How and why Fascism promotes an unequal society—through propaganda and lies

In the second part of her essay on Fascism and India, Sonali Ranade examines the need for lies, myths and alternate facts to control the masses and perpetuate an unequal society to serve the elites

Swapan Dasgupta and the jacket of his book ‘Bharat Mata’
Swapan Dasgupta and the jacket of his book ‘Bharat Mata’
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Sonali Ranade

A German Jewish Philosopher, Max Horkheimer, observed that submission of truth to power lies at the heart of modernity. Every new idea, every innovation, is born as a lie to the prevailing truth. None of them would survive unless the prevailing power adjusts to accommodate their truth. This paradox illustrates the crucial role power plays in defining and sustaining truth, especially in the field of humanities. Indeed, in politics, Power is perhaps the only truth.

The first part of the essay can be read here: Why is Narendra Modi’s popularity immune to disasters?

Before we go on to discussing the role of lies in fascism, we need to distinguish between fascism and populism. Fascism is to dictatorship, what populism is to democracy. Populism, in many ways, is a post-fascist development, an adaptation of fascism to the needs of an electoral democracy.

When I talk of fascism, I am chiefly referring to populism, but using the theories that were designed in a fascist context, and which apply to both systems.

Fascists lie to capture power

“Since then, a struggle between the truth and the lie has been taking place. As always, this struggle will end victoriously for the truth.” : Adolf Hitler, 1941.

You know how that ended.

But that’s not unique to fascists. Everybody, including liberals, lies to capture power. What makes fascists lies unique is that that they lie in service of a larger truth, a higher morality, an exalted existence, that is experienced only if you truly believe in their epistemology. Not only are their lies, lies, but even the larger truth for which they lie, is a lie. Their fascist epistemology creates a new ontology for you, that you can live out in a new existential experience, above and beyond the constraints of narrow everyday reality.

Their lies not only provide you with a new epistemology, usually grounded in old refurbished myths, suitably burnished for modernity, but also an ecosystem in which this unreal world, is made real by other followers of the myth.

So fascist lies are not just lies. They are an alternate reality, ring fenced from actual reality, in which you can live as long as you wish, provided you don’t venture beyond the fence.

As Hannah Arendt says, “Fascists are never content to merely lie; they must transform their lie into a new reality, and they must persuade people to believe in the unreality they’ve created. And if you get people to do that, you can convince them to do anything.”

So, fascism takes the political lie to a whole new level of alternate epistemology, which creates a new ontology for a believer, that he/she need never transcend.

Note this is the exact same mechanism that was used to trap Shudras in their untouchability, and inferior caste status, according to Dr. B R Ambedkar. These mental Faraday Cages can be highly resilient against outside interference and disruption.

But of course, this alternate reality has a purpose. If the fascists can make you believe in their alternate reality, they can make you do anything. You become an unwitting zombie in their hands, willing to perpetuate any evil required; happily out of your own volition; as if that was your manifest destiny, not just duty. When lies, and myths, and alternate reality, are the only stuff in your product portfolio, banal truth embodied in everyday reality, human reason, and critical thinking, become the chief enemies of your epistemology.

Propaganda machine and unemployment data

You need to shield the intellectual field of your adherents from their own reason. This necessitates a vast propaganda machine that must spin and weave the banal and the profound, the causal and the random, into an elaborate yarn; an engaging discourse, that keeps the minds immersed within the alternate reality.

Vast energies, money, and enterprise, the latest in technology, is used to feed and maintain such propaganda networks. The music can never stop; for there is then the great danger of banal reality disrupting the exalted existence, waking up zombies, and shocking them out of unreality.

In order to keep followers insulated from reason, fascists adopt a language and idiom steeped in emotions, ecstasy and prejudice, carefully avoiding any argument grounded in banal facts. For this to work, existing data sets are discarded as false, and new data sets created as alternate truth. But use of facts is limited to the absolute minimum.

Instead, the language used for communication is heavily loaded with symbolism, emotional content, myths and fable, designed to manipulate the receipt’s emotions, rather than to cause him or her to think rationally about facts, logic, and outcomes.

