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There's No Such Thing As a Smart Fascist
But don't get it twisted, there's no such thing as a safe one, either
It is truly astounding how quickly, holistically, and voluntarily Ronald DeSantis transformer-ed himself from the seemingly-inevitable President Damien (what up, Omen III fans) of democratic nightmares to Principal Puddingfingers, smearing his shitty evil custard all over the educational system and uncontrollably red-faced screaming at random kids for wearing outfits he doesn’t like and holding hands in the hallways while waging a war against fun, love, and happiness.
I don’t mean to downplay the horror that lives inside of that sodden manatee-turd of a man, or the horror he is slowly releasing from the fucking lich-seal he calls a heart into poor Florida, who, despite just fully being Florida all the time, didn’t deserve this.
But this was the guy.
This was The Guy.
Ronald DeSantis was supposed to be the fascist messiah. The great Ur-Alpha Male. The one long foretold who would come at last in the end of days, when the hopes of far-right extra-white authoritarian fundamentalist theocracy were at their lowest, to bring aid and succor and the satisfaction of all their most tortured dreams of…well, basically just torture.
Ronald was supposed to be that great man of myth and legend, the darkest fear of the left and deepest dream of the right: the Competent Fascist. The Smart Trump. The one who deeply understood the system and thus could manipulate it to his liking. The one who really and truly did play 5D chess while the rest of us dinked around with checkers. The one so seemingly sensible and normal he could trick moderates and independents into waking up one day and saying “You know what, I’m feeling so good today I think I WILL vote for death and mayhem on an unimaginable scale! I just like that guy so dang much Imma let him brutalize my family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors!” He went to Harvard Law! He came from a middle-class family! He’s young and allegedly handsome! It’s all coming together for the good old down-home three-dog garage American Nazi!
But he’s not. He’s really not. He never was. And he never could have been—because there’s just no such thing as a smart fascist. Not emotionally, not intellectually, not strategically or philosophically or practically. The ideology itself is about as clever and complex as a rock to the face: me best + them bad + you do what me say or else you them.
Before I say anything else I want to make it clear as a new day in bloody America: just because he’s not smart doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous, because he is. It doesn’t mean he can’t win, because he has and he can. It doesn’t mean he isn’t actively hurting people with malice aforethought right the fuck now, because any idle TV will show this man feasting on human misery with relish, wiping his chin, and ordering more. It doesn’t mean he’s not to be taken seriously, pudding and all.
There’s no such thing as a smart fascist, but dumb wins A LOT of the time.
American fascists have always fallen all over themselves the second anyone even slightly young, symmetrically-faced, and able to use sub-clauses fails upward into office on their side of the aisle, let alone the occasional celebrity. Look, look! We have a likable competent among us! Now you MUST love us and obey! Bow down to him! Sometimes they even pull it off for awhile before the new Chosen Boy inevitably crams both fingers up one nostril on camera and calls it a brave stance against the liberal agenda. Every couple of years we get a new one. Paul Ryan was supposed to be this amazing economic wunderkind. Ted Cruz a constitutional law whiz-kid. Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton were for a time treated as Gilead’s own 4H Club Presidents-in-Waiting (and may still be). Elon Musk was literally worshipped, even by geeks who should know better, as the savior of all mankind and lord of Mars, and has turned out to be so blindingly bug-dumb it’s shocking he knows how to put on his own clothes and I’m not completely sure I believe he can. And of course ol’ Ronaldo DS. Even Mitch McConnell was praised as this historic master of Senatorial strategy for years—and to some extent still is.
But none of them are smart or capable or gifted with understanding and foresight. That’s not the great talent of fascists. They don’t need—or want—to be those things or have those talents. They only need one. And when I say 60% of the time, it works every time, you should not hear that as amusing reference, but as a pretty terrifyingly accurate number.
Fascists, and their larval form, conservatives, simply do not give one single lonely fuck for rules or conventions or the system in which they flourish.
Like spoiled toddlers, they cannot mentally model the possibility of experiencing any consequences, no matter how small, so they blow through all those rules and conventions and traditions like a maniacal Stay-Puft Kool Aid Man and stomp in the faces of anyone or any law standing in their way.
