Books

Jeff Sparrow
Fascists Among Us

From Hitler and Mussolini to the Trump administration, Jeff Sparrow’s Fascists Among Us outlines how and why contemporary fascism leads to acts of terror. Sparrow contextualises fascism by linking 1930s ideologies and the contemporary movement, studying violence perpetrated by alt-right extremists, such as the Christchurch massacre, and detailing how far-right internet culture has entered the real world.

Because of Jacinda Ardern’s evocative speech, as well as pressure from his early readers, Sparrow refers to the Christchurch gunman as Person X, although he thinks the media’s avoidance of the perpetrator’s name and the ideas laid out in his manifesto prevents the public from seeing and acknowledging “how many [fascist ideologies] were widely shared in the mainstream”. Sparrow takes care to balance the sensitivity of his subject matter with analysing and dissecting extremist ideologies, including Person X’s 74-page online manifesto.

Sparrow says Person X represents a specific kind of fascist who “incite[s] angry young men to conduct rage massacres, not to achieve any specific ends so much as to destabilise liberal democracies”. He argues the 2016 election of Donald Trump further pushed fascism out from the confines of the internet, as it increased media coverage of the far right, giving the movement and its ideas a legitimacy that perhaps had not been present outside websites such as Stormfront or 4chan.

These ideas have grown louder, Sparrow says, because of Islamophobic and xenophobic rhetoric in the media, particularly with the United States’ war on terror and Australia’s “stop the boats” campaign. He says Islamophobia can be found “on every TV station and in every tabloid … in the statements of major politicians” and encourages the public to engage in analysing these statements rather than simply arguing against them.

The validation of fascism and xenophobia has perpetuated violence and terror against minority groups, and continues to do so. Sparrow writes, “In an ideal world, the conversation about the mosque shootings would have begun and ended with Ansi Alibava … with Husna Ahmed … with Haji-Daoud Nabi” – that is, the murder victims in Christchurch. But in an ideal world, human beings would not slaughter other human beings without remorse, and history would not be repeating itself.

Raelee Lancaster

Scribe, 160pp, $19.99

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 30, 2019 as "Jeff Sparrow, Fascists Among Us". Subscribe here.

Reviewer: Raelee Lancaster