4 min read

live thru this, a media list

I'd like to try to do something more service-y here. (Hi. Thanks, subscribers, for being here. Your support keeps me in book money.)

Hence: today I'm publishing this list of media concerning American fascism, which I made for a small circle of friends. This isn't a syllabus; it's a record of some of what I've been reading and would recommend. I will try to keep it up-to-date.

Here's how I introduced it to them on July 15, 2022:

It feels weird enough acknowledging what we are living through, let alone filtering through a lot of panicky-to-minimizing churn out there. Here’s some of what I have been reading + listening to, trying to wade through all that and do something like live another week.

Start here

Racism and Fascism
Toni Morrison
video of 1995 speech at Howard University
text version (slightly different than speech as given)

re: histories of fascism

post-2016 there were a raft of books reacting to Trump through this lens, and some were useful, but I think this framing ended up giving a false sense of comfort to some, that without Trump we would be free of this. may I suggest one alternative before getting into histories of American fascism, and one mercifully free from the "but is it fascism in America?" debate?

The Anatomy of Fascism
Robert O. Paxton
Originally published in 2004. Refuses to define "fascism" at the outset and instead builds towards a definition as the book goes on. But that's not really its primary concern, which is more about what mobilizes people towards fascism. As Paxton writes:
“I propose to set aside for now the imperative of definition and examine in action a core set of movements and regimes generally accepted as fascist … [to] examine their historical trajectory as a series of processes working themselves out over time, instead of as the expression of some fixed essence. We start with the strategy, instead of a definition.”

re: what's going on + echoes in the 30s

A lot of the post-2016 books grappling with the “new” reality reached back to this period, understandably, which was one way of underscoring how grave a threat we face, but also could be a way of putting some distance between the US and fascism. I was more interested in a) how the Nazi state learned from the US and b) what it was like to live through that transition

Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law
James Q. Whitman
how Jim Crow influenced the Nazis and traces how they took over the legal system

Defying Hitler: A Memoir
Sebastian Haffner
written by a German law student in 1939 about the Nazi takeover in 1932-1933, but it was unpublished for many years

Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took on a World at War
Deborah Cohen
Very closely-narrated, tracking several overlapping American "foreign correspondent" scenes through journals, letters, and published work. If you read "Who Goes Nazi?" and wanted to know more about Dorothy Thompson, this is much more. Also a maybe useful-to-you argument is made here, that it was the rise of fascism that pushed these journalists to grapple with and incorporate their own subjectivity into their work.

Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939
Thomas Doherty
I'm still in the middle of this one, but so far have to say it does the important work of showing how one major media system accommodated fascism while blunting anti-fascist efforts

note: I left out almost entirely any contemporary magazine, newspaper, or digital media journalism re: American fascism, because there are just too many excellent reporters still working (miraculously, given everything) to list without leaving some out.

re: more contemporary white nationalism + white supremacism in the US

more on the point of, we are not exceptional, this has been us

Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy
Elizabeth Gillespie McRae
as good as any pre-history of Moms for Liberty, this covers the mobilization of motherhood for reactionary ends, from the Lost Cause to Brown v. Board of Education

Season 1; Season 2
Leah Sottile
I listened to this over the last week of December 2020 while I was working on a story about QAnon, not knowing that I was listening to the backstory of what was to come. Bundyville goes back to the Bundy’s occupation of public lands up through Christian nationalism and the doomsday groups driven by the “white horse prophecy” (which host Leah Sottile has a whole new book about, When The Moon Turns to Blood, highly recommended also). Her other podcast series, Two Minutes Past Nine, on the Oklahoma City Bombing, also draws a throughline, from Waco to the Capitol.

Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism
Seyward Darby
recent reporting on women of the far right in the US

Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America
Kathleen Belew
really helpful grounding re: Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, other militia-type groups and formations who draw membership from the US military

The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War
Jeff Sharlet
Jeff's narrative reporting on the Christian right leads him to this closely-observed journey across the United States, tracing the ghost of Ashli Babbitt. That story is at the heart of this book, but in total it spans more than a decade, mostly before January 6.

MGG’s q/RWX watch twitter list
Mostly women + nb experts on QAnon and right-wing extremism (kind of a problem to be keeping this on Twitter, hoping to rebuild elsewhere)

re: survival, community-building

the more subjective part. pls feel free to disregard what doesn't feel relevant to you

Our Weimar, Our Selves
Jules Gill-Peterson
Always on my mind re: fascist attacks on queer and trans communities, and how we deploy the story of the Nazi's 1933 destruction of Hirschfeld's Institut für Sexualwissenschaft in Berlin to contemporary ends: “What I mean to say is: what we are apparently searching for in retelling stories about Weimar Germany is a substitute for our own lack of imagination about the present.”

Autocracy: Rules for Survival
Masha Gessen
This essay, mostly a list, was written in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election (and became this book). A lot of the “how to cope/how not to normalize” rules did not hold up, and these are the only ones I keep returning to.

Live Like the World is Dying
If all of this drives you into a place of crisis preparedness, this podcast from Margaret Killjoy helpfully reframes that impulse: The point of being prepared, as an individual, is that you’re better situated to help your community.”