It is surely curious that much of the modern world is teaching itself to deny almost any aspect of reality. Originally built on pragmatic assessments of what works and what doesn’t, what has worked before and what has not, we seem intent on denying even our own history, achievements, arts, sciences and engineering capabilities.
One consequence of denying our own history is that the Chinese model of forcing its population to trade economic growth and consumer goodies for personal freedom is becoming a political model to be admired. Admired covertly perhaps, but nonetheless admired and seen to be worth emulating while denying that we are emulating it.
This much has been obvious for some time, but a fascist regime that is admired? They always were until they fell over. We know that free enterprise delivers the goods and communism delivers absolute political control so with hindsight it seems almost inevitable that we end up with a mix. Goodies in return for souls. Old Nick would have been pleased with that one.
It leads us into a kind of deniable fascism where the totalitarian aspect is far easier to deny than the old fashioned militaristic version because consumer goodies and intrusive welfare sweeten the pill. The goodies/welfare pill is offered as a compelling reason not to notice a wholly controlled lifestyle slipped into the deal. Numerous voters seem willing to swallow that without reading the ingredients and without noticing that it will certainly rot their democratic teeth. False ones are freely available though – all part of the service.
Deniable fascism has also been made much easier by discarding a few superficial trappings of old style fascism epitomised by Mussolini, while retaining his totalitarian enthusiasm. Fewer flags, no ranting leader in uniform, more inconspicuous security and a more restrained elite. Understated luxury, quiet privilege and discreet international socialising rather than gaudy palaces, acres of gold leaf and thuggish armed guards.
There are numerous familiar clues to the rise of deniable fascism, the latest being the coronavirus debacle. To a good approximation the coronavirus epidemic in the UK subsided as an epidemic round about the middle of June. That is not to claim that cases and deaths disappeared, merely that normal life could have resumed – not that it should ever have been suspended.
However it is obvious enough that the coronavirus epidemic was always going to be used as a lever to take the developed world further down the path of deniable fascism. Even a mild pandemic is grist to this particular mill. Moves such as enforced lockdown, social distancing and incessant propaganda were a suspicious over-reaction – almost a mass training session for something else.
Continued restrictions and propaganda long after the epidemic disappeared reinforce the obvious - the pandemic has been used as an opportunity. With even the most bleary hindsight that much is just too obvious.
Deniable fascism suits political parties of the traditional left, centre and to an increasing extent those on the traditional right. Green parties have been there since the beginning. It also suits the establishment and civil service. They are all attracted to deniable fascism because it offers numerous opportunities to expand remits, climb the greasy pole without talent and generally be seen doing something. Not only that, but a principal downside of deniable fascism is loss of voter freedom, an abstract loss which provides alluring opportunities for elites and can be denied anyway – that’s the point.
A second downside of deniable fascism is the shallowness it induces but with unlimited entertainment on tap, that too is deniable. In any event, entertainment appears to be an accepted substitute for political freedom and political maturity.