Donald Trump and Benito Mussolini: Striking Parallels
Donald Trump and Benito Mussolini have many things in common ...
not the least of which is that they appear to be identical twins! The
resemblance is uncanny. And there are many other striking parallels, as we
will see together.
Fascists of a feather
—Michael R. Burch
The first striking parallel is that Mussolini and Trump appear to be
identical twins, if not the same person (evidence of reincarnation,
perhaps?) Please keep in mind that Trump's wispy
forelock is entirely artificial. He would be as bald as Mussolini if not for
cosmetic surgery ...
If we picture Trump without that bit of fluff surgically attached to his scalp,
the resemblance is astonishing ...
The second amazing parallel is their nicknames: Il Duce and Ill Douche!
The similarities have not gone unnoticed, because other popular (or unpopular)
Trump nicknames include Casino Mussolini (coined by Samantha Bee), Hair Mousse-olini,
Cheeto Benito, Cheat-o Benito, Benito Cheetolini and Benito Trumpolini.
On a more serious note, the third parallel is how they operate.
Mussolini founded the Italian version of Fascism as an "anti-establishment"
outsider movement, claiming that existing political parties were
"broken" and posed grave threats to the people.
A "mercurial hothead," Mussolini "reveled in his role as a political
disrupter." He trafficked in "contradiction and paradox." He used the media
to seduce multitudes of gullible people into swallowing his nonsense and
accepting his rule. Sound like anyone you know?
Like Mussolini, Trump demands loyalty to his person, rather than to the
Like Mussolini, Trump threatens and humiliates anyone who opposes him.
Like Mussolini, Trump attempts to discredit and cow the legitimate press.
Like Mussolini, Trump becomes enraged when criticized.
Like Mussolini, Trump exhibits "thin-skinned ignorance combined with
Like Mussolini, Trump is a "man of the banner headline" who is quickly bored
by details, discussions and strategy.
Like Mussolini, Trump takes all the credit when things go right, but none of
the blame when things go wrong.
Like Mussolini, Trump is what Umberto Eco called "a beehive of contradictions."
Like Mussolini, Trump lacks any philosophy: he has only rhetoric.
Like Mussolini, Trump gives the impression of talking directly to the
people, while presuming to
speak for them.
Here's an eerie coincidence:
Mussolini appointed his son-in-law as foreign minister; Trump has appointed
his son-in-law as his primary foreign minister in the Middle East, the
source of 9-11 and two bloody, trillion-dollar wars.
And here's another, in an excerpt from The New Yorker
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an American-born professor of Italian history at New York
University, specializes in male menace. What interests her is the
manufactured drama of world-historical strongmen—their mannerisms, speech
patterns, stagecraft, and mythomania. Late last year, Ben-Ghiat had just
published a book called Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema
, about the
years of Benito Mussolini, when another spectacle wrested her attention. One
of the candidates for the American Presidency was looking a lot like her
principal academic subject. As President Obama put it, the United States now
had its own “homegrown authoritarian.” Earlier this week, Ben-Ghiat sat at a
table in her office, at N.Y.U.’s Casa Italiana, on Twelfth Street,
inspecting two signatures on the screen of her laptop. One of them belonged
to Donald Trump, the other to Mussolini. The scrawls—loopy, cursive,
steepled—looked so similar that they seemed to blur together.
Mussolini was taken to be a sheep in wolves' clothing, until he proved to be
a real wolf. Many Americans seem to believe that what Trump says cannot be
taken seriously. But Ben-Ghiat disagrees about Trump: “He means everything
he says. Authoritarians never pivot.”
Also, according to Ben-Ghiat, Mussolini described himself as an anti-politician,
coined the slogan "drain the swamp" and promised to make Italy great again. Ring
They both were "problem children" and bullies who were sent to boarding schools as young men.
They both were megalomaniacs, obsessed with themselves.
They both had books published.
They both denounced military interventions, only to later advocate and order
They both had children before they were married.
They both had affairs while married.
They both organized disparate right-wing groups into a cohesive political force.
They both blamed their nations' economic problems on other nations that acted
They both advocated an aggressive foreign policy to arrest a purported national
They both painted a picture of a society in crisis that needed a strong leader
to save it (i.e., them).
