Friday, August 11, 2006

The real "F" word

While we're all struggling with the strict definition of the word "liquid," you may have noticed that another controversial word has gained steam.

Today's word is "Fascism." As in Bush's "war against Islamic Fascists." Although there was some press about his Thursday use of the term in reaction to the alleged plane-bomb plot, it's actually becoming more of an all-purpose phrase for #43. Why, just this past Monday the preznit offered the following remarks on the Israel/Lebanon crisis:
THE PRESIDENT: It is the great challenge of this century and it's this: As young democracies flourish, terrorists try to stop their progress. And it's the great challenge of the United States and others who are blessed with living in free countries. Not only do terrorists try to stop the advance of democracy through killing innocent people within those countries, they also try to shape the will of the western world by killing innocent westerners. They try to spread their jihadist message -- a message I call, it's totalitarian in nature -- Islamic radicalism, Islamic fascism, they try to spread it as well by taking the attack to those of us who love freedom.
But as Juan Cole points out:
He contrasted ’Islamic fascism’ to ’democracy,’ presumably a reference to the Lebanese Hizbullah.
This point is incorrect and offensive for many reasons.
It is a misuse of the word ’Islamic.’ ’Islamic’ has to do with the ideals and achievements of the Muslims and the Muslim religion. [...] But there cannot be ’Islamic’ fascists, because the Islamic religion enshrines values that are incompatible with fascism.
Fascism is not even a very good description of the ideology of most Muslim fundamentalists. Most fascism in the Middle East has been secular in character, as with Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Fascism involves extreme nationalism and most often racism. Muslim fundamentalist movements reject the nation-state as their primary loyalty and reject race as a basis for political action or social discrimination. Fascists exalt the state above individual rights or the rule of law. Muslim fundamentalists exalt Islamic law above the utilitarian interests of the state. Fascism exalts youth and a master race above the old and the ’inferior’ races. Muslim fundamentalists would never speak this way. Fascism glorifies ’war as an end in itself and victory as the determinant of truth and worthiness.’ Muslim fundamentalists view holy war as a ritual with precise conditions and laws governing its conduct. It is not considered an end in itself.
The lazy conflation of Muslim fundamentalist movements with fascism cannot account for their increasing willingness to participate in elections and serve in parliamentary government. Hizbullah, for example, ran in the 2005 elections and had 12 members elected to parliament. Altogether, the Shiite parties of Hizbullah and Amal, who have a parliamentary alliance, have 29 members in the Lebanese parliament of 128 seats. Hizbullah and Amal both joined the national unity government, receiving cabinet posts. This is not the behavior of a fascist movement tout court.
So while we're fumbling around in the dark for a good epithet, who do we call for a good definition of fascism? Lewis Lapham, that's who. His Fall 2005 piece, "We Now Live in a Fascist State" is must read stuff (in fact, this is the 2nd time I've recommended it!). Here's a sample:
By retrieving from our historical memory only the vivid and familiar images of fascist tyranny (Gestapo firing squads, Soviet labor camps, the chimneys at Treblinka), we lose sight of the faith-based initiatives that sustained the tyrant’s rise to glory. [...] [Umberto Eco] attempts to describe a way of thinking and a habit of mind, and on sifting through the assortment of fantastic and often contradictory notions – Nazi paganism, Franco’s National Catholicism, Mussolini’s corporatism, etc. – he finds a set of axioms on which all the fascisms agree. Among the most notable:
  • The truth is revealed once and only once.
  • Parliamentary democracy is by definition rotten because it doesn’t represent the voice of the people, which is that of the sublime leader.
  • Doctrine outpoints reason, and science is always suspect.
  • Critical thought is the province of degenerate intellectuals, who betray the culture and subvert traditional values.
  • The national identity is provided by the nation’s enemies.
  • Argument is tantamount to treason.
  • Perpetually at war, the state must govern with the instruments of fear. Citizens do not act; they play the supporting role of “the people” in the grand opera that is the state.
I'm not wise enough to say this for certain but something tells me that fascism isn't something that citizens recognize as it's in progress. My guess is that, much like a degenerative disease, the "natural history" of fascism is characterized by several worrisome symptoms that ultimately result in the total breakdown of a country.


Anonymous macadavy said...

I only wish you're weren't so right.

8/11/2006 1:20 AM  
Blogger johnfindlaymusic said...

Im starting to gag every time islamic facism OR if yer really cool:Islam-O-facists.
i think Ive seen a few nutters 'round here use that.

another good one "Evangelical Taliban"
[that'd be the religious nutters down south!]

8/11/2006 6:19 AM  

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