And then this really frightening but so sadly human thing happens: normal people’s minds just close around the fascists’ actions, patching up the wall, because the wall was built through their whole childhoods and lived experience and reliance upon it to function, through every moment of their most basic comprehension of how life on this planet works and their methodologies for attempting to get along with among other human beings. Non-fascist minds just can’t absorb everything they’ve always believed were the unyielding guardrails of their own behavior and lives not mattering at all until it’s too late and every convention of decency and fair play has been shot in the goddamned back while running down a fucking school hallway.
Trump says he’ll end birthright citizenship; the dutiful nodding media notes that’s completely unconstitutional, we here in our living rooms nod along because of course it is, Trump himself is the son of a migrant, what an absurd idea that such a thing could actually happen. And we put it out of our thoughts because it’s so obviously impossible to actually accomplish, and then Roe is gone and kindergarten teachers are fired for having a wife and everyone somehow is still saying things are impossible just because established law and precedent say they are.
They can’t do that. It’s unconstitutional. It’s not how things work. It’s illegal. It’s wrong. People won’t stand for it. There’s no way they’ll get away with this one, it’s too far over the line. Someone will stop them. Not me, but someone. They’ve been exposed; sunshine is the best disinfectant. They won’t get elected again. People will turn against them. Corporations won’t tolerate it. They have to change, the young generations won’t be fooled. It’s against precedent. It’s against the rules. It can’t happen here.
And on and on and on. And all that mental work to shore up the world against those who hate it, all that thought and reasoning and labor to get to a place where we can believe it’ll all be ok, that isn’t being done by the big sloshing chaos-jug of red liquid smashing through the brick wall of decency, it’s being done by us, by the normal people of the world who consider both sides of issues and try to imagine the downstream effects of our choices, who just want to live and get by and occasionally have a nice meal and a vague familial feeling every once in awhile.
Fascists know very well their loyalists and die-hards can never have the numbers to make it all happen for them. They absolutely must get everyday normal fucking people on board with slaughter and the the normalization of utter misery, either by lulling them to sleep or by dressing it up with enough marketing to make them think they’re voting for something else entirely. They know that even those normal everyday people have a little ugliness in them, everyone does, and if you can push them hard enough or dress up genocide pretty or crazy enough, that ugliness will come out. Or at least, they’ll look the other way as long as it’s not their demographic against the wall and their wallet isn’t too battered up.
That’s why early-stage fascists even bother to try making it all vaguely legal.
Because for a lot of “normal everyday” people, legal is a synonym for right. And there goes their minds, slowly, determinedly, loyally patching up the ruined wall, brick by brick by charred fragment of human suffering.
But none of that takes a mind that shines like a light in a dark chasm. It just takes being willing to bet that rules are just paper, and paper, eventually, inevitably, burns.
There is no genius to evil. Only brute force. Brute force and a closed fist, a closed heart, a closed mind and legions upon legions of closed eyes.
McConnell never had to have a strategy. He just had to not give a fuck. Denying Obama a Supreme Court nominee and then shoving every blogger with a reasonable facsimile of a law degree onto the bench wasn’t strategy. It was just not giving a fuck about the rules, sitting on his hands like a smug little frog-goblin, and saying no. McCarthy is doing the same thing, risking the entire world’s stability because it makes the zombie hyena brigade laugh. Just sticking out that pugnacious Mussolini-chin and donkey-barking: no no no.
That’s it. There’s no clever handling of the system, no scrying out of loopholes, no incisive interpretation of the law. There’s just ignoring it and daring someone to do something about it. SCOTUS’s new motto is basically Lol What Are You Gonna Do About It? in Latin. We all know precedent, standing, ethics and arguments mean nothing anymore. Six of them are just going to chortle and preen and smoke each other’s farts in the finest of pipes and pull the big novelty rope for whatever hurts people the most for the foreseeable future. The whole much-vaunted concept of the unitary executive Nixon’s pet boys slowly pushed through Washington until it became the status quo is nothing more ethically and logically grounded than get fucked I do what I want. Yelling RIGGED is a child’s emotional response to losing, not a tactic. Trump acted almost solely through Executive Order because me say, you do! is as far as any fascist political maneuvering has ever evolved. It’s not a strategy, it’s just a monstrous parent bellowing BECAUSE I SAY SO, YOU LITTLE SHITS in lieu of governance.