"Totalitarianism in power does not just declare that unemployment does not exist, it bans the collection of unemployment statistics" : Hannah Arendt

Note this is exactly what Modi did when faced with unacceptably bad unemployment data. Rather than address the problem, the NSO survey was discarded, and a new data set was sought to be created, without a back series for comparison.

Hannah Arendt aptly captures the role of facts in fascist discourse. Facts being ugly, their discourse has to rely almost entirely on emotions, to keep the followers engaged and focused. Hence the outsized role that myths, emotions, and outright lies, must play in sustaining the fascist epistemology.

“You must believe me because I have the habit - it is the system of my life - of always and everywhere saying the truth.”: Benito Mussolini, 1924.

That’s the system in fascism. It has to be so because there isn’t much truth to sustain it otherwise. And yet, fascist discourse is very difficult to fight and/or disrupt. Liberals need to understand why, before they can fight fascism successfully within a democracy.

To obliterate the distinction between truth and falsehood, Fascism must resort to the world of myths where, by definition, a field exists that treats fact and myth on equal footing. Myth is an intellectual field, where allegory becomes fact, pedagogy becomes truth, and an imagination a verity. Myths are designed to illustrates truths that cannot be explained in everyday language.

Fascists have instead adapted myths, where lies and untruths can comfortably hide disguised fact and truth, and used to manipulate emotions. Ancient myths rooted in scriptures fit the bill to perfection. Fascists use them extensively in their discourse. Fascists like to ground their myths in the primordial unconscious that cannot be revealed by a reasoned analytic, but nevertheless manifests itself in determining our ontology, and the being of our being.

The role of fascist epistemology then is to reveal the strands of this primordial unconscious, and to construct a new political based on a fabricated truth, that is revealed only to those who are woke enough to receive it.

Swapan Dasgupta’s Bharat Mata & Pinio Saldago

It is like Swapan Dasgupta’s awakening of the Bharat Mata; where you get an empty pandora’s box, that you can fill with any myth or fiction, to make the case you wish to. If you don’t get it, or disagree with the author, it is simply because your capacity to grasp what your unconscious throws at you, is deficient.

So fascist epistemology is available only to those woke to it. In this manner, the core of fascist epistemology is safely tucked away, above and beyond the scrutiny of reason.

The technique is time tested through history by jealous priesthoods. If you don’t believe their myths, it is simply because you are not ready for truth sublime. A lot more diligent meditation, and generous contribution to the priest’s well-being, is necessary before you are ready.

In time you learn to pretend, even if doubt gnaws at the edges. Habit then squelches doubt and cements the cracks in your faith.

A Brazilian fascist leader, Pinio Saldago, explained this phenomenon best. Fascist dredging of the nation’s collective unconscious was like, “… Bringing from the bottom of autochthonous energies the mysterious poem that reveals itself in the unity of the wild theogony, and even in the identity of the vocabulary, roots of languages also in the nascent state.”

If only Swapan Dasgupta hadn’t neglected to read his Pinio Saldago, his transition from sublime libertarianism to turgid statism, might have been a little less abrupt and rasping.

Alfred Rosenberg explained fascist reconstruction of reality thus:

“The logical part of this entire truth is the manipulation of the tools of understanding and reason, as represented by the critique of perception. The intuitive part of the whole truth is revealed in art, fairy tales, and religious mythos.”

We may summarise thus:

1. Fascist truth is grounded deep in one’s soul, the unconscious, whence it is revealed to the truly woke; by true faith and allegiance to its autochthonous being.

2. Fascist truth is above and beyond the scrutiny of reason. It is eternal, rooted at the very center of our being, manifest in us, but not something we can take out and examine in the light of reason.

3. The truth is not individual but collective. It doesn’t make itself obvious to self, but you can observe it as it manifests itself in others. The more true, believing autochthons you are, the more manifest and obvious it becomes.

This collective nature of the truth manifests itself only in a truly autochthonous herd, and enables the individual to set aside her doubts, and go with the herd. You may have noticed how autochthonous-origin becomes inconspicuously central to the ability to experience the sublime truth.

It is your umbilical cord to Bharat Mata. Absent the chord, and the truth can elude you. You then become an extraneous element in the complex matrix that needs purging at the earliest opportunity; isolation and marginalisation, meanwhile.

