It is human nature to seek out people who share our interests.
In the quest for connection, we may join a book club. Or perhaps we sign up for a volleyball team.
Or maybe we enlist in a hellish army of tyrannical thugs who seek to overthrow governments, subjugate minorities, and stomp on the skulls of their enemies.
Hey, whatever works for you.
But right-wing bigots no longer need to establish a Yahoo meetup group.
Because across the world, “from Italy to Brazil to the United States, political leaders increasingly are echoing … one another by embracing far-right authoritarianism.” There is “a growing bond among the far-right autocrats” that forms the basis for the most terrifying fraternity of all time.
Call it the international house of fascism. These raging strongmen are “the vanguard of a broader authoritarian wave that has turned back democratic gains across the globe, from Myanmar to Tunisia to Hungary to El Salvador.”
Now, it seems odd that guys who insist they have no equals would be eager to pal around with fellow despots. But really, who better understands your need to imprison protesters and crush dissent than the maniac across the world who has been doing it for years? They probably have a few beers and swap tips on how to control the media.
Of course, there is a simple reason why authoritarians like to hobnob with one another. They are stronger if they form a worldwide union of bigotry.
No matter what country you live in, messages of fear and hatred stick better if they come from all sides and from multiple nations. And that’s why “far-right authoritarian leaders … have echoed one another by promising to crack down on loose morals, open borders and power-hungry elites.”
Their languages may differ, but the sentiment—and the targets of demonization—are the same.
This drive for cooperation among reactionaries has found a receptive U.S. audience in the Republican Party. After all, the GOP’s vision of America “has long included open admiration of strongmen around the world.” In Trump, conservatives found a boisterous wannabe dictator who shouted down his domestic critics while simultaneously kissing Putin’s feet and proclaiming his love for the brutal regimes of North Korea and China.
The affection is so strong that the right-wing leaders of Hungary and Italy—Victor Orban and Giorgia Meloni, respectively—have “spoken to acclaim at gatherings of the Conservative Political Action Coalition—a group that has helped propel Trump’s movement in the United States.”
And this barbarous form of networking is paying off.
Many political experts insist that “democracy is not winning” and that “an enduring era of authoritarian rule” may be in its nascency.
Recently, in Italy, thousands of “black-clad fascist sympathizers chanted and sang in praise of the late Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.” Again, that’s not a few nuts getting together in someone’s apartment. It’s thousands of people happily dancing in the streets in support of actual fascism.
In Sweden, a political party with Nazi origins made enormous gains in the nation’s most recent elections. That party openly campaigned for “making non-Western immigrants move back to their countries of origin,” and its success “enshrines radical right-wing politics in a country that has long been admired for its progressive politics.”
Meanwhile, here in the United States, armed militiamen are just gallivanting around, daring anyone to say that their hostile bigotry is a bad look.
The situation is indeed grim. But is it hopeless?
Well, the optimistic among us believe that “liberal democracy, precisely because it distributes power and relies on consent of the governed, is in much better shape globally than many people think.”
The theory is that the authoritarian wave will be “a short-lived surge that recedes as it becomes evident that the far-right populists do not have any good solutions for most people’s frustrations.”
And in our own country, the recent midterms proved that “a significant swath of the American public is punishing the Republican Party for running candidates who sought to turn against democracy itself.”
Indeed, one could argue that “American democracy is in better shape than some feared,” and that “the institutions of U.S. democracy are doing what they are supposed to do.”
Well, more or less.
You see, we still have a major political party in the United States that believes it is entitled to public office, regardless of what the voters actually want. We still have media figures who tell their millions of followers that immigrants or gay people or college-educated women are the enemy. We still have Americans who think that anyone who disagrees with them should be silenced, imprisoned, or even executed.
Yes, we are still in trouble.
Featured image by verchmarco/CC BY 2.0