American Fascist Art & Music?

The majority of the analysis of fascism in both its current and historical manifestations is centered on the political. In the aggregate, not much time at all is spent looking at fascism’s cultural artifacts — in music, dance, literature, theater, film. If the American fascism trumpeted by Donald, Steve Bannon, Tucker Carlson, Dan Bongino, Nick Fuentes, et. al. (which has a history dating back at least to Henry Ford and has its forbears in the Confederacy and the “lost cause” pity party that succeeded it) had 1% of the greatness that its promoters claim it does, we would logically expect to see beautiful, enduring works of art, gifts to humanity, as it were, birthed from this powerful and increasingly popular social movement.

Alas, if you look for such achievements, you will find none. And this absence of enduring and enriching cultural artifacts in US fascism is not unique to it. From Adolph’s Germany to Franco’s Spain to Salazar’s Portugal to Mussolini’s Italy to Pinochet’s Chile to Bolsonaro’s Brazil to Duterte’s Phillipines to Putin’s treacly, insincere retro-fascist Russia of today, of great poetry, music, dance, visual art, memoir, fiction, and plays, you will find none in support of those fascist or proto-fascist regimes. All of the life-saving art, all of the art which seeks truth through human expression, idiosyncrasy and craft comes from artists outside of the fascist cultural machine or from artists working in direct opposition to it.

The reasons why this is true are not complicated. Beautiful art requires vulnerability, love, the ability to feel empathy and to have experiences beyond the bounds of the individual human ego and a concern with a search for truth in all its forms — historical, personal, ecological and spiritual. The fascist project, as we can see daily in the US, is to go in the opposite direction of all of these impulses. In its distilled essence, fascism bases itself on the belief that “might makes right.” Because this statement is demonstrably morally false, all cultural work that comes from this poison root will be rotten and empty: expression in the service of deception, self-pity and the stoking of guttural fear.

We’d best not expect The Great Gatsby, Beloved, Kind of Blue, Blue (JM), “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Howl” or Raging Bull to come out the rising, rancid fascist American tide. On the contrary, get ready for more maudlin hymns like the proto-fascist American anthem “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood.

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Writer, translator, actor, musician.

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Dan Hanrahan

Dan Hanrahan

Writer, translator, actor, musician.

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