The Invitation to Fascism



In the super-industry of entertainment, even in preaching with apparently libertarian or anti-authoritarian intentions, the invitation to fascism resists latent and prevalent.

There are “fascist” elements on social media. It is not exactly fascism, just as fascism was not exactly Bonapartism and Bonapartism was not strictly Caesarism – but, in some abstruse and violent way, poisoned arrows coming directly from fascism pierce the eyes of the present. It is not difficult to see that the torches of the far-right nocturnal rituals calling for the closure of the Federal Supreme Court in Brasília burn the same fire as the Marchas das Torchas (Fackelzug) with which the Nazis commemorated Hitler's appointment as Chancellor of Germany in 1933.

The Nazi torches, also present in the racist manifestations of Ku Klux Klan, spread to set fire to forests in Brazil. The flames are the same. In short, although the fascism that is there is not exactly the historical fascism of the first half of the XNUMXth century, there are indeed fascist elements growing among us, especially in the social networks of the braba right.

In part, at least in part, the explanation for this can be found in the communicational environment set in motion by the entertainment super-industry and by the digital media conglomerates, which globally monopolize Internet businesses. This industry does not explicitly promote fascism, it is true. On the contrary, the official voices that represent it claim to be against all forms of authoritarianism and in favor of freedoms. However, their communication patterns do not excel in rational argument and do not invite critical reflection. Instead, they prefer sentimental appeals and libidinal ties, in such a way that, even where there are no apparent signs of fascist discourses, communication patterns invite the fascination of authoritarian solutions. As in fascism.

The problem does not reside so much in the explicit expressions of intolerance, considered politically incorrect by the standards of the industry, but in the communication standards engendered by it, even when the cause is apparently good (alerts against global warming, for example), fair (dissemination of agendas against inequality and hunger) or beautiful (men and women considered beautiful and attractive people mobilized in defense of the Amazon). There too, in the campaigns of marketing “of good” (always with an advertising bias, which massify Slogans uncritically), the modus operandi of communication does not activate thought, but sensations or, even more, a melodramatic sentimentality.

The formula of melodrama, as has been known since Goebbels, predisposes to childish simplifications from which not directly fascism emerges, but a chain of identifications that leans more towards ultra-right solutions than towards the rational equations of politics oriented towards human rights . It should come as no surprise that politics, on social media, tend to be considered “boring”, while advertising with a melodramatic profile is considered exciting and fun. Therefore, the task of making politics exciting, in line with propaganda, in total symbiosis with propaganda, would only be possible within the formula of engaging the masses and, in short, of depoliticizing politics.

So it is. Even in preaching apparently libertarian or anti-authoritarian intentions, the invitation to fascism resists latent and prevalent. It is enough to observe that the masses of the digital age, housed in the bubbles of fanaticism, have in advertising the primordial source of truth. They behave as if they were looking for leaders and idols for everything, including positions that, in theory, tend to deny idolatries. Not infrequently, the masses bend to veneration of some double of the primordial father, as Freud diagnosed in Group psychology and analysis of the egoOf 1921.

Freud maintained that libidinal bonds are characterized by the refusal of reason, of factual judgment and of any principle of reality. Not by chance, the inhabitants of the extreme right bubbles of our time celebrate violent prophecies, wrapped up in the apology of state authoritarianism. As the mass that they are, they go on wanting to be tyrannized, or, as Freud would say, they go on wanting to be dominated “with unrestricted force”, with “extreme eagerness for authority” and “thirst for submission”.[I] Burning in the tacky hearts of the masses is the desire to surrender to lords of flesh and blood – or of silicon, whatever.

In 1951, Theodor Adorno foresaw the same danger. when he wrote Freudian theory and the pattern of fascist propaganda [1], he had in mind not German or Italian fascism, but the presence of fascist ideals in public debates in the United States, then grappling with McCarthyism (as fascist as it could possibly be). Adorno realized what lurked in democracy: “Since it would be impossible for fascism to win over the masses through rational arguments, its propaganda must necessarily be deflected from discursive thought; it must be psychologically oriented, and must mobilize irrational, unconscious and regressive processes”.[ii]

Reread now, what Adorno pointed out in 1951 is not limited to the fascist hosts, whether in Italy in the 1930s or in the United States in the 1950s. The Frankfurt theorist seems to describe not openly fascist propaganda, but the planetary set of communication of the digital era, in which entertainment, sensationalist journalism and social networks, with their countless counterfeiters, are tangled up in a Babelish jester, at the same time chaotic and accurate. This communicational environment is definitely not guided by “rational arguments”, but by “irrational, unconscious and regressive processes”, to use Adorno's words carefully.

