Sam Goldman interviews Dr. Federico Finchelstein on the recent Op Ed he wrote with Dr. Jason Stanley in the LA Times: White replacement theory is fascism’s new name. Follow @FinchelsteinF on Twitter and check out his newest book, Fascist Mythologies: The History and Politics of Unreason in Borges, Freud, and Schmitt.
Elegy for a lost America: Will the Jan. 6 committee really change anything? (Jeff Sharlet in Salon)
Let Us Prey (Rafia Zakaria in The Baffler)
This coming week, RiseUp4AbortionRights.org is calling for people to Come to the Supreme Court in DC and Stay; STOP the Supreme Court from Taking Away Abortion Rights! Find out more and get involved at riseup4abortionrights.org.
Music for this episode: Penny the Snitch by Ikebe Shakedown
Episode 114 Refuse Fascism
Sun, 6/12 4:14PM • 44:40
Federico Finchelstein 00:00
This country is changing as all countries change. We are becoming way more diverse. Replacement theory is a new name, it’s a rebranding of fascist theory and anti-Semitic theory. This is just something that belongs to extreme ideology, mythical frameworks. It works like a cult. One of the most dangerous dimensions of all this is that this fantasy, these mythical narratives, have clear political aims and clear political consequences. One of those things that these ideas I went through is the destruction of democracy.
Sam Goldman 00:47
Welcome to Episode 114 of the Refuse Fascism podcast, a podcast brought to you by volunteers with Refuse Fascism. I’m Sam Goldman, one of those volunteers and host of the show. Refuse Fascism exposes, analyzes, and stands against the very real danger and threat of fascism coming to power in the United States. With all the big monetized shows out there with its staff and publicists, we appreciate that you value what we have to say. We read all of your reviews, emails, comments, tweets. So after listening to this episode, please share your thoughts with us. You can leave us a voicemail; check the show notes for how. Shout out to Max69 who wrote on Apple podcasts in response to our last episode. “Don’t stop fighting. This was a powerful episode, this sad, abhorrent history that still gets perpetuated by fearful individuals. The second part was very encouraging because the younger folks can help do so much and listening to their speeches was fantastic. It brought a tear of joy. Thanks.” Thanks for sharing, Max69. Be like them. Spread this show, review it. Help us reach more listeners like you who want to understand and act to stop this American fascism.
Sam Goldman 02:04
In today’s episode, we’re sharing a conversation I had with historian Federico Finchelstein to discuss his recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times titled White Replacement Theory Is Fascism’s New Name. It was written shortly after the massacre in Buffalo, New York. But first we need to talk briefly about the first hearing of the January 6th Select Committee. As one of the producers of this show, Lina, tweeted the irony of the January 6th committee hearings happening right now, exposing with finality Trump’s plot to overthrow the election, even as his illegitimately appointed justices plot to crush women’s basic right to bodily autonomy. What the fuck? — how are we letting them get away with this? Couldn’t agree more Lina. The details are important, and anyone paying attention knew this was in the works months ahead of November 2020. Two years ago, the good people of this country watched silently as we came horrifically close to a fascist coup succeeding. We can’t just know, we must act to confront the threat of US fascism. For those interested who did not watch the hearings which will continue to be aired this week, and which we will continue to discuss on next week’s episode, we have linked to two important breakdowns: one from Ben Jacobs of Vox and one from the Southern Poverty Law Center, regarding the January 6th Select Committee’s findings that detail the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers involvement in the Capitol insurrection. Go to the show notes and read them there. As you continue to watch, remember the coup was not limited to that fateful day on January 6, that the lack of any accountability has made this an ongoing effort that is not only the complicity of the entirety of the GOP, but has become a unifying principle.
