The Usual Rhetoric
Sean Spicer's take on the Final Solution has prompted much indignation (and a series of faltering apologies from the White House press secretary), but I doubt he's hiding any swastikas in his closet: the guy probably doesn't even know what a swastika is, any more than he knows what Zyklon B is. Steve Bannon aside, most of the people around Trump are too ignorant of the history of fascism – the history of anything – to be proper fascists. Reactionaries? Sure. But they're winging it, which is why Trump can defend Assad one day as a bulwark against jihadists, and carry out airstrikes against his regime the next. As for the notion that Assad is worse than Hitler – and let me be clear, I think he's a butcher, not a 'secular autocrat', much less an anti-imperialist – well, we have been here before. Saddam Hussein, an American ally during his war against the Islamic Republic of Iran, who gassed Kurds and Iranians without a murmur of protest from the US government, was also said to be worse than Hitler when he was no longer useful. Spicer went beyond the call of duty, outdoing even Marine Le Pen in this week's Historical Revisionism Contest, but what he said was mostly an echo of the usual American rhetoric about Middle Eastern dictators whose cruelty the US has reason to oppose, rather than ignore or condone. Not the banality of evil, but the banality of empire.