Why the left cries 'fascist'!
One doesn't have to wade far into the social media cesspool to see posts labeling the president "fascist." It's ubiquitous too for anyone critical of BLM-Antifa to be labeled similarly.
Do the online posters and name-callers know of which they speak (or type or text or tweet)? Or do they simply mean something or someone they don't like? If the latter, it is not uncommon. A recent piece at Jacobin, "a leading voice of the American left," included this:
There are countless examples of journalists and contemporary historians taking a strong and understandable dislike to political figures in the present day, reinterpreting the concept of fascism so that it refers to whatever processes they reject in the present, and then hunting for echoes of them in the past.
Appearances of the word "fascism" in books peaked around 1941, then plummeted, and have been rising steadily since 1960. Loose, casual usage of the lowercase words "fascist" and "fascism" isn't new. In 1946, George Orwell wrote in an essay that "The word fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable.'"
In his book Liberal Fascism. The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, Jonah Goldberg adroitly chronicles the history of fascism, its leftist origins and orientation, and the ambiguity of the word. From the book:
There is no word in the English language that gets thrown around more freely by people who don't know what it means than "fascism." Indeed, the more someone uses the word "fascist" in everyday conversation, the less likely it is he knows what he's talking about. [snip] Yet... many modern liberals and leftists act as if they know exactly what fascism is. What's more, they see it everywhere -- except when they look in the mirror. [snip] The major flaw in all of this is that fascism, properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the right at all. Instead, it is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left. This fact... is obscured in our time by the equally mistaken belief that fascism and communism are opposites. In reality, they are closely related historical competitors for the same constituents, seeking to dominate and control the same social space.
(An example of fascist-communist linkage can be easily observed today in the anti-capitalism proclamations and protestations of BLM-Antifa.)
I contend that most leftist commentators, protesters, and rioters in the streets smearing President Trump and his supporters as fascists think they are making a grounded historical or political reference, not just expressing a subjective personal preference. (Or perhaps they're just trying to seem erudite.) Their fatuous "logic" might go something like this: Trump bad; Hitler bad, therefore Trump = Hitler. Hitler was a fascist, therefore so is Trump.
In a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post, Princeton professor David A. Bell (no constitutional conservative, he) obligatorily maligns Trump as a racist demagogue but concludes "he's not a fascist":
Fascism, as it took shape in Europe between the world wars, was bound up with a unique phenomenon that has had no real equivalent in American society: a regimented mass movement, with a uniformed paramilitary arm, committed to the radical remaking of society as a whole.... But Trump not only lacks a mass movement at his command; he has made no attempt to create one.
As explained in Liberal Fascism, before World War II, "fascism was widely viewed as a progressive social movement with many liberal and left-wing adherents in Europe and the United States," but the Holocaust changed their view, and "[a]ccordingly, leftist intellectuals redefined fascism as 'right-wing[.]'" The phrase "liberal fascism" was coined by none other than socialist H.G. Wells.
No attempt to precisely define fascism will be made here. But classical liberalism or conservatism it is not. Fascism at its core, like socialism, communism, and progressivism, is statist. It is opposed to liberty. And only one of the two major American political parties — and its presidential candidate — embraces statism and collectivism. Keep that in mind whenever you read or hear "fascist!"