While I think it’s essential listening to understand the full picture of the fascist coup attempt, I highly recommend people read and consider what is argued by Jeff Sharlett in his latest article for Salon titled Elegy for a Lost America: Will the January 6 Committee Really Change Anything? In it he writes, “…for all of its precision and sorrow, the hearing could only measure the smallness of the question left to it to answer: What happened on Jan. 6, 2021? What is happening now meanwhile, with American fascism strangling backroads like knotweed or kudzu, the number of Republicans who believe Biden stole the election rising even as the number of everyone else with faith that he can win the next one slides, the very concept of ‘numbers,’ in the sense of a democracy’s majority rule, increasingly in doubt – all this the hearing could not speak to.” But all of this we must speak to and even more urgently act to change. This fascism is marching back into power, and even now it holds the reins in significant ways, most notably through the Supreme Court’s fascist majority, as well as state houses across the country in the ranks of militarized law enforcement and elsewhere. While the Supreme Court of the United States hasn’t released its pending decision on abortion rights, let’s be clear: the fascist majority is reveling in their power. Each decision day unveils new horrors. This week, the court ruled that border patrol agents cannot be sued for violating people’s rights. Trump’s appointees help turn a case that could have been just another instance of the court siding with police brutality beyond all reason into a precedent destroying, judicial bomb, essentially ending the right to sue law enforcement for violating a person’s constitutional rights. The Supreme Court ruled that border agents may unconstitutionally enter a person’s home without a warrant and assault them, and federal courts are powerless to do anything about it. The border, once again, is a Constitution-free zone. They acknowledge — the Supreme Court, that is — quite frankly, that Customs and Border Patrol’s internal investigations may be a joke, but say that doesn’t make it their problem — a running fascist theme. The fascist judges believe the state has unlimited power to punish people, but no power or responsibility to serve people. Rafia Zakaria, for Baffler, profiled the backdrop against which the Uvalde shooting last month occurred, which includes the reality of a town squarely in the “border zone,” a town where militarized police terrorize migrants working in cooperation with white supremacist militias on the hunt. For more on how it’s open season on non-white humans in Texas. See Let Us Prey, linked in the show notes. Last month, 18 year old Payton Gendron armed to the teeth, encased in body armor, walked into the one supermarket in the predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York and murdered ten people. Gendron, a self-proclaimed fascist anti-Semite and white supremacist, went out and drove 200 miles from his predominantly white, rural New York County town to carry out this attack, years in the making. As reported, his express purpose was to kill as many Black people as he could and to inspire other people like himself to go out and carry out these types of attacks. He could be seen on his own video apologizing to a white man after pointing a gun at him, showing just how eerily clear and calm he was in carrying out his fascist attack. As reported by revcom.us, “Soon the blood of over a dozen people, the tears of thousands would pour out. Volleys of bullets from Gendron’s modified AR-15 Bushmaster slashed through the bodies of 13 people, 11 Black, 2 white, who either worked in the store or were food shopping. 10 of them died. Gone now is Ruth Whitfield, the 86 year old mother of a former buffalo Fire Commissioner. Gone is Pearl Young, 77, who loved to sing and dance and who for 25 years ran a Saturday food pantry in the neighborhood. Gone is Celestine Cheney, grandmother or great grandmother to seven children. Cheney was a woman who survived cancer only to be struck down by the growing movement of murderous fascists that is metastasizing by the day. This movement has deep roots in the white supremacist foundations and ‘traditions’ of this country. It is now being egged on by powerful voices from Tucker Carlson to Laura Ingraham on Fox ‘News,’ from Donald Trump to Steve Bannon, Matt Gaetz, who warn their followers that there is a plot by ‘elites’ and/or ‘the Jews’ to ‘replace White Europeans with Black people and immigrants.'” For more detail on some of the politicians and other notable advocates for this white supremacist replacement theory, go to the show notes, and there’s more there. With that, here’s my interview with Professor Finkelstein.
Sam Goldman 09:10
I’m so glad to welcome back Professor Finchelstein. For listeners, he has been on before and has shared his perspective that is really urgently needed right now and that takes the whole world into consideration. He’s a professor of history at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang college and Director of the JD (Juris Doctor) program in Latin American Studies. He’s the author of seven books, almost eight now, with a book forthcoming. The last book that he wrote was A Brief History of Fascist Lies and his forthcoming book, which you’ll be able to get next month, It’s available for preorder now, is Fascist Mythology Is the History and Politics of Unreason in Borges, Freud and Schmidt. Welcome, Dr. Finkelstein, thanks for coming on.
Federico Finchelstein 09:53
Well, thank you for inviting me. It’s really a pleasure to talk with you again.
Sam Goldman 09:57
I was really glad to see that the Los Angeles Times published your op-ed not long ago. You had a piece that you co-wrote with Dr. Jason Stanley, titled White Replacement Theory Is Fascism’s New Name, and in it you state that since Anders Breivik killed 77 People in Norway in 2011, mass murders in the name of white replacement theory, WRT, have become prevalent. Many of these killers, including Breivik, Breton, Turant, the Christchurch shooter, and Payton Gendron the suspect in the massacre in Buffalo, New York are self-identified as fascists. Can you explain to us what WRT is?
