By Our Acts, Ye Shall Know Us

We’ll play a melody and turn the lights down low so that none can see. We gotta do that. We gotta do that. We gotta do that. We gotta do that. And there’ll be no one else alive’ cept you and me. – George Fame and the Blue Flames

Caught Between the Tectonic Plates of History

Human relationships do not take place within a Goldilocks universe where the natural laws and the fundamental parameters of human engagement are finely tuned against all odds to foster neighbourliness, good fellowship, affiliation and mutual understanding. We do not have access to a reciprocity-building mechanism that spits out the conditions for peaceful coexistence with our neighbours; no peacemaking machine that can generate an improbable combination of strategies conducive to reciprocity and cooperation. We cannot thematise and curate our journey as human beings for future listeners from some God’s-eye perspective but are species-bound from time to time to walk through a maze of futile hypothesising, trapped in the crucible of formulaic scripts, screeds and screaming matches. Our indexical ‘I’ cannot open a sliding door to the consciousness of the other and fully know what it is like to be the other. We are not omniscient beings with perfect epistemic states. We cannot yet assume a state of consciousness we call omnisubjectivity; we haven’t acquired the property of consciously grasping with perfect accuracy and completeness the first-person perspective of every conscious being since our personal consciousness, despite our supple brains, may not be shareable with other human beings.

Despite our immodest incentive to experience knowledge in its most pristine form, our knowledge of ourselves and the world is not direct, unmediated by concepts, percepts, linguistic structures, logical inference, or the plethora of cognitive aids that we use to comprehend the world around us (Zagzebski). We can’t discard our ideological filters unless we first acknowledge that we have them. Often the always precarious milieu of living side-by-side, cheek-by-jowl, with other nations resembles neither a conference room festooned with colourful national flags nor a court of law governed by celestial beings draped in fluorescent robes and perukes, but rather a cesspool or a viper pit: the metaphors and comparisons are all up for grabs. We lack the ability to feel perfect empathy, that is, the capacity to make perfect empathetic identification with others. This is exemplified in the US political arena by politicians like Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), who panders performatively to the MAGA base when posting a video warning to ‘communists’ and ‘socialists’ to keep clear of ‘his’ state of Florida. Those with the legislative power to dominate the weaker are like missionaries who, during the years of American slavery, taught Christianity from a bushel-basket of Bible quotations and a copy of an 1807 Bible created by British missionaries to convert enslaved African Americans that deleted any passages that may inspire liberation, which included 90% of the Old Testament and half of the New Testament.

A few decades ago, Ukrainians and Russians were listening to American jazz, visiting their relatives and neighbours in the suburbs of Kyiv and St. Petersburg, quaffing vodka and dancing in the streets to a Slavic version of Slim and Slams’ ‘Flat Feet Floogie (with a Floy Floy).’ They were dating and clubbing and making love together, constrained only by the strength of their respective libidos. As patriots, and pelvic affiliates, they paid as much attention to the demands and obligations of their citizenship, the generic customs of their culture, and the moral imperatives instilled in them by their families as they did to the boundaries of their lovemaking. Some were even able to escape the existential anxieties brought about by their proximity to Western culture and the devotional economies of their respective orthodox churches.

Today, in the West, we inhabit a very different social universe. It is a time and place in which our self-understanding is blinded by our own solicitations from sources unfavourably threatening to our well-being. We are not well-tethered to objective moral principles; we believe the Kingdom of God is just one election cycle away and, for the MAGA crowd, it will resemble the ‘Party Rally of Unity and Strength’ during that fateful September in 1934 Nuremberg, filmed in all its fascist phantasmagorial splendour by Leni Riefenstahl. We live wherever global investment trends and Netscape moments take us. And we drool at the prospect of an Elon Musk and Marc Zuckerberg brawl inside the martial arts cage.