They both stoked racial animosities and grievances of the majority against
They both favored the "stick" over the "carrot" in dealing with unwanted
They both favored deportation of "inferior" people.
They both saw darker-skinned people as "inferior" to white people.
They both enlisted working-class voters against the left.
They both mocked people they perceived as weak.
They both glorified strength, power and "winning at all costs."
They both claimed that only they could restore order and "save" their nations.
They both became cults of one.
They both denounced legitimate presses while employing propaganda lavishly
They both demanded public displays of loyalty (in Trump's case, everyone
saluting the flag during the national anthem).
They both called for large sums of money to be spent on public works.
They both supported their nation's dominant religion and were supported in
return by religious leaders and their flocks.
They both used the term "love" while sowing discord, hatred and intolerance.
They both were wildly inconsistent; they said whatever suited "the mood of the
They both had no time or use for scruples.
They both were patently unfit to hold any office, yet held the highest
Is Trump a Fascist?
by Michael R. Burch
As an editor, publisher and translator of Holocaust poetry, I am
understandably very concerned about any possible resurgence of fascism in the
modern world. But to be honest, I never imagined that it could happen here in
the United States. That assurance, however, was shattered when I heard some of
the things Donald Trump said during his presidential campaign. Knowing what
happened to millions of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and other “undesirables” during
World War II and the Holocaust, I shudder to think of fascism taking control of
the world’s most powerful military, not to mention thousands of nukes. Is it
possible that Trump is a fascist, as has been suggested by articles in New
, The Nation
other reputable publications? Where there is considerable smoke, may there be
fire as well? But how can we tell? Socrates would tell us that before we enter
into a debate, we must define our terms. So what, exactly, is fascism?
In his essay “Ur-Fascism” (or “Eternal Fascism”), Umberto Eco listed fourteen
general properties of fascist ideology. Eco said that “it is enough that one of
them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.” Thus, the presence of
just one fascist trait can be very dangerous. Let’s see how many of the fourteen
seem to apply to Donald Trump ...
(1) “The Cult of Tradition” is characterized by cultural syncretism, even at
the risk of internal contradiction. When all truth has already been revealed by
Tradition, no new learning can occur, only further interpretation and
Trump is so “traditional” that he equated homosexual marriage with
new-fangled golf putters! (Never mind that odd-looking putters and gay marriage
do no harm to anyone.) Trump is popular with evangelical Christians—four out of
five voted for him according to exit polls—because he embraces the “wisdom” of
their received Tradition. Never mind that the Bible endorses slavery, sex
slavery, infanticide, matricide and the stoning to death of children! Trump demands that everyone accept the tradition of
standing during the national anthem. Trump shows no evidence of ever questioning
how he “knows” what he “knows.”
(2) “The Rejection of Modernism” views the rationalistic development of
Western culture since the Enlightenment as a descent into depravity.
Trump’s evangelical supporters reject homosexual marriage and a woman’s right
to choose as “depravity.” They also claim that Islam is a “false” and “depraved”
religion, while ignoring the many very similar verses in the Bible and Koran.
(3) “The Cult of Action for Action’s Sake” dictates that action is of value
in itself, and should be taken without intellectual reflection. This, says Eco,
is connected with anti-intellectualism and irrationalism, and often manifests in
attacks on modern culture and science.
Trump’s mindless attacks on the EPA, the Climate Action
Plan and the Paris Accords are cases in point.
(4) “Disagreement Is Treason” devalues intellectual discourse and critical
reasoning as barriers to action, out of fear that such analysis will expose the
contradictions embodied in a syncretistic faith.
Trump did not allow peaceful protests at his political rallies and said that
he longed for the days when protesters ended up in the hospital, going as far as
to say that he would like to punch protesters himself. He joined in chants of
“lock her up” after Hillary Clinton confronted him with intellectual and
fact-based arguments that exposed the errors and contradictions in his theories
(5) “Fear of Difference” is used to stir up racist sentiments against
foreigners and immigrants.
