10.18.2016 12:00 AM

This week’s column: we know who you are 


To some of us, at least, calling someone a fascist is one of the worst things one can say. After that, what is left? How can one top that?

George Orwell, among others, struggled to define the word. He wrote that defining fascism was “important,” and even one of the “unanswered questions of our time.” That seems like overstatement, but perhaps not for the era in which the author of 1984 wrote it.

He went on: “One of the social survey organizations in America recently asked this question of a hundred different people, and got answers ranging from ‘pure democracy’ to ‘pure diabolism.’ In this country if you ask the average thinking person to define fascism, he usually answers by pointing to the German and Italian régimes. But this is very unsatisfactory, because even the major fascist states differ from one another a good deal.”

True enough. Now, as then, most would define fascism be citing examples of it, not by trying to explain it. In the main, however, it is simply the dogma of killers and thugs. Organizational and structural differences aside, fascist states are characterized by one thing above all: their willingness to use violence against the weak to achieve political ends. Their enthusiasm for state-sponsored brutality – against democratic opponents, against dissidents, against minorities.

The epithet has lost much of its power, however. The Soviet Bolsheviks, and later the Soviet state, used “fascist” all the time to describe people and opinions they didn’t like. Much later, in the Reagan era, the word was thrown around like confetti. Some progressives continued to use it as a conversational show-stopper, even against the likes of Barack Obama.

As such, “fascist” became inconsequential. It became “meaningless,” Orwell noted. Judges in libel actions shrugged at the word, calling it a value judgment – mere rhetoric.

Some of us continued to resist deploying it, however, for two reasons. To us, its meaning was quite specific: it is the ideology of murder. When you call someone a fascist, you are saying that they are capable of great violence to achieve some political (and usually politically-conservative) ends.

Most importantly, overuse of that word diminishes the suffering of the actual victims of fascism – the Jews in the Holocaust, for example. The Jewish people have experienced what fascism literally means. To them, fascism is not a mere debating term, one to be tossed around at the faculty club, say, over the salad bar. Their definition has six million very specific examples, suffused in blood.

Which brings us, in a circuitous fashion, to Donald Trump.

There he stood in that second presidential debate, his sweaty features twisted in a sneer, stalking Hillary Clinton around the stage. Looking like he was going to hit her. Looking like he wanted to. 

Watching him shadow his opponent in that way, many women knew exactly what he intended to convey. 

For those who didn’t get it – mainly men – Trump wasn’t done. He had words, too. Not once, but twice, he said that – as president – he wanted to see Hillary Clinton imprisoned. As president, he said, he would appoint a special prosecutor to go after her.

“You’d be in jail,” he hissed at her, and millions of us became witnesses.

Forget about the constitutional niceties, or what the law says. There was, and is, no doubt that Trump would certainly do what he threatened to do. In its dying days, as his feral campaign has slunk back into the swamp from which it came, all of us have seen how willing Trump has always been to use his power and money to abuse women.

But what he said? What he vowed to do, right to Hillary Clinton’s shocked face?

It is more that unconstitutional. It is more than against the law. It is more than all of that.

In a democracy, threatening to throw a political opponent into a cage – simply because they are an opponent – is fascism. It is what all of them did: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin. It is the end of democracy, and the start of something terrible.

Donald Trump, in his words and deeds, has not hesitated to reveal who he is. He has not hidden any of it. And what he is, at the end of this too-long parade hatred and contempt, is just this:

A fascist.




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    Ron says:

    Maybe Trump will wind up in jail. He thinks its a good idea for his ‘followers’ (read brownshirts), to ‘watch’ polling stations to make sure there aren’t any ‘irregularities’. There is a good chance that many of them own a gun. The Great Inciter’s stupidest and myopic bleat yet.

    Sedition ? That is another facist trait.

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    Kevin says:

    Well said. Bravo. Any chance it could be picked up by some American media?

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    Jose says:

    I’m not a lawyer but I think he meant she should be in jail for destroying her e-mails that were under sophena,Lying to congress and/or this sort of thing. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/us-election/state-dept-official-pressured-fbi-to-declassify-clinton-e-mail-documents/article32395675/

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      James Smith says:

      See, when you attempt to add nuance to this person’s ravings you do a disservice to yourself and minimize his hateful banter. This person knows full well what he is doing. He could have been more specific but this, and other statements are meant to both shock regular folks and to energize the “swamp” our host referred to.

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    Maps Onburt says:

    I’m a long time believer that Trump is a turkey but Warren, I still think you are throwing that word around too lightly. Because he looked like a grumpy old man chasing a old woman around the stage and he said he wanted to see her in jail (for things he’s been arguing for months were illegal), he deserves to be labeled with the most heinous of epithets? He’s many things but no rational person can think he’s a Hitler or Mussolini. He’s created and run a billion dollar empire and as far as we know he’s never broken the law. We have some tapes of him commenting on women falling all over him. We have some women with dubious stories coming out at the 11th hour (same thing was done to Mitt Romney and John McCain by your party so colour me sceptical). I’ve said this before. The more strident and over exaggerated you progressives get, the more his supporters tune you out and the weaker your message gets. This guy is the single worst candidate for high office ever but what you need to remember is that he’s smart enough to have figured out that the majority of Americans are deeply unhappy with the status quo and the political types that got them here. He is unlike any other politician and that is by DESIGN. You folks keep measuring him against traditional politicians and keep telling his base he’s different. People say, he’s got rough edges but WTF. It can’t be any worse than being lied to the same way for 30 years. Far be it for me to tell you guys how to elect your candidate but I will tell you that you aren’t moving people in the centre right to your side with these silly comparisons to Hitler and Pol Pot. You are demeaning your argument.