Federico Finchelstein 10:40
Well, with Jason Stanley, we talk a lot, and we are good friends and colleagues, and we were talking about what we saw as a problem in the media representation of these new terrorists. This killer, as usual, like many others who identify as a fascist, and yet in the media, often its appears as something new. The result of something that has no history, and it’s called white replacement theory, as if it has no relation to political violence, and to put it briefly, the horrible violence emanating from the fascist past. So what we wanted to do in that article is to emphasize how many links there are including those of self-identities, but not only those, between these killings, these killings, which are perhaps one of the most gruesome examples of fascist political violence and the fascist political violence of the past. Of course, there are many things and yet there are similarities that often are invoked by these killings. I mean, so there is a history here that represents something which is, to some extent, new, but also that we cannot connect to the past as fascist.
Sam Goldman 11:42
Why do you think that the media refuses to discuss or to bring on others like yourself to discuss the historical connection between the fascist violence of today and and really seeing it in the context of an example of fascist violence, that this is not separate from a whole fascist movement that should not come to us as any surprise, this kind of white supremacist terror? Why is that?
Federico Finchelstein 12:09
Well, what history brings is a lot of political meaning, but also a lot of complexity. And sometimes there is a tendency to simplify things, and sadly to normalize it, because communication often precedes the outcome of normalization. And in terms of the extreme politics of fascism, that is certainly valid, I mean, historically, both in terms of historical understanding, in terms of understanding the present, but also politically, these arcs, which have a fascist past, going back to the Holocaust, for example, should not be presented as something new, because this newness often leads to normalization. That is to say that, yeah, this idea, this somehow is part of the political spectrum. But it should not have a place in democracy. These relate to other political discussions, which often are presented in extreme ideological ways, such as, for example, the epidemic of guns in this country. All these things are connected, but you know, we were surprised, and we mentioned this in our article, that Benito Mussolini, Italian fascist dictator, another Hitler, Nazis, the dictator were presenting similar cause, similar ideas about people that needed to be replaced in substituted, all these kinds of elements that then appear in all these manifestos that many of these shooters present. And yet, of course, there is a distinction that they are not working within a fascist state. That’s a big different, of course. And that also means that we have time, or we have enough time, to see these for what it is, which is a challenge, not only to the life of very innocent people but also to democracy itself. This cannot go on. And once we link this to the history as it belongs, which is the history of fascism, then perhaps we have a better understanding of how these are not lone acts of lone wolves, but rather are part of an ideology. In the article we also mention how as extremist as these acts are — these assassinations, these terrorist acts — they are also ideologically connected to stuff. I mean, their justification for the killings is related to stuff that is repeated in conservative media. We talk about Tucker Carlson, for example, where he actually amplifies concepts which also go back to to fascist ideology. Of course, there is a distinction between what this propagandists does and the killings. He is perhaps not criminally responsible for the killings, but there is a moral responsibility there. There is a political responsibility there. And it’s a form of the contagion. So what you see is a kind of emanating from the top, sometimes from important people within the Trumpist movement, or Carlson in Fox News and others. What you see is spreading of these ideas and that is a process of the contagion that eventually leads to a single killer. So all these things are connected, not in criminal or legal terms, but yes, in ideological and propaganda terms. And out of millions that listen to this message, eventually you will have a person, which is unstable in many ways, but also in ideological ways. This will not be, I think, presented as a kind of lone person losing psychological control, which might as well be, but this is not the issue. And so you have this process of the contagion, which eventually leads to these killers. This is why I think this is extremely dangerous, both the killings, but also the propaganda that eventually cause killings as one of its possible outcomes.
Sam Goldman 15:07
I think that that is such a helpful way to look at the context that they’re cultivating. You know, there’s the consistent indoctrination on the one hand to create a force that is willing to carry out this type of violence, which is the only direction that really that kind of propaganda can bring is acts of that nature for people who truly believe the most despicable lies. And then on the other hand, what you were saying about the media, the non-fascist media, the role that they play in the normalization, and that that makes it a very dangerous combination that people of conscience need to cut through. I wanted to loop back for our listeners who may not be aware of the term. Can you just speak briefly about what we need to understand about the logic of white replacement theory?