The processes that Adorno talks about were imposed as a constant in social platforms and in the entertainment industry in general (the industry that practices the extraction of the eye and personal data, as we will see later). The identifications, now in Freud's terms, travel in the same register and, they too, represent a bottleneck for reason. Let us also remember that, for Freud, identifications would be in the “prehistory of the Oedipus complex” and would be “the oldest affective connection to another person”[iii]. This may mean, among other things, that civilization comes after a nature in which identifications prevail or, even more, it may mean that, in the formation of subjectivity, the process of identification precedes the establishment of the Oedipus complex.

Now, the communicational environment that privileges identifications operates in a childish way and does not meet the requirements to guide the indispensable dialogue for the exercise of democratic politics. At this point, the dialectic of the Enlightenment gives a second turn of the screw. What governs the apparent chaos of communication is ideology in its deepest – and most unknown – sense.

Here, it is worth at least qualifying the meaning adopted in this text for the word ideology. It is not about ideology in its banalized sense, the one that common sense has assimilated, that of ideology reduced to a heap of statements or a list of statements that fits on a sheet of paper. It is commonly believed that the sayings of a party program embody an “ideology”. There are still those who are more reductionist, those who claim that ideology is everything that does not suit the truth they profess, this truth being the primary copy of the propaganda to which they imagine themselves affiliated.

It was in this way, with this miserable lexicon, that the word entered the current language, as a synonym for a list of intentions or declared and conscious values. It is not from this perspective that the term is invoked here. The noun ideology enters this text from a deeper meaning that seeks to touch layers far from the surface of speech, consciousness and intentionality. Ideology thus understood, perhaps distantly related to what Althusser called “ideology in general”[iv], is more treacherous, more unconscious and more structuring.

It is not perceived on the plane of the signified, but in the laws that govern the way in which the signifier adheres to its signified. It is she who summons the subject to adhere by sensations, by libidinal ties, by identifications – regardless of what is enunciated, whether against or in favor of this or that side of politics. This deeper ideology, which, it is worth insisting, is related to the way of meaning and not the order of meaning, lives in the matrix of the entertainment industry and social networks. Precisely because it is vague, it is killer.

At another time, still in the 1940s, Adorno, then in partnership with Max Horkheimer, had already anticipated this: “Ideology thus reduced to a vague and uncompromising discourse does not become more transparent nor weaker. Precisely because of its vagueness, the almost scientific aversion to fixating on anything that cannot be verified, it works as an instrument of domination”. [v]

Such was the “cultural industry” that Adorno and Horkheimer described. This was the “society of the spectacle”, that Guy Debord saw and that is still there, standing. This is how today the world is monopolized by the conglomerates of social platforms, entertainment and digital technologies. These giants of capitalism throw away the “work of thought” and prefer “identifications”, sensations (hence sensationalism), industrialized esthesias.

Given its nature, this industry refuses, as far as it can, to consider the rules of the State – rules that, for better or for worse, have their structure in foundations (adulterated or not) proper to reason. A crucial feature of this industry is that it operates across the globe, installed at an operational altitude above the reach of national legislation, and produces for itself a place from which it can arrogantly reject any attempt at democratic regulation. It does not accept being regulated by democracy; on the contrary, he acts as someone who wants to regulate the canons of politics, redefining the meaning of the word freedom and the word censorship, now in private terms.

All of this makes the critical spaces through which democracy can establish limits to market, power and capital concentration more unlikely and costly. Delivered to their own logic of accumulation, digital media and the entertainment industry prefer “irrational, unconscious and regressive processes” to the arguments of reason. Democracy finds itself facing barriers it was unaware of. Latent authoritarianism produces its collages and adhesions and, therefore, apparent authoritarianism gains supporters. It is in this perspective that the communication patterns of the networks favor, like broth, the propagation of fascist discourses.

