We obsess about a Nazi recrudescence because our moral foundations no longer tell us why they were wrong.
The Nazis, unlike the British, are always about to arrive – although they never quite get here.
Throughout my adult life I have listened again and again to stentorian announcements from the media: “The far right are on the march again in Europe…a speech that recalls the darkest days of the 1930s…renewed fears that unemployed youths will find hope in extreme politics.”
This has become rather boring after twenty years of paying attention.
The far right are always on the march.
Where they are going, well, I do not rightly know.
I have come to doubt that they are getting anywhere, perhaps they are merely marching in circles.
The far right are always on the march because we are engaged in a forever war against fascism, Nazism, and Hitler’s avatars.
The Second World War never ended, comrades.
I cannot say when this tendency started, though George Orwell observed in his own time that the term ‘fascist’ had been extended in political rhetoric to such an extent as to become an empty epithet.
A useful milestone in the extension of the term fascist to mean any opponent of liberal technocratic state is Susan Sontag’s description of the Soviet Union as “fascism with a human face” in 1982.
This is significant because Sontag was leading intellectual for the liberal technocratic state, and further because it marked a moment when the Soviet Union was to be castigated more for its fascist characteristics than for its communism.
The ideological problem for the liberal technocratic states arrayed against the USSR was that the Soviets were too nationalistic, militaristic, anti-Jewish (anti-Zionist), and anti-homosexuality.
Sontag’s categorisation of the USSR as fascistic was a truly Orwellian move in that it sought to demonise a state that had lost vast numbers in men and material during the struggle against fascism as fascistic.
This is not to say that there was no resemblance between the USSR and Nazi Germany, nor to deny that the two states cooperated for a limited period.
But the resemblance between the states lay in their totalitarian nature, and not in a shared fascism.
Fascism need not necessarily be totalitarian.
This move from an attack on Soviet communism to an attack on Soviet fascism has already been noted by thinkers such as Paul Gottfried.
This move was necessary for liberals because the Soviet Union and contemporary liberalism shared a common goal: equality.
Soviet totalitarianism was totalitarianism in the service of equality. Nazi totalitarianism was totalitarianism in the service of inequality.
The political form, totalitarianism, was shared. The objectives were different.
Technocratic liberalism sought to disassociate itself with communism because it shares, ultimately, the same goal as the communists.
The question is merely one of means.
This is why it is perfectly acceptable in Western technocratic liberal societies to have been involved with the far left in one’s youth (adulthood, even, for celebrities) while involvement with the far right at any stage in one’s life results in severe criticism and a terminated career.
There is one Devil: Hitler.
He wears a thousand masks. He goes under a thousand names.
The Devil always did so.
We know him as Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milošević, Manuel Noriega, Kim Jung-un, Kim Jong-il, Robert Mugabe, Fidel Castro, and so on.
There will be more.
It is true that parallels between the disparate beliefs, actions, and ideologies that unite these men exist with fascism – perhaps even with the very characteristically German expression of fascism that was Nazism.
It is why the media-industrial complex of the liberal democratic states called its opponents in its war against Islamism ‘Islamofascists’ for a while.
There was a scintilla of truth in the association between contemporary Islamism and fascism, but the point for the media-industrial complex was to connect Islamism with the eternal enemy – fascism.
The reason for this demonology lies in our contemporary nihilism, which results from the crisis of values occasioned by the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution.
We do not really know what undergirds our values and moral assumptions.
We have not known for sometime.
At the same time, the shift in morals in the liberal technocratic states since the Second World War has been substantial.
Here is a brief list of changed social attitudes and liberalised laws in the liberal technocratic states: legalised abortion, decriminalisation of homosexual sex, legalisation of homosexual marriage, wider social acceptability of pre-marital sex, no fault divorce, abolition of the death penalty, abolition of obscenity laws, the end of censure for failing to sing the national anthem at public events, freely available contraception, the creation of a pornography industry, promotion of mass immigration as a moral good, decriminalisation of interracial marriage (US), and the decriminalisation of drugs.
This list is not exhaustive.
Whether or not such comprehensive change in social mores and laws is historically unique I am not sure.
But, unique or not, these changes amount to a revolution in our moral and social affairs.
I believe that the mass public is aware that these changes have occurred extremely rapidly – within three generations.
My still living grandmother was born into a world where many of the above activities were either illegal or socially unacceptable.
Our awareness that social, moral, and legal rules can be utterly overturned makes us anxious.
The hegemonic ideology tells us that we should welcome the above developments as moves towards ‘progress’ or ‘equality’.
This may or may not be true.
But the very fact that previously unthinkable social changes have occurred merely makes us aware that within our own lifetimes a similar shift in any other direction could occur.
Behind this anxiety is the knowledge that our godless, technocratic, and utilitarian worldview provides no basis for moral statements.
Expediency is our god.
The logical positivists placed this widely held belief in its most philosophical form in their claim that meaningful statements about moral questions were impossible.
There are preferences, of course, but preferences carry little weight beyond what is expedient.
You have a preference for vanilla ice cream, Audi automobiles, and genocide against the Yazidis.
Beyond the world of science we live in a world of preferences.
We cannot say anything about the set of preferences listed above other than chocolate ice cream sells better than vanilla ice cream – if it does so.
