The most searched for word in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary following Donald Trump’s victory was ‘fascism’.
In 1995, the now late novelist, philosopher and university professor Umberto Eco wrote a piece for The New York Review of Books on the meaning of fascism.
In the article he spoke at length about his experiences living in the midst of Mussolini's brand of fascism.
These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.
Eco completed the article with a list of the 13 most common features of a fascist system.
Here they are, below:
1. The cult of tradition
A combination of beliefs from different areas come together to support a particular argument or idea without giving any space for advancing learning.
The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements.
2. The rejection of modernism
3. The cult of action for action’s sake
Distrust of the intellectual world, and making decisions in an irrational way.
Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.
4. Disagreement is treason
Disagreement is an element of modernism and as such, ought to be done away with.
The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.
5. Fear of difference
A core element of fascism, according to Eco is the fear of the other - which often manifests as racism.
The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders.
6. Appeal to social frustration
One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.
7. The obsession with a plot
In order for fascist ideas to take hold, people need to feel isolated.
The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.
8. The enemy is both strong and weak
By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.
9. Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy
10. Contempt for the weak
Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology.
11. Everybody is educated to become a hero
Heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death
12. Machismo and weaponry
Another element of fascism is sexist language, homophobia and a “condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”
13. Selective populism
This point refers to a time where the internet will be used to elicit a response to political, highly emotional sentiments.
There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.