The authors argue that the potential threat of a resurgence of "fascism" has been consistently exaggerated from 1945 until present day; that the ongoing lack of conceptual and definitional clarity with respect to terms like "fascism," the "radical right," the "alt right," "white supremacism," "populism," "racism," etc., has enabled ill-informed or dishonest commentators to distort their meaning and abusively misapply those labels so as to delegitimize their political opponents; and that the political and economic elites in charge of contemporary Western societies are now deliberately exaggerating and exploiting the threat posed by the domestic radical right in order to facilitate vilifying, harassing, de-platforming, censoring, "canceling," and repressing disgruntled citizens (no matter where they may lie along the political spectrum) who openly criticize and vigorously oppose their agendas. The authors also advocate the use of well-established scholarly methods for carrying out research on the right and provide precise definitions of various terms in order to facilitate the development of more accurate categorizations.
Dr. Jeffrey M. Bale is emeritus professor in the Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies (NPTS) Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS).
Dr. Tamir Bar-On is professor-researcher in the School of Social Sciences and Government, Tecnológico de Monterrey (Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education).
Introduction: Instigating “Brown Scares” and “Moral Panics” about the Radical Right and “Fascism”
Chapter 1: Biases and Double Standards in Assessing the Role and Impact of Ideologies
Chapter 2: Towards an Academic Consensus about the “Radical Right” and “Fascism”?
Chapter 3: The Islamic Radical Right (Islamism) is a Greater Threat to Democracy and Security than “Fascism”
Chapter 4: The Never-Ending “Brown Scare” since 1945—Is “Fascism” Really “On the March”?
Chapter 5: Some Suggestions for Improving Analyses of the Radical Right
In recent years, these two veteran scholars have become dismayed to observe that sober, objective analysis has declined, while the appellations of 'fascist' and 'radical right' have become ever more frequent, indiscriminate, and finally virtually meaningless. Without evidence, insignificant right-wing groups are elevated to the status of dangerous 'militias,' and minor conservative associations are consigned to the 'radical right' or 'quasi-fascism.'
Bale and Bar-On’s new book is by far the most precise, thorough, and well researched study of the increasing tendency to characterize conservative and right-wing groups with the old-fashioned propaganda pioneered by early twentieth-century communists. It builds on pioneering work such as the late A. James Gregor’s The Search for Neofascism: The Use and Abuse of Social Science (2006), and it presents the most comprehensive single volume account of this trend currently available.
By 'fighting the last war,' Bale and Bar-On mean (to simplify a bit) that critics of the radical Right focus on Nazism when the real problem is Islamism.... the time has come to heed Bale and Bar-On's excellent analysis: stop fighting the last war and engage in the current one.
In the 1960s Bob Dylan warned against the type of politician who, with a mind “bent out of shape by society’s pliers”, tries to “get you down in the hole that he's in”. The Master also exhorted, “if you cannot bring good news” (or, by extension, accurate, informed political commentary), then don't bring any”. There are many in the media, social media and even academia intent on using terms like “fascism”, “right-wing populism”, the “radical right”, and the “alt right” not as precision tools for analyzing 20th century and contemporary history but as bludgeons to cancel opponents or delegitimize forms of politics they find repugnant. For those keen not to be part of that “rat race choir”, this scholarly yet stimulating book written by Bale and Bar-On is a must for you. If you approach this provocative, impeccably researched study with an open mind, you are certain to learn a great deal about ideological extremism, terrorism, and the many diverse currents of the post-World War II right (including Islamism), which will make the shifting kaleidoscope of today's anti-democratic forces more fascinating and disturbing than ever.
Studies of the radical right are arguably amongst the most politicized and ideologized fields in the social sciences. Much of the literature on the phenomenon that has been produced over the decades has combined, to varying degrees, social inquiry with partisan, ideological, activist, and—more recently—government and corporate agendas, which have too often served, perhaps intentionally, to obscure our understanding of contemporary far right politics and its salience. By challenging these increasingly alarmist orthodox narratives, this scrupulously researched, painstakingly documented, and inevitably controversial book offers readers a unique opportunity to reassess the existing literature on the radical right from a fresh perspective.
Extremism experts and scholars Jeffrey Bale and Tamir Bar-On’s latest work breathes new life into the soulless corpus that plagues academic, journalistic, and practitioner accounts of the radical right. This meticulously researched book brings balance to the often ill-informed debate on what fascism is and is not, clearly delineates the different ideological currents of the right, argues that the “fascist” threat is overblown, and points instead to the potential dangers to civil liberties that the exaggeration of that threat poses. Take a deep breath, read this book, and then you’ll realize that the 1930’s darkest moments aren’t upon us.
This book is one of the most important, original, and critical analyses of what the “radical right” encompasses. With mesmerizing detail and brilliant scholarship, authors Bale and Bar-On clinically dissect the prevailing academic, media, and political narratives that promote misleading definitions of what “fascism” is and who can be legitimately characterized as being on the “radical right.” To provide just one example, the authors argue that Islamism, despite being the contemporary world’s most dangerous revolutionary right-wing ideology and movement, has been largely ignored by specialists on the radical right, who have instead long preferred to focus on the dangers posed by tiny fringe “fascist” groups within Western democracies. Moreover, as the authors illustrate, the ever-increasing political and ideological uniformity within academia, the mainstream media, and even government agencies has often acted to stifle diverse interpretations and corrupt research findings. This is a study that should be required reading for everyone who wants to learn more about how academics, journalists, “watchdog” group activists, think tank analysts, and politicians have fostered, sometimes inadvertently and sometimes deliberately, distorted and paranoid views of the Western radical right for decades. It is a book that will not only inform and enlighten readers beyond anything they could have imagined, but one that is potentially transformational in terms of leading to long overdue scholarly reevaluations. And it has the added value of being a true delight to read. Once you start, I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down.
There are books worth reading, and there are those that absolutely must be read. In the present era, marked by exaggerated claims of rising “white supremacism” amidst an actual background of rising left-wing extremism and revolutionism in the U.S., Dr. Bale’s and Dr. Bar-On’s Fighting the Last War is decidedly of the latter kind. They unmask politicized attempts to propagandize an inflated threat from right-wing extremism, to expand the definitions of “fascism” and the “radical right,” and to exclude Islamism and jihadism from the category of the “radical right.” They also detail efforts by Western governments to use the supposed threat from the far right to limit civil, political, and human rights, often by conflating legitimate domestic opposition with such groups in order to discredit and repress them.