And it’s all Ronnie DS has ever done. He has an entirely captive and compliant legislature that just says yep yep yep like the Martians from the Muppets to whatever sadistic fever dream Ronald Wii had the night before with no debate or negotiation. Almost all of it is wildly unconstitutional, and not only do they not care, half of Ron 64’s AI-generated clone-stamped state legislature probably doesn’t even know it’s illegal (but wouldn’t care if they did). That can look like success, or ability, or strategy, or an unstoppable force, but it isn’t. It’s just cosseted children blindly nodding yes daddy when they don’t understand the barest thing about adult life in this world. Ronaldo GameCube’s signature legislative win is getting a law passed against object fucking permanence: if no one SAYS gay, it will stop existing.
What a towering achievement of deft political acumen.
It’s not even truly ideological. They don’t even care THAT much about their own stated goals. It’s so common for conservatives to get abortions, do a bunch of drugs, have a ton of sex outside marriage or gay sex or kinky sex or paid-for sex or ethically horrendous sex, gamble, cheat, steal, embezzle, blithely start wars that slaughter thousands, watch absolute vats of porn (we all see you, Utah), beat their kids and lie with every breath no one is even the least surprised when every single day another one is caught doing one or all of those—and those are just the things their alleged religion says are sins. They also deeply believe in welfare, social safety nets, universal healthcare, loan forgiveness, bodily autonomy, freedom to marry, worship, and live as they please without interference, public education, economic stability, social mobility, and uncensored speech—as long as no one the least bit different from them can access those things, but corporations can.
Hell, Trump suggested confiscating all their guns, on camera, and they pretty much just shrugged.
It’s not a coherent belief system, it’s just government by narcissistic personality disorder. A narcissist is never wrong, never a hypocrite, never at fault. A narcissist changes reality around them and bulldozes others into agreeing with it to save their sanity and their skin and then turns around and changes that reality on a whim to avoid ever having to feel anything at all, least of all the dreaded responsibility. There’s no such thing as a smart fascist because smart people, by definition, think about things and fascism is terrified of letting anyone think about what’s happening for more than a second. Just throw up some new pain porn on the captive media and give it bright colors until people are so angry they can’t think, not even about what they’re angry about.
But the thing is? It’s always been this way. The Nazis weren’t smart, either. They just didn’t care. About anything. Hannah Arendt tried to tell everyone all about this and somehow we all just forgot because soulless all-powerful impossibly smart villains play better in the movies. Serial killers aren’t sophisticated hyper-geniuses outwitting everyone left and right, Hannibal Lecter is, and he is pretend. The willingness to do evil is just that, a willingness, an absence of restraint, not a talent.
The Nazis were a bunch of angry incel failsons out of their minds on original recipe meth who couldn’t make the model trains in their childhood bedrooms run on time, let alone smoothly operate a government. Almost everything you’ve been told they did well is a lie or an exaggeration or only done in the first place to murder more people more quickly. (And if you want to go in the comments, I came with receipts, and we can debate it until you start asking yourself why you so deeply need to believe they did anything good at all.) Even Eichmann, the logistics man who made the numbers work, straight-up flunked out of school and failed through his whole life until being an absolute pig-ignorant sadistic shit-fountain became the only qualification for a government job.
It does not, and never will, take any kind of intelligence to look in a mirror and think: the best thing for everyone is to look and think and be just like me, and if they don’t want to do that, I will just murder them and then the world will be wonderful. In fact, it is, on the face of it, a bizarre, unhinged, and fucking stupid soulless starving void of a thing to think and any brain that even begins to formulate it long ago left best practices and ordered ideation in a lonely pit.
And yet, there’s been such an astonishingly effective PR campaign, ongoing through multiple generations, striving to convince you that there was and can be true human genius and vast ability behind the industrialized evil perpetrated by Nazis, their historical forefathers, and their infinitely damned present-day children. That fascism is a legitimate system that can be turned to in order to solve problems. We even have this fancy Roman word for it so that we can endlessly debate whether it’s really technically fascism or just sparkling authoritarianism instead of doing anything about it. So that we can talk about what 30% of human beings dream about without vomiting into the depths of despair forever.