Federico Finchelstein 15:58
Yes, well, if you want to put it in colloquial terms it’s ideologically insane. If one takes this from a kind of common sense perspective, it doesn’t make any sense. It is a fantasy. The script of this fantasy is that there is an attempt to replace whites in certain countries that should be white — this is what the ideology says, there are certain countries such as the US or European countries, or my own country Argentina, they say these countries should be white. And when they are not white, the fact that they are not white enough or absolutely white, that they would like them to be, means that there is a conspiracy, a cabal of sorts, basically a conspiracy that wants to replace whites with people of color, or people that are not white, according to them, because whiteness itself is a strong ideological construction. And then the idea is that behind this conspiracy that wants to replace white populations with people of color, specifically immigrants or other groups, that behind all that basically, it is the Jews that are somehow behind this conspiracy. It has no sense, but, of course goes back to anti-Semitic and fascist theories of the early 20th century. This is exactly what Hitler was saying. In the case of Hitler, he was using the word replacement. Mussolini was using the Italian word for replacement, which is substitution, and, of course, some different fascists will replace different perpetrators and different victims, and different members of the whole plot. But basically, the idea is not original at all. That’s why I think we wrote with Professor Stanley that white replacement theory is a new name, it’s a rebranding of fascist theory and anti-Semitic theory. It doesn’t make any sense, and only people that are highly indoctrinated or willing to believe in the cult of a particular leader or a group of leaders can believe this. And sadly there are a lot of people like that. We know the statistics about people that believe in QAnon, for example, when it comes to basic anything, it doesn’t make any sense at all. Believing in this means you will be really hard to undoctrinate these people. They are probably lost to reason. I will say so. But the point is then how to confront these ideas and how to present them for what they are, which is basically sources of extreme violence.
Sam Goldman 18:07
I appreciate that break down. The line that connects what we see now, and if you are a person of any decency, you hear these things and you think this is insane, but you help connect what we see and where is it coming from to a long history that has done this before, that is used this same model to stoke paranoia and wage violence. In your piece, you wrote one line that particularly stood out: “In terms of propaganda, it is rebranding of the same thing, namely, long-standing fascist paranoia and lies about invasion and racial and political replacement. WRT’s logic justifies mass violence. When it is normalized, it poses an existential threat to democracy and its ideals.” So I wanted to take that apart a little bit, because it brings up, I thought, two really important questions. One is: How do you see this being normalized? Can you walk us through a few ways that you see white replacement theory being normalized in this moment?
Federico Finchelstein 19:18
To put it in very simple terms when it is not related to the history of fascism that that is behind it. If it’s not presented with a history, and if it is presented as something extreme, yes, but new or totally new, then we are missing a key link, because then we are missing also important empirical lessons about what these ideas provoke or eventually do, and how hard it is to defeat them. One of those things that these ideas eventually do is the destruction of democracy. We were concerned about this issue. If this presentation lacks the ideological elements that these ideas present, then we are missing a lot. Of course, sometimes these ideas of White Replacement Theory will not be presented in terms of their long narrative. Obviously, they will unconsciously, I will say, as an act of manipulation, these ideas will be presented, for example, without the anti-semitism — not in the case of the killer, of course, but perhaps in the case of Carlson and others. But once these ideas are presented, these ideas are what they are. And even if one element is missing, this is what these ideas have been in the past, and what these ideas are in the present, and what they provoke. So we need to be also attentive because, even if these ideas are not presented, in a way they killer did — because the Buffalo killer, he actually made all those connections because he wanted to make them. He wrote, you know, this whole manifesto that I’ve read and Professor Stanley read, and many others read, because we have to, not because we like to. In this, he had a Q & A, in which he asked himself a couple of questions, he said he asked himself: Are you a racist? He explains that he’s a racist. He explains that he’s a fascist. He explains that he is anti-emitic, and so on and so forth. And what is interesting is that all these explanations, fascist, racist, and so on. I will say to some extent concise, but that is not the case in terms of his explanation or detail in the anti-semitism, in which his narrative becomes perhaps more unstable and presents Jews as evil and so on and so forth. So basically, my point is when we read someone like that, it’s not far from Mein Kampf. This this is the way Hitler spoke. I will say that if Hitler or Mussolini aren’t named in presentation of these acts of violence., I think that is a problem here, because this is what they are. Of course, he goes back to American history, the Ku Klux Klan, another fascism in this country as well. Our concern was that this was missing. It’s not that we are asking for, like historical explanation here. But this is kind of symptomatic of a lack of understanding of what’s going on when this is totally absent.
