Issues in Articulating Ideology

One thing that struck me about the Vice interview “Inside Spain’s Fascist Fandom” and the lecture by Dr. Cynthia Miller-Idriss were extremist’s groups lack of clear objectives or reasoning behind their involvement. The Vice clip has a reporter, Carla Parmenter, interviewing far-right parties in Madrid as they rally on the date of Franco’s death. Her main subject is a Dutch man, Tom, who has built his home into a shrine to Franco and travels to Madrid on anniversary of his death to rally and celebrate the man. This is a contradiction in and of itself as you have a foreign national celebrating a nationalist in another country with isolationist policies. We also see the reporter interviewing others at the rally. A young man who is part of the Falangists a far-right group that glorifies an earlier dictator, Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera. When given the chance to articulate his views he simply responds, “take to the streets and change the system”. This offers and reveals nothing, and who knows, maybe he does not even know quite what his ideas would look like in a practical setting. These general and watered-down statements seem common to the far right as there is quite a diversity in levels of commitment and ideology within these groups. Granted, maybe Vice cut out some of the more interesting dialogue in order to make them seem bland and aimless. Regardless these contradictions do seem to be prominent in this movement. So then why is this the case?

Dr. Cynthia Miller-Idriss offers various explanations through her examining of this alt-right subculture through their commercialization and communities. One I want to highlight is that she notes that in her studies in Berlin that trade-schools/construction were at higher risk for far-right involvement. This could contribute to a lack of more sophisticated approach towards one’s political ideology and the ability to express it as those types of schools do not delve into those fields at all. This is not to say I am saying they are incapable of doing such a thing or inferior in some way. Rather, as we saw in our first class academics use convoluted terminology to define terms such as “fascist”, and they disagree with each other in many ways in using that term in a historical context as well as a modern one. So, if there is a struggle in academia it is not surprising there are many different interpretations that come out of the people involved in these alt-right movements. One thing for sure is that they are not satisfied with the status quo and are seeking to be a part of something bigger than themselves, whether this is misguided or not is a completely different subject.  

Memory of Fascism

By Lucas Lang

I once visited Military memorabilia shop in Florida in which the owner sold among other historical objects, some of Nazi origin. My father, curious of how Neo-Nazi’s would respond to such items asked him if many of them came in. The owner replied that not many did, and those that did cared little for the historical value of the objects, only focusing on their symbolic value. He relayed that they knew very little of actual Nazi history or politics and most left when they found out the object’s high prices. This week’s materials made me think of this story. In the Vice video, many of the fascist’s shown knew very little of the inner workings of Franco’s Spain. Those that lived at the time selectively remember what they felt to be the best features of the dictatorship while either being oblivious or forgetful of the less appealing features. This week’s material also demonstrates that Fascism both in past and modern times is popular due to the stability its supporters feel it provides. From the maintenance of tradition to the protection of social values, to defense of the good life, fascism to this day, is believed by certain parties to be for the benefit of society. It is significant to note though that very few fascists are aware or even include the other “benefits” within their advocacy for fascism. No one goes around proposing the return of government provided vacations for example. Nor does any fascist advocate for the return of traditions such as leisure time as was commonly depicted in Nazi-era photography. Modern fascists only advocate for the return of features of fascism which they admire but fail to remember or understand the full extent of the Fascism which they desire.

Eroding the Wall Between the Political and the Private

Photography has, perhaps, unique implications for that fragile boundary between the private and the public, the personal and the political. Everything that painting could do, the development of casual photography made accessible to everybody. As Umbach elaborates, any interwar German could capture a moment in time, creating a precious memory to be shared and handed down.

This ability to easily create snapshots is of particular interest to a totalitarian regime. Now, those grandiose displays of strength so favored by such regimes – massive military parades, the reconstruction of the Colosseum, or directed tourist routes revealing the poverty of other countries, as per Baranowski – can be preserved, and the picture-takers are deputized into message-bearers for the regime, as they redistribute the regime’s chosen message in their own photos, more authentic and personal spokespeople than centralized party newspapers.

In the same way as the symbolic nature of those events can be redistributed forever, so to can those individuals in the photos, captured as they are, in alignment or in opposition to the regime’s raison d’être. In a populist context, where the movement’s legitimacy rests on its protracted struggle to return the nation to the glorious days of ere, this becomes of particular importance – and so the appearance of those who are captured in those photographs is also of particular importance to the State.

