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Utoya and the fascist mind

UtoyaUntil Boris Kelly popped up on the weekend with his usual lucid description of things, I was starting to wonder if Utoya would pass uncommented by the Overland blog. The Overland blog is often punctuated by some odd silences (nothing to date on SlutWalks or the implosion of the Murdoch empire), and any conversation in any circumstance is always notable for what is not said as much as what is. Of course the silences are no doubt partly a result of Ol bloggers being a disparate and unpaid group with only occasional time and random motivation. But still there’s never a lack of room for ad nauseam discussion about the end of the book and so on and so forth. It’s always seemed to me that Overland can be the place where things can be said that can’t be said anywhere else, and that’s the whole point of both journal and blog.

Anyway following on from Boris’ post I’d like to try and say something about the fascist background to the Utoya killings. I’m not sure I’m really qualified to do so and these days often feel I’m barely qualified to write my own name, but I want to at least make an attempt to pull an argument together about the fascist context of Breivik’s murders.

Most of the media commentary I’ve seen on the Otoya and Oslo atrocities falls broadly into two camps. In the first Breivik is an inhuman monster. This argument seeks to decontextualise Breivik’s actions, to shear them of political content and locate the causes of the massacre in the psychopathology of an individual. London’s mayor Boris Johnson has gone as far as arguing that Breivik should be completely ignored on the basis that he is narcissistic and egotistical. This seems rather flimsy criteria, as it would also rule out paying any attention to Boris Johnson as well.

The second argument about Breivik is a bit muddier. There’s a political context around Breivik and massive dissension about what it is. This is the field where Boris Kelly’s post situates itself and he gives a better summary than I could, so I won’t recapitulate it here.

But there is a kind of suburb of both camps, where most of the subjects of this post tend to hang out. It’s occupied by people like Glenn Beck and so on, and replete with opinions and arguments that have been commonly expressed in the Australian parliament over the past decade or two. Beck once claimed that the Holocaust was a result of the Nazis excess of empathy, so it was no surprise when he managed to out-Beck himself by likening the Utoya gathering to a meeting of the Hitler Youth. The Australian flag in Beck-urbia was proudly flown last week by a hitherto obscure academic Mervin Bendle who ‘theorised’ at ABC’s Drum that Breivik was actually a dupe of unspecified left-wing forces.

I haven’t read Breivik’s 1500-page ‘manifesto’ or seen his YouTube snippets and have no intention of doing so. It’s not as if we could find an ‘explanation’ there. That would be ludicrous. I’m guessing that both are sprinkled with what I think of as ‘Mein Kampf’ arguments; that is, a series of superficially cogent statements that culminate with a psychotic break. An example of ‘mein kampf’ logic is: Allied reparations are unjust. They are crippling the German economy. Therefore we must eliminate all the Jews as soon as possible.

I’d guess too from what I’ve heard about Breivik’s ideas that his screed also contains huge amounts of paranoid fantasy, through which he strides resplendent emerging purified from an apocalyptic landscape. Still, neither paranoid fantasy nor even a racist attitude entirely defines the fascist mind, though they are often reliable indicators. My late father spent 20 years working tirelessly every day without pay, with Somali and Latin American refugees. Those he had helped came to his funeral, gave moving eulogies and wept. But to the end of his life he retained what can only be described as a strong prejudice against the Vietnamese. He didn’t broadcast this, and only his immediate family were aware of it. Perhaps we could say that there was a fascist part of his mind that was hard to subdue and, to some extent, it troubled him. In an irony that allowed me to imagine that the God he believed in had a sense of humour, he was buried next to a Vietnamese who he presumably will have plenty of time to get to know until Judgment Day rolls round.

But the most intriguing thing I’ve heard about the Breivik manifesto to date is that Breivik apparently speaks approvingly of John Howard, Peter Costello, Keith Windschuttle and George Pell. They’re a curious and somewhat sinister bunch, but not without a certain symmetry; a group you might invite to your party if it started at midnight and your family name was Addams.

