By uncovering disturbing patterns that are as prevalent today as ever, philosopher Jacob Stanley reveals in How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them that the stuff of politics—charged by rhetoric and myth—can quickly become policy and reality. Only by recognizing fascist politics, he argues, may we resist its most harmful effects and return to democratic ideals.
For this conversation Stanley is joined by Harvard associate professor of History Elizabeth Hinton.
Racism makes societies vulnerable to fascism
look I’m white but it’s in my
self-interest to fight against racism
because it opens my society to fascism
Are economics responsible for fascism?
for family issues back in Ohio and I
would go through rural Ohio but I see no
feline annex and I’d see poverty and
nobody Cambridge you about under and and
it wasn’t covered you know and so I
always say follow the money and there’s
no money in the rural areas and
globalism works in Boston and San
Francisco but it doesn’t seem to work in
rural America and so I always think that
globalism is doomed and democracy is
doomed if they can’t figure out a way to
put rural Americans into this economy
that doesn’t that that doesn’t seem to
have happened I was I was in southern
Ohio and a family gathering in Lebanon
Ohio and the fireman was talking to me
in there was part of the group and he
said he’s retiring early because he
can’t stand picking up opioid addicts in
a little talons Ohio with 10,000 people
he’s got a five six calls a day take
care of over those people and people
shooting out in cars
so yeah and this is little little
hometown you know Warren Ohio is dead so
you’re raising a couple different relate
related points but both very important
first of all we haven’t talked much
about political economy and I think it’s
very important to talk about political
economy as as a factor also in the
factor in the far-right movement like
what’s happening it’s all right now
fascism is not fascist politics not
being used to like buttress military
empire as much as its used to other one
other than Yemen and so it is but but it
it’s being used to like funnel money
into oligarchs hands and blah and sort
of like throw sand in the face of people
with genuine economic concerns but the
I mean it’s not just the rural Midwest
like my partner is a doctor physician in
New Haven New Haven Connecticut has a
horrific OPA opioid problem I mean the
pharmaceutical companies I mean they
delivered a whole bunch of opioids to a
lot of people and and it’s a problem
that is the dhih industrialized areas
I mean opiates horrific it’s like what
60,000 deaths last year 70,000 deaths so
so but and it’s it’s tricky figuring out
you know Carl Hart’s work would say it’s
it’s mainly an economic problem you
solve people’s economic issues and
they’re not gonna be opioid addicts but
but but you’re you’re I mean one thing
about the economic anxiety point is that
if you look at who was affected by the
Great Recession the group that was most
affected by the Great Recession I think
were people of color but they didn’t
flee into the arms of fascism you know they
didn’t start voting for or you know they
didn’t vote for Trump so I I don’t think
so it can’t I think that economic and
and then you look worldwide my book is
about the world and you look at Poland
like the Civic Platform in Poland
like the Civic Platform expanded the GDP
radically Poland was doing really well
economically and then law and justice
came in and did all these tactics and
one look at Bavaria one of the richest
areas in the world Bavaria is filled
with this you say oh say offer so the
economic anxiety does not match all the
areas it can explain it can explain why
some groups in some areas fall prey to
this politics but looking
internationally the politics gets a grip
and even looking nationally because it
gets a grip on some groups and not the
other others and if you look at if you
look at and my book is about why it gets
a grip when it’s so obviously a false
promise and so in the United States when
we talk about the poor working class we
– we – the white working class we forget
a chapter and Du Bois as black
reconstruction is a poor white you know
we have to talk about the psychological
wages of whiteness we have to talk about
and and the response is of course an
economic response is a labor movement a
labor movement you know when they smash
the labor movements in the Upper Midwest
suddenly people felt much more prey to
this kind of politics and so you know so
I think we do face this crisis we need a
labor movement that’s why they went
after the labor movement we’re in a
crisis after the Janice decision and and
so we have to rebuild the labor we
wouldn’t give people economic hope I’m
not sure it’s as globalization as much
as it’s the lack of a of a of a labor
movement in the United States
I mean German manufacturing is doing
fine and German labor is doing fine
history and making history no but I
guess how do you make it known
given that the I mean given what you’re
talking about you know the attack on
truth the discrediting of sources the
control of educational boards or
institutions by people who might not be
in their interest a place you know I
mean so what I don’t know if that’s I
mean if doing it’s having conversations
like this I mean I think it’s it’s it’s
really up to us and this is like in
terms of thinking about what is the role
of academics right now I mean people who
do research is – it’s one I think that
qualitative research in general is just
D legitimized and it’s it’s dismissed as
