Date: 5/7/2003

Considering the contemporary difficulties people encounter with the concept of fascism when applied to psychology, society, or humanism in general, the (complicated) considerations below have been made extremely modular: many semi independent introductions to be read at leisure.

This essay is the main answer to the following question: why is it that some countries, or some governments, have involved themselves in murderous courses of massive mayhem, ultimately self destructive, even though they were at the pinnacle of power and happiness, and even though they should have known better? Why those collective bouts with madness, so frequent in history? Why fascism? And why have some civilizations succeeded persistently to come back from the fascist brink, whereas so many got quickly annihilated in self-inflicted fascist frenzy? This is a psychological set of questions. Neither religions (themselves often prime perpetrators, per their very definition, as will be explained in another essay), nor philosophies have been able to address them intelligently. In recent times, though, dozens of millions of people were subjected to mass destruction, with much more on the way if the psychology of the masses is not corrected soon, so those questions are burning hot... Neither established religions, nor established philosophies, have incorporated the shattering discovery that man is a type of monkey, and, a fortiori, reflected on what monkey tribes do in the wild when facing a threat. No wonder: the study of animal behavior (ethology) is a recent science, and human ethology even more so. Even though cultural answers (such as religions) are often useful in explaining totalitarianism, terror and massacres, culture is not deep enough to provide with the ultimate background explanation. Ethology is much deeper than culture. IT'S THE MONKEY WHO BUILT THE CULTURE, NOT THE CULTURE WHICH BUILT THE MONKEY.

Warning: "Fascism" was given, in preceding essays, a meaning generalizing the concept Romans had in mind when they thought of fascism.


That does not make it nice and cuddly, far from it: fascism evolved to be used in apocalyptic circumstances. In this semantical light, overwhelming fascism is then found to have occurred frequently in the history of nations (even well before the foundation of Rome). This essay gives the reason for political fascism's popularity: weak leaderships love fascism because it makes them not just strong, but, also, POPULAR. Fascism is the royal road to enforced love from tribe to leader. Fascism is not an accident of human political history. FASCISM IS THE WAY CORNERED SOCIAL ANIMALS THINK. Fascism allows cornered animals to turn things around when they are worst. FASCISM IS A FORM OF MENTAL FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION FOR GROUPS. No wonder Joshua's Israel, Assyria, Persia, Athens, Rome, Constantinople, the Mexica, Napoleon, the Soviet Union, Hitler, and countless others, found the same fascist solution: it was the same problem ... and the "solution" made it worse, because there is more to civilization's problems, than a bunch of monkeys screaming together can ever discover. Screaming and threatening together is what fascism is about.

Rome went down because she lost civilization, not because she lost her fascism. Quite the opposite. The more fascism Rome piled up, culminating with an extremely fascist Christian dictatorship, the more the Roman empire lost literacy, hence civilization, resulting in an avalanche of disasters (including invasions).

(Different words have been used to qualify what I view as partial aspects of my concept of fascism. Konrad Lorenz suggested "militant enthusiasm". The word "totalitarianism" has been suggested by others (Hannah Arendt), as the more general concept. But the concept of "totalitarianism" does not reflect the fact that the claim to mental totality fascists make is a subspace, i.e. is forcefully confined in some mental directions, i.e. is directed as tied up bundles (fasces) are (so there could be more than one); moreover the concept of fascism is 25 centuries old (and eluded the Greeks). I claim fascism is much broader than totalitarianism, covering, as it does, many regimes old and new, whereas Arendt's notion was restricted to a few contemporary regimes; Arendt's "totalitarianism" is a pretty useless concept, since countless regimes have been NOT totalitarian, but nevertheless superbly fascist; early Imperial Rome being an obvious example of eclectic fascism).


Abstract: The hundred million years old fascist mental management meta strategy is THE emergency way to concentrate ALL the brain's conscious resources on survival (I postulate its existence along the functioning of the amygdala, an inner brain organ in charge of fear and AUTOMATIC INSTINCTUAL THREAT RECOGNITION; the amygdala is in charge of a quick response, the fascist instinct is in charge of a thorough response).