What Breivik’s endorsement of the Howard gang brings home, as forcefully as anything can be brought home, is that for the past decade and a half Australia has been the source of widely broadcast and government-sanctioned fascist attitudes, some of it enshrined in law and as domestic and foreign policy. I am not – should it need to be said – suggesting that Australia is a fascist state or that Howard or Costello and their cheer squad endorse the killings at Utoya. What I am saying is that when we support and breed fascist opinions; when we broadcast them across the world and attempt to concretise them into permanent Government policy, we should not be surprised when those attitudes are endorsed by homicidal sociopaths and give succour to the far-right. In his opinions, if not his actions, Breivik would have been a model citizen of Howard’s Australia.

So what, at bedrock, is the fascist mind? A fascist mind is one that is primarily (if not entirely) ideological in its structure, appearance and operation. It is ideological through and through, in a way that is hard to imagine from the non-fascist point of view – unless you’ve experienced a bit of the fascist in yourself. Everyone has a fragment of it tucked away somewhere. If you think you don’t then you probably are a fascist.

The fascist mind, the ideological mind is a state of mind that permanently adopts an unchanging rigid argument that cannot and must not be altered, and this argument defines it. An example would be: ‘In the War On Terror you are either with us or against us.’ It logically follows that if you object to the War on Terror, you are potentially a terrorist and should be subject to certain kinds of punishment. Any reading of Australia’s right-wing columnists will discover dozens of these kinds of statements. They’re very common.

An ideological argument, a fascist argument, brooks no contradiction, and most importantly can’t be changed, by any evidence so matter how overwhelming or irrefutable that evidence is. Sound familiar your lordship Mr Monckton? So the Utoya attacks can be first the work of Islamic terrorists, then secretly the work of a left-wing cabal, then actually the responsibility of ‘liberals’ who seek to make political traction out of the murder of innocents and to demonise Christianity, then evidence that said ‘liberals’ relish the Utoya atrocities, then evidence that anyone who seeks to put a political context around Utoya is just like Breivik. In other words the liberals are the real threat. Therefore, any future terrorist attack will be the work of Islamic fanatics or left-wing sympathisers. So lets round them all up now, before it’s too late.

Along with this logic of omission always comes a whole raft of characteristics as the arguments unfold: ridicule, caricature, and various kinds of denigration, decontextualisation and misrepresentation. This can be couched in racist terms or misogynist terms and so on. Drowning asylum seekers might be accused of throwing their children into the sea, for example.

Anything that is a threat to the ideological argument has to be annihilated or expelled. You cannot argue with fascists. There is no argument to be had. The meaning of terms is not negotiable. An argument is a threat and the source of a threat must be destroyed. The fascist, being terrified of appearing weak, will always target the weak to prove his or her strength. Where fascist policies are enacted, we will always find the marginalised, the helpless, the powerless and the silenced. Very often, more often than not as I’ve written before at Overland, they will be children, as they were at Utoya.

One of the most effective responses we can make in the face of fascist hostility is to work to build social and political structures that make it harder and harder for fascist attitudes to thrive. Which of course begs the question as to what political parties, or schools, or offices, or marriages, or police forces, or newspapers or religions would look like to make it almost impossible for fascism to function within them.

A fascist ideological attitude is always pure. The fascist argument has no flaws, because the fascist has no flaws. This is where the paranoid fantasy kicks in. The fascist is in fact an ideal human being, a hero. ‘To have remained decent,’ said Himmler to his SS, ‘when 100 corpses lie there, or when 500 corpses lie there, or when a 1,000 corpses lie there … that is what makes us great.’

Stephen Wright lives in Nimbin on a land-sharing community. He has won some things (2009 Eureka Street Prize, 2013 Nature Conservancy Prize), been shortlisted for others (2012 Creative NonFiction Prize, 2014 Calibre Prize) and was once runner-up for a poetry prize he’s forgotten the name of.