However, in a galaxy far, far away known as Ukraine, the factory workers, car salesmen, professional athletes, school teachers, computer programmers, restaurant cooks, intellectuals and perennial video game nudnicks are all gathered in cold and damp trenches at the battlefront known as ‘the meatgrinder,’ trying to beat back an enemy just kilometres away who is planning the next high tech slaughter against the banshee wail of kamikaze drones and the roar of heavy armour.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a cataclysmic act of international outlawry, savagery and barbarism, with world-historical consequences for the survival of humanity. Sanity, and not our over-educated minds, impels us to arrive at a diplomatic solution to this impropriety and inhumanity, which is too often met with what could be characterised in military jargon as’ radio silence.’ Yet sanity is increasingly fugacious during times of conflict, if not completely off limits. Sanity is inherently associated with modernity, and today we have stepped aside from its confines as effortlessly as a well-dressed Gene Kelly in rain-soaked patent leather shoes might levitate over a puddle while crooning at a lamp post. We are, after all, still in the process of reclaiming some habitation of knowledge, some secure construction of desire, some necessary centre, some sanctuary of closure, after being pummelled by postmodernist thinkers who took away any meaningful meaning by which to grasp the foundations of our moral obligations to one another and turned us all into doomsday forecasters stocking up on luxury survival kits. Russia will not capitulate since it can escalate the war infinitely, using its vast nuclear arsenal; it will surely use tactical nuclear weapons if it is facing defeat by Ukraine. Clearly, the US benefits from the war in Ukraine through its arms industries, its ‘proxy’ role in weakening one of its top military adversaries, its strengthening of NATO and its increasing influence in Europe.

So, in moving towards a negotiated settlement, the US needs to forego maximalist conditions in its attempts at creating a framework for peace while recognising, at the same time, that Ukraine is bent on fighting the Russian invasion with or without US approval. In the meantime, it is imperative to support Ukraine and supply it with the armaments that it needs to win on the battlefield. Socialist internationalism demands it. Not all my comrades agree with me. My Latin American friends, many of them, look askance at US pretensions of assuming moral leadership when it comes to the support of Ukraine since numerous left-wing governments and opposition groups south of the US border have suffered mightily under the United States’ foreign policy and military interventions for hundreds of years. They have witnessed US lawmakers gerrymander their fork-tongued patriotic rhetoric to present themselves in dissembling prose as champions of liberty and freedom, while their philippics against communism and socialism and eagerness to hold countries in crippling debt peonage has become all too transparent.

At the same time, I believe Ukraine must be given a chance to defend itself on the battlefield if that is the will of the Ukrainian people since this is one of the primary imperatives of socialist internationalism. Success on the battlefield could put Ukraine in a better position in a negotiated peace. It is a risky gamble and one that only Ukrainians can make. Putin’s plan to exterminate Ukrainians to the last man, effectively dismantling a country that he has claimed does not even exist and, in fact, has never existed., is very real, indeed. Paul Gillespie captures this divide as follows:

An intellectual and ideological battle rages in the US and Europe alongside the military and diplomatic ones. Timothy Snyder, the Yale historian of Ukraine and Poland’s deadly experience of Nazi aggression and occupation, warns us that Putin is a fascist who must be defeated. Liberals such as Anne Applebaum support the US forward policy against Russia led by Biden’s hawkish team drawn from the neoconservative tradition within the State Department, who believe Russian power is a standing obstacle to US hegemony.

Against them, Henry Kissinger, the New York Times and Noam Chomsky advocate peace talks based on the balance of forces and the need to avoid a wider war that could go nuclear. Their calls that consideration be given to Russia’s valid interests, despite Putin’s illegal imperial aggression, are demonised and abused by many in American media. As a result, Ukraine’s corruption and far-right movements are under-reported and underestimated. Similar points made about the remaining value of Germany’s commitment to dialogue and peace by the philosopher Jürgen Habermas are likewise attacked and seen as a generational divide; while Scholz’s caution is seen as driven by mercantile interests, since natural gas from Russia, so far not sanctioned, fires so much of Germany’s industry.

