In 1995, Umberto Eco, the late Italian intellectual giant and novelist most famous for The Name of the Rose, wrote a guide describing the primary features of fascism. As a child, Eco was a loyalist of Mussolini, an experience that made him quick to detect the markers of fascism later in life, when he became a revered public intellectual and political voice. Eco noted that fascism looks different in each incarnation, morphing with time and leadership, as “it would be difficult for [it] to reappear in the same form in different historical circumstances.” It is a movement without “quintessence.” Instead, it’s a sort of “fuzzy totalitarianism, a collage of different philosophical and political ideas, a beehive of contradictions,” he wrote.
Eco’s famous 14-point list outlines what the author dubbed “Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism”—and it fits hand in glove the political persona created by Donald Trump. Hours after 60 million Americans voted to give the presidency to a dangerously incompetent narcissist whose campaign was based on nativist fear-mongering and racist appeals, British historian Simon Schama lamented that Trump’s newly sealed win would “hearten fascists all over the world.” Sure enough, congratulations poured in from far-right admirers around the world, who recognized Trump as one of their ilk.