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Comments

  1. Nice post but I’m not totally convinced by the notion of the fascist mind or the fascist argument.
    One of the key points about fascism is that it’s ideologically incoherent and protean, and its ‘ideas’ are thus often a grab-bag of right-wing and populist commonplaces.
    What distinguished the fascist from the populist isn’t ideas so much as actions — in particular, the use of physical force directed at the Left and the oppressed.
    Ideologically, there’s very little difference between Breivik’s manifesto and the Islamophobic bloggers and politicians he plagiarized. What made him distinctive — and distinctively fascist — was his willingness to put ideas into practice, to not just talk about the ‘war against Eurobia’ but to launch it.
    Which I guess is what you’re arguing, too.

  2. Jeff, you need to strip the fascist mind thing back a level. I’m not primarily concerned with specific fascist political ideas, but the structures behind them. There’s quite a bit of literature on this, particularly in the kind of psychological literature I read anyway. The actual ideological stance – Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynist, whatever – is in a sense secondary to what is common to fascist state of mind.
    Are you arguing that Islamophobic bloggers are not fascist? I don’t think that argument will hold up. Breivik is just a particular type of fascist and he wouldn’t exist without the fascist bloggers and fascist statements and policies of elected politicians.

  3. Hi Stephen, a very interesting post.

    Like Jeff, I’m not convinced by the argument that there is a fascist mindset. The problem with most psychological explanations of fascism is that they fall into the same trap as psychology (and my profession, psychiatry) generally does: Separating not only the content but the form of thinking away from its embeddedness in historically-specific social practices.

    You write:

    “An ideological argument, a fascist argument, brooks no contradiction, and most importantly can’t be changed, by any evidence so matter how overwhelming or irrefutable that evidence is.”

    And:

    “Anything that is a threat to the ideological argument has to be annihilated or expelled. You cannot argue with fascists. There is no argument to be had. The meaning of terms is not negotiable.”

    I think you mix up cause and effect here. Fascist thinkers have always been able to appreciate contradictions and the way their propaganda often diverges completely from reality. In fact, they often pride themselves on using lies for a greater cause (think Goebbels and very big lies). In this way fascists are little different to bourgeois ideologues who also have to project lies and contradictions in the service of narrow interests, except perhaps in the scale of the falsehoods they peddle.

    The real reason Fascists need to use violence to settle arguments has little to do with ideas or debates. Rather, their political project is to build a movement outside the state based on extreme nationalism in order to be a bulwark against threats to the nation. Their hope is to then be called on to colonise the state to defend the existing order, eliminating all organisations outside the state. To do that they have to notch up runs on the board, or else the existing state and capitalist class won’t take them seriously enough to allow such a risky arrangement to transpire. That means violence to intimidate and smash up opponents of the nation that they aspire to run.

    I’ve read a bit of Breivik’s manifesto and he seems to articulate a pretty classic fascist strategy in the sense I have just argued. The use of extra-state force as part of building a movement is really the key defining feature of fascism as opposed to other far Right tendencies. Yes it is strongly ideological, but it is not just that. And ideology is not specifically a “fascist” thing, but a product of the social conditions and practices in which we engage in our existing society. The mainstream Right’s increasing use of extreme racist tropes to bolster support reflects a long-run and growing social crisis produced by neoliberalism, now exacerbated by the Great Recession. Nationalism can, in that sense, provide an ideological salve for the bitterness created by real-world contradictions by positing a more uncomplicated (“pure”) alternative framework.

    I would also caution against using the term “psychotic break” because the form of madness here is a social madness and not an individual one. That is, it is one rooted in the contradictions of the society we live in.

    • Hi Tad
      thanks for dropping in. I’ll stick with ‘psychotic break’ because I am indeed speaking about social madness. I am not really concerned too much with Breivik’s personal pathology.
      I am not arguing that ideology is only a fascist discourse, but that a mind set, socially constructed or otherwise, that is fascist is only ideologically constructed. I’m interested in the ideas that a fascist mindset is just has ideology, that’s all there is. I can’t see that I’m divorcing a fascist psychology from social embeddedness. I’m not arguing for psychologies of persons but social psychologies and interested in how they are organised and communicated

      • The concept of a mindset that is “only ideologically constructed” still strikes me as hard to substantiate whether considered at an individual or mass psychology level.

