- American Fascism:Fourteen Deadly Principles of Contemporary Politics
As I speak to you now, the icy water of the ponds and rains Fills the hollows of the mass graves with a frigid and muddy water, as murky as our memory. War nods off to sleep but keeps one eye always open. Who amongst us keeps watch from this strange watchtower to warn of the arrival of our new executioners? …We pretend it all happened only once, at a given time and place. We turn a blind eye to what surrounds us and a deaf ear to humanity's never-ending cry.—Jean Cayrol (Resnais 1955)
On May 30th, 2020, the ostentatious SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket took off from the Kennedy Space Centre to the International Space Station. The brainchild of the tech billionaire Elon Musk, the very first privately funded manned vessel to be sent into orbit was guided by the two white space travellers Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. Meanwhile, as the rocket broke into the stratosphere, the United States they were leaving was also ablaze, having swiftly moved from lockdown to curfew in response to the violent insurrections that followed the killing of the unarmed black citizen George Floyd. President Donald Trump was present at the launch and used the occasion to talk of the death as a "grave tragedy" warning about how "The memory of George Floyd is being dishonoured by rioters, looters and anarchists. The violence and vandalism is being led by Antifa and other radical left wing groups who are terrorizing the innocent, destroying jobs, hurting businesses and burning down buildings." Whist critics immediately pointed out the stark contrast when compared to his attitude regarding the intimidating actions of armed white militia in Michigan only a few weeks earlier, who were demanding their own version of liberty through a historically marked form of symbolic aggression, he went on to argue that America itself was now a victim. It was the "law abiding citizen" who was under siege. The setting for this speech however wasn't incidental. There once was a time when space exploration [End Page 181] captured the American imagination. Yet as America's shifted from one crisis to another, the dream of discovery was now revealed to be a dream of vastly different visions of escape, one from the planet by a gilded elite and the other from conditions of everyday misery and oppression that had simply become unbearable.
Only a day before the launch of Space-X Falcon 9, the streets in many cities across the United States were raging with the fires of protest and the bullets of domestic police forces. Commenting on the brutal response, Cornel West went so far as to openly called Trump a "neofascist" live on a CNN broadcast. That Trump has been called a fascist wasn't that remarkable. Many scholars had been noting for some time how he was playing by the authoritarian handbook. A position forcefully stated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who warned about the impending threat of fascism in America when confronting the divisive rhetoric of the President and when explicitly faced with the sight of immigrant children being locked up in abhorrent detention facilities. Camps have become the hallmark of historical fascism and remain its most portent expression (Agamben 1998). But this focus on the camp can also be a hindrance. After all what does it mean to say a detention facility is similar to conditions witnessed in places like Auschwitz? Indeed, whilst these comparisons can all too easily be denounced as being insensitive, they also often fall prey to a crude flattening of history that is devoid of contextualisation. We are not in any way accusing Ocasio-Cortez of such crudities in her observations. She is clearly a very learned, adept and historically considerate member who puts her peers to shame. Nor is it not to say that camps are unimportant in terms of critiquing the character of any political regime. The locking up of innocent children remains indefensible on any humanitarian register. Camps however are only part of a much wider and complex fabric of fascistic power.
For some time, we...