Fascists in Fallout

Discussion in 'General Fallout Discussion' started by GlowingEtc, Oct 10, 2022.

  1. GlowingEtc

    GlowingEtc First time out of the vault

    Oct 10, 2022
    Hey all. I done'd an essay about depicitions of fascism within the Fallout games. Used to post here a bunch about twenty years back as RPGenius, but I've lost the e-mail addy connected to that account. Anyway, y'all struck me as people who might enjoy an essay about Fallout and have opinions on it. Enjoy!

    (apologies if this more properly belongs in Fanart/Fanfiction)

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  2. Iprovidelittlepianos

    Iprovidelittlepianos Water Chip? Been There, Done That

    May 12, 2020
    I saw you post this on the classicfallout Reddit page. It’s an interesting read, not sure if I entirely agree with it, but fascism is a fairly nebulous ideology so ascribing its characteristics to fictional factions will always leave room for disagreement. I find it hard to describe the Master’s Unity as fascist for two simple reasons: 1. He really seems to believe his own bullshit in a way that other fallout “fascists” like Caesar don’t, and 2. His bullshit is backed up by crazy sci-fi science in a way that real life believers of Übermensch can only dream of.
  3. Hardboiled Android

    Hardboiled Android Vault Senior Citizen

    Jun 7, 2015
    I likewise came across this on classic fallout. Interesting thoughts. My biggest single critique is I feel you are overreliant on defining fascism in terms of its descriptive qualities, rather than it's real historical essence (whatever that may be). Which isn't really your fault, that's what most of the literature around understanding facsism tends to boil down to. These descriptive categories can be useful, but IMO really have to play second fiddle to historical analysis.

    Tangentially related to that critique and getting more down to brass tacks, I felt that you got waaaay too lawerly with your dismissal of the Enclave as fascist.

    For one, the notion that other fascist ideologies are utopic whereas the Enclave's is not feels silly. The sort of utopia grasped towards by fascist is generally most strongly characterized by appeals to an imagined ideal past, or the ideal qualities of the past - put another way, yesteryear. This is exactly what the Enclave wants.

    Insofar as fascists desire transformation of that utopic vision of yesteryear, it is to cope with changes in degradation of the social structure brought about by the cataclysm of modernity. While the Enclave doesn't talk much about their plans for the world after they've won, they'v certainly radically reformed their sociality to cope with the new world, and it must follow that whatever society they build after their victory would take after that.

    I don't feel that interactions with a handful of NPCs are sufficient to say there's no strain of idealism or fanaticism among the Enclave. I can think of a few examples form Fallout 2, and even the further installments.

    Finally, and most egregiously, you use the fact that the Enclave plans to exterminate all non-Enclave as evidence of a rejection of the valorization of struggle. I find this super odd. It would be like using the existence of the Final Solution for the Jews, or Generalplan Ost, or other such plans for the New Order as evidence that the Nazis are not fascist. We can pretty easily imagine scenarios in which the Nazis won a total victory. New struggle would likely come with their erstwhile allies and subjugated peoples. If they win that, then inevitably the degenerate social structure they built would turn inward on itself. I see no reason to think the same wouldn't happen with the Enclave if ever they succeeded in their extermination.

    I don't think it really makes much sense at all to call Vault City (para)fascist. It's a xenophobic democracy, plain and simple. It's basically just Ancient Athens. Putting it in Marxist terms, Vault City most closely adheres to the ancient mode of production. Fascism really just isn't applicable - or if we are going to characterize it as fascist, we have to go back into real world history and put so many other societies in there that it ceases to be useful as a term. This is the issue we run into with the over-reliance on descriptive definitions of fascism.

    That's also my gripe with classing the Regulators as parafascists, though this is somewhat more sensical than classing Vault City as (para)fascists.
  4. Kalin

    Kalin First time out of the vault

    Oct 15, 2022
    I done'd
  5. william dempsey

    william dempsey Veteran of the psychic wars. [REDACTED]

    Jan 23, 2022
    If in Fallout 1 or 2 children were shown doing PE and singing (X) (X) Uber alles then I would guess fascism had some influence.
    Barter never existed in it's proper form. No goods or labour was exchanged for payment. Bottle caps or munny was used.

    The Vault City vault was supposed to give their dwellers all they needed, the same with slaves they used.

    This was not a workers utopia organised on Trotskyist theory. It was possibly Maoist were a political elite lorded over the dwellers.
    The racist, elitist views of Lynette were 100% fascist.
  6. Hardboiled Android

    Hardboiled Android Vault Senior Citizen

    Jun 7, 2015
    Racism and/or elitism are not sufficient for something to be fascist IMO
  7. william dempsey

    william dempsey Veteran of the psychic wars. [REDACTED]

    Jan 23, 2022
    Maybe blud. Fascism supposedly rejected capitalism and socialism to use some 3rd way. In Earth orbit fascism was the politics of the upper classes, the 'elite' where working classes would be perverted to wholeheartedly support the monarchy/aristocracy ie, the elite. Nothing has changed.
    Class warfare rages. The elite are winning.
    Wise up mofo, or perish.

