Jun 092013
 

I’m sure everyone who reads this site is familiar with Godwin’s Law, but just to refresh the memories of those who might be a little bewildered with the modern world, let me explain.  Godwin’s Law states that the longer an internet discussion goes on, the more likely it is that someone will be called a Nazi or compared to Hitler.

That’s why those of us who labour at the coalface of the interwebs are studiously careful to avoid Godwinising, because  in the normal course of things, to do so is to lose the argument there and then.  However, there’s a consequence to Godwin’s Law, which is this: sometimes, people really are behaving like Nazis.  Sometimes, it’s right to point out fascist characteristics in things people do, without fear of being Godwinned and I think such a situation has arisen in recent weeks.

I’ll explain in a moment what I’m talking about but another bit of exposition is necessary first.

How do you study a phenomenon, such as, for instance, the behaviour of a new aeroplane wing design?  Simple: you put it in a wind tunnel and observe what happens.  This is better than crashing planes and killing people.

How do you measure the spread of a deadly virus?  Do you let it loose in the population and see how it gets on?  No.  You grow it in a Petrie dish and see how fast it propagates.  You develop mathematical models and you predict where it will go.

How do you decide if a skyscraper will fall down in an earthquake?  Do you build it and see what happens?  No.  You construct a scale replica and you shake the hell out of it.

These are all much safer ways to approach an analysis than to wait for the full-scale disaster because they do no harm.  This is what experimental science loves: a contained environment where individual characteristics can be isolated and studied.

Now, you might be aware that a story emerged in the local Limerick papers recently concerning a dog run over by a van.  Normal fare for a small provincial organ but hardly anything that need derail the G8 summit.   It was a nasty enough little article, based on a letter from a woman who saw nothing  but who alleged that somebody else did.  The letter claimed that drunken students from the University of Limerick had deliberately enticed a little dog to follow a ball in front of a van, resulting in its death.

As a result, somebody set up a Facebook campaign entitled Petition to expel the UL students who lured a dog to its death.  Despite a complete absence of evidence for any malicious intent, there are now something in the order of 14,500 people endorsing this page, many of them howling for blood.

It was very helpful of them to set up this Facebook page, where intolerance can be studied, just as a wing in a wind tunnel or a queen in an ant farm, without doing too much damage.

The comments include incitement to murder, and it seems that no amount of reasonable argument is acceptable to those who set up the petition.  Several people who disagreed with them have received temporary bans from Facebook, after complaints from the people behind the page, some of whom seem to have murky connections and some of whom appear to be straightforward idiots.

I reposted something from one of the more vocal contributors, and last night, I was surprised to see that it had also been deleted  following a complaint, so let me put it up here again, for the record.   The contributor, Gill Ham, appears to be focussed mostly on Muslims, dogs and Union Jacks.

Gill Ham

 

This individual seems to have no connection at all with Limerick, and yet is probably the most active participant in the page.

I decided to investigate what fascistic tendencies an internet page could display and to see if this one might tick many of the boxes.  Clearly it won’t tick them all, since the people who set up this page don’t govern a country or own a military, luckily for the rest of us, but this isn’t about calling people fascists.  It’s about seeing what tendencies they share in common.  This is about determining how fascistic tendencies manifest themselves in the small things and how people can be duped into believing any old nonsense.

Or to put it another way, this is about seeing how easy it is to take advantage of people’s stupidity and to rouse up a mob, based on nothing but supposition.

Fascism has its origins in stupidity and in bullying.  Most of those commenting in support of the Facebook campaign are plain, old-fashioned stupid, while a small number are downright sinister and using this little non-story as practice for the bigger things.

Lawrence Britt has isolated certain characteristics, some of which seem to me to be present in the Facebook campaign.  It’s surprising how the human mind works when it sets its face against logic.

Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia.

In this case, substitute nationalism with extreme animal fetishism.Instead of flags, substitute pictures of cats and dogs.

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.”

On this Facebook page, people routinely call for the murder of the unidentified students who have been convicted of  nothing.001

Controlled Mass Media

In this laboratory case, control of the media is limited to silencing critics by accusing them of abuse.

Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause

In this case, almost all commenters are willing to overlook human rights and punish people without trial. Some are willing to see them murdered.

Where is this going?  Am I calling the people who run this campaign fascists?

Of course not, but I have no doubt that they’ll see it that way.  As the sort  who are prepared to condemn people on the basis of no evidence, I doubt very much they’d be able to comprehend the point I’m making here.

But for the rest of us, the point is fairly simple.  These stupid people aren’t fascists, but they do display the characteristics that make fascism possible in the wider sphere.  An uncritical belief in demagoguery, a willingness to suspend human rights, a fanatical adherence to a cause, gross intolerance of conflicting viewpoints and a willingness to silence dissenting opinion.

Not fascists, but they do provide a good ant farm for studying how it begins.

Microfascism.  Now with added touchy-feeliness.

