WAR CHRONICLES Healing the wounds from the war on life​

The war on diversity:
The rise of neofascism


Across the Western world and beyond, the extreme right is gaining ground. Neofascism is conquering governments, media, corporate leadership and the attention of the masses. Increasingly divided societies and lacking visibility for overcoming today’s multiple existential crises have become a fertile ground of this pervasive modern ideology. How can communicators debunk neofascist narratives and create spaces in which we can move beyond today’s division lines? This article explores how the nexus between neofascist ideology, and the tech industry has become a popular redemption promise in times of collapse. Beyond destructive perspectives, we will draw regenerative communication pathways for contemporary narratives, aesthetics, and conversations.

These days, many have the impression that history is repeating itself. One hundred years ago, fascists started taking over governments. We know it has resulted in concentration camps and the greatest death toll in war history. Now that human civilization is at the brink of extinction, we may want to ask how much of Nazi ideology has survived in society and in corporate leadership. After all, may we see the final logic of Hitlers’ “total war” turning against life on Earth itself - this time through fossil Greenhouse Gases? While media portrays the rise of the far-right sometimes as surprising news, research has shown that far-right values and ideas have remained rather constant in society over the last decades. There has also been a historic corporate continuity of Nazi scientists and Nazi science in post-war industries, particularly military, space, pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

"Now that human civilization is at the brink of extinction, we may want to ask how much of Nazi ideology has survived in society and in corporate leadership."

Compared to the last century, the context today is similarly turbulent. Unprecedented levels of biodiversity loss, global warming, social inequality, inflation, and civilizational diseases count among the multiple crises we are facing. Against that background, neofascist narratives and “solutions” seem to be an appealing redemption promise. Indeed, this ideology seems to give orientation and a feeling of belonging at a time of hyperindividualism, perceived decline and the failure of metanarratives (neoliberalism, communism etc.). Traditional explanations of fascism have respectively emphasized the role of capitalism, the rejection of modernity or patriarchy. While they may hold part of the truth, it seems that fascism is a radically modern phenomenon at a highly technological era.

Today's tech industry aesthetics strongly resemble the Italian futurists, which paved the way to fascism

The traumatic soil of (neo)fascism

If we are to overcome fascism, we need to look at the root causes. Supposedly rational solutions fail for a phenomenon that is profoundly emotional. The supposedly rationalistic Nazi logic, who understood themselves as superior race, may have shown its clearest face in the human experiments in concentration camps. Science separated the humans as “objects of analysis” from the scientific “observer” justifying the most abominable medical and chemical experiments in the name of progress for the Arian race. This example shows that these ideologies are an extreme alientation from life, cultivate the absence of empathy and the incapacity to be conscious about the own way of looking at the world.

When we look at Umberto Eco’s 14 features of fascism from a regenerative perspective, we could see that (neo)fascisms are unthinkable outside the longer-lasting destruction of mother nature. Their emergence is unthinkable outside highly industrial contexts. (Neo)fascism could be seen as an extreme collective suffering from the spiritual orphanage and great separation from aliveness and the nature within. We may conceive fascism as a “natural” fear response at a time of collapse, with a great role of past individual and collective trauma.

Studies have shown that far-right ideology is often passed to the next generations. Furthermore, neofascism today seems to be the most successful in those countries where there is big, unresolved historical trauma. Whether France, Italy or the US, the colonial heritage is visible until this very day in the form of systemic racism, neocolonial structures, up to the legitimation of ecocide in the name of progress. Now and then, women, LGBTIQ, black people, migrants, disabled people and people with a different opinion or worldview are the target of this ideology.

If we agree that past and current trauma is a key factor in making (neo)facism possible, we need to understand how it has manifested in culture, society and the economy. Which fascist heritage is present until today?

When we compare the aesthetics and narratives of fascists and Nazis from last century with today’s world, there are some blatant similarities. Particularly, there is great resemblance between the ideas of the Italian futurists and today’s tech industries, which like to call themselves futurists as well. Both movements emphasise the role of acceleration, machines and objects. We find common traits including impoverished monocultures of thinking and being (e.g. fear of difference and hate against diversity etc.), a militaristic-technological worldview seeing life as a struggle (e.g. fascist Italian futurists last century and today’s advocates of longterminism, singularity, technodeterminism and technological futurism), a permanent “action fetish” (“solutionism”), dehumanization and denaturalization (of people and nature), as well as dark, minimalistic, and functional aesthetics (e.g. Nazi uniforms back then, Elon Musk and his brands, among others, today). At the core, they all share an extreme and violent alienation from inner trauma and from being part of nature.

Within the context of an impoverishing attention economy dominated by neofascist-like aesthetics and narratives: which pathways for healing and regeneration can communications cultivate from that toxic ground?

Joseph Stella's Brooklin Bridge represents the ideas of the Italian futurists without place for humans and nature

Communication pathways

- Looking behind neofascist aesthetics, narratives and stories by shining light on the underlying fear and aggression with compassion.

- Starting (local) conversations on what it means to live in safe and welcoming environments and communities that can embrace past traumas.

- Reframing neofascist narratives and aesthetics as toxic, destructive and ugly, while offering own perspectives on beauty, a meaningful and thriving life etc.

- confronting neofascist narrative reproducers with the impact of their thinking by rehumanizing and renaturalising – showing the face of people and nature being destroyed.

- attracting attention of people adherent to neofascist narratives and aesthetics towards nature, health, belonging etc.

- other ways that promote radical honesty, diversity, inclusion and love

17 Agust 2023
By Jean-Philippe

Reading time
5 mins