Sam Goldman 21:41
I think that part of it connects, in my opinion, to American exceptionalism, that we can’t talk about fascism here. It just couldn’t happen and we’re not going to even talk about it. We’re not going to talk about the history of this country that fascists used as models. We’re not going to do that, because it’s America! I thought that your point about needing to look at this connection, because of what these acts of violence, what they provoke, what lessons we need to learn from this history of fascism, and how to defeat it. I think that is key. There’s a cost when we don’t look at the full picture and we provide no true picture of where this is coming from and what it’s about. When you look at the manifesto, even if you just read a few lines from it, these are not only explanations, they are points of pride.
I think that even when we talk about how these are not only people who are mentally ill, but these are people that are working right off of a fascist playbook, we also have to talk about them being part of a movement and being trained through a whole fascist media apparatus to see those identities, the identity of a white supremacist, the identity of an anti-Semite, the identity of a fascist as something to be proud of. I think that the work that you have been doing around sounding the alarm around this normalization, and the need to be clear about what these types of attacks are about is critical in terms of being able to wage the opposition needed.
One of the things that has been talked about in the media, when they do talk about Tucker Carlson, for instance, they’ll talk about the demographic shifts, and these fascists point to white people becoming a smaller percentage of the population. And they’re not just made up, right. I think that there’s three kinds of people in this country:people who fear these changes, the demographic changes; people who refuse to acknowledge that anything is changing; and people who don’t see these changes as a bad thing. But, beyond the fear, what are the fascists actually saying about these real changes and the related refugee crisis in this hemisphere and around the world due to war, climate change, or economic devastation? What are they saying about the discussion of making Washington DC, or Puerto Rico, or both a state? What do they want to do to maintain white power in the US and Europe?
Federico Finchelstein 24:12
We analyze, for example, this article which Benito Mussolini, the Italian fascist dictator, wrote in 1974, and the title of the article was, Is the White Race Dying? There, he explained, these are fantasies. What is interesting is that Mussolini was referring to the white race in Italy. When Hitler was writing his own things, he said the problem for Germany will be if we become another Italy, which Hitler implied that it was not white. And then, people that the Nazis will not regard as white, regarded themselves as white and hated people that they didn’t see as white.
So what is interesting also is that, and I wrote an article for an Italian newspaper talking about this because in the manifesto, the killer says, I am white because I am from Northern Europe. My people come from Northern Europe. I’m from Italy. Then again, the certain fascists will agree with that, and certain fascists will disagree with that, in the sense that also whiteness is a category that they appropriate, and they make it become part of their fantasy, and their myth. So the question is, and this is also what I wrote in my book on fascist lies, is that whatever little element from the real world is in their narrative that is totally minimized, it’s totally subjugated by big lies and bigger mythical frameworks. Because at the end of the day, these people will believe in replacing the world with a bunch of lies.
As you know, whoever was and is white in this country also changed and might be changing, but they define white in terms of what they see as their group. And whoever doesn’t fit that parameter, they connect to the enemy. What they see as white, as oppressed, they see themselves oppressed, in fact, they are the perpetrators and oppressors. I mean, going after people that might be many things, you know, or they might regard as many things, and have many identities but, of course, they will simplify their own identity and simplify the identity of others. It’s part of their mythical narratives of their own life. So this is the problem with these people. That’s why in a way, they are most out of democracy, because there is no possible dialogue for them or actually with them. How can we talk with people that believe, not in this world, but in a world that doesn’t exist, that exists only in their ideologies, in their minds? The problem with this, and this is one of the most gruesome examples of Nazism, for example, is that all these racist lies, not only they bought them, not only they believe in them, but they wanted to change the world in order for the world to become their lie, or to live like their lie. I think we talked about this before, the Nazis will say Jews are dirty and they spread disease. Of course, that was a big lie, but they created concentration camps, and they put them in ghettos, where these Jewish victims will become dirty and will spread disease. And a Nazi will say: I was right. But then, of course, what kind of person says this? So a killer like one of these terrorists, these fascist killers will say: I was right, these people are my enemies, because I kill them. But there is no reality in that, or they don’t like that I kill them, or this is just something that belongs to extreme ideology, mythical frameworks. It works like a cult. It works like a kind of secular religion. It’s not a real religion, but they behave as fanatics, as religious fanatics. And this is a problem that we are living with at this moment.