All sorts of leaderships can end up contested and desperate enough to turn to the easy way out, the fascist way. It is often political leadership in a dictatorship which gets so desperate as to become fascist, but the leadership of a DEMOCRATIC country can also turn fascist. Fascism is an amygdala sort of thing, it's not just a political concept, but a physiological concept. Other forms of leaderships, including, as it often happened, economical, cultural, civilizational, or philosophical leaderships can also become ILLEGITIMATE, and turn to fascism (e.g., the Catholic church's fascist use of Aristotelian physics during the Renaissance, when it became a capital crime not to follow Aristotelian leadership). In politics, fascism tends to be a run away, exponential process, because it turns into a recourse proportional to the hatred it generates.

Mental fascism allows achieving LOCALIZED mental dominance of the brain through mental simplicity. But mental fascism is very antagonist to most mental creativity away from proximal survival, and so fascism tends to kill civilizations from the TERMINAL NEUROLOGICAL SIMPLICITY IT INDUCES. Athens and Rome died from it (Socrates had already pointed out, during his trial, that Athens had become so stupid as to be incapacitated, but he could not, or would not say, WHY Athenians had become so enthusiastically stupid; Socrates just concentrated on showing to everyone on the jury how dumb those (now enraged) Athenians were; we point out that the Athenians had fallen prey to the phenomenon of MENTAL FASCISM: that is what made them dumb; they had reverted to being a bunch of screaming monkeys clinging to their advantages).

As MANY US leadership positions in widely dispersed domains are simultaneously strongly contested to the point that they are becoming ILLEGITIMATE, the USA experiences strong pressures to go down the easy way, the bellicose, brain focused, fascist way (aggressing others instead of finding ways around the challenges). The USA is entering the bad pressures systems of the PERFECT FASCIST STORM. American illegitimacy will threaten the American way of life if America resorts to fascism to solve its problems. This is the deepest reason for the change in American psychology that has been observed worldwide, as the USA made, first, intense militarization, and now even preventive war, its official doctrine. One has to remember that even the archetype fascist state, Rome, did not dare make preventive war her official doctrine, ever: Rome wanted to last, and knew how small a part of the planet she was. To last more than 1,000 years, Rome invented another concept, the casus belli (cause of war).

The call to fascism is efficient to unite a disparate people. Many gigantic and extremely ethnically varied empires illustrated this (such as the Persian empire 25 centuries ago, or as the USA seem to want to illustrate today).

Overview: Scary situations bring maximal mental concentration, hence maximal mind power. When a group of social animals finds that sort of mind power panic provides with, the group thinks as ONE MIND, AROUND A LIMITED NUMBER OF DIMENSIONS. A much smaller set of dimensions than free minds enjoy. We call "FASCIST" any mentality that searches for an aggressive and panicky mental environment conducive to an obsessive cognitive reductionism as overall mental management strategy.


Fascists think very well, about very little, because that is all they can handle, and all they want, or need, to handle. Fascism was evolutionary selected as a fundamental behavior over dozens of millions of years, ever since there has been social animals and evolution had discovered "E PLURIBUS UNUM" (a mob with one focused mind being more dangerous than a mob with scattered brains). Fascism is naturally used by man against its most accomplished evolutionary enemy, which is himself.

Another fact that is also nothing new, among social animals, is poorly established leadership.

Even rather stupid leading primates cannot fail to notice that threats make them popular with those they order around. ILLEGITIMATE, WEAK LEADERS ALL TOO OFTEN LEARN TO USE THE FASCIST PROCESS AND WARS OF AGGRESSION TO BUNDLE THE PEOPLE AROUND THEMSELVES SO TIGHTLY THAT THEIR RULE BECOMES STRONG AND POPULAR, AS IF THEY WERE MONKEYS DEFENDING AGAINST HYENAS (the original purpose of the behavior). That is why fascism keeps on being reinvented, worldwide, ever since the animals have (s)elected leaders. That is why fascism existed well before the Romans brandished fasces for all to see, more than 2,500 years ago: fascism can make the weak strong (which is crucial to governments in highly ordered agricultural empires, that have to be strong).

