Fascism is unique among political systems in that it treats society as a diseased body that needs to be purified. Certainly, the political left thinks that society is in need of reform, often to the point of advocating revolution, but the distinguishing feature of fascism, especially of the Nazi variety, is its organic imagery—the idea that the body politic is not just flawed but diseased. Where the left proposes political and economic solutions to social problems, Nazis propose a cure of the diseased body politic. Unlike a disease of the physical body, which can be treated with biomedical procedures, fascism’s remedy is the removal of foreign bodies and the collective spilling of blood. Sociologist Klaus Theleweit has explored this body imagery in narratives produced by members of the Freikorps (paramilitaries who inspired the Nazis), while a key premise of Nazi ideology was the organic metaphor of Blud und Boden (Blood and Soil), both of which needed to be purified before Germany could become great again.
In Nazi ideology, blood shed in warfare by a male brotherhood is a life-giving substance that confirms the virility of the perpetrators and restores the vitality of the body politic. In the same way, certain populations of people are construed as carriers of inferior Blud, whereas the blood of warriors runs in the veins of the master race. Those people categorized as inferior become Untermenschen (subhumans) who need to be removed from the national Boden in order to ensure a healthy body politic. Although ethnocentrism and genocide are as old as history, the Nazi’s organic metaphor of the diseased body politic imparts to xenophobia a unique biomedical agenda. In Naziism, the ancient symbolic processes of purity and pollution become scientized, such that Blud is equated with the genes of genetics, while ritual purification becomes the responsibility of biomedical professionals employing ostensibly scientific techniques. Fascists seek to purify the body politic through eugenics by eliminating “inferior” genes from the population.
Nazi ideology appeals more to the heart than to the mind, but many educated people in the United States have been inculcated with a scientific materialism that dismisses symbolic thinking as a relic of the past. For this reason, they cannot take seriously any ideological movement judged by scientific standards to be irrational—which means they cannot recognize fascism when they see it. Many of the Republican policies that appear irrational and unscientific to liberal critics are perfectly logical when viewed through the lens of Nazi ideology. For example, Trump has been roundly criticized for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing it to spread among the population due to his unwillingness to enforce masking, quarantines, and social distancing. However, in Naziism, a healthy society requires the elimination of people judged to be weak, so public health measures in a pandemic should be kept to a minimum. In fascism, weak people are equated with those Trump calls losers, while rich people are not only strong but the bearers of superior genes. From Trump’s point of view,