We could have guessed that "fascism" would come to this
Now, I suppose I could have researched this diary a little further with some research into actual use of the words "fascist" and "fascism." But it was hard to miss, in the run-up to the 2020 election, voices crying out in unison: "Donald Trump is a fascist!" This was done as if we all recognized that a "fascist" was the sort of supervillain to be properly deposed through free and fair elections in which the "fascist" was to lose to an aging neoliberal. And the aging neoliberal was to have no credibility to speak of. Here one thinks of two things:
1) in January of 2017 before Trump's inauguration, "Vox" published a piece titled "Donald Trump isn't a fascist." Sure, it's a bit sloppy, but the basic truth of it is that fascists don't respect democracy at all, and that Trump despite all of his whining left the White House. What do we do, in 21st-century America, when the threat of "fascism" looms? Why, we play along with their policy initiatives for four years, we let them destroy themselves with bad electioneering, and then if they complain too loudly about our pseudo-democracy, we kick them off of Twitter. Problem solved!
2) There was, to be sure, a solution proposed to a problem of actual fascism in an era of actual fascism -- by which is meant, here, the early- and mid-twentieth century. I refer, here, to the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler. William Shirer tells us, here linked to the Wikipedia page for convenience, that the Gestapo executed nearly 5,000 people in connection with this assassination attempt. Some of the people whose lives were ended in the witch-hunt after the assassination attempt might have proved useful to the Nazi regime in its hour of greatest need -- Erwin Rommel, for instance, had provided military leadership to Nazi armies. But that's how actual fascism worked -- violent beginning, violent end. Such stuff of history was doubtless far more severe than, say, suspending Donald Trump's Twitter account or, say, denying all of Trump's sixty-or-so challenges to the validity of the 2020 election. Or even, for that matter, than the January 6th idiocy.
At any rate, what we have of accusations of "fascism" in these post-Trump days is apparently a media war between Keith "neoliberal enough for MSNBC" Olbermann and Jimmy "I'm basically an entertainer" Dore. Caitlin Johnstone reports it: "“Someone got their feels feels hurt and now they wanna censor their critics like a regular authoritarian fascist,” Dore responded to Olbermann’s post." But using the word "fascist" isn't exclusively Dore's trope these days. As Johnstone further reports: "The Emma Vigeland tweet that Dore was riffing on in the clip was more hand-wringing about a 'red-brown alliance'". By "red-brown alliance," here, is meant an insinuation that leftists were working with "fascists." So, you see, that's how it's done in the 21st century. Wingnuts like, say, former President Donald Trump, can be coddled for four years and then dismissed as "fascists" and deplatformed. And then if you don't like your political opponent, as Olbermann clearly doesn't with Dore, you try to associate them with "fascists," and recommend their deplatforming as well.
To be sure, there is a real dictatorship at work here. It's the one everyone supports. It flies the banner of "freedom," but what apologists for the regime really mean by "freedom" is investor freedom, the freedom of investors to do as they please with their vast arrays of assets. The basis of this real dictatorship has a name already -- it is what Sheldon Wolin calls "inverted totalitarianism." (If you want to see this term applied, check out Wolin's piece in The Nation from 5/1/2003.
And there is an ideology of "freedom" behind this dictatorship -- it is called neoliberalism, and its most important critique is Philip Mirowski's Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste. As neoliberalism is an ideology of investor freedom, its idea of the role of government is that government is there to create markets so that the bets of super-rich investors in government-created markets can be covered -- by government.
You are, you see, free under inverted totalitarianism -- but your freedom is never of any consequence unless you are a member of a very small owning class, in which case you get to go into space or something like that while deciding the directions the world will "choose." And you have the right to vote -- for the neoliberal of your choice. Democracy today is another corporation to be managed, and with voting you are periodically asked to choose the better manager from a menu limited to two, and only two, choices. Any dissent from the catastrophic direction of the whole apparatus of management will not be granted any power.
In such a world, invocations of "fascism" will be subject to a Law of Diminishing Returns -- the more people yell "fascism," the less the "fascism" invoked will have any connection to actual fascism. Meanwhile we swim in actual dictatorship like fish in water.