That also explains the anxiety to deny intrusion of Aryans from the Arctic Circle, as claimed by Bal Gangadhar Tilak. And substitute that fantastic myth with another of autochthonous Aryans, in a curious time warp that adds a couple of thousand years of inexplicable fascist history, to the general history of India; now in the making, in RSS think tanks.

Unless you are an autochthon, the Bharat Mata’s umbilical cord doesn’t work. And if you grant it to yourself by virtue of migration, then there are other equally legitimate claimants. That path in history is as full of cawing crows, as was CAA.

What is the ultimate purpose of this elaborate myth-making? Why the desperate need to build such complex belief system and mythologies, and to painstakingly sell them to the gullible, at enormous expense to the exchequer?

The roots of such need lie at the heart of what fascist ideologues believe to be the purpose of life: glory of the tribe and creation of a nation of ubermensch.

Of course, modernity precludes the use of metaphors of tribalism but that’s what they are. They have been simply dressed up by promoting tribalism to nationalism. So here is what nationalists seek: the glory in an exalted nation of ubermensch. As we shall see, ubermensch are central to fascist dogma. The quest for ubermensch sets up the economic incentives that drive the fascist enterprise without being visible.

Hitler on control of leadership over masses

The general goal of all fascist ideology is to facilitate control of the leadership over masses. This is sought to be achieved by near total identification of the individual with the collective identity of the nation, to the point where the individual is all but dissolved, and ceases to exist.

Adolf Hitler explained this total identification of the individual with the nation best. In his words: "There will no longer exist any individual arbitrary will, nor realms in which the individual belongs to himself. The time of happiness as a private matter is over."

As you can see, there is absolutely no ambiguity. The aim is to obliterate the individual will and harness it to the purpose of the State. Spooks everywhere are steeped in such culture, as are statist liberals like Samuel Huntington.

How can this goal be achieved? Adolf Hitler was kind enough to explain the phenomenon to his minions. His words: "By the skilful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.”

If you have any doubts, I refer you to Vikram Sood’s “The Ultimate Goal” where he discusses how spooks craft myths and narratives for their masters, to control our minds. Immerse the people in matrix created with appropriate propaganda, that provides a never-ending script, preferably a one-sided Mobius strip, with that one twist that makes it never ending, and you have the perfect automaton, ever ready to do your bidding as if it were his or her own will.

Every difficulty, every disaster will be endured as long as you can keep the masses mentally yoked to your propaganda script. "The art of leadership ... consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention.”

Adolf Hitler surrounded by an adoring crowd (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Adolf Hitler surrounded by an adoring crowd (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

As Adolf Hitler explains in his own words, the art of leading such a mass of people plugged into a matrix, and to keep them so plugged in forever, is very simple.

Define an enemy. Make him the root cause of all evil in this world. Portray him as one that creates misery for you, and threatens your very existence. Make his total elimination the goal of your existence, that yields ultimate salvation, and don’t let the script wander ever. Keep it focused on that one enemy.

If you stand back a little, and look at the phenomenon from a distant perspective, you can see the design is already in motion in India, and the script is already playing. Only its intensity needs to be turned up by more amplification.

Adolf Hitler found his amplifier in the genius of Joseph Goebbels, who understood modern technology, then available as the ubiquitous radio. Joseph Goebbels used 24/7 radio broadcasts to take Hitler’s thoughts to the masses, wherever they were. Just as social media and WhatsApp do for us.

Joseph Goebbels explained his art in his own words: “If you tell a lie big enough, and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

His addition to Fuhrer’s deep thoughts on how to immerse the masses in the matrix, was the realisation that you not only have to keep people hooked to your script, but also suppress all noise caused by dissent. Round up the dissenters using a Gestapo, and the zombies cannot be yanked out of the immersive matrix. The truth is the greatest enemy of your state.

Adolf Hitler with Joseph Goebbels (Photo by ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Adolf Hitler with Joseph Goebbels (Photo by ullstein bild via Getty Images)

This then is the heart of the fascist machine that creates zombies from free citizens using immersive propaganda as an all-pervasive script to enslave minds.