Over the past 40 years, I have unreservedly condemned the US political class and triumphalist US foreign policy which includes the still ongoing military interventions of the United States, as well as the past incursions of the US into Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan (to name just a few) that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people and displaced millions. America’s military are indeed the Masters of War, and its political class has a record of violence that is unparalleled in modern history – and here I am thinking of the 1973 US military-backed coup in Chile, leading to the overthrow and death of President Salvatore Allende, and the torture and murder of thousands of Chileans. I am thinking of the struggle for freedom in El Salvador and the arms provided by the US to the death squads who carried out heinous acts of torture and murder against the campesinos and the Jesuit priests and nuns who spoke out against the killers. I am thinking of the US support of the Contras in Nicaragua who targeted teachers and children. Our think tanks are funded by arms dealers, and our decisions on who to invade are made with the approval of America’s billionaire class. While I am clear about the need to recognise the hypocrisy of the US government regarding its history of imperialist adventurism, I still maintain that a support for Ukraine in defending itself from Putin’s invasion is imperative. My support is not for Zelensky’s neoliberal regime but rather for the socialists and progressive forces in that country. Putin needs to be held accountable. My support is not a validation of NATO, which should have been disbanded decades ago. My support is for the victims in Ukraine and those in Russia who have been imprisoned for their criticisms of Putin’s fascist regime. And it is in support for the left in the US who are fighting the push towards fascism in this country, exemplified by Trump’s MAGA movement, that I am speaking out against this war.

The war in Ukraine has already stripped the wry smirk from Putin’s face. While we may celebrate the fact that Russian leaders are no longer glisteningly bald, round-headed and paunchy, sporting 1940s baggy grey suits, will we ever see Putin again sporting a navy cap and greatcoat during naval exercises, or bare-chested as he triumphantly lifts a fish from a Serbian lake, seemingly imitating an extra out of Frankie, DeDe and the gang’s Beach Blanket Bingo? Even with his reported cosmetic surgeries he is back to his ‘lemon-sucking’ and ‘brick wall’ look, resembling his wax-museum figure which the Grévin Museum of wax figures in Paris has recently removed from display. While we might expect a guise of solemnity from Putin (in a paper from 2016, researchers discovered that in countries such as Russia, South Korea, Japan, and India, smiling indicated a lesser intelligence than a person who remained straight-faced), we can likely expect more menacing appearances of ‘threatening impenetrability and inscrutability’ in the weeks to come. While Wagner mercenaries took control of a key military base in the city of Rostov-on-Don, and his troops were approaching the Russian capital with mutinous intent, Yevgeny Prigozhin called off his forces and now resides in Belarus. Apparently Prigozhin’s plan was not to take over Moscow after all, but rather to capture Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and top army general Valery Gerasimov.

If we are to fashion a critical decolonising pedagogy, we must resist and transcend the micro-fascisms that have infected our ability to reason critically, including those post-digital fascisms that currently permeate the mediascape, masquerading as ‘general intelligence’ if we are to prevent them from assuming an indomitable barrier to reason. If we are to fight against the Bitcoin of the ideological realm – which in the US is reflected in cashing in on the deep-seated hatred among Washington’s political rivals – that saturates our bio-political lifeworld, we must fumigate our brainpans and take ‘realpolitik’ more seriously. If we are to fight against an armed and increasingly radicalised MAGA constituency seemingly salivating for tyranny, we need to challenge the asymmetrical relations of power and privilege resulting from neoliberal policies and practices that are colonising the subjectivities of Americans and ideologically grooming their political leaders towards fascism. This means critically scrutinising the ideological and political state formations that constitute so called ‘democratic’ and ‘fascist’ regimes worldwide. In the US, this challenge has never been more urgent.

As I have mentioned in recent works, in our post-digital ‘circulationist’ universe of click-swarm tactics like trolling and doxing and the creation of wackadoodle platforms designed to foster self-organising structures of hate, fear and rage, the far-right has the advantage, although it has not yet won the day. Contemporary civil society is being re-defined by the normalisation of networked digital technologies in everyday life, many of them setting in motion a dizzying maelstrom of far-right themes and positions: Branch Covidian anti-vax lunacy; conspiracy theory-fuelled harassment about the ‘stolen election’; cabals of paedophile Satanists thriving on the spilled blood of infants; post-humanist policies and militia manifestos on immigrants; Black Lives Matter activism; rust belt Christocratocracy and neo-charismatic movements such as the New Apostolic Reformation, scrambling for theocratic power ‘in the nation and the world’; blood-and soil nationalism; big-tent Jesus camp catechisms; anti-globalist rants; neo-Confederate ideology of the ‘lost cause’ and high octane white supremacist ravings about ‘the great replacement’ of white ‘legacy Americans’ with dark-skinned immigrants who crossed the Rio Grande from Latin America. This tumultuous situation increasingly demands that we take online actions more seriously if we are going to comprehend its consequences for our increasingly fragile democracy.