We call it fascism because me and my friends get to be murderkings kind of gives the game away.
What fascism even is has gotten so muddled—at least in the center on down through the left. The right know exactly what it is which is why they start crying and moaning and bloviating when anyone uses that word. We’ve minimized it in everyday speech so much it’s become a joke. You are not a grammar Nazi unless you are murdering grammar for disagreeing with you. A woman who wants to live as something other than a sex slave is not a feminazi (which of course they stopped using as soon as it was safe to admit they rather like Nazis but still hate women). This is part of why the everyday average charity-donor on the street gets caught sleeping every time. Fascist marketing says we’re just sticklers for the rules, that’s all. Aren’t you? If you don’t break the rules, what are you so worried about? Never mentioning that one of the rules is don’t be born the way you were born, be born the way your Masters were born, or at least pretend they were. So when the supremacists blow through all every convention and safeguard everyone who spent the last decade tut-tutting oh well, rules are good, I guess, what’s wrong with following the rules, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear and she/he/they probably deserved it because they weren’t following rules are just standing there with broken bricks shoved in their ears to soften the sounds of unending human pain while the Sith lord Kool Aid Main smiles and smiles.
But if you take nothing else from this, take the fact that you do not ever listen to what fascists say about themselves. It’s ALL bullshit. Either a premeditated lie or natural ignorance.
They aren’t rule-followers, they’re rule-eaters.
They thrive on breaking every rule, even their own. They lie and feign and preen and sneer and it doesn’t trouble them at all because they got into this gig to lie and feign and preen and sneer and hopefully fingers crossed kill some people they don’t like. They surely think you need to follow the rules, but they’re not talking about look both ways before you cross the street or no parking on Wednesdays or don’t walk on the grass, they’re always and only talking about do and be what I say or I will fucking kill you and everything you love, and if what I say contradicts what I said yesterday that’s your problem.
I’m not exaggerating or being paranoid here, that’s really all there is to fascism. It’s a bully’s true religion, nothing more than a child’s id lashing out at a world that failed to sufficiently worship it. I’ve been told all my life that conservatives have good points, they just disagree about certain principles, you have to listen to them, while no one ever told me I had a moral obligation to listen to the left. But honestly I don’t know that conservatism generally has any points at all beyond control. I know fascism doesn’t. But conservatism, especially American conservatism, has trojan horsed the first half of the 20th century right back to the 21st, and I think maybe that was always the whole of it. I get to control you, and you can’t stop me.
When you stop to think for five seconds, why the fuck were we all told the Nazis did “some” good things? In public school? I never had one history class that covered WWII in which there was not some time set aside to claim the Nazis did great things for Germany, for the economy, for science, for transportation and conservation, just at a terrible cost, which is not at all what fucking happened. It’s the other way around: all they wanted was the murder, their country and then the world was the cost they were ecstatically happy to pay to indulge in it. They absolutely ruined that nation, they burned it up to fuel a completely BUGFUCK BONKERS orgy of gagging, unfathomable horror, and the furtherance and completion of that orgy was prioritized over everything, everything, including winning the war. The trains didn’t run on time, of course they fucking didn’t, because they were privatized by the government to shovel undesirables into death camps and that’s the truth of fascism. Nazi science was worthless because it was stupid: brute torture with zero scientific methodology or rigor. Running up a shit-ton of debt to kickstart a war economy and slurping up conquered nation’s resources to make more tanks isn’t saving anything and it’s not some once in a generation tap-dance of a financial savior, it’s literally the contemporary Republican’s only move and the intellectual equivalent of borrowing another kid’s lunch money, punching him in the face, and claiming to have paid him back in full.
But why is the notion of trains running on time synonymous with fascism? Why do I know Hitler was a vegetarian? That he saved the German economy (he didn’t) and invented the Autobahn (nope) and Mother’s Day (come on) and was an amazing military commander and public speaker (I swear to god Americans think he was this slick operator because they don’t speak German and can’t understand his insane cthulhoid speeches) and loved his goddamned German Shepherd?
Because the whole “the Nazis did some good things though!” line of thought comes directly from the right wing spending decades trying to memory-launder fascism into something modern people living in a democracy will accept. I know Hitler was a vegetarian and loved his dog and so do you because a bunch of alt-right tightie whities throughout the last century wanted to plant the seed that he and all he wrought could possibly be seen as good and correct and a desirable state. Or at least, wise and decent enough deep down.
