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The Age of Digital Fascism

An essay of mine just published in the Los Angeles Review of Books asks whether the election of Donald Trump augurs the arrival of American fascism — a question I treat more skeptically than not. (Read the piece here.) Writing it, though, reminded me of a piece I wrote in 2003 in which I wrestled with similar questions (then triggered by the mendacious campaign to win public support for the invasion of Iraq) and posited the emergence of something I called digital fascism, in which modern western democracy becomes vulnerable to a form of authoritarian seduction premised on image over substance, celebrity over fitness for office, emotion over rationality. “These have become the guiding aesthetic principles of our evolving screen age,” I wrote, “in which an unscrupulous political machine can, with alarming ease, foster indifference or even tacit acceptance of egregious governmental misdeeds”.

The earlier piece was never published, because the British magazine for which it was written folded between the time it was commissioned and the prospective publication date. The whole piece follows below.

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How crazy is Donald Trump?

Donald Trump may be winning the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but to judge by his campaign rally in California on Thursday night – the first I’ve attended — he’s also losing it. As in, coming apart at the seams. Here’s why: obsessed as he is with coming out on top, with the primaries he’s won and the polls putting him ahead in the contests to come, the Donald can’t help sounding like a man who doesn’t want to be running at all.

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