Sam Goldman 27:19
Yeah, I think that we have a situation where people don’t understand or don’t want to understand how vicious this can become in such a short amount of time. And what people learn to accept and tolerate that they once thought they would never accept or tolerate. Historically, white people have been the majority in the United States. And the structures of white supremacy in this country have been built around that fact. In other countries, where white people ruled but we’re not in the majority — like South Africa, for instance — white supremacy was structured very differently through apartheid. I was wondering how do you see these changing demographics in the United States and the true minoritization of white people, not a replacement, but that we are becoming more diverse every year, affecting the structures and the ideology of American white supremacy?
Federico Finchelstein 28:19
I will say yes or no, in a particular way. That is that, of course, this country is changing as all countries change. Democracy has a lot to thank for that. We are becoming way more diverse, and that’s fantastic. This, of course, is a diversity they have a problem with, and this diversity, they will reframe in propaganda terms as an invasion, as a menace, and so on and so forth. But in the past, if this was not diverse enough, they will choose another excuse. This is about the neuroses of hate, so I’m not so sure they are responding to a particular reality. These realities are like creating a mantra around it. In the past, when the KKK was at its climax, they weren’t inventing other menaces and other realities, perhaps in a less diverse country. But the point is that they always do this. So this is the element that sometimes is convincing for some, but the reality is also whiteness is constantly redefined as every other identity. So when they talk about their group, I’m not so sure. In fact, they include a lot of people. It depends on which group or what part of the country these people really identify as one thing or the other. This is a particular group of people that feel exclusively defined by their whiteness. People have, or most people have, many identities — perhaps these people do not, or they don’t want identities and thus exclusively they define themselves as whites and they’re afraid or something like that. For me, this is not surprising, because this is what these groups do. I mean, if in South Africa, they have a different situation they will create or present, I wouldn’t say an argument, but a rationale — a rationale in terms of what someone like two important anti-fascist philosophers [philosophers names are barely audible] said: In fascism, what is important is rationale and not argumentation. And rationale is basically a facade of an argument. It’s a way to explain something but not in rational terms. This is what they are doing with this. So my point is that historians historians of fascism, or historians of racism, what we do is try to understand what doesn’t make sense. That’s how I regard white replacement theory, it doesn’t make sense in rational terms. It is a rationale in this sense. It is propaganda, and it uses certain elements of reality to totally deform them, to put them also at the service of a grand narrative of hatred.
Sam Goldman 30:33
Okay, the last word cut off a bit, and I want to make sure that I heard it. You said, the great narrative of hate? Was that the way you put it? Yeah, I think that’s a really powerful way to put it. I definitely hear what you’re saying and I think it’s very important to remember. I also am wondering, I think that there is a dimension of the ways in which the — I call them fascist, you might say that they are fascist tactics or something like that — amongst the GOP, for instance, that is looking at how you would have minority rule in this country and what you need to do, what structures you would need to change in order to dominate. The gutting of any voting protection, that, from the redistricting, the remapping, the gerrymandering, all of that, to just outright voter suppression and voter subversion, all of that, I do think is related to the reality that without the brute force, or without changing the law to be an instrument of fascism, they don’t have a chance of holding power. I don’t think that is in their imagination. I do think that what they want is against popular will, even though there are millions and millions of people that share their views, they still are the minority.
Federico Finchelstein 31:48
I agree. I will say, regarding who is fascist and who is not, I see the current situation of the GOP as a kind of constellation, an alliance of people that are conservative people, that are fascist and people that are right-wing populists. And it’s not enough that the fascists are included within this group. Often they are unaffiliated, but this is problematic enough that they share so many ideas, and white replacement theory is one of them. Of course, this is the danger. I agree with you, one of the most dangerous dimensions of all this is that this fantasy, these mythical narratives have clear political aims and clear political consequences. So it’s not that they are in their La-La land of fascism, but rather that the La-La land of fascism brings down democracy and creates a terrible amount of weakness. This is a problem. This combination between current like ideologies, basically people that behave like religious fanatics, like religious zealots with clear political aims. And especially as it’s happening also in Nazi Germany, conservatives that are fooling themselves thinking that they can control these people, or that they can be part of this in order to stop it, they are quite wrong, or at least historically, this is what history tells us, or warns us.
