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Tilting at the Mills in the Empire: Or, Fascism Real and Imaginary

Vladimir Golstein

In the real world, fascists come to power when Western democracies imposed unbelievably harsh sanctions on Germany, and when the genuine German lefties were crushed by the unhealthy alliance of the liberals and right-wingers.

In the real world, fascists come to power after they targeted a particular group of people as the object of vicious, culturally shaped demonizing, and then destroyed any opposition by accusing it of its connection with a demonized group.

In the real world, fascists put those who challenge them into the camps, where they are brutally killed, along with all the demonized groups.

In the real world, fascists use all the means at their disposal – propaganda in particular — to manipulate, brainwash, and turn its own population into irrational haters.

In the real world, fascists and their armies are crushed by Russians, who die in their millions in order to put an end to the brutal fascist occupation of their country.

But we are not talking about the real world in the 21st century. We are now inhabiting the world of simulacra, the imaginary world of today’s West, where fascists and racists are those who don’t share liberal PC mantras.

In this imaginary world, it is the noble and wise Western democracies that crush the fascists and other authoritarians whom Western democracies depict as fascist.

In this imaginary world, fascists become those who happened to win an election despite all the manipulation of the establishment and its approved candidates.

In this imaginary world, all the power of the state apparatus, including spy agencies and domestic police, are directing their efforts to subvert the politician – designated as fascist — who won despite the democratic elections.

In the imaginary world, the fascist is the victorious politician, who is constantly harassed, mocked, bullied, and humiliated by the corporate press and the establishment, which prefers name-calling to analysis and self-scrutiny.

In the imaginary world, the fascist is the person, from whom his rival politicians or the members of the press can demand the answer to the question: “Are you a fascist and a traitor, and how can you prove that you are not?” And when the accused politician refuses to answer, his rivals continue calling for the ever increasing number of investigations in order to get to the bottom of this refusal to answer.

In this imaginary world, anyone who is one way or another connected to Russians — the people who defeated real-world fascists — is suspected in being an agent of fascism.

In this imaginary world, the mocked politician who is constantly accused of being a fascist, and those who dare to support him or question the accusations, are dismissed as ignorant bastards living in the fake world, as opposed to the press and the establishment politicians who imagine that they live in the real world.

Of course, we all know that arguing with an irrational person inhabiting an imaginary world is as futile as it is frustrating. One of the wisest humans, Miguel Cervantes, had described the endlessly failing efforts of those who tried to talk sense into a delusional Don Quixote. Cervantes just smiled at the deluded knight and at the efforts of those who tried to wake him up, and described–with his unparalleled humor–the misadventures of the hidalgo who preferred the imaginary world to the real.

Vladimir Golstein is an Associate Professor of Russian and Chair of the Department of Slavic Studies at Brown University.
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