The last six years in India should leave no doubts about the efficacy of the strategy in keeping people hooked, and adding progressively to the stock of such gullible sheep.

An unequal society serves elites well

But why is all this elaborate machinery of the Matrix necessary for? Why do fascists need it all? The answer is provided in by the socio-economic condition of a people, and its basic composition in terms of primary identities. As also about your assumptions of the future.

Assume you have a limited cake, that will not grow as fast as the sheep increase in numbers. Your per capita GDP has stagnated for decades while others have raced ahead. What can the elites do to preserve their status, as close to those of elites in our other nations as possible?

One strategy is to build an unequal society, that is extractive of resources from the bottom half of the income pyramid, and transfers the same to those at the top. Such a strategy creates an extractive society that impoverishes the gullible sheep and enriches the elites.

Low wages, and low taxes for the rich, are enough for the purpose. But in India we supplement this strategy with an overvalued currency, that stealth taxes labour intensive industry and transfers capital to capital intensive industry, which in turn is ring fenced from competition from abroad via high tariff walls.

Malnourished Indian children (Photo Courtesy: Social Media/Youth Ki Awaaz) 
Malnourished Indian children (Photo Courtesy: Social Media/Youth Ki Awaaz) 

We restrict upward mobility by making education expensive, and limited. We create barriers to mixing classes with caste. Even love jihad. The innumerable strategies to keep the gullible sheep in their pens are so deeply embedded in society, that we are not even aware if they exist.

Broadly speaking, the more unequal the distribution of goods and services in a society, the more repressive a state you need, in order to contain discontent among the denied. Fascism provides the ideal tool to enslave the gullible sheep to whatever task you set before them, by fusing their individuality into that of the State. A total unison, where your soul joins that of Bharat Mata, dissolving whatever remains of you.

Here is Adolf Hitler explaining in his own words, why this strategy works so well. "How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think." Any dissent from malcontents can be easily dealt with according to the Fuhrer. "The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence."

Fascist violence works best from below, using black or brown shirts, with appropriate dog whistles from the top, supplemented by selective application of law to protect militias in mufti.

The Fuhrer brooks no exceptions. "This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences, and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful, and unrelenting harshness.” And just in case you are obtuse, and still don’t get it, the Fuhrer has a solution for that as well: "Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live.”

As you can see, fascism is a well thought out system to sustain harsh inequality, be it racial, caste, economic, or social, for the benefit of the elites. It has been applied in South Africa to maintain racial inequality, it was used in the US to maintain slavery, it is in use in many countries in South America to suppress Aztec autochthons, and to maintain an exploitative and extractive society for benefits of those who conquered native lands, and still view the natives as an unwanted intrusion of reality.

In India it has managed to sustain caste for 3500 years, 1500 years after the world gave it up. So much so that, in all of these 3500 years the only subaltern voices you hear today are those of Jyotirao Govindrao Phule and Dr B R Ambedkar, both denounced as heretics and traitors, at various points in our history.

Communists have used fascist ideologies as much as right wing despots. The Left is no more innocent of fascism as the Right. In both cases, two things prompt the use of fascism. Firstly, an admission of defeat by elites who recognise that they cannot compete globally for a better status, and must therefore enslave and deprive a section of their own people, in order to better their lives. This is the Nietzschean imperative for an elite to exist.

That is why communists turned to fascism in the later stage of communism when the state failed to sustain prosperity due the dead weight of central planning.

Secondly, an easy way of creating an internal enemy who can be vilified and blamed for failure, must be ready to hand. Once these two conditions are met, fascism provides a readymade, and complete apparatus, to build an extractive society for the benefit of elites. Friedrich Nietzsche was so right. No elite can exist without some sort of slavery to provide them with necessities.

Fascism then is one such sort of Nietzschean slavery into which we have launched our Bharat Mata.

All is not lost though; and that is the essential point to grasp.

Fascism is based on a grand lie, sustained by more lies. Even the grand lie is for a bigger lie for fascists have never believed in God. That is its Achilles heel by which a liberal democracy can defeat it and redeem itself.

That is its Achilles heel by which a liberal democracy can defeat it and redeem itself.

[To be concluded.]

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Published: 27 Dec 2020, 3:00 PM