        If Hitler (or the mass of members of his party) had a purely ideological psychology, then their ability to rebuild the German economy and for some time run a successful war effort would be down to pure chance. However, there is good evidence that they were able to adapt successfully from being a hardened, ideologically-driven extra-state movement to running a real capitalist state (and state capitalist economy) in ways that required pretty clear thinking about the class needs of the German bourgeoisie. For example, the purging of “revolutionary” elements who really believed the most extreme ideological propositions retailed by the Nazi leadership against German capital and finance was carried out when they became a hindrance to an orderly running of the state.

        I’m not arguing here that the Nazis lost all (or even most) of their ideological thought processes as their social practice adapted to the task at hand, but that Nazis only differ in degree and type in ideological thinking from others (i.e. that they are not purely ideological in that sense). I think I’m making a wider claim that all people whose social existence is embedded in capitalist social relations must necessarily have their mindset constructed in part by ideology and part by their social practices which cut against (false) received ideas and ways of thinking. And that fascists are no exception.

        I go back to the “psychotic break” argument you put. Human thinking is full of these kinds of processes because it is trying to deal with a contradictory reality, but they happen at a micro level that makes them not really psychotic in the true sense of the word. You give an example:

        “Allied reparations are unjust. They are crippling the German economy. Therefore we must eliminate all the Jews as soon as possible.”

        Actually, the argument was put much more subtly and with many more mediations by the Nazis, because their propagandists had to deal with the fact that even their potential supporters mostly couldn’t simply fill in the blanks between such statements. There had to be rumours and stories about Jews and how they were implicated in these crimes against Germany to fill out the logic and to make it not-really-psychotic (i.e. not the leap of logic you imply).

        The scary part of the fascist mindset for me is not its purity but how in some ways it is so close to the banal reality of thinking in our society more generally.

        • TAD –
          “If Hitler (or the mass of members of his party) had a purely ideological psychology, then their ability to rebuild the German economy and for some time run a successful war effort would be down to pure chance”

          Sorry, I can’t see this. Ideological psychologies don’t seem to me to presupppose an inability to have certain organisational or political skills.

          ” Human thinking is full of these kinds of processes because it is trying to deal with a contradictory reality, but they happen at a micro level that makes them not really psychotic in the true sense of the word.”

          Agreed these breaks are normal processes to a point.
          I might have addressed this in my response to Dave’s comments and also addressed your comment about the closeness of the fascist mind to mundane thinking. This was Hannah
          Arendt’s argument.

          “Actually, the argument was put much more subtly and with many more mediations by the Nazis….”

          I think the ‘subtlety’ of Nazi psychology is still up for debate. I’m still arguing that beneath that ‘subtlety’ or whatever we want to call it, is something that might be close to mundane thought but is also a radical rupture
          from it. I’m thinking of Primo Levi’s first moments
          in Auschwitz, where he cannot comprehend the organisational
          and intentional processes that have brought them to the
          room with the tap water than cannot be drunk.
          At this point his capacity for thinking just breaks down, because what he is experiencing doesn;t make any sense.
          What he’s facing I’d speculate is that ‘psychotic’ rupture I’m trying to get my head around.

  4. I adhere 100% to the idea that the driving force of history is the class struggle and that capitalism is an inhumane, destructive mode of production. Everyone who disagrees with that is 100% wrong. I sincerely believe that. I’m not about to gun them down, but I know they are absolutely wrong.

    Does that make me a fascist?

    • Well, I couldn’t say Dave. Depends on whether or not you are able to accept everyone else being wrong. And how you go about arguing your cause.

      • Hmmm…I can live with that. But i think that is the point, the exterminating my opponents would make a fascist, not the commitment to the ideology.

