The Terror of Fascism
Just two weeks ago, the US was the site of horrific terror. Two people were murdered in what appears to be a racially motivated shooting in Kentucky; members of a synagogue in Pittsburgh were the victims of what may be the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history; pipe bombs were mailed to prominent critics of Donald Trump. These acts of violence are not blips on the radar and they did not happen in a vacuum. Rather, they are the symptoms of a pernicious fascism that continues to gain ground in the US.
The Fascist Formula
Political philosopher Jason Stanley argues that the formula for fascism includes the following actions:
- Generate a Mythic Past: Fascists paint a false yet seductive portrait of an idyllic national past. The past of the fascists does not actually correspond to historical realities, but presents a nostalgic vision of a nation that was far more “pure” and “strong,” before it was destroyed by “the enemy.”
- Sow Division: The mythic past begs the question: Who is this “enemy” that caused the nation to depart from its former glory? In answering this question, fascists sow deep and violent division. Fascists arbitrarily blame certain groups (often religious and ethnic minority groups, immigrants, and political opponents of fascism) as the reason for the nation’s “descent.”
- Attack the Truth: Since fascist myths are built on lies, fascists engage in an all-out assault on the truth and those who seek to defend it. This involves demonizing the press, disregarding inconvenient facts, and broadcasting propaganda.
Using these elements, we can see that recent terror attacks in the US are consequences of the growth of fascism in the US. For example, Trump refers to the press as “the true Enemy of the People” and has encouraged violence against reporters. By portraying journalists as “the enemy,” he both sows division and attacks the truth, creating an atmosphere where reporting the truth is framed as an attack on the well-being of the nation.
Amidst this inflammatory rhetoric, a congressman physically attacked a reporter, an act that Trump praised. And shortly thereafter, a pipe bomb was mailed to CNN. When influential leaders demonize the press and encourage violence against journalists, attempting to murder reporters is a natural (if horrific) consequence. And to add fuel to the fire, Trump even blamed the journalists themselves for being victims of an attempted terror attack.
Unfortunately, there are just too many of these attempted terror attacks to analyze in detail. I will focus on one intended victim of the pipe bomb attacks: George Soros.
Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jewish philanthropist George Soros not only played a role in the mailing of a pipe bomb to his New York address, but also ignited the rage that led to the Pittsburgh massacre. The alleged Pittsburgh shooter bought into the insidious, anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, popularized by Trump, Fox News, and other far-right media sites, that George Soros is the puppeteer behind the caravan of migrants fleeing gang violence in Central America.
The conspiracy theories about George Soros are yet another manifestation of a long, anti-Semitic trope that can be dated back to the 1780s, in which a wealthy Jewish figure is falsely accused of manipulating world events according to his “globalist” machinations. This trope has been used by fascists for centuries, and often plays a prominent role in sparking anti-Semitic violence. It is a convenient lie that enables anti-immigrant xenophobia and anti-Semitism to fuel one another. Those familiar with the close relationship between fascism and anti-Semitism are not surprised, then, to see the documented rise of anti-Semitism in the US.
Rise and Resistance
Fascism creeps along as it grows and expands its unholy empire, normalizing itself at every step of the way. But as Christians, we are called to love our neighbors (Mk 12:30-31), and this involves engaging in radical acts of love toward those demonized by fascism. We should decry the dehumanization of refugees and migrants, denounce anti-Semitic conspiracies, and declare the truth that everyone is made in the image of God (Gen 1:27).
The rise of fascism in the US does not, currently, show many signs of slowing down. We must acknowledge the possibility that these recent acts of domestic terrorism may be omens of what’s to come. But at the same time, we cannot resign ourselves to hopelessness. We are to be witnesses in dark times, combining a prophetic critique of oppression with a radical love and hospitality toward those who are victims of the same evils that crucified our Lord.
In these dark times, may we be found faithful.