Official and unofficial far-right groups have re-cast themselves as post-digital heroes, fighting ‘woke’ culture warriors on the left, attacking Black Lives Matter and DEI programming and protesting gender-affirming care for minors over the objections of medical organisations, and they are winning many of the online battles for the hearts and minds of disaffected youth and fanning the flames of Trump’s incendiary MAGA worshippers. The twice-impeached former president Trump (who recently referred to himself as ‘the King’) is currently facing state and federal indictments, and his supporters in the Senate and Congress are manufacturing conspiracy theories designed to foster violence reprisals in the streets and neighbourhoods across the United States. Thom Hartmann’s report that questions whether Trump has shared intelligence secrets with Russia is very credible, and his assertions cannot simply be brushed aside as a whacky conspiracy theory. Trump was recently arrested and has been indicted for keeping classified intelligence documents in his home at Mar-a-Lago in locations accessible to a wide variety of people, including friends, visitors or foreign agents and even shared them on two publicly known occasions. Hartmann writes:

In 2019, The Washington Post revealed that, throughout his presidency, Donald Trump was having secret phone conversations with Russia’s President Putin (over 20 have been identified so far, including one just days before the 2020 election). The Moscow Project from the American Progress Action Fund documents more than 270 known contacts between Russia-linked operatives and members of the Trump campaign and transition team, as well as at least 38 known meetings just leading up to the 2016 election. The manager of his 2016 campaign, Paul Manafort – who was previously paid tens of millions by Vladimir Putin’s people to install a pro-Putin puppet as Ukraine’s president in 2010 – has admitted that he was regularly feeding secret inside-campaign strategy and polling information to Russian intelligence via the oligarch who typically paid him on their behalf. Throughout the campaign, he let them know where Trump needed help and when. Trump pardoned Manafort, which got him out of prison. He’s still fabulously rich from his work for Russia…. There is no known parallel to this behaviour by any president in American history – one could argue it easily exceeds Benedict Arnold’s audacity – and bringing documents to Mar-a-Lago is just the tip of the iceberg…. When they met in Helsinki on July 16, 2018, Trump and Putin talked in private for several hours, and Trump ordered his translators’ notes destroyed; there is also concern that much of their conversation was done out of the hearing of the US’s translator (Putin is fluent in English) who may have been relegated to a distant part of the rather large empty ballroom in which they met.

Hartmann further notes that Trump has possibly been a Russian agent since 1987 when Trump and Ivana visited Moscow and were recruited or seduced by the KGB, ‘a trip corroborated by Luke Harding in his book Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.’ He writes that their trip ‘was coordinated by Intourist, the Soviet travel agency that was a front for the KGB, and the Trumps’ handlers regaled Donald and Ivana with Soviet talking points, presumably about things like the horrors of NATO.’

Trump has repeatedly criticised NATO and, so far, has not condemned Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. He repeatedly stokes the fires of hate against the Democrats, the FBI, the CIA and the Justice Department through both mainstream and alternative media outlets and has praised the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. Online hate has offline consequences, often with worldwide ramifications, fascism being one of them. The entwinement of far-right hate groups and network-oriented developments in technology can no longer be ignored. Today’s ur-fascism is shorn of its innocent disguises – it is now articulated by young men in polo shirts and khaki pants bellowing in public spaces: ‘We want to destroy the immigrants, the Jews, the homosexuals, the communists and Marxists!’ These are not the ravings of the aberrant individual madman or incel wallowing in a basement strewn with pornographic materials and plotting to kill the sex workers at the local massage parlour. These are the voices of those to whom we have entrusted our future and the survival of what is left of our Madisonian democracy. Their sentiments have been naturalised and thus rendered all too absolute. Our human bonds are being imperilled by the recrudescence of the same viral racism and hate that our fathers and grandfathers fought against in the steamy, blood-soaked trenches of World War II, as we hear the historical echoes of hate from The Amerikadeutscher Volksbund (1936-1941), a 25,000-member pro-Nazi organisation (referred to as the Bund). Cries of ‘Jews will not replace us!’ uttered by young neo-Nazis during the infamous 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia bring back memories of the Bund’s 1939 raucous rally in New York’s Madison Square Garden held under a banner that read: ‘Stop Jewish Domination of Christian Americans’! Antisemitism abounds throughout the airwaves, rife with shock jocks and their weaponised polemical bromides and spurious personal attacks.