To return on my comments last week about the centrality of controlling female sexuality to the fascist narrative – where racism could be tempered to build wartime alliances, but under no circumstances could ‘the Women of the Chosen Race’ be allowed to stray – this same concern, and the same obsession with control, are also illustrated here. Nazi guards were quick to caution German women who got too cozy with locals at their tourist locales, with Baranowski describing how little it took to incur sanction: “Ignoring warnings that their deportment flouted that demanded of a ‘master race,’ the women cheerfully posed for snapshots with blacks against scenic backdrops, in return for a few cigarettes.” With photography allowing for the creation of a permanent memento of this ‘race mixing’, even if the actual event lasted only a second, it necessitated a state response.

The hypocrisy appears when those women are chastised for interacting with locals, while those very same locals are incentivized by the State to develop tourist-attracting amenities by the promise of, as per Crumbaugh’s dissection of the Franco-era movie El turismo es un gran invento (Tourism is a grand invention), “Booby girls” coming to visit these new tourist destinations. The woman in this scenario do not control their bodies, instead being dictated a list of ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ partners, and being promised to those who serve the nation faithfully.

Sexual politics aside, the snapshot ability of photography allows for a jealous/totalitarian-minded populist movement to constantly probe its followers for any disloyalty. To counteract this, it becomes important for movement adherents to constantly signal their allegiance. This can be done consciously, such as through the adoption of specific Hitleresque poses as described by Umbach in Nazi Germany, but this might fall short – particularly nowadays, with the ubiquity of photography and the potential for surreptitious capture. To be safe, one needs a physical shibboleth, something that constantly indicates one’s support for the movement, even in photographs taken without one’s knowledge.

Miller-Idriss gives a fascinating overview of these symbols, with the rapid rise in the past two decades of articles of clothing clearly linked to populist-nationalist groups. As she explains, these clothes serve to indicate ideological affinity, effectively serving as a key to prove one’s group-membership, and thus unlocking access to certain communities or events. They also, though, serve to create a shared economic interest, with those articles of clothing manufactured by companies specifically hiring and thus funneling money to like-minded individuals.

Now, the popularity of these clothes may be linked more to the growth of population density – serving to identify allies in cities where it is no longer feasible to know everyone personally – rather than to the fear of being ostracized from a community after being photographed without the proper apparel. Pragmatically, that may be the case. Philosophically, though, it may well be worth seeing this as part of a slippery slope, where the political drills ever more peepholes into that wall separating it from the personal, gaining ever more technological tools to record and scrutinize every moment for a hint of dissent.

When the political begins demanding constant allegiance to a narrative, that becomes particularly worrisome. The mixture of populism and social media (between public-facing social media or leaked private chats) seems primed to be a toxic brew – but adequately addressing that particular debate would far overspill the (already well exceeded) word limit of this piece.


Baranowski, S. (2004). Racial Community and Individual Desires: Tourism, the Standard of Living, and Popular Consent. In S. Baranowski, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich (pp. 162-198). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Crumbaugh, J. (2009). Prosperity and Freedom under Franco: The Grand Invention of Tourism. In J. Crumbaugh, Destination Dictatorship: The Spectacle of Spain’s Tourist Boom and the Reinvention of Difference (pp. 15-39). Albany: State University of New York Press.

Miller-Idriss, C. (2018, May 9). Dr. Cynthia Miller-Idriss – The Extreme Gone Mainstream; Presentation on ‘The Extreme Gone Mainstream: Commercialization and Far Right Youth Culture in Germany’. International Institute of Islamic Thought. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHYcakSDUCE&ab_channel=IIITMedia

Umbach, M. (2015, September). Selfhood, Place, and Ideology in German Photo Albums, 1933-1945. Central European History, 48(3), 335-365.

Fascism, Culture & Tourism

One of fascism’s primary methods of gaining support is by evoking the glory and historical prestige of the nation. Fascist regimes dedicate much energy to crafting a certain aesthetic and cultural image, one that emphasizes the triumph of the strong over the weak.

This week’s readings highlighted several examples of how fascist regimes used cultural tools to strengthen their authority at home and project a desirable image abroad. As mentioned in the Baranowski article, the Strength Through Joy program in Nazi Germany provided leisure and travel opportunities to working-class Germans. Fascism ultimately aims to create a single nation united by race, which could only be accomplished if class conflict were eliminated. This explains why the program was designed to allow lower-class Germans to indulge in activities previously reserved for the upper and middle classes. Not only did the program offer generous perks to citizens, it strategically showed them the poverty of other countries, in the hopes that they would view Germany in a more positive light. The Nazi leadership understood that in order to preserve their authority, it was crucial to give citizens the illusion of freedom and Strength Through Joy was a prime example of this.