In an advanced civilization, though, the recourse to fascism to ensure an otherwise weak rule is NON LINEAR: the more fascist psychology is used to tighten the people around the leadership, the more contested it gets, so the more tempting it is to use fascism some more for further MOMENTARY relief of the increasingly embattled leadership. This helps to explain why so many tyrants went way too far, even for their own good, and why IMPERIAL OVERSTRETCH occurred so frequently in history (both facts being usually considered crazy effects of human 'folly', which explains nothing much). Empires that learn to rule other COUNTRIES according to fascism (rather than according to custom, or economic, or cultural superiority, or law) find it hard to stop, but always tend to go further until they get eradicated. The Assyrians were a blatant case in point, long ago (as the ultimate military superpower, for three centuries, little cognizant of compromise, civilizational balance, or even literacy, the superb Assyrian armies antagonized, oppressed, and enslaved everybody in and around... present day Iraq. Finally all the nations got together and eradicated the Assyrian people, and then the invincible Assyrian army died off).


Indeed that appreciation of the poorly elected and strongly contested for fascism is found not just in individuals ("illegitimate leaders"), and in groups of individuals around the leaders, but also in COUNTRIES, EMPIRES and peoples which found themselves (more or less elected) in leadership position, with a lot of smaller powers following them (a frequent imperial arrangement). When the leadership of such a LEADING COUNTRY comes to be strongly contested, the leading country often turns to a foreign policy environment that favors the rise of foreign directed fascism (example: Athens circa 450 BCE; foreign directed fascism is of course just a warm up). In other words, the set of observations to follow on the fascist process does not JUST apply to a Hitler, and his associated mignons, but to ENTIRE COUNTRIES whose leadership, AMONG NATIONS, has come to be nastily contested, AS A LEADING NATION. So the more contested the leading country, the more it will be tempted to go along what looks to it, in its MENTAL SIMPLICITY, the easy way, and use the fascist methodology to pursue its domination (which may have been obtained pacifically initially). Fascist leadership of one country has the same effect on other countries as fascist leadership of one person on the people of one country: weak countries COALESCE around, and think of little but war, and "striking" enemies (real or imagined) in a vast coalition.

Recently many of these old snakes were being "born again" in the so-called "new world" to "establish a new norm of foreign relations". Among the first victims: international law, not so subtle human rights, and, if need be, old friendships. Not like it would be the first time fascism raises its ugly mind, since there are monkeys, and they scream together at (real or imagined) monsters. Fortunately, whereas no monkeys are philosophers, some men are, and they think. Wisdom has learned to go beyond the jungle to which fascism more naturally belongs.

Fascist thinking's greatest enemy is thoroughly creative thinking. And reciprocally. Short of sorting out the problem of a comet on a collision course, fascism should have little place in tomorrow's very advanced civilization.



Many times in history a powerful formerly placid nation has engaged in that particular fascism that war(s) of aggression and 'homeland security' tyranny entail. Examples abound (Persia attacking Greece being one of them). The phenomenon occurs pretty much for causes that are not commensurate to the relief they claim to look for, and the disasters they always bring, even to their instigators. This means this phenomenon of mass aggression is mostly of psychological origin. It is a psychologically born insanity affecting entire nations in one go.

It is mystifying that what was formerly dear comes to be thrown to the winds, and that INTERNAL regime change can go so wrong. We reveal here one of the main causes of such a strange evolution from good to bad. Careful inspection of history shows that fascization tends to occur when the leadership of the affected country has been POORLY ELECTED (namely elected, sort of, but not really) or, more generally, when it feels, or has become, ILLEGITIMATE. Then the leadership of the regime often take measures so that things will become worse of its own volition. How come what was already bad wants to get so much worse? Why would illegitimacy pick up a brand new fight? Which sort of government will do this? Well, a government of monkeys, by monkeys. It's all very ethological.


By "elected" I do not necessarily mean "democratically" elected, but constitutionally elected, whatever the constitution LOCALLY meant, or even elected by whichever group really counts; it could mean elected by Grand Electors, as the Holy Roman emperors were, or by a "conseil du Royaume" (i.e. "God"), as in France when it was an absolute monarchy; or even "elected" by a strong coup. When something happened that made the election process very contestable, we call the subsequent leadership "POORLY ELECTED". Examples abound in history. The proximal cause of the collapse of the Assyrian empire was the contested election of one of two twin brothers. The resulting civil war allowed the Medes and the Babylonians to attack, resulting in the annihilation of the empire and its population in 612 BCE. G. W. Bush is an example of a poorly elected leader, since it is not constitutionally expected, in the USA, that a Court of Nine would elect presidents.

