There is a new blog post entitled, “The psychopathy of the spike in COVID-19 cases.”
It’s been a hot and dry few days. But as I’m about to hit publish here, look what just appeared to our west (in eastern Ohio):
Don’t know that it will come our way and suspect it won’t change the pattern much, but there it is.
George Monbiot conflates the situations of the U.S. and the U.K., declines to call that conflation fascism, and distinguishes this conflation from fascism on specious grounds. I’m beginning to sense a pattern: It is not intellectually fashionable to invoke the f-word (“fascism”), so people bend over backwards to explain how our situation is different so they can still style themselves ‘intellectuals.’
I call what is happening in the U.S. fascism because, crucially, it seeks to build political support through violence, whether structural or physical, against subaltern groups, especially nonwhites and the poor, that enables further violence against those groups. That’s different from what Monbiot says is happening in the U.K., but Monbiot is criticizing anti-intellectualism in both countries and this is how he grounds his conflation.
I’m not prepared to call intellectuals a subaltern group in either country, though I certainly feel a temptation. Whether I would call the U.K. fascist depends on its treatment of subaltern groups and, while I’m not prepared to excuse that treatment, I’m also not prepared to say that that treatment is part of a feedback loop. Here is my previous definition of fascism from the previous update on May 16:
Fascism is an ideology that seeks to institutionalize structural and physical violence against some or many subaltern groups on the grounds of bigotry and to increase its own public support through the exploitation of such violence and bigotry. This bigotry may take several forms including 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.
If, on the other hand, I am to consider intellectuals a subaltern group, it cannot be all intellectuals. Some, like economists who enable an intellectually utterly discredited neoliberalism and those who support the political class in other ways, are often richly rewarded. Professors who cling to tenure hardly seem subaltern to me. So I would need a way to distinguish between outcast intellectuals, those who are not sycophants for the ruling class, and those who are.
That’s not as easy as it sounds. It can’t simply be that intellectuals who agree with me are subaltern, but ideological sycophancy might be one distinguishing feature of non-subaltern intellectuals. There are books on my shelf I haven’t gotten to that might help with this and Sergio Caldarella criticizes ideological conformity. There may also be economic considerations: What if the surplus of Ph.D. holders functions, intentionally or not, to undermine intellectuals’ leverage in the marketplace, and therefore intellectualism at large?
For now, I just don’t know. A group I might more easily include as subaltern is that of dissidents. Monbiot criticizes the elite response to intellectual dissent in the U.S. and the U.K., but what if the real objection authoritarian populists and elites have with those Monbiot calls intellectuals isn’t to their intellectualism but rather to their ideas?
So here is how I am further refining my definition:
Fascism is an ideology that seeks to institutionalize structural and physical violence against some or many subaltern groups on the grounds of bigotry and to increase its own public support through the exploitation of such violence and bigotry. This bigotry may take several forms including the repression of dissent or the promotion of 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.
George Monbiot, “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” July 6, 2020, https://www.monbiot.com/2020/07/07/something-wicked-this-way-comes/
Keeping Pennsylvania safe for white supremacy.
Stephen Caruso, “Pro 2nd Amendment lawmakers want to let you carry a gun during an emergency,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, July 7, 2020, https://www.penncapital-star.com/government-politics/pro-2nd-amendment-lawmakers-want-to-let-you-carry-a-gun-during-an-emergency/