Sam Goldman 32:58
Speaking of which I wanted to get your thoughts — we’re recording this on Tuesday — on Thursday there will be the January 6th hearings, and I was wondering if you had any thoughts, things that we should be paying attention to. 17 months later, and no accountability, no charges, not even a full report. But if there was any thing that you think people should be paying attention to, or listening for, or thinking about as they watch or listen to listen to the hearings?
Federico Finchelstein 33:28
Well, I think these hearings are extremely important, and I fear that or many people are not as engaged in them as perhaps they should be. Because we need to know what happened, and we need for these people to be presented for what they are. There was a coup attempt. Basically, yes, I think this is extremely important.
Sam Goldman 33:45
You know, I’ve been paying a lot of attention, and if you listen to any previous episodes, it’s mainly on the right to keep abortion legal in this country. When I was reading the leaked draft that Alito wrote for the Supreme Court decision regarding the Dobbs case, it included a reference to a scarcity of “domestic infants.” I was wondering if you had any thoughts on how the drive to force women to give birth in the US ties in with this paranoid fear of being replaced?
Federico Finchelstein 34:21
Well, that in terms of connections is hard to know, because we don’t know exactly who are the intellectual outsourcers of these things. But if you ask me were fascist concerned about similar things? Yes, they were. And in the article that I mentioned before, Mussolini was worried about the design of the white race and he was criticizing countries in Europe and other places that were not for fomenting [inaudible]. But of course, going back to the strange connection between fantasies and ideological aims, I think these attacks on choice and these attacks on the female body are part of an ideological program. This is part of the fascism, anti-enlightenment program and it might belong also two other regulatory issues. But this is clearly ideological. This is not about anything else in my view. Particularly — and I’m saying things that everybody knows, but — there is no concern for the life of children who are in school, because guns are allowed to be bought by anyone, including these fascist killers, or people having violent fantasies, but this is not a problem. And the problem, of course, is this particular issue of this extremely important issue of the right to choose for ones own body. So particularly, women’s bodies. This has many connections. Now, going back to the Supreme Court, I don’t know, because I don’t know exactly how these particular rights are framed and by whom.
Sam Goldman 35:46
Thank you for sharing that. I appreciate your you bringing in some of the other historical examples, because it’s important to have that full picture. I wanted to close — I could talk to you forever. So I appreciate you doing this and sharing your time, your expertise and perspective. And I wanted to just give you an opportunity to say a few words about your forthcoming book, which people, I think, can get July 5th; it’s pre-order. Now, if you could tell us a little bit about it.
Federico Finchelstein 36:15
Yes, well, the book is about this issue of myth in fascism, that why fascists believe in something that looks like I was a fascist religion, right? Where the leader is a sort of God that whatever he says is regarded as truth.. And I was especially interested in the work of two intellectuals from the period, because it’s always interesting for us to see what I think really smart people were thinking at the time. I mean, thinking in terms of how to confront fascism. So I dedicated part of the book to two anti-fascists, which were Sigmund Freud and the Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges. They were in very different ways interested in this strange world of myth within fascist ideology, right? Why people follow and believe in these characters that without the religious aspect, it will be hard to believe in them. So basically, the book explores how they were dealing with this issue. In the case of Freud, he connected his previous work to the rise of fascism and tried to think in terms of this mythical dimension of fascism. Freud himself, as you know, faced the situation of fascism invading his own country, and eventually he died in exile in England. In many ways, he felt that this was not only a theoretical issue or a political issue, but also a very personal one. And in the case of Borges, the situation is totally different. This is a person that is a writer in Argentina. He’s not in the war, or the worst situation. He’s not being persecuted, writing in Buenos Aires. He tends to imagine characters, particularly his fiction, that are in that world of fascism. For example, he wrote by the end of the war, an incredible text, I will say, in which he tried to put himself in the minds of both a concentration camp director and a Jewish victim. And unlike Hitler — and Borges wrote this also, in his nonfiction work — he said, I don’t need or I don’t want to understand Hitler as a simple man, I want to understand smart people that follow Hitler. Hitler is not a smart person, but I want to understand why people that are educated, that should know better, are fanatic followers. Eventually, they end up participating in the Holocaust, and in the most gruesome massacres. And by the way, probably he didn’t know this, but for example, first part of the Holocaust, which started with the first part of the killings of the Holocaust, which started with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, it started with executions. Basically, 800,000 Jews and they were executed by different mobile units which were attached to the army. Now, the maturity of these mobile units of killers, of Nazi killers, were… their commanders were people with PhDs. So Borges didn’t know this, but he’s interested in these intellectuals, these highly educated people that follow the most irrational ideologies, which is fascism. So he wrote this story and I analyze in the book, this story, in which the board has tried to understand why the person chooses violence and is attracted both aesthetically and ideologically to an ideology that wants the destruction of everything that provides peace and solidarity. So he frames this as a kind of anti-enlightenment project, in addition to the powerful thinking of these two authors, I address what the fascists, we’re thinking about these issues. So I present Hitler, Mussolini, Brazilian fascism, fascist from many other parts of the world, presenting what they think about the power of myth in in politics. Now, of course, from the perspective of the democracy, and I think this is one of the messages of the book. When you have this kind of extreme place for religious thinking in politics, when myth is given an important place in politics, democracy suffers and he’s certainly in danger.
