The supposed fascism of Generation Z

Christian Patterson
2018-09-28
Underground Mall

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I have thought about this a lot. I have read 4chan type neonazis talk about how the next generation will be, like, super into Hitler bro. I remember reading a tweet by neoliberal shill Matt Yglesias last year about how the liberal adults of today have a lot of things coming, because Generation Z will be more fascist than any generation currently alive (I looked for the tweet but I think he deleted it). There’s a lot of truth in this: the far-right is really good at grooming kids on the internet, and I think middle-aged liberals have no idea the extent. I have even heard Generation Z is much more right-wing than millennials, based on polls.

However, I think this anxiety about the future youtube nazis is not necessarily wrong, but short sighted, and overstated.

For one reason, many people don’t become leftists until they either go to college or join the workforce. Communism is an ideology that rings true when you sell your labor for piss-wages. If you aren’t a laborer in a conventional sense, you either have to A) have read and understood Marx or B) have the empathy that most rich non-laborers lack. Not only that, but communism is a strictly political economic ideology, and most kids don’t even understand our current economy, or what an economy is. Not to suggest kids are stupid, but economics are complicated, and not things kids are taught about until later.

On the other hand, nazism and fascism are very infantile political positions. I remember when I was in 6th grade, I drew a swastika on my arm. I don’t remember why, except it seemed like a fun thing to draw. I drew a swastika on myself for the same reason people draw that S thing. A teacher immediately saw that and told me to go to the bathroom and rinse it off. Looking back, I feel bad about it, but I was a barely pubescent bozo, and I had no concept of nazis in terms of politics.

Not only that, but being intrigued by nazis was, at a time, like being into Dungeons and Dragons in the 80s, or Marilyn Manson in the 90s. It was edgy as imagery, but an ideologically hollow gesture. In 2017, being into nazis does carry more political weight, but for the kids Yglesias is referring to, many of them are edgelords who will grow out of it when they understand the impact of political beliefs, and the symbols that represent them.

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In terms of demographics, the potential base of nazis in America is shrinking. The far right base is white, middle class men, and the first two demographics are shrinking. However, far right ideologies often have multiple layers of inclusion. Many far right organizations will embrace some legal citizen, white-passing latinos, to include a wider potential base of supporters of their ideology. However, in more private circles, those same far-righties would still be white supremacists. Basically, far right people are very good at expanding the bounds of their ideology, to deceptively let more people in, while still secretly believing the core group as the “true” ones. The rich white Americans are still the core.

Finally, if someone looks into nazism when they are young, this doesn’t correspond much to nazism as an adult. Usually, it’s just because some teens are interested in fringe political/religious/etc oddities from history. From my experience, the type of people allured to nazism consider themselves apolitical when they’re growing up. They then realize our political economy is failing in their 20s, or 30s. Since these people lack a political vocabulary, having no interest in politics except for culture war bullshit, before feeling the flaws of our system, their political response is reactionary. This is exactly why adult reactionaries and alt-righties are adult diaper babies. They didn’t learn a political vocabulary as they were growing up, so they only know how to manifest a politics of fear and anger.

I have good faith that kids flirting with nazism indicates, for most kids, a childish attempt at being edgy by flirting with controversial imagery. Maybe, for some other kids, it means they realize something is wrong with how the world works, they come from an already conservative family, and see nazi shit online, this will be the only way they can find to express themselves. But a kid flirting with nazism, I hope, will grow out of it, when they learn how the world works outside of shitty fear-mongering youtube videos.

I hope I’m not too optimistic.

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