Fascist Blindness

Yale historian Timothy Snyder was out banging the fascist drum again this weekend in The New York Times. In the aftermath of the Washington riot by America’s version of the old Russian Black Hundreds, Snyder warns of Donald Trump’s ‘pre-fascism’. This builds on his previous work, which portrays Trump as tool of the not pre- but very genuinely ‘fascist’ Valdimir Putin.

As well as his job at Yale, Snyder has a position as a Permanent Fellow at the Vienna-based Institut fur die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM – Institute for Human Sciences, in English). In November he gave an interview to the IWM for its online publication Eurozine, in which he again evoked the spectre of American fascism, saying that, ‘I think it’s impossible to talk sensibly about Mr. Trump without invoking the history of fascism.’

Snyder, therefore, has no problem in seeing fascists. Except, of course, in Ukraine, where fascists are an invention of Russian propaganda designed to delegitimize the glorious and democratic ‘Revolution of Dignity’. Which makes the following rather interesting.

One of the IWM’s ‘focal points’ is what it calls ‘Ukraine in European Dialogue’, as part of which it has an annual competition to appoint Ukraine in European Dialogue Fellows. Today the IWM issued the following Tweet:

The jury of the Ukraine in European Dialogue fellowship has been requested by the IWM Collegium to reconsider the award of a fellowship to Olena Semenyaka. We take the information recently brought to our attention very seriously and will issue an official statement tomorrow.

And then four hours later:

Following a decision by the program jury, the IWM revokes Semenyaka’s fellowship with immediate effect. We sincerely apologize for the inexcusable misjudgment, especially to the Ukrainian research community, & will take further steps to prevent a similar incident in the future

So, who is this Olena Semenyaka? Well, she is allegedly the one on the left in this picture holding the Nazi flag and doing the Hitler salute.

If you want to know more about Ms Semenyaka, I would recommend an article published in October by George Washington University’s Illiberalism Studies Program, entitled ‘Olena Semenyaka: The “First Lady” of Ukrainian Nationalism’. It’s about the first thing which pops up if you Google her name, which makes the IWM’s decision to appoint her as a fellow all the more bizarre. Did they not check her out first? Or did they just not care until somebody found out?

According to the GWU article, ‘Olena Semenyaka is the female figurehead of the Azov movement’. A former disciple of Alexander Dugin, she broke ties with him following the Maidan revolution and joined the Right Sector before switching to Azov. She has since become a prominent proponent of the Intermarium – a sort of Eastern European Union stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea, rather along the lines of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. To this end, she has established links with far right groups across Europe.

Philosophically, Semenyaka draws on the likes of Ernst Junger, Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, Alain de Benoist, ‘collaborationist writer, Pierre Drieu de la Rochelle’, Julius Evola, and Charles Maurras. On top of this, she’s a big fan of Black Metal music, which she calls an ‘Aryan Luciferianism’. She is ‘close to the neo-pagans and Esoteric Nazis of Wotan Jugend, led by Russian Alexey Levkin, vocalist in the Militant Black Metal band M8L8TH,’ and played ‘an active role in the organization of the “Asgardsrei” Black Metal festival and the “Pact of Steel” Conference.’

If we looking for a fascist, who’s going to be first on our list? Donald Trump or Olena Semenyaka? The answer is pretty damn obvious. So why are people so quick to shout ‘fascist’ in the case of Trump but completely blind to it when it comes to Ukraine?

Take another example – Ottawa-based Twitter commentator Michael McKay, who touts a PhD from the London School of Economics and declares himself a ‘veteran of Ukraine democratic and civil society renaissance.’ Over the past few days, Mr McKay has been keen to portray the riot in Washington as the work of the Kremlin. ‘Not defeating Russia’s invasion of Crimea and Donbas led to Russia falsifying the U.S. election and putting Putin puppet Trump in the White House. Not removing Trump as Ukrainians removed Yanukovych led to the insurrection and attack on the Capitol,’ McKay Tweeted over the weekend.