not being true despite the fact that you
know my I don’t use my data doesn’t come
from surveys it’s not in document since
the ways in which I’m interpreting those
documents just like it’s the ways in
which other people are interpreting
their quantitative data and so I think
that you know right now the other kind
of struggle going on in universities is
the growing attack in many ways on the
liberal on liberal arts in general which
is tied to the developments that Jason
described so eloquently in the book so I
think part of it is you know doing the
work of having discussions like this
it’s amazing that there’s so many people
here and we’re having this really engage
an important discussion that takes a lot
out of us but that’s I think part of our
responsibility as as researchers as
scholars as intellectuals to try to
write in accessible ways Jason was just
telling me that he’s been on the radio
for like ten hours this week that’s
doing the work that’s doing that
important work and I think part of the
difficulty is in many in in many
instances we we end up kind of preaching
to the choir you can only go on Berkeley
radio so many times I mean
– is also kind of moving into different
spaces where we might be less
comfortable when I get invited to speak
with libertarian or white ring groups
are I’m happy to go because knowing that
I might be walking into an abrasive
situation you know I tried to make my
book and my research as undeniable as
possible and I think the argument that
you’ve laid out in this book is also
undeniable and that’s how I think we can
begin to think about re-educating
correcting the false narratives and
erasing the untruths the mythic past
that’s been created in history is I
think really historical work is really
key to that we don’t know how we got
here unless we really really understand
the past yeah I just want I just want to
say you know that’s why do boys ends
ends black reconstruction at the
propaganda of history and that’s why
he’s so corny and capitalizes truth you
know that’s that’s that’s what gets me
upset when people attack for instance
african-american studies as as has been
happening a lot or Gender Studies
because they’re trying to tell the
actual truth of a story that’s not told
and you know and that that’s that’s why
dude you know Dubois is always so corny
about truth see like he’s like you know
when you know erasure and erasure is
never truth you know so and of course
the backlash is always like a little bit
of like at Yale what happened the I mean
I could have told my colleagues the
English department they added googy Wafi
Unga this this goes back to you they had
a GUI hua Theon go to one course and and
there were like 20 articles from
right-wing media about how they’re
eliminating Shakespeare at Yale and it
hit them so by surprise I was like my
colleagues in the English department
like what happened what happened we’re
gonna go as death threats I’m like yeah
you added an African writer to a
required course you know so that’s the
and we we have academic administrators
here they can tell you about this but
there’s there’s you know the very ID so
true like multiple perspective
which doesn’t mean multiple perspectives
doesn’t mean there’s many truths there’s
only one truth that’s why Dubois
capitalizes it but the truth involves
you know that the Nate what happened to
the indigenous populations as well as
what happened to Dale Carnegie
Minorities do not consider the Republican party more religious (22 min)
Most white people don’t identify strongly as Italian. They identified as Methodist or Baptists, but now that religion is less important, political partisanship matters more.
Minorities aren’t looking to political identity for their identity.
Ep 333: Drew Dyck Disciplines Himself
If you become disciplined to pursue a self-interested, bad goal, what does that gain you.
If you think the right things, truth, it will transform their character. But why is it some of the most theologically smart people are A-holes.
Things that Deplete your Willpower:
Decision making, Conflict, Sleep
Flee temptation. If you are always relying on willpower, you will fail.
This is where habits are important
- Pick one thing. Don’t try to do 5 New Year’s Resolutions at once
- You can’t delete Bad Habits, only replace them
- Cue, Routine, Payoff
- Replace social media with Bible reading
- Jesus take the wheel
- Someone says that they will not brush their teeth unless they felt called by the spirit
- Grace is not opposed to effort. Grace is opposed to earning.
- Sanctification is often a slow transformation process.
- I am what’s wrong with the world: G.K. Chesterton
- In the long run, self-discipline is about delayed-gratification. It is easier in the long run.
Evangelicals and the 5 Stages of Grief: (30 min)
We are between anger and bargaining and this Trump Faustian bargain was out of desperation over demographic change.
Sociologists refer to the Driver’s license -> Marriage License Gap
Fewer people are coming back to the church because the gap is longer and people figure out how to live without it.
Reinforce Republican identity and threat, not from Satan or poverty, or oppression, but an enemy of Democrats
- Us vs them, mitigating our fears in the amygdala
- If fear is a big part of your life, you are not living as a Christian
- I am not a fearvangelica
- A lot of people believe that being afraid makes them Godly
- It is very hard to convince someone who is marinating in fear that they don’t need to fear.
- Phil’s Idea: inside out with fearful evangelicals
World War I and the adversarial mentality.