Today we experience the advent of a new Cave of Plato. Its walls are made of electronic screens, which has already been indicated by some. On these screens, images and digital data reign supreme. Data has emerged as a new religion of empiricism that considers itself objective. Capitalism has converted to data and sees it as the oil of the 2017st century, that is, as the most valuable asset of the global economy. In a XNUMX cover story, the English weekly The Economist, nailed the emergence of the new asset[vi]. The magazine supports its thesis on the growth of companies that have become gigantic by collecting data – not just any data, which exists in exponentially increasing abundance, but certain specific data, the data of the users of these companies (these users are, in fact, the merchandise of these companies). companies).

These companies have names: Alphabet (the owner and parent company of Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft. These are the most valuable conglomerates of contemporary capitalism. They are not oil extractors, but data extractors – or, in broader terms, as mentioned above, they are gaze extractors, which bring data as an additional value.

Capital specializes in extracting data from humanity and commercializes them – this on the surface recorded by The Economist,. Deep down, what the magazine does not point out, capital has developed subterranean webs to imprison the gaze. Imprisoning the gaze, these webs also imprison imagination and desire. By captivating the gaze of the masses, capitalism ceaselessly refabricates language and keeps the masses (or bubbles) together. These are complex operations, which are not of interest to us right now.[vii] What interests us, rather, is that Plato's new Cave keeps the gaze captive, which corresponds to keeping the masses captive and, even more, keeping the masses in a state of masses (especially when individuals believe they receive "customized" services ”).

The means by which capitalism collects data include offers that apparently conflict with fascist mentalities, such as a certain commercial “libertarianism”, which has pornography as one of its examples. It turns out that there is no sexual freedom there, but confinement of desire, as Herbert Marcuse intuited when he created the concept of “repressive desublimation”. With the inevitable limitations (the concept is dated, having appeared in the book Eros and Civilization, originally published in 1955), Marcuse realized that, by offering channels for supposed sexual satisfaction, capitalism did not liberate, but imprisoned on another scale.

Today, in certain mass data collection mechanisms, there is something analogous to what Marcuse indicated, although less rudimentary. What is apparently libertarian in digital technologies must be contrasted, for analytical purposes, with the tendency towards the concentration of crowds of loyal customers, that is, the tendency towards the concentration of masses inside Plato's new Cave. The new Cave of Plato is composed of imaginary concentration camps. In order to maintain the libidinal ties of the masses, industry can resort to procedures that, on the surface, appear to free individuals from the domain that industry itself cannot fail to exercise.

Thus, even if electronic images and digital data do not proclaim overtly fascist corollaries, there is within them this anti-emancipatory background propensity, with a style that is reminiscent, from afar, of fascism propaganda, with its peculiar way of imprisoning desire and the imagination of the excited masses.

In this cavernous landscape, technological advances favor discourses that are bellicosely opposed to modernity, as in a regurgitation that brings back threats that should have been supplanted by the advent of modernity. The old perfunctory attacks of Italian Fascism and German Nazism, which invaded the privacy of the commons, were thus not overcome – they were aggravated by the technologies of the present. The surveillance state seems absolute, with algorithms capable of anticipating every intimate movement of each individual with microscopic precision.

In Plato's new Cave, not only are the captives unable to see through the walls that keep them, but even more so, the walls are able to see through them, their bodies and their miserable dissimulations. Another “big brother” imposes itself: no longer that Orwellian big brother, no longer the maximum authority that examined everyone, but another, more pervasive one, resulting from the gossip of everyone against everyone, in a kind of diffuse totalitarianism – even if, for the time being, , don't act around one Leader visible. The power of technology and capital becomes opaque and intangible, while the intimacy of each one is shown with the helpless transparency of a drop of dew. And what is totalitarianism if not the state where power is opaque and privacy transparent?

The regurgitated will, which benefits from the walls of images and digital data of the new Plato's Cave, sometimes becomes a pastiche of itself, a bad joke. Heads of State pronounce statements that do not hide their fixation, not on the phallus, but directly on the male sexual organ, in a nostalgia for literal fascism. miss the beam, or, rather than his, the fascinus.