        • No it wouldn’t Dave. Denigrating your opponents, considering them to be sub-human, inciting others to that kind of hatred
          would make you a fascist. You don’t have to exterminate
          them yourself.
          There’s something in all this discussion that is being lost, and if I couldn’t make it clear in the post I’m unlikely
          to be able to do it now. I’m not talking about
          commitment to ideology. I’m trying to describe something
          more primitive. I can see that I have used a term other
          than ‘ideology’ because nobody seems to be able to see
          past it. It’s starting to look like a wasted post.
          I’m not trying to speak beyond social and political speheres
          of influence. Personal pathologies don’t fall from
          the sky, but are born of this bizarre historical trajecyory
          we appear to be on. A fascist ‘mindset’ if we want to call it that comes from a whole swathe of historical
          circumstance. But it exists as a social and political
          structure.

          • I don’t mind denigrating my opponents, up to a point, if that will demoralise them. And when I say opponents, at this point I am speaking primarily of the Right, and indeed Fascists.

            However I may have misunderstood your post Stephen. Are you saying that certain personality types, or certain ways of thinking are conducive to being attracted to far Right politics?

  5. Thanks for the post Stephen. I think the term ‘fascist’ is an impoverished one in public discourse because it is so often used as a catch all insult. It has been applied to both George Bush and Bob Brown, for example. Breivik’s writings, allegiances and behaviour may well conform to definitions of fascism drawn from political science, as Tad suggests, but I am not convinced it is useful to tag him with that term. A similar problem exists with use of the term ‘socialist’ which is so often used to connote Stalinism, as it was by Breivik. Let’s leave the term ‘Nazi’ for another day. I appreciate that what you have done in this post is to attempt a working definition of the fascist mindset and although that is useful I want to argue for a complete rethink of what we talk about when we talk about politics, to borrow from Carver. But not tonight for me. Brendan O’Neil on Q&A has put me to sleep. Interested to hear what others have to say about this.

    • Hey Boris.
      You wrote: “I want to argue for a complete rethink of what we talk about when we talk about politics.”
      An excellent proposition. And resonates very much with my own thinking these days. Your statement has to be worth some of your blogging time at Overland, or perhaps an essay in the more exalted format of the OL Journal?

  6. Well, yes I thought I was saying that reasonably clearly. Perhaps not. Not that the inhabitants of the Left are paragons of sanity though. The “lets suspend democracy while we sort out climate change” camp being a case in point.
    If you want to try demoralising the far right make sure you are somewhere safe first, preferably a large bunker.
    I seem to have created two modes of confusion here (in your comments and in others) one cohering around ‘mind’ and the other around ‘ideology.’
    When I’m talking about mind I’m not talking just about individuals and neither am I talking about some kind of ‘collective’ mind. I’m talking about a category. Just as one can’t buy a car but can only buy Cortinas or Kingswoods, that doesn’t mean that the idea of ‘car’ is meaningless or outside the field of historical forces. Or when Frantz Fanon writes of “the black man” there is no particular bloke you can go and find and no existing archetypal black man living down the road who represents every other black man. But Fanon is still able to write of the politics of what it means to be a black man and to speak of the black man and the black woman in the abstract, and detail the effect of colonial practices and so forth on “the black man.”
    The idea of the fascist mind is the same. And we can speak of the fascist mind just as we can speak of a politicised mind, or a compassionate mind or whatever, and describe what the characteristics of each might be without specifying any specific individual. However, with the fascist mind we are dealing with a certain category of mind, rather unique and frightening. You can’t be born with a fully developed and intact mind. You have to grow it. We are born with alive minds, minds that seem wired to reciprocate, but still minds in potential. I’ve written before about this. A mind can only grow with assistance of other minds. An intact mind, a mind that has thrived, is one that is able to think of other minds. It’s the African ubuntu thing, that a human being is only a human being inasmuch as he can think of others. That’s one of the things that makes children so vulnerable. They are dependent on having functional carers, on people who can think of other minds.You can think of all this psychologically if you wish, or you can think of it politically or recognise that the two aren’t separate.
    This is where the ‘ideology’ definitions come in that (I’m guessing) messed up the discussion, and are my fault entirely. When Jeff or Tad or Dave (for example) develop political ideologies, this is presumably because they already had a functioning ubuntu-style mind to start with. A thinking mind with an ideology is not a problem, and in fact that’s how we explain our beliefs to each other. Everyone has an ideology, or should have. A fascist mind is a mind that has never developed the capacity to consider other minds, but has instead become a kind of reified and empty core. How does it survive? By cohering around ideology, a fixed truth that must not be abandoned because otherwise the mind would not survive. Hannah Arendt wrote about this at length in her book on totalitarianism I think.
    This is what is so frightening about fascists. It’s not just their violent practices, or hate speech it’s the fact that nothing will shift them, nothing will change the structure of their thought, and they cannot consider other people as people. Some fascists will act out in physically violent ways, and many more, perhaps all, will have fantasies of doing so. Some just draw up documents, schedule trains and so on. Others write blogs or propound bizarre denials of climate change. I would argue that neoliberal capitalism is facilitating the proliferation of fascist attitudes and the creation of damaged individuals who are easily co-opted by those attitudes.
    This may well not have clarified things, but it’s most likely the best I can do.

