This past winter, Real Life collected some of our essays on fascism for a special issue. We are republishing it again today. Please click the image below for a pdf.
With the rise of fascist leaders in the U.S. and elsewhere, it’s natural to want to investigate the degree to which new communication technologies have facilitated it. Much as Horkheimer and Adorno indicted the incipient mass media and the “culture industry” for mid–20th century fascism, we might look at 21st–century social media in the same light. Online platforms have become instruments for meting out brutality, suppressing freedom of thought, reinforcing marginalization and social exclusion, and enforcing orthodoxy. But it makes sense also to think of fascism itself as a political technology, an approach to social control that relies on negating the truth, sowing confusion, destabilizing shared values, and setting unmoored bureaucracies against the population and one another. We face an unprecedented combination of seemingly opposed ideologies that have come to reinforce each other: Big Data positivism generates an endless stream of uninterpretable information that post-truth demagoguery can triumphantly push aside. —Rob Horning