And it’s a screeching lie.
But for some reason, most people seem to really want to believe there are brilliant fascists out there. Maybe because it’s too awful to believe that so much agony could be done for no real reason but the desire to create agony. That so much blood and pain and loss and privation and screaming death could not only have had no downstream benefits at all, even to the perpetrators, but never have been intended to have any. That an entire planet could crack on the wheel of pure dumb idiot hate with no purpose but sadism, narcissism, and a deep lust for the suffering of others.
And the new Nazis are no different. They hate others and they hate themselves, oh, they hate themselves so darkly and so deeply. Desperate slavering pits of loveless need that can never be filled. Ronald looks into a camera and panics every time because he is so afraid that all-seeing eye will not love him, as no one has ever loved him, not even as much as they love a literal monster in an orange skin-suit, and he can’t face his own image in the black lens long enough to appear remotely human. Or did you think there was some logical reason to announce a Presidential campaign in a buggy audio-only website chat-room in 2023?
The competent fascist? Never. Their highest level of strategy tops out right about at How Elon Musk Is Running Twitter. Just throwing insane things at the wall, demanding people forget whatever disaster happened five minutes ago, making stupid jokes at the expense of suffering people, creating the only bonds they’ve ever experienced with other humans by inviting them to be awful together, enacting absurd, child-like policies that have never worked but sound good to them because they don’t know how anything does work and if they thought of thing, thing is amazing, brilliant, best thing ever.
Perhaps their only saving grace, or ours, is that they can’t work together. Narcissists don’t do that. They can’t. Someone has to be on top and none of them are willing to allow anyone else to put a foot on their back. But it’s not much, and it’s not enough. It doesn’t matter. Evil doesn’t win because good is dumb. Evil wins because evil is easy. It’s so damnably easy to be stupid and hateful and ignorant and mean. It’s effortless. It’s easy not to regulate your behavior or your emotions because fuck everyone else that’s why. It’s easy to just go through life the way your parents told you to and hate anyone who lives differently. It’s easy to fear and lash out and buy a bunch of guns and puff up your chest on the internet and just shriek a tantrum into your phone’s camera that amounts to nothing more complicated than waaaaa but I’m supposed to get everything I want all the time! It’s easy to vote for a guy you’ve seen on TV for 30 years because you think it’s funny when he says things you think but your kids get super mad at you for saying. It’s easy to hurt others from a safe position. It’s easy to be a sack of shit. It just is. All you have to do is never think of anyone or anything but yourself.
It’s so much easier than empathy and compassion and thoughtfulness and genuine scientific inquiry and kindness and adapting to changing times. Just dig your heels in and say no. Just hurt people until they do what you want. Just ignore the rules and traditions and conventions, or better yet don’t bother learning them in the first place. Just don’t give a fuck, because giving a fuck is hard and it hurts and you never get to check out or feel safe and who wants that? Ew, that’s for effete leftists with their bleeding hearts.
The competent, demonically brilliant fascist messiah will never come. But he doesn’t have to. Brute force wins plenty. That’s what Ronald doesn’t understand, and most Republicans don’t either. They all have this idea that somehow you can separate the madness of Trump from the fascism they so desperately want. That there could be a fascist boring and respectable enough to dupe normies. But you can’t. Because fascism is madness. It’s madness. It is a sickness in humanity that some portion of us drag the rest back into over and over again. It’s a malevolent fugue-state of death and fear visited on everyone you’ve ever known by the very worst of us and the very middling of us. It does not have an upside. It is not for a purpose higher than sadism. It is not intelligent, it does not have a plan beyond pain. It is not a philosophy; it is not a legitimate method by which to govern. And no charisma-free gator in a trench-coat whose brand was the competent one but then turned out to step on a rake covered in pudding everywhere he walked is going to get the base’s blood up enough to make it happen.
But it doesn’t really matter. It’s not going to be Ronald because it’s going to be the devil we know. That’s no comfort. Fascism does not have to be competent to have its way. It just has to not care hard enough and it will win.
And average normal everyday people just have to not care long enough and we will all lose.
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