_______________

Related:

How easy it is to set up a lynch-mob.

Critical thinking

  14 Responses to “Microfascism — The Tyranny of the Stupid”

Comments (14)
  1.  

    Well Bock I was going to put this comment under your last article but it may fit better here in an ironic kind of way. Last week in France a member of the extreme left anti fascist group Action Antifasciste Paris-Banlieu was killed by a skinhead on the street in broad daylight. He didn’t die straight away but never regained conciousness and died the next day. The press kicked into action and quickly gave a profile of this perfect student A militant calm and non provocative. The French president commented on the incident on a trip to Japan and the Priminister has said that the skinhead groups on the far right should and will be broken up ( Fair enough).
    The reality though is a little different, turns out that the 19yr old kid was walking down the street with four of his friends and spotted two skinheads and a girl going in to a store and goaded and baited them. They followed the skinheads inside the store and continued to harasse them to the point that the skinheads asked the store security for help which was given and they asked the kid and his friends to leave. The kid and his friends waited outside for the skinheads for 15mins at which point the skinheads called two friends and then a fight in the street ensued. The poor kid got hit on the face a few times and fell and hit his head.
    The blame for this poor kids death has been squarely blamed on everybody right of center in France in particular the FN front National also the Anti Gay Marriage Loby. All objectivity has gone out the window.
    The relevance to your article is I hope you can see the suspension of factual evidence to support and drive an argument and see how many people you can amass. They don’t need convincing because they will probably be sympathetic to the cause anyway.
    I hope you find this pertinent!

  2.  

    I can absolutely see the logic of your argument. He forced the skinheads to kill him.

  3.  

    Bock’s analysis of that Facebook site was detailed and hardhitting. Rob’s comments on the fight that led to the death of a young antifascist campaigner in France is off-topic. Maybe it and the media reporting on it could form the basis of another post.

    This new post stems from how a Limerick newspaper carried a reader’s letter (facts unchecked) and an article based on it to circulate a false story about students getting a hapless dog killed – and the establishment of a Facebook site by people who believed the story and have campaigned in a verbal bootstamping manner against innocent students.

    Has there been a history of bad feeling by residents of a certain area in Limerick towards the University?

  4.  

    I think the common thread here is the power of and abuse by the media to drum up a story in a particular way,
    There is no continuity in most of the media as to being left centre or right, it all about selling the newspaper, tv channel etc.
    We have all seen the screaming headlines beginning with
    the words SCUM, DIRTBAG etc in relation to a particular person/situation, a week later the same headline could read TRAGIC, HEARTBROKEN regarding to an almost identical situation.
    For centuries opinion has been formed by the strnegth of armies or religous beliefs, now it is the turn of the Media Moguls. and they may very well be the most insidious and damaging of all.
    The real question is does the media form and lead public opinion.
    Or do the public form and lead media opinion.

  5.  

    Mark — There are no moguls involved in that Facebook campaign. It’s driven by fanatics.

    Benno — It seems fairly clear that much of this is motivated by personal animosity.

  6.  

    And is not the owner/major shareholders of facebook not one of the most powerful media moguls in the world today??
    Was not the arab spring driven by the interaction that was possible on facebook.
    I dont want to get off topic and muddy the waters. but even our major entertainment programmes are now based on an audience baying for the blood of contestants in programmes like x factor and BGT.
    There was a time when we looked at the Germans with a mixture of pity and amusement that they could have been conned and led by a sociopath like Hitler.
    Today any country in Europe is ripe for another hitler to rise to power.

  7.  

    Fair enough you didn’t get my point, I was talking about the manipulation of the press finding imaginary heros and saints to serve their own agendas! the lynch mob in this case are aiming at the Right in general as opposed to arseholes dressing up in Fascist and Antifascist gangs.
    It’s your ball though!

  8.  

    Rob, I’m not following you. What do you mean it’s my ball?

  9.  

    I mean it’s your show, I was referring to the sarcasm in your answer above (Unless I am way off the mark). I wasn’t defending the Skinheads I was taking issue with painting of the dead kid as an innocent victim!

  10.  

    I’m not familiar with the case, but you seem to be saying that he gave the skinheads no choice but to kill him.

  11.  

    I don’t want to labour the point but no I didn’t say that and I am not saying he deserved to die! The only point I was trying to make was that a fight between opposing idiots which ended in death beatified the stupid kid that died. Doesn’t matter anyway dude I didn’t express myself properly I just thought it was ironic that it was the antifascists that were displaying the fascist tendencies!

  12.  

    In this case, substitute nationalism with extremely skewed logic.Instead of flags, substitute pictures of art house actors and musicians.

  13.  

    So a guy went out of his way to provoke a few skinheads to aggression and gets killed? I’d call that a well deserved Darwin Award.

  14.  

    Your stupid fascist is always ready to pounce, there’s more of it about than
    most sane people realize.

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