Fascism is Great! / Effectively Wasting Time Online Vol. 2

Prove me wrong. No, really. Can you prove to me that fascism is not great without mumbling about how great tolerance is and how terrible the Nazis were? If no, you can be taught to adhere to fascist notions simply by not knowing what it is.

text by VILIUS PETKAUSKAS

illustrations by AUSTE DZIKARAITE

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In a world, where populations are tired of seemingly incapable politicians, coupled with alarming global changes that demand for unilateral action, an ideology that offers to unite masses under a common goal against a common enemy, may lure into thinking that it can deliver.

After all, fascism is a political ideology and is not solely owned by Mussolini's Italy or Hitler's Germany. Similarly, as communism is not owned by the Soviet Union or any other polity that fucked up in implementing Marx's wet dreams. Countries no longer want to be identified as fascist even though they exhibit ingredients, necessary to be one. So you might end up living in one, even though your peers do not wear swastika labelled Hugo Boss uniforms.

If spun correctly, fascism may sound very inviting. In a world, where populations are tired of seemingly incapable politicians, coupled with alarming global changes that demand for unilateral action, an ideology that offers to unite masses under a common goal against a common enemy, may lure into thinking that it can deliver.

What if we had to FOCUS every inch of our being on some topic because if we didn't – all our achievements could be lost? What if we had to act FAST with limited time to fix the problem. What if, for example, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka continue to pollute the oceans? Maybe we'd need to ACT united, FOR THE FUTURE of our planet.

But what if uniting forces employs, say, less democratic means, fanatically driven to save mankind?  

Replaceable beliefs

You are probably as triggered as a flat-earther onboard the International Space Station, thinking your morals and convictions are unshakable and just. Of course, you, of all the people, will never be a fascist! Yet your convictions are likely as firm as a hand of a recovering alcoholic.

One Swedish philosopher embarked on an experiment to check just that. And the results are not great for the coherency of our beliefs. It seems that we know jack shit about why we think the way we think. Also, given the right push, we will try to explain our motivation for believing the stuff we did not in the first place.

"[...] Johansson asked participants to decide what people they found more attractive by showing them a series of pictures of people printed on index cards. The participants were asked to choose between two faces. After they made their selection, Johansson used a sleight of hand to give participants the card they did not pick but asked them to explain why they chose that particular face. Over 80% of the participants did not notice that Johansson had switched the cards, and proceeded to give detailed explanations of why they preferred the face they didn’t actually prefer. What’s more, when Johansson let participants make the choice again, they uniformly chose the face they did not pick the first time".

He repeated the experiment using political beliefs instead of faces. And 90 per cent of participants went on to explain why do they prefer political ideologies they did not adhere to. You may be among those 10 per cent that did not flip, but you'd be alone with your convictions pretty soon if this were applied in the real-world revolutionary circumstances.

My point is that if you don’t know why you support something you can be taught to think that what you believe is actually shit and opposing ideas are great.

My point is that if you don't know why you support something you can be taught to think that what you believe is actually shit and opposing ideas are great. The scary part is that we are seemingly willing to think that the choices we make are free and made entirely on our own.

Need not to mix this with learning: updating your beliefs and dropping ones that are incompatible with reality, that's all fine and dandy.

What I am trying to say, is that by not having any set of tested beliefs, an empty space within the mind lays open, available to be taken over by anyone smart, talented and relentless enough. That's why ignoring history, politics and science leaves us vulnerable to powers that are well immersed in those topics.

That’s why ignoring history, politics and science leaves us vulnerable to powers that are well immersed in those topics.

A firm supporter of fascism can destroy your world view faster than a banker does a line of coke if your key arguments consist of some flower-power bullshit. Remember – tyrants talk their way into power with brute force serving as a convincing assistant later. It's when the military starts to believe in all the bullshit is when despots get the tools to properly serve your ass to you.

I am not naive enough to think that any of us will start researching political theory just to flip off some nerdy Swedish thinker. Nor am I competent enough to provide you with explanations on what to think. 

However, I am almost sure you, kind reader, are no stranger to the interwebs. And the interweb is a place full of dread and wonder. Now almost a year ago, I talked about how to use time spent online more effectively as to procrastinate in a way that is useful for both of us. These will not help you to understand what is fascism. But some of this might point you the right direction.



Revolutions by Mike Duncan

To me, this is one of the best history podcasts on the English-speaking side of the internet. This extensive series covers 10 different revolutions, with all-time favourites (American, French, Russian, Mexican etc.) covered.

Episodes last 20-30 minutes and cover indigestible detail the different nuances, personalities and circumstances the led men to overthrow their governments time and time again.  At its least, this serves as a wonderful insight into European political and social history if the 17-19th centuries. 

