Saturday, February 16, 2008

Fascist fascism

Did you know that Leo Strauss, the infamous Godfather of Neo-Conservatism, coined the term Reductio ad Hitlerum, which is Latin for “Jonah Goldberg.” Sorry, that’s not entirely fair. To be a bit more precise, Reductio ad Hitlerum describes the logical fallacy which posits that Hitler (or the Nazis) supported X, therefore X must be evil/undesirable/bad. For Goldberg, it should be modified to read ascistsfay oughtthay xay andway iberalslay inkthay xay
ereforethay iberalslay areway ascistsfay
, since he is a pig.

We all know that Goldberg is a colossal buffoon and maybe some day he’ll get his own pithy Latin saying to deride his “thought,”, but in the meantime it’s just a bit funny that such a fatuous asshole-buddy of the Neo-Conservative cause is the foremost practitioner of Strauss’s logical fallacy. It makes one kind of hope there’s a hell so that Strauss can contemplate the real world shambles his brain dead followers have made of his thought as he roasts in it. The Nazi’s, you know, picked on stupid fat kids and liberals pick on Jonah Goldberg, so, you know...

But Goldberg notwithstanding, Fascism is typically defined as an extremely nationalistic political philosophy that advocates an autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader and suppression of opposition. Fascist tendencies include a belief in some combination of national, racial, and/or religious exceptionalism, political violence, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, race-based expulsions and brutal invasions and occupations of other countries. Much like the Republican platform.

For the past 65 years or so all we’ve heard about Nazis and Fascists is that those people and their ideology are bad, bad, very very bad. These days one simply cannot describe oneself as a Nazi or a Fascist and run for office or become part of the serious media.

What to do? What to do? This social condemnation of Fascism is a great hindrance to people who otherwise could accurately describe themselves as Fascists. It’s not like Fascist thinking has ever gone away. As you know, extreme nationalism, “executive privilege,” brutal police state tactics, racist roundups and deportations, insane foreign wars and many other trappings of Fascism have become mainstream. Its would-be practitioners simply recognized the need to re-brand.

So what could they call themselves? “Authoritarian” worked okay for our Fascist allies abroad, but wouldn’t play well at home. “Neo-Authoritarian” never had a chance. “Neo-Liberal” didn’t work out for rather obvious reasons. “Neo-Conservative” had a much nicer ring to the Fascist ear, but contained too many syllables for the average Jonah to wrap his little brain around. “Christian Conservative,” even with all those syllables, works for a lot of our Neo-Fascists, but doesn’t include a lot of the more economic focused volk. In the end it seems the best word they could co-opt as the new “Fascist” was just plain old “Conservative.” Extreme nationalism, “executive privilege,” brutal police state tactics, racist roundups and deportations, insane foreign wars, and torture are unquestionably Conservative values these days. Don’t believe me? Just read the Washington Post’s editorial page.

Anyway, I think Strauss recognized the danger that people might call his Fascist crap Fascist crap, and being a very smart man realized that simply not referring to one’s beliefs as Fascist or Nazi-like was not enough, that it would be necessary to take the possibility of calling a Fascist a Fascist off the table entirely. Thus he gives Fascists Reductio ad Hitlerum as a shield which is followed by Godwin’s Law which also keeps the word Fascist at bay, and the linguistic legerdemain eventually degenerates into Goldberg’s fart of a thesis ascistsfay oughtthay xay andway iberalslay inkthay xay
ereforethay iberalslay areway ascistsfay,
which essentially says that those who oppose Fascism are Fascists.

So here we are. The stink of Fascism fills the air and it’s considered extremely bad form to call a fart a fart, much less point out who farted.

Part of the problem with calling a Fascist a Fascist is that the Nazis, in addition to being Fascists, were genuinely pathological racist nut cases on a historic scale. Few American Conservatives would advocate, even in the privacy of their empty skulls, killing all the Jews. Many are racists, obviously, but for the most part they’ve learned to keep that shit to themselves and would be happy with separate and unequal rather than gassed and dumped in mass graves.

Still, the success the Conservatives have had taking the word “Fascist” off the table is yet another indication of just how pathetically weak our so called Liberals and Democrats have become. Conservative policies are, by common definition in popular dictionaries and encyclopedias, Fascist. Either intelligent, educated people need to start using the word accurately and educating others to the existence of things such as dictionaries and encyclopedias, or we need to find or create another word with the same meaning. The specific, individual acts of Bush and the Conservatives -- brutal invasions and occupations, war crimes, torture, etc. etc. etc. -- are too numerous to get into a sentence or even a paragraph. That’s why we end up sputtering when we try to list them all. But there is a word that describes Conservative policies accurately. The word is Fascist. It’s in the dictionary. You can look it up.