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      james elder says:

      well said Maps. Harper threw 1200 people into cells during the G20. he didn’t kill anybody… that day… but a lot of those cops would have no problem shooting people had one mistake been made. then all hell would have broken loose. i believe real fascism can’t take root until you first enact psychic fascism which is exactly what harper did. i don’t know which is worse. dying in the first example or living with the shame of the second.

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        Cory says:

        Harper jailed 1200 people during the G20? That’s news to me. I recall the provincial Liberal government and Toronto police being slapped for being overzealous though.

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          james elder says:

          Only one person in the country could have authorized the expenditure of 1.2 billion dollars for the G20 when Pittsburgh spent 31 milliom the year before. that’s on harper. it sure wasn’t McGinty Why do you think Tony Gazebo won’t run. he’ll never escape the rock he’s tied to though he slithers out for a peek every now and then to see which way the wind is blowing and the bell will never toll for you Tony.

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            doconnor says:

            The money spent and the mass detainment are two separate issues. I noticed Liberal tend to focus on the money because the Ontario Liberals openly supported the mass detainments.

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        billg says:

        Gotta be sarcasm…no one is that unhinged.

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        james elder says:

        actually Harper practiced fasciness which is my term for pretending to govern democratically while legislating fascist laws. given another mandate who knows where he would have forced the country. the worst thing he did was leave our reputation in tatters. that’s all a country has and when that goes what else is there.

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          The Doctor says:

          Yeah, that First Nations Education Act — pure fascism.

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      doconnor says:

      “He’s created and run a billion dollar empire and as far as we know he’s never broken the law.”

      He has settled many lawsuits without formally admitting guilt and sometimes with admitting guilt (like the illegal political donation by his charity).

      “It can’t be any worse than being lied to the same way for 30 years.”

      It can be worse if telling the truth gets you put in jail, like his notions of reforming libel laws. With his talk about election fraud, do you think he would leave office willingly if he was elected this year and loses the next election?

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    Aongasha says:

    Speaking of facists and their supporters, I’d like to know about those Wikileak e-mails regarding George Soros and his support from the Clintons. Wikipaedia & other outlets have lots to say about his connections and track record.

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      Ron says:

      I’d like Wikileaks to do a little work on Drumpf. Especially his dealings with Roy Cohn, his mentor. The man who couldn’t even tell the truth about why he was dying.
      They man who taught him to declare victory, even when he lost.

      Joe McCarthy’s brain.

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    dave constable says:

    “pure diabolism,””sweaty features twisted in a sneer” and “he hissed”…I am getting the picture of innocent Eve Clinton in the Garden of Eden and the mephistophelian serpent slithering ever closer…closer…closer.

    1960’s and talking with pals about who was making money on the Viet Nam War and one pal offered that if America had a fascist government, the capitalists wouldn’t get away with bs they get away with. Fascism puts the nation state on top, with everyone and every institution, including big business, there for the benefit of the entire state. What benefits the entire state is up to the leader (usually) or leaders. Trump claims he will administer so that everything capital does (and what any others do as well, – like the media) benefits the state. So, If I go with that, he is fascist.

    For us leftie paranoids (and for a lot of right wing types as well) there is the concept of ‘the deep state.’ The Deep State is a collection of people and organizations, anti democratic, secretive, that actually runs the government no matter which party or person is elected to govern. The suspicion is that the deep state in USA is a well financed cabal in Washington that does the work it does for the very rich. The mainstream media is seen as the mouthpiece of the deep state (hence the attempts to control the internet – anti terrorism, anti radicalization, anti child porn…all being used to get control of the internet). Its enforcers, the justice system, including all the secret police groups they have down there, and the military.
    For both lefties (say, Sanders supporters) and righties (say Trump supporters, Clinton is seen as a creature of the deep state, while Trump, the outsider, is seen as a possible way to challenge the deep state. More and more I am thinking it a good idea is to notice the polls that try to measure how many Americans think their country is on the wrong track.

    As I type this, President Nobel Peace Prize Winner is on my tv commenting on Russia. He intones that it is against international norms for one state to use force to interfere with another sovereign state. – There is nothing a comedian can do with this stuff…nothing.

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    EB says:

    Clinton is charged and convicted in the court of public opinion. Republicans have been trying to destroy her for years without success, and the FBI has failed to find any criminal wrongdoing.

    There must be a really vast conspiracy to keep Hillary upright.

    I’m sorry, butt I just can’t subscribe to this level of conspiracy theory which would have to be in place to protect her. There is not enough tin foil in the world to justify this.

    On the other hand, Donald Trump with his raving, risks bringing out a lot of inner demons that could destabilize any democracy. I am sorry, but Trump is the worst sort of fascist, someone who is uniquely unqualified to be in charge. This man is dangerous.

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    Eric Weiss says:

    Things are looking up for Trump. He finally got an endorsement from a national newspaper. So much for the media elites being against him….


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