Populism, Nationalism, and Fake History

The renowned Oxford scholar of the history of fascism, Roger Griffin, offers a brilliant short definition of this ugly political dynamic. "Fascism is a political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism."
 
The most significant of these three identifiers is the first, "palingenetic." Derived from the Greek (palin, "again") and the Latin (genesis, "birth"), the word was ancient term for reincarnation. More recently, it simply means "rebirth." And rebirth is perhaps the core fascist idea. But a new birth demands a new past, that is, a reimagining of a culture's origins. As it seeks a "new birth" or a "reincarnation" of the culture and state, fascism requires a new (and necessarily false) account of who we are, who we were, and how we got to the here and now. Fake history is a necessary ingredient in the making of the fascist state.
 
Fascism demands a well-woven but deeply flawed account of a culture's origins, history, and vision of itself.
 
The conclusion to this essay will appear here soon. And don't miss Jim's upcoming class (November 27-December 11) entitled "Conspiracy Voodoo—from Flat Earth to QAnon. It will touch on many of the themes raised in the essay.