    • I kind of get what you’re saying but I do think there’s a real danger of substituting psychology for politics. Your argument almost seems to be that fascism is a psychosis. And I’m not sure how helpful that is in understanding the continuities (as well as the difference) between fascists and the populist right.
      Aside from anything else, I don’t think it’s true that nothing will shift fascists or change their structure of thought. Wasn’t the story of the twenties and the thirties in Germany much more about a quite small group of hardcore Nazis and a much larger proportion of society whose support for fascism waxed and waned depending on the balance of forces?

      • Well being “kind of” got is as much as I could hope for Jeff.
        Of course fascism is a psychosis. That seems self-evident. That doesn’t mean that politics and psychology can be separated and I’m surprised you’re taking that stance. Nonplussed even.
        As regards your other argument about waxing and waning fascists, I just came across some stuff of Robert J. Lifton’s this morning where he speaks of the Germans of the 20′s and 30′s experiencing a kind of collective illness, as though the entire nation had a psychotic episode. Their ‘support’ for fascism waxed etc “depending on the balance of forces” as you say. In other words while they could be convinced they were invincible. It’s the hard core, who don’t have episodes, who are permanently in that politically psychotic that I’m concerned with.
        Lifton also (I think) developed the idea of “doubling” a concept to explain why a fascist can torture people all day and go home and cuddle the kids at night and then put some Mozart on the stereo. There’s a kind of splitting that takes place, where the there is a “division of the self into two functioning wholes so that apart self acts as a whole self”. In other words, the Auschwitz self does all the bad stuff. Seems to me that this describes a whole lot of fascist politics. It’s not a psychologising of politics, it’s just an example of how we can describe politics psychologically sometimes, and psychology politically.

  7. OK, now I don’t follow at all.
    When you describe fascism as a psychosis do you mean that as a metaphor? Or do you mean that fascists are, quite literally, mentally ill?

  8. YES!
    Jesus Christ…..
    Jeff, I say this in the friendliest and most collegiate and sincere way: for a bright guy and an intellectual, you can sometimes be very obtuse.

  9. Thanks Dave. I think there could be a whole other argument about what it might mean to be psychotic, or how to medically describe Breivik’s mental state. But let’s not go there.

  10. I’m glad to read your last comment: “I think there could be a whole other argument about what it might mean to be psychotic, or how to medically describe Breivik’s mental state.” because this notion that he is mentally ill, which I’m neither disputing or upholding, seems to be the defining difference that keeps Breivik separate from many other xenophobic individuals that would, most likely, never pick up a rifle, let alone plan a highly organised attack such as the one he carried out. It bothers me, however, that the people who hold those kind of notions (xenophobic ones)would see themselves as so different to him because this fear of ‘the other’ seems to have been at the bottom of the reason why Germany allowed Hitler to get into the position he did. And I wonder, really, that if we accept that Breivik is mentally ill, what does that mean for how we should consider what Hilter’s mental state had been?

