inessential by Brent Simmons

Fascism These Days

I can write just about anything I want to on my blog for the simple reason that it doesn’t matter.

Times change. Fascists learn. There’s no pressing need to cut off any websites.

* * *

Fascists don’t leave so many fingerprints these days.

Example: there’s no actual agreement anywhere that makes Twitter a de facto arm of the Trump Executive Branch and all its unofficial partners — but it is.

Twitter bans the people who report abuse and it retains the Nazis and Russians. It amplifies the distractions and fills the pipe with lies and outrage. (And gives us special emoji as rewards.)

The truth can’t be found in the ever-thickening fog.

Though Twitter has been used for good, I’m more and more convinced that giving it anything just feeds it. If the medium is the message, then the message is lies, lulz, and bullshit, no matter what you put in.

* * *

That’s not to say that fascists won’t ever take our freedoms away. The fascists grow stronger and bolder, and those who would check their power chicken-out.

But it won’t usually be laws, or even executive orders, that take away freedoms. Think of the NFL, which — utterly disgracefully — now mandates against kneeling.

Samantha Bee survives on TV this year — but will she survive next year?

* * *

What if agents in the Secret Service or FBI begin quietly talking to bloggers or tweeters who express an anti-Trump point of view? No law needed. No take-down notice. It’s just agents doing their jobs.

Would you keep blogging after having a quiet meeting with a couple armed men who — politely and calmly — explain that they’re just checking to make sure you’re not a threat to national security?

Would you even tell anyone about the meeting?

This hasn’t happened to you. Okay. (Or to me.)

But how would you know if this is already happening to other people? If a friend told you a rumor that it was happening, what would you think? Is it plausible from the team that already works so hard to discredit the free press? If you thought it might be true, would it change how and what you write?

Consider that there wouldn’t have to be any order or directive at all from the White House to the Secret Service or FBI. The White House wouldn’t even have to know about it.

This is one way fascism works. It leaves no marks. It doesn’t even have to lift a finger sometimes.

They don’t have to do this at all, in other words. They just have to get to the point where you wouldn’t put it past them. At that point they can let our imaginations and rumors do the rest — and people will surrender their voice.

For the record — and this is super-important — I do not believe this is happening. This is merely illustration, and I’m not that paranoid, and you shouldn’t be either.