Recently, I was introduced to the concept of a “fascist aesthetic.” I first read about it in an article by Stassa Edwards called, “The Triumphs of Fascist Aesthetics.” The author discusses how imagery and visuals have been injected into politics to give rise to fascism, but don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself; it’s definitely worth it. What she writes raises extremely interesting questions, both about the reality of Trump’s political ideology and his understanding of the meaning of his actions.
She brings up one particular instance from this past summer: “[Trump] ordered Washington, D.C., police to clear Lafayette Square of protesters so that he could walk to a nearby church and pose in front of it while holding a Bible. The police eagerly obliged, throwing tear gas and pushing peaceful protesters out of the way. Right before cameras clicked and shuttered, capturing Trump theatrically scowling, he urged governors to call the National Guard and “dominate the streets.” The resulting images are a profane example of the aestheticization of politics though I suspect that his supporters found them sacred. They saw a hero, a man willing to engage in action when others sat passively by. What did it matter if Trump tear-gassed protesters? What did it matter if Trump ordered military helicopters to use intimidation tactics against American citizens? They were—they are—the enemy. ‘Disagreement is treason,’ Eco wrote.”
If you are not concerned about the lasting impact Trump could have even now that he has been removed from office after reading that analysis, I suggest you read it again. The leader of the free world violated American citizens’ Constitutional rights to assembly for a photo op to mislead voters. He mobilized our police force against his own people. For his own means. If one were to remove all names from this situation, would it not be reasonable to assume you were reading about the actions of a dictator? And yet Trump got away with it scott-free.
Fascism is not a distant philosophical issue of the past. It is not even a problem unique to foreign nations. It is here in the United States, ever present in the white supremacist groups that are on the rise. In the insurrectionists that stormed the capital just weeks ago. In the former president. So something must be done.
Make no mistake; this is not a problem that can be solved overnight. But everyone needs to start somewhere. It is my hope that with President Biden formally inaugurated into office, he will begin to address this matter promptly. But until then, keep an eye out for traces of these “fascist aesthetics” in your daily life. Note them, and remember the next time someone dismisses the concern of fascism in America out of hand.