; rescinds policy against Raiford,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 7, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-updates-policy-on-how-prosecutors-should-deal-with-discrimination-claims/
  7. [7]Ryan Deto, “Pittsburgh politicians call on DA Stephen Zappala to be removed or resign from office,” Pittsburgh City Paper, June 2, 2021, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/pittsburgh-politicians-call-on-da-stephen-zappala-to-be-removed-or-resign-from-office/Content?oid=19583745; Paula Reed Ward, “Allegheny County judge halts plea deals amid questions surrounding DA Zappala,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/allegheny-county-judge-halts-plea-deals-amid-questions-surrounding-da-zappala/; Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala: No plea deals to Black attorney who called his office ‘systematically racist,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 2, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-no-plea-deals-to-black-attorney-who-called-his-office-systematically-racist/; Paula Reed Ward, “DA Zappala says office halted plea deals with Black attorney to avoid ‘false claims of racism,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 3, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/da-zappala-says-office-halted-plea-deals-with-black-attorney-to-avoid-false-claims-of-racism/
  8. [8]Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala updates policy on how prosecutors should deal with discrimination claims; rescinds policy against Raiford,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 7, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-updates-policy-on-how-prosecutors-should-deal-with-discrimination-claims/
  9. [9]Paula Reed Ward, “Zappala updates policy on how prosecutors should deal with discrimination claims; rescinds policy against Raiford,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 7, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/zappala-updates-policy-on-how-prosecutors-should-deal-with-discrimination-claims/
  10. [10]Franklin Foer, “Jeff Bezos’s Master Plan,” Atlantic, November 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/11/what-jeff-bezos-wants/598363/
  11. [11]Johana Bhuiyan, “Amazon ends practice of dipping into drivers’ tips to meet their wage guarantees,” Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/story/2019-08-22/amazon-flex-fares-tips; Jessa Crispin, “Amazon is a disaster for workers. Nomadland glosses over that,” Guardian, March 23, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/23/amazon-nomadland-film-jeff-bezos-disaster-workers; Daniel D’Addario, “Amazon is worse than Walmart,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/control/2013/07/30/how_amazon_is_worse_than_wal_mart/; Josh Eidelson, “Amazon Keeps Unions Out By Keeping Workers in Fear, Says Organizer,” Alternet, January 22, 2014, https://www.alternet.org/2014/01/amazon-keeps-unions-out-keeping-workers-fear-says-organizer/; Danny Fortson, “Is Jeff Bezos’s Amazon now the ‘evil face of capitalism’?” Times, December 8, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/is-jeff-bezoss-amazon-now-the-evil-face-of-capitalism-3lxjs0k0n; Nichole Gracely, “‘Being homeless is better than working for Amazon,’” Guardian, November 28, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/nov/28/being-homeless-is-better-than-working-for-amazon; Simon Head, “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers,” Salon, February 23, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/02/23/worse_than_wal_mart_amazons_sick_brutality_and_secret_history_of_ruthlessly_intimidating_workers/; Sarah Jones, “Amazon Defeats Union Drive in Alabama,” New York, April 9, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/04/amazon-has-the-votes-to-defeat-union-effort-in-alabama.html; Ken Klippenstein, “Documents Show Amazon Is Aware Drivers Pee in Bottles and Even Defecate En Route, Despite Company Denial,” Intercept, March 25, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/03/25/amazon-drivers-pee-bottles-union/; Colin Lecher, “How Amazon automatically tracks and fires warehouse workers for ‘productivity,’” Verge, April 25, 2019, https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/25/18516004/amazon-warehouse-fulfillment-centers-productivity-firing-terminations; Patrick McGreevy and Suhauna Hussain, “California demands that Amazon comply with COVID-19 investigation,” Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-12-14/california-lawsuit-amazon-workplace-conditions-covid-19; Nathaniel Mott, “From Amazon warehouse workers to Google bus drivers, it’s tough working a non-tech job at a tech company,” Pando, October 9, 2014, https://pando.com/2014/10/09/from-amazon-warehouse-workers-to-google-bus-drivers-its-tough-working-a-non-tech-job-at-a-tech-company/; Reuters, “Amazon apology to Democrat includes admission drivers urinate in bottles,” Guardian, April 3, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/apr/03/amazon-apology-democrat-mark-pocan; Michael Sainato, “‘I’m not a robot’: Amazon workers condemn unsafe, grueling conditions at warehouse,” Guardian, February 5, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/feb/05/amazon-workers-protest-unsafe-grueling-conditions-warehouse; Alex Seitz-Wald, “Amazon is everything wrong with our new economy,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/07/30/amazon_is_everything_wrong_with_our_new_economy/; Spencer Soper, “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse,” Lehigh Valley Morning Call, September 18, 2011, https://www.mcall.com/business/mc-xpm-2011-09-18-mc-allentown-amazon-complaints-20110917-story.html; Matt Stieb, “Amazon Called Out for Denying Workers Go to Bathroom in Bottles,” New York, March 25, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/03/amazon-called-out-for-denying-that-workers-pee-in-bottles.html
  12. [12]Derrick Bryson Taylor and Kenneth Chang, “Jeff Bezos Will Fly Aboard Blue Origin’s First Human Trip to Space,” New York Times, June 7, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/07/business/jeff-bezos-space.html

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