The poorly elected leadership could also be a country that has been tacitly elected by other COUNTRIES to lead before it was found to be turning greedy, stupid, arrogant, intolerant of justified critiques, grotesquely bathing in self satisfaction, obsessed by its own military might, putting itself well above all countries, and viewing military adventurism as the key to its future (as Athens suddenly came to be; to keep the reader awake, I would suggest to find a more contemporary example; observation: the USA leads NATO).

We will not make the mistake of some silly American pseudo intellectuals to consider democracy was invented just a few years back (in the USA, of course). Many pretty democratic regimes have long existed, even in the guise of monarchies, because the people often used the monarch to rule indirectly (over the local strongmen).


Poor elections are just one way to get an illegitimate leadership. A (more or less) legitimate leadership (say France's Louis 16) can become frankly illegitimate (through huge spending on the military creation of the USA (operation "USA FREEDOM"), followed by the exhibition of immense inequalities in the realm, in the case of Louis 16). If the contestation becomes too great, the leadership is not legitimate anymore, and revolutions start that way. At that point the leadership can either try to become more democratic (As Louis 16 of France tried, by convoking the Etats Generaux), or the leadership can go fascist internally (as Rome, Napoleon, Stalin, or Hitler did), or fascist externally first (as Athens, Aragon and Castile, or Louis 14 did).


Many regimes, and, MANY DEMOCRACIES HAVE ENDED THUS: AN ILLEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP FOLLOWED BY FASCISM TO COMPENSATE, and a grand finale in disastrous military adventurism. Examples abound. Pericles' Athens (starting the fateful Peloponnesian war), Rome at the time of the third Punic war (engaging, I believe, the fall of Rome), the French hyper democratic First Republic, Hitler's Weimar republic are famous examples. Saddam's Iraq was a small example (when it engaged in war against Iran). The war can turn into an internal affair, such as Stalin's war against vast segments of the Russian empire. Why to compensate a bad election (or selection), or an illegitimate leadership with fascism is curious, at first sight. Why, when the leadership is most insecure, or somewhat illegitimate, would the leadership choose to create even more enmity, instead of laying low and acting humble?
The reason is simple, but 100 million years old, the people may have lost it in the din of civilization. Let's refresh the memories.


The contestable leadership can make the problem of illegitimacy less acute by BUNDLING the people (if not the electorate) TOGETHER as tightly as can be, with ITSELF AT THE CENTER. Now there is a powerful, old fashion way to create the bundling together of the people: a THREAT on homeland security, which can be BEST OBTAINED BY GOING TO WAR, or the threat thereof. All monkeys intuitively, instinctively, then know that is what monkeys have to do. The terrified animals, feeling under attack, will bundle together around the leadership. The leadership, made of the biggest, badest, more experienced at conflict and dominance alpha males will lead the defense as best as can be. They just have to be followed. So the animals group up, and the alpha males (the leadership) put themselves in front, facing the enemy. The animals will have few thoughts and feelings outside of the low dimensionality of the mental world that pertains to the threat (nothing concentrate the mind better than one's upcoming execution, for example). One of the most looked after longings is guidance from leadership (it brings animals back to the safety of parenting). So the leadership becomes more secure by making the people less secure. A basic trick for such a leadership to use, is to make the animals believe the attack does not come from the leadership (otherwise the animals may get wise, and view the leadership as the problem instead of the solution). This can be done in a number of ways. A war against monsters is better than a war motivated by greed.

In any case as soon as the threat dissipates, the animals, flush as they are with adrenaline, endorphins and other war and terror hormones, feeling a hormonally induced high, now experience intense happiness, and are thankful to the chief of the animals, the Commander in Chief. That makes the fascist Leader extremely popular, just what the Leader wanted. Whereas 25% of adult Americans voted for G. W. Bush, as soon as this hero went to make war against the primitive army of some marsh monkeys supposed to hide Weapons of Mass Derision deep in the sand, he became the cherished super Leader of 80% of Americans, who all grouped up behind him like a troop of terrified monkeys. Most (80%) of the Americans, feeling terrified together, bundled close to their leader, enjoyed the warmth of the leader, and followed him logically wherever he asked them to exert great vengeance, or charge, just like rampaging mobs in the best lynching tradition do (lynchings, or pogroms, being the same group phenomenon of fear and vengeance exerted on rather defenseless individuals).