    Love and xx from Liverpool.
  8. GlowingEtc

    GlowingEtc First time out of the vault

    Oct 10, 2022
    Not sufficient, no, you need other aspects, like the rebirth of the nation, the (twisted) idealism, the leader cult and the cult of action. Eco's notion of Popular Elitism - that "Every citizen belongs to the best people of the world, the members of the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party." feels like it attaches well to Vault City. I'd say that racist elitism alone isn't enough, but a movement that isn't racist and elite probably can't be called fascist.

    Fucking, absolutely. The biggest myth that both fascists and classist liberals share is the idea that somehow fascism was for or enjoyed the support of the working classes. It was and is overwhelming the purview of the middle classes. Those who had nothing to lose tended to go socialist, those with a little property and/or a small business were pitted against the socialists rather than recognising their common enemy.
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  9. Hardboiled Android

    Hardboiled Android Vault Senior Citizen

    Jun 7, 2015
    As I expressed previously, I think things like Eco's qualifications of fascism can be useful rules of thumb, but this fails to get at the actual essene of it as a historical phenomenon. It can only ever be a description of externally expressed qualities of fascism rather than the thing itself, and nevermind the fact that I don't even feel that Umberto Eco's list is the best set of qualifications.

    A historical-material analysis is, IMO, infinitely more useful, interesting, and valid. By a historical material analysis, Vault City cannot reasonably be considered fascist. And honestly, even by Eco's points, I don't think it's a fair characterization.

    Overreliance on listicles handed down from on high to define fascism is positivism of the worst sort.
  10. GlowingEtc

    GlowingEtc First time out of the vault

    Oct 10, 2022
    Okay, yes. I resent a little the notion that I overrelied on a listicle, I cite other scholars throughout. Eco doesn't even say it needs All Of The Points. The only of Eco's things that I'm pretty essentialist about is the cult of action, but that one's because I've not read someone who didn't recognise that, whether in those words or not, the expansionism and love of violence is something they comment on.

    I'm quite fond of what Griffin names a Fascist Minimum, a thing without which a thing cannot be called fascist. Because at a certain point, if you're defining a group, you are going to need a minimum set of shared qualities. If we were talking about CRPGs, we would want to start with a minimum to agree on what games are within our scope. Griffin lays out some of the history of ideas on what that minimum is, which has been a big source of academia fighting within fascism studies, before making, I think, a compelling argument for palingenetic ultranationalism.

    A historical materialist perspective ultimately comes down heavily to class, something which the Fallout games don't really touch on, as far as I'm aware. If you have a Marxist read on the series you can point me to, I'd really enjoy that. (I've seen BraveSirLoin's recent video essay about New Vegas, which is as close as I'm aware of). A sense of the progress and the process is also needed, and Fallout never gets dense enough about the histories of the communities to really look at how they got there with the depth you'd need.

    Historical perspectives aren't immune to the listicle problem, either. Paxton's good and all, but he gets extremely prescriptive, denouncing the idea that anything that doesn't map exactly onto his five stages cannot be fascist. The last chunk of that book is basically Paxton calling himself the king of who gets to be fascist, it's weird. You're just trading a thing you don't like for another flavour of it. HM interpretations of fascism are useful, but they're approx as imperfect as purely ideology based writings. Understanding fascism involves a lot of reading from a lot of different schools.

    What historical materialist readings are not really that useable for is talking about the Fallout games. I perhaps should have mentioned their existence, but the goal was to talk about fascism to Fallout fans, not to talk about Fallout to fascism scholars, if that distinction makes sense.

    (EDIT: I realise that ending might sound as if I'm calling myself a fascism scholar. I'm not, but I have read a decent chunk of fascism scholarship.)
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2022
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  11. Hardboiled Android

    Hardboiled Android Vault Senior Citizen

    Jun 7, 2015
    It's not something you are particularly guilty of, it just ends up characterizing too much of the conversation around defining fascism. Just as much in scholarship as among laymen.

    Fallout is literally a simulator of political economy
  12. william dempsey

    william dempsey Veteran of the psychic wars. [REDACTED]

    Jan 23, 2022
    The prostitutes and street dealers would be classed as lumpen proletariat. The club owning gangsters who had secret drug factories used slavery but probably paid bar staff munny.
    The brahmin barons mentioned in NV would have a bigger financial income than the general public, who were mainly half-starving drug addled layabouts.
    As income is a main factor in causing class division, the barons and establishment owners were top of the pile (economically).

    Not forgetting the lifeblood of the wastes, the traders who bravely criss crossed the terrain selling stuff or being robbed by raiders (no class)
    Broken Hills was unique in the fact, mutants mined uranium (proletariat)and the ghouls ran the power plant (mutualism)

    The militaristic Enclave, BOS and others requisitioned goods (food). The class structure was therefore chaotic and would not survive unless cannibalism became common. Not enough agriculture, or the little there was would not suffice.