This explains to me why the liberal technocratic states retain mass hysteria over two topics: Nazism and paedophilia.
We cannot exist without limits. But these limits are now only set through laws, which may change at any day.
We know that we hate Nazism, but we cannot really say why – although we have been told that we must hate it more than any other wicked political belief system.
Nazism and paedophilia represent limits for our society that should not be breached.
Yet we know that these limits are arbitrary. And, indeed, there is already a move in certain elements of the media-industrial complex to normalise paedophilia.
Readers are invited to consider that this act is, after all, merely an the unfortunate result of an arbitrary sexual orientation. The perpetrator is, some journalists suggest, as much a victim as his target.
We are afraid to say that evil exists.
That concept belongs in our so-called irrational religious past.
The uncomfortable truth is that, under the conditions of technocratic liberalism, the ultimate evils are merely arbitrary limits.
This is too frightening to admit – even as we watch every taboo deliquesce before our eyes.
I was mildly surprised to find the latest dating programme on the UK’s Channel 4 involves a straightforward meat market approach where the contestants stripped naked for sexual evaluation.
But what grounds have I to complain? This is not my preference, but there were – legal suits pending – no breaches in consent under the law.
What next? Will gladiatorial contests return?
Dear reader, they have done so already.
When we watch a man beheaded by the Islamic State on YouTube or the grey-eyed drone footage from our heroic airforce drones we are already at our own – rather pathetic – Circus Maximus.
The profits from the advertisements that accompany these videos are quite healthy, no?
There are no grounds for complaint under technocratic liberalism and nihilism.
This is why the film of A Clockwork Orange (1971) was banned in the United Kingdom for many years.
True, Kubrick’s depiction of violence remains genuinely disturbing.
But the film’s real danger – the real reason it was suppressed while other gore and semen inflected fare went uncensored – was that it too accurately depicted life under technocratic liberalism.
It was, of course, a documentary film. It was no science fiction.
We use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy today rather than forcing a person’s eyes open with metal clamps, as happens to young Alex in Orange.
This is called progress.
And it is why the film has lost its bite somewhat.
Aristotle and Plato thought that definitive statements about the good life could be made for humans.
The world’s major religious leaders from Muhammad to Lao Tse believed the same.
We do not.
We, the last men, are quite different to what has gone before.
Conservatives have long pointed this problem out, with the most popular account perhaps being Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (1987).
I’ve probably cribbed his arguments here.
The problem for the conservatives is that they have – so far – failed to develop an effective critique or defence against nihilism.
Their solutions generally involve standing up for traditions in general, counterposing orthodox interpretations of religion against irrational reason, or changing religious explanations of reality into metaphors.
But rescuing these accounts from the critique of religion and tradition developed by the Enlightenment involves more than simply stating that the results of the Enlightenment are displeasing.
It is not possible to rescue religion from the implications of Darwinism, physics, and the historical criticism of religious texts through asserting a metaphorical interpretation of religion or through pointing to the results of the critique of religion.
When conservatives attempt to re-enchant the world in this way their arguments always ring empty to me.
We affirm that their criticisms are well placed, and then we return to the technocratic machine – perhaps we even mass market a spiffy book about the situation called The Closing of the American Mind.
Answers, we do not find.
It is true that the Enlightenment itself contains many contradictory, irrational, and nonsensical beliefs.
But nobody has found a way out of nihilism yet – except, perhaps, in a retreat into a purely artistic, ascetic, or aesthetic way of life.
This is a route unavailable to most people.
How does the above relate to the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)?
Donald Trump, with his civic nationalist approach, also represents an out of favour manifestation of liberalism that liberalism’s most advanced wing has, quite naturally, dubbed fascistic or proto-Nazi.
This war civil war in liberalism is conducted in the rhetorically powerful language of anti-fascism.
After all, the enemies of technocratic liberalism are all Nazis – we have been told so in a thousand films, comics, and novels that this is the contemporary embodiment of evil.
It makes sense that the enemies in a civil war should also be Nazis.
We are witnessing a divide in the liberal technocratic state over which of its values should prevail: adherence to an open bordered and all-welcoming world or support for the rights of sexual minorities and women.
But, broadly put, this is the essence.
This is why an openly gay politician, Pym Fortuyne, was assassinated over a decade ago in the Netherlands.
He was afraid that mass Muslim immigration to the Netherlands would threaten the homosexual minority in the country.
His death was among the opening shots in the civil war for technocratic liberalism.
Where will the civil war for technocratic liberalism end?
I do not know.
What we can say is that a civil war in the ideological hegemony opens up possibilities for genuinely alternative forces to assert themselves.
Conservatives, reactionaires, traditionalists, and – yes – even real fascists may reassert themselves as technocratic liberalism pulls itself apart.
The AfD exists in the very heartland of the Devil. It is, therefore, viewed as literally diabolical by the technocratic liberal hegemony.
And, after all, superstition is powerful. We know that all evil in the world rises in Germany.
We have been told so in so many movies.
Why would Hollywood lie?
Don’t look at the AfD. That’s a distraction.
Look to the space that will open as the liberals fight among themselves.
When the Second World War finally ends – when we no longer hunt for the eternal Nazi – we will know that technocratic liberalism has fallen.