Yes, Trumpism really is fascism.

I grew up with a Fascist stepfather. He was an Italian and a participant in Mussolini's movement. He avowed and embraced his Fascism. As a small boy, I couldn't really understand the details of what he said about the issues and topics. But I remember the totality, the overall themes that recurred over the years. These memories were re-awakened by watching Trump's rise. It was the same swagger, the same certainty, the rhetorical style as Mussolini. Then I stumbled across an article that validated my instincts.

Umberto Eco is Italy's most prominent author. He lived through Italy's Fascism and also participated as a young man. Later, when exposed to the alternatives at a more intellectually mature age, he was able to analyze the experience. I distilled some passages from Ur-Fascism published in The New York Review of Books, June 22, 1995. It is his analysis of fascism.

Two things struck me in this meditation on fascism. The first touched right on my inability to crisply define my step father's views as a fascist. Eco describes fascism not a set of opinions on any specific issues, rather it is a set of qualities the totality of which makes the individual a fascist. It is not a social or political system, but more of a way of seeing the world, an attitude, a style. I understood this to be the reason that I could not define it as a political, philosophic, or social system. Half a century later, however, I recognized this same style instantly in Donald Trump. The second thing that struck me was how, in 1995, Eco so cleanly describes the arrival of Tumpism. I suspect that he saw, in 1995, the cultural forces at play that reminded him of his childhood; the same cultural forces that have now given rise to Tumpism.

What follows is a set of quotes from the article. Indented are my half thought through comments. I don't like thinking about Trump: I always feel dirty after. So this is an article that will probably evolve over the next years.

At the outset, Eco notes that the Phalangists of Spain, the Nazi's of Germany, and the Fascists of Italy did not align on set of political details. But they shared a collection of socio-cultural tendencies. He coins the word ur-fascists, original or proto-typical Fascists, and rhetorically asks: "But who are They?" Then, he answers his question:

"Linguistic habits are frequently important symptoms of underlying feelings."

I have been aware of the use of language by the extremist Right for some time. Whereas the Left eschewed its simplistic use of "fascist" during the 1960's as intellectual dishonesty, the Right embraced labeling. They understood that a label, if used repeatedly and often would become its own reality. "Liberal media", "tree hugger", "bleeding heart", "welfare mom", "War on Christianity", "Lying Hillary" all became truths in the minds of the weak minded.

"Mein Kampf is a manifesto of a complete political program."

Nazism, while fascist, was a complete political system. It did not match Italian or Spanish fascism, rather, it held something in common with all of them.

"Italian Fascism was certainly a dictatorship, but it was not totalitarian, not because of its mildness but rather because of the philosophical weakness of its ideology.....fascism in Italy had no special philosophy."

This goes to the heart of the difficulty defining fascism. By definition, it is what these movement had in common.

Right-wing dictatorships "found a sort of archetype in Mussolini's regime. Italian fascism was the first to establish a military liturgy, a folklore, even a way of dressing--far more influential, with its black shirts, than Armani, Benetton, or Versace would ever be."

The most obvious manifestation of this in American fascism is obsession with wearing the U.S. flag, from lapel pins to bandanas. This is ironic: in 1960, wearing the flag as a bandana would have been seen as an act of disrespect. I would have landed the wearer in jail in some places.

Another is "support the troops". The phrase has no real meaning: Support them by not sending them into wars they cannot win? Support them by cutting their veterans' benefits? Or support them by sending them to wars we do not even fund with our taxes? Bursting into tears because your team lost the World Series while American men and women are dying in the deserts of the Middle East and Central Asia is not supporting the troops.

The word "fascism" became a "synedoche, that is, a word that could be used for different totalitarian movements. This is not because fascism contained in itself, so to speak in their quintessential state, all the elements of any later form of totalitarianism. On the contrary, fascism had no quintessence. Fascism was a fuzzy totalitarianism, a collage of different philosophical and political ideas, a beehive of contradictions."

Fascism is as much a psychological state as it is a political movement. When Upton Sinclair writes: "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross", captures this nicely. No patriotism can possibly be Christian. Christianity is a trans-national conspiracy.....any pagan Roman can tell you that.

"Legislative power became a mere fiction and the executive power (which controlled the the judiciary as well as the mass media) directly issued new laws, among them laws calling for the preservation of the race."

 The essence of prepresentative government is that people of different opinions come together and negotiate policy for the greater, common good. The Right's newly acquired desire to send representatives to Congress who will not compromise is fascist. A legislature made up of representatives who do not compromise will be grid-locked and impotent. In this situation, only a fascist executive can get any agenda implemente.

 "The contradictory picture I describe was not the result of tolerance but of political and ideological discombobulation, a structured confusion. Fascism was philosophically out of joint, but emotionally it was firmly fastened to some archetypal foundations."

 Fascism is at its core conservative, hanging on to historical archetypes. The myths of the halcyon years of the 1950's or the all-wise and just Founding Fathers. Ask any Black who can remember the American apartheid of the 1950's whether those years were halcyon. Ask the Cherokees whether the people who forced them down the ethnic cleansing Trail of Tears were all-wise and just.

"But the fascism game can be played in many forms and the name of the game does not change."

"Fascism became an all-purpose term because one can eliminate from a fascist regime one or more features, and it will still be recognizable as fascist."

"I think it is possible to outline a list of features that are typical of what i would call Ur-Fascism. These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it."

"1. The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition....The new culture had to by syncretistic....As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning. Truth has already been spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message....If you browse in the shelves that, in American bookstores, are labeled as New Age, you can find there even Saint Augustine who, as far as I know, was not a fascist. But combining Saint Augustine and Stonehenge - that is a symptom of Ur-Fascism."

Anti-intellectualism has always run deep in American Culture. The cold eye of the Enlightenment and critical thinking dispells too many beloved archtypical foundations. Instead, to cling to the fuzzy thinking of Creationism, Founding Father mythology, or the New Age movement, fascism has to from the starting point assert that Truth is already defined. The incessant self-review and demand for independent confirmation that is the hall mark of modern scientific thinking is anathema.

"2. Traditionalism implies a rejection of modernism. Both Fascists and Nazis worshiped technology.....but [they] are mainly concerned with the rejection of the Spirit of 1789 (and of 1776, of course).  The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, ,is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism."

Modernism, the embrace of the ideal that each individual [to be continued]

"3. Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action's sake....Thinking is a form of emasculation....Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism, from Goering's alleged statement ("When I hear talk of culture I reach for my gun.") to the frequent use of such expressions as "degenerate intellectuals," "eggheads", "effete snobs", "universities are a nest of reds."

"4. No syncretistic faith can withstand analytical criticism. ....In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason."

"5. Besides, disagreement is a sign of diversity. Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks for consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition."

"6. Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustration. That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crises or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.....the fascism of tomorrow will find its audience in this new majority."

"7. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege it the most common one, to be born in the same country. This is the origin of nationalism.....there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.....But the plot must also come from inside: Jews are usually the best target because they have the advantage of being at the same time inside and outside"

"8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies......However, the followers must be convinced that they can be overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are a the same time too strong and too weak.

"9. For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle......life is permanent warfare."

"10. Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology.....Every citizen belongs to the best people of the world, the members of the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can become a member of the party."

"11. Everybody is educated to become a hero.....The Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death."

"12. Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters. This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality. Since even sex is a difficult game to play, the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons-doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise."

"13. Ur-Fascism is based on a selective populism.....the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will........Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter.....There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People."

"14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak.....All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks make use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show."