    The most advanced was the crop growing, hunting and trading ' Tribals' (black people) who were looked down on as an underclass.
    They already lived in a utopia wtf did they need a G.E.C.K.
  13. GlowingEtc

    GlowingEtc First time out of the vault

    Oct 10, 2022

    See, here, you're reading different scholars to me, obviously, and I'd be interested in who. I don't think I've seen Eco in a journal article or book. I think he nails a lot, co was a smart dude, but the essay is pop fascism scholarship. I like to use it because its short and fairly easy, its good for normies. Its a gateway drug to reading seriously about fascism.

    That's an exciting claim that I'd like to hear the evidence for.

    I liked the whole thing (seriously, thanks), just separating this out because its the closest Fallout comes to being textually direct about class and its all off-screen. There is class in Fallout, but it is unspoken and nothing in the games addresses it except for the NCR troops in New Vegas who talk about Brahmin Barons out west. We have something off-screen for class.

    1) Tribals are interesting, in that in presentation, they map cleanly onto Native Americans, but the struggles with slavery clearly carry connotations of the early Black American experience. I think, personally, that they form a kind of universalised racial underclass.

    2) Always nice to meet an anarcho-primitavist. There's definitely aspects of primatavism I glue onto my own reading of Kroptkin.
  14. Hardboiled Android

    Hardboiled Android Vault Senior Citizen

    Jun 7, 2015
    Again, you're misunderstanding my critique as being that you used Eco in particular. That's not the main thrust of it. It's about a synthetic-nominalist approach to history defining phenomena in terms of a prescribed set of qualities.
    Have you played the games?
  15. william dempsey

    william dempsey Veteran of the psychic wars. [REDACTED]

    Jan 23, 2022
    Whether it was Native Americans, Native South Americans or Aboriginal people, Europeans enforced their ' morality ' on these people bringing with them ' civilised religion' and diseases.

    In Marxist theory, people who had defeated the chaotic ups and downs of the money system would slow down, but not into a state of decline, into a better thought out way to progress without the massive differences in (value, earnings).

    An advanced socialist/communist society would be left Anarchist, absolute communism where the state and governments would be smaller, only to enforce laws and be administrators, not dictatorial bureaucracies.
  16. GlowingEtc

    GlowingEtc First time out of the vault

    Oct 10, 2022
    We're entering into another discussion at this point, but I find Lenin's argument that the state will naturally wither away unconvincing, given the history of communist states and how precisely zero of them have withered away, at time of writing (and also ten years on from writing). Power does not abandon power, power exists to perpetuate itself, regardless of ideology.
  17. william dempsey

    william dempsey Veteran of the psychic wars. [REDACTED]

    Jan 23, 2022
    Well it is all immaterial as capitalism and it's lackeys bolster their power. So I will let you bicker with HB Android about bookish theory. I won't bother arguing with you about the Bolshevik revolution as 21 capitalist countries did that for you.

    Take the blindfold off and stop the sermons.
  18. GlowingEtc

    GlowingEtc First time out of the vault

    Oct 10, 2022

    The Red Army wouldn't have won without the Black Army and proceeded to purge the black army once they won. The Soviet aid to anarchist antifascist forces in Spain in the fight against Franco sure seemed a lot more interested in shooting the Republican Anarchists than they did in actually fighting fascists. I'll cough in the direction of the Ribbentrop/Molotov pact.

    Authoritarian systems like authoritarian systems. Power exists to protect power. I fail to see how the workers control the means of production when a government official tells them how much to produce, who to produce it for and how much to charge. I do not see a true communism that does not have an anarcho- stapled on the front of it.
  19. william dempsey

    william dempsey Veteran of the psychic wars. [REDACTED]

    Jan 23, 2022
    More rhetoric and the mentioning of the Ribbentrop/Molotov pact. You fail to mention Trotsky started collecting pornography aged 8. Lenin was a Prussian spy or many of the commitern were Jewish.
    That the so called anarchists in Kronstadt were not with white Russians. The cossacks in the main joined the Red army.

    Anarchists are utopian dreamers that expect unfettered trading and no government to happen overnight !
  20. Kyoto

    Kyoto First time out of the vault

    Nov 5, 2022
    Fallout does the thing where it wants to reconstruct definitions and make things wishy washy.

    Despite Pre-War America being rather similar to the mid-20th Century iteration, it amps and exaggerates aspects to the extent it could arguably be called fascist. And this is rather intentional, fascism has been turned into an expansive umbrella term for anything someone doesn't like.

    I would say the Enclave would qualify as fascist.

    Fascism resolves class conflict by focusing on external conflict. Even Marx made distinctions between the Rhienish Working class, and the labourers of West Africa etc. Working class are specific communities not some global hive.

    The idea that working class people are just an ambigious grey blob is inaccurate. Look at Northern Ireland. Two working class communities there, Protestant Brits and Catholic Irish. The class conflict that exists there, isn't between those two, but instead their own societies, Irish worker vs yuppie vs elite. Same with Brits. The actual conflict that exists between them is ethnic, cultural and religious. This exists regardless of class.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2022