Fascism is no longer a word that is likely to be encountered only when studying the history of World War II. It is now commonly applied to the MAGA movement. Fascism is the common name that we now unhesitatingly accord to the comprehensive and coercive power of the Trump administration and the willing consent and mimetic attachment to dominative social energies and modes of centrally controlled interactions on the part of Trump’s Republican base. This warp and weft of fascism is not necessarily identical to the asymmetrical forces of power and privilege wielded by totalitarian regimes into a supranational community loyal to the leader. You could, in fact, reasonably argue that there are multiple fascisms – rhizomatic micro-fascisms, proto-fascisms, fascisms embedded in post-digital algorithms and linguistic codes manufactured within the social body of major surveillance societies that exercise total administrative control over all factions of social life – the ranks of which the United States is perilously close to joining. Fascism is not some type of eschatological judgement on humankind by some species-unique power from the old Eastern Bloc nations; it is an autocratic form of social power created by the machinations of human beings that can blunt our yearning to be free, yolk desire to the machinery and architecture of submission and invite our own manipulation by repressive forces that are designed to legislate social energies saturated with fear, anger and despair. The cult of Donald Trump has given US fascism a distinct mode of cultural production, that of surplus enjoyment of death-and-torture fantasies in the figure of Trump himself. Just as Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler wanted to replace Christianity with a new and distinct Nazi religion based on the artifacts of the lost Aryans of Atlantis and the archaic Germanic rituals researched by members of the Ahnenerbe, Trump desires a pride of place within the pantheon of Christian iconography, effectively transforming the Republican Party into an armed religious cult. It should be clear why Trump began his 2024 election campaign near Waco, Texas, near the site of the 1993 massacre that occurred when the US federal government and Texas state law enforcement officials began a 51-day siege of a compound belonging to the religious cult known as the Branch Davidians, killing nearly 80 people when a fire broke out. The Waco standoff occurred during the presidency of Democrat Bill Clinton and has become a rallying cry for far-right extremists who hate the federal government. Trump has opportunistically enshrined in his MAGA corps the notion that, regardless of his toxic masculinity, racism, misogyny, antisemitism, his prototypical narcissistic behaviour and constant self-labelling as a victim of a government witch hunt, Trump ranks among the greatest of US presidents and this sentiment has helped to infuse his followers with a spirit of white supremacy. Recently, at an event in Concord, New Hampshire, Trump showed just how much he cares for the US family by complaining to the Federation of Republican Women about the push for electric appliances:

It’s so destructive.… All electric, all-electric everything. Now they want to take away your gas stoves. Does anybody like gas better? You cook a lot more than I do…. But they want to take it away.… They want to take away your washing machines and your dryers. They don’t want to give you any water for the washing machine. Even though you have so much water, you don’t know what the hell to do with it up here. It flows out into the ocean.

His stable of antagonists, whom he derides at every turn, include the Marxists, communists, socialists, environmental extremists, RINOs (Republicans in Name Only), ‘open border fanatics’ and ‘radical left Democrats.’

When Fox News and other news organisations on the US far right accuse identity-centred liberal public school teachers of ‘woke’ attempts at ‘grooming’ or ‘sexualising’ children by allegedly prompting them to consider changing their gender or turning themselves into ‘furries’ and defecating in litter boxes provided by the school administration, or serving as surrogates for the LGBTQI+ community through school curricula bent on demonstrating the fluidity of gender identities, they are playing a dangerous game that they know is factually baseless but nevertheless possesses the potential to attract enraged audiences to their networks of hate like flies to honey.

Across the country, the left is battling regionalism, violence, racism, homophobia, mass shootings, pollution and the cult of victimhood. A record number of over 540 anti-LGBTIQA+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures, over 220 bills target transgender and non-binary people, and 45 of these anti-LGBTIQA+ bills have been enacted so far in 2023. In Florida, where Governor DeSantis has launched a jeremiad against the LGBTIQA+ community, public education is run like a narco-paramilitary mafia confederation, where the pursuit of knowledge is replaced by learning how to input information to determine how many kilos of cocaine were sold across the state. In Florida, ‘the state where woke goes to die,’ history is left in suspended animation where it is legislatively summoned to its own spectacle of extinction and where students are compelled to light the fire that incinerates historical memory and, with it, their own potentialities and capacities for forging critical citizenship, effectively ending in collective self-effacement.

