Creeping fascism and the concept of disavowal

Creeping fascism and disavowal

The basic idea here is that in order to form an identity we have to identify with certain beliefs, and this requires the exclusion or disavowal of other beliefs, or knowledge or truths. The beliefs we identify with may, for example, be patriotic, nationalist, or racist, and may be reinforced by faith in the omnipotence of national leadership figures.

It has been suggested by Zizek among others that, for example, Nazi ideology disavowed the ‘truth’ that the Jews were not an existential threat to the German population at large, but instead enforced an ideological belief in Hitler as the omnipotent leader representing Germany and the Jew as the threat to the fantasy of Germany’s destiny of greatness, the threat that must be destroyed, thereby necessarily leading to a belief in the moral justice of the processes necessary to carry out the Jewish Holocaust, amongst other evils.

One of the features of fascism suggested by Vadolas (Perversions of Fascism, 2009) is the discourse explicitly negating disavowal – because this negation, appearing benign and moral, actually signifies an even stronger identification with the ‘truth’ of fascist dominative power, or, its domination potential – p117 (Vadolas). Vadolas later claims this is a feature of totalitarian subjectivity: for example take the phrase: “I’m not a racist … but …”; this discourse (way of speaking that signifies certain value and actions as moral) places increased emphasis on the moral rectitude of the political policies (racist) that dominate, exclude and attempt to destroy the other.

Disavowal is the repression of the knowledge of the harmlessness of the other, thereby necessarily creating a lethal threat in the form of an enemy that must be destroyed.

To say, “I’m not a racist ….” is to admit that I really know other is harmless, that is, the other is not an existential threat to me – in this way it is a conscious negation of the disavowal, but what effect does this have on the individual’s formation of moral values and identity? According to Vadolas it may reinforce the moral rectitude and therefore justification for the power of the figurative and corporal leader, such as Trump or Johnson. The discourse of the negation of disavowal is productive of increased sense of power to dominate, exclude, persecute and destroy, in the name of say, national security.

For example. Nikki Haley’s (the ex USA ambassador to the UN) protestations, at the 2020 USA Republican convention, that “America is not a racist country (… but we are justified in our support for Israel’s incremental genocide of the Palestinians)” is a good example of totalitarianising or fascist discourse. And Trump is the figure that embodies that fascist dominative power.

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