Anti-Authoritarian Immune System


You know, we have a strong history of opposing authoritarianism. I'd like to believe that opposition is like an immune system response that kicks in.

In 1995 Umberto Eco tried to put together a description of Fascism that basically has a listicle in the middle. It might as well be called You Won't Believe these 14 Elements of Fascism. He called it, Ur-Fascism. It's hard to click and read a dry article about political theory from an Italian semiotician, so here are the highlights of Eco's Ur-Fascism:
  1. cult of tradition
  2. rejection of modernism
  3. action for action's sake
  4. disagreement is treason
  5. fear of difference
  6. appeal to a frustrated middle class
  7. obsession with a plot
  8. enemies are portrayed as both too strong and too weak
  9. pacifism is trafficking with the enemy
  10. contempt for the weak
  11. everybody is educated to become a hero
  12. machismo via weapons
  13. selective populism
  14. use of an impoverished vocabulary
When you see these elements all working together, you can put a name to it and make decisions from there. It's not just Eco who has worked to help us recognize this pattern. One of the reasons everyone reads 1984 in school is because it's something we need to be prepared to work against. One of the reasons we all sang This Land is Your Land is because we need it to help keep us on track.

In 2004 I collected some of my favorite books about the media: Guerilla Media Literacy List. I still think that's a great list and I plan to revisit some of those books now. (I might add Aristotle's Poetics to that list if I wrote it today.) I think we have a lot of art and literature we can turn to that helps us prepare for living with a more authoritarian system. We still have to do the work. But we can start to get our immune system prepared.