Fascism is a Political Rootkit

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CW: politics.

While performing my daily link roundup to personally research L’Affaire Russe (no affiliation, just being an informed citizen), I stumbled upon this interview on how to prevent Trump from consolidating authoritarian power. While incomplete and dedicated to hawking a book by its interviewee, its primary takeaway is that we are dealing with a fascistic grab for power and should act accordingly. At this point, I think more than sufficient evidence exists to make this claim.

That said, for modern audiences, it’s not entirely clear what a fascist grab for power looks like. Many are aware, for example, of the Reichstag Fire that predated Hitler’s rise to power prior to World War II. Many are similarly aware of what is happening in Turkey right now.

In fact, after World War II, the US War Department put out its own video detailing how Hitler rose to power. Despite its propagandistic nature, it provides a strong parallel to Trump today:


But amidst the disinformation, smoke, and mirrors thrown up by this administration, it’s still difficult to get a grasp from where the final blow will come to our democracy, or whether it will come at all. While considering how to answer this, I realized that ten years in computer security have given me a useful metaphor.

In security, the highest level of compromise of a system is called rooting, so called because of the name of the superuser account on Unix systems. Many applications known as rootkits exist to weaponize and automate this process, not just by gaining root access, but by persisting at this authority level for as long as possible, against the wishes of users of the machine.

This provides a good framework from which to understand fascism. Fascism itself is not just a debased method of government, but also an exploit framework to get there — by repeatedly weakening and exploiting vulnerabilities in a system’s protections against escalation of power, with the ultimate goal of persisting at the highest level of authority possible.

In this model, the damage to the underlying system is incidental to the goal of consolidating authority. It does not matter who or what is harmed, so long as the result is a marginal increase in power and weakening of protections against it.


In this framework, there is no singular deathblow to democracy. Instead, it is death by a thousand tiny cuts — be they calling the media “the enemy of the people”,  inciting violence to silence dissent of authority, or changing the rules of the Senate to chair a complicit judge to the highest court in the country.

The danger is not then the single death blow, but the phalanx of weaker erosions that slowly destabilize democracy and more fully install the fascist into power. And once there, it is the weakening of the system’s own protections to keep the fascist in power indefinitely.

Rootkits and fascists, by their very nature, are very difficult to remove once they have maximum authority. Because each erosion is used as a tool to accelerate future erosions, it is vital to start early, protect the system and fight every attempt to weaken the system’s protections. This means that we are all the blue team in this exercise to protect US democracy from those that would root it.

Of course, it is impossible to fight on all fronts simultaneously. This is why it’s important to specialize: to pick the battles you yourself are adept at fighting, and stick to them to the degree practicable. And remember, this is not a duty you can discharge once and go on your way: you must commit to continuing to protect these systems, as one compromise can mean their destruction.

The primary benefit of being the blue team is you have the system’s resources at your disposal — freedom of assembly, freedom of press, freedom of speech, and the levers of democracy in calling and petitioning your representatives — until those resources are compromised. It is a fight that is predominantly on our side, unless complacency, complicity, or fear of the fascist’s own power take root to convince you otherwise.


So I will leave you with this: as with a rootkit virus aimed at obtaining full authority over our democracy, fight escalation and consolidation of power. Commit to it as often as is possible for you. Share the load. Organize. Resist. Rest. Repeat.

Together, we can protect this republic from those that would see it, and all of us, destroyed for their own power. Let’s do this together. For all our sakes.

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