Trump shot to the top of the polls when in his first campaign speech he
portrayed illegal immigrants as being “rapists” and “drug pushers” with only a
few exceptions. Of course that was very far from the truth, since illegal
immigrants commit fewer crimes, on a percentage basis, than the general
(6) “Appeal to a Frustrated Middle Class” who fear economic pressure from the
demands and aspirations of lower social groups.
One may postulate that this is primarily how Trump won the election: by
focusing on Rust Belt “swing” states where the white middle-class have lost jobs
and their employment prospects are far from optimal.
(7) “Obsession with a Plot” and the hyping-up of an enemy threat.
Has there ever been an American presidential candidate with more “theories”
about plots against his person? Trump has also hyped all sorts of “threats”
against the United States, which—according to him—
only he can save us from.
(8) Fascist societies rhetorically cast their enemies as “at the same time
too strong and too weak.” On the one hand, fascists play up the power of certain
disfavored elites to encourage in their followers a sense of grievance and
humiliation. On the other hand, fascist leaders point to the decadence of those
elites as proof of their ultimate feebleness in the face of an overwhelming
Trump at times portrayed Hillary Clinton as old and feeble, but at other
times as so powerful that she alone was personally responsible for everything
that went wrong in the Middle East!
(9) “Pacifism is Trafficking with the Enemy” because “Life is Permanent
Warfare” and thus there must always be an enemy to fight.
Trump has exaggerated both dangers abroad and dangers at home. Those
“dangers” make a “man of action” like Trump a necessity, if we are to believe
(10) “Contempt for the Weak” is uncomfortably married to a chauvinistic
popular elitism, in which every member of society is superior to outsiders by
virtue of belonging to the in-group. Eco sees in these attitudes the root of a
deep tension in the fundamentally hierarchical structure of fascist polities, as
they encourage leaders to despise their underlings, up to the ultimate Leader
who holds the whole country in contempt for having allowed him to overtake it by
Trump frequently shows his disdain for people around him, including his
employees. For instance, a reporter noted that Trump called his pilots “idiots”
when he experienced bumpy landings. But Trump at times lauds his followers,
claiming that he “loves” them and they “love” him. There does seem to be deep
tension, as one gets the impression that Trump disdains nearly everyone and only
compliments people who agree with and obey him. Thus Steve Bannon is “my Steve”
when he agrees with Trump but “Sloppy Steve” and someone who has “lost his mind”
when he disagrees with Trump or criticizes him.
(11) “Everybody is Educated to Become a Hero” in the embrace of a cult of
death. As Eco observes, “the Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his
impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.”
Trump seems willing to send many people to their deaths—including completely
innocent refugee children and their parents. But I see no evidence that Trump
longs for death himself, so perhaps this point does not fully apply.
(12) “Machismo” sublimates the difficult work of permanent war and
heroism into the sexual sphere. Fascists thus hold “both disdain for women and
intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to
I cannot remember an American presidential candidate ever speaking of women
with such disdain, or bragging about kissing and groping them without their
consent. Nor can I remember any politician in any sphere who bragged so publicly
about his sexual conquests.
(13) “Selective Populism” in which the People, conceived monolithically, have
a Common Will, distinct from and superior to the viewpoint of any individual. As
no mass of people can ever be truly unanimous, the Leader holds himself out as
the interpreter of the popular will (though truly he dictates it). Fascists use
this concept to delegitimize democratic institutions they accuse of “no longer
representing the Voice of the People.”
Trump has been leading the American public down the dark path of racism and
xenophobia. According to him, all other American politicians have been
incompetent and only he can speak for the People, and lead them back to the
Promised Land of American greatness.
(14) “Newspeak” in which Fascism employs and promotes an impoverished
vocabulary in order to limit critical reasoning.
Trump’s tweets are a rather obvious case in point here. Also, Kellyanne
Conway and Steve Bannon have warned the American media to “shut up” and not
question Trump. Trump had journalists quarantined in pens at his campaign
rallies. One of Trump’s main goals seems to be forcing the media to stop
In conclusion, according to Umberto Eco’s fourteen-point definition, it
really does seem that Donald Trump is a fascist. And that makes him a very
dangerous person, since he is now commander-in-chief of the world’s most
powerful military and the nuclear codes. In my opinion only on the question of a
personal death wish is there any question about Trump's fascist roots.