Drawing from Crumbaugh’s book, the government of Francoist Spain used similar techniques to ingratiate its brand of fascism to the world. The postwar era saw new economic and cultural developments, so the regime needed to adjust to these changes. This was manifest primarily in the government’s focus on shaping Spain to be a desirable tourist destination. In doing so, they wished to increase their exercise of soft power around the world. Put simply, if visitors had a positive impression of the country, then fascism would seem palatable and even progressive.

Even Fascists need some vacation time

Conrad Yiridoe

With this week’s reading, the focus mainly on fascism though the emphasis on the “less popular” Spanish regime vs. the more well known Germany regime was interesting and engaging to contrast. With regards to both countries, it was surprising to discover how deep the concept of vacation and tourism was present as a strategy from both regimes to continue to strengthen their reign via public support, via engaging as many as they could. In Crumbaugh’s take (in Prosperity and Freedom under Franco The Grand Invention of Tourism), they start off by describing a film which serves to summarise the regime’s overall goal in an entertaining way. By showing how two “commoners” were able to make their way through the system in order to achieve success through the inspiration of establishing an enjoyable tourist attraction (by the help of the Spanish government of course) was a charming way with which to spin what was by no question an attempt at strengthening the regime’s undemocratic hold on the country. The pride with which not only the two characters in the film, but a significant amount of the population had in general towards their booming economy, spearheaded by this touristic focus, can perhaps be best described by the fact that “they could now play a leading role in the administering and marketing of something understood as “Spanish culture. In other words, the spectacle of tourism effectively enjoined people to being to govern themselves and others.” To me, this speaks of a success of sorts by Franco and his regime to inject a significant amount of nationalistic pride into the population in a rather nuanced manner.

As well, based on the short film by Vox, they were able to demonstrate quite candidly to what extent the lust for a return of the previous fascist time continues even today, quite unabashedly.  The aspect that surprised me the most, was the degree to which this “Spanish fascism” preference is not simply kept within borders, but continues to attract a number of persons from the international scene (with the Dutch man being interviewed doing a excellent job of conveying his adoration for Franco and the regime).

This incredible swelling of pride over the vacationing was also explained in Germany (with Baranowski’s longer piece), though the portions of the chapter dedicated to the perceptions of women were surprising and disappointing to say the least. The seemingly hypocritical approach of the various agents when describing the women as borderline traitors to the state was sickening with quotes such as “whether tactlessly chatting with foreigners without regard for national security, flirting with their male hosts or succumbing outright to sexual temptation, especially after abandoning all propriety to alcohol, the brazenness and witlessness of women endangered the racial community.”  It also wasn’t as present to the same extent in Crumbaugh’s description of Spain as well, which was surprising.

Anti-democratic consumerism and the myth of sacred origin

Michaela Bax-Leaney

Something the struck me, as I watched those assembled at the Franco rally in Spain, was the remark by Tom, the man who appears to have dedicated his life to the Spanish dictator, declaring to reporter Carla Parmenter that he did not like democracy. Perhaps this was a juvenile assumption, but I had always assumed that the vast majority of people – everyone aside from those with despotic ambitions, really – believed democracy to be the ultimate goal. Even the American far-right declared that the armed insurrection against the seat of government was in pursuit of the protection of the democratic process. This is of course untrue, but it served as the rallying cry nonetheless. And yet here were veritable hordes of people declaring democracy to be corrupting and sinfully indulgent.

However, in reading Baranowski and Crumbaugh, it began to make more sense. As both authors outline, entities such as Strength through Joy pedaled the notion in fascist European nation states that short-term sacrifices must be made in exchange for an overall improved standard of living in the long-term, a standard of living which would provide creaturely comforts in moderation to those worthy, those deemed racially pure. This appears to tie into the points Miller-Idriss made in her presentation, describing the myth of sacred origin, in which a marker of the far right is an inherent aspirational quality which harkens back to some long-gone golden age, in which morality and rule of law prevailed above all. This imagery and iconography also invokes strong Nordic, mythic figures in this sacred origin, appealing to desires for strongman leadership and the valorization of violence. Circling back to the Franquistas in Spain, it becomes clearer where the desire to abandon democracy has its roots.