Hitler started with apparently innocuous aggressive acts directed at France, small on the surface, but long on the consequences. The Anglo Saxons cooperated with Hitler at this point, happy as they often are, it seems, to give the French a hard time. Then Hitler went on with a dialogue between interior fascism inside Germany and external aggressions against other countries. Using the latter to help the former (as early as 1934, Hitler tried to annex Austria). A war of aggression in Spain was accompanied by the invention of aerial bombing on civilians ("shock and awe": Guernica). All of Germany could implicitly partake in the crime (since there were no EFFICIENT enough German protests to stop the madness). This brought the war hormones up even higher among the young Nazi animals (now both exultant about the spoils and worried about their future of partaking criminals). That way Hitler, now turned into Supreme Warlord, became more and more bundled up with the young fools brimming with war, terror hormones, and greed. By the time millions of fanatical fools were needed to die massively in the name of the Vaterland, seven years later, they were ready. Timing is everything.

This BUNDLING OF THE MINDS IN A SMALL MENTAL SUBSPACE WHEN IN LIFE AND DEATH SITUATIONS IS THE ESSENCE OF MENTAL FASCISM. (We are thus barely generalizing the time honored self conscious Roman semiotics about fascism.)


Many behaviors are associated with the capabilities technology gave to the logic of civilization. Materialism, religiosity, sexism, massive armies, and the very principle of "great power" are such recent inventions. But the basic instinct of fascism is much deeper than any of these: it is probably 100 million years old, ever since there has been proto monkeys, and they were terrified by monsters, and bundled together to bare their teeth and do groupthink. FASCISM IS DEEPLY ANCHORED IN PRIMATE PSYCHOBIOLOGY. It is so old, it's probably an instinct. Hence the idea of lashing out against others, and bundling together around the leader is very natural. FASCISM IS THE NATURALLY BORN KILLER WHICH MADE MONKEYS RULE (over hyenas). It has its own neurological pleasure system, like eating, drinking and the other basic functions. Whereas eating and drinking allow the individual to survive, mental fascism helps the group to survive. That is why mobs behave differently. Fascism is what distinguishes mobs from individuals. That is why nations can turn so dangerous when they start to titillate the mob that sleep in them, and why nationalism, for nationalism's sake ranks barely better than racism and ethnic cleansing.


Illegitimate leaderships are even more prone to find enemies when heading a powerful nation because a powerful nation needs a powerful leadership to keep on going, so there is a need MANY citizens feel to make legitimate, in such a nation, an illegitimate leadership, at whatever cost. A powerful nation can, moreover, easily set up a micro theatrical war of aggression, under the guise of a police action of sorts.

It is not surprising that the supporters of the poorly elected party want to use the fascist reflex to bundle in body and spirit around their otherwise contestable leadership. What is more surprising is that the opposition will want it too. Why so? Because a powerful nation's power is enhanced by its reputation. From that power EVERY citizen of the powerful nation PROFITS (either in riches, or the self satisfaction of being "super powerful", an old instinct resulting from the survival capability implicit in being the one to rule the land). The reputation of power is indeed a cheap way to get a lot of submission with vassals (translating into nice economical arrangements). Hence the opposition, in a powerful nation, has a vested interest, even when not in power, to enhance the aura of legitimacy which surrounds the great power, hence its government.


