a commonplace book
For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction. … There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.
Umberto Eco, “Ur-Faschism,” New York Review of Books, June 22, 1995
Though it seems that such Internet populism hasn’t yet been so explicitly presented/accepted/exploited as an asset for fascist purposes in government (that I know of), it’s easy to imagine a situation in which such a collective emotional response, expressed via social media, for instance, could be wielded/interpreted as some populist justification. But it seems like this happens on a smaller scale(?) in non-gubernatorial contexts. See: basically anything 4chan or Anonymous has done… (?)
I find the formulation of the People as a political-dramaturgical artifice interesting and perhaps compelling.
It seems to me that Saramago’s novel Seeing could be said to be a parable in which the People in fact does express a Common Will as Eco speaks of here, to interesting results. Obviously, as a satire, Seeing‘s populace seems to indicate an inverted counterpart in the real world, seemingly implying the artifice spoken of by Eco.