To this McKay added evidence that Russia was behind the ‘insurrection’ in Washington. Posting pictures of Ukrainian journalist Serhiy Dubynin first with soldiers during the battle for Donetsk airport in 2014 and then with protestors at the Capitol last week, Mckay commented:

A tie-in between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the insurrection in the United States. Serhiy Dybynyn is an infowarrior for Inter TV, nominally owned by fugitive oligarch Firtash but beneficially owned by Putin pal Medvedchuk. Donetsk airport was destroyed by RU forces.

Suspicious, huh? Except, as Bryan MacDonald has pointed out, Dubynin is actually ‘a Ukraine supporting Neo-Nazi who is wanted on criminal charges in the “pro-Russian” Donbas region of East Ukraine.’

Outside of a particular time period (1920s to 1940s), I don’t think that the term ‘fascism’ has a lot of meaning. But I find it odd that those who do like to use the word somehow fail to see it when it’s staring them in the face. Odd, but not inexplicable. It’s probably no coincidence that the IWM somehow failed to investigate Ms Semenyaka’s political beliefs, or that Dr McKay misidentified Mr Dubynin. The term ‘fascist’ is far too easily abused. It’s out there, but not where many people would like you to think it is. Caveat lector.

26 thoughts on “Fascist Blindness”

  1. “Yale historian Timothy Snyder”
    In light of his opinions the appellation “historian” to this person can only be considered satire.

    “The term ‘fascist’ is far too easily abused.”

    It is today used – like the term anti-semite, white supremacist, racist – to smear and or discredit anybody from the left or right one disagrees with or tries to disempower.

    Jonathan Cook lays out how this works with regards to the left:


    I have no problem arguing conservatives, if they actually clearly define what they mean by this term and find some points I agree with someone like Peter Hitchens:

    “His view is that conservatism should embody a Burkean sense of public duty, conscience and the rule of law, which he sees as the best guarantee of liberty. Furthermore, this view holds a general hostility to hasty reforms and adventurism….
    Hitchens takes a critical stance on many wars. He was opposed to the Kosovo and 2003 Iraq War, on the grounds that neither was in the interests of either Britain or the United States,[66] and opposes the war in Afghanistan.[67] He believes that the UK should never have joined in World War I, and is very critical of the view that World War II was “The Good War”.


  2. Synchronization. Just beforehand, Rachel Maddow propped Snyder’s book on fascism.

    Dmitry Babich made an excellent point about how the Biden crowd cheered the storming of the Ukrainian parliament which include some folks who qualify as fascists. In comparison, last week’s DC protesting MAGA group didn’t appear to be so fascist. I saw an Israeli flag among these protestors as well as some African-Americans.

    A related great shot at establishment politico Ian Bremmer:

    IMO, the likes of Maddow, Pelosi and Stengal have fascist attributes, much unlike yours truly, who appreciates a good, clean, hard, fair fight.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These days, ‘fascist’ is just a swear word, like ‘bastard’. ‘You fascist, you.’

    “Did they not check her out first? Or did they just not care until somebody found out? ”

    She was probably recommended by someone important. Mr Snyder, perhaps? You don’t check out a blatnoy. It would be disrespectful. You simply oblige the sponsor.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There are plenty of poseurs, blow-hards about. To be dangerous, there must be a leadership, an apparatus, discipline, and a substantial rank and file. And most importantly, all motivated by a creed, common beliefs that weld all into a force. Nothing like that exists.

    But the good news is that behind the shrill loud-mouths of the Woke censorship bullies, fake news media, liberals, Democrats, burned out ‘progressives – the On Duty paid for apparatchiks. Behind them is – nothing. No Party, no organizers, no apparatus at all. No store fronts for meetings, no stand by printers, no trained marshals. No seething masses burning with righteous fury ready to hit the streets. Nothing.

