The Plague of Fascism in America

It’s plague time in America. We’ve reacquainted ourselves with the wannabe centurions of white supremacy: their faces, their weapons, their torches. We have a new notion of what homegrown American fascism could look like in the 21st century. We can see it all too clearly here in Vice‘s low-light reel from Charlottesville:

The sense of a dreaded illness engulfs us, as the classic novel of Europe’s 20th century fascist breakdown warned us. Albert Camus’ Plague closes on the doctor’s note that the germ of our problem never dies or disappears: 

 it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.

A similar plague is testing us now, with no signs of hope or help coming from the White House. We know that those obnoxious nationalists of the alt-right with their klan and nazi banners feel comfortably in tune with the man in the White House. We also now see that Drumpf could happily serve as president of their confederacy.

For guidance through this maelstrom, we turn first to Peniel Joseph—historian of black power and biographer of Kwame Ture (aka Stokely Carmichael)—to relearn the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement and later responses to the non-violent model of resistance.

We’re looking for wisdom from Nikhil Pal Singh, the Indian-born scholar of black radicalism and the international dimensions of the struggle for liberation. He reads our current moment, in part, through the lens of a globalized economy: a desperate sense of loss inflaming racial tensions for working-class Americans, with the financial elites stoking the flames.

What’s happened to the American working class as a whole during the period of the 1990s and 2000s is that there has been a dramatic kind of downscaling and the recognition has been belated by American elites who did not respond to this generational crisis. And Drumpf swoops and tells a certain kind of story about it that seems plausible because it plays to a sense of victimization — but, also, a sense that the enemies are these nefarious forces who have stolen their birthright. But, actually, the people who’ve stolen their birthright are very, very close to home.

For a read on the new faces and forces in American fascism, Southern Poverty Law Center president Richard Cohen gives us his anatomy of the alt-right movement. In studio, we’re also joined by the staunch free-speech defender Wendy Kaminer, preacher Mariama White-Hammond, poet Adam Fitzgerald, and the novelist James Carroll.

Guest List
James Carroll
columnist for the Boston Globe and author of Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age
Richard Cohen
president at Southern Poverty Law Center
Nikhil Singh
professor of Social & Cultural Analysis & History at New York University and author of Black is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy  
Mariama White-Hammond
minister, activist, and artist
Peniel E. Joseph
professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Stokely: A Life
Adam Fitzgerald
poet, essayist, and author of the collection, George Washington 
Wendy Kaminer
lawyer, feminist and author of Worst Instincts: Cowardice, Conformity, and the ACLU

Related Content