Thursday, February 10, 2005
who owns "fascism" (and who would want to)?
There is an interesting article that I just came upon (via Jews Sans Frontieres) from last week's Guardian about the use of the word "fascism" in the propaganda war between the left and right (particularly here in the U.S.). The article talks about how the right has effectively used it to talk about "Islamofascism" and the threat to our society. You must admit that they have been very effective in this campaign - "Islamofascist" has become an accepted terminology, and if you watch cable news talking heads you will rarely go a full day without seeing it crop up somewhere (mostly Fox News, of course, but it's not taboo elsewhere throughout the mainstream media). Meanwhile, the left (as well as occasionally the anti-war right) has made numerous attempts to draw lines of connection between the rise of fascism and fascist ideology in Europe in the 1930s and the ideological and political trends within the U.S. administration and the developing political culture in general. Albert Scardino, the author of the Guardian article, writes:
To make Bush-Hitler comparisons work requires more nuanced historical references - to the night of the long knives, for example, as Sidney Blumenthal did about the dismissal of Colin Powell. Unfortunately for liberals, those references don't work as efficiently as islamofascism does for the right, because to imagine the appropriately creepy picture requires a familiarity with German history of the 1920s and 30s. Nazism is better known for its death camps than for Leni Riefenstahl or the Reichstag fire, so analogies between the Nazis' early years and current Republican party behaviour seem hollow, no matter how strong some parallels might be.As usual, the right is in lock-step, applying their terminology with simplistic superiority, whereas the left is hemming and hawing about Leni Riefenstahl and other things that are interesting but nobody really gives a shit about in the real world. Well, that's part of the problem, but it's not totally a matter of method, it's also a matter of means. It's not that the left's analogies require more explanation, but that they are required in the media to provide an explanation (or are deemed that, because they wish to offer an explanation, that they don't fit into the three-heads-yelling-on-split-screen-for-five-minutes format that was planned) whereas the "Islamofascist" line can get thrown out there time after time with nobody demanding any kind of explanation or analysis of what is being said and what the hell it means. Instead you have a "conflat[ion of] all the elements into one image: suicide bombs, kidnappings and the Qur'an; the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan; Iranian clerics and Hitler." Orwell would have a field day with this.
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