Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen much of lefty Twitter go on about conservatives as trolls. While I don’t want to engage in the No True Troll fallacy, I don’t think this is trolling at all, but merely the goal of authoritarianism. The goal is to establish a caste system, with a top group and lower orders. Years ago, I dubbed this Palinism (boldface added):
While people have described Palin as engaging in identity politics, that sells identity politics short. Palin along with the proto-movement surrounding her–Palinism–practices what could be call ‘politics of the blood.’ It’s derived from Giovanni Gentile’s description of fascism: “We think with our blood.” In Palin’s case, it’s an emotional appeal to a romanticized, mythical past of “real America.” And that’s why I think the fixation people have on Palin’s complete policy incoherence and ignorance is missing the point.
Her policy ignorance isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Palin is conceptually and intellectually poor because her politics are not about policies, but a romantic restoration of the ‘real’ America to its rightful place. The primary purpose of politics is not to govern, not to provide services, and not to solve mundane, although often important, problems. For the Palinist, politics first and foremost exists to enable the social restoration of ‘real’ Americans… and the emotional and social advantages that restoration would provide to its followers… Practicalities of governance, such as compromise and worrying about reality-based outcomes, actually get in the way. Why risk having your fantasy muddied by reality?
In this way, symbols and short phrases are the goal, not a means (although others, such as corporations and lobbyists, are willing to co-opt the emotions these symbols generate to further their own agendas)…
But that romanticism is at the heart of Palinism. It’s not a forward-looking utopianism, but a desire to return to a mythical, halcyon America that was Christian, low-tax, small government, and had less racial and ethnic discord (the latter is the most absurd, but, if you were white, there weren’t racial problems: you were white–no problems!). This vision has not existed for decades, if at all, but it is a predictable reaction to the loss of primus inter pares status of Christian whites; they are no longer the default setting.
And what nine years ago, I hoped wouldn’t happen, did:
What makes Palinism worrisome, and why I think it can be labelled ‘para [or proto]-fascist’ is that it is marginalist. For ‘real Americans’ to take back ‘their’ country–and note the phrase take back–they, by definition, are taking it back from an Other, whether that Other be a religious minority, racial minority, or some other group. This isn’t ‘old-school’ identity politics–getting a fair share; even if we disagree about the amount of shares and methods, traditional identity politics are not marginalist. There is a disconcerting streak of marginalization of the Other (e.g., gays, religious minorities, racial minorities) that could easily veer into eliminationist rhetoric and violence; arguably, Palin came very close in the 2008 campaign. Had Palin or McCain wanted to, they could have incited their political rallies to violence; they were that angry.
This isn’t rickrolling with a political flavor. It is part and parcel of the authoritarian impulse, and it is far more serious than pranking. Trolling might be one means to an end, but it is not the goal: the reestablishment of a white Christian male-dominated caste system is.