I have been struck by news of late demonstrating what I have called “medical fascism.” The core of fascism, as I am coming to see it, is a collective conviction combined with intolerance of divergent views. Benito Mussolini was the stated author of The Doctrine of Fascism, co-written with Giovanni Gentile, a fascist philosopher. From the copy published by the World Future Fund, allegedly copied directly from an official Fascist government publication of 1935, Fascism Doctrine and Institutions, by Benito Mussolini [my emphasis]
A party governing a nation “totalitarianly” is a new departure in history. There are no points of reference nor of comparison. From beneath the ruins of liberal, socialist, and democratic doctrines, Fascism extracts those elements which are still vital. It preserves what may be described as “the acquired facts” of history; it rejects all else. That is to say, it rejects the idea of a doctrine suited to all times and to all people. Granted that the XIXth century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the XXth century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the ” right “, a Fascist century. If the XIXth century was the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism) we are free to believe that this is the “collective” century, and therefore the century of the State.
However, this source has from Fascism Doctrine and Institutions:
. . . this will be a century of authority. [no mention of the “right.”]
And an “official translation” published in the Political Quarterly, apparently 1933, has:
. . . this will be a century of authority, a century of the left, a century of Fascism.
Which is it, the “left” or the “right”?
My answer at this point is that fascism is opportunistically left or right, it is both and neither, it may be populist, thus it may even be “democratic” by some definitions (particularly majoritarian or strongest-faction forms of democracy), but key is that it is always authoritarian, intolerant of dissent, willing to use coercive power to enforce its vision of “truth” and “morality,” and Mussolini openly endorsed this.
Fascism may then be racist in some contexts, and anti-racist in others.
And it may be apparently skeptical in one context and pseudoskeptical, proclaiming the truth of “science” vs. “pseudoscience,” in another.
(The scientific method does not generate certainty, only, at best, probability, and there are many situations where “scientific consensus,” i.e., the apparent consensus of experts, was not formed through diligent application of scientific methods, but rather politically and socially; this “collective view” being enforced, with deviation sanctioned.
That is scientific fascism, pretending to “collective knowledge,” with all else being termed, not skepticism, but “denialism.”
The common thread in fascism is certainty, where the truth of some proposition is not to be denied, where it is not allowed under penalty of the strongest opprobrium or worse.
As well, movements and positions create their opposites that are just as convinced and certain and willing to censure and condemn opposing opinions.
I have recently seen many stories in the media about what might be called “anti-vaxx hysteria.” Those who suggest that there may be some risks or negative consequences from vaccination are being called “murderers.”
And then some anti-vaxxers are calling doctors who support vaccination the same.
Both movements are medical fascism, the “pro-vaccine” position commonly refusing to allow any possible critique of vaccination, and the anti-vaxx position claiming that all support for vaccination is coming from Big Pharma shills, with government in their pocket, uncaring about continued study of complications and individual rights.
So from the Guardian, New York county bans unvaccinated children from public spaces amid measles outbreak.
It is the latest region of the US to take drastic steps to counter the virus, with the spike in measles cases leading to concerns that anti-vaccine parents may be putting their children at risk. . . .
The state of emergency in Rockland county, which comes into effect at midnight on Tuesday, bars anyone under 18 who is not vaccinated against measles from public places for 30 days. . . .
. . . the county had traced the outbreak to seven “unvaccinated travelers” who had visited Rockland in 2018. The county has had 48 cases of measles in 2019 alone, according to a spokesman.
From 1 January to 21 March of this year 314 cases of measles were confirmed in 15 different states, according to the CDC. There were 372 cases in 2018, more than triple the number the previous year. The rise has been linked to “anti-vaxxers”, activists who claim, incorrectly but loudly, that vaccines can have negative effects.
Can vaccines have negative effects? The Guardian states as if it were fact that this is “incorrect,” yet that extreme position is preposterous.
The issue is not the existence of negative effects, but the rate. I had a friend die from polio when his daughter was given Sabin oral vaccine in about 1978 or so. By effectively claiming that anti-vaxxers are merely “loud,” and essentially liars and murderers — and I have seen that — authorities are taking a fascist approach to collective welfare, even if they are “right,” i.e., that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the harms.