Beam is the name of a bundle of slats tied together by strips of red leather, in the shape of a cudgel, usually with a bronze blade at one end, like an ax with a thicker handle. This object of Etruscan origin, an explicit phallic symbol, became the totem of Italian fascism.[viii]. O fascinus ou fascinum is less known. It is an amulet shrouded in superstition that was very popular in the ancient city of Pompeii, before Vesuvius calcined it in 79 BC. The object, normally in small proportions, that fit in the palm of the hand, was the sculpture of an erect phallus, sometimes equipped with a pair of wings. It was believed that, being the incarnation of a divine phallus (Priapus), it would have magical powers to repel the evil eye.[ix]

Let's go back to the characters of these heads of state. They, when they don't talk about fascinum with priapic exaltations and exultations, they erupt with profuse verbal references to the anal phase. They are inclined to openly eschatological speech, so much so that they sometimes use unusual expressions in the political scene, such as the word “poo”.[X]

What to do in the midst of eschatological rancidity? Maybe you need to think. Regurgitated fascism hasn't killed us yet, but the storm that comes from the past is still punishing.

* Eugene Bucci, a journalist, is a professor at ECA-USP. Author, among other books, of Brazil in TV time (Boitempo).

[The present article is a small part of the conference “Segura o Fascio”, presented last year in the Cycle “Mutação – Still under the storm”, organized by Adauto Novaes. The full text will be published shortly in the collection that will bring all the conferences of the cycle.]


[I] FREUD, S. Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego and Other Texts. Translation by Paulo César Souza. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2011. Electronic Edition. Kidle. The quoted passage is found at the end of Chapter X: The Mass and the Primeval Horde.

[ii] ADORNO, Theodor W. “Freudian theory and the pattern of fascist propaganda”. In: Essays on Social Psychology and Psychoanalysis. São Paulo, Unesp, 2015. Available at:

[iii] FREUD, S. Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego and Other Texts. The quoted passage is found at the end of Chapter VII: Identification.

[iv] ALTHUSSER, Louis. Ideological State Apparatuses: note on Ideological State Apparatuses (AIE). Rio de Janeiro: Edições Graal, 1985, 2nd edition, p. 85.

[v] Ditto, p. 137.

[vi] “The world's most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data”. The Economist,. May 6, 2017.

[vii] For those who are interested, there is more about this in BUCCI, E.. Extractivism of the gaze, the value of jouissance and words in reflux. BRAZILIAN JOURNAL OF PSYCHOANALYSIS. Official Body of the Brazilian Federation of Psychoanalysis Volume 53, n. 3 · 2019. Pp. 97-116.

[viii] The Italian term beam of Latin origin (faces), designates an artifact of Etruscan origin, consisting of a bundle of thin stakes, or sticks, tied together with red leather straps (hence faces), which resembles a club, the length of which corresponds to about half the height of a man. In ancient Rome, the littoral fasces – the fascia containing a metal blade at one end, like an ax – was carried in solemnities by the lictor, figure in charge of the safety of magistrates. O faces it represented the power of judges to scourge or behead offenders. (See more about faces em Oxford Dictionary of Classic Literature, Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editores, 1987, p. 226.) In the nineteenth century, the fascia they were eventually armed groups, unified around political or military purposes. In the XNUMXth century, the symbol was incorporated as an inspiration for fascism. In its first formation, Mussolini's band went by the name of Fasci di Combat ( In its symbology, the beam evokes union, strength, sovereignty and power. In its physical aspect, the beam contains all phallic symbol elements.

[ix] Several of these amulets are on display at the Anthropological Museum of Naples (in the Gabineto Secreto del Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli). see in The term fascinum is at the origin of the verb to fascinate and, according to some sources, of the adjective fescenine. There is no secure etymological connection between the terms fascism and fascinum, but the unconscious sound magnetism, produced by the probable false cognate, magnetizes the phallic speech of the dazzled neo-fascists.

[X] “Bolsonaro suggests 'pooping every other day' to reduce environmental pollution”. G1. August 9, 2019. Accessed 22 Oct 2019.

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