The aesthetics of fairness in a pre-fascist country
Everyone knows it’s outrageous to support a fascist. But it’s only outrageous if people actually treat it as an outrage. (Getty Images)
Four Proud Boys sporting Fred Perry shirts, shaved heads, and camo pants nonchalantly boarded my flight out of Baltimore in mid-October. They politely blended in like middle-class families. I asked my seat mates and a flight attendant if they noticed them and got blank stares in return. It made me think about how normalized fascism and authoritarianism are becoming in our country, and it terrified me.
It also made me reflect upon the creeping public tolerance of fascism and authoritarianism in my state of Nevada, in particular as it appears in mainstream media and in the political arena. I am not accusing anybody of embracing these abhorrent ideologies. But I think it’s important we all start paying better attention and taking a stronger stance.
Everyone knows it’s outrageous to support a fascist. But it’s only outrageous if people actually treat it as an outrage. When local mainstream media interview pro-Trump operatives as if they’re ordinary professionals, they’re normalizing anti-democratic extremists. When the campaign consultant to Rep. Paul Gosar, the icon of the neo-fascist movement in the US, is interviewed on local TV as a normal political professional, that also desensitizes the public to authoritarianism. When the editorial page of Nevada’s largest paper proclaims that “Donald Trump will stand up to progressive extremists” and slant its news and editorial pages in support of Trump, it pollutes and distorts normal discourse.
The press, in its quest to create an impression of fairness and in its distaste for partisanship, is failing to convey that the Republicans have crossed the Rubicon. As Robert Reich points out, in talking about a Trump presidency, mainstream media should be using the term “fascism.”
Nevada elected officials are often too milquetoast about standing up to authoritarians. In Nevada and six other states, fake electors signed false documents in an attempt to cast electoral college ballots for Donald Trump and fraudulently invalidate the actual winner of the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden. In every state except Nevada and Pennsylvania, those who tried to steal the election are facing prosecution. Michigan is bringing charges against its fake electors under the prohibition against forgery. That’s a felony in Nevada too, but Attorney General Aaron Ford has not pressed for charges.
In fact, a fake elector who attempted to steal the election was recently invited to make a presentation to its Advisory Committee on Participatory Democracy by the Secretary of State’s office. Nevada Republican Party National Committeeman Jim DeGraffenried was welcomed without scrutiny as if he were speaking on behalf of the League of Women Voters.
The co-dependent of fascism most in need of an intervention in Nevada is Congressman Mark Amodei, who voted twice for the January 6th insurrectionist leader, Jim Jordan, for Speaker of the House. Amodei called Jordan’s attempt to overturn the election in favor of Trump a “nothing burger.” Such cowardice masked as flippant indifference is how democracies die.
The political scientist Anthony DiMaggio, in his new book Fascism in America: It’s Happening Here, says fighting fascism must become a regular topic of conversation.
“So long as the majority of people in the United States continue to sleepwalk into the future, refusing to recognize the severity of the dangers they face, this [fascist] movement will continue to grow, perhaps reaching a point of no return if the country falls into full-blown dictatorship,” DiMaggio warns.
It is incumbent upon all of us—especially those in the political and journalistic classes-–to name and fight fascist and fascist-adjacent political groups before they transform our weak democracy into a permanently authoritarian state.
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