    • I didn’t realise when I wrote this post that there was a resistance to fascism as a mentally ill state. But I’m getting my head round it. It seesm that broadly speaking the right are saying that Breivik was a nutter and therefore we don’t need to talk of the politics, and the Left (very broadly speaking) arguing that mental illness isn’t an excuse or is irrelevant. And both perspectives missing the point.
      Fascism can be a mental illness and it can be produced by the utterly bizarre premises and methods of organisation and so forth of neoliberal capitalism. As Tad implied, its not useful to continually locate mental illness emtirely within and as an inate characteristic of individuals, but as a consequence of the social orders we appear to find ourselves consumed by.
      Fascism ain’t just another political opinion.

  11. I’m fairly sure the good Norwegian doctor in the article cited is saying that Breivik was not mentally ill…

    • Dave, I think the argument goes that Breivik carried out his acts in a rational manner and is therefore not mentally ill.
      The Final Solution was carried out rationally too. That’s one of the most difficult things to understand about it. Just because a fascist can carry through plans in a linear manner doesn’t mean that fascism is a mentally neutral state.

  12. Pingback: True Scotsmen don’t kill: sorting through the personal, political and religious debris of another senseless act | back pages blog

  13. Perhaps like anything, there are degrees of fascist thinking and in its extreme it becomes a kind of sociopathic or psychotic behaviour, perhaps when exacerbated by other mitigating factors. Stephen, I don’t think that all fascist thinking is psychotic, but then Jeff, I think you have missed the point if you cannot join the dots between fascist thinking and psychopathic behaviour. Although it may have been premeditated and carefully executed, there is nothing rational about what Breivik did.

  14. Hi Misha
    No I don’t think all fascist thinking is specifically psychotic either, though I think I may have given that impression. There are an infinite ways of being ‘mentally ill’ in a fascist way other than being clinically psychotic.
    You’re right about the rational aspect of Breivik’s act. It was only ‘rational’ in the sense that he could plan the event. This was my intent in raising Primo Levi, who found himself at the point there the ostensibly rational turns itself inside out. Like adding 2 and 2 and continually getting five, not matter how you attack it.

  15. Hi Stephen (and all ‘repliers’).
    I’ve just read this post several months after…

    Stephen, like other posts you’ve written, you prompt a question as to what to do know, to care for each other better. To make the world a better place. And that’s not, of course, being glib (it would be glib to think it’s glib).

    As you said:
    “One of the most effective responses we can make in the face of fascist hostility is to work to build social and political structures that make it harder and harder for fascist attitudes to thrive. Which of course begs the question as to what political parties, or schools, or offices, or marriages, or police forces, or newspapers or religions would look like to make it almost impossible for fascism to function within them. ”

    Strikes me also that no one has commented about this. Like we just want to work out what, and who, exactly is and isn’t fascist, rather than (i) admitting that we all might be fascistic in various ways (that’d be a humble and thus non-fascist perspective to take of oneself) and (ii) wondering what it is to live together, and design processes to enact on the small- and large-scales, such that the fascist mind that denies all others is discouraged rather than encouraged (that’d be a humble and thus non-fascist perspective to take up for each other).

    This is a question of design, of caring, of living together, of the future.

    Maybe some blogging needs to start answering these necessary questions, at the very least to avoid the red herring debates, and at the most to excite actions of love. Again, not a glib thing.

  16. ta for your comments Luke. It’s nice to have a back-and-forth, whatever the thread.
    I’d agree Luke that the Utoya thread became bogged down in a whole lot of stuff that was, to me anyway, not that interesting. And beside the point. I’ve said before (somewhere) that it’s of interest to me that we think we can build a democratic social order out of non-democratic organisations and processes. Thanks for quoting me back to myself. I think if there had been a discussion in the thread about the para you quoted then I would have been quite excited by that. Instead we all seemed to go a bit fascist. Which is what happens when fascist-inspired events occur.

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