Definitions of Realism

In the arts, realism is the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, implausible, exotic and supernatural elements.

“Art finds her own perfection within, and not outside of, herself.
She is not to be judged by any external standard of resemblance.”
– Oscar Wilde

It has been prevalent in the arts at many periods, and is in large part a matter of technique and training, and the avoidance of stylization. In general, realism has been the awareness or acceptance of the facts and necessities of life; a practical rather than a moral or dogmatic view of things. It is also a style of painting and sculpture which seeks to represent the familiar or typical in real life, rather than an idealized, formalized, or romantic interpretation.

“Realism can break a writer’s heart.”
– Salman Rushdie

Outside the arts, in science, realism is the viewpoint that an external reality exists independent of observation. In philosophy, it is the doctrine that universals are real i.e. they exist and are distinct from the particulars that instantiate them.

The Rightness of Fascism

That is to say, the ‘right-wingedness’ of fascism. The term fascism was first used to describe the totalitarian right-wing nationalist regime of Mussolini in Italy between 1922-1943; the regimes of the Nazis in Germany and Franco in Spain were also fascist.

Fascism tends to include the romantic ideal of a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group; it also tends to have a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach.

By definition, right-wing, rightist and the Right are terms applied to social-conservative and reactionary positions, both of which apply to fascism. Fascists also stress the importance of nationalism and vehemently oppose all left-wing politics (that is to say, socialism, communism and anarchism).

Ironically, many fascist regimes – even though they deplore leftist politics – used the term ‘socialist’ to describe their movement. Of course, to the educated reader, it does not really mean anything that they had the word ‘socialist’ in the name. The characteristics listed above explain quite clearly why fascism belongs on the right side of the political spectrum. Also, to name an example, the official name of North Korea is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, but there is nothing democratic about it. There’s not much in a name.

On The Ten Constituents of Fascism

  1. “A mass movement with multiclass membership in which prevail, among the leaders and the militants, the middle sectors, in large part new to political activity, organized as a party militia, that bases its identity not on social hierarchy or class origin but on a sense of comradeship, believes itself invested with a mission of national regeneration, considers itself in a state of war against political adversaries and aims at conquering a monopoly of political power by using terror, parliamentary politics, and deals with leading groups, to create a new regime that destroys parliamentary democracy;
  2. an ‘anti-ideological’ and pragmatic ideology that proclaims itself antimaterialist, anti-individualist, antiliberal, antidemocratic, anti-Marxist, is populist and anticapitalist in tendency, expresses itself aesthetically more than theoretically by means of a new political style and by myths, rites, and symbols as a lay religion designed to acculturate, socialize, and integrate the faith of the masses with the goal of creating a ‘new man’;
  3. a culture founded on mystical thought and the tragic and activist sense of life conceived of as the manifestation of the will to power, on the myth of youth as artificer of history, and on the exaltation of the militarization of politics as the model of life and collective activity;
  4. a totalitarian conception of the primacy of politics, conceived of as an integrating experience to carry out the fusion of the individual and the masses in the organic and mystical unity of the nation as an ethnic and moral community, adopting measures of discrimination and persecution against those considered to be outside this community either as enemies of the regime or members of races considered to be inferior or otherwise dangerous for the integrity of the nation;
  5. a civil ethic founded on total dedication to the national community, on discipline, virility, comradeship, and the warrior spirit;
  6. a single state party that has the task of providing for the armed defense of the regime, selecting its directing cadres, and organizing the masses within the state in a process of permanent mobilization of emotion and faith;
  7. a police apparatus that prevents, controls, and represses dissidence and opposition, even by using organized terror;
  8. a political system organized by hierarchy of functions named from the top and crowned by the figure of the ‘leader,’ invested with a sacred charisma, who commands, directs, and coordinates the activities of the party and the regime;
  9. corporative organization of the economy that suppresses trade union liberty, broadens the sphere of state intervention, and seeks to achieve, by principles of technocracy and solidarity, the collaboration of the ‘productive sectors’ under control of the regime, to achieve its goals of power, yet preserving private property and class divisions;
  10. a foreign policy inspired by the myth of national power and greatness, with the goal of imperialist expansion.”
– Emilio Gentile

Characteristics of Fascism

Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist extreme right-wing political ideology. Fascists seek to unify their nation based on commitment to an organic national community where its individuals are united together as one people through national identity. The unity of the nation is to be based upon suprapersonal connections of ancestry and culture through a totalitarian state that seeks the mass mobilization of the national community through discipline, indoctrination, physical training, and eugenics. Fascism also seeks to eradicate perceived foreign influences that are deemed to be causing degeneration of the nation or of not fitting into the national culture.

“Nationalism is an infantile thing. It is the measles of mankind.”
― Albert Einstein

In 2003, Dr. Lawrence Britt examined the fascist regimes of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and several Latin American regimes. He found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread
domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power” ― Benito Mussolini

6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labour Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

“Fascism is capitalism plus murder.” ― Upton Sinclair

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

“No school can supply an anti-liberal education, or a fascist education, as these terms are contradictory. Liberalism and education are one.”
― George Seldes

Crimes of Dogmatism

‘It is amazing how many people think that the crimes of Hitler and Pol Pot and Mao were the result of atheism. The truth is that this is a total misconstrual of what went on in those societies, and of the psychological and social forces that allow people to follow their dear leader over the brink.