Trade-Offs within Fascist Regimes

When examining fascist regimes from an outside perspective in the 21st century, it is important to objectively acknowledge the realities on the ground within those countries.  While horrible atrocities were being committed in Germany and within Nazi occupied Europe throughout the Nazis’ time in power, for many German citizens life continued relatively unabated.  As Baranowski points out, many people jump to the conclusion that the Nazis terrorized the people of Germany into tacitly complying with the new regime, but this explanation is too superficial and simplistic.

Baranowski discusses the principle of trade-offs, with how the loss of personal freedoms and discrimination against subcultures were acceptable prices to pay for the reinstatement of legislative efficiency and the reclamation of German national pride following the treaty of Versailles.  This idea of tradeoffs is essential to understanding why the people of Germany bought in to the Nazi framework and ideology.  We often associate fascism with violence, coercion and force, but Baranowski’s writings show how this was not always the case, and that the Nazis pitched and sold the ideology to the people of Germany through ideas such as the tourism and leisure program. 

This idea of trade-offs has become extremely relevant in the 21st century, with how rapid technological advancements have limited the personal freedoms and privacy of citizenries while amplifying the power and invasiveness of governments.  While we are not in the same situation as individuals were in interwar Germany, the rate at which these tradeoffs are occurring in 2021 is arguably more rapid than they were during the interwar period.  While this does not mean that the rise of fascism is inevitable in the 21st century, it does mean that citizenries must remain politically engaged and informed of the trade offs that are occurring.

Fascist Culture, and it’s Fragility in Reality

Jake Rooke

Fascism had many implicit and explicit effects on the German public, but how far did this ideology translate into the culture of the collective and individual consciousness? The Nazi regime focused on regimentation and discipline, complemented by an ethos of a pseudo-natural order and a mythical bygone nostalgia. Moreover, fanaticism and spectacle were designed to mass mobilize the pure people against those seen as decadent, degenerate, and corrupt. However, fascism had to move past structural and merely ideological factors, seeking to find resonance through cultural and emotional connections to the mass public.

 Emotional fanaticism was exhibited by Hitler and the official cultural nostalgia his regime supported in displays of mythical, ancient and cultural tradition. However, these regimes knew they had to connect its ideological and structural tenets to the recreational and private lives of its supporters, and better yet, to seek a form of illiberal tacit content from mass society. The regime found saliency initially by utilizing the state’s explicit propaganda power and achieving immediate material gains with the rearmament boom. Moreover, the regime also found saliency subliminally through implicit fascist conceptualizations of leisure, recreation and sports. In the latter years, as fascism’s novelty dissolved and fascist foreign policy led to total war, the seemingly attractive aspects of its tenets and its ideological inflexibility were exposed as a set of ruses. But at a deeper level of reflection, this fragility was displayed in the underpinnings of fascism from the start. And although the fascist culture promoted mass change, its indoctrination and its inability to stem patronage structures and individual subjectivities made the cultural foundation weak.

Baranowski shows that initially the Kraft durch Freude (KdF), ‘Strength through Joy’ “persuaded the majority of Germans whom the terror did not directly affect that an improved economy, rising living standards, and the regime’s commitment to social opportunity defined the Third Reich” (Baranowski 2004:198). German’s that went on subsidized KdF trips had a two-fold positive effect. Firstly, KdF weakened hostility among the working-class towards Nazism with the ability to travel. Secondly, as German tourists travelled abroad, especially to less developed countries and societies, they witnessed other societies’ relative economic depravity. Thus, “tourism weakened what possibilities existed for a coherent and effective opposition” (Baranowski 2004:197). However, these trips, at first a novelty, were exposed by Gestapo agents to have existing class divisions, vast regional differences, a societal class-driven hierarchy and individual pursuits that were contrary to fascist principles. Fundamentally, it was the last being the most controversial and existential, as individualism, happiness and enjoyment are the most natural inclinations of an individual.

In Umbach’s (2015) article, private photography had a more subliminal ability to “borrow and (re-)appropriation, in which private subjectivity and public ideology constantly commingled” (Umbach 2015:335). Thus, private and professional photography made for personal consumption and political propaganda existed in a relationship. This relationship linked the emotional or affective states, such as “relaxation, exploration, introspection, and even melancholy” (Umbach 2015:335) which often defined or highlighted ways which both civilians and soldiers positioned themselves in relation to landscapes. However, as the novelty fell off so did the synergy between personal and official culture. The war and the tenets of fascist principles brought fascist culture back to reality and this process led to further alienation between the official policy line, and the individual pursuit.