    Sure, people are mad. But when you’re mad at everything then that power is dissipated. And when you’re not united by being For something then you don’t amount to a hill of beans. The liberals are afraid that when their ‘lockdown pandemic racket’ runs out of gas, the public will turn on them with a vengeance. And they can expect no organized part of population to defend them. For a while, folks will be united on venting their fury at those that ride high now. Wait till the wheel turns.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s like the misuse of the term ‘conspiracy theorist’ by people like Snyder, Harding and Applebaum. Anyone who merely points to the impropriety of Nuland/McCain’s actions on the Maidan is pre-emptively dismissed by them as a conspiracy theorist. Yet the notion that Russia controls Trump through a pee tape, bewitched the Brits into voting for Brexit and was the sole force behind the Catalan independence movement is now axiomatic for worshippers of received wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. In the case of this Ukrainian nazi – of course they knew. They just hoped no one would notice.
    The reason she was given this appointment was because she is who she is.
    Ukraine is to be the anti-Russian state with an indoctrinated population – people like this young woman are part of that policy.

    Look around the world!
    We have seen that the west has no problem funding and supporting all sorts of disgusting groups and individuals if it meets their objectives.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Nice job, Professor! It’s always good to see somebody point out these hacks egregious double standards.

    I want people to start scientifically as possible defining their terms for political ideologies. Like, there is actually a legitimate use for the word “fascist”. From what I understand, fascism is an actual political ideology and movement and should not be used simply as a derogatory. From what I understand, fascism does not necessarily include a racialist component, although it usually does (being based on nationalism).

    Mussolini was a fascist. Hitler was a fascist too. (Nazism being a subset of the broader movement fascism?)
    Franco was a fascist.
    That Ukrainian lady you mentioned is an ideological fascist, more specifically a fucking Nazi.

    Donald Trump — is NOT a fascist. He is just a right-wing conservative, Murican-style!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have for years tried to find a concise definition of “Fascism”, but only found a lot of disagreement.

      Fascism is by some defined as a corporatism where the state and the industrial and financial capitalist elite have come to a complete nexus where the state protects within a framework of “ultra” nationalism those elites who in return follow and as well directly influence the policies. By this definition the USA could be called not a fascist state, but one with fascists tendencies as the nexus has been established to a great extend.

      Some conservatives and libertarians find intellectual solace in pointing out that especially in Germany fascism developed as a “national socialism”. A version that opposed the internationalism of the Marxist version espoused the German Communist party, and propagated an economic based antisemitism.
      They are not wrong there, as socialism is not just the socialism or communism as defined by Marx, but as Marx himself pointed out in his critiques there are various kind of socialisms. (https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/11/prin-com.htm )

      What they however ignore is Hitlers move under the guise of “socialism” to establish close ties with the German financial and Industrial leadership and the attempt of a “true” National Socialism came to an end with the Strasser Brothers breaking away and one being murdered in the Night of the Long Knives when Hitler destroyed any leftwing faction within the NSDAP.

      Others like Paxton define define Fascism as a developmental process.
      This article here lays out some of the diferences in interpreting the term: https://newrepublic.com/article/154042/failure-define-fascism-today


      1. Fascism is not the only ideology which lacks clear definition. Try looking at the literature on liberalism – it’s a mess (with good reason – many modern day ‘liberals’ are entirely at odds with classical liberals, neoliberals, etc, but they’re all called liberal). The best recent scholarship can come up with is the idea that liberalism is a ‘family of resemblances’ or even that it’s just whatever people who call themselves liberal happen to say it is at any given time and place. Conservatism is similarly poorly defined.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. “I have for years tried to find a concise definition of “Fascism”, but only found a lot of disagreement.”

        There’s still definition provided by G. Dimitrov:

        “Fascism is an open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, most imperialist elements of the finance capital…
        Fascism is not a supra-class power and not the power of the petty bourgeoisie or the lumpen proletariat over finance capital. Fascism*is* the rule of finance capital itself. This is the organization of terrorist reprisals against the working class and the revolutionary part of the peasantry and intelligentsia. Fascism in foreign policy is chauvinism in its crudest form, cultivating zoological hatred of other peoples.”