Two politicians – Trump and DeSantis – one of whom is likely to become the next president of the United States – are running on an openly fascist platform. Thom Hartman writes:

Like Putin in Russia, Erdoğan in Turkey, or Orbán in Hungary – with DeSantis’ early successes in Florida shutting down polling places, purging voter rolls, and arresting Black people who’ve voted, and with Trump’s embrace of open Nazis while marshalling an army of armed ‘election monitors’ – both plan to rig our national electoral system so heavily that no future Republican will ever lose. Just like the playbook used by Mussolini, Hitler, and Pinochet.

Trump’s rhetoric is growing more akin to that of Father Charles Coughlin, a famous anti-Semitic and pro-fascist Catholic priest whose demagogic ravings flooded the airwaves during the 1940s. Coughlin, a Canadian-American, was born not far from the house in which my father (a radio and later TV salesman) was born in Hamilton, Ontario. Coughlin’s parents, like mine, were also of modest means. His, a seaman and a seamstress, mine, a salesman and a telephone operator. Coughlin graduated from St. Mary’s Cathedral High School in Hamilton, and then travelled to Toronto to attend Saint Michael’s College, and then St. Basil’s Seminary (now the Cardinal Flahiff Basilian Centre) not far from Massey College, University of Toronto, where I attended as a Junior Fellow during my doctoral studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. But my father, who could be described as a compassionate conservative (too few of those these days), was not as ‘radioactive’ as Father Coughlin, who has been called a ‘clerical fascist.’ Coughlin’s hate-filled ravings (mostly against Jews and the banking system and in support of some of the policies of Mussolini and Hitler) spilled forth to 30 million listeners from his one-hundred-foot radio tower (with Jesus carved on one side) located on the manicured grounds of the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan, and made him famous in his adopted home of the United States. Like Coughlin, Trump has become a media demagogue, a real estate tycoon who became a reality tv star, then a twice-impeached President of the United States, and then founder of the Truth Social media platform and the most publicity hungry and recognisable figures in the world known for his unchecked avarice, misogyny, racism, lying and authoritarian populism. Close to half the population of the country are considered to be admirers of Trump, and a considerable number follow him as they would a religious icon. While the Catholic Church finally took Coughlin off the airwaves, Trump, even with his federal and state criminal indictments unprecedented in history for a former US president, shows no hint of losing his appeal among his loyal base, thanks to the digital fascisms at work on social media platforms that allow his uber-serfs to vent about demographic stagnation, replacement of fossil fuels with green technology, and the growing national debt. When Republican Party operatives in Idaho shamelessly auction off a ‘trigger time with Kyle Rittenhouse’ prize, offering the highest bidders the opportunity to travel to a ‘Guns-n-Gear’ venue, shoot firearms with Rittenhouse (who, as a 17-year-old, shot and killed two men during a Black Lives Matter protest), then we know we are staring directly into the face of US fascism. Embodying such crass fascistic behaviour could not be possible without the contemporary micro-fascist post-digital order.

Fascism has always been appreciated for its rabid anti-communism. Historically in the West, communism has been feared more than fascism. True, there was a temporary alliance with Stalin in order to defeat Hitler’s fascist stormtroopers, but once the war with Germany ended, ex-Nazis were allowed to escape to Latin America, as an antidote to communism in a continent perceived as under the threat of various communist guerrilla movements (and some Nazi scientists were even recruited to work in US rocket programs, with four Nazi scientists eventually receiving the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 1969, including Werner von Braun). Some have linked Pius XII’s well-documented fear of communism to the creation of Vatican ‘ratlines’ that, with encouragement from the CIA, sent high-ranking Nazis to Latin America in the belief that they would fight communism there.

This micro-fascism that invades the architecture of socialised knowledge directly impacts the information economy that rationalises, recontextualises, and appropriates workers’ knowledges through socio-ideological supports far beyond the world of the factory and, in turn, consolidates the ‘general intellect,’ and, as a result, new forms of immaterial labour become part of the micro-politics of capitalist production. Control of the knowledge economy has been hampered by the ascendency of a post-digital fascist society, which has become central to the reproduction of the logic of global capitalism rendering its social relations of production imperishable, facilitating the inability of the subaltern to grasp their surroundings in a more nuanced and interconnected manner, framing and controlling the collective conditions of knowledge production, complicating the mechanisms of social reproduction and widening the net of capitalist exploitation.