Fascism Vacation

In this weeks readings it was interesting to look at the relationship between fascist ideology, the Reich and how it effected leisure activity of everyday people. This tool of propaganda, one of many tools utilize to lull the population into a false sense of security, showcased the ability of the right to manipulate the population into taking part in a German exclusive way of leisure activity as well as those who did not have such opportunities for a vacation or leisure no had the ability under the KDF where Baranowski discusses this was a way to improve the German standard of living.

The illusion of the Reich being well off also manifested itself by the high standards of German living through the war as a way to showcase Aryan superiority to its allies as well as the rest of the world by means of staged photo ops. I found it particularly interesting that the “the SS competed for the responsibility of monitoring opposition, proved at least as willing to convey the satisfaction, or lack of it, of tourists.” (pg. 162) Through this agents had access to the most intimate and mundane thoughts f travelers which would prove useful as these travelers were in a seemingly secure scenario to which they did not have to worry about guarding their thoughts.

Soft Power and the Culture of Fascism

By Jackie Howell

Tools of soft power can be useful in expanding a state’s sphere of influence. Soft power is the ability to attract rather than coerce and typically involves exerting cultural, social, or economic influence. Great powers, such as the United States, use soft power as an extension of their hard power (i.e., their physical military strength) through the arts, science, and culture to further their goals. Soft power, a concept coined by Joseph Nye, mostly defines the post-Cold War era. However, promoting a distinct national culture helped achieve Nazi Germany’s goal of dominance and legitimacy. This week’s readings highlight the soft power of Nazi Germany through their cultural influence, most notably through mass consumerism and photography. Similarly, Franco’s Spain framed consumer tourism as part of Spain’s cultural identity, which helped Spain overcome its international isolation post-war and reinforce the idea of Spanish cultural exceptionality.  

Notably, this week’s readings highlight the social and economic benefits that reinforce a regime’s legitimacy. For example, German workers who previously did not have access or the means to embark on luxurious trips received the chance to witness life outside Germany by Kraft durch Freude (KdF). KdF used tourism to showcase the benefits of National Socialism. The opportunity to see different workers in other countries gave German workers the impression that Germany’s standard of living was higher than in other countries governed by Social Democrats or Communists. KdF linked leisure to politics by capitalizing on the opportunity to unite class lines to showcase Germany’s economic successes and redefine the German racial community. Tourism development in 1960’s Spain also linked economic development and politics with leisure activities, as the regime restyled its image of government to promote a higher standard of living and modernity through tourism.

It is easy to question why Europeans accepted or supported Nazism or fascism in retrospect of the horrific acts committed by these regimes. However, Nazi Germany and Franco’s Spain framed economic and social benefits in a manner that appealed to the masses. These benefits allowed Europeans to dismiss the known horrors of the regime in favour of the benefits they gained. Similarly, the perceived economic benefits under the “America First” argument allowed Trump supporters to dismiss the political horrors of the Trump administration. Those that remain silent during these periods – ignoring the political chaos around them to live in their alternate, blissful reality – must be questioned for their complacency. Shelley Baranowski highlights this issue by briefly examining middle-class tourists who avoided discussing the political situation if the consequences of Nazi Germany’s policies did not concern them. The lack of engagement indicates a high degree of privilege of those that experienced the social and cultural benefits of Nazi Germany. Overall, this week’s readings highlight the unique role that culture can play when expanding a state’s power and legitimacy.

References

Baranowski, S. (2004a). Introduction. In Strength through Joy: Consumerism and mass tourism in the Third Reich (pp. 1-10). Cambridge.

Baranowski, S. (2004b). Racial community and individual desires: Tourism, the standard of living, and popular consent. In Strength through Joy: Consumerism and mass tourism in the Third Reich (pp. 162-98). Cambridge.

Crumbaugh, J. (2009). Prosperity and freedom under Franco: The grand invention of tourism. In Destination dictatorship: The spectacle of Spain’s tourist boom and the reinvention of difference (pp. 15-41). Suny Press.

Umbach, M. (2015). Selfhood, place, and ideology in German photo albums, 1933-1945. Central European History, 48(3): 335-365. jstor.org/stable/43965175