Discover more from Wrong Speak Publishing
How The Permissiveness Of The ‘Anti-Fascist’ Left Is Creating A New Form Of Fascism
In 1953, the philosopher Leo Strauss coined the term Reductio ad Hitlerum, a derivative of the Reductio ad absurdum (or reduction to the absurd). Reductio ad Hitlerum was defined as a tactic to invalidate someone else’s ideology on the basis that the same idea was promoted or practiced by Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party.
Reductio ad Hitlerum is the demonization of opposing arguments by association with an absolute evil in order to make them unjustifiable. It is a straw man fallacy based on a sophism, a flawed logic – e.g. ravens are black, ravens are birds so black birds are ravens. This manipulates the opponent’s arguments by appealing to powerful emotions.
According to that logic, just because Hitler shared an idea, it’s necessarily wrong. So, as Hitler was a vegetarian, does that make vegetarians also Nazi supporters? Similarly, Godwin’s law is an empirical rule issued by the American lawyer Mike Godwin in 1990 who realized that on social networks, the longer a discussion lasted, the probability that interlocutors call each other Nazi or fascist approaches.
Godwin’s law is a consequence of the polarization of discourse and the specific cultural background of Western counties in which the Second World War and its qualifiers of good and evil are pregnant. Although, while in our collective memory remain the idea that bad was judged as such by the Nuremberg trials (the communist crimes for instance have never been judged by an analogous tribunal), we lost sense of the idea of good.
And so, like Emmanuel Goldstein, the leader of the counter-revolutionary organization in the novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by Orwell, the figures of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party served as a way to unite people in an emotional frenzy against a common enemy. This allowed them to vent personal frustrations, anguish, and hatred towards those identified as the ultimate evil: the political opponents.
As the popular saying goes, “If you want to kill your dog, accuse him of having rabies”. Similarly, if you want to cancel a dissident, accuse him of being a Nazi. In short, the Reductio ad Hitlerum is the justification of free speech erosion on the ground of universal moral consideration.
Stalin supposedly had advocated calling political opponents fascists. So while wasting time trying to deflect the accusation, they would not argue against the ideology. Those political tactics were also defended by gurus of the new left, Frankfurt School’s philosophers such as Marcuse who wrote an essay on repressive tolerance in “A Critique of Pure Tolerance” published in 1965.
In this text, Marcuse criticizes the liberalist neutral tolerance as a repressive tolerance that stands in the way of the liberation of society, a passive condition, the acceptance of all evils that fail to challenge the status quo. Only intolerance i.e. the “ability to say no”, can lead to social improvement. Marcuse also severely condemns active tolerance i.e. those who advocate for unconditional freedom of speech, which extends tolerance in a non-partisan way to Nazi ideologies for instance.
He encourages us to move beyond those false tolerances and appeals for liberating tolerance: being consciously selective and only allowing the proclamation of specific views and behaviors. In his essay, Marcuse calls for the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly of groups that promote opinions or statements considered aggressive, chauvinistic, and discriminatory, as well as those opposing the extension of public services, social security, medical care, and even those supporting the idea of a free market.
Liberating tolerance ultimately turned out to be intolerance against anything that does not endorse and validate ideology from the left. The intolerance against movements from the right: an Orwellian doublethink in which “intolerance is tolerance”. Correspondingly, today, his disciples from the new left, have disguised their intolerance as a fight against bigotry and hatred, a fight against intolerance. They demonize their opponents with the Reductio ad Hitlerum, claiming that hate speech – i.e. any speech they don’t like – is violence.
They petition to ban, control, and censor this so-called hate speech, corrode political freedom, and force people to adhere to their totalitarian ideology concealed behind kindness. They oppose free speech to hate speech so we forgot that the real opposition lies between free speech and regulated speech i.e. if individuals are free to speak or not.
Along with Marcuse, following the rise of fascism in Europe and the USSR, Horkheimer and Adorno progressively shifted their studies from understanding why people might fail to embrace socialism to understanding why people would embrace totalitarianism. Horkheimer and Adorno in “Dialectic of Enlightenment” (1972) situated the origin of totalitarianism in the Enlightenment philosophy and defined it as reason and rationality taken to the extreme.
Adorno and other scholars at the University of Berkeley, California, also examined totalitarianism from a more psychological standpoint. In 1950 they published “The Authoritarian Personality” in which using psychodynamic (Freudian) theory, they made the assumption that no one is born with an authoritarian personality but develops it from strict parents.
Their empirical research consisted in questionnaires and follow-up interviews in which they found common patterns that help them design an F (Fascist) scale to measure responses on nine different components of authoritarianism:
Conventionalism (rigid adherence to traditional norms and values)
Authoritarian submission (deferring to authority within the group)
Authoritarian aggression (support for the punishment of those who violate conventional norms)
Anti-intraception (a dislike of subjectivity and imagination)
Superstition and stereotypy (make generalities)
Power and toughness (value for tough/strong attitude)
Destructiveness and cynicism (celebrating strength)
Projectivity (projecting own negative traits to others)
Sex (acute obsession with people's sex lives)
Critics argued that there was no empirical evidence to support the Freudian/psychodynamic assumption on which the study is based and Adorno & Co only looked at right-wing authoritarianism. Besides, their questionnaire missed reverse key items (ex: I am a shy person – > reverse key item: I am an ongoing person) allowing for acquiescence bias in which an interviewee would agree with all items irrespective of their content.
Even so, this influential study revealed that being a fascist is not believing in particular tropes. It's rather a psychological structure or worldview that could be opposed by reforming the society as an all, by deconstructing the foundations of Western civilization: family, Christianity, patriotism, and adherence to traditional gender roles and attitudes towards sex.
This deconstruction of the allegedly oppressive heteronormative society undermined the role of men, accused of all evils (toxic masculinity, patriarchy, etc), and forbid them to display the natural behavior of virility. This disintegration of classical Western masculinity gave birth to Homo consumericus libertarian and the disappearance of strong cultural models were replaced by artificial models promoted by the market (ostentatious virility in hip hop) or imported models (extra-European “virile” culture such as Islam).
The supposed anti-fascist emancipation from the traditional structures based on permissiveness and transgression has left men striving to appear, partaking in non-utilitarian consumption for lack of being able to assert themselves.
The “anti-fascism” of the new left has therefore paved the way for neo-capitalist fascism.
Wrong Speak Publishing is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.