Following the work by Deleuze and Guattari (1987), William M. Reynolds and Julie A. Webber, in their magisterial The Civic Gospel, describe how the micro-fascist order operates by means of ‘multiple tubules that interweave throughout and at times intersect with one another and at times connect.’ This makes fascism a permanent feature of social life that highjacks our nervous system, that parasitises us like the mind-controlling venom of the jewel wasp produced by a repetitive stinging of the brain of a cockroach, zombifying its victim, and leading it to a chamber where it lays its egg on its perfectly positioned host and seals it inside with pebbles. The larvae then bore into the cockroach and feed off its organs before killing it, emerging refreshed and revivified. Digital fascism can also be compared to the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, the zombie-ant fungus described by Ed Yong, that is the inspiration of the popular American television series, The Last of Us. The ‘fungus infects a carpenter ant; it grows through the insect’s body, draining it of nutrients and hijacking its mind. Over the course of a week, it compels the ant to leave the safety of its nest and ascend a nearby plant stem. It stops the ant at a height of 25 centimetres – a zone with precisely the right temperature and humidity for the fungus to grow. It forces the ant to permanently lock its mandibles around a leaf. Eventually, it sends a long stalk through the ant’s head, growing into a bulbous capsule full of spores. And because the ant typically climbs a leaf that overhangs its colony’s foraging trails, the fungal spores rain down onto its sisters below, zombifying them in turn.’

We modern humans are locking our mandibles into our cell phones that, under the impact of dramatic storytelling, gaslighting and metric manipulation, create the perfect environments for groups to find a platform in which they can communicate with like-minded individuals who will not challenge their ideas and intuitions. It’s a dark version of the old 1950s neighbourhood coffee klatch redux, overwhelmed by an acquisitive mimesis (the transfer of desires from one person to another) that ‘catalyses the amplification of fears, the diffusion of post-truth and the logic of numbers’ in a crucible of obfuscation and invective.

Growing factions of climate deniers, fossil fuel advocates, voting rights opponents, white supremacists, and gun fanatics have overwhelmed the opposition, mobilising across state governments. Red states are banning books in schools. Thom Hartmann warns that

[s]everal of the book banners have well-documented ties to white supremacist groups, and a few have even promoted explicitly Nazi websites, memes, and activists. These revelations are not, however, blunting the enthusiasm of Republican politicians for going down the same road Germany travelled in 1933 when their first book bans focused on literature about gay and trans people, months before the bans turned into bonfires.

I have seen youth in khaki pants and swastika armbands marching down city streets, lockstep, pointing menacingly to onlookers, with smiles like broken glass; I have seen young men with digital eyes and freshly laundered polo shirts defecating on monuments for the dead; I have seen big wheel trucks festooned with flags depicting Trump as Rambo, circling a neighbourhood roundabout in a haze of gasoline fumes, their thick-necked drivers with granite jaws leering at the sidewalk shoppers; I have witnessed drugged young men empty their brainpans on windy boulevards of broken dreams, their futures whisked away by aberrant winds. I have seen promising scholars begin their far-right trek towards oblivion. I have witnessed their malevolent prosecution of critical theorists, nurturing their invective in the wetlands of white supremacist fearmongering. I have witnessed the souls of neo-Nazis disappear in falsified affections, like whispers in a Kansas twister.

We cannot escape the liminal moment. We always already inhabit the space between the then, the now and the not yet and don’t quite realise its apocalyptic ramifications for our being and becoming human, fostering a motivated amnesia that keeps us unconscious of the evil that surrounds us.

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Full Citation Information:
McLaren, P. (2023). By Our Acts, Ye Shall Know Us. PESA Agora.

Peter McLaren

Peter McLaren is Emeritus Professor at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles. From 2013-2023 he served as Distinguished Professor in Critical Studies, Co-Director and International Ambassador for Global Ethics and Social Justice, The Paulo Freire Democratic Project, Attallah College of Educational Studies, Chapman University, USA.