Which is good to know if you want to understand what makes advanced civilizations decide to act as if it’s year zero in 1939. 

It's not necessary to go through all of them start to finish. However, I'd recommend starting from an episode of the same revolution. Series are logically numbered 1-10 meaning that fifth episode on the French revolution look likes “3.5 The Assembly of Notables”. Available on Spotify.

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How democracies die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

Don’t get spooked now, but this is … a book. I know, I know, not the internet type of stuff I promised. But I just have to put this here.

Don’t get spooked now, but this is … a book. I know, I know, not the internet type of stuff I promised. But I just have to put this here. Authors of this short review of how democracies go belly up make it really clear that nothing is written in stone. Especially when politics are in question.

Authors present the idea of the fragility of democracy with sort of a detached tone. They look to what happened in countries around the world that went from electing their leaders to being oppressed by the same people.

Of course, they focus a lot of attention to the US and how democracy has been eroding there for quite some time now. The frustrating part is the thing that they say seems so obvious it’s almost criminal not to act to fix them. It’s a short read that demystifies the fog surrounding the question of what is a democracy and how to properly maintain one. 

Philosophize this! by Stephen West

Back to the internet. With over 100 episodes, Mr West tackles topics, such as living in a simulation or the philosophy Foucault, Schmitt, Deluze, Saint Augustine and Machiavelli.

On his 20-30-minute-long episodes, Mr West tries his best to explain what and why philosophers believe and what are their key messages. Some episodes are linked into 3-4 long chains, allowing for a finger-licking good amount of detail as well as digestibility of the material presented. Available on Spotify.

Disclaimer. In no possible way, will a podcast ever get even as close to reading an actual book. Period. It is, however, the next best thing to being willingly oblivious to the many concepts of perception that do exist.


Caspian Report by Shrivan Neftchi

Don’t pretend you’re Henry fuckn Kissinger after an episode on geopolitics.

Geopolitics. Or, how the geography of a country can decide it's foreign policy. This sort of thinking is sometimes lost in the modern school of thought but Mr Netfchi gives a convincing case that sometimes pragmatic reasons drive major political decisions.

The greatest value this channel provides is focus on extra European events that receive little to no detailed insights locally. For example, how drying of the Aral lake effects the regional power of balance, what are the key geopolitical concerns of countries like Indonesia or Vietnam and why is Russia benefiting from the climate change.

As with all political content, one has to be very sceptical. Caspian report has received criticism over topics that relate to Armenia as the author might be somewhat biased on the topic. So, you know, don't take very every word as an undeniable and only existing truth. Don't pretend you're Henry fuckn Kissinger after an episode on geopolitics.

Kurzgezagt – In a nutshell

Have you ever wondered what would happen if all nuclear bombs were detonated at the same time? How does our immune system work or is meat really bad for you? What are wormholes, beauty and string theory?

This German (narrated in English, don't worry) YouTube channel was created by Philipp Dettmer in 2013 but it has become a team effort rather than a one-man stand. The channel covers various topics that sometimes have a bit of a dark undertone.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if all nuclear bombs were detonated at the same time? How does our immune system work or is meat really bad for you? What are wormholes, beauty and string theory? Well, look no more, as the Germans have used minimalist animation to feed your curiosity.

Kurzgezgt team strive to make well-researched and balanced content. They are also not shy to admit mistakes. The team removed a couple of older videos after claims for lack of research and promised to deliver better content. They do include source material and do spend more time on research than your average American president.

EONS by PBS

History of nature, Earth and animals and the evolutionary tale of exceptional changes out planet had to endure to produce you, a keyboard warrior, a Knight of Cables forever ready to embark on mediocre tasks, never satisfied.

EONS cover a wide range of topics that show the true beauty of evolution. I thoroughly enjoy how the creators of the channel manage to explain how we came from apes to humans, or how the earth was completely covered in ice for a few times and why. 

The key take from the series the ever-changing earth and how even minor tweaks on our planet affect everyone living here. These short videos give a very different meaning to the term “climate change”. A thing that, you know, is the only thing this speck of dust has ever seen.

YouTube episodes last for around 10 minutes on average making the ritual of doing dishes a lot less painful. Hosts are great, lexicon – easy and after all, who doesn't want to know about the time when two-legged crocodiles (not dinosaurs) ran around the Earth! 

To be realistic, none of these suggestions will give the tools necessary to be an expert on fascism. You might get something about authoritarian dictatorships though. Hopefully, you are pissed enough to show how little both of us know, whilst getting entertained on the road. (Read the book. It’s really useful).  

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