        Defenders of Google, Twitter, Amazon et al saying “they CAN do that – they are PrIVaTe CoMpaNIeS!” – … ha-ha!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Absolutely, Paul. Comparing the neoconservative and paleoconservative traditions, for instance, reveals extraordinary divergences in conservative intellectual thought. Your recent book presents plenty of such contradictions.

    Yet the lack of definitional clarity does not mean that any particular term can be thrown around as a polemical device or a catch-all form of abuse. Fascist ideologies differ between themselves, but they do have a relatively ubiquitous common denominator in being mass movements set upon utopian mass transformation relying upon extreme violence, as per the scholarship of Roger Griffin.

    It’s like right-of-centre political commentators who misuse the term ‘Marxist’ to describe modern identity politics, notwithstanding how clearly inappropriate that label is when analysing a movement which has little commitment to class struggle.

    Equally, while we may lack a one-size-fits-all definition of any given ideology, we can usually say with some confidence what it is not. In other words, while the fascism of OUN-B may differ remarkably from the fascism of Mussolini, it is sufficiently clear that these movements lack any ideological likeness with modern Russia.


    1. From what I understand, one common denominator of genuine fascist movements is a cult of a national leader (Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Bandera).
      However, I am not sure that this factor is REQUIRED in order to be fascist. I imagine it is theoretically possible to have a fascist nation run by a committee or collegial leadership.

      And the “Leader” factor is also not definitive in and of itself, because the Stalin period in the Soviet Union was also defined by a cult of a leader; and yet the Soviet Union was definitely not fascist, it was socialist.
      In this case, I would say, two different systems (capitalistic fascism and Soviet-style socialism) showed, what evolutionary biologists call “convergent” traits.
      For example, in the natural world, fishes and whales both have fins and live in the water; yet these two types of animals are not related to each other genetically (except going way back). This is “convergent” evolution.
      Which leads me to another thought: Perhaps ideological movements can be classified by their historical genetics rather than a static “structuralist” definition. The difference between a Darwinian vs a Linnaeus approach? I think this method is also used to categorize religions, so might be appropriate also for political ideologies.
      Just musing here, but I think it’s important…


  9. “Outside of a particular time period (1920s to 1940s), I don’t think that the term ‘fascism’ has a lot of meaning. “

    What about:
    – Spain under Franko.
    – Greece under “black colonels”
    – Genuine, NATO approved fascist parties working dilligently and openly in the “Western democracies” throughout the period?


  10. Also:

    Remember VICE’s breathless coverage of the “Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity” that propelled certain Ostrovsky to the upper echelons of the journalism and punditry? From their linked article:

    “She also addressed a photo that was circulated of her online, showing her as one of a group of four women holding a flag emblazoned with a swastika while giving a Nazi salute. She claimed the image was an ironic Halloween photo, mocking the Kremlin narrative that Ukrainian nationalists were neo-Nazis.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Later with Ostrovsky.

      No surprise to see PC Bulgarian Ivan Kravtsev involved with that establishment org accepting her. At the Brit based openDemocracy venue, Kravtsev felt compelled to write an article on why China (in his opinion) is freer than Russia. Tom de Waal is a Kravstev fan.


      1. Related:

        There’re better academics posting at this threads. By academic, I’m referring to those who intellectually and knowledge wise aren’t inferior to the aforementioned folks getting the accolades.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. If she says it was just a Halloween costume, that means she is disowning or denying having Nazi views? That seems cowardly to me. I personally have more respect for Nazis who just come out and admit, “Yeah, I’m a Nazi.” Of course, in that case, they would have to be willing to sacrifice the money and income from “respectable” bourgeois institutions.


  11. Yale historian Timothy Snyder – more like Yale historian – propagandist Timothy Snyder.. i figured this out on my own without having to be an academic to know this, but thank you paul for this article and confirming my viewpoint…

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Snyder is such a fraud. His book Bloodlands is utter drivel filled with complete falsities – none of which substantiated with sources. “Yale historian” is clearly a meaningless title. But of course he gets called on for propaganda hit pieces like this or that ridiculous Agents of Chaos series on HBO.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s