There’s No ‘Us’ Without ‘Them’ by Aimee Brown

Edward Said’s discourse of Orientalism is a productive lens through which to view the far right’s use of a racial ‘other’ in order to identify and consolidate the nation. For Said, the ‘Orient’ was a floating signifier, over-determined and malleable, that could be whatever the West needed it to be (Orientalism, 21). He also identified Orientalist discourse as drawing upon the tropes and vocabulary of the older European discourse of antisemitism. This similarity is made explicit in Hanebrink’s chapter on Judeo-Bolshevism, in which Jews are identified as the leaders of both international capitalist and Communist conspiracies (6), and the human manifestations of revolution (13). As the Jews killed Christ, therefore prefiguring the anti-Christ, so they defy borders, therefore becoming the anti-nation (8). Like Said’s ‘Orientals’, Jews in the twentieth century were a conveniently floating signifier. Bolshevism was a new threat. Jews were an old threat. Therefore, Bolshevism was Jewish (27). Motadel’s article makes clear the centrality of convenience in the application of racial policy, and the conceptual malleability of ‘the Jew’ was convenient because of its use in nation building. Hanebrink states that “Jews and Judaism gave coherence to a variety of cultural visions by suggesting what their inversion might look like” (28). What is the West? Not the Orient. What is any given ethnic national? Not a (cosmopolitan, Bolshevik) Jew. Jews also allowed a nation’s problems to be blamed on non-national actors. For example, Ben-Ghiat describes how Italy was able to use the Jew to replace the southern Italian as a scapegoat for Italian underachievement, a definite improvement from the perspective of nation building (154). A constructed racial ‘other’, it would seem, can be a nation’s best friend.

The Circle of (Political) Life by Aimee Brown

I’m going to use a metaphor from one of those bloodthirsty Discovery Channel nature shows. Fascism is the lion. It sees the wilder beast (democracy, work with me here), runs it down, and tears its guts out. The lion only cares about other lions, it thinks that it is totally justified in doing whatever it takes to keep lions on top of the food chain, and it enjoys murdering that wilder beast. Violence is beautiful and democracy exists to be dismembered (Paxton, 41). Populism is the hyena. The wilder beast was already down when the hyena showed up. It isn’t dead, but it looks pretty sick. If it weren’t already sick, the hyena wouldn’t have been able to feed on it. Populism doesn’t hunt democracy down to destroy it, it’s a symptom of democracy’s pre-existing problems of income inequality and democratic illegitimacy (Finchelstein, 5).  And frankly, the hyena is not totally wrong about the whole “people versus the elites” interpretive paradigm. The elite are a mostly-closed group of the affluent and privileged who engage in the depoliticization of politics by shifting some political issues into the realm of law and declaring others to be beyond debate. (Mudde, 581). Where the populists tend to run into trouble is in their definition of ‘the people’. Populists do not like diversity and, for them, ‘the people’ is always a homogenous group which should have absolute democratic power as the majority, regardless of minority concerns. The hyena can still be deadly. And as long as the wilder beast is sick, it’s not going anywhere.