It’s the eternal argument. When you are fighting a repulsive foe, the ends justify any means and serve as rationale for any selfishness.
Dax’s struggle is not to change the war or to save lives. That’s impossible. The war has won. The struggle is simply to remain a human being, to maintain some contact with goodness in circumstances that are inhumane.
Disillusionment was the classic challenge for the generation that fought and watched that war. Before 1914, there was an assumed faith in progress, a general trust in the institutions and certainties of Western civilization. People, especially in the educated classes, approached life with a gentlemanly, sporting spirit.
As Paul Fussell pointed out in “The Great War and Modern Memory,” the upper classes used genteel words in place of plain ones: slumber for sleep, the heavens for the sky, conquer for win, legion for army.
The war blew away that gentility, those ideals and that faith in progress. Ernest Hemingway captured the rising irony and cynicism in “A Farewell to Arms.” His hero is embarrassed “by the words sacred, glorious and sacrifice and the expression, in vain.” He had seen nothing sacred in the war, nothing glorious, just meaningless slaughter.
.. European culture suffered a massive disillusion during the conflict — no God, no beauty, no coherence, no meaning, just the cruel ironic joke of life. Cynicism breeds a kind of nihilism, a disbelief in all values, an assumption that others’ motives are bad.
Fussell wrote that the war spread an adversarial mentality. The men in the trenches were obsessed with the enemy — those anonymous creatures across no man’s land who rained down death. “Prolonged trench warfare, whether enacted or remembered, fosters paranoid melodrama,” he wrote.
The “versus habit” construes reality as us versus them — a mentality that spread through British society. It was the officers versus the men, and, when they got home, the students at university versus the dons.
George Orwell wrote that he recognized the Great War mentality lingering even in the 1930s in his own left-wing circles — the same desire to sniff out those who departed from party orthodoxy, the same retelling of mostly false atrocity stories, the same war hysteria. As Christopher Isherwood put it, all the young people who were ashamed of never having fought in the war brought warlike simplicities to political life.
.. Some of the disillusioned drop out of public life, since it’s all meaningless. But others want to burn it all down because it’s all rotten. Moderation is taken for cowardice. Aggression is regarded as courage. No conciliatory word is permitted when a fighting word will do.
Today we face no horrors equal to the Great War, but there is the same loss of faith in progress, the reality of endless political trench warfare, the paranoid melodrama, the specter that we are all being dehumanized amid the fight.
In the 1960s, much like today, people with opposing viewpoints struggled to communicate with one another. Yet there was a civility to that era’s public debate that is nowhere to be found today, owing to liberal elites’ understanding that refusing to engage would only reinforce the “us versus them” mentality that fuels radicalism... Dutschke tried to “unmask” Dahrendorf – the liberal establishment intellectual – as exploitative and undemocratic; Dahrendorf countered that Dutschke’s revolutionary rhetoric was naive, more hot air than substance, and ultimately dangerous... The debate began with Thadden detailing his political views, offering an unapologetic assessment of Germany’s role in WWII, and explaining the rise of the NPD. Dahrendorf, a sociology professor, followed with an analysis of the NPD’s diverse membership, which included old Nazis, disillusioned identity seekers, and opportunistic anti-modernists... Dahrendorf was adamant that the NPD’s fate should be decided by the voters, rather than the courts, which had declared the Communist Party illegal. Kaul reiterated this idea in a passionate statement (which had undoubtedly been agreed in advance by East German leaders) about the exclusion of West Germany’s Communists from the debate. Other panelists agreed. A liberal democracy, Dahrendorf concluded, cannot exclude radicals on one side, while tolerating those on the other... It is hard to imagine today’s mainstream politicians and public intellectuals engaging publicly in such profound and mutually respectful debates with today’s radicals and upstarts, whether populists, economic nationalists, Euroskeptics, or something else. Those on the far left and the far right certainly are not engaging one another in this manner. Each side would rather preach to its own audience, accessible within media bubbles where there is little demand for genuine discussion of opposing views... Many establishment leaders nowadays – the so-called elites who are the standard-bearers of the liberal democratic order – seem to believe that the risks of engaging with radical figures are too great: more exposure could mean more legitimacy. But this stance is itself highly risky, not least because it has translated into a willful blindness to the social changes that have fueled extremist ideologies – an approach that comes across to many as arrogant... Recall US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s flippant assertion that half of her rival Donald Trump’s supporters comprised a “basket of deplorables.”.. One cannot simply wish away extremists. Letting radical movements run their course, as some have suggested, is both reckless and dangerous, given the amount of damage they can do before they fail. To fulfill their responsibility as stewards of the public good, cultural and political “elites” must eschew elitism and find formats and formulas that enable more constructive engagement among diverse groups, including – as difficult as it may be – radical and populist movements... Dahrendorf rightly proclaimed that extremists’ success was a measure of democratic elites’ failings. Like the NPD in the 1960s, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) owes its success in last September’s federal election to the refusal of the country’s political, economic, and academic elites to engage constructively with the public, much less with those the public believed were willing to address their concerns... Defenders of liberal democracy must debate the populists not to change the populists’ minds, but to make the public understand what each party really stands for, not simply against. Yes, this could mean giving populists more airtime, and it risks normalizing extreme views. But the threats associated with an aggressively polarized public sphere – one that extremists have proved adept at exploiting – are much greater.