I will not inflict to some of our hypersensitive American friends the injury of comparing the percentages of votes Hitler (constitutionally elected with nearly twice more votes than the runner up) and G. W. Bush (extra constitutionally selected) got. Let me just point out this. The psychological mechanism described above is NOT a question of whether or not the election of the Leader is, in TRUTH, valid. The question is whether the election, or selection, of the Leader is PERCEIVED as valid, and, first of all, if it is SO perceived as valid by the VERY leadership that has been (s)elected. The leadership will feel SUBCONSCIOUSLY DRIVEN to excite the fascist instinct in the people the more so that the leadership FEELS ITSELF the more illegitimate. And it does not have to be the great Leader himself who just feels so. The effect extents to the underlings of the Leader. For example if the Leader is illegitimate (as Hitler became after a while) the Secretary of State (Von Ribbentrop, a rich wine merchant) will feel illegitimate too. This explains why Von Ribbentrop tried hard all by himself to make it so that the country would engage in wars of aggression, so as to feel legitimized by the fascist instinct (for these wars of aggression he enthusiastically helped set up, foreign minister Von Ribbentrop was condemned to death, and strangled long and hard at Nuremberg).


Fascism was long crucial in the evolution of primates and humans, hence humanism (sorry, humans). The intense pleasure given by focusing all of one's thoughts and feelings on the destruction of one's enemy, closely behind one's leader, mimicking his every gesture, allowed to vanquish all enemies with sharp teeth and heavy hooves. It even allowed clearing the planet from the many species of hominids that were in the way of the glorious Ascent of Man. Fascism is the way to make monkeys into groups of equally minded machines, driven by the destruction of the offending cause, whatever they imagine it to be. Fascism is the evolutionary ancestor of war. Fascism is when all thoughts irrelevant to the goal of destruction are blamed and excluded. Since fascism is one of the fundamental pleasures, animals who have tasted it do not feel inclined to stop.

But fascism is NOT adapted to a world with civilization AND mutually assured destruction weapons (and, besides, we already have machines, so we do not need as much the automatization fascism provides with). That is why, should one dislike massive destruction, one will find important to recognize the main way in which fascism arises in civilization. The more of a bad joke the leadership of a morsel of civilization perceives itself to be (say through a dubious claim to power and clout), the greater the probability that it will encourage the OBSESSIVE MENTAL BUNDLING FASCISM IS. The aggressive task defined by the leadership is then the TOTALITY of what is going to be minded by the follower of the leader.

The temptation to go fascist is even greater when the continuing welfare of a "great" power is perceived to depend upon its military might and reputation, i.e., its IMPERIUM (the appropriate technical Roman term), since a lot of the population sees fascism will help preserve the empire (be it only by "shocking and awing" the world into submission at a distance). Such seems to have been the case with Pericles' directly democratic Athens, or with the USA, as they experienced their silly dreams of confronting and policing (= owning) the world unilaterally. To get fascism rolling, it is more astute to start by aggressing some foreigners in an alien land (with the misled instinct of increasing the popularity; that instinct, appropriate for cliff dwelling baboons, is more inappropriate the more advanced the civilization is, because fascism is the enemy of intelligence, and intelligence the very nature of civilization). It goes without saying that the worst a country is perceived to be, hence, more to the point, perceives itself to be, the more it will try to compensate by even more fascism. One will try to "SHOCK AND AWE" rather than SEDUCE AND REASON. That is why the more they went into illegality and ignominy, the further inclined to go down that road to hell the Nazis, and many others like them, felt inclined to go. The Nazis had little more to lose, the way they looked at it, and the more they went down the road to ignominy, the more the Nazi leadership made sure they would find new ways to increase the stakes. That is a fundamental reason, distinct from the racist reason, why the Nazis set up extermination camps in which they killed millions: they were uniting, bundling together the (German) people by the threat which was implicit in the crime they were committing (in subtle semi secrecy) in the name of the (German) people. The extermination camps were a crucial way of binding together again the German people, around a crime, as if around a campfire, and to make them act as if they believed all the stories the Nazi leaders told them in their hypnotizing ways. The animal in a state of fascism is easily hypnotized, that is one of the main attractions of fascism for those who want to lead into rage and destruction.

Since these are general rules of the mind monkeys have long gone by, it goes without saying that road to hell has been, and will be, well traveled. The end of the road will come from the combination of this sort of murderous arrogance of the fascist minded with the wealth of weapons of mass destruction and mass oppression, evil empires have always brimmed with, for the best reasons, per their very definition.

On the bright side, if one knows the reasons for fascism, one may, perhaps, be able to kill them, so help me hope.

Patrice Ayme', April 2003.

(Further remarks on generalized fascism, and in particular how it was used to compensate for disunity, throughout history, will be put in follow up essays)