That denial of any value to the “other side” is typical of fascist propaganda. I had all my children vaccinated and was vaccinated as appropriate for travel when I went to China and Ethiopia to adopt. But I chose to do that. If someone had told me that it was required or else I’d be charged with a criminal offense, I might reconsider! If it is necessary to enforce good sense with criminal penalties, maybe it is not good sense!
And in the other direction, but also from the Guardian:
When the naturopath Elias Kass testified before a Washington state senate committee on 20 February with a baby on his chest and a pacifier in his hand, he knew that his arguments would be unpopular with the anti-vaccine activists in the room. Amid a measles outbreak that has infected 66 people so far, legislators were considering a bill to eliminate personal and philosophical exemptions for childhood vaccinations, and Kass was one of several practitioners to speak in support of the measure.
It astonishes me that good people support fascism, but it happens. I’m sure that Kass is sincere, but he is encouraging removing the right of choice over health care decisions from parents, instead assigning it to the state. Yet in a mature society, he would have the right to express his opinion without the kind of harassment he encountered.
Kass faced some anger in the hallway after the hearing, he said, with one person calling him “a disgusting liar”. But it wasn’t until several hours later that “the shit hit the fan”. That’s when Kass realized that his Facebook page was being flooded with one-star reviews calling him everything from a “disgrace” and a “pedophile” to a “Nazi pharma shill” and “scumbag shilling for infanticide”.
Now, the comparison here may be unfair. A social movement like anti-vaxx has no direct control over what “supporters” do. And I have seen impersonation trolling, where someone pretends the opposite of their own position, with extreme expression, intending to discredit those of that view as fanatics. (I.e., there is no proof that those harassers were actually anti-vaxxers. But there may be anti-vaxx organizers that may have responsibility, I have not investigated this.)
Impersonation can work because people often don’t read carefully and don’t realize that anonymous comments on the web are just that: anonymous, and not to be trusted ever.
(Edits on RationalWiki and Wikipedia, appearing to be from me, aren’t — or in the case of RatWiki, the vast majority are not. I don’t vandalize, I don’t spam, and I don’t harass and make legal threats with wiki edits. I might by certified mail.)
Yet structures have been created where anonymous positions can dominate. Wikipedia is a clear example, in fact. When it works, it’s great, but it can fail spectacularly.
The enemies of humanity here are two old allies: contempt and hatred.
Both poison human freedom, and “antifascism” can be just as full of contempt and hatred as “fascism.”
The vaccine skeptics, I’ll call them, point to an alleged lack of adequate testing of vaccines, claiming that drug companies were given exemptions in the public interest, and that kind of story has been all too common in the history of science and public health.
When dietary guidelines blaming dietary fat for heart disease were adopted and promoted, it was known that the science was not adequate to establish that as medical fact, but it seemed likely and we couldn’t wait, millions could die!
We did not actually know that making those recommendations would save lives, overall, and from what I’ve seen, so far, it seems quite possible that, instead, there were millions of premature deaths. Bad Science can do a lot of harm!
(Murderers? No, not unless they knew, or clearly should have known. But where and when do we become responsible for ignorance?)
How can we both protect public health and act to avoid harm? Any time millions of people are subjected to a medical procedure, there is risk of harm, the claim of “harmless” was crazy — yet there it was, in a major newspaper, as if fact.
It’s obvious to me that we need more research, and we need ongoing monitoring of all major health programs. Who is going to pay for this? We have a system that expects drug companies to do the research, and a public that then often blames them for being greedy. But we set that up — or relied on it and allow it to continue! It is clear that we need to fund research, but we don’t necessarily have trustworthy institutions to manage this. The nonprofits have themselves been corrupted — or appear to have been corrupted — by corporate support. We need to directly support and supervise collective institutions, or at least set up and fund watchdogs.
Instead, our habit is to blame others, rather than taking responsibility, by recognizing what is missing, and supplying it.
To declare an antifascist manifesto here, the future belongs to collective freedom, that creates cooperation and non-coercive, voluntary coordination.