Sam Goldman 39:56
Thank you for that. We definitely are excited to read it. and talk about it with our listeners. So, again, thank you so much for coming on and joining us. [FF: Thank you.] You can follow Professor Finchelstein on Twitter: @FinchelsteinF. I’m headed to DC today after I finished recording this, responding to the call from Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights to come to the Supreme Court in DC and stay. The Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights call states: Stop the Supreme Court from taking away abortion rights. The highest court in the world’s most powerful country stands poised to rip from women their fundamental right to control their bodies, their reproduction, and their destinies. We refuse to be bystanders as the state shatters women’s lives; extinguishes their dreams; hijacks their bodies forces girls to bear their rapists’ babies; invades the lives of black brown, young and poor women with special viciousness; accelerates a fascist assault on contraception, LGBTQ people, voting rights, black history and black people and more, not just in the red states, but nationwide strengthening the ties of anti woman fundamentalisms and fascism around the world.
Sam Goldman 40:28
Monday, June 13th, come to the Supreme Court in DC and stay. Imagine, every day more and more people pouring into the Capitol, amassing at the Supreme Court. All night vigils, protests, hunger strikes, people by the thousands and tens of thousands. Returning day after day, the green bandana of abortion rights worn and waved everywhere. On Mondays when the Supreme Court typically releases decisions, the Capitol and court becomes so surrounded by masses of women, men, people of all genders and nationalities and backgrounds that it becomes clear to all in power that we will sooner bring the gears of society to a grinding halt through mass nonviolent resistance than allow the right to abortion to be taken away. Those behind this assault are counting on our silence. We must not give it to them. Even the fascist women haters worry about losing the perceived legitimacy of their institutions and their system when they are faced with truly massive un-ignorable and unrelenting, nonviolent resistance. And if even in the face of our determined opposition, the court still revokes abortion rights, we will be in a far stronger position to continue the struggle for women’s freedom for daring to rise up. The whole world is watching. Let them see our courage.
Sam Goldman 43:11
Go to RiseUp4AbortionRights.org. That’s RiseUp4AbortionRights.org to sign up to join me to read the full call that I shared an excerpt from that you can go share it everywhere. And if you can’t come to DC, which I hope you will, I hope you will come even if you just come for a day — it makes a difference that matters. Donate to support the volunteers who are dropping everything who are headed to DC right now. Again, RiseUp4AbortionRights.org.
Sam Goldman 43:12
Thanks for listening to RefuseFascism. I want to hear from you. Share your thoughts, questions, ideas for topics or guests or lend a scale. Tweet me @SamBGoldman. You can also drop me a line at [email protected] or leave me a voicemail at anchor.fm/refuse-fascism and click the button there. Want to support the show? It’s simple. Show us some love by reading and reviewing on Apple podcasts or your listening platform of choice. And of course, follow, subscribe so you never miss an episode. Chip in to support our pod and content creation to help people understand an app to stop the fascist threat. Visit RefuseFascism.org and hit the Donate button. Thanks to Richie Marini, Lina Thorne and Mark Tinkleman for helping produce this episode. Thanks to incredible volunteers, we have transcripts available for each episode, so be sure to visit RefuseFascism.org and sign up to get them in your inbox each week. We’ll be back next Sunday. Until then, in the name of humanity, we refuse to accept a fascist America.