The problem with Fascism and communism was not that they were too critical of religion. The problem is they’re too much like religions; these are utterly dogmatic systems of thought. I recently had a debate with Rick Warren in the pages of Newsweek, and he suggested that North Korea was a model atheist society and that any atheist with the courage of his convictions should want to move there.

The truth is North Korea is organized exactly like a faith based cult, centered on the worship of Kim Jong-il. The North Koreans apparently believe that the shipments of food aid that they receive from us, to keep them from starving to death, are actually devotional offerings to Kim Jong-il. Is too little faith really the problem with North Korea? Is too much skeptical inquiry, what is wrong here? Auschwitz, the Gulag, and the killing fields are not the product of atheism; they are the product of other dogmas run amok; nationalism, political dogma.

Hitler did not engineer a genocide in Europe because of atheism; in fact Hitler doesn’t even appear to have been an atheist, he regularly invoked Jesus in his speeches. But that’s beside the point, he did it on the basis of other beliefs, dogmas about Jews and the purity of German blood. The history of Muslim jihad however does have something to do with Islam. The atrocities of September 11th did have something to do with what 19 men believed about martyrdom and paradise.

The fact that we’re not funding stem cell research at the federal level does have something to do with what Christians believe about conception and the human soul. It is important to focus on the specific consequences of specific ideas. So I want to make it very clear that I am not holding religion responsible for every bad thing that a religious person has done in human history. To be balanced against all the bad things that atheists have done, I am only holding religion responsible for what people do, and will continue to do, explicitly for religious reasons. So I submit to you there really is no society in human history that has ever suffered because its population became too reasonable.’

– Harris, S. Believing the Unbelievable: The Clash of Faith and Reason in the Modern World.” Aspen Ideas Festival, the Aspen Institute, Aspen, CO, July 4th, 2007

Views on Agnosticism‏

“Isn’t [an agnostic] just an atheist without balls?” asked Stephen Colbert.

In short, agnosticism is the scepticism regarding the existence of a god. However, as with many theological terms, such short descriptions are rather crude and too general. Indeed, there are many interesting interpretations of this existential -ism.

“As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.” ― Bertrand Russell

In Hitchensian atheism, attitudes towards agnosticism are generally supportive. What’s more, in Hitchens’ book God Is Not Great, he did something increasingly rare among atheists and critics of religion: whenever possible, Hitchens grouped agnostics with atheists and freethinkers together, as allies with shared arguments against monotheism, zealotry and fundamentalism. Also, like Russell, Hitchens argues that, strictly speaking, all atheists should be agnostics, but that all agnostics should have in fact the default position of atheism. After all, on what basis would one allow a reasonable amount of doubt any theistic notion?

Uniting agnostics and atheists not only made good political sense – given the size of their combined populations – it also underscored Hitchens’ firm grasp of history. As Susan Budd put it in her excellent study Varieties of Unbelief: Atheists and Agnostics in English Society, 1850-1960, ‘the conversion to atheism’ in those years ‘usually followed two distinct phases: the conversion from Christianity to unbelief or uncertainty […] and the move from unbelief to positive commitment to secularism.’ Arguably, a similar two-step exists today.

“I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

In Dawkinsian atheism, thoughts on agnostics are almost uniformly negative. While both Hitchens and Dawkins are noted for their scorn, even withering contempt, Hitchens’ was directed mainly at zealots and hypocrites. Dawkins, by contrast, targets ‘faith-heads’ and agnostics.

‘There is nothing wrong with being agnostic in cases where we lack evidence one way or the other,’ Dawkins at one point tries to comfort with a pat on the head, shortly before invoking the acronym PAP for what he says is Permanent Agnosticism in Principle in his book The God Delusion. But far from working with agnostics’ already manifold criticisms of religion or looking to shore up their common ground with ‘freethinkers and atheists,’ as Hitchens took pains to do, Dawkins can find only fault with this position, the scepticism of men such as Thomas Huxley: ‘In matters of the intellect follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration.’ At the same time, ‘do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable.’

According to Dawkins, Huxley ‘seems to have been ignoring the shading of probability‘ for whether God exists, even though the essay in question, Agnosticism (1889), invokes probability as a term and concept no fewer than three times. Still, Dawkins feels sufficiently confident about Huxley’s missteps to insist, ‘The existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other.’ ‘Either he exists or he doesn’t,’ he writes a fraction earlier. ‘It’s a scientific question.’

For Dawkins, all the same, agnosticism’s embrace of a similar unknown points not to its stringency or capaciousness, but to its ‘poverty.’ ‘I am agnostic,’ he later quips, ‘to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden.’ At such moments, the vast, considered history of agnosticism slips into caricature.

“The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief — call it what you will — than any book ever written.”
― Alan Alexander Milne