The GOP has been caught in yet another controversy. The Florida GOP has been implicated in an effort to pay thousands of dollars to far-right agitator, Christopher Monzon.
Mr. Monzon made a scene at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia by holding a flag and issuing statements reflecting support for the Confederacy, white supremacy, and anti-semitism. Those are all some pretty bad things, and Christopher Monzon promoted them all. The fact that the Florida GOP paid him to attend the rally should be a wake-up call for Republicans throughout the state.
The Florida GOP’s actions share a disturbing resemblance to things that conservative movements have done in the past. When right-wingers go too far, bad things happen. Here’s a refresher on what happens when the far-right is left unchecked.
Remembering Why the Far-Right’s Association with Fascism
The resurgence of the so-called “alt-right” and other far-right groups has come as a shock to many Americans. But as we’ve seen in Europe, far-right ideologies can have devastating consequences when normalized or given platforms for speech. Far-right movements are inherently dangerous because they normalize hate speech, racist ideology, and platforms for fascist ideology.
As a result, society begins to view these ideas as acceptable or even normal — which makes them much more likely to reemerge as a much more menacing iteration of the ideology at some point in the future. Whether you’re left-wing, right-wing, or neither; everyone needs to understand why it is so important to stand up against fascism wherever we see it.
What is Fascism?
Fascism is a political ideology that became popular in the first half of the 20th century, particularly in Europe. The term was coined by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who led Italy’s Fascist Party from the 1920s until the 1940s.
In general, the ideology puts a strong emphasis on nationalism, social Darwinism, authoritarianism, and traditionalism, and it places a heavy focus on the culture and economy of the state above the needs of the individual.
While these general tenets sound similar to many other ideologies, one of the key differentiating factors of fascism is its focus on the state’s authority as the supreme authority in all aspects of life. The fascist ideology promotes the state as an all-encompassing organization with supreme power over all facets of life.
There is an irony in this as many staunch Republicans continue to claim that the Democratic Party is constantly trying to enshrine the powers of the state. In reality, the far-right dances closer to the fire of total state control than the left ever has.
Why the Far-Right Is Associated with Fascism
Typically, right-wing political movements focus on preserving traditional values, enhancing the economy, and promoting a strong national defense. Some far-right political movements exist outside of the conservative Republican Party, including white supremacist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) or neo-Nazi groups, which are particularly unpopular.
Their ideals may include things like anti-immigration sentiments, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBTQIA+ sentiments, anti-climate change beliefs, and/or extreme nationalism.
Why Is Far-Right Ideology Dangerous?
The danger of far-right political movements lies in the fact that they normalize hateful and discriminatory ideas. For example, the KKK has a long history of lynching black people, hanging people from trees, and setting fire to black churches.
While the organization has been very careful to obscure its membership over time, it is still very much active in the United States of America. Meanwhile, members of the far-right have managed to use social media to promote hateful ideas, organize rallies, and normalize racist rhetoric among both their members and people who encounter their content online.
While most of the country agrees that racism is wrong, there are many who believe that it is “just a part of life” or something that “all races do.” While some racism is unavoidable, when people don’t actively combat racism and discrimination, they allow it to become more and more normalized which is a very dangerous way of thinking. When we normalize racism and discrimination, we allow it — and other forms of discrimination — to spread among our communities and across the country.
How Does Far-Right Ideology Manifest?
While not all far-right political movements lead to a fascist state, they often begin with the same racist and discriminatory ideologies. Some of the first steps toward normalizing far-right ideas are through the use of dog whistles. Dog whistles are common statements that have different meanings to different people.
For example, if a candidate were to say that “we don’t need other people from other countries coming here and taking our jobs,” that might resonate with someone who believes that immigrants are stealing jobs from people in the country. Meanwhile, immigrants who are in the country legally might feel attacked by that statement, as though they are being blamed for taking away jobs from Americans.
Dog whistles are designed to resonate with one specific group of people while remaining ambiguous enough that others don’t realize they’re being targeted. For example, one of the most prominent dog whistles used by the far-right is the argument that immigrants are coming to the US to steal social security benefits. Meanwhile, immigrants are actually less likely to receive social security benefits than native-born Americans.
What Constitutes Institutionalised Discrimination?
In addition to the racism and xenophobia that underpins far-right ideology, many far-right political movements also promote discrimination against other marginalized groups. When one group suffers from institutionalized discrimination, it means that the government is supporting or condoning the discrimination against that group.
Institutionalized discrimination can take many forms. Discrimination disproportionately affects people of color and other marginalized groups, and when one group faces discrimination from the government, it is known as institutionalized discrimination.
When we fail to recognize dangerous political ideologies, we allow those ideologies to become normalized in our communities and across the country. This normalization can then lead to the type of discrimination, hate speech, and violence that we’ve seen from the far-right since the election of Donald Trump.
While not all right-wing political movements are dangerous, far-right ideologies often lead to fascism and other dangerous iterations of discrimination. Given that fascism is defined as a centralized state that places the needs of a centralized autocracy above all else, it’s important that we recognize dangerous ideologies while they’re still being normalized by far-right groups.