RHETORICAL QUESTIONS

“Why do you support Fascists?”

That was the question you asked me when our eyes met outside Roy Thomson Hall on the evening of November 2nd.  We had both been standing in the cold for over two hours, I to get past the security checks before going inside to attend the Munk Debate between former Trump advisor Steve Bannon and former Bush speechwriter David Frum on the topic of the future of Populism versus Liberalism as the overarching ideology animating the future of Western politics and you to voice your opposition to those who would give a platform to the ideology that has emboldened the supporters of Donald Trump and many other Far Right populist movements in both Western and Emerging democracies.

You asked me a question, and a reasonable one.  After two hours of chanted insults, it was actually rather welcome.  Given that we were now in the slowest moving portion of the line just prior to entrance, and at the point at which the margin between the barricade holding back the protestors and the line was the narrowest, I both wanted to answer and felt you deserved an answer.

What I wanted to say was that I do not support Fascists, nor do I support those that knowingly curry favour with Fascists for political ends.  I can tell you that in the debate that I did eventually get in to see, Steve Bannon denied the former but conceded the latter.  That he added that he would also gladly curry the favour of the fervently anti-globalist branch of Bernie Sanders supporters did not persuade me that his expedient tolerance of Nazi-inspired White Supremacists was harmless.

If I was there in support of anyone, it was in support of David Frum, and I admit my support was at least 50% personal as opposed to political.  You see, David Frum and I were classmates in a small Toronto high school, and while we might not have then or since been the closest of friends, I have respect for his intellect and decency even if we disagree politically (interestingly, in high school his politics would have been too Left for my liking, and as an adult too Right for my extreme centrist inclinations).  Yes, he does claim authorship for the “Axis of Evil” speech and he did support the Iraq War for which it served as the cri du couer, but despite the horrible chain of events that that misguided policy initiated, it was sadly the product of very traditional US foreign policy and not the first spasms of American Fascism.

But maybe I am taking your question too literally.  Maybe you are asking why I would support a debate between an arguable Fascist and an arguable Neo Con.  Is that really what constitutes the breadth of the political spectrum for comfortable white males these days, you might ask?  Fair question, and despite the ability to fall back on my high school relationship with David Frum, I thought about that as well.  Although a debate between Elizabeth Warren and Steve Bannon would undeniably be a fairer representation of the chasm of American political discourse these days, it would be certain to be one in which there would be much heat and no light, with those in the critical centre of the political spectrum left feeling abandoned.  The rise of the Populist Right is too worrisome to be left to the hilarious polemics of Bill Maher panel.  Seeing the ideology of the Populists rejected by the Neo Cons should be both telling and comforting.  The fire that burns so hot on the extreme Right burns out before it even reaches the middle.  And on that score, both you and I should take comfort from the result of the debate.  Even a crowd of Toronto’s finest Fascists (including noted Nazi firebrand Rick Mercer) rejected Bannon’s projection of a Populist future 72 – 28 % both before and after the debate.

But perhaps by “support” you meant financial support.  At a hundred Canadian dollars a ticket, the event undoubtedly put a few American dollars in Steve Bannon’s pocket.  But from what I read, Steve doesn’t need the money, and besides, according to Wikipedia, Bannon owns a slice of Seinfeld residuals that he received in his prior life as a Hollywood producer.  If true, the energy invested in denouncing the Munk Debate appearance fee might have been better directed to a boycott of Seinfeld reruns.

I guess there was a lot I would have wanted to say, and I doubt we would have had time to exchange views on all of that.  But then again, we never even started to exchange views.  When I moved toward you to answer, you yelled “F*** off, Nazi” and gave me a double middle finger salute.

I guess the question was rhetorical.

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