We’ve heard it so much that it’s almost become a cliché: America is on the road to fascism. The debate over that claim continues, but renowned scholar Henry Giroux argues that “Donald Trump is not just some impulsive rich guy who marketed his way into politics through empty Kardashian-style consumer culture.”
Giroux holds the Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He was recently featured on the CBC Radio program IDEAS about his most recent book, American Nightmare.
Giroux argues that capitalism has moved America from a landscape of certainty to a fog of precarity. Politically, this movement creates a kind of rootlessness, and as thinkers like Eric Fromm and Hannah Arendt remind us, rootlessness can create the foundations of totalitarianism.
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Giroux points to other indicators, like the increase in racist language entering the public sphere. A case in point, he asserts, were Trump’s comments about the “Central Park Five” long before he became president. In the 1989 case, a group of Black and Latino youths were charged with the rape of a white woman in Central Park. Donald Trump spent $85,000 dollars on newspaper ads calling for the return of the death penalty. Eventually, the members of the Central Park Five were exonerated by DNA testing, and a serial rapist confessed to the crime. When the teenagers received compensation from the state for their wrongful conviction, Trump called their exoneration “outrageous.”
Giroux thinks some academics simply aren’t willing to describe conditions in America as “fascist.” It’s often been said, for example, that Trump isn’t Hitler — “Of course he isn’t,” says Giroux, “but fascism looks different in different cultures, depending on that culture. In fact, it is the essence of fascism to have no single, fixed form.”