Based off Eco’s Ur-Fascism requirement of displaying intense nationalism through xenophobia or other instances of Americans coming together to push out a common “enemy,” then yes, it most definitely exists in the world today. Eco explains this part of Ur-Fascism criteria as people clinging to one social identity, a nationalist, when feeling lost in defining themselves. This idea that there has to be an enemy, usually foreign that is plotting against one entire nation is what brings about a sense of national unity for those who just wish for the safety of their homeland. With nationalist ideals comes the formation of radicalized groups and the exclusion or extreme discrimination against particular groups. Eco referred to xenophobia as being the only cure to this supposed enemy plot to attack a specific nation which can be seen with America and the development of islamophobia or undocumented people.
First came islamophobia after the event of September 11, 2001, where the whole country was in a frenzy of fear and uncertainty. The most ruthless terrorist attack the United States has ever faced on their own soil lied in the hands of 19 militants linked to the extremist Islamic group al Qaeda. This day changed how Muslim-Americans were viewed or anyone that could potentially be Muslim based on any blatant identity markers. It sparked a wave of Islamophobia, dislike or prejudice against Islam or Muslim people, that still flourishes today. The U.S. was not the only nation to have these feeling stirring, the fear that Muslim or Islamic people could pose a potential threat was globally disseminated. Arab-Americans too became the targets of pent up rage, anger, and racism. Post-9/11 there was a lot of grief, confusion, and utter shock that was felt by the American people as there were concerns if another attack was going to occur, many had lost loved ones, but most importantly the aftermath of debris in NYC was a constant reminder of what took place. Most U.S. citizens probably lost control or sight of their social identity, and found a way to fill the void by hating the enemy. Since the attacks were performed by Islamic people, all those who fit the description were assumed to be terrorists or related to somehow, ultimately making them the enemy. Americans had an enemy, a reason to be a collective and work together. This surge of nationalism led to, in 2001, an immense spike of 1617% from the year prior in anti-Muslim hate crimes per FBI reports. These crimes looked like the Mosques being burned, destroyed or recipients of death threats, Muslims were attacked, beaten, or held at gunpoint based on mere perception. Muslim-Americans at the time were just as distraught, as they lost loved ones too, and were just as much a part of society as anyone else. Most felt like their faith defined who they were and gave reason for other Americans to single them out and harm them. President GW Bush who was in office at the time denounced any hateful action or hatred towards Muslims all while hyping the nation up about “winning the war against terrorists” in the Middle East. This plays into Eco’s notion that fascism can’t exist without contradicting features, as Bush’s words were very contradicting. He believed the religion of Islam represented peace, but the terrorists who believed in the faith were unpeaceful depictions of evil and war. He was speaking his truth, emasculating at the time though, because it didn’t align with the current hatred for Muslims throughout the country.
Sooner or later, Islamophobia became a political tool it was seen in Obama’s run for presidency as well as Trump’s. Trump even stated that hatred defined the faith of Islam as he believed “Islam hates us,” us being Americans, once again giving the citizens a common enemy. During his term, Trump signed in what most viewed as an anti-Muslim law which was an executive order that blocked entry into the U.S. of immigrants from largely Muslim-populated countries. He also intensely showed his position of Mexican immigrants with his notion of “build that wall,” which also urged his supporters to encourage the discrimination of the undocumented. Trump was the cause of the separation of many families and the caging of innocent children post-separation. The treatment of these very people who sought America for its liberating ideals and accepting values, for its dream, were ruthlessly denied and treated. This level of xenophobia dehumanized almost to an extreme seen in the World War II era. Nationalism was at an all time high for those in favor of the former President, and the plot obsession as Eco would reference, followed it.
Based on these situations alone, Ur-Fascism is relevant today, as I just grazed over a few criteria points. Nationalism in its aggressive form can be seen as an obsessive, yet desperate aspiration to achieve a sense of unity amongst some. I say desperate because not everyone agrees with the intensity the nationalistic efforts feeds off such as discriminating against sub-groups of one nation. If everyone is American, then the enemy should not lie within your own home which is what resulted and aligned with the Ur-Fascist ideal. Ur-Fascism exists, although it may be hard to explain without having this proper criteria, because prior to the reading I had no clue to what it was, but now I am aware of the minor instances that exemplify critical aspects of it.