I live at the intersection of politics and religion. . . . My faith impels me into the public square. It is abundantly clear that Pope Francis is correct when he says that faith has real consequences in the world . . . and these consequences involve politics. . . .
.. At NETWORK, we often say that our care for the common good is care for “the 100%” instead of the 99% or the 1%. . . .
.. God is alive in all. No one can be left out of my care. Therefore this political work is anchored in caring for those whom we lobby as well as those whose cause we champion. This was illustrated for me . . . when I was with four of my colleagues lobbying a Republican Senator on healthcare legislation. I commented on the story of a constituent and asked her how her colleagues could turn their eyes away from the suffering and fear of their people. . . .
She said that many of her colleagues . . . did not get close to the candid stories of their people. In fact, some did not see these constituents as “their people.” Tears sprang to my eyes at her candor and the pain that keeps us sealed off from each other because of political partisanship.
.. our position “for the 100%” requires an empathy that stretches my being beyond my imagining. Finding a way to not vilify or divide into “them” and “us” in today’s federal politics goes against . . . current custom.
In retrospect, the civil war in the Balkans was the most important event of that period. It prefigured what has come since: the return of ethnic separatism, the rise of authoritarian populism, the retreat of liberal democracy, the elevation of a warrior ethos that reduces politics to friend/enemy, zero-sum conflicts.
.. Back in the 1990s, there was an unconscious abundance mind-set.
.. Today, after the financial crisis, the shrinking of the middle class, the partisan warfare, a scarcity mind-set is dominant: Resources are limited. The world is dangerous. Group conflict is inevitable. It’s us versus them. If they win, we’re ruined, therefore, let’s stick with our tribe. The ends justify the means.
.. The scarcity mind-set is an acid that destroys every belief system it touches.
.. Now, Donald Trump leads the Republican Party, the personification of the scarcity mind-set. Fox News, with its daily gospel of resentments, is the most important organ of conservative opinion.
.. Republicans are happy to trade away their fiscal principles if they can get their way on immigration, which is what they did in last week’s budget deal.
Donald Trump is always trying to cure his loneliness by making friend/enemy distinctions; trying to unite his clan by declaring verbal war on other groups; trying to shrivel his life into a little box by building walls against anybody outside its categories.
.. Richard Reeves points out that in “On Liberty,” Mill used the words “energy,” “active” and “vital” nearly as many times as he used the word “freedom.” Freedom for him was a means, not an end. The end is moral excellence. Mill believed that all of us “are under a moral obligation to seek the improvement of our moral character.”
“At the heart of his liberalism,” Reeves writes, “was a clearly and repeatedly articulated vision of a flourishing human life — self-improving, passionate, truth-seeking, engaged and colorful.”
.. He championed the labor movement, was the first member of Parliament to call for women to be given the right to vote, was the leading British philosopher of the 19th century and served as a loving son, husband and friend.
.. Mill had an optimistic view of human nature and probably an insufficient appreciation of human depravity
.. Mill was living in a Victorian moment when the chief problem was claustrophobia — the individual being smothered by society. He emphasized individual liberation. His emphases probably would have been different if he had lived today, when our problem is agoraphobia — too much freedom, too little cohesion, meaning and direction.
.. His example cures us from the weakness of our age — the belief that we can achieve democracy on the cheap; the belief that all we have to do to fulfill our democratic duties is be nice, vote occasionally and have opinions.
.. Mill showed that real citizenship is a life-transforming vocation. It involves, at base, cultivating the ability to discern good from evil, developing the intellectual virtues required to separate the rigorous from the sloppy, living an adventurous life so that you are rooting yourself among and serving those who are completely unlike yourself.
The demands of democracy are clear